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vol. 1, p. 140
from Adyar archives of the International Theosophical Society
vol. 1 (1874-1876)


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< The Russian Investigation (continued from page 1-139) >

ing the feet of the lady medium, under the pretext that personal testimony was not convincing.

4. The reports of the experimental commission were drawn carelessly and inaccurately. It is impossible to gather any definite idea in these reports either of the manifestation's which took place or of the condition under which they occurred. Some of the narrative does not coincide with what happened, while some manifestations that transpired are not even mentioned. All this is demonstrated in the individual reports made by myself and other witnesses.

5. As to the reports for publication, the commission resolved neither to allow them to be carried to the private domiciles of the witnesses for signature, nor to furnish copies, nor to allow such to be taken by the witnesses who were present. Such an order of procedure compelled the witnesses who here appointed to watch the interests of the medium to present their own private reports, and was as strange as it was embarrassing.

In view of such a state of attain, in ray report of February the 5th, I had the honor to explain to the commission that before we could proceed with the experiments at all the witnesses for the medium must be permitted to acquaint themselves previously with the genera! reports, which had not been as yet presented to us for signature, as well as with the private reports of the outside members of the commission.

After that on the 13th of February, I read in the rooms of the Physical Society the protocal (or report) of the third seance of January the 27th. As to the report of the fourth seance, I learned that it was not yet even filled up. Concerning the private reports, M. Mendeleyeff informed me that the committee had neither assigned any particular time nor order for their presentation. Thus, it remained for us witnesses to advance without knowing what lay in wait behind us. At the same time the little of which we had assured ourselves was of a nature to make it very difficult for us to proceed. Of all the reports which had appeared, the most prominent were two extended ones by M. Mendeleyeff. They embodied a long series of undemonstrated affirmations which tended to convey to every reader the impression that all the manifestations mentioned in the reports were simply tricks consciously performed by the hands and feet of the medium. And in the report of M. Bobileff, who, as well as M. Mendeleyeff, attended but two seances, we see indicated a full conviction of the spuriousness of the phenomena, and that the medium produced them herself at will by muscular contraction. Moreover, the observations upon which both of these gentlemen try to base their conclusions as to what took place at the seances were not communicated by them to the other witnesses present, thus making it impossible for them to either verily or correct that which was suspicious. I am quite ready to admit that what took place was very far from being surrounded with such conditions as to warrant the commission after only four seances to come to a final conclusion favorable to the genuineness of mediumistic phenomena. If, alter the forty seances agreed upon, an unfavorable report had been made upon the basis that the experiments had been unsatisfactory, then the decission might have been respected by every one. But in view of the methods to which the commission has now Hooped, all further investigation, at least with the present medium, is impossible. I have no right to leave Mrs. C. in ignorance of what people write about her, and these writings consist of dishonorable attempts to prove that she is as impostor. Under the circumstances I do not feel myself warranted in any longer subjecting a private person, and especially a lady, to such uncalled-for accusations, which to anyone who feels himself to be innocent of intended fraud are highly insulting.

Thus, this series of investigations, with an undoubtedly good medium, has shown me very clearly that the conclusion to which I arrived after hearing M. Mendeleyeff’s lecture as to the preconceived intentions of our commission was correct.

But, apart from the above reason, there are two more which preclude the possibility of my having anything more to do with the Scientific Commission.

So far back as on the 10th of November last, I reported to the committee that the term fixed by them—namely, May, 1876—was too short to enable us to bring mediums to St. Petersburg; and therefore begged to be informed whether I might to continue corresponding with foreign mediums who might consent to come here alter this term, la consequence of this the committee discussed the matter in my presence, and decided to change the term of investigation into a definite number of seances. I was then notified that the commission had decided upon having not less than forty seances, excluding the months of vacations. Prof. Butleroff then left with me the commission, both of us believing that there had been established a clear understanding between the members and ourselves that these forty seances were exclusive of the May term.

