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Le Défi magique, volume 1

 | 
François Laplantine
, 
Jean-Baptiste Martin

Aux origines de l'ésotérisme Américain

Forgotten Magi George Henry Felt and Ezekiel Perkins

James A. Santucci

Résumé

Le mystère entoure la vie de tout « mage », soit parce que telle était sa volonté, soit simplement à la suite de l’absence de documents consultables, cette communication a deux buts: éclairer d’un jour nouveau le premier vice-président et l’inspirateur de la Theosophical Society - George Henry Felt - et arracher à une totale obscurité Ezekiel Perkins, chef d’un ordre de magiciens inconnu jusqu’alors et encore mystérieux: la Loge des Lampsanakoi. Des documents datant de la période de la Guerre de Sécession fournissent des renseignements inédits concernant les premières années de G.-H. Felt à New York City, sa famille et sa participation à la Guerre de Sécession. Deux articles découverts dans le journal World de New York (1er et 8 avril 1877) révèlent l’existence d'un ordre magique qui, si l’on en croit son chef, Ezekiel Perkins, détenait des pouvoirs bien supérieurs à ceux que s’attribuaient Mme Blavatsky et la Theosophical Society. Perkins, comme beaucoup de ses contemporains occultistes, prétendait détenir des pouvoirs issus de l’Orient d’une part par son ascendance biologique (sa mère aurait été une princesse Bengali) et d’autre part grâce à sa familiarité avec l’occultisme des Lampsakanoi, société de magiciens fondée par un contemporain de Cyrus le Grand, Lampsakos.

Texte intégral

  • 1 Old Diary Leaves: The History of the Theosophical Society. First Series: America 1874-1878. Second (...)

1Mystery always surrounds the life of the magus, either partially or completely. George Henry Felt and Ezekiel Perkins are no In whatsoever is known about Ezekiel exceptions. fact, nothing Perkins except what appears in two entries of the now defunct New York City newspaper, The World (April 1 and 8, 1877) and that in connection with the mysterious Lodge of the Lampsakanoi. George H. Felt was at least mentioned in an historical account of the Theosophical Society, Henry Steel Olcott’s Old Diary Leaves, and in Emma Hardinge-Britten’s Nineteenth Century Miracles1. What their full impact was in the annals of the nineteenth century occultism, we have little measure of judging. Both, however, were somehow connected with the budding Theosophical Society in the mid-1870s in New York City and the woman most intimately identified with it, Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky. This paper, therefore, can give but a superficial mention of these two occultists, if that. So shadowy are they that we are lucky to have their names resurface after over 100 years of relative obscurity.

1. George Henry Felt

  • 2 Olcott, 118; see also James A. Santucci, Theosophy and the Theosophical Society (London: Theosophi (...)
  • 3 P. 296.

2The origins of the Theosophical Society in New York are surrounded in controversy. Although some give the credit for its establishment to Mme Blavatsky or her Master(s) and a (very) few to its first treasurer John Newton, the individual most often given credit for generating the idea of a society that was to become the Theosophical Society was its subsequent first president, Col. Olcott. Indeed, the earliest account of what happened on that fateful night of the 7th of September, 1875 turns out to be the minutes of the meeting held on the following night (8 September), subsequently recounted by Col. Olcott himself in his memoirs, Old Diary Leaves. Olcott claimed that he passed a note to Mme Blavatsky suggesting the formation of a society whose main purpose was to investigate occult phenomena: «Would it not be a good thing to form a Society for this kind of study?»2. This account was confirmed in an1976 issue of the Spiritual Scientist (Boston) as reproduced in Emma Hardinge-Britten’s book, Nineteenth Century Miracles3, as well as in the minutes of the September 8 meeting:

In consequence of a proposal of Col. Henry S. Olcott, that a society be formed for the study and elucidation of Occultism, the Cabala &c, the ladies and gentlemen then and there present resolved themselves into a meeting, and, upon motion... (signed H.S. Olcott and William Q. Judge).

