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vol. 1, p. 40
from Adyar archives of the International Theosophical Society
vol. 1 (1874-1876)


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< A Rich Reward (continued from page 1-39) >

our past trouble, and difficulties were none great a price to pay. We ask readers who approve of our work to aid us by getting new subscribers, and of those who are blessed with knowledge and gifted with the ability to communicate the same, that they will send us their best thoughts in proper shape for publication. Let such reflect how great, how sublime is the work of those through whom thousands of minds are enlightened to their spiritual capabilities, their faith strengthened, and the immortal happiness of the future life demonstrated with mathematical certitude. To help in such a work is indeed a rich reward.


An Irrepressible Conflict

The Boston Investigator goes out of its way to defend Prof. Tobin from our strictures, and insinuates that what we said of him was begotten by a dread of his exposing the frauds in Spiritualism more thoroughly than we would desire. It also intimates that we wrote without having attended Mr. Tobin’s lecture, and informed ourselves as to what he really said.

Our venerable contemporary is wrong in every particular. We distinctly stated the Scientist gave its hearty applause to every endeavor to unmask the frauds of our real and pretended mediums. It was and is ready, moreover, to cooperate in every such good work, and it goes farther then the Investigator itself in helping to bring offenders to the condign punishment of the law. Finally, it was because we did listen to the lecture in question that we felt compelled to stigmatize the speaker’s dishonest course, in coming before the public under the guise of an impartial critic, and then coolly ignoring the new scientific problems connected with the genuine spiritual phenomena, and making it to be inferred that the idea of the return of spirits to us was an absurdity.

Discussion with a journal representing the theory of the Investigator is profitless, because it is not open to conviction. In this, it perfectly matches all the organs I the materialistic scientists. The trouble with them is hat their view of Nature is bounded by the range of the external senses. What they can taste, feel, hear and see, they believe actual (if not subversive of their preconceived, various notions as to probability) ; what suggests the manifestations of a new force they reject without examination. This is the dishonesty and purblindness of partisanship, and no progress in their liberalization of mind is possible in presence of such conceit, stubbornness, and self-sufficiency.

We do not ask these people to believe in the occurrence of supernatural phenomena, for we do not believe in it ourselves. We do not require them to accept anything that cannot be as clearly and satisfactorily demonstrated as any phenomenon in physical science, for we occupy just such an attitude ourselves. Our knowledge of Spiritualism is the result of long and patient observation of facts, not a theory, the outcome of sentimentality and credulity. We never blamed the disciples of Comte and Herbert Spencer for demanding proof of our doctrines ; we simply denounce their dogged refusal to investigate them in the spirit of candor and impartiality, agreeing to stake every cherished notion upon the result. We take them upon their own ground, and say that if they approach the subject with a sincere disposition to learn the truth, we will meet them half way. But when they behave towards us and our beliefs with the insolence displayed by Sir Humphrey Davy, Faraday, Tyndale, Huxley, Stokes, and the pamphleteers of the English American scientific journals, we return scorn for scorn, epithet for epithet, blow for blow, and defy the whole circle to the colleges and academies, to put us down or seriously retard the march of our social Cause. And while we have a pen to write and an organ to communicate through, we shall denounce such scientific cheats as these “ex-lecturers of the Royal Polytechnic Institute,” who mislead the public as to the real scientific importance of the spiritual phenomena, by giving them the go-by, devoting their whole time to exposing the frauds which we all admit are mingled with them, and saying in so many words that the assertion that immortal man can operate from the world of spirit upon the world of matter is too ridiculous to permit of argument. Nothing could better express their views than the language of Lecky, in his “ History of the Rise and Spirit of Rationalism in Europe,” where he remarks that educated men receive an account of a miracle taking place—his idea of a miracle being something that controvenes their notions of gravity, chemical combination, and the conservation and correlation of force—“ with an absolute and even derisive incredulity which dispenses all examination the evidence.”

<Untitled> (The Encyclopedia Britannica has an article)

The Encyclopedia Britannica has an on “ apparitions, ” upon which this “ scientific editor ” writes.

“From time to time, as there was occasion, we have referred to the so-called revelations of modern Spiritualism, to the discovery of gross imposture in connection with the same, and to the strange hallucinations in regard to the subject, which have overtaken even men who have no mean pretensions to the name of scientists. We have just seen a resume of the history and theories of supernatural appearances and influences, in the second volume of the new edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, a work which is generally regarded as an unusually high authority. The article to which we refer traces the origin of and reasons for superstitious beliefs, considers the evidence for the reputed appearance of ghosts, and concludes with the principal arguments for and against the creed of the Spiritualists. The writer of the article evidently considers the strength of the argument, in favor of Spiritualism, to consist in the character of a few of its supporters, men like Mr. Wallace and Mr. Cookies in England, and Robert Dale Owen in this country. Reference is made to the experience of Mr. Crookes, who not only saw a spirit, but “clasped it in his arms, and thus demonstrated its substantial existence ; and the conclusion to the whole matter is Spiritualism, even if its principles are not fully proven, is still a fair subject for scientific investigation, with a reasonable presumption in its flavor.

We have referred to this article in the Encyclopedia Britannica because an opinion such as that cited above, in a publication of such high standing, is worthy of more than passing notice. No matter how wonderful the events that are related by the fanatics who generally make up the congregation of Spiritualists, their revelations have little effect an any one outside the circle of their immediate followers ; but let a man of some scientific attainments, and, moreover, a member of the Royal Society, and his testimony to the truth of these events, and we see that he may deceive even the very elect. It was generally understood, when the last edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica was announced, that it was to be scientist in the best sense of the term, and, while giving due weight to popular beliefs and superstitions, that it would endeavor to sift away the chaff with which many of them are enveloped, and reveal their real character. We are to understand, then, from the article under consideration, that such investigations as have been made by some of the more distinguished converts to Spiritualism can properly he classed under the head of scientific experiments, which, while perhaps not absolutely conclusive, leave the matter sub judice. When we remember the character of the evidence on which all the modern miracles depends, the difficulties if not impossibility of making a thorough investigation with the facilities afforded at a seance, and the complete exposure of all the notorious cases of spiritual visions, our readers will probably venture to doubt whether the treatise on “ Apparitions ” in the Encyclopedia Britannica either gives a clear understanding of the actual facts with Spiritualism, or re represents in any sense the views of scientists generally in regard to the matter. No mention is made, for instance, of the exposure of the Katie King fraud in this country, while the vision or this airy being, produced in England under the auspices of the same mediums, is given as one of the strong arguments for allowing Spiritualism to have a standing scientific men. For our part, we can say that we never heard of any event at a spiritualistic seance that at all approached the movements of the wonderful Psycho, in London, whose rationale escaped detection for months, with exhibitions in open day, and with apparently every facility for investigation that could he desired.”

Editor's notes

  1. An Irrepressible Conflict by Olcott, H. S.(?), Spiritual Scientist, v. 2, No. 24, August 19, 1875, p. 283
  2. The Encyclopedia Britannica has an article by unknown author