“Under the Shadow of Great Names”
Theosophist, July, 1883
Reply by H.P.B. to two letters defending the medium George Spriggs.
Our love for “fair play” has never been doubted even by those of our enemies who know us personally. Nor is it correct to say that “apparently your (our) philosophy has no room for any other alternative to absolute genuineness than ‘sheer fabrication’”; for unlike spiritualism, our philosophy has theories that cover the ground and thus explain many apparent deceptions on the part of mediums that would otherwise have to be attributed to dishonest fraud. We are sorry that our Australian correspondents had to put themselves to the trouble of defending the private character of Mr. Spriggs, the medium, since no one thought of attacking him, nor was he even mentioned in our editorial by name. The remarks in it were absolutely impersonal, hence there was no need for such an emphatic defence. However, to prove that we are not alone fair, but even ready to recognize true merit and give it an advertisement—we have published both letters verbatim even with their discourteous remarks. We are delighted to learn, and quite ready to believe, that Mr. Spriggs is a most honest gentleman, worthy of the strongest encomiums. Our strictures were applicable to a large class of mediums who have for years been inflicting upon the world “trance” addresses, articles, pamphlets, books, and schemes of social reform, pretending to emanate from the great dead. Modern Spiritualism is a solemn and a mighty question, an influence which has now permeated the thought of our age, a problem which at no previous time during the past thirty-five years has occupied more able minds than at the present hour. It is, however, weighted down with a mass of false appearances and untenable hypotheses which bring reproach upon it, but which will in time, we believe, yield to more correct views of its phenomena as Asiatic philosophy, and the fruits of occult research upon which it rests become better known. Among mediums who have uttered alleged communications from the great departed there are two classes, of whom one are deceiving, the other deceived. If there be a third class of mediums who have in fact received their inspiration from great spirits—the group is very small, we are persuaded, in comparison with what the friends of mediums claim. Our Theosophical doctrine is that one is never safe in ascribing mediumistic communications to any foreign source until the wonderful intrinsic capabilities of the human mind incarnate have all been taken into account. So, to return to the case in point, we were persuaded from a personal familiarity with the late Epes Sargent, his quality of mind and writings, that the message through Mr. Spriggs was not genuine—not from Sargent—but a “fabrication” by somebody or something. It now would seem that we must look for the culprit beyond the gentleman medium to his “control,” a fact we are glad to learn and to put upon record.