OLD DIARY LEAVES, Sixth Series (1896-98)
by Henry Steel Olcott
SEERESSES OR MEDIUMS
IN the foregoing narrative are all the features of an undoubted case of clairvoyant perception. Bear in mind that, at the time of the séance with Madame Mongruel, nothing whatever of a definite character was known in Europe as to the fate of the ill-starred Marquis de Mores; nor did anything appear in any paper before the 3rd of July, when the Tunisian telegram was printed in the Figaro: add to this that M. Desormeaux did not believe that there had been a tragedy, and that I, for my part, had neither known of the existence of the Marquis nor cared what might or might not have happened to him. There is no ground, therefore, for any theory of thought-transference between the Seeress and ourselves. Yet her perceptions of the event that had transpired out in the African Desert were as clear as though she had seen them reflected in one of the mirrors that hung in her consulting-room. The sash
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which had been worn by the lost man was efficacious in putting her sur la piste—on the trail. If this is not an instructive fact for the student of clairvoyance, and if it does not make easier of comprehension the revelations that we have been having lately in Theosophical books, then I am mistaken.
What a curious coincidence it is that the two Napoleons who have occupied the throne of France should have had their future grandeur prophesied by clairvoyants, the Great Napoleon by Mlle. Le Normand, the Little one by Madame Mongruel. As regards the Le Normand prophecies the reader will do well, if he can, to read the article in The Theosophist for December, 1896. One point is made in that article, on the authority of Delaage, in his Sommeil Magnetique (Paris, 1857); it relates to the question of the continuous, or infallible, lucidity of clairvoyants. He says: “Those ignorant mesmerisers who fancy that they create clairvoyance in their lucid subjects are entirely mistaken; no power in the world can make clairvoyant a subject who has not the congenital predisposition for it: all that the magnetiser does is to help remove from the inner eye some of the obstacles to clear sight offered by the activity of the bodily senses . . . There does not exist in Paris a serious magnetiser who dare say that he has met with a single subject who
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has continuous lucidity.” Furthermore our author affirms that the number of lucid somnambules is not very great, and often the faculty appears at very rare intervals; moreover, that, most frequently, the failure of a clairvoyant to satisfy consultants is due to this fact, viz., that the poor visionary cannot throw herself or himself at will into the condition of lucidity.
Remember that this super-physical state is due to a very delicate and exceptional condition of the nerves of the brain which the slightest cause is sufficient to upset. How many times have I been pained to see the mental tortures inflicted upon, these psychics by ignorant and brutal, though perhaps well-disposed, visitors. Let us suppose that the consultant wishes information about the writer of a certain letter which may have been handled by a dozen different persons, each of whom has impregnated the document with his own aura, some possibly so coarse and strong as to drown out for the moment that of the writer of the letter. If the consultant be ill-bred, he may put insulting questions and show insulting suspicions, provoked by his own ignorance; another, carried away by a blind enthusiasm, may cause his thought-pictures to rush past the clairvoyant’s vision like a scud of clouds swept before a tempest. A third may so strongly desire that the Seeress’ revelation may
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confirm his wishes as to obsess, take possession of and mould the thought of the sleeper. A fourth may be a man who comes fresh from a scene of debauchery, and the libidinous pictures floating around him may horrify the virtuous sensitive and make her loathe his presence. Finally, not to enumerate the many causes operative of a destruction of clairvoyant vision, the enquirer may be one of those conceited and prejudiced committee men, who have figured so often in the history of psychical research and come with smiling features and outward courtesy, but underneath having the determination to prove the lucid victim a dishonest trickster, to confuse and trip her up, and to make white as black as his suspicious nature wishes it to be.
On the day of the Mongruel interview Dr. Baraduc had me to his house to dinner and M. Jules Bois and two other gentlemen to meet me. On the following day I was honored with a visit from that most interesting savant, Colonel De Rochas. My introductory visit to M. Menant, of the Institute, occurred on the 25th of June. This venerable man, whose fame as an Orientalist extended throughout the whole world of scholarship, received me with every possible courtesy, expressed his warm interest in the Parsi community of Bombay, and invited his gifted wife and still more gifted daughter to take part in the conversation. Like Dr. Mills, he was
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sceptical as to the possibility of recovering lost Zoroastrian scriptures; at the same time admitting that there was just a remote possibility of some being found in libraries in Muhammadan countries not yet examined by Western Zendic students: the chance, however, he thought remote. In the letter which he addressed me under date of August 24th, 1896, he says: “If there is still something more needed it is rather, as I have told you verbally, in purely archreological discoveries that one might, perhaps, meet with new documents. In pursuance of this idea I have put you in relations with M. Blanc, who has a special knowledge of the Central Asian provinces, where explorations might throw great light upon this important problem of Zoroastrian history.”
Still, in spite of the scepticism which I have met everywhere among the savants on this subject, I have a sort of vague belief that, if the Bombay Parsis should really begin in earnest a search for their missing religious treasures, some of great importance will be found; perhaps even in India, in some temple or mosque library, or in the possession of some family to whom the books or manuscripts may have descended from an ancestor concerned in the pillage of the Persian Parsis.
