Articles from A Modern Panarion
A Collection of Fugitive Fragments
From the pen of
H P Blavatsky
First published 1895
H P Blavatsky
Dr Beard Criticised
H P Blavatsky
As Dr. Beard has scorned (in his scientific grandeur) to answer the
challenge sent to him by your humble servant in the number of The Daily Graphic for the 13th* of October last, and has preferred instructing the public in
general rather than one “credulous fool” in particular, let her come from
more in order that by pointing out some very spicy peculiarities of this
amazingly scientific exposure, the public might better judge at whose door the
aforesaid elegant epithet could be most appropriately laid.
For a week or so an immense excitement, a thrill of sacrilegious fear, if I
may be allowed this expression, ran through the psychologized frames of the
M.D., the Tyndall of America, was coming out with his peremptory exposure of the Eddys’ ghosts and—the Spiritualists trembled for their gods!
The dreaded day has come, the number of The Daily Graphic for November the
9th is before us. We have read it carefully, with respectful awe, for true
science has always been an authority for us (weak- minded fool though we may
be), and so we handled the dangerous exposure with a feeling somewhat akin to
that of a fanatic Christian opening a volume of Büchner. We perused it to the
last: we turned the page over and over again, vainly straining our eyes and
brains to detect therein one word of scientific proof or a solitary atom of over
whelming evidence that would thrust into our Spiritualistic bosom the venomous
fangs of doubt. But no, not a particle of reasonable explanation or of
scientific evidence that what we have all seen, heard and felt at the Eddys’ was
but delusion. In our feminine modesty, still allowing the said article the
benefit of the doubt, we disbelieved our
* This appears to be a misprint, unless the challenge had been made on the
13th, and was Only repeated in the letter of Oct. 2 —Eds.
own senses, and so devoted a whole day to the picking up of sundry bits of
criticism from judges that we believe more competent than ourselves, and at last
came collectively to the following conclusion:
The Daily Graphic has allowed Dr. Beard in its magnanimity nine columns of
its precious pages to prove—what? Why, the following:
First, that he, Dr. Beard, according to his own modest assertions (see
columns second and third) is more entitled to occupy the position of an actor
intrusted with characters of simpletons (Molière’s “Tartuffe” might fit him
perhaps as naturally) than to undertake the difficult part of a Prof. Faraday
vis-à-vis the Chittenden D. D. Home.
Secondly, that although the learned doctor was “overwhelmed already with
professional labours” (a nice and cheap reclame, by the way) and scientific
researches, he gave the latter another direction, and so went to the Eddys.
That, arrived there, he played with Horatio Eddy, for the glory of science and
the benefit of humanity, the difficult character of a “dishevelled simpleton,”
and was rewarded in his scientific research by finding on the said suspicious
premises a professor of bumps “a poor harmless fool”! Galileo, of famous memory, when he detected the sun in its involuntary imposture chuckled certainly less over his triumph than does Dr. Beard over the discovery of this “poor fool” No.
1. Here we modestly suggest that perhaps the learned doctor had no need to go as far as Chittenden for that.
Further, the doctor, forgetting entirely the wise motto, Non bis in idem,
discovers and asserts throughout the length of his article that all the past,
present and future generations of pilgrims to the “Eddy homestead” are
collectively fools, and that every solitary member of this numerous body of
Spiritualistic pilgrims is likewise “a weak- minded, credulous fool”! Query—the
proof of it, if you please, Dr. Beard? Answer—Dr. Beard has said so, and Echo
Truly miraculous are thy doings, indeed, 0 Mother Nature! The cow is black
and its milk is white! But then, you see, those ill-bred, ignorant Eddy brothers
have allowed their credulous guests to eat up all the “trout” caught by Dr.
Beard and paid for by him seventy-five cents per pound as a penalty; and that
fact alone might have turned him a little—how shall we say—sour, prejudiced? No, erroneous in his statement, will answer better.
For erroneous he is, not to say more. When, assuming an air of scientific
authority, he affirms that the séance-room is generally so dark that one cannot recognize at three feet distance his own mother, he says what is not true. When he tells us further that he saw through a hole in one of the shawls and the space between them all the manœuvres of Horatio’s arm, he risks finding himself contradicted by thousands who, weak-minded though they may be, are not blind for all that, neither are they confederates of the Eddys, but far more reliable wit nesses in their simple-minded honesty than Dr. Beard is in his would-be scientific and unscrupulous testimony. The same when he says that no one is allowed to approach the spirits nearer than twelve feet dis tance, still less to touch them, except the “two simple-minded ignorant idiots” who generally
sit on both ends of the platform. To my knowledge many other persons have sat
there besides those two.