  • 4 Josephine Ransom, A Short History of the Theosophical Society: 1875-1937 (Adyar, Madras: Theosophi (...)
  • 5 23 November 1895: 569f. Reprinted in Theosophical History I/7 (July 1986): 176-80.

3On the other hand, other accounts appeared. Mrs Besant recounted Mme Blavatsky’s claim that she was sent to America by her Master to establish the Society for the purpose of spreading «Eastern thought»4. A lesser known account appeared in the Spiritualist journal Light5. Therein, Mr H.J. Newton, the president of the First Society of Spiritualists and former treasurer of the newly formed Theosophical Society, made the claim that he and not Mr. Olcott suggested the organization of the Society.

  • 6 Old Diary Leaves, vol. I, 114.
  • 7 Ibid., 115.
  • 8 Ibid., 116.
  • 9 Ibid., 117. Felt’s own extensive account of his researches appears in a letter dated 19 June 1878 (...)
  • 10 Part of the definition appearing in the announcement of the book (see the next paragraph) that was (...)

4Of overriding importance, however, is not who suggested the Society’s formation, but who inspired it. All accounts of the individual responsible for this inspiration must be accepted with some caution, since they are primarily based on the first volume of Olcott’s Old Diary Leaves, a work that had to be reconstructed from memory or secondary sources: Olcott’s original diary notes for 1875 having been lost. As he relates the events on the night of 7 September (and continued on the following night), George Felt «lectured privately to a few friends of ours, in H.P.B.’s room at 46 Irving Place, New York...»6. The lecture, «The Lost Canon of Proportion of the Egyptian», was accompanied by «drawings to illustrate the theory that the canon of architectural proportion, employed by the Egyptians as well as by the great architects of Greece, was actually preserved in the temple hieroglyphics of the Land of Khemi»7. He claimed that the «secret of the geometrical problem of proportion» could be read on a temple wall that agrees with the actual «pictures, statues, doors, hieroglyphs, pyramids, planes, tombs and building of Ancient Egypt...»8. This was not all, however. During the course of his researches in Egyptian archaeology, Felt claimed to have subsequently discovered, quite accidentally it seems, that Egyptian magician-priests «had the power to evoke and employ the spirits of the elements, and had left the formularies on record...»9 It was this second discovery that seemed to propel the interest to form what was to become the Theosophical Society. Indeed, we find in the minutes of the meetings of the Theosophical Society, as late as 21 June 1876, that Felt was still developing his remarks on the «Kabbalah»10.

  • 11 Old Diary Leaves, vil. I, 116.

5Felt’s knowledge of «occult powers»11 was so impressive that J.W. Bouton, the book publisher, contracted him to publish his discoveries. The announcement of the publication of his work, The Kaballah of the Egyptians and the Greek Canon of Proportion, laid out the promise of a great and significant work that was designed to remove «the evil of Isis». It was a book that would reveal «the true geometrical system of the Egyptians», revealed in the Kabbalah. The book, to our great regret, was never published because of Felt’s apparent inability to complete the work in the time demanded by the publisher.

6His work on the «Kabbalah» must have been genuine, however, for as early as 1872, stories appeared in the press of his discoveries. The New York Herald (15 September 1872), for instance, reported that Felt «rediscovered the Kaballah» and

has been requested to lay his work before the Committee of English Bible Revisers as a valuable aid in solving many of the questions which have always puzzled the translators and interpreters of both the Old and New Testaments. His discovery has been fully and critically examined by several of the rectors of our city churches, who speak of it in high terms as throwing light on the scripture.

7As early as 26 May 1872, the New York Dispatch reported that based on the conversations of distinguished artists and scientists, the paper deemed it as «the most wonderful and startling discovery of the age». The Vice-President of the National Academy of Design, J.Q.A. Ward, wrote that

... Mr Felt has discovered the Canon of Proportion of the Greeks and the Kaballah of the Egyptians, and, as far as we can judge, he establishes a law of proportion that exists in all the works of Nature and their ramifications or parts.
His geometrical problems are new and staling, and are confirmed by Nature and Art.