Members of our Society are now to be found in almost all social classes and walks of life, so that
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it need not surprise us to learn that one evening while in Paris I had the opportunity of seeing one of my colleagues playing in the matchless dramatic company of the Comédie Française, and another one as a Député in the Chambre des Députés, where he had figured largely as the author of a very important Bill. This gentleman and another Député spent hours with me one evening at my hotel discussing Theosophy, in which they showed an eager interest.
On Saturday, the 27th, I called by invitation on Colonel De Rochas at his Laboratory at the Ecole Polytechnique, to see him make, in the presence of a number of men of science, a lot of hypnotic experiments on two subjects, females. He showed us the different stages of Hypnosis defined by Charcot, and other phenomena, among them externalisation of sensitiveness and projection of the double. In this condition the bodies of the sensitives did not respond to any external influence; sight, hearing, taste, and feeling were all paralysed, but the normal sensitiveness, abnormally intensified, existed outside the body in the enwrapping aura. If he thrust a pin into the air at a measured distance from the sleeper’s body there would be an instantaneous cry of pain, and the sensitive would quickly carry her hand to that part of the body which seemed to be in auric communication with the
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punctured spot in space. Both sensitives being plunged in hypnotic sleep, the one could point out exactly where the double of the other, projected from the body, was located, and the Colonel by pinching or pricking that spot, would cause a reflex action in the body. This suggested to me an experiment. The Colonel had been proving the paralysis of the olfactory nerves by holding to the nose of the sleeper an uncorked vial of concentrated spirits of ammonia. I took him with me outside the room and, after closing the door, suggested that he should try the experiment of holding the pungent fluid to the point in space where the other clairvoyant should say that the nose of the subject under experiment, or rather of her double, was situated. If he could then get her to make the motion of inhaling, possibly we might find that there would be a reaction upon the physical olfactory nerves, which would be a new and interesting proof of the projection of the double. He declared that the idea was a capital one, returned to the room, and made the experiment, which to our gratification and the surprise of all present was entirely successful.
At that time there happened to be in Paris the Hon. Alexander Aksakof, State Councillor of H. M. the Emperor of Russia, whose name is known throughout the whole world of psychical research as one of the ablest and most honorable of investigators
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and advocates of Modern Spiritualism. My Eddy book, People from the Other World, which appeared first with illustrations in the N. Y. Daily Graphic, attracted his attention to such an extent that he paid H.P.B. to translate it into Russian for him to bring out. This transaction led to a friendly correspondence between us, but I had never met him personally until now during my Paris visit. I found him rather unfriendly to my dear colleague, so I profited by the opportunity to use my best endeavors to remove from his mind some impressions which I felt sure were entirely unjust. For many years M. Aksakof edited and published (in Germany, for he could not bring it out in Russia) the extensively circulated magazine, Psychiche Studien, and was the author of several books, almost the latest of which was one, Partial Dematerialisation of a Medium, an account by eye-witnesses of a wonderful phenomenon that occurred at Helsingfors, to Mrs. D’Esperance, the medium. If the reader can get the chance to go through it, it will be well worth his while, for the phenomenon described was one of the most astonishing, from the scientific point of view, in the history of spiritualistic wonders. Mrs. D’Esperance, seated on a chair in front of a screen, in a lighted room and in the presence of several reputable witnesses, suddenly found that her lower limbs had been completely dematerialised from the hips downward,
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and her dress hung over the front edge of the chair-seat. This was the first intimation she had had of any change in her physical condition, although she was in possession of her full consciousness and the room was well lighted. Her fright lest she should have been crippled for life was perfectly natural, as was that of the company present, who were allowed to approach and satisfy themselves of the fact of the dissolution of the limbs. Before she had time to provoke a catastrophe by giving way to the impulse of terror, the limbs were restored to their normal condition and she was able to spring to her feet and walk about. M. Aksakof, in describing the séance, cites the account given in my Eddy book of the entire dissolution of the body of Mrs. Compton, an American medium, which, I believe, had been the first phenomenon of the kind on record; though as for this I will not venture to be positive.
On the same day I met Père Bernard, the Dominican Friar of whom I have spoken elsewhere, and in the afternoon called again at M. Menant’s where I met M. Blanc, the Central Asian explorer, and a very long and interesting discussion ensued between us two and our venerable host.
Among my numerous visitors on the following day was M. Aksakof, and I spent the afternoon most agreeably with M. Blanc. He took me to the Musée Guimet to show me some Parsi bronzes that
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he had found when excavating in Bactria, and I also saw the very fine collection of life-size and correctly-dressed Parsi figures which had been given to the Musée by Mlle. Menant, than whom the Parsis have no more enthusiastic friend. On the 30th I bade good-bye to Dr. Baraduc, wrote letters, and listened to a debate in the Corps Legislatif in which our Theosophical colleague spoke on a Revenue Bill. This was my first experience in that historical Chamber, and I naturally made a mental comparison between the debate and what I had seen in our American legislative bodies. Things went on rather tamely, but now and again there was an outbreak of excitement showing what the Chamber might be when roused. I dined with the Rev. Dr. Mills that evening, and enjoyed myself much in talking about our common Alma Mater and the various people we knew. The next day I crossed over to London and found at the station to meet me, Leadbeater, Mead, Dr. Hübbe, Keightley and others. Keightley took me to his house and I had the agreeable opportunity of paying my respects to the venerable mother to whose heart he is as dear as the apple of her eye.