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vol. 3, p. 100
from Adyar archives of the International Theosophical Society
vol. 3 (1875-1878)


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Spiritualism in England


It was but a few weeks ago that I met at dinner an eminent scientific man who had heard nothing of Spiritualism, but who displayed considerable interest in the subject. He listened attentively to what was said, and then remarked, “But all this seems to me very like what Maskelym and Cook do. They perform, as mere jugglers, precisely what I hear put down to spirits now. What is the difference?” I explained with care that the difference was that Maskelym and Cook were on a stage filled with all appliances, with any number of confederates, and with every facility for deception, whereas the phenomena which had been detailed occurred where no means of deception were available, and even in the seclusion of private family circles, where no stranger was present. My scientific friend could not see it. His long life of devotion to exact science had not apparently enabled him to reason sufficiently exact to distinguish between the two cases.

I was considerably impressed by this interview. The utter fallaciousness of the reasoning of a most eminent man on this point impressed me with an overpowering sense of the difficulty of reaching the ordinary intellect. If he can talk so, I thought, how can we wonder at the Philistine public ? And more than this, if this be, as I believe it is, a fair specimen of the scientific mind outside of its own groove, what is it fit for? In plain truth, I believe that the mind that has run in a groove all its life is the very worst for the invesgation of a new subject, foreign to its training, is most liable to error, and least flexible in taking up new points.

Herein Prof. Huxley showed his wisdom when he refused to go into the investigation of Spiritualism as being outside of his work. We should not seek for Tyndall’s opinion on astronomy, or Huxley’s on optics, or Carpenter’s on photography. Why should we set such store by their dicta on Spiritualism of which they know nothing, and against which they are densely prejudiced ! It is too sure that they are the last men from whom a fair and reasonable treatment of the question may be expected. Their whole work—the labors of a life-time—is against it. They are stopped from candid investigation by the consideration that, if what we tell them is true, then is their science good for nothing, and they themselves have been groping in the dark all their lives long.

And when they lead the unscientific public is only too glad to follow. The public at large may be roughly divided thus :

Some are scientific, and are predisposed to reject a belief in the supernatural as a recurrence to barbarism. They sneer down what they don’t want to believe in.

Some are theological, and consign the whole matter to the devil. They are least of all open to fair argument. They have invented an Omnipotent Fiend to whom they consign every thing they don’t like, or find inconvenient.

Some are fashionable, and look with horror on so undesirable a subject. It is not bon ton, not “ good form,” not to be whispered of in public. If the uncanny thing is touched it must be in private, “ secretly, for fear of the Jews,” and the leprosy must be hidden from the public gaze.

All these are more or less predisposed against the subject. And when the scientific, religious, and fashionable worlds are eliminated, what remains? The salt of the earth, in one sense. Men who gaze fearlessly into the future, and can read the signs of the times aright ; men who are neither fools nor fanatics, and who, humbly seeking after the truth, are not afraid to follow it whithersoever it may lead them. But, alas ! with them, in this matter, a motley group who have clustered round them from mere love of eccentricity, some because their mental balance is already shaken ; some whose minds are quite upset, and who talk and act wildly and foolishly. And with them the crowd of camp followers who hover on the margin of every new subject, and bring little credit on those in whose trail they follow. It is not strange that men who turn to the literature of the subject should find much that shocks refined taste ; much that they can turn to ridicule, and much that fills them with disgust.

It is no small thing to say, while confessing all this, that Spiritualism presents claims on the attention of thinking men which are being very widely recognized. The vast weight of evidence bears down all opposition, and men are beginning to view the matter with less horror, and to look facts fairly in the face.


The earth is in a melting mood,
This morning of the year ;
And clasped around by mists that brood,
She smiles to find herself so wooed,
With, now and then, a tear.

The topmost fastness of the hill
Has let the winter go ;
The happy-hearted little rill
No longer shivers past the mill
To meadows hushed with snow.

