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vol. 1, p. 189
from Adyar archives of the International Theosophical Society
vol. 1 (1874-1876)


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A Few Suggestions

J. M. Roberts, Esq., of New Jersey has come all the way to Boston to investigate the psychological features of the Bennet fraud, and find out how it is that so many people were deceived. Like some other intelligent Spiritualists, he is inclined to believe that there was something besides fraud in the I manifestations at the house on McLean Street. The clairvoyants who “saw spirits” there also maintain that theory. —Boston Herald.

The gentleman above referred to is the chief supporter and defender of Nelson and Jennie Holmes, of Philadelphia, who have several times been exposed in their fraudulent practices. As a “vindicator," he has been Successful, ft is very easy to understand how so many people were deceived by the Punch and Judy show in McLean Street. The woman was brought before the public, in a mysterious way, as a private medium, who had given unmistakable demonstrations of her power to produce materializations. Persons begged admittance, and obtained it only through the recommendation of some one who had previously been admitted and accepted as an investigator not liable to entertain any suspicions Wonderful stories were told of what was seen and heard The sceptical Spiritualist, or the inharmonious, as they are now politely termed, were kept at a safe distance. How simple the problem! Whoever went there was sure to meet several individuals who not only firmly believed that materializations did occur, but were actually using their individual will powers to call forth some friend! A mind battery was thus created by the believers, and its influence contributed in a great measure to warp the judgment of those who might otherwise have examined more carefully and detected the imposition. Sensitives or mediums, unless they were very closely in rapport with their guides, would be apt to see clairvoyantly the spirit friends who were in this manner powerfully drawn into the circle. In addition, some professed clairvoyance without possessing any clairvoyant power, and thus many things occurred seemingly unexplainable.

One other fact must receive its full share of attention. In conversation with a well-known medium, who, it was said, virtually endorsed Mrs. Bennett by keeping silence as to her impostures, we asked her why she had not stated what she knew to be true—namely, that the supposed materialization was a confederate. The answer came prompt and earnest— “Simply because, Mr. Brown. I could not afford it. I am wholly dependent upon my sittings for support. Had I questioned, much less denounced the imposition, the entire ring would have used their power to crush me.”

She spoke truly, and furnished another reasonable explanation of the fact that many public mediums did; endorse Mrs. Bennett. What was the power? Who is active in an endeavor to smother any investigation into the genuineness of the so-called materialization mediums?

She spoke truly; for what has been the reward of those Spiritualists who have honestly exposed fraud when they detected it. The New York Seven were misrepresented, and maliciously defamed. The Brooklyn society that found Mrs. Holmes’ masks received no sympathy. We might mention other cases of less importance, but will close with that at present under consideration, and ask why it is that Dr. H. B. Storer, who for twenty-five years has been a faithful, earnest Spiritualist, serving the cause in many ways, the friend of mediums, his reports of the phenomena accepted as reliable,—and yet, when he was satisfied of an imposture at Mrs. Bennett’s, and so declared himself, it was the signal for a volume of mean suspicions, petty persecutions, and false, spiteful charges against his honesty? Notwithstanding the thorough exposure, the attacks have not ceased. Such conduct might be expected on the part of the exposed and unexposed tricksters and imposters; but there is some of it manifested in other quarters. We may deem it wise to “speak out in meeting,” and call a few names if this thing continues.

Such proceedings indicate that certain persons are determined to control the movement of Spiritualism for money. Their decision must be accepted as final. The price of their favor can easily be ascertained. At present the struggle is between this power and those who favor careful investigation, free discussion, and the thorough weeding out of sensuality, corruption, and imposture that will surely follow the efforts that are now being crowned with partial success. We hope Mr. Roberts will give careful consideration to all these suggestions.

An Unpleasant Affliction

The aged Banner of Light is occasionally afflicted with that most distressing, of all occult maladies, the nightmare, and to this misfortune is added the mental infirmity, that leads it to suppose that its meaningless fabrics of fancies are of any consequence to the public at large. Some of its wanderings, when suffering from an over excited imagination, are mere abstractions, bearing no relation to the subject it is considering, even if it happens to have one. The latest effusion is a double-leaded, half-column, leading editorial, headed “To whom it may concern.” It commences with a few observations on vanity. “Vanity of vanities saith the Preacher," in the scriptures, “all is vanity,” but the wise man in the Banner says: —

There is one vanity in human nature at a certain stage of its maturity that only time can cure; and that is the conceit that change, especially if effected by itself, is of course progress.

An assertion based on experience we presume, and intended. by the Banner as an acknowledgment that in its younger days it led the people away from exact methods of investigation to the Hazard onian paths of discountenancing the “testing of the divine powers of the mediums in any tray whatever.” We are confirmed in the belief that this interpretation is the only one that can be placed on the above quotation, for in the next sentence it says: —

A very few years put the effectual quietus on such vain dreams, and affairs move on just the same as if they had never been thrust into people’s faces with such a flourish of wisdom.

True enough. Time works strange revolutions. The Hazard's, Putnam's, Robert’s, seconded by the Hardy's, Seaver's, Boothby's, Bennett's, Hull’s, and a host of others, and the combination supported by the Banner of Light, demanded that the medium should dictate the conditions. The Spiritual Scientist urged the application of simple but decisive teats, and took the ground that no genuine medium would refuse to comply with reasonable requests. Who would suppose that any shiner would dare to interfere with a materialization seance, after the solemn declarations and asservations of the Banner and its coterie of advisers, that any such attempt would be followed by the serious illness, if not the death of the medium! Well, a few of them are dead in one sense of the term; after the recent complete exposures no “vindication.’’ can galvanize enough life into their materialization side show, to make them pay.

Following a few illustrations which serve to throw the reader in the dark (a favorite condition for materialization of spirit forms), the Banner seems to recover from the gloomy forebodings occasioned by the ghost of B (Banquo, we mean and speaks of itself. It remarks that, “except as the ad vocate and defender of troth, it asserts no sort of claim to tile public attention.” It is quite certain that it will receive no share of the public attention unless it does serve in the capacity it mentions. Unfortunately the public is the judge in these matters.

We have given our readers all that is really intelligible in this article. Think of it; nearly a column of valuable space wasted. It says something about being “as young as the newest advocate in the cause of Spiritual Truth,” messing, we suppose, the Spiritual Scientist. We welcome its presence in this field. Those who work faithfully in it, have sweet and peaceful visions, and are not disturbed by the dismal croakings of those who are troubled with the nightmare.

Editor's notes

  1. A Few Suggestions by unknown author, Spiritual Scientist, v. 5, No. 9, November 2, 1876, pp. 102-3
  2. An Unpleasant Affliction by unknown author, Spiritual Scientist, v. 5, No. 9, November 2, 1876, p. 103