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vol. 1, p. 37
from Adyar archives of the International Theosophical Society
vol. 1 (1874-1876)


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BOSTON, JULY 8, 1875


Extracts from a letter of M. Alexandre N. Aksakoff, Counselor of State, in the Imperial chancellery of St. Petersburg, Russia, to Mme. Helena Blavatsky

[Translated from the Russian]

* * *

I am overwhelmed with work for our case. Never before has our Imperial city been so excited and aroused by Spiritualism, as it has been during the last two months. You know the details of what occurred from reading Prof Wagner’s report which I mailed you some time ago. First result of our seances was an account, by the same professor, a the German language, which I sent you in the periodical, then appeared his letter in Russian, to the editor of the Messenger of Europe; which letter must hereafter to be regarded as marking an epoch in the history of Spiritualism in Russia. It is the first article that has been constantly increasing, while our winter seances were in progress, reached the culmination upon the publication of the Professor’s article. The scandal caused by it in the press was incredibly great, and the spirit of opposition immense. All the newspapers got hold of it at once. At this moment of writing, my desk is literally covered with written and printed protests. I count thirty articles—illustrations and monuments of popular ignorance—full of raillery, abuse, and stupidity, which have been showered like rain upon the head of our courageous professor, the representative of science in Russia, who dared to observe facts and see Truth in a quarter where public opinion could only find crazy illusions and mountebankery.

But lo! and behold! just at the very height of this storm of indignation, there occurs a new surprise—an episode. The Imperial Society of Experimentalists in Physics, attached to the University of St. Petersburg, has at the suggestion of M. Mendeleyeff, the academician, and one of our most eminent savants, appointed a Scientific Commission to investigate the Spiritual Phenomena. It will be composed of nearly all the University professors and quite a number of young scientists besides.

My prayer to you and Col. Olcott is as follows : Will you be kind as to translate into English the enclosed “Appeal to Mediums,” and then with the Colonel’s help have it published in all the spiritual papers of America, as well as in some secular papers. Furthermore, consult together and report to us, whom of American mediums we had better invite to St. Petersburg, in the best interest of the Cause. For our first experiments we would prefer having mediums for simple but strong physical manifestations in the light. Use all your influence to get us good mediums, begin the work at once, and advise me without loss of time. Bear in mind that money is no object with us, and that for my own part I am ready to undergo any amount of personal sacrifice, if thereby I can only see Truth triumphant.

Consult your “John King,” and ask him to help us; I am certain he will not refuse our committee, and I hope he will give our scientists hard work. I am sending the “Appeal” to England, and in all probability will have to visit London myself in order to secure the best mediums. I hope that what we are preparing, and our title Scientific Commission, will help Col. Olcott to open the eyes of American scientists, and force them to do likewise. It will be a disgrace to progressed America, if we anticipate them.

Sincerely and truly yours,

A. Aksakoff

Counselor of State, in the Imperial Chancellery of St. Petersburg

Since then F.T.S.

Appeal to Mediums

[Translated from the French]

In consequence of the testimony of Messrs. Butlerow and Wagner, professors at the University of St. Petersburg, to the reality of mediumistic phenomena, and of the extreme agitation which has thereby been produced among the Russian public and in the press, the Society of Physical Science attached to the said University, at its sitting of May 6th, 1875, appointed a committee to investigate the said phenomena.

The Committee to have a series Experimental seances, both with foreign mediums and persons in Russia who possess medisnic[?] powers, who may desire to afford to the Committee an opportunity to study the phenomena which occur in their presence.

The Committee would like at the beginning to occupy itself principally with the fundamental type of these phenomena, comprising the movement of inanimate objects, with or without the contact of hands, but without the application of any known mechanical force.

The Committee propose to commence its investigation in the month of September, and continue them, at least until the month of May, 1876. The experiments will be made weekly, once or twice, according to circumstances; each sitting will be immediately registered and signed by the members of the Committee and the witnesses on the part of the medium, who will be admitted to the number of three ; when the Committee shall have concluded its investigations, the result will be published.

In accordance with a resolution adopted at the sitting of May 9, the undersigned is authorized to give publicity to nomination and plan of action of the said Committee, as well as to take such measures as he may find necessary for the invitation of mediums. In view of which facts he has undertaken to make the present appeal to mediums for physical phenomena, and to invite them to spend some time in St. Petersburg, in order to give the Committee an opportunity to study the phenomena peculiar to their mediumship. As to those who would not be able to accept this invitation except under particular conditions, they are requested to immediately communicate the same to the undersigned, who will do his best to remove any material difficulty, and amply recompense those who may answer this appeal for any trouble they may undergo.

Alexandre Aksakoff

A Card to the American Public

In compliance with the request of the Honourable Alexander Aksakoff, Counselor of State in the Imperial Chancellery at St. Petersburg, the undersigned hereby gives notice that they are prepared to receive applications from physical mediums who may be willing to go to Russia, for examination before the Committee of the Imperial University.

To avoid disappointment, it may be well to state, that the undersigned will recommend no mediums whose personal good character is not satisfactorily shown; nor any who will not submit themselves to a thorough scientific test of their mediumistic powers, in the city of New York, prior to sailing; nor any who cannot exhibit most of their phenomena in a lighted room, to be designated by the undersigned, and with such ordinary furniture as may be found therein.

Approved applications will be immediately forwarded to St. Petersburg, and upon receipt of orders thereon from the Scientific Commission or its representative, Mr. Aksakoff, proper certificates and instructions will be given to accepted applicants, and arrangements made for defraying expenses.

Address the undersigned, in care of E. Gerry Brown, Editor of the Spiritual Scientist, 18 Exchange Street, Boston, Mass, who is hereby authorized to receive personal applications from mediums in the New England States.

Henry S. Olcott.
Helena P. Blavatsky.

A Word of Advice To The Singing Medium, Mr. Jesse Sheppard

I am truly sorry that a spiritualist paper like the Religio-Philosophical Journal, which claims to instruct and enlighten its readers, should suffer such trash as Mr. Jesse Sheppard is contributing to its columns to appear without review. I will not dwell upon the previous letter of this very gifted personage, although everything he has said concerning Russia and life at St. Petersburg might be picked to pieces by any one having merely a superficial acquaintance with the place and the people; nor will I stop to sniff at his nosegays of high-sounding names—his Princess Bulkoffs and Princes This and That—which are as preposterously fictitious as though, in speaking of Americans, some Russian singing medium were to mention his friends Prince Jones or Duke Smith, or Earl Brown—for if he chooses to manufacture noble patrons from the oversloppings of his poetic imagination, and it amuses him or his readers, no great harm is done. But when it comes to his saying the things he does in the letter of July 3rd, in that paper, it puts quite a different face <... continues on page 1-38 >

Editor's notes

  1. Russia by Aksakoff, A. N., Spiritual Scientist, v. 2, No. 18, July 8, 1875, p. 207
  2. Appeal to Mediums by Aksakoff, A. N., Spiritual Scientist, v. 2, No. 18, July 8, 1875, p. 207
  3. A Card to the American Public by Olcott, H. S.; Blavatsky, H. P., Spiritual Scientist, v. 2, No. 18, July 8, 1875, p. 211
    This is published in "A Modern Panarion", p. 35 as "Notice to Mediums". – Archivist
  4. A Word of Advice To The Singing Medium, Mr. Jesse Sheppard by Blavatsky, H. P., Spiritual Scientist, v. 2, No. 18, July 8, 1875, p. 209. Also on SB 3:111.
    This is published in "A Modern Panarion," p. 86, as "A ...". – Archivist