Under this impression I proceeded with my arrangements with mediums, and succeeded in engaging the services of one of the greatest and most famous American mediums, Dr. H. j Slade, who agreed to reach here towards the Fall.

To my amazement I learned that on the 15th of January I the commission had met again, to discuss the subject of the term, and had decided that the forty seances must be con- I fined to the month of May, 1876.

Upon what grounds the committee came to such a conclusion, clearly contrary to the interest of the investigation itself, is more than I can tell; but the fact is that we have no mediums in readiness for them. Mrs. C. only promised to remain until the first of March. Moreover, neither myself nor any one else could have guaranteed to the commission for May, the forty seances to which they had consented to sacrifice themselves.

The second reason is, that after the seance with Mrs. C. the commission, at the meeting of January the 15th, had resolved that ‘‘with a view to save time with mediums, they would experiment only with apparatus prepared by themselves." And after seance No. 3, the commission categorically demanded that they should immediately proceed to crucial tests, with the appliance of their own various apparatuses. Such a resolution and demand on their part upset everything. Every investigation in the domain of Nature must be divided into two definite periods: the preliminary period of the authentication of every manifestation by means of observation, and the final period of investigation. It is an easy matter to note a fact; it is very difficult to investigate and verify it. Thousands of people testify that the mediumistic phenomena exist; it is the duty of the commission, if they once undertook such a social question to stoop to the level of the crowd, and first see that which the crowd sees, and in the same manner as it sees it; and only when familiar with the superficial aspect of the questions to apply the apparatus which the case seems to suggest. No one prevented the committee—even had they followed the method of the crowd—from arriving at an unfavorable conclusion. But the demand—after holding but three seances, and when the manifestations had hardly begun—for crucial tests with apparatuses, when the members of the commission themselves could not be aware what set of complete apparatus might be required—was something which it was impossible not to regard as diametrically opposed to the idea of a regular course of determined experiments.

In the present most deplorable state of affairs a negative result of the investigation obtained through the apparatus furnished by the commission would not stand as a proof of the uselessness of the said apparatus itself, but be taken as a demonstration of the non-existence of the mediumistic force. Therefore, every step which might be conceded by those who defend the reality of the mediumistic manifestations would only compromise our affair.

It is unwarranted on the part of Prof. Mendeleyeff to reproach us, witnesses, that “in our writings we lay a great stress on the value of scientific experiments, and when they are offered to us, we obstinately refuse them and demand an adherence to the valueless testimony of the school of the crowd." To clear away, once for all, every misunderstanding I deem it a duty to say that we do not in the least reject the scientific, that is, experimental and instrumental methods of investigation for the manifestations. We only assert that such a method is liable to bring to no great result until after a sufficient acquaintance with the phenomena, by way of ordinary observation. I am fully authorized to believe, that if the committee had continued their ordinary seances with Mrs. C. accepting such conditions as are generally adopted by the “crowd” for the prevention of fraud, the several kinds of phenomena, such as raps, movements and levitation of the table, might have been displayed to such a satisfactory degree as to force the commission to See in them “manifestations worthy of investigation.” The happiest issue of the promised forty seances could not have been greater than this; but this Slone might have forced the commission to undertake further experiments.

In consideration of all the foregoing facts, any further interference on my part becomes, as I have said, impossible. But as it is more than evident that the investigation undertaken by the commission did not primarily depend on my personal help, therefore, I may be left to hope that it will find means to select the help of other persons in order to bring their experiments to a fuller and more satisfactory result. My personal trouble I certainly do not regret, for I considered if my duty to comply with the invitation of the Society of Physical Sciences So far as I could, and my knowledge went, I have fulfilled my promise; and at the same time a very important object—at least for myself—has been obtained: the altitude of our commission towards the subject, and the object of their investigation has been made clear.

In conclusion I beg leave to add that so long as the commission hold to the policy of flatly denying the phenomena, and see in them only charletanry they will neither attain to the object of their researches that which was sketched in the

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