Dr. Beard ought to know this better than anyone else, as he has sat there
himself. A sad story is in circulation, by the way, at the Eddys’. The records
of the spiritual séances at Chittenden have devoted a whole page to the account
of a terrible danger that threatened for a moment to deprive America of one of
her brightest scientific stars. Dr. Beard, admitting a portion of the story
himself, perverts the rest of it, as he does everything else in his article. The
doctor admits that he had been badly struck by the guitar, and, not being able
to bear the pain, “jumped up,” and broke the circle. Now it clearly appears that
the learned gentleman has neglected to add to the immense stock of his knowledge the first rudiments of “logic.” He boasts of having completely blinded Horatio and others as to the real object of his visit. What should then Horatio pummel his head for? The spirits were never known before to be as rude as that. But Dr. B. does not believe in their existence and so lays the whole thing at Horatio’s door. He forgets to state, though, that a whole shower of missiles were thrown at his head and that—”pale as a ghost,” so says the tale-telling record—the poor scientist surpassed for a moment the “fleet-footed Achilles” himself in the celerity with which he took to his heels. How strange if Horatio, not suspecting him still, left him standing at two feet distance from the shawl! How very logical!
It becomes evident that the said neglected logic was keeping company at the
time with old mother Truth at the bottom of her well, neither of them being
wanted by Dr. Beard. I myself have sat upon the upper step of the platform for
fourteen nights by the side of Mrs. Cleveland. I got up every time “Honto”
approached me to within an inch of my face in order to see her the better. I
have touched herhands repeatedly as other spirits have been touched, and even embraced her nearly every night.
Therefore, when I read Dr. Beard’s preposterous and cool assertion that “a
very low order of genius is required to obtain command of a few words in
different languages and so to mutter them to credulous Spiritualists,” I feel
every right in the world to say in my turn that such a scientific exposure as
Dr. Beard has come out with in his article does not require any genius at all;
per contra, it requires a ridiculous faith on the part of the writer in his own
infallibility, as well as a positive confidence in finding in all his readers
what he elegantly terms “weak- minded fools.” Every word of his statement, when it is not a most evident untruth, is a wicked and malicious insinuation built on the very equivocal authority of one witness against the evidence ofthousands.
Says Dr Beard, “I have proved that the life of the Eddys is one long lie,
the details need no further discussion.” The writer of the above lines forgets,
by saying these imprudent words, that some people might think that “like
attracts like.” He went to Chittenden with deceit in his heart and falsehood on
his lips, and so judging his neighbour by the character he assumed himself, he
takes everyone for a knave when he does not put him down as a fool. Declaring so positively that he has proved it, the doctor forgets one trifling circumstance,
namely, that he has proved nothing whatever.
Where are his boasted proofs? When we contradict him by saying that the
séance-room is far from being as dark as he pretends it to be, and that the
spirits themselves have repeatedly called out through Mrs. Eaton’s voice for
more light, we only say what we can prove before any jury. When Dr. Beard says that all the spirits are personated by W. Eddy, he advances what would prove to be a greater conundrum for solution than the apparition of spirits themselves.
There he falls right away into the domain of Cagliostro: for if Dr. B. has seen
five or six spirits in all, other persons, myself included, have seen one
hundred and nineteen in less than a fortnight, nearly all of whom were
differently dressed. Besides, the accusation of Dr. Beard implies the idea to
the public that the artist of The Daily Graphic who made the sketches of so many of those apparitions, and who is not a “credulous Spiritualist” himself, is
likewise a humbug, propagating to the world what he did not see, and so
spreading at large the most preposterous and outrageous lie.
When the learned doctor will have explained to us how any man inhis shirt-sleeves and a pair of tight pants for an attire can possibly conceal on his person (the cabinet having been previously found empty) a whole bundle of clothes, women’s robes, hats, caps, head-gears, and entire stilts of evening dress, white waistcoats and neckties included, then he will be entitled to more belief than he is at present. That would be a proof indeed, for, with all due respect to his scientific mind, Dr. Beard is not the first Œdipus that has thought of catching the Sphinx by its tail and so unriddling the mystery.
We have known more than one “weak-minded fool,” ourselves included, that has laboured under a similar delusion for more than one night, but all of us were
finally obliged to repeat the words of the great Galileo, “E pur, se muove!” and
give it up.
