To the Editor of the Banner of Light:
Dear Sir,—I have received from St. Petersburg the protests of Professor Butleroff and the Honorable Alexander Aksakoff, with a request from the latter gentleman that I will translate for our spiritual papers their just criticisms upon the action of the University Commission for the investigation of spiritual phenomena. I forward you the Butleroff paper.
The Commission has acted so unfairly at the preliminary séances, that these two gentlemen have declined to have anything more to do with it. Dr. Slade was about to sail for Europe under a contract to place himself at the disposal of the Commission (God help him!) but by the last mail instructions have been received by us to terminate this contract and make a new one. Dr. Slade having consented to the terms, will visit St. Petersburg, but will not have anything to do with the Commission.
I deeply regret that Russian men of science should have shown themselves as narrow-minded and unfair as the Willis persecutors of 1857, and the lofty souls of the Royal Society, who declined the invitation of the Dialectical Society.
The documents appear in Russian, in the official journals of St. Petersburg. The evidence seems to show that the epidemic which, for the lack of another name, I propose to call Psychophobia, has attacked the scientists of my country as soon as the investigation of phenomenal Spiritualism and mediumism threatened to turn successful.
H. P. Blavatsky,
New York, April 21st, 1876.
[Note: here followed H.P.B.’s translation of Butleroff’s paper addressed to the Commission of St. Petersburg University, from which we make the following selections:]
Gentlemen:—Finding it useless for me to continue to take part in the meetings of the Commission it is necessary that, in reporting the fact, I should, state the circumstances which force me to the step I now take.
On the 7th of May, 1875, in a letter, now on file among the papers of the Commission and addressed to one of its members, I pointed out the importance that “the Society of Physical Sciences should not form any preconceived opinions upon the question at issue, so as to anticipate results,” and I further expressed myself thus: “If the Commission would now declare such manifestations to be produced authentically, by means of legerdemain, then the investigation would hardly find any countenance or help, either from the mediums or from Spiritualists.”
The expression of such a fear by me might have seemed an exaggeration . . . Nevertheless, later developments have shown, to my great regret, that my fears were not groundless. . . .
. . . A conspicuous proof of this assertion is the public lecture delivered on the 15th of December, by one of the influential members of the Commission (Prof. Mendeleyeff), after the investigation with the Petty boys, which gave only negative results. On the ground that at certain specified seances “no mediumistic manifestations were obtained,” it was assumed that there never were such manifestations. Those who had seen nothing at all, undertook to contradict the unqualified testimony of not merely a few, but a multitude of persons who had seen much, and who were sure that they had seen well. . . . [etc. etc.] . . .
[Note: Butleroff’s paper can be read in full here.]