The birds let fall their new-born dreams
Upon me from above ;
And many a meadow wed with beams,
And many a wind-kissed blossom seems
To say a word for love.

What is there in this tender air
To thrill me like a dart ?
It quickens places poor and bare,
And every covet sweet and fair,
Except one maiden’s heart.

O, are such changeful gleams of light
Made only to beguile ?
Then, I am but a foolish wight,
To be so glad because, last night,
She blessed me with a smile.

But O, when ice and snow relent,
And every coldest thing ;
Might not, perchance, one more repent,
And melting into warm consent,
Flood all my heart with Spring?


A Definition of the Science. – Its Uses, Etc.

The term “ Psychometry ” will be so new to many of our readers that we deem it advisable, before narrating some recent experiments in the above science, to give a few words of explanation. The word is derived from psyche, soul or life, and metron, a measure. “ Persons by means of this science,” says Prof. Denton, in his “ Soul of Things,” “ profess to be able, by putting a piece of matter, whatever be its nature, to their foreheads, to see, either with eyes closed or open, all that that piece of matter, figuratively speaking, ever saw, heard, or experienced. . . . In the world around us radiant forces are passing from all objects to all objects in their vicinity, and during every moment of the day and night are daguerreotyping the appearances of each upon the other ; the images thus made not merely resting upon the surface, but sinking into the interior of them ; there held with astonishing tenacity, and only waiting for a suitable application to reveal themselves to the inquiring gaze. You cannot, then, enter a room by night or by day, but you leave on going out your portrait behind you. The pane of glass in the window, the brick in the wall, and the paving stone in the street, catch the pictures of all passers-by, and faithfully preserve them. This is as true of the past as the present. From the first dawn of light upon this infant globe, when round its cradle the steamy curtain hung, to this moment, nature has been busy photographing every movement. All the panoramas of the past, containing all that man ever did,—the first rude savages of the world, their hunts, their wars, their progress ; the history of all nations and peoples, from the cradle to the grave, are indelibly written upon the rocks and stones around us.”

In the book mentioned above, the results are given of a series of experiments with mineral and fossil specimens, and archæological remains, from which the psychometer, without any previous knowledge of the specimen, or even seeing it, told its history, which passed before the gaze of the seer like a grand panoramic view ; sometimes almost with rapidity of lightning, and at other times so distinctly that it could be described as readily as an ordinary scene.

The specimens thus examined were generally placed upon the forehead, and held there during the examination : but he says “ this is not absolutely necessary, some psychometers being able to see when holding a specimen in the hand.”

In another portion of his work he details the uses of this science.

He says, “ Granting these facts, are we too enthusiastic if we indulge the belief that, with the general cultivation of this faculty, there will dawn a brighter day than humanity shall ever before have witnessed ? May we not hope for less of wrong, and more of right, when men and women shall have learned that all on which their shadows rest—every ray of light which they reflect—become, emphatically ‘ recording angels,’ faithfully transcribing their words, their deeds, their thoughts, nay, the very motives of their hearts ? Alas for the peace of the evil-doer, when, from every object by which he is surrounded, his own image stares him back in every attitude requisite for the consummation of crime, and with a persistency that time cannot affect ! As I contemplate it there open before me fields for investigation that seem to know no boundary. If we have correctly interpreted this ‘ handwriting on the wall,’ what is there desirable which the future does not promise us ? What records are there from which the historian may gather without stint ! What domains for the naturalist ! What limitless realms for the natural, the mental, and the moral philosopher ! Truly, its ultimate and inevitable results to science are grand beyond comparison ; its benefits to humanity, in every department of life, of incalculable value ! ‘ He who runs may read ’ the promise of the future.”

Editor's notes

  1. Spiritualism in England by Moses, W. S. (signed as M. A. (Oxon))
  2. Relenting by unknown author. Source unknown, also published in Mount Alexander Mail, August 14, 1874, p.2
  3. Psychometry by unknown author