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vol. 2, p. 21
from Adyar archives of the International Theosophical Society
vol. 2 (January 1874 - April 1878)


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Letter from England

June 29, 1875.

In regard to the materialization phenomena, it is strange that we remain so comparatively ignorant of the means by which they are produced. I have satisfied myself by patient investigation amid much difficulty, that bona fide materializations do occur: and also that very many (perhaps, most,) that profess to be materializations are mere presentations of the medium. I believe that each case must be taken on its statements, and that it is only by careful observation and selection, that we shall finally arrive at a theory.

The world has been so puzzled as to whether these phenomena be facts at all, that we have not vet ventured on inquiring into the mode by which such astounding results are accomplished. Crookes has no idea, I believe. At least, he told me one other day at our Psychological Society dinner, that he had no theory to propound; nor does it seem to him that the spirits themselves know. They are, as I conceive, agent who are themselves influenced by higher spirits behind them and they, certainly are not the persons to whom one would go for accurate information. We want to get at the people behind. Unfortunately my own spirits on whom I can rely, are very unwilling that I should have anything, generally, to do with physical phenomena, except in so far as they work in, with that which is their special care—the religious aspect of the question.

So I do not find myself able to get from them any information of much service. Nor did the spirits speaking thro’ Mrs. Tappan throw real light on the subject. I have observed very frequently that spirits never save us from the use of our own brains; and they lead and suggest rather than instruct. Education, not instruction is their plan.

But there are indications shaping themselves in my mind, that we must look for the explanation in Will-power, acting as the Intelligent Director of a force (Psychic or Odic) which operates on a form of matter new to us—possibly causing atomic as opposed to molecular change. We are, or we think we are, so constituted as only to be able to take cognizance of molecular change. What if this should be the opening to a new phase in which we shall be made acquainted with atomic change also.

The fact is, I know nothing about materialization. It is to me a subject of which I have not even learned the alphabet. But I have seen and heard enough to show me that in some cases—as the lilies materialized with Mrs. Tappan—the vital force of the medium is actually used, and probably, too, some of the atomic structure of the body. During the time that the lillies lasted, and for some time before and after—Mrs. Tappan's hands were like wax. The flesh had undergone a distinct change in appearance and feel, as well as in temperature. It was so, she tells me, throughout her body. All seemed drawn to the head, as tho' the pabulum out of which the lilies were made, were drawn from the body, and the atoms were magnetically reversed, and made to centre towards a new magnetic centre, viz: the seat of materialization, instead of the usual one. It is far more than probable that every atom is a magnet possessing polarity; and that in magnetic change (as we roughly call it), or atomic change as I prefer to name It, in apposition to molecular change, we shall find our first cine.

Moreover, my explorations in the subject of Photography lead me to the belief that it is a lower phase of what we call materialization. The floating masses of luminous vapour, which I now know to be the aura of spirits, is that substance which is photographed; and it is that which in another form builds up these mysterious bodies. But we are as far as may be from any coherent and intelligent theory which is worth propounding. I have put off writing till the Autumn; and I hope by that time to have studied the matter at length, and to have reduced to system my floating thoughts. It is, I think vastly to be desired that the aspect of Spiritualism which is religious, should be recognized as well as the scientific; and I am sure that many are prejudiced against the subject, because they do not understand its raison d'etre; nor see how if fits in with the necessities of the age.

Here it is in a nutshell. We—thinkers—are come principally to a standstill about, religion. Does man live again?

That is the question. Men have thrown over the old arguments, and are in a thoroughly skeptical phase of mind. There is no proof, they say. Now if Spiritualism brings just the needed proof, its raison, d’etre is clear; and it will re habilitate Religion, the while it throws a clear light on many problems of Science. In short, the union between Science and Religion will be nearer than it ever was before; and man will have a reasonable and sure foothold, where be lure all was slippery and uncertain.

I do not doubt this is the outcome of Spiritualism, but we are far from it yet.

We, in Europe, are suffering somewhat as you did about Katie King. The Paris trial has ended in a huge fiasco, and you know the result. I have forwarded you a Medium, from which you will see how the matter strikes me. I have no doubt whatever of Buguet’s mediumship; only it was convenient to deny it. He bought off, I have no doubt, a considerable part of his punishment by his lying denial of all mediumship; but he seems to have been sorely chagrined at his sentence. It is generally believed that he will be quietly released as soon as they dare. The prosecutor in chief received a great advance on the night of the trial. It is pretty certain that the prosecution is clerical, and has its origin in an attack made on the Archbishop of Toulouse, in the Revue Spirite.

Respecting my own Carte that Baguet took, I have no doubt that it is a genuine thing. It was described and authenticated by my own spirits quite independently. They gave me full particulars of the means used to convey my spirit, and of the results; naming even the exact hour of the operation, and the very minute at which the actual picture was taken.

This was literally accurate, when Paris time was reduced to London time. At first I thought there was a discrepancy; for the hour given to me did not agree with the letter of my friend, Mr. Gledstanes; but when I came to reduce the time given by him to our time here, I found it literally to the moment. Moreover, they told me of my guide appearing on one half of the plate, which was so. Such independent news from my own spirits who have always lien exact, leaves me no room to doubt, however little it may weigh with others. A day will come when all will be clear, and people will be more ready than they now are to accept what is as yet insufficiently proved. We must wait for that time with such patience as we can. Buguet, as I say, " has cheated himself into a mess, and tried to lie himself out of it." He cannot permanently hurt, tho’ he may annoy us.

