HPB-SB-1-11

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vol. 1, p. 11
H.P.Blavatsky Scrapbooks
from Adyar arhives of the International Theosophical Society
vol. 1 (1874-1876)
 
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Materialised Spirit Forms[1]


by Benlamin Coleman

Mr. Robert Dale Owen, whose high social position and well-known contributions to Spiritual literature give him a foremost place in our ranks, has declared his perfect conviction of the genuineness of the phenomena of materialized spirit forms, and he has raised the question, I see, of “whether the two Katie Kings are one and the same.”

Mr. Owen, in the article published in your journal last week, gives his reasons why he thinks they are, and I desire to record my reasons why I think they are not. The main reason I have for my conviction is conveyed in a letter I addressed in August last to Dr. Child, of Philadelphia, who had been good enough to send me a photograph of the spirit form, which presents itself through Mrs. Holmes’ mediumship. Upon the back it is printed, “She declares that she is the same Katie King that has appeared in London in the presence of Miss Cook and others, and that she has given to Professor Crookes many opportunities of testing her powers as a spirit,” etc.

After warning Dr. Child that though Mrs. Holmes was no doubt a medium with considerable powers, neither she nor her husband were to be trusted, they were of that class whose conduct brought disgrace upon the movement, I wrote :—

I send you a photograph of the Katie King as she appeared in London, and you will see at once that it is so unlike the other that they cannot represent one and same individual.

I have just read Mr. Owen’s account, which is highly interesting, but that he who had seen both photographs[2] should think the likeness in the least degree alike, or that any experienced Spiritualist should pay the least regard to the history which your Katie gives of her early life, very much surprises me.

The statements made by two spirits do not agree any more than their likenesses ; and it is in my opinion folly to regard the general statements of any spirit as to time, place, or identity. We have evidently much more to learn about them and their extraordinary powers. Meantime, the great fact is proved beyond doubt that spirits can make and unmake material bodies to satisfy our senses, and that they can drive material substances through all obstructions is also one of the great facts we are called upon to witness in these days, with what ulterior object I for one am not prepared to say.

Though Mr. Owen and I differ on those point which I have named, it is satisfactory to know we entirely agree as to the fact that spirit forms, as real and life-like to all appearance as ordinary mortals, do present themselves. At present, as far as I know, there are but four or five mediums who obtain these remarkable manifestations in England, and about the same number in America.

Among the latter are the Eddy Brothers, young men who are as well known in America as were the Davenports in England. After travelling in the principal cities, where they met with the usual bad treatment to which most mediums are subjected, they retired from the excitement of the life they were leading, and settled down as small farmers at Chittenden, in the State of Vermont, where, however, they soon attracted attention from their neighbours, who had witnessed things in open day too extraordinary to pass unnoticed. Public curiosity was awakened ; the brothers soon found they could not continue their quiet farming pursuits, and they were perforce obliged to yield to the overwhelming pressure put upon them by their spirit guides. Their small homestead, with no accommodation for visitors, has become crowded by strangers from distant parts of the country, who are there witnessing phenomena far more extraordinary than have yet been heard of in any country.

Colonel Hy. S. Olcott, of New York, whose name is not known to me in connection with Spiritualism, but who, I am told, is a man of high character, possessing considerable literary ability and great influence with the press of his own country, has recently been induced to examine Spiritualism in its phenomenal aspect, and especially that which is obtained by the Eddy family ; after weeks of patient investigation at Chittenden he is convinced of the genuineness of the spirit forms which are there presented, and for some time past he has contributed a series of articles to the New York daily Graphic, giving “a narrative of spiritual things seen, heard, and felt at the Eddy homestead in Vermont ;” the Graphic has given whole pages to this account, and has illustrated it with many woodcuts. It appears that Colonel Olcott met at Chittenden a highly intelligent Russian lady, the Countess Helen P. de Blavatsky, who showed to him various credentials of her social positions, including letters from Prince Wittgenstein. “This lady,” he says, “has led a most eventful life, travelling in the most of the lands of the Orient, searching for antiquities at the base of the pyramids, and pushing, with armed escort, far into the interior of Africa.” The Countess’ presence at several of the Eddy séances led to most surprising manifestations, including the appearance of several spirits of persons known to her in foreign countries.[3]

