Volume 2 Page 388
[The Theosophist, Vol. I, No. 7, April, 1880, p. 191]
Some months ago, The Theosophist was taken to task by certain Christian Roman Catholic friends, for crediting “supernatural” cock-and-bull “inventions” about spirits and mediums, as told in spiritual organs, while never quoting one such fact from the “far more trustworthy Catholic organs.” Whereupon, as the policy of our paper is one of strict impartiality, we yielded to the demand of one who was both an esteemed friend and a subscriber, and promised to ransack the Roman Catholic papers sent us for trustworthy, demoniacal or ghostly literature. We did so, and fell upon Marshal MacMahon’s strange adventure with the devil in Algiers. (See The Theosophist for December, 1879.)
We were assured by the same friend that Marshal MacMahon being alive, and, moreover, a very pious Catholic, and the paper which printed the Story being itself a highly respected, trustworthy organ of the American Roman Catholic bishops, it was impossible to doubt its veracity. It was “absurdly incongruous” in us to think for one moment, that side by side with the “best authenticated miracles of our Lady of Lourdes,” and other places as noteworthy, the Catholic Mirror (of Baltimore, U.S.A.) would publish, at the risk of its literary and Christian reputation, a flim-flam fabrication, a canard. So we copied the adventure, word for word, as we found it in the Mirror of Sept. 13, 1879, prefacing it with this remark of equivocal confidence in its exactness, as everyone can see: “We admit it the more willingly since, had any such story originated with either the Theosophists or the Spiritualists, it would have been straight way ridiculed and set down as a cock-and-bull fable. But circumstances alter the case—with the Catholics; none, however sceptical at heart, will dare laugh (above his breath) at a story of supernatural ‘miracles’ worked by the Madonna and her Saints, or by Satan and his imps . . . Only Spiritiualists and Theosophists . . . deserve to be called ‘lunatics’ for believing in phenomena produced by natural causes.”
The Marshal’s alleged adventure was reprinted in the London Spiritualist. Let the editor of that paper now speak:—
We recently asked that the truth of some alleged supernatural experiences of Marshal MacMahon, which had been quoted by The Theosophist (Bombay) from a Roman Catholic newspaper, should be inquired into by some of our readers. The following letter from Miss Douglas is the result:
“Dear Mr. Harrison,—I sent my sister, Mrs. Douglas Bayley, now in Paris, the No. of The Spiritualist in which appeared the marvellous adventure of Marshal MacMahon, said to have been related by himself, begging her to inquire if there was any degree of truth in it.
“She writes that there is none. Being well acquainted with the Marshal’s aide-de-camp, the Baron de Langsdorff, she spoke to him on the subject; he said he could not believe there was any truth in the story, or he would have heard of it; however, he took The Spiritualist
containing it to the Marshal, who declared there was not the slightest foundation for it. Very truly yours,
J. H. DOUGLAS.”
We thank Miss Douglas and Mr. Harrison for the trouble they have taken, and hope the lesson, which the case teaches, may not be lost upon those who stand up so stoutly for the infallibility of the Roman Catholic Church. For, it would appear, they indulge in “cock-and-bull stories,” as much as other mortals do, while pretending to a greater trustworthiness.