THE RUSSIAN SCIENTISTS
EXCITEMENT IN ST. PETERSBURG.—A PROTEST BY THE HIGHEST NOBILITY OF THE EMPIRE.—THE SEVEREST REBUKE A SCIENTIFIC BODY EVER HAD.
[Banner of Light, Boston, Vol. XXXIX, June 24,1876, p. 8]
Special Correspondence of the Banner of Light.
NEW YORK, June 15th, 1876.
Dear Sir,—By the last Russian mail I received the highly important document which I enclose. It is the sharpest rebuke that a scientific body ever had within my remembrance. The Commission for the investigation of the spiritual phenomena was composed of our most eminent scientists, and when they agreed to devote forty séances to the investigation of what they term “mediumistic manifestations,” every one expected them to make good their promise. The country was as sure that the bottom of the thing would be reached as they would have been if Wagner had undertaken to report on zoology, Butleroff on chemistry, Mendeleyeff himself on physics. But when, after four miserable sittings, Mendeleyeff prostituted his great reputation to pander to ignorant prejudice, the whole influential class of the Empire rose in indignation. The best papers in the country—which had not a shade of sympathy with or knowledge of Spiritualism—agreed as to the insufficiency of his arguments and the injustice of his conclusions upon the facts stated. One of them declares that Mohammed did not have half as good a basis for Mohammedanism as the Spiritists for Spiritualism, and that the matter must be investigated thoroughly and impartially. A universal laugh was raised at the Commission’s assertion that all the mediumistic phenomena can be explained by mechanical contrivances hid beneath the medium’s petticoats!
The names attached to this protest represent the best blood of Russia. It is the most influentially signed document,
probably, that ever appeared in an official journal of my country. It represents a large part of our wealth, intellect and family influence. Some of the names will be recognized by your readers as historical, and as having shed lustre upon the Russian name the wide world over. Its effect upon the scientists, as I learn from private letters, has been amusing and wholesome. Mendeleyeff has been forced into a corner, like a fugitive rat, and is now preparing his defense in the shape of a book, we are told! Professor Wagner’s favorable review of Colonel Olcott’s People from the Other World has contributed largely toward creating the excitement in the ranks of our enemies.
The Russians are waiting eagerly to see Dr. Slade’s phenomena. A contract has been signed today, which binds him to report in St. Petersburg on the 1st of November next, and remain there three months. The Theosophical Society, as you are aware, has made a very careful and patient investigation. Two out of three skeptics on the Committee were converted beyond backsliding, and the manifestations were found genuine. A copy of the official report was duly forwarded to St. Petersburg, as a sedative for the Russian psychophobists .
H. P. BLAVATSKY.
The following document was sent to the office of the St. Petersburg Vedomosty, accompanied by this letter:
Mr. Editor,—On the 25th of March last, the Scientific Commission organized for the investigation of the mediumistic phenomena published its report; and a month later, namely, on the 24th and 25th of April, Professor Mendeleyeff delivered two lectures about Spiritualism. In the absence of popular appreciation of the Commission, Mr. Mendeleyeff undertook the trouble of himself pronouncing a panegyric upon its activity! At his last lecture, he expressed the idea that in the reports of the Commission, Truth asserted itself with resistless force, and society, suddenly dazzled by its light, involuntarily bowed its head before the verdict of science. The following protest, signed by over one hundred and thirty persons, testifies to the fact that in our society, notwithstanding the opinion of Mr. Mendeleyeff, there are persons who can distinguish a difference between Science and his Commission.
The insufficiency of the verbal reports of the latter has become evident even to our public papers. What follows is a new evidence of this fact.
In its April number, the Otechestveniya Zapisky, with a bearing of quite an Olympic pride toward Spiritism (very amusing, by the way), confesses, nevertheless, that the Commission of the Physical Society, which had undertaken to expose and crush out of existence spiritual phenomena, did not at all attain its object. According to a very just remark of the said Review, the Commission vainly endeavors to conceal its true character of a police-detective agency, and surrounds itself with a scientific lustre. Its evident object was to condemn “a heresy,” and not to make a scientific investigation: that it plainly never had in view. Therefore, the Otechestveniya Zapisky calls the members of the Commission “the modern fathers of orthodox science,” who, zealous for the welfare of true science, determined to convene an Ecumenical Council of orthodox scientists, to sit in judgment on the “heretical doctrine,” with the full assurance that no one will dare to dispute the infallibility of its predetermined and oral verdict.
