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vol. 3, p. 13
from Adyar archives of the International Theosophical Society
vol. 3 (1875-1878)


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Mind reading

Mind Reading.—Zschokke, in speaking of his own experience, remarks: I am almost afraid to speak of this (“inward sight”); not because I am afraid to be thought superstitious, but that I may thereby strengthen such feelings in others. And yet it may be an addition to our stock of soul-experience, and therefore I will confess! It has happened to me sometimes on my first meeting with strangers, as I listened silently to their discourse, that their former life, with many trifling circumstances therewith connected, or frequently some particular scene in that life, has passed quite unvoluntarily, and as it were dream-like, yet perfectly distinct before me. During this time I usually feel so entirely absorbed in the contemplation of the stranger’s life, that at last I no longer see clearly the face of the unknown, wherein I undesignedly read, nor distinctly hear the voices of the shakers, which before served in some measure as a commentary to the text of their features.

For a long time I held such visions as delusions of the fancy, and the more so as they showed me even the dress and motions of the actors, rooms, furniture, and other accessories. By way of jest, I once, in a familiar family circle at Kirchberg, related the secret history of a sempstress who had just left the room and the house. I had never seen her before in my life; people were astonished, and laughed, but were not to be persuaded that I did not previously know the relations of which I spoke; for what I had uttered was the literal truth I, on my part, was not less astonished that my dream-pictures were confirmed by the reality. I became more attentive to the subject, and, when propriety admitted it, I would relate to those whose life thus passed before me the subject of my vision, that I might thereby obtain confirmation or refutation of it. It was invariably ratified, not without consternation on their part. I myself had less confidence than any one in this mental jugglery. So often as I revealed my visionary gifts to any new person, I regularly expected to hear the answer, “It was not so.” I felt a secret shudder when my auditors replied that it was true, or when their astonishment betrayed my accuracy before they spoke. Instead of many I will mention one example, whicn pre-eminently astonished me. One fair day in the city of Waldshut, I entered an inn (the Vine), in company with two young student-foresters; we were tired with rambling through the woods. We supped with a numerous company at the table-d’hote, where the guests were making very merry with the peculiarities and eccentricities of the Swiss, with Mesmer's magnetism, Lavater’s physiognomy, &c. One of my companions, whose national pride was wounded by their mockery, begged me to make some reply, particularly to a handsome young man who sat opposite us, and who had allowed himself extraordinary license. This man’s former life was at a moment presented to my mind. I turned to him, and asked whether he would answer me candidly, if I related to him some of the most secret passages of his life, 1 knowing as little of him personally as he did of me. That would be going a little further, I thought, than Lavater did with his physiognomy. He promised, if I was correct in my information, to admit it frankly. I then related what my vision had shown me, and the whole company were made acquainted with the private history of the young merchant,— his school years, his youthful errors, and, lastly, with a fault committed in reference to the strong-box of his principle. I described to him the uninhabited room with whitened walls, where to the right of the brown door, on a table, stood a black money-box, &c. A dead silence prevailed during the whole narration, which I alone occasionally interrupted by inquiring whether I spoke the truth. The startled young man confirmed every particular, and even what I had scarcely expected, the last mentioned. Touched by his candor I shook hands with him over the table, and said no more. He asked my name, which I gave him, and we remained together talking till past midnight He is probably still living!—Autobiography.

Spirits Moving Furniture in the Sixteenth Century

Jean Boden was a sorcerer, as M. L. President Fouchet related. One day they were talking of going somewhere, when a stool moved. Boden said this is my good angel, who tells me it would not be prudent to do so There was indeed a common report, in the sixteenth century, that Boden was inclined to Jewdeism, or much worse; and had a daemon, or familiar spirit, like that of Socrates, who always restrained him from going when it was not expedient. — but never urged him. When, says M. Antone Alban, he used to be talking to his friends of his affairs, and advising the undertaking of something, all at once they heard some of the furniture of his room, as a stool or such like article, make a noise as if shaken; then he would say, “My genius does not advise to do so.”

I shall only ad-l here, that it is curious, these allusions to spirit-rapping in the sixteenth century.—Montaigne, a Biography, raphy, by Bayle St. John.

Met Algernon Joy on Spiritualism in America

An interesting evening was spent mostly in social conversation. Among the objects on’ view were two books full of exceedingly beautiful spirit paintings by Mrs. Houywood, which attracted a large share of attention. An oil-painting belonging to Mr. Martheze, and representing the appearance of a materialised spirit at a private spirit circle held in Liverpool, was also an object of interest. Shortly after eight o’clock in the evening the members of the company, who had been dispersed throughout the various rooms, assembled in the Council room to listen to a short address from Mr. Algernon Joy, honorary secretary to the Association, about his experiences among Spiritualists, in America.