8In the same article, Mr. William Page, the President of the National Academy of Design gives further credence to the above opinion:

I... concur in this agreement with his belief, that is, so far as I have been able in two investigations to understand it; and I believe that it will effect the greatest results and interest the intelligent to a very remarkable extent when once published to the world.

9From these quotes we now know that Felt must have puzzled over this question for many years. How many years is not known, but we might surmise that in addition to the post-Civil War era in the U.S. (1865-1872), I would venture to guess, the pre-Civil War period of the 1850s would be included as well.

  • 12 Proceedings of a Court of Inquiry, convened by Special Order No. 85, Headquarters Department of Wa (...)
  • 13 Ibid.

10We now know through the New York City Records and Information services that George Felt was born sometime during 1831, probably September 21 of that year, assuming that his Death Certificate contained sufficiently accurate information. The Certificate describes Felt as a mechanical engineer by profession, married, and the son of Willard L. Felt and Elizabeth Glover, both from Massachusetts. He is also identified as a New York resident for 70 of his 75 years, which is substantiated by the Manhattan (New York City) directories. Furthermore, his father Willard was the owner of a stationery and printing firm: Willard Felt & Co., Stationers and Printers. The firm perhaps was founded during the late 1830s or early 1840s. This helps to explain a later observation (1863) that Felt was «engaged in the manufacture of paper»12. The family must have been moderately well off as a result of the Willard’s proprietorship, for George is also said to have been educated in «select schools of New York City»13.

  • 14 Volume III, compiled by Frederick Phistener. Third edition (Albany, 1912), 2468.

11During the period of the American Civil War, George Felt served in the Union forces from 1861 to 1863. According to the book, New York in War of the Rebellion: 1861 to 186514, he signed up with the 55th New York State Militia on 31 July 1861 at Staten Island (a borough of New York City) for three years. He was commissioned First Lieutenant, Company I on 28 August 1961, and mustered out on 15 August 1863. During his time in the army, one event of consequence occurred: a Court of Inquiry requested by Felt in an effort to clear his name of charges brought against him by the Signal Officer in the Army, Col. Albert J. Myer. The Proceedings of the Court provide some insight in the character of the man and his accomplishments as an officer in the Union forces. The circumstances surrounding this information come to a head in 1863. As best as one can reconstruct the events leading up to the Court of Inquiry, the facts seem to be as follows. Felt was associated with signal duty as early as December, 1861 and remained so throughout his career. By 1 May, 1863, he was made aware that certain negative statements were made before a Board of Examination for Signal Officers concerning his «character as a gentlemen», his «efficiency as an officer» involving his performances of duties in the Office of the Signal Officer (at this time he was an Acting Signal Officer), and his «moral character». Because the Board, under the presidency of Col. George Thom (aide-de-camp, Corps of Engineers), considered itself not competent to decide the issue, Felt called a Court of Inquiry.

  • 15 Proceedings, 14.
  • 16 Ibid., 31.
  • 17 Ibid., 14.
  • 18 Ibid., 30 and 32.
  • 19 Ibid., 59: Special Order No. 7:-Lieut. Felt’s duties, while remaining in that camp (i.e., Signal C (...)

12The specific charges centered around a number of issues, chief among them the «communication for quarters and fuel» and for taking out a patent on the development of a signal rocket while in the employ of the U.S. for his own benefit and compensation, not for the benefit of his country15. What is of particular interest from these charges is Felt’s apparent talent in developing the signal rocket. According to the testimony of Lieut. Frank N. Wicker, Felt’s rocket underwent a successful test16, so much so that it was patented, according to the testimony of Col. Myer17. Furthermore, Felt apparently developed a new rocket code which was identical to a cypher code used by the army shortly thereafter18. What is intriguing is that part of Felt’s duty as Acting Signal Officer was to preparate drawings of a Field Signal Telegraphic Train and of (signal) rockets19 a portent on the drawings that he prepared for the «Canon of Proportion».

  • 20 The claim was made public in Olcott's «Inaugural Adress» as President of the Theosophical Society, (...)

