The Russian Investigation
To The Editor of The Spiritual Sientist:
Dear Sir. — In advices just received from St. Petersburg, I am requested to translate and forward to the Scientist for publication, the protest of the Honorable Alexander Aksakoff, Imperial Counsellor of Sute, against the course of the professors of the university respecting the spiritualistic investigation. The document appears, in Russian, in the ‘‘Vedemostji,” the official journal of St. Peters- t urgh. Thu generous, high-minded, courageous gentleman has done the possible, and even the impossible, in order to open the spiritual eyes of those incurable moles who fear the daylight of truth as the burglar fears the policeman’ “bull's eye.”
The heart felt thanks and gratitude of every Spiritualist ought to be forwarded to this noble defender of the cause, who regretted neither his time, trouble or money to help the propagation of the truth.
New York, April 19, 1876.
According to my promise to the Commission to help them in extending their invitations to mediums, I have neglected no effort to the accomplishment of the said purpose. Nevertheless but few mediums have shown any desire to come to Russia, and those who did were unsuitable for a preliminary examination, as their mediumistical powers were not of a nature to afford any chance to investigate physical phenomena. Finally, and for reasons previously detailed to the commission, I concluded to bring with me from England the two Petty boys. The mediumistic powers of these boys proved too weak, not only for them to be tested by a committee but even at private seances in my own house. Having obtained no manifestations worthy of any attention at all—as already published by me—at the committee’s investigation, after four seances I declined to waste any more of its time in investigating the Petty boys.
Immediately after that, on the 15th of December last. Professor Mendеleyeff delivered his lecture on Spiritism. The haste exhibited by him on this occasion, the precipitancy with which the failures of the four seances were reviewed, when the Scientific Commission had just adopted a resolution to make not less than forty experimental examinations, did not agree, in my opinion, with the impartial and serious character which we have the right to expect in a truly scientific investigation. This lecture did not appear in print, and it was therefore impossible to either reply to its errors or to point out its one-sidedness. But in what was declared by M. Men-deleyeff the attitude of the commission toward the object of their examination was very clearly defined. Prof. Mendeleyeff— at whose suggestion the commission was organized, and under whose direction it acted—openly avowed himself aft enemy of Spiritualism. The commission, acting in unity with M. Mendeleyeff, was evidently anxious that the results of its further investigations should prove as fruitless as the results of the first tour seances with the Petty boys. The difficulties in the way of obtaining an impartial examination multiplied ten-fold: and for my part I felt fully that it would be useless for me to attempt any further assistance to the commission. But as I had already taken steps to invite here other mediums, and had succeeded in inducing a lady to come—who is possessed of remarkable mediumistic powers, and perfectly answers the requirements of the commission’s investigation—I decided upon proceeding further. I hoped that I might be mistaken as to the predispositions of the commission. Furthermore, I desired to ascertain how it would conduct its investigations when it had to do with a true medium in the full acceptation of this word, and one moreover who was not professional. This lady was totally independent as to her social and financial position, and had consented to take part in such an unpopular position merely for the sake of promoting the scientific object ostensibly in view.
I had the honor of introducing this medium to the commission in the person of Mrs. C. From the very beginning of the seances, the physical manifestations which characterize this lady’s mediumship,—namely, loud raps, movements and levitations of the table,—occurred with great strength. Of the experimental seances, we had in this second series four—on the 11th, 25th, 27th and 29th of January. The seance at which the medium, by reason of sickness, could not attend was, although the commission had been notified twenty-four hours beforehand, counted by its members as one of the forty which it had bound itself to hold.
During the experiments of this second member series, we learned the following: —
1. The commission failed to act up to its resolution of May the 9th, 1875, that immediately after each seance a report should be written out and signed by the witnesses on both sides. Instead of that, the reports were filed several days later, and not in the presence of witnesses, but were presented to them for signature when already prepared b) the commission, and when they could not be altered in any particular.
2. The plan itself of these reports underwent a thorough change. The commission saw fit to accept the private testimony of persons not belonging to the commission, but who may be said to have been present at the seances, since they had been eve-dropping and peeping through the key-holes. Such uncalled-for and personal testimony, based on subjective impressions, either amounts to nothing at a scientific investigation and therefore is inadmissible, or if the contrary then the commission itself was useless, for it was organized, we must suppose, tor the very reason of replacing such personal and subjective evidence with unanimous and impersonal experiment.
3. Having found room for personal evidence of its own choosing, the commission nevertheless rejected my offer to select a lady of their acquaintance for the purpose of examin-
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- The Russian Investigation by Aksakoff, A. N., Spiritual Scientist, v. 4, No. 8, April 27, 1876, pp. 85-7
... published in "A Modern Panarion," p. 91, ... "Spiritualism in Russia". – Archivist