Mr. Joy, who was greeted with warm applause, said: I have made no sort of preparation to address the meeting this evening, but will try to give a cursory sketch of what I have seen of Spiritualists in the United States. I was much engaged nearly all the time I was in that country, consequently have been unable to give regular attention to the subject of Spiritualism. The first mention of Spiritualism which I heard in that country was while I was driving across the plains in the State of Nevada, on my way to a mine which I was going to inspect. The driver of the “stage” was a communicative sort of man, and told a story about a man in Carson, who was a Spiritualist, and had shot a man “right on the street.” I then asked the driver about the Spiritualists in that neighbourhood, and was told that there were many of them in Carson, and that they Were very much like other people. They did not seem to be generally considered deluded beings. Soon we came to a tunnel mouth by the side of the road, with an enormous mound of earth outside. The driver said it had been dug out by a man who worked seven days a week at it in search of gold, because the spirits told him there was plenty of the precious metal there; he dug for five years in perfect faith, and found none. (Laughter.) The next I heard of Spiritualism was during my visit to San Francisco. There it appeared to permeate all the churches, and there was scarcely a single pulpit in San Francisco where the preaching was not more or less leavened with the philosophy of Spiritualism. As a general rule four meetings in connection with Spiritualism were held in different parts of the town every Sunday. One of these meetings was convened regularly for the purpose of free discussion, and consisted half of Spiritualists and half of people who were opposed to Spiritualism; three out of every four of the Spiritualists present at these “free discussion” meetings were free lovers, and probably nearly half of the Spiritualists in San Francisco hold free love doctrines, which are most strongly opposed by the remaining Spiritualists. Because of the doctrines of free love being so much mixed up with Spiritualism there are many Spiritualists there who never mention their belief, because they do not wished to be mixed up with the disputed question. I was introduced to one lady in San Francisco and was afterwards shocked by discovering that she had had four husbands, one of whom cut his throat because she left him, and the other three are still living. The secretary of the only society there is a most fascinating person, who sings like an angel, and who has had four husbands; one of her husbands is now treasurer to the society and another the president, and she transacts business; sitting between them, and they all get on very amicably together. One fine day she had told her previous husband that she liked the other man better, and then straightway left her home and married the other man almost immediately. This shows one of the inconveniences of free love doctrines, that a man may be courting another man’s wife under his nose, without his suspecting it, as actually occurred in this case, and very rapidly walk off with her. I was told that probably one-third of the acknowledged Spiritualists in the United States are free lovers, and that is a reason why many who are Spiritualists in faith do not avow it. The other two-thirds of the Spiritualists are perhaps the most violent opponents of free love that exist anywhere.

At San Francisco I made the acquaintance of Mr. and Mrs. Slocum, who were the joint editors and proprietors of Common Sense. Mr. Slocum is of a very tolerant nature, disinclined to think ill of any one or any thing. He is very far from being a free lover himself, but thinks that the ideal of the doctrine is wholly pure, though he does not believe humanity to be yet prepared to adopt it.

In Salt Lake City I found Spiritualism in another form. All the leaders of Mormonism arc bitterly opposed to it, for it is eating away their vitals. All Mormons who fall away from the faith invariably become Spiritualists, Some few years ago 500 Mormons came out with Mr. Godbe from the Mormon Church, and formed a Spiritualistic Association. They took a hall, and Mr. Godbe managed all the business of the organisation, until it became necessary for him to give all his time to his own affairs, for the Mormons from whom he seceded tried hard to ruin him, and nearly succeeded.

There appears now to be rather a want of cohesion among the members of the society in Salt Lake City. I attended one of the meetings there, and only about a dozen persons were present, yet Spiritualism was so common that seances were held regularly in a very large number of houses in Salt Lake City. Thence I went to Chicago, and met Mr. S. S. Jones, the editor of the Religio-Philosophical Journal, and through him was introduced to several prominent Spiritualists. The Spiritualists in Chicago are more or less divided into two or three parties, and there 'is another newspaper there called the Spiritualist at Work, edited by a Mr. Wilson, a very excellent man and good Spiritualist. Both papers advocate anti-free love doctrines. There are no avowed free love papers in America but Woodhull and Claflin’s Weekly, and another paper edited by Moses Hull, so far as I know. I found, that in Chicago the number of free lovers has been reduced; they seem to have been driven out West, and there are more of them in San Francisco than anywhere else. In Chicago there is a Lyceum to educate the children of Spiritualists, and it holds its meetings every Sunday.

