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Record number: WCP4850

Sent by:
Alfred Russel Wallace
Sent to:
George S. Fullerton
5 July 1884

Sent by Alfred Russel Wallace, Nutwood Cottage, Frith Hill, Godalming to George S. Fullerton [none given] on 5 July 1884.

Record created:
14 November 2012 by Catchpole, Caroline


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LETTER (WCP4850.5249)

A typical letter handwritten by author in English and signed by author.

Held by:
University of Pennsylvania
Finding number:
MS. COLL. 412, box 3, folder 187
Copyright owner:
ŠA. R. Wallace Literary Estate

Physical description

Transcription information




Frith Hill, Godalming

July 5th 1884

Geo. S. Fullerton Esq.1

Dear Sir,

In reply to your request I beg to say that my general position with regard to Spiritualism is unchanged since I wrote my "Miracles & modern Spiritualism." [one word illegible crossed out] Additional enquiry and observation have still further strengthened my assurance of its fundamental truths, while increasing my perception of its extent and many sidedness, & of the difficulty of arriving at any absolute conclusion as to the exact nature & source of the whole of the phenomena.

As to the best method of investigation there are several [[2]] very important considerations which must be attended to ensure success.

1. It is hopeless to arrive at any sound conclusions without very long and painstaking enquiry.

2. The members of a joint enquiry should make it a rule to be all present at every sitting; unless it is found that any one member acts prejudicially on the production of the phenomena-- in which case he had better retire altogether. There are some such persons-- not necessarily the greatest sceptics as to the facts.

3. It is essential to give up at once the idea assumption that these phenomena are necessarily all of a material nature & to be tested by the usual laws of physics-- are in fact imposters[?] [[3]] or delusions. If tests are applied solely from this point of view, negative or fallacious results will be arrived at. Unless the members of the Commission2 are prepared to consider the Spiritual origin of the phenomena an open question, they are hardly likely to come to any conclusion worthy of attention. The phenomena of "Spirit Philosophy" also affords means of rigid & scientific tests demonstrating the existence of invisible material forces.3

4. Do not be in a hurry to witness the more marvellous phenomena. They cannot be properly appreciated or tested till the less extraordinary phenomena are examined & their reality proved. If you can obtain a good medium for the phenomena usually termed "slate-writing", there is nothing so easily or satisfactorily tested, or so absolutely conclusive of the existence [[4]] of non-human intelligences capable of acting on matter. I would recommend that this please be exhaustively examined before proceeding to any further.

5. Lastly, do not be in too great a hurry to apply rigid & absolute tests. First get the phenomena in perspective & with care-- & then modify the conditions step by step so as to exclude each possible source of error. Above all things make the medium feel at home & comfortable. The phenomena will largely depend on his state of mind & body.

Believe me | Yours very faithfully | Alfred Russel Wallace. [signature]


1. George S. Fullerton. In 1883 Fullerton was appointed the first Adam Seybert Professor in Moral and Intellectual Philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania which he held until 1904.

2. As part of his duties as Adam Seybert Professor, Fullerton was required by the funder (Henry Seybert, son of Adam) to investigate Spiritualism. The "Seybert Commission", as it came to be known, investigated Spiritualism between 1883 and 1887. They published a preliminary report in 1887 which argued for no evidence of the truth of spirit phenomena. See Preliminary Report of the Commission Appointed by the University of Pennsylvania to Investigate Modern Spiritualism, in Accordance with the Request of the Late Henry Seybert (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott Company, May 1887). They did not report any further.

3. The last sentence of this paragraph is written in the left hand margin of page 3.

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