New York against Lankester. A new War of the Roses
(New) York Against Lankester
A New War Of The Roses
Despite the constant recurrence
of new discoveries by modern men of science, an exaggerated respect for
authority and an established routine among the educated class retard the
progress of true knowledge. Facts which, if observed, tested, classified
and appreciated, would be of inestimable importance to science, are summarily
cast into the despised limbo of supernaturalism. To these conservatives
the experience of the past serves neither as an example nor a warning. The
overturning of a thousand cherished theories finds our modern philosopher
as unprepared for each new scientific revelation as though his predecessor
had been infallible from time immemorial.
The protoplasmist should, at least, in modesty remember that his past
is one vast cemetery of dead theories; a desolate potters field wherein
exploded hypotheses lie, in ignoble oblivion, like so many executed malefactors,
whose names cannot be pronounced by the next of kin without a blush.
The nineteenth century is essentially the age of demolition. True, science
takes just pride in many revolutionary discoveries and claims to have immortalized
the epoch by forcing from Dame Nature some of her most important secrets.
But for every inch she illumines of the narrow and circular path within
whose limits she has hitherto trodden, what unexplored boundless stretches
have been left behind? The worst is that science has not simply withheld
her light from these regions that seem dark (but are not), but her votaries
try their best to quench the lights of other people under the pretext that
they are not authorities, and their friendly beacons are but " will-o-the-wisps."
Prejudice and preconceived ideas have entered the public brain, and, cancer-like,
are eating it to the core. Spiritualism or, if some for whom the word
has become so unpopular prefer it, the universe of spirit is left to
fight out its battle with the world of matter, and the crisis is at hand.
Half-thinkers, and aping, would-be philosophers in short, that class
which is unable to penetrate events any deeper than their crust, and which
measures every days occurrences by its present aspect, unmindful of
the past and careless of the future heartily rejoice over the latest
rebuff given to phenomenalism in the Lankester-Donkin offensive and defensive
alliance, and the pretended exposure of Slade. In this hour of would-be
Lancastrian triumph, a change should be made in English heraldic crests.
The Lancasters were always given to creating dissensions and provoking strife
among peaceable folk. From ancient York the War of the Roses is now transferred
to Middle-sex, and Lankester (whose name is a corruption), instead of uniting
himself with the hereditary foe, has joined his idols with those of Donkin
(whose name is evidently also a corruption). As the hero of the hour is
not a knight, but a zoölogist deeply versed in the science to which
he devotes his talents, why not compliment his ally by quartering the red
rose of Lancaster with the downy thistle so delicately appreciated by a
certain prophetic quadruped, who seeks for it by the wayside? Really, Mr.
Editor, when Mr. Lankester tells us that all those who believe in Dr. Slades
phenomena "are lost to reason," we must accord to biblical animals
a decided precedence over modern ones. The ass of Balaam had at least the
faculty of perceiving spirits, while some of those who bray in our academies
and hospitals show no evidence of its possession. Sad degeneration of species!
Such persons as these bound all spiritual phenomena in Nature by the
fortunes and mishaps of mediums; each new favourite, they think, must of
necessity pull down in his fall an unscientific hypothetical "Unseen
Universe," as the tumbling red dragon of the Apocalypse drew
with his tail the third part of the stars of heaven. Poor blind moles! They
perceive not that by inveighing against the "craze" of such phenomenalists
as Wallace, Crookes, Wagner and Thury, they only help the spread of true
Spiritualism. We millions of lunatics really ought to address a vote of
thanks to the "dishevelled" Beards who make supererogatory efforts
to appear as stupid clodpoles to deceive the Eddys, and to Lankesters simulating
"astonishment and intense interest," the better to cheat Dr. Slade.
More than any advocates of phenomenalism, they bring its marvels into public
notice by their pyrotechnic exposures.
As one entrusted by the Russian Committee with the delicate task of selecting
a medium for the coming St. Petersburg experiments, and as an officer of
the Theosophical Society, which put Dr. Slades powers to the test
in a long series of séances, I pronounce him not only a genuine
medium, but one of the best and least fraudulent mediums ever developed.
from personal experience I can not only testify to the genuineness of his
slate-writing, but also to that of the materializations which occur in his
presence. A shawl thrown over a chair (which I was invited to place wherever
I chose) isall the cabinet he exacts, and his apparitions immediately
appear, and that in gas-light.
