(A modern Ouija board plus planchette)
Consistent with David Prado, with the rise of spiritualism, a component will feed his system of thought and practice. These are the “sciences”. At the time, the scientific world was strongly “fascinated” by “table-turnings”, the “Ouija”, “automatic writing” etc. For some it was to prove the fraud, for others to prove the veracity of such extraordinary phenomena. Some early critics were convinced of the merits of “spiritual phenomena” thereafter.
Psychology was strongly challenged by the “phenomena” called spiritualists. One of the first authors to propose a theory of the unconscioushad, Pierre Janet, proposed to explain the movement spiritualists boards or tables. Janet was studying the most basic and rudimentary forms of human activity. These activities were characterized by spontaneous movements of the body, regular and not determined by free will.
He considered the existence of an “automatic” part of consciousness. If the higher activities of consciousness are characterized by unity (voluntary and indivisible power of consciousness), those of “automatic conscience” is manifested by feelings, multiple and independent actions of each other. In short, our spirit can lead us to take actions that we are not aware. This psychology foreshadows the theory of “altered states of consciousness.” This would be explanatory of “multiple personality syndrome”, whose symptoms like so much to “possessionnistes” or “spiritualists” trances.
To Janet, the conditions of delivery of the “spirit medium” induce a “fragmented consciousness”, part of it becomes unconscious and perceived as alien to itself. This “psychological disaggregation” explain why the spirit ignores his movement and the thought that directs the movement, while communicating with “automatic writing” for example. There would, in the “spiritualist experimenter”, forming a second series of unconscious thoughts. He then experiences the impression that external intelligence guide the movements to communicate ideas. However, these ideas are his, though they are divorced from his consciousness and his body perception.
We find, with Janet, the idea of ”dissociation” which would enable mental interrelated ideas to part of the system of normal consciousness. This dissociation was also postulated by Charcot (1895-1893) for whom “a hypnotic state” was characterized by a different state of consciousness where the ideas remained isolated from those expressed by consciousness. Breuer and Freud will develop similar concepts to those of Charcot and Janet. In classical psychoanalysis, it was clear that any “spiritualist demonstration” was the fact of the “unconscious.”
Recent research on “multiple personality disorder” appear to distance themselves from these designs become classics explanatory. For Nicholas P. Spanos no convincing evidence allows to validate the hypothesis of the existence of “different states of consciousness.” Although psychoanalysis explains the “spiritualistic facts” as productions of the unconscious, it also offered an “interactional” interpretation of multiple personality disorders (explaining the “psychic states”), which she partially recognized the artificiality.
This author defends the thesis that the syndromes of “multiple personality” translated further a behavior oriented to a “special presentation of self” and the interpretation of a role, rather than the expression of ideas separate from the normal state of consciousness. The state of “mediumship” obey a similar logic. It would be a “co-construction” of a role from what is expected by a third party or a community. The “medium” adopts a role and a place as determined and expected by the community.
The “mediumship” therefore fall a long process of socialization in which the person learns the rules to produce a convincing and satisfying performance to his interlocutors. Moreover, in the case of Puerto Rican spiritualists in the US, “the psychic state” offers them the elevation of social status. They often attend since childhood experienced midrange performance that “trances” serve as a model for them.