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vol. 1, p. 49
from Adyar archives of the International Theosophical Society
vol. 1 (1874-1876)
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< Physical Mediums and The Banner of Light (continued from page 1-48) >

the Eddys and with Mrs. Holmes and Mrs. Compton have given him much prestige with the public as a keen observer of facts and phenomena. But we submit that he, like all the rest of humanity, is liable to err, and in some points may depend, in making up his narratives, upon the statements put forth either by the mediums concerned, or by their friends. At least such a state of things appears to be indicated in the article referred to, as during the past week we have received, in consequence of publishing it, a personal visit at our office from Madam Barker, of the Deacon House, Boston, who, during her call, earnestly denounced the effort to connect her and the said Deacon House, by name or otherwise, with Mrs. Thayer, whom the most decidedly objected to be ranked with, on account of highly suspicious circumstances which she says attended Mrs. Thayer’s séances at that house—circumstances and discoveries which finally led to her (Mrs. T.’s) leaving the premises. Any one desiring to know more concerning the matter can apply in person to the Madam at the Deacon House, where she still resides.

While we do not assume to judge between the respective reliability of the statements of Col. Olcott and Madam Barker, yet it would seem by Madam B.’s narrative that in copying that of the Colonel we have been led into an error.

The public media, especially the physical, frequently call upon us themselves or through their friends to announce the results of their séances to the people, and as a matter of news we have always complied, at least in so far as our space would permit; for we have ever tried to be the faithful defender of the persecuted exponents of spirit return in all phases of development, and if in the past we have made errors at any time, they have leaned “toward mercy’s side” in behalf of these mortal channels for invisible communion. We felt that the keen blasts of skeptical ridicule and churchial bigotry were severe enough upon them, and should not in all fairness be supplemented by covert scorn and derision or open censure and denunciation among the Spiritualists themselves. But we submit we have rights in the case, and hereafter we are determined to editorially endorse no physical medium as genuine unless we shall personally test that medium under satisfactory conditions. We do not set up any claim to supremacy among Spiritualists by saying this; we have ever and shall always aim to be an impartial chronicler of current events; but hereafter, when we speak of mediums whom we have not personally tested, we shall do so in an impersonal manner—that is, we wish it understood that we give the facts concerning them as related to us, but that we cannot be expected to endorse or vouch for their genuineness, in that we have of them no individual knowledge.

Rule to Try Mediums

“I am an ingrained, uncompromising skeptic as to the honesty of every medium, until his trustworthiness is proven. That done, nobody will more boldly defend him (even against himself) than Yours truly,

Henry S. Olcott.”

Banner of Light, June 12th.

I, too, am skeptical, but I cannot go as far as that. I think Spiritualism has a tendency to make us skeptical. Honest, intelligent skepticism ought to be welcomed, and never decried by Spiritualists. But has not our friend Olcott done himself injustice? Permit me to defend him “even against himself.” It is law maxim that every person is presumed to be innocent until proved guilty. Bro. Olcott reverses this wholesome rule. He holds every medium dishonest—a guilty man (or woman), a knave, a dissembler, a cheat, liar—until honesty is proved, thus throwing the burden of proof upon the accused, instead of where it belongs, upon the shoulders of the accuser.

Does Mr. Olcott treat his fellowmen in this way? I think not. Does he consider every stranger he meets dishonest? Why apply a more rigid rule to mediums?

I have in all my investigations of Spiritualism steadily adhered to the rule to condemn no medium as guilty of dishonesty until the dishonesty was positively proved against him or her. This rule gives the medium as good a chance, at least, as the law gives criminals: the benefit of the doubt. Mr. Olcott’s rule does not give them so fair a chance. While I may doubt the claims of some mediums as to certain spiritual gifts, I am not forced to the alternative of doubting the honesty the person; for there are many instances where mediums made false claims, were self-deceived, but not dishonest. I have seen people in a state of great religious excitement in Methodist meetings, who believed sincerely that the Holy Ghost, or Jesus Christ, inspired them. I I had no reason to question their honesty, but doubted their claim.

