In the early days of Spiritualism the
phenomena demonstrated in mediumship was often of a more physical nature and
these mediums were knows as “physical mediums.”
These early mediums were quite famous for their ability to materialize
both spirits and objects and many demonstrations of materialization were
studied and photographed.
Definitions of Psychic Phenomena and Related Subjects defines
materialization as “phenomenon related to physical mediumship; temporary
appearance of forms or objects in various degrees of solid states; human forms,
distinguishable faces and physical characteristics; some people claim
materialization of coins and buttons, etc.”
How is materialization accomplished? It is believed that the spirits draw from the
vital force of the medium a substance called ectoplasm which is used by the
spirit to materialize its form.
It is important to understand and explore
ectoplasm as it the basis of how the spirits are able to make themselves
The word ectoplasm comes from two Greek
words, ectos and plasmos-meaning “exteriorized substance”-and was coined by
Professor Charles Richet in his writings about his experiments with and
observations of physical mediumship. But
that same substance had been spoken of before in the writings of the
philosopher Vaughan in the 17th century as “first matter” or
“mercury of a substance drawn from the body.”
It was believed by many that darkness or
semi-darkness was needed in order to form ectoplasm so most mediums used a
“cabinet.” This was sometimes an actual
structure built for the purposes of materialization but was often just a
curtained off portion of the room where the medium could sit in darkness to
provide the demonstration. The purpose
of the darkness was to protect the nervous system of the medium which could
suffer a great shock if subjected to sudden bright light.
Many instances of the formation and composition of ectoplasm were recorded, including photographs. Most observers and mediums themselves stated that ectoplasm most often appeared as a white, cloud-like substance that could emanate from anywhere on the medium’s body but most often came from the mucous membranes of the mouth.
Most often these demonstrations of
materialization (and dematerialization as the spirits involved disappeared just
as suddenly as they appeared) included the appearance of some part of a
discarnate being such as a face or hands but on many occasions, entire forms
and figures were materialized and were able to interact with those sitting in
the circle. There were some famous
demonstrations of full spirit appearances including that of Bien Boa (observed
and recorded by Professor Richet) through the medium Eva C. and that of Katie
King who was associated with the famous medium Florence Cook.
Some demonstrations were simply of the
production of ectoplasm itself. Because
materialization was such a dazzling display of mediumship, many people flocked
to see these mediums perform over and over again. Unfortunately, due to the difficulty of producing
the phenomena night after night, many mediums began faking both the production
of ectoplasm and the materializations themselves. It became so widespread that most mediums
were discredited in the news and in public opinion. This caused many legitimate mediums to refuse
to submit to study out of fear and so many early researchers abandoned serious
study of materialization.
Another form of materialization is that of
objects-sometimes called “teleportation.”
An object which appears in a closed room, seemingly passing through
closed doors or windows is called an apport.
This phenomenon is believed to be associated with telekinesis, which is
the ability to transport an object through space or through other physical
objects, using the mind alone. Objects
moved in this manner seem to dematerialize in one place and materialize in
another without being moved in the normal way and passing through other solid
objects. Many demonstrations of apports
and teleportation have been recorded including several instances in the Bible.
Spiritualists regard much of these phenomena as being aided by spirits and therefore proof of the continuity of life but scientists study the phenomena as part of parapsychology.
Materialization and teleportation is classified under the heading of psychokinesis and is not considered survival phenomena for scientific purposes. It is hoped that someday the Spiritualist and the Scientist can come together in their classification of these amazing phenomena.
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