13Of Felt’s early (pre-Civil War) and later (after 1878) life, little is known other than what is mentioned above. His claims of discovering the Lost Canon of Proportion, or as the New York Herald reported in the 15 September 1872 issue, the «caballa, the key of many mysteries in art and nature», apparently never came to fruition, or at least never reached a publishable state. It seems that there was little advancement from 1872 to 1875 when he most likely presented a lecture similar to the one given in 1872. The new wrinkle, however, is the introduction of the notion of conjuring «elementary spirits» mentioned above and the inability of Felt to demonstrate in a satisfactory manner such a claim20. This failure resulted in the 8 February 1878 edition of The Spiritualist (London) to decry the whole exercise as an illustration of drawing conclusions before the facts could lend support to the same. This warranted a response from John Storer Cobb, the Treasurer of the Theosophical Society at the time, to defend the good name of the T.S. for promising (through President Olcott) such a claim. Cobb, in a letter to The Spiritualist (22 February 1878) denied any irresponsible statements by the T.S. He further wrote that

the anticipations expressed were based upon statements made by Mr Felt himself... The non-realisation was beyond the control of the president of the society. Mr Felt entered into a definite undertaking to deliver his lectures and exhibit his experiments... [The arrangements] were in accordance with Mr Felt’s own propositions... Time and place were named, and the former more than once altered to suit the lecturer's convenience. One lecture was delivered twice (much to the surprise and disappointment of the audience on the second occasion), but beyond that Mr Felt did not go.

  • 21 Old Diary Leaves, vol. I, 138-39.

14The minutes of the Society confirm Cobb’s statement. For instance, the minutes of 1 and 15 March, 5 and 19 April and 3 May 1876 reveal that Felt was either absent or requested postponement. In fact, he even offered his resignations as Vice-President of the Theosophical Society in the 19 April 1876 meeting. The two lectures were indeed given by Felt, one at the 14 May 1876 meeting, the second at the 21 June 1876 meeting. No mention, however, is given in the latter meeting that the lecture was a duplicate of the former; interesting too, is the fact that he was still called Vice-President at the 21 June meeting, through it is presumed from the actions and seeming lack of interest in the activities of the T.S. that Felt resigned by the end of 1876 or early 187721.

  • 22 Ibid., 138.

15This is as far as it goes. Felt left precious little for us to determine the quality and verity of his works. I have no doubts that the man must have been brilliant, as recounted by both Olcott22 and the Proceedings of the Court of Inquiry, but he failed to provide the empirical and scientific evidence of his claims, something expected by the members of the T.S. All this brings to mind a telling observation made by Col. Myer as reported by Major William Hartshorn:

Q. [Felt]: Did Col. Myer state any reason why Lieut. Felt would not be recommended for promotion in case he did pass the Examine Board, and if so, what were those reasons?
A. [Hartshorn]: He said that some officers were not suited for signal officers, although they were educated men, would pass the Board better than others that would be recommended.
Q.: Is this the only reason?
A.: He gave in regard to Lieut. Felt, that Lieut. Felt had been trying to make a number of inventions and had never succeeded in any, and he thought that he was a little insane on some subjects. He had been in New York for the purpose of experimenting and perfecting a rocket, and while there had invented a fuse, and he hadn't perfected any.

16Although Col. Myers character was brought into question during the latter part of the hearing, this observation may have a grain of truth considering the later events recounted by Olcott.

2. Ezekiel Perkins

17If very little information is ascertainable on George H. Felt, we can at least take heart in the fact that the shroud surrounding this figure has been partially uncovered. In the case of Ezekiel Perkins, there is complete mystery. All we can acknowledge at this juncture is that a name hitherto anonymal in the annals of occultism has been unveiled. How this came about was quite accidental. While researching New York newspaper articles pertaining to the Theosophical Society, in particular a rather wellknown article published under the title «A Lamasery in New York» appearing in the 26 March 1877 issue of the New York World, I came across a letter to the editor in the 1 April edition of The World from a correspondent signing himself «A Reforming Lampsakan». So obscure was it that it only attracted my attention on the third review of the paper’s contents. The letter was in response to the 26 March article, particularly the account of an astral image presumably conjured by Mme Blavatsky. During the course of this interview, the subject turned to the subject of magic and the feats that have been produced by magicians of the East. When the reporter asked her what wonders were witnessed by the interviewee, she responded:

