Sunday, July 11, 2010

Henry Olcott, the Eddys and Materialization Phenomena

The Australian blog, Late Harvest, for July 11 has an article on Colonel Henry Steel Olcott’s People From the Other World (1875, reprinted by the Charles E. Tuttle Co. in 1972). The book, written before the founding of the Theosophical Society, is a record of Olcott visit to the Eddy mediums in rural Vermont in the fall of 1874. It was here that he met Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, who was among the spectators. For anyone who has not read the book, nor intending to, this piece provides an overview off its salient points. The author, J.D. Frodgham, writes:

Olcott on the whole emerges extremely well from this inquiry. After the lapse of over a century he still comes across to us as a practical man full of shrewdness and commonsense who was prepared to spend ten uncomfortable weeks living in a primitive farmhouse in the middle of an isolated rural community in the company of uncongenial people in order to discover the truth about materialisation. I find his character portraits of the Eddys singularly convincing. They were illiterate farmers endowed, unfortunately for them, with a rare and perilous gift. Had they been born into a more congenial culture, say that of India, China or Tibet, they would undoubtedly have achieved resounding fame as holy men, shamans or magicians.

It was largely due to his administrative ability and the energy with which he devoted himself to his work, that the [Theosophical] Society was able to establish itself firmly enough to withstand and survive the storm of controversy which the scandal centring around Madame Blavatsky later unleashed against Theosophy.

Though Frodgham’s statement: “he [Olcott] is best known today for his singular work, People From The Other World,” is debatable, the rest of the post (reprinted from the Journal of Alternative Realities, Vol. 8, Issue 1, 2000) is cogent enough and can be read here.

The Eddy Farmhouse as it looks today

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