I may not be a “defender of mediums,” but this much 1 can say: I have always, since I have been a truth-seeker, defended men, women and children—asserted the intrinsic nobility of human nature. Some people, who have been misinformed as to my views and feelings in relation to mediums and mediumship, have declared that I was an enemy to mediums. A great change in their views been wrought in ten years. It is now conceded that mediumship can be rigidly investigated, subjected to crucial tests, without impugning the honesty of the person. Such investigation, as a matter of course, leads to the discovery of frauds, but does it not result in the triumph of mediumship as well? The condemnation of a counterfeit is not an impeachment of the genuine. The counterfeit presupposes the genuine. If we have evidence sufficient to force us to doubt the honesty of a medium, we are not even then justified in condemning the person as guilty of fraud—not until there is proof positive.

It appears to me that if the mediums, with their spirit control, are not abundantly able to defend themselves, it is vain for any on “this side of the river” to volunteer their defense. I have in my mind’s eye several who announced themselves as champions and “defenders of mediums” that have given them the same protection the fox in the fable offered the chickens.

I think Brother Olcott’s purpose is manly, but he errs greatly, it would seem, in his rule, and I am inclined to believe that on further deliberation he will himself perceive and acknowledge it.

W. F. Jamieson.

Маzеpра, Minn.

<Untitled> (In a letter to Col. Olcott)

In a letter to Col. Olcott, of date July 17th, ultimo Mr. William Crookes says, “I have done very little in Spiritualism lately, partly for want of opportunities with trustworthy mediums, and partly owing to my time being so occupied with business matters; but my interest in the subject is unabated.”

What is done in the Dark

Spectre business in the Massachusetts woods
Additional if not Indisputable Proofs that you Cannot See What is Going on Around You if you are in Impenetrable Darkness.

Spirits’ Camp, Lake Pleasant, Montague, Mass., Aug. 16.—I saw wonderful things last evening. I shall not say that I grasped the flesh and blood of ghost, for I do not know that I did: nor shall that another ghost laid hold of some part of my apparel and rudely shook and disarranged it, and cuffed me, and persevered in misbehavior until I wished to cry out to him, it, or her, not to leave me in a ludicrous fix to be thus discovered by thirty persons when the candles should be relighted. It was dark séance; in which darkness we changed seats, each person in regular succession around the room taking his or her sent next to the Allen boy, I had hold of his left hand during this treatment, and right hand was held by one woman all the evening. Next to her sat the President of the association, Dr. Joseph Beals of Greenfield, former superintendent of the orthodox Congregational Sunday school, and committeeman for building its new church edifice. Next to him sat Mrs. Beals, his wife. The woman who held on the medium’s right hand had not seen him before, she told me, and Dr. Beals confirmed her assertion.

who were in the circle.

We were persons of many sizes and both sexes and as we sat, enclosed a large spaces in which was a rough camp table about four feet long and two feet wide. How the hand could in the dark, and with the change of person, cleverly lay exact hold of the very points to be taken hold of and shake and disarrange me in manner that would have been painfully ludicrous in the light, I do not know. It seemed as though it was a trickster with eyes that saw in the dark, or it was a clairvoyant spirit. Yet I was left good condition, and none of the circle knew how I had been torn about. One man said that he received a good rubbing on some lameness that only himself knew of. The exchanges of place were made as rapidly as we could move in the dark, each person leaving the side of the boy at the signal of two knuckle raps on the rough, unplaned board table, and the next person in order taking the vacated seat. The majority of persons in the seance being tenting spiritists, accepted all the marvels with placid, exultant faith, but my neighbor on the right hand, Mr. Starbuck, had come five miles from Turner’s Falls to see what he had before only heard of, and he yearning for conviction. He was sagacious as to what might be done, and as far as I could judge in the dark he kept up leaning and swaying in all directions as though trying to bump his nose against hobgoblin, ad softly reached his feet over the floor—he was a tall man—as though hoping possibly to obtain conviction from the other extremities. The pair following on my left were in the early bloom of life although old in the spiritist ranks, popular mediums and public speakers; and so familiar to their