But Dr. Beard does not give it up. Preferring to keep a scornful silence as
to any reasonable explanation, he hides the secret of the above mystery in the
depths of his profoundly scientific mind. “His life is given to scientific
researches,” you see; “his physiological knowledge and neuro-physiological
learning are immense,” for he says so, and skilled as he is in combating fraud
by still greater fraud (see column the eighth), spiritualistic humbug has no
more mysteries for him. In five minutes the scientist had done more towards
science than all the rest of the scientists put together have done in years of
labour, and “would feel ashamed if he had not.” (See same column.) In the
overpowering modesty of his learning he takes no credit to himself for having
done so, though he has discovered the astounding, novel fact of the “cold
benumbing sensation.” How Wallace, Crookes and Varley, the
naturalist-anthropologist, the chemist and electrician, will blush with envy in
quick and miraculous intellects. “Veni, Vidi, Vici!” was the motto of a great
conqueror. Why should not Dr. Beard select for his crest the same? And then, not unlike the Alexanders and the Cæsars of antiquity (in the primitive simplicity
of his manners), he abuses people so elegantly, calling them “fools” when he
cannot find a better argument.
A far wiser mind than Dr. Beard (will he dispute the fact?) has suggested,
centuries ago, that the tree was to be judged according to its fruits.
Spiritualism, notwithstanding the desperate efforts of more scientific men than
himself, has stood its ground without flinching for more than a quarter of a
century. Where are the fruits of the tree of science that blossoms on the soil
of Dr. Beard’s mind? If we are tojudge of them by his article, then verily the said tree needs more than usual care. As for the fruits, it would appear that they are as yet in the realms of “sweet delusive hope.” But then, perhaps the doctor was afraid to crush his readers under the weight’ of his learning (true merit has been in all times modest and unassuming), and that accounts for the learned doctor withholding from us any scientific proof of the fraud that he pretends to be exposing, except the above-mentioned fact of the “cold benumbing sensation.” But how Horatio can keep his hand and arm ice cold under a warm shawl for half an hour at a time, in summer as well as in any other season, and that without having some ice concealed about his person, or how he can prevent it from thawing—all the above is a mystery that Dr. Beard doesn’t reveal for the sent.
Maybe he will tell us something of it in his book that he advertises in the article. Well, we only hope that the former will be more satisfactory than the latter.
I will add but a few words before ending my debate with Dr. Beard for ever.
All that he says about the lamp concealed in a bandbox, the strong confederates,
etc., exists only in his imagination, for the mere sake of argument, we suppose.
“False in one, false in all,” says Dr. Beard in column the sixth. These words
are a just verdict on his own article.
Here I will briefly state what I reluctantly withheld up to the present
moment from the knowledge of all such as Dr. Beard. The fact was too sacred in my eyes to allow it to be trifled with in newspaper gossiping. But now, in order to settle the question at once, I deem it my duty as a Spiritualist to surrender it to the opinion of the public.
On the last night that I spent with the Eddys I was presented by Georgo Dix
and Mayflower with a silver decoration, the upper part of a medal with which I
was but too familiar. I quote the precise words of the spirit: “We bring you
this decoration, for we think you will value it more highly than anything else.
You will recognize it, for it is the badge of honour that was presented to your
father by his Government for the campaign of 1828, between Russia and Turkey. We got it through the influence of your uncle, who appeared to you here this evening. We brought it from your father’s grave at Stavropol. You will identify it by a certain sign known to yourself.”
These words were spoken in the presence of forty witnesses. Col. Olcott will
describe the fact and give the design of the decoration.
I have the said decoration in my possession. I know it as havingbelonged to my father. More, I have identified it by a portion that, through carelessness, I broke myself many years ago, and, to settle all doubt in relation to it, I possess the photograph of my father (a picture that has never been at the Eddys’, and could never possibly have been seen by any of them) on which this medal is plainly visible.
Query for Dr. Beard: How could the Eddys know that my father was buried at
Stavropol; that he was ever presented with such a medal, or that he had been
present and in actual service at the time of the war of 1828?
Willing as we are to give every one his due, we feel compelled to say on
behalf of Dr. Beard that he has not boasted of more than he can do, in advising
the Eddys' to take a few private lessons of him in the trickery of mediumship.
The learned doctor must be expert in such trickeries. We are likewise ready to
admit that in saying as he did that “his article would only confirm the more the
Spiritualists in their belief” (and he ought to have added, “convince no one
else”), Dr. Beard has proved himself to be a greater “prophetic medium” than any other in this country!
H. P. BLAVATSKY.
23, Irving Place, New York City,
November 10th, 1874