«What have I seen? Look there!» And Mme Blavatsky pointed to a window... The reporter looked, and promptly dropped his pipe. Across the window was passing a shadow. That of itself was not remarkable; but the shadow was not cast from the inside and there were certain reasons why it seemed impossible that it could have been cast from the outside.
... The shadow – if it was really a shadow – must have been cast by a body very near the window, for it was the exact profile image of a man, not distorted... and exactly life size.

18The event took place on the second story, and although there was an outside ledge about eigthteen inches wide, no person passed along that ledge, according to the reporter. Mme Blavatsky claimed that the apparition was actually the astral body of an adept «friend» of hers: adept referring specifically to a Master or Mahatma so familiar in later theosophical literature. Following the appearance was the sound of music, which Mme Blavatsky claimed to have originated from a music box «playing on the shores of the Mediterranean».

19Claiming that Mme Blavatsky had nothing to do with this «trick» of separating the astral from the physical body, the «Reforming Lampsakan», «sick of the Theosophists and their pretensions», derided this demonstration as mere «child's play» perpetrated on Blavatsky and her guests for amusement’s sake by a lowly clerk who was in a rival (and superior) magical confraternity in the city. He continues:

The trick has been played upon the Theosophists for several months past, for that shadow was the hyprastral body of a man who never saw the Mediterranean and who is, in fact, a clerk in a own-town [sic: down-town] counting house.

  • 23 This episode is reported in Michael Gomes' Dawning of the Theosophical Movement (Wheaton, IL: The (...)
  • 24 Ibid., 41.
  • 25 Ibid.

20Furthermore, this same clerk is credited with one other feat involving the materialization of Blavatsky’s father’s medal at a séance «which had been buried with him in Russia». The medal, counted as one of her «treasures», was not genuine, however, but rather a «simulacrum», that is, a counterfeit, «that was foisted upon her for ‘a lark’»23. This séance took place on the night of 24 October 1874 and recounts how a spirit offered a proof «of the genuineness of the manifestations»24 by placing in her «hands the buckle of the medal of honor worn in life» by her recently deceased father [he died on 27 July 1873]25.

  • 26 «The Illuminated Lampsakenoi: A Conference with the Grand Kopht Concerning Theosophists», New York (...)

21The clerk responsible for the display of magical power is not revealed but the correspondent signing himself «A Reforming Lampsakan» is identified in a subsequent entry of The World (8 April 1877) as none other than our man Ezekiel Perkins. Described as a «remarkably tall and gaunt» figure with black piercing and deep-set eyes, a hawk-like nose, long-legged and often troubled by «an affection of the bronchial tubes which at times prostrates him for weeks together»26, Perkins claimed that his assembly or Lodge far exceeded the Theosophists in magic power.

  • 27 The name sounds more Mâhârashtrian than Bengâlî.

22Turning now to the background of his order of magicians, Perkins claimed that the founder was one Lampsakos, a Persian who lived during the reign of Cyrus the Great. Among the individuals named as members of the order, past and present, those most prominent were the caliph Haroun Alraschid, Plotinus, Celsus, Horace Greeley, Count Cagliostro and Joseph Bradley, former New York City mayor A. Oakley Hall, and the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge. Perkins himself claimed to be but a «primary pupil in Lampsakene occultism», whose claim to these powers were based on his supposed heritage: claiming his mother (Ayasha Maria Perkinje27) to be «the descendant of a long line of Asiatic Princes of Bengal who were learned in all the wisdom of the East and could construct clocks and wooden nutmegs through the aid of the superior powers...». While a youth of eighteen years of age, he was placed in charge of a caravan going from Delhi to Kashmir carrying pumpkins and broomhandles. Furthermore, he claimed that he visited such locales as Balsora, Bagdad and Allahabad, and Chinese Tartary. While in Tartary, he studied white magic under the Jains in a Buddhist Lamasery. It was in this locale that the sacred texts of the Lampsakanoi were