I also went to Philadelphia, and saw Dr. Child, who was very ill. There seems to be no doubt that he was in partnership with the Holmeses, reaping pecuniary benefit from their seances, with which, it afterwards turned out, a considerable amount of fraud had been mixed up. When this was discovered, Dr. Child stopped the sale of his book, which purported to have been dictated by the spirit John King, who appeared through the Holmeses’. The book also contained an account of the seances at the Holmeses’. The feeling against Dr. Child in Philadelphia, .in consequence of his having been in partnership with these mediums, was so strong that he was obliged to resign his presidency of the Spiritualistic Association there. While I was in Philadelphia I saw a copy of Dr. Child’s book for sale at the public bookstall in the International Hotel, and I think that, whether Dr. Child now reaps any benefit from it or not, he ought to manage somehow to stop the sale.

From Philadelphia I went to Baltimore, where I met Mr. Washington Danskin, a very fine character, and the father of Spiritualism in. Baltimore, and who perhaps for that reason is rather tyrannical in his opinions, and has a strong tendency to discountenance those who do not think as he does. I was surprised to hear after I left Baltimore that there is another society in a much more flourishing condition than the one with which Mr. Danskin is connected, but about which he told me nothing except that it was a trumpery concern. Still he is a warm-hearted Spiritualist, although he has his little peculiarities. Mr. Danskin had been the only Spiritualist in Baltimore; he for five years advocated the cause, in public with nobody but his wife taking a place by his side in the matter; at the expiration of that time Spiritualists began to multiply, a society was formed, and in process of time a second branched off from it; the second society was the one which employed Mr. Morse. Mr. Danskin’s society attracted about one hundred persons, I believe, to listen to the utterances every Sunday.

Mr. Morse remarked that the social question was the cause of the split among the Spiritualists in Baltimore.

Mr. Joy added:—There are other causes; for instance, Mr. Danskin was a Southerner who did not believe in the emancipation of slaves then, neither does he now, this was another of the several reasons for the scaling off; but perhaps the main cause was that Mr. Danskin was rather autocratic.

The Fundamental Untruthfulness of the Eddy Brothers and Mrs. Hunton.

I also went to Albany, New York, and met Dr. Ditson, who is deep in occultism; and a great friend of Madame Blavatsky; Dr. Ditson believes that many of the manifestations can be obtained by magic as well as by mediumship. I met Madame Blavatsky at Dr. Ditson’s house; she is a very interesting and amusing lady, and a most profound occultist. I went to see the Eddy brothers, and intend to write a letter to The Spiritualist about them. While there I saw no manifestations under test conditions. I firmly believe that every spirit that came out upon the platform was William Eddy himself; those that only showed in the doorway, the same on his hands and knees, and the small children that appeared were made-up dolls; still I must admit that much of this is merely hypothesis. The whole family are most unbounded liars; I never met such a lying family. The brothers are also in every way great blackguards. Mrs. Huntoon is perhaps equally untruthful. One evening I called on the chance of getting a seance which she had half promised me. I found the lights out, and, on knocking at the door, could get no answer. The next day she told me that she had just come back from Rutland. A few minutes afterwards I chanced to mention this in the house of a neighbour, and they laughed and told me that she had slept in their house all night, that on the previous evening she came running in saying that her husband had threatened to cut her throat, and' asked them to allow her to sleep there. Mrs. Cleveland, who appears to be a very sensible woman, and who once firmly believed in the mediumship of the Eddy brothers, now states that she had been deceived. 8he says that by degrees she distinctly detected fraud in almost every case. Mr. Pritchard, and his sister, Mrs. Packer, said that they recognised the mother of the latter; but she (Mrs. Cleveland) had a good look at this spirit, and she was perfectly certain that the face she saw was William Eddy’s. He had his hair brushed back and a frill cap on.

In New York three or four meetings in connection with Spiritualism are held every Sunday. There are two organized societies there. Many things are done in that city without any society whatever, by five or six persons joining together and holding public meetings. If ’they lose too much over them they stop them; if the loss is but slight they appeal to their friends to make up the deficiency, and in this way many lectures are carried on without any great loss.