We believe that the above opinion, which issues from the very stronghold of the avowed enemies of Spiritism, reflects in a manner which cannot be improved, the general opinion respecting the pretended “investigations” of the Commission.
PROTEST AGAINST THE CONCLUSIONS OF THE COMMISSION FOR
The learned Commission organized for the examination of mediumistic phenomena, had for its object—if we may credit the assertion of Mr. Mendeleyeff which appeared in the Golos (No. 137, 1875)—to carefully investigate “these manifestations,” and thereby “render a great and universal public service.”
From the public lecture of Mr. Mendeleyeff we learned that the principal object of the Commission’s labour was to be the following mediumistic phenomena: Movements of inanimate objects, with and without contact of hands; levitation of various objects; the alteration of their weight; movements of objects and percussive sounds therein, indicating an intelligent producing cause, by conversations or responses—a phenomenon which the Commission termed dialogistic; writing produced by inanimate objects, or psychographical phenomena; and finally, the formation and apparition of detached members of the human frame, and of full forms, named by the Commission mediumo-plastic phenomena. To the investigation of these manifestations the Commission pledged itself to devote not less than forty séances.
It now announces in its Report of March 21st (Golos, No. 85 1876) that it has finished its labors, that “its object is attained,” and that its unanimous verdict is that “mediumistic phenomena are
produced either by unconscious movements or conscious fraud,” and that the “Spiritist doctrine is nothing but superstition.”
This verdict of the Commission is based, according to its own declaration, upon eight séances, at the first four of which there were no mediumistic phenomena at all, and at the last four, the Commission only saw a few movements of the table and heard a few raps!
But where are the promised experiments of the Commission with movements of objects without contact, the alteration of weight of bodies, the dialogistic, psychographic and mediumo-plastic wonders? Of the limited programme of investigation which the Commission prescribed for itself, it appears that it did not carry out even the fourth part. But on the other hand, without the slightest warrant, it busied itself with the doctrine of Spiritism, which did not enter in its programme at all.
Therefore, we, the undersigned, deem it our duty to declare that by such a superficial and hasty treatment of the grave subject under investigation, the Commission has by no means solved the problem which it undertook to demonstrate. It evidently did not gather data enough to warrant it in either accepting or rejecting the occurrence of mediumistic phenomena.
Having confined itself to but eight séances, the Commission had no reasonable warrant to declare its labors finished; still less had it the right, after only eight séances, to pronounce an authoritative opinion either pro or con. Having undertaken this investigation in the interest of a certain portion of society, the Commission has not satisfied this interest; it has left society in its former state of uncertainty as to phenomena whose reality has been vouched by so many witnesses worthy of credit and the highest esteem.
Therefore, we, the undersigned, feel compelled to express a hope, that this investigation of spiritual phenomena promised in the name of science may be pushed to its legitimate conclusion, in a manner commensurate with the dignity and exactness of true science, if not by the same persons who have already pronounced their verdict, even as to things that they did not see, then by others who are prepared to make a more patient and careful investigation. Only such an one can render “a great and universal public service.”
|V. S. AVDAKOFF
|S. N. MOSKALEFF
PRINCESS N. OBOLENSKAYA
PRINCE O. OBOLENSKY
J. K. PELTZER
F. F. PRITVITZ
K. F. PRITVITZ
E. A. PIROGOFF
A. B. POLOVTZEFF
A. U. POLUBINSKY
J. B. PREJENTZOFF
V. I. SAFONOFF
J. O. SCHMIDT
K. A. SEMENOFF
A. W. SEMENOVA
PRINCE A. SHAHOVSKOY
PRINCE A. SHCHERBATOFF
A. P. SOLOTON
COUNT GRÉGOIRE S. STROGANOFF
COUNTESS MARY STROGANOFF
PRINCE K. SUVOROFF
COUNTESS A. TOLSTAYA
PRINCE A. TROUBETZKOY
PRINCESS A. VASSILCHIKOVA
PRINCE E. WITTGENSTEIN