  • 28 «Lampsakanism: How it Happened that the Theosophists Were Sold», New York World (1 April 1877): 3.

rediscovered in a Buddhist monastery in Chinese Tartary two hundred years before the Christian era, and are mentioned in the tenth century before Christ by Hindoo writers, among whom are the Gamoojah Jam Go-Woundah, author of the «Mahapootri Doola-jab», or «The Three Feathers of the Wise», and from the Koptic Glumpti, the celebrated Gowakum Bakkani...28

23Perkins saw fit to give the reporter a demonstration of his powers. On the wall of the room was

  • 29 «The Illuminated Lampsakenoi».

distinctly outlined the head of a rabbit, with its ears working rapidly, while its jaws seemed to nibble at a tuft of grass... Its eye was distinctly marked... Mr Perkins was between the [astral] lamp and the wall, and had no rabbit in his hands, his fingers worked in caballatic signs and the reporter bowed his head in awe!
«Behold!» said Mr Perkins. «Yonder is the scinlaeca of an elephant». And there in truth it was»29.

24Perkins then claimed that this was a superior feat to the Theosophical demonstration a few night previous, for this was the materialization of the astral bodies of animals and not just humans.

25One final point of note in this article was an explanation [or attempted explanation] of the hyprastral body. Perkins responds with a question:

Now, when the astral body is thus sundered and apart from the other, how shall it still further itself from itself and become One everlastingly and single? [«The Illuminated Lampsakenoi»]

26The hyprastral boby, then, might be considered the purified, spiritualized, or perhaps, divinized portion of the astral body.

  • 30 Stories in addition to those cited above appear in the 21 March 1877 issue of The Sun («Where is E (...)

27In conclusion, one cannot help but be struck by the degree of braggadocio on the part of Perkins mixed with a healthy suspicion of pretentiousness and charlatanism. References to the literature of his Lodge, the unlikely dates and sources for the same, and the general inability to verify the claims made in both newspaper items only strengthen such suspicions. Furthermore, the claim that Mayor Hall was a Lampsakan arises out of the sensionalistic stories concerning his disappearance, which appeared primarily in the New York Sun in the latter part of March and early April30. Perkins’ letter to The Sun appeared just a few days after the initial stories. Lead titles such as «The Oakley Hall Mystery» (22 March 1877), «New York Great Mystery» (23 March) would certainly lend to speculations by those who followed the story and of course to the claim made by Perkins apropos of Hall’s affiliation. It turned out, however, that Hall was in Europe and England, thus affording no evidence that he actually belonged to the Lodge.

28Similarly, Perkins’ claim that the medal of Mme Blavatsky’s father was but a counterfeit is also taken with a grain of salt, for he disingenuously states that it can be proven simply by disentombing the body. That he knew of the medal in the first place probably originated from the story appearing in the New York Daily Graphic (4 December 1874, 247).

29Taking into account these suspicions, however, the reporter writing the 8 April story does claim in no uncertain terms that something mysterious occurred when he was there, so the question remains: was the Lodge of the Lampskanoi a genuine group, and if so, who besides Perkins belonged to it?

Notes

1 Old Diary Leaves: The History of the Theosophical Society. First Series: America 1874-1878. Second edition (Adyar, Madras: Theosophical Publishing House, 1941). Nineteenth Century Miracles was reprinted by Arno Press (N.Y.) in 1976.

2 Olcott, 118; see also James A. Santucci, Theosophy and the Theosophical Society (London: Theosophical History Centre, 1985,) 4.

3 P. 296.

4 Josephine Ransom, A Short History of the Theosophical Society: 1875-1937 (Adyar, Madras: Theosophical Publishing House, 1938), 77.

5 23 November 1895: 569f. Reprinted in Theosophical History I/7 (July 1986): 176-80.