No one will charge me with a superfluous confidence in the personality
of materializing apparitions, or a superabundance of love for them; but
honour and truth compel me to affirm that those who appeared to me in Slades
presence were real phantoms, and not "made up" confederates or
dolls. They were evanescent and filmy, and the only ones I have seen in
America which have reminded me of those that the Adepts of India evoke.
Like the latter, they formed and dissolved before my eyes, their substance
rising mist-like from the floor, and gradually condensing. Their eyes moved
and their lips smiled; but as they stood near me their forms were so transparent
that through them I could see the objects in the room. These I call genuine
spiritual substances, whereas the opaque ones that I have seen elsewhere
were nothing but animated forms of matter whatever they be with
sweating hands and a peculiar odour, which I am not called upon to define
at this time.
Everyone knows that Dr. Slade is not acquainted with foreign languages,
and yet at our first séance, three years ago, on the day after
my arrival in New York, where no one knew me, I received upon his slate
a long communication in Russian. I had purposely avoided giving either to
Dr. Slade or his partner, Mr. Simmons, any clue to my nationality, and while,
from my accent, they would of course have detected that I was not an American,
they could not possibly have known from what country I came. I fancy that
if Dr. Lankester had allowed Slade to write on both knees and both elbows
successively or simultaneously, the poor man would not have been able to
turn out Russian messages by trick and device.
In reading the accounts in the London papers, it has struck me as very
remarkable that this "vagrant" medium, after baffling such a host
of savants, should have fallen so easy a victim to the zoölogico-osteological
brace of scientific detectives. Fraud, that neither the "psychic"
Sergeant Cox, nor the "unconsciously cerebrating" Carpenter, nor
the wise Wallace, nor the experienced M.A. (Oxon.), nor the cautious Lord
Rayleigh who, mistrusting his own acuteness, employed a professional
juggler to attend the séance with him nor Dr. Carter
Blake, nor a host of other competent observers could detect, was seen by
the eagle eyes of the Lankester-Donkin Gemini at a single glance.
There has been nothing like it since Beard, of electro-hay fever and Eddy
fame, denounced the faculty of Yale for a set of asses, because they would
not accept his divinely-inspired revelation of the secret of mind-reading,
and pitied the imbecility of that "amiable idiot," Col. Olcott,
for trusting his own two-months observation of the Eddy phenomena
in preference to the electric doctors single séance of
I am an American citizen in embryo, Mr. Editor, and I cannot hope that
the English magistrates of Bow Street will listen to a voice that comes
from a city proverbially held in small esteem by British scientists. When
Prof. Tyndall asks Prof. Youmans if the New York carpenters could make him
a screen ten feet long for his Cooper Institute lectures, and whether it
would be necessary to send to Boston for a cake of ice that he wished
to use in the experiments; and when Huxley evinces grateful surprise that
a "foreigner" could express himself in your (our) language in
such a way as to be so readily intelligible, "to all appearance,"
by a New York audience, and that those clever chaps the New York reporters could
report him despite his accent, neither New York "spooks," nor
I, can hope for a standing in a London court, when the defendant is prosecuted
by English scientists. But, fortunately for Dr. Slade, British tribunals
are not inspired by the Jesuits, and so Slade may escape the fate of Leymarie.
He certainly will, if he is allowed to summon to the witness-stand his Owasso
and other devoted "controls," to write their testimony inside
a double slate, furnished and held by the magistrate himself. This is Dr.
Slades golden hour; he will never have so good a chance to demonstrate
the reality of phenomenal manifestations, and make Spiritualism triumph
over scepticism; and we, who know the doctors wonderful powers, are
confident that he can do it, if he is assisted by those who in the
past have accomplished so much through his instrumentality.
H. P. BLAVATSKY, Corresponding Secretary of the Theosophical Society.
New York, Oct. 8th, 1876
[From The Banner of Light, Oct. 24th, 1876.
H. P. Blavatsky