I saw something of Spiritualism in Boston, but not much; I heard Moses Hull preach there; his address was an admirable one, and although he is said to be a great free lover he made no allusion to that subject: his remarks were an explanation of a few chapters in the New Testament containing some rather striking, ideas in relation thereto. My general impression about Spiritualism in the United States is that on the whole in that country it has a freer and fairer field than here, because there the people are not so much under the control of Mrs. Grundy. I do not think that anybody runs the risk of being tabooed in the United States for being a Spiritualist, although perhaps now and then a person may laugh at us. At the same time, I think that very few of the upper classes in America take any great interest in Spiritualism. In Boston I was staying with an American, a relation of my own, who had never seen anything of Spiritualism or Spiritualists, in fact, he thought the whole subject low and vulgar, and when I told this relative that I was a Spiritualist he was quite astounded. If I had told him I was a cannibal he could not have been more surprised. People are surprised there sometimes by such confessions, but neither disgusted nor shocked. From the loosely organised state of society in America I do not think that Spiritualist organisations are so necessary in that country as in this, and attempts there to organise have generally failed. An attempt at organisation was begun in Albany many years ago with Dr. Ditson as president, treasurer, and secretary, but he had to resign audit brok up. There is a lively society of Spiritualists at Troy, not far from Albany.

Mr. William Tebb said he thought that the number of Spiritualists in America had been greatly exaggerated, one of the lowest estimates of their number, coming from American Spiritualistic sources, being that they amounted to three millions. He (Mr. Tebb) had travelled through a large portion of the country; in many towns he found that the names of local Spiritualists were not generally known, nor their places of meeting, if they had any. He should like to hear what Mr. Joy had to say upon this subject, for he thought that the published estimates were great exaggerations.

Mr. Joy said:—My journey was not taken for the purpose of inquiring into Spiritualism, and although I passed through a large portion of the States, including California, my journey was, more or less, an erratic one. In some of the places I visited I made no inquiries about Spiritualism, therefore I can only form a vague opinion as to the number of its adherents. I think that the number of avowed Spiritualists is exceedingly small in every place which I visited; at a rough guess they did not amount to one per cent, of the population. For every avowed Spiritualist I think that, perhaps, about ten persons may be impregnated with a belief in its facts to such an extent as to induce them to attend circles. Mr. Slocum, who is an experienced and careful man, told me that ten per cent, of the population of San Francisco are practically Spiritualists, to the extent of believing in spirit communion. Much harm is done to the movement by numerous fraudulent mediums; I do not mean persons who pretend to be mediums, and are not so, but those who are actually so, and who supplement the same by trickery. I believe that the Eddy brothers have some mediumship, but have found out that the manifestations draw too much vitality from them and exhaust their strength; and they have discovered, moreover, that sham seances are easier to produce and far more amusing to themselves. I think that when persons like Colonel Olcott go there intending to publish results, they then get real manifestations. The astonishment of my relatives when I told them that I was a Spiritualist was of a somewhat exceptional nature, for it must be remembered that this occurred in Boston, the most old-fashioned place in the United States, full of the most old-fashioned people, who are rather satirically called in other parts of the States “The Pilligrim Fathers;” they stand upon a somewhat historical footing, and have a great ambition to imitate England in every respect, especially in our Grundyism.

Mr. W. Tebb said he thought that the statements made by Mr. Joy confirmed his own impressions as to the number of Spiritualists in America. When Mr. Andrew Leighton went there he had a difficulty in finding any Spiritualists at all. He (Mr. Tebb) thought it probable that the Spiritualists might amount to ten percent, of the population in San Francisco; he found more Spiritualists in New England than in any other part of America. As to what Mr. Joy had said about Mr. Godbe, he was a personal friend of his own, who in the first instance became a Mormon upon conviction, and afterwards because of his conscientious convictions gave up Mormonism and became a Spiritualist, for notwithstanding great worldly sacrifices he was a man who acted up to what he believed to be true.

Mr. Joy said he did not intend to say anything whatever against Mr. Godbe, and hoped that none of his remarks had conveyed that impression; such had not been his intention, and he fully agreed with what had been said by Mr. Tebb.

The meeting gave Mr. Joy a round of applause because of the interesting nature of his narrative, after which the formal business of the conversazione came to an end.

A Theory Relating to Evil Influences



Editor's notes

  1. Mind reading by unknown author, Spiritual Scientist, v. 1, No. 2, September 17, 1874, p. 17
  2. Spirits Moving Furniture in the Sixteenth Century by unknown author, Spiritual Scientist, v. 1, No. 2, September 17, 1874, p. 17
  3. Met Algernon Joy on Spiritualism in America by unknown author, London Spiritualist, No. 172, December 10, 1875, pp. 279-80. Name in title could be different, due to poor quality of text
  4. A Theory Relating to Evil Influences by Smart, A. J.
  5. image by unknown author