The following letter was addressed to a contemporary journal by Mme. Blavatsky, and was handed to us for publication in The Daily Graphic, as we have been taking the lead in the discussion of the curious subject of Spiritualism:
Aware in the past of your love of justice and fair play, I most earnestly solicit the use of your columns to reply to an article of Dr. G. M. Beard in relation to the Eddy family in Vermont. He, in denouncing them and their spiritual manifestations in a most sweeping declaration, would aim a blow at the entire spiritual world of today. His letter appeared this morning (October 27th).1 Dr. George M. Beard has for the last few weeks assumed the part of the “roaring lion” seeking for a medium “to devour.” It appears that today the learned gentleman is more hungry than ever. No wonder, after the failure he has experienced with Mr. Brown, the “mind-reader,” at New Haven.
I do not know Dr. Beard personally, nor do I care to know how far he is entitled to wear the laurels of his profession as an M.D.; but what I do know is that he may never hope to equal, much less to surpass, such men and savants as Crookes, Wallace, or even Flammarion, the French astronomer, all of whom have devoted years to the investigation of Spiritualism. All of them came to the conclusion that, supposing even the well-known phenomenon of materialization of spirits did not prove the identity of the persons whom they purported to represent, it was not, at all events, the work of mortal hands; still less was it a fraud.
Now to the Eddys. Dozens of visitors have remained there for weeks and even for months; not a single séance has taken place but some of them realized the personal presence of a friend, a relative, a mother, father, or dear departed child. But lo! here comes Dr. Beard, stops less than two days, applies his powerful electrical battery, under which the spirit does not even wink or flinch, closely examines the cabinet (in which he finds nothing), and then turns his back and declares most emphatically “that he wishes it to be perfectly understood that if his scientific name ever appears in connection with the Eddy family, it must be only to expose them as the greatest frauds who cannot do even good trickery.” “Consummatum est!” Spiritualism is defunct. “Requiescat in pace!” Dr. Beard has killed it with one word. Scatter ashes over your venerable but silly heads, oh Crookes, Wallace and Varley! Henceforth you must be considered as demented, psychologized, and lunatics, and so must it be with the many thousands of Spiritualists who have seen and talked with their friends and relatives departed, recognizing them at Moravia, at the Eddys’, and elsewhere throughout the length and breadth of this continent. But is there no escape from the horns of this dilemma? Yea, verily, Dr. Beard writes thus: “When your correspondent returns to New York I will teach him on any convenient evening to do all that the Eddys do.” Pray why should a Daily Graphic reporter be the only one selected by G. M. Beard, M.D., for initiation into the knowledge of so clever a “trick”? In such a case why not publicly denounce this universal trickery, and so benefit the whole world? But Dr. Beard seems to be as partial in his selections as he is clever in detecting said tricks. Didn’t the learned doctor say to Colonel Olcott while at the Eddys’ that three dollars’ worth of second-hand drapery would be enough for him to show how to materialize all the spirits that visit the Eddy homestead?
To this I reply, backed as I am by the testimony of hundreds of reliable witnesses that all the wardrobe of Niblo’s Theatre would not suffice to attire the number of spirits that emerge night after night from an empty little closet.
Let Dr. Beard rise and explain the following fact if he can: I remained fourteen days at the Eddys’. In that short period of time I saw and recognized fully out of 119 apparitions seven spirits. I admit that I was the only one to recognize them, the rest of the audience not having been with me in my numerous travels throughout the East, but their various dresses and costumes were plainly seen and closely examined by all.
The first was a Georgian boy, dressed in the historical Caucasian attire, the picture of whom will shortly appear in The Daily Graphic. I recognized and questioned him in Georgian upon circumstances known only to myself. I was understood and answered. Requested by me in his mother tongue (upon the whispered suggestion of Colonel Olcott) to play the “Lezguinka,” a Circassian dance, he did so immediately upon the guitar.
Second.—A little old man appears. He is dressed as Persian merchants generally are. His dress is perfect as a national costume. Everything is in its right place, down to the “babouches” that are off his feet, he stepping out in his stockings. He speaks his name in a loud whisper. It is “Hassan Aga,” an old man whom I and my family have known for twenty years at Tiflis. He says, half in Georgian and half in Persian, that he has got a “big secret to tell me,” and comes at three different times, vainly seeking to finish his sentence.
Third.—A man of gigantic stature emerges forth, dressed in the picturesque attire of the warriors of Kurdistan. He does not speak, but bows in the Oriental fashion, and lifts up his spear ornamented with bright-coloured feathers, shaking it in token of welcome. I recognize him immediately as Saffar Ali Bek, a young chief of a tribe of Kurds, who used to accompany me in my trips around Ararat in Armenia on horseback, and who on one occasion saved my life. More, he bends to the ground as though picking up a handful of mould and scattering it around, presses his hand to his bosom—a gesture familiar only to the tribes of the Kurdistan.
Fourth.—A Circassian comes out. I can imagine myself at Tiflis, so perfect is his costume of “nouker” (a man who either runs before or behind one on horseback). This one speaks. More, he corrects his name, which I pronounced wrongly on recognizing him, and when I repeat it he bows, smiling, and says in the purest guttural Tartar, which sounds so familiar to my ear, “Tchoch yachtchi” (all right), and goes away.
Fifth.—An old woman appears with a Russian headgear. She comes out and addresses me in Russian, calling me by an endearing term that she used in my childhood. I recognize an old servant of my family, a nurse of my sister.
Sixth.—A large powerful negro next appears on the platform. His head is ornamented with a wonderful coiffure, something like horns wound about with white and gold. His looks are familiar to me, but I do not at first recollect where I have seen him. Very soon he begins to make some vivacious gestures, and his mimicry helps me to recognize him at a glance. It is a conjurer from Central Africa. He grins and disappears.
Seventh and last.—A large grey-haired gentleman comes out attired in the conventional suit of black. The Russian decoration of Saint Ann hangs suspended by a large red moire ribbon with two black stripes—a ribbon, as every Russian will know, belonging to said decoration. This ribbon is worn around his neck. I feel faint, for I think of recognizing my father. But the latter was a great deal taller. In my excitement I address him in English, and ask him: “Are you my father?” He shakes his head in the negative, and answers as plainly as any mortal man can speak, and in Russian, “No; I am your uncle.” The word “diadia” has been heard and remembered by all the audience. It means “uncle.”2
But what of that? Dr. Beard knows it to be but a pitiful trick, and we must submit in silence. People that know me know that I am far from being credulous. Though a Spiritualist of many years’ standing, I am more skeptical in receiving evidence from paid mediums than many unbelievers. But when I receive such evidence as I received at the Eddys’, I feel bound on my honor, and under the penalty of confessing myself a moral coward, to defend the mediums as well as the thousands of my brother and sister Spiritualists, against the conceit and slander of one man who has nothing and no one to back him in his assertions. I now hereby finally and publicly challenge Dr. Beard to the amount of $500 to produce before a public audience and under the same conditions the manifestations herein attested, or, failing this, to bear the ignominious consequences of his proposed exposé.
H. P. Blavatsky,
124 East Sixteenth Street, October 27.
1. [Note: Dr. G. M. Beard in his letter to the editor of the NY Sun (Oct. 27, 1874) was replying to an article titled “Wonders by Wholesale,” which appeared in the NY Sun on October 24th, 1874. There had been a continuing discussion about Spiritualism and the Eddy Farm over the previous weeks, in papers such as the NY Sun and Daily Graphic—largely involving H. S. Olcott—prior to the present article, H.P.B.’s first on the subject.]