6 Old Diary Leaves, vol. I, 114.

7 Ibid., 115.

8 Ibid., 116.

9 Ibid., 117. Felt’s own extensive account of his researches appears in a letter dated 19 June 1878 and adressed to the editor of the-London Spiritualist». It was reprinted in Old Diary Leaves, 126-31.

10 Part of the definition appearing in the announcement of the book (see the next paragraph) that was to published by J.W. Bouton appears as follows: · It included the entire «Literature of Wisdom», attributed to the earliest ages of antiquity, the esoteric religious sciences, the Mysteries, the Oracles, the occult signs, characters and words employed to express them, and a knowledge of the mystical meaning attached to the common signs, and included all secret and abstruse knowledge...»

11 Old Diary Leaves, vil. I, 116.

12 Proceedings of a Court of Inquiry, convened by Special Order No. 85, Headquarters Department of Washington, at the Request of First Lieut. George H. Felt (New York: Willard Felt & Co., Stationers and Printers, 1863), 57.

13 Ibid.

14 Volume III, compiled by Frederick Phistener. Third edition (Albany, 1912), 2468.

15 Proceedings, 14.

16 Ibid., 31.

17 Ibid., 14.

18 Ibid., 30 and 32.

19 Ibid., 59: Special Order No. 7:-Lieut. Felt’s duties, while remaining in that camp (i.e., Signal Comp. in Georgetown, D.C.), will be the careful preparation of drawings representing the Field Signal Telegraph Train, and of all rockets, etc., he may have perfected while in New York City». This is also confirmed in the testimony of Lieut. Peter H. Niles (page 20).

20 The claim was made public in Olcott's «Inaugural Adress» as President of the Theosophical Society, delivered on 17 november 1875: «Without claiming to be a theurgist, a mesmerist, or a spiritualist, our Vice-President promises, by simple chemical appliances, to exhibit to us, as he has to others before, the races of beings which, invisible to our eyes, people the elements... Fancy the consequences of the practical demonstration of its truth, for which Mr Felt is now preparing the requisite apparatus!... The day of reckoning is close at hand, and the name of the Theosophical Society will, if Mr Felt's experiments result favorably, hold its place in history as that of the body which first exhibited the «Elementary Spirits»...» It is this statement that led Felt to criticize Olcott’s claim: «Mr Olcott’s statement about my experiments with elemental or elementary spirits, in his inaugural address, was made without consultation with me or my consent, and was not known to me until too long after its appearance for me to protest. Although substantially true, I looked upon it as premature, and as something that should have been kept within the knowledge of the society» (Letter to the Spiritualist; dated 19 June 1878; see Old Diary Leaves, vol. I, 127). If this were true, where was the Vice-President during the Inaugural Address and why did he not know of Olcott’s statement, especially if the speech was published?

21 Old Diary Leaves, vol. I, 138-39.

22 Ibid., 138.

23 This episode is reported in Michael Gomes' Dawning of the Theosophical Movement (Wheaton, IL: The Theosophical Publishing House, 1987), 40-41.

24 Ibid., 41.

25 Ibid.

26 «The Illuminated Lampsakenoi: A Conference with the Grand Kopht Concerning Theosophists», New York World, 8 April 1877: 3.

27 The name sounds more Mâhârashtrian than Bengâlî.

28 «Lampsakanism: How it Happened that the Theosophists Were Sold», New York World (1 April 1877): 3.

29 «The Illuminated Lampsakenoi».

30 Stories in addition to those cited above appear in the 21 March 1877 issue of The Sun («Where is Ex-Mayor Hall?»), 24 March («The Fate of the Ex-Mayor»), 25 March («Is the Mystery Solved?»), 26 March («Mr. Hall Whereabouts»), 27 March («Oakley Hall Speculations»), 2 April («More About A. Oakley Hall»), 3 April («Hall, Alias Sutliffe»), and 6 April («The Mystery of Oakley Hall»).

Auteur

California Sate University, Fullerton.

© Presses universitaires de Lyon, 1994

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