Alexandr Nikolayevich Aksakov (Алекса́ндр Никола́евич Акса́ков; 27 May 1832 – 4 January 1903) was a Russian writer, translator, journalist, editor, state official and psychic researcher, who is credited with having coined the term "telekinesis".
While living in Germany with his wife and publishing his writings there, he began to spell his name as Alexander Aksakof to accommodate the German spelling style, and this is the name by which he is most known outside of Russia
Aksakof was a Doctor of Philosophy and eventually became a professor at the Leipzig Academy in Germany. He was an ‘intimate advisor’ to Alexander III, Tzar of Russia in matters occult and philosophic and was described as “one of the great scientists who investigated and analyzed spiritist phenomena.” He translated into Russian a number of books and papers written by other scientists also investigating this area, such as Allan Kardec and William Crookes. He also translated the "Report of the Dialectical Society of London" into Russian.
He was described as “A man of brilliant social standing, who devoted himself for 25 years to the service of the State, reaching various titles, such as: the Czar's secret counselor, court adviser, and state advisor”.
Aksakoff was editor of the journal "Psychische Studiem", a periodical published in Germany. And he launched the magazine of psychic studies "Rebus", in Moscow in the year 1891, the first of its kind in Russia.
Aksakoff wrote in February 1890:
"I have been interested in the Spiritist movement since 1855, and since then I have not stopped studying it in all its particulars and through all literatures. In 1870 I attended my first session - I was not surprised to see that the facts were real, and I gained the deep conviction that they offered us - as everything in Nature - a truly solid foundation, a firm ground for the foundation of a new science that would perhaps be able in the distant future to provide man with the solution of the problem of his existence. I have done all in my power to make the facts known. "
Life and works
Alexander Aksakoff was born in Repievka (Russia) on 27th May 1832 . He was born into a noble family, whose members had always been prominent in literature and science. He began his studies at the Imperial Lyceum of St. Petersburg, an institution of the former nobility of Russia, and once he had completed his studies of Philosophy and Religion, he studied Hebrew and Latin for a better understanding of the great works of Swedenborg. He wrote his first book in 1852 on Swedenborg: "A Methodical Exposition of the Spiritual Sense of Revelation, According to the Revelation Revealed." Further books on Swedenborg followed. In 1854, he studied Andrew Davis's work, "Revelations of the Divine Nature."
In 1851, having graduated from the Tsarskoye Selo Lyceum, Aksakov joined the Russian Imperial Ministry of Internal Affairs. In 1852 as a member of Melnikov-Pecherskiy's expedition he traveled to the Nizhny Novgorod region to investigate the case of the local Old Believers movement.
In order to make a complete physiological and psychological study of man, Aksakof enrolled in 1855 as a student of the Moscow Medical School, where he would expand his knowledge of Physics, Chemistry and Mathematics.
In 1858 Nizhny Novgorod's governor A. N. Muravyov invited Aksakov to join the local government's Office for the State Properties an adviser for its Economic division.
Meanwhile, he became interested in the research being undertaken in both Europe and America on spiritual experiences.
He was described as a serious youth intent on proper investigation of all things psychic, and like many before and after him he faced some serious opponents and opposition. In the late 1860s Aksakov became famous as one of the organizers (along with professor Aleksandr Butlerov and zoologist and writer Nikolai Wagner) of the first séances in Russia.
Aksakof’s work led Russia to form the first commission of purely scientific character for ‘the study of spiritist phenomena’. But these were not good times to try to find the truth. As perhaps should have been obvious to Aksakof, unexplained experiences of this sort posed a threat to the fledgling Communist movement, a system which was intending to wipe out any form of belief in spirit, God or the supernatural.
Their approach was uncannily like that used in the USA recently, simply pour scorn on the whole enterprise and vigorously promote the falsity of all the observed phenomena. Aksakof challenged the commission with a book entitled "A Moment of Scientific Concern." But the people with the power control the propaganda and Aksakof had a hard time in his native country.
In Germany he had a better reception. Perhaps his most serious but complementary philosophical sparring partner was the German philosopher Dr. Von Hartmann. Karl Robert Eduard von Hartmann (23 February 1842 – 5 June 1906) was the author of Philosophy of the Unconscious (1869). Von Hartmann called his philosophy a ‘transcendental realism’, because in it he professed to reach by means of induction from the broadest possible basis of experience a knowledge of that which lies beyond experience. Hartmann used the metaphysics of Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel with that of Arthur Schopenhauer. In von Hartmann's view, Reason and Will act together to produce activity – action.
The difference in their approach was that Von Hartmann worked ‘top down’ forming a big picture supported by examples, whereas Aksakoff undertook numerous experiments and collected many ‘valuable and detailed’ observations – a more ‘bottom-up’ approach and certainly one that is essential, as every theory has to be supported by the detail. He used a number of people in his experiments – mostly mediums - Eusápia Paladino, D D Home, psychics Elisabeth D'Esperance and Politi, and Cesare Lombroso who gave a definitive description of his experiences. “This work of Lombroso decisively strengthened everything that Aksakoff had described in his work”.
Aksakoff’s experimental work has ensured that- certainly in Russia, Europe and South America, he has never been forgotten in the matter of experimental spiritualism.
His most famous book is probably one he published in Germany - "Animism and Spiritism" - in two volumes, ‘an unsurpassable work all over the world’. Aksakoff's book "Animism and Spiritism" was based on the booklet that Von Hartmann edited in 1885, addressing aspects of Spiritism.
In 1868-1878 Aksakov served as a member of His Imperial Majesty's Own Chancellery and retired as a state councillor which gave him the right to be addressed as "your Excellency". He died in Saint Petersburg, aged 70.
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