Colonel Olcott takes great pains to meet all scepticism, and after he had satisfied himself of this lady’s status, and her knowledge of foreign languages, and the impossibility of her being capable of entering into vulgar conspiracy to deceive him, he proceeds to give a narrative of what occurred at their first seance together :—

Honto, as if to give the amplest opportunity for the artist and myself to test the correctness of the theory of “personation,” that the “investigator” previously alluded to had expounded to us, stood at the right of the cabinet motioning us to observe her height, her feet, the head trimming on her dress ; and then she unplaited her hair and shook it out over her shoulders. “Santum”, “Wando,” and “Wasso” came too, and then followed the first of the Countess’s spirit visitors. He was a person of middle height, well shaped, dressed in a Georgian (Caucasian) jacket with loose sleeves, and long-pointed over-sleeves, outer long coat, baggy trousers, leggings of yellow leather, and white skull-cap or fez with tassel. She recognized him at once as Michalka, late of Koutais, Georgia, a favorite servant of her sister’s, and whose employment was to carry about and tend that lady’s little boy. He was followed by the spirit of Abraham Alsbach, who spoke some sentences in German to his sister who was present, and he in turn by M. Zepherin Boudreau, late of Canada, the father of the lady who accompanied Madame de Blavatsky to Chittenden, and it was this lady's first seance. She addressed her questions to him in French, and he replied by rapping his hand against the door frame, except once, when he uttered the word “Oui”.

The figure stood so that I saw him in profile against the wall. He had an aquiline nose, rather hollow cheeks, prominent high cheek-bones, and an iron-grey beard. It was marked face, in short, of the pure Gallic type… Among other things that occurred was the writing of Madame de Blavatsky’s name on a card by a spirit hand in Russian script. Various detached hands were shown through the aperture [in the shawl], and among the number that of the servant Michalka, which the Countess recognized by some peculiarity as well as by a string of amber beads wound around the wrist. Recollect that she had only arrived that afternoon, had barely become acquainted with the medium, had had no conversation whatever with anybody about her former life, and then say how this Vermont farmer could have known (1) of the existence of Michalka ; (2) that he had any relations of any kind with his visitor ; (3) that it is a custom among the Georgian peasants to wear a string of amber beads upon their arms; and the sceptic will have to account for the possession of so unusual a thing as this kind of rosary by any member of a family working a Green Mountain farm in Vermont.

This is but a small portion of Colonel Olcott’s most interesting narrative, which is entirely too long for the pages of The Spiritualist.

I have just received a most interesting letter from my friend Mr. Epes Sargent, of Boston, a man who, as your readers know, holds a distinguished position in the literary world, and whose new work, The Proof Palpable of Immortality, he informs me, is just about to be issued from the press.

In this letter he says :—

Since I wrote to you last the progress made by Spiritualism in this country has been truly astonishing. Some of our principal daily papers are venturing to give full reports of seances for the materialization phenomena. Spiritualism is no longer treated with derision by the more intelligent of our editors. Full and interesting reports of the manifestations through the Eddy family, at Vermont, written by Colonel Henry S. Olcott, have appeared twice a week for some ten weeks past in the Daily Graphic, with pictorial illustrations… The New York Times, New York Sun, Chicago Times, St. Louis Democrat, Springfield (Massachusetts) Republican, Hartford Courant, all journals of large influences and circulation, have brought the subject prominently before the public, and the end is not yet. Three of our leading monthly magazines, the Atlantic Monthly, the Galaxy, and Lippincott's Magazine, have had long and mostly fair papers on the subject, and the Atlantic Monthly for January promises an account front Mr. Dale Owen of the Philadelphia materializations… These materializations are creating an impression of which we have <... continues on page 1-12 >


Footnotes


  1. <The Spiritualist, London. January 1, 1875. H.P.B. SB I: 11-12.>
  2. He possibly might not in that time, but of course he has since seen the English production, and long prior to the paper of his published in this journal on the 18th of December last.
  3. Yes; for I have called them out myself. H.P.B.