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vol. 3, p. 221
from Adyar archives of the International Theosophical Society
vol. 3 (1875-1878)


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< Another Eminent Convert (continued from page 3-220) >

I satisfied myself personally of the existence of the said phenomena.

Convincing as may appear to us proofs, that we receive from another person’s testimony, the propensity of skeptics will always overbalance such evidence, and it is only when facts appearing before our own eyes, or through our own sense of feeling, that they will impress themselves upon our own understandings, and become the real property of those senses. That is the reason why I desire so much to have all those who may read this letter, and who may become desirous of convincing themselves of the truth of my allegations, investigate for themselves and so acquire knowledge by personal experience. Means of obtaining such proofs may be easily found by any one, for impressionable and nervous persons, adapted by their natural faculties for such like phenomena are not so scarce but that they are to be met with in each one’s own social circle.

In consequence of these manifestations, I had occasion to encounter another force, the force of skepticism, which latter fact brought me to the conclusion that this force never submits to convictions, based upon the testimony of other persons, however strong may be their confidence in the latter. It is perfectly natural that it should be so. The description made by those other persons, lively and perfect as they may be, are, nevertheless, incapable of impressing upon one in all its details the picture they have not seen themselves; there, fore, they fail to produce in them the same clearness of perception as is afforded to us by our own senses. This reminds me of the answer of the late Alexander Von Humboldt, to a gentleman who tried hard to convince him of the genuineness of the mediumistical phenomena.

“I believe in them,” said the great naturalist, “for I hear you endorse them to me and describe what you saw yourself; but were I to see such phenomena myself, I would not believe in my own eyes.” A mighty characteristic paradox!

If the convictions of our society were perfectly free, the progress of its enlightenment would undoubtedly become a great deal more rapid. But that is just where lies its great mistake; men of the world suppose that their convictions arc perfectly independent, and that they submit only to the force of facts; while the truth is that this society constantly lives and feeds itself upon preconceived opinions, prepared for the inspection of the whole universe by a long list of formalities and conditions under which it progresses and developes. Its skepticism represents a double-edged weapon. On the one hand this weapon protects it from unsafe highways, but on the other this sword of skepticism encourages and gives the best chances to reaction. It preserves in society the vitality and popularity of such ideas as are constantly being contradicted by newly discovered evident facts and attested proofs. Spencer’s opinion, expressed in his “Science oi Sociology,” about the old conservatism prevailing in societies can be applied not only to the masses but to each of us who considers himself totally free from any preconceived theories.

As a matter of course, the chief obstacles to the reception of the mediumistic phenomena present themselves in the shape of those explanations that are given of them by Spiritualists themselves, and which no skeptic will ever allow himself to submit to. But apart from those ideas, the surroundings and conditions of these manifestations are such as are best calculated to create various misunderstandings and suspicions! “Why,” inquired a lady of me one day, “is darkness so necessary for these phenomena; why can’t they be produced without all this paraphernalia, more simply and without the aid of any curtains, dark seances or tables?” In other words: “Why should I be refused to get thoroughly convinced that there is no room left in the case for fraud and jugglery?” I hope that the conditions our own experiments were surrounded with, fully remove all grounds for suspicion. Rut on the other hand, it is impossible to insist upon the manifestation of even any natural phenomenon unconditionally, and outside of the laws it is governed by.

I often heard from persons I Invited to join us in our spiritual investigations such answers as follows: “Why should I disturb myself to witness such phenomena as will be perfectly impossible for me to account for?”—an excuse as shallow as it is inconsistent. Students in physics, who first discovered electricity and galvanism, could no more account for them than we can for these phenomena, when they appear to us for the first time. Moreover, in comparison with the psychic manifestations, the discovery of electricity certainly belongs to the most simple primitive laws of phenomena. Constant and patient investigations and inquiries will most likely pour out that same light one day, on the complete darkness of this impenetrable mysterious region of spiritual phenomena as it did on other mysteries conquered by human science. The idea that this subject presents no claim to scientific inquiry is totally false. This fact alone that the mediumistical manifestations depend upon the surrounding general conditions, gives us the possibility of studying and clearly defining them. For instance, they are evidently subjected to the variations of the atmosphere, to its cold or dryness, to light or darkness, and so forth. These conditions are supplemented by others that lie concealed in certain individuals, through whom they are produced, in the psychic state of those persons, and in their individual temperaments.

Some persons may object to these hypothesis and offer roe the following question: Why didn’t I, instead of presenting all my strange theories in the vain attempt to explain the observed phenomena, go on and apply myself to investigating them in the usual scientific way?—I am sufficiently cleared, I suppose, from such a reproach as that, by the very novelty to me of these manifestations. I have first of all to ascertain facts, and I do so with the view of attracting to them the attention of some of our noted physiologists, an attention sufficiently demanded, I should say, after this plain statement of what I have seen myself of the phenomena. Even if the latter were to the assigned to the domain of Psychistry, or nervous disease, the more would it be our sacred duty to inquire into them, oppose their rapid spread in their present deceptive shape, unmask their true character, and, having done so much, struggle finally with these seemingly childish, superstitious notions with which Spiritualists are trying to clothe them.


Frederick W. Evans, the Shaker, has asked Col. Olcott’s cooperation in organizing a very important joint convention of Shakers and Spiritualists, with a view to exhibiting to the world the exact condition of die movement in its moral and scientific aspects.

The British National Association of Spiritualists hold con versaziones weekly at their rooms in London, at which obliging members contribute to the pleasures of the evening, by music, recitations, and occasionally by spiritual phenomena. Spirit drawings, writings and other objects of interest are loaned for exhibition, and strangers in London are afforded a most favorable opportunity for becoming acquainted with investigators and Spiritualists of distinction.

Bulwer’s novel “Zanoni,” which is one of the most fascinating he ever wrote, embodies a great deal of information concerning the claims of the occultists which should be read by every intelligent Spiritualist. It is asserted Zanoni and Mejnour are merely pseudonyms for personages who have actually existed, and that magical powers were exercised by them quite as remarkable as those attributed to the characters I in the book.

The Davenport Brothers have left Spain and are now in Brussels.

Spiritualism in India

By a letter from Calcutta, we learn that Spiritualism is now being inquired into and adopted by the most enlightened and educated portion of the Hindoo community. Many skeptics and Brahmos, hitherto with hovering doubts and uncertainties, are fast adopting its sublime creed. It has found a congenial soil in the Hindoo mind, and the day is not far distant when it will be the creed and faith of the thinking portion of the people. The planchette has become very popular there and the excitement among the people at its first introduction was considerable. Many persons there have witnessed its remarkable workings and many to satisfy their curiosity have ordered its manufacture. Two of the respectable stationers and booksellers in Calcutta have sold about ten thousand within a short time, which alone is evidence of the general interest in the subject of Spiritualism.

Editor's notes

  1. Personal by unknown author, Spiritual Scientist, v. 2, No. 15, June 17, 1875, p. 171
  2. Spiritualism in India by unknown author, Spiritual Scientist, v. 2, No. 15, June 17, 1875, p. 171