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vol. 1, p. 157
from Adyar archives of the International Theosophical Society
vol. 1 (1874-1876)


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June 2, 1876

Spiritualism in Russia


The following protest against the report of the St. Petersburg University was published in the Journal de St. Petersburg of May 18:

The Scientific Committee formed for the examination of medial phenomena had for its object, if we may judge by a communication from M. Mendeleef, published in La Voix, No. 137, “to study with precision” these phenomena, and to “render also important public service.” M. Mendeleef informs us that at the sittings the following phenomena were to be the immediate objects Tor study on the part of the Commission:—“The movement of inanimate objects produced without contact with human hands; the floating of these objects in the air; variations in the weight of objects; movements or noises produced in the said objects, and having the character of being governed by intelligence, as exemplified by the giving of messages or the answering of questions; writing by inanimate objects, or psychographic phenomena; lastly, the complete or partial presentation of human bodies, or, in other words, materialization phenomena.”

The committee promised to hold at least forty seances to study these various phenomena. To-day the committee declares that its investigations are at an end, that “its object has been attained,” and that it has arrived unanimously at the, following conclusions: “Those Spiritualistic phenomena are the result of unconscious movements or of conscious imposture, and that the doctrine of Spiritualism is a superstition.”

This decision of the committee is based—as stated in its report—upon eight seances, in the four first of which no medial phenomena were obtained, and in the last four of which the committee saw several movements of the table and heard several raps. But where are the observations of the committee upon the movement of objects without contact with the hands; on the change of the weight of bodies; on conversational phenomena; and on psychographic and materialization manifestations.

The committee has not carried out, it will be seen, a quarter of the programme which it had laid down for itself, but it has decided, without any evidence in that direction, against the spiritual “doctrine;” a question which had never been placed in its programme for consideration. The undersigned think it their duty to declare that, by an examination so superficial and so rapid, the object of the researches of the committee has not been attained, and that the committee has not fulfilled its task. It is evident that it has not collected enough information either to affirm or to deny the existence of the medial phenomena. After it had sat out eight seances, the committee did not hesitate to declare that its observations were at an end, although it had no right, upon the evidence collected during those eight seances, to come to any absolute decision. The committee undertook its examination in the name of the interests of a portion of the public, and it has failed to guard those interests. It has left the public in the same doubt as before in relation to these medial phenomena, which are so well attested by people of influence and of good faith.

The undersigned, consequently, think that they have a right to express the hope that the examination of medial phenomena, which has been begun in the name of science, will be continued in harmony with the usual methods of science, and not by persons who have even given a verdict against that which they have not seen—against phenomena which have been verified by others after long and minute study. It is not by a partial examination like this that an “important public service” can be rendered.

This protest is signed by 130 influential persons.

The Supersensual World

by G. L.Ditson, M. D. F.T.S.



Editor's notes

  1. Spiritualism in Russia by unknown author, Spiritual Scientist, v. 4, No. 16, June 22, 1876, p. 183. This is a part from original article in Russian, pasted on page 3:101. Most likely it was translated by HPB herself.
  2. The Supersensual World by Ditson, G. L., Banner of Light
  3. image by unknown author. Bird