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vol. 3, p. 190
from Adyar archives of the International Theosophical Society
vol. 3 (1875-1878)


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< An Abortive Seance (continued from page 3-189) >

turbed, nervous, upset; the medium, if she were in reality a medium, mast have been ready to jump out of her skin; and the sceptics (dear! dear! how the broad mantle of this word has occasionally been used, to cover ignorance, injustice, brutality, and foolishness!) put into a condition in which it was impossible for them to see a genuine manifestation from a false one. Some people seem to have about as much aptitude fee scientific investigation as a rhinoceros for conic sections, or a hippopotamus for the study of the Kabbala.

Well, the seance went on; and, with longer or shorter intervals between, we saw what seemed to be the faces of one more man and of an old lady. But they were kept so far back from the aperture, and were so instantaneously withdrawn, that no living person could say whether they were masks or not We were allowed to pass our hands inside to be touched or grasped, and I thought that mine was clutched by three hands of different sires, successively; but I will not say that it was, nor will I that it was not, for I am not accustomed to decide in these spiritualistic affairs upon such solitary evidence.

The evening’s adventures were brought to a close by the untying of Mrs. Wilson within the cabinet, ostensibly by the sprits, and the re-tying of her hands—this time, behind her back—in what some gentlemen thought a very severe manner, and some a sham. To sum up; the seance was utterly unsatisfactory in every respect as a scientific experiment. It was not clear that the voices from within the cabinet might not have been spoken ventriloquially by the medium; not certain that she could not have cramped her hand together so as to slip out of one or both of her wrist- ligatures, and also re-tie herself; cot positive that the so-called spirit-faces were not simple masks drawn from the stuffed bosom of Mrs. Wilson’s dress. She was not stripped and examined by a committee of ladies, in advance, nor were her clothes changed. As for the tying, I would give more for a single frail bit of sewing-cotton passed through the perforated lobes of a woman’s ears, and sealed to the chair-back, as I secured Mrs. Compton, than for all the ropes and gyves that were ever put upon a poor medium, to torture him for the satisfaction of brutal “sceptics.”

At the same time, it is no less true that there is no evidence that this particular medium, upon the evening in question, resorted to fraud in either the case of the faces, voices, or tying’s; and so, as, thanks to the preposterous methods of the well-meaning young gentleman, and, not in every case, young ladies, the company, the spirits, and the mediums were set by the ears, I think I am not far astray in calling this “an abortive seance.”

New York, May 1, 1875

A Budget of Avient Dreams

A chatty old anecdote-monger named Valerius Maximus, who lived in the reign of the Roman Emperor Tiberius, has devoted a chapter of his work to a collection of some curious cases of prevision in dreams, both among his own fellow-countrymen and foreigners. The Greeks and Romans were by no means so sceptical with regard to the prophetic value of dreams as modern enlightenment has rendered ourselves, and nearly all the cases in question have found a place in the pages of tome of the gravest writers of antiquity. The Emperor Augustus used to pay great attention both to bis own dreams and to those of others concerning himself. In the spring he was in the habit of dreaming a great deal, the images presented to his mind being then generally of an alarming nature, but wholly illusory. During the rest of the year his dreams were less frequent, and at the same time more reliable. Augustus, unlike his grand-uncle, Julius Cesar was of a decidedly superstitious turn of mind, and the man who wielded the destiny of the world was immensely put out if he happened to it the left shoe on the right foot in the morning. Still, the credit he attached to dreams was justified by experience for, on the night before the battle of Philippi, as the armies of the Republicans and Caesareans lay encamped in the plains, the image of Minerva appeared in a dream to bis physician Artorius, and bade him warn Augustus not to let the Illness under which he was suffering prevent him from being present at the action on the following day. Augustus complied with the admonition, and had himself carried into the field in a litter. The event proved the wisdom of this conduct, for his camp was taken by a furious charge by Brutus, and the bed which he had lately occupied was riddled through by the weapons of the enemy, while the sick general effected his escape to the wing commanded by Antony.

Very different was the conduct and fate of his predecessor, Julius Caesar. On the night before the Ides of March, against which he had been warned by the augur Sparuina, his wife dreamt that her husband lay stabbed in her arms, and so strong was the impression upon her that she begged him not to attend the Senate the next day. Caesar had the excuse of illness for staying away, and might have Complied with his wife’s request if it had not been for the contrary solicitations of Decimus Brutus, one of the conspirators. Accordingly he acted on his avowed principle that it was “better to die than be afraid.” The story is well known to every reader of Shakspere.

The earlier annals of Rome afforded a celebrated instance of the part played by dreams in history. The Latins, discontented with the autocracy of Rome, had proposed that one of the two consuls and half the Senate should be chosen from among themselves—a scheme preposterous to Roman ears. The result was a declaration of war upon the presumptuous allies. The Latins were quite prepared for this method of arbitration, and the two armies met near Capua. There both Roman consuls had the same dream on the same night; a figure of more than mortal height and majesty presenting itself to each of them, declaring that the general of one side and the forces of the other were due to the shades of the dead and mother Earth, and that the victory would lie with the army whose general would devote himself on its behalf. It was in vain that the consuls, after comparing their experiences, endeavoured to avert by sacrifices the visions of the night. The answers of the augurs only tended to confirm the portent given to themselves. So they made an agreement that whichever of the two found his men giving way in the battle, should devote himself on behalf of the Roman people, and made public proclamation of the whole circumstances of the case, that the soldiers might not be dismayed at the fall of their leader. The consuls were T. Manlius Torquatus and P. Decius Mus. When the day of action arrived the auspices taken by Manlius were found favorable, as were likewise those of Decius, except that the head of the liver on the side denoting the Romans was cut off. The will of the higher powers was thus clearly apparent, and in the engagement which followed, the left wing, commanded by Decius, was unable to stand the pressure of its opponents. Accordingly, Decius summoned the priest who attended the troops, and had himself consecrated in due form as a victim to the gods. The moment the ceremony was over, he Hew like a thunderbolt into the thickest of the enemy, carrying destruction wherever he came, until he fell under a shower of weapons. The fortune of the fight was turned, and the victory crowned the Roman arms.

Further back still in the chronicles of the Eternal City we find another dream recorded, which, from the public nature of the events connected with it, must have exercised a powerful influence upon devout minds at Rome. In passing it may be remarked, that so long as certain definite religious ideas command belief, the supernatural invariably shapes itself in accordance with them, thus intensifying the belief, without adding anything to the grounds of it. This fact will have to be recognized by the historian of religion who desires to give a satisfactory account of the hold maintained by obviously false religious notions upon the human mind. In France, at the present time, the conservative reaction, extending in the direction of religion as well as of politics, has rendered possible many supernatural attestations of Catholic doctrine. But we must return to our old-world dreamers.

It was the morning of the day on which the games were to celebrated in the Roman Circus in the 4 44th year, according to Macrobias, since the founding of the city. AU should have been peace and quiet at such s season, for the games were in honor of the gods. But the stillness of the morning was broken by a Roman householder named Aubronius Maximus, cruelly driving a slave through the Circus, with a forked- <... continues on page 3-191 >

Editor's notes

  1. A Budget of Avient Dreams by Stock, George W. St., B.A.(Oxon), Spiritual Scientist, v. 2, No. 9, May 6, 1875, pp. 98-9