eyes and own dreaming were these phenomena, that unagitated by any manner of ghostly demonstrations they seemed to me to be keeping a pleasant flirtation. The husband was on far side in a blue boating shirt and the other garments usually worn by men; and in front of the belle clairvoyant and her husband sat the girl-wife of the Allen boy. She was a complexion that might be a reflection from the spirit-world, embodying the rose and the lily, a regular nose, lovely mouth, and long lashes curling over intelligent eyes. She has been only one month a wife, and her bands were drawn back and held by the persons behind her; were said to be, for all that was done, said or grimaced in dark can never be known, but an instantaneous light would probably have revealed grimaces of wonder, unhandy attitudes of investigation, lips uttering words of faith or even of love, not in whispers, for there was a distracting jargon of a loud conversation, and jerks of nervousness. The Allen boy, like Mrs. Thayer in similar circumstances, seemed to be wrought upon by an invisible and violent force, and by the strength of each phenomenon to be twitched out of his body. Mrs. Thayer was debilitated for two or three days after the mysterious production of her pinks and passion flowers.

The first demonstrations of the seance last evening preceded the exchanging of persons in the seat next the medium, and were entirely musical, except the appearance of stars of light, swiftly moving. After the dulcimer had been played in an inexpressibly charming manner, and more skillfully, it seemed, than any one of the company could have done in the light, Mrs. Allen’s brother, who sat by her side, began to sound the violin. Then several bells of different sizes were rung, and there followed a heavy thwack. Whatever might have happened was left undisturbed until the close of the dark seance, when the light revealed the table standing on end, with dulcimer on top, and above it two cane-seat chairs standing, with their legs interlocked like the fingers of clasped hands.

The hand of a man.

Next followed the best, ten or fifteen minutes of light seance. The candle stark in a potato was relighted. A woman’s blanket was lightly tacked to the timbers of the house three or four feet from the floor, and falling down was brought before the breast of the Allen boy, who sat with his back two or three feet from the wall, and by his side a venerable gentleman of this neighborhood, whose arm lay before the breast of the medium, held tightly by the medium’s two hands, that it might be known where the medium’s two hands were. One person after another went up in wild excitement to see closely, and perhaps be touched by the phantom fingers that came jumping above the curtain. Each one went back with exclamations of amazement. The magnetic communication of the circle must still be maintained, therefore, at the invitation of the President of the association, I seated myself so that I could reach forward and be touched by the spirit hand. It came, I touched it, and it darted away; it came again and I got hold of the fingers, and it slipped out; it was quickly moving around, up and down, and at the side. I determined that I would seize it next time, and I did; I got firmly and fully hold of man’s hand, large, soft, and warm; I held it close and grasped it strong, with joyful hope of forcing it over tile curtain. I was already reaching the other side. I pulled and be pulled, I up and down; he jerked in one direction and I jerked in the other, and about this time he was no more in my hand, and disregarding all the decorum of the circle. I dashed over the white-bearded old gentleman’s venerable neck and my head behind that curtain. There was nothing there but two empty cane-seated chairs.

AUGUST 26. 1875

The Eddy Family, Mrs. Conant, etc.

To the Editor of the Scientist:—I was sorry to see in your issue of August 12th, the strictures of the correspondent of the Boston Herald, upon the Eddy manifestations, republished with remarks which seemed rather favorable than otherwise to the writer, whose testimony is so inimical, both in its spirit and its matter, to William Eddy as a medium. Surely this man whose early life was one of martyrdom to the cause, has suffered enough from the opponents of Spiritualism, without having suspicions cast upon him at second hand by Spiritualists, who know nothing from obser-<... continues on page 1-50 >

Editor's notes

  1. Rule to Try Mediums by Jamieson, W. F.; Olcott, H. S.
  2. In a letter to Col. Olcott by unknown author, Spiritual Scientist, v. 2, No. 22, August 5, 1875, p. 259
  3. What is done in the Dark by unknown author, Sun, The, Thursday, August 19, 1875, p. 3
  4. The Eddy Family, Mrs. Conant, etc. by unknown author, Spiritual Scientist, v. 2, No. 25, August 26, 1875, p. 298