I have heard of Madame Blavatsky. She is a remarkable woman; and I believe she has learned something of the occult sciences in Africa. I have no doubt at all that there is truth at the bottom of Magic; tho’ I do not know how far the truth extends. I agree with Col. Olcott in saving that we may get considerable choice in the spirits whom we attract, may attract practically i.e., those we wish, and may exercise much power over them when they do come. It has been our plan hitherto to take what we get, and allow foolish, frivolous, and undeveloped spirits to play pranks with us. I trust, in the future that we shall exercise more thought in selection. Half the falsehoods and follies that spirits tell and perpetrate might thus be avoided; and Spiritualism be so much the gainer.

I will send the Scientist what I can; but I am already so overpowered with work that I cannot overtake my engagements. The paper has considerably improved of late. You will have seen my review of Olcott’s People from the Other World. The book is much liked here. I have written for August, Human Nature, a reply to recent criticisms, such as those in the Unseen Universe (a very curious book); Professor Clifford, of our College, in the Fortnightly Review; our Dr. Lee, on Apparitions; and an American, Dr. Asa Mahan on the scientific exposure of Spiritualism. I have grouped them all together, and cut them up seriatim.

M. A. (Oxon.)

Another Eminent Convert (3)

Report of Professor Wagner, of the Imperial University of St. Petersburg, Russia, Upon the Results Of Recent Seances
From the Russian, of she “Messenger of Europe” of St. Petersburg. Translated for the Spiritual Scientist by Mme. H. P. Blavatsky.
Part III. Concluded from № 14.

For this purpose, we used a tape one and one-half inch wide. First of all, we thoroughly secured with it both of Brediff’s wrists, by making on each of his hands a tape bracelet, tight enough to shut out every possibility of his freeing his bands from them, and yet sufficiently loose not to interfere with the circulation of the blood. Each of the bracelets had four knots. Through these bracelets we passed the tape, and placed Brediff on a comfortable, low chair, with a high back to it, and, passing the tape under the front part of the seat, we crossed it over to the hack part of the chair, and threading the end of our tape through the chink between the castor and one of the legs, tied it there with a strong knot. Then we threaded in the same way the castor of the other back leg, and secured the tape again with a knot. After this we wound up with the same tape Brediff’s left arm, above the elbow, then, crossed it over his breast, and tied up his right arm. After that, we secured him well to the back of the chair, by winding the tape round his body several times, and then tying it on his left arm again, we lowered the tape down once more and passing it another time under the seat, brought it out at the front, and finally secured the end well with several knots to both the bracelets on his wrists. We used another tape to secure the legs and feet of the medium.

Tied up as he was, in such a fashion to his chair, we carried him, chair and all, into the dark recess of the door. The securing of the medium was such, and the combination of the tape-winding so perfect, that it was found impossible for him to move his hands apart more than a distance of a half an inch. Moreover, while resting comfortably enough on his knees, the hands could not be lifted up, for the tape secured them to the seat of his chair. No more could he move the upper part of his body, for it was drawn up to the chairback by the tape encircling his bust. There was no physical possibility for Brediff to untie himself ; besides, it would have required more than an hour to untie the fifteen strong knots without breaking them, and the whole seance did not last much longer than that.

At the succeeding seances we changed our knots, and kept continually varying them, but in order not to leave the smallest ground for doubt or suspicion, we adopted the following plan : We put on the medium’s hands two bags of gossamer stuff, and sewed each of them to the breast lappets of his coat ; then both of the lower ends of the gossamer bags were sewed tightly together, with the ends of a tape inserted between them and secured to them as strongly as needle and thread could secure, and then passed under the chair from the front, and securely tied at the back of the seat, through a small ring screwed for that purpose into the carving of the wood. Then both of his arms were fast secured with other tapes to his seat, the ends being tied into knots passed through other rings. The feet were tied up and fastened to the front legs of the chair. Strict examination proved to us beyond question, at the end of every seance, that the knots had not been meddled with, and the gossamer bags remained undisturbed.

Behind the curtain, opposite Brediff, we placed a small stand, on which we laid several loose pieces of clean notepaper and a pencil. Having thus prepared everything, we let down the hanging, and placed on a table outside the curtain, but close to it, a tambourine, a bell, and several pencils. On the right hand side of this table, and quite close to the hanging, sat Prof. Boutleroff, Dr. A––, and Madame Aksakoff; at the left were Aksakoff and myself. But we subsequently changed places. A large musical box standing at the further end of the room played miscellaneous airs during the whole seance.

A very few minutes after we were seated M. Brediff, the medium, was heard to exclaim :

“Oh, ca vient ! Je sens l’oppression...” (Oh, it is coming ! I feel the oppression...), and all was still again in the cabinet. Three minutes after that, we heard loud, sharp raps on the door-frame, and all the tapestry began to shake violently, as if it were pulled in several places by some invisible hands. Then between the two halves of the hanging, a little above the table, appeared a hand. Though this trembling band remained visible but a few minutes and the room was half darkened, still all of us saw and recognized it perfectly as a small, white, and delicate female hand, as unlike one of Brediff’s hands as possible. The very instant it disappeared, I gently drew apart the hangings, and plainly saw the medium's hands resting quietly on his knees.

After that, we heard the small stand inside the cabinet moved about, the paper on it rustled and the pencil was <... continues on page 2-22 >

Editor's notes

  1. Letter from England by Moses, W. S. (signed as M. A. (Oxon)), Spiritual Scientist, v. 2, No. 21, July 29, 1875, p. 249
  2. Another Eminent Convert (3) by Wagner, M.. Translated from Russian by HPB from «Messager of Europe»