Eliott Coues, by Wikipedia

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Eliott Coues, by Wikipedia

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Eliott Coues
by Wikipedia

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Biography

Coues was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. He graduated at Columbian University, (now, George Washington University) Washington, D.C., in 1861, and at the Medical school of that institution in 1863. He served as a medical cadet in Washington in 1862-1863, and in 1864 was appointed assistant-surgeon in the regular army. In 1872 he published his Key to North American Birds, which, revised and rewritten in 1884 and 1901, did much to promote the systematic study of ornithology in America. He was a founding member of the American Ornithologists' Union in 1883.[2] His work was instrumental in establishing the currently accepted standards of trinomial nomenclature -- the taxonomic classification of subspecies -- in ornithology, and ultimately the whole of zoology. In 1873-1876 Coues was attached as surgeon and naturalist to the United States Northern Boundary Commission, and in 1876-1880 was secretary and naturalist to the United States Geological and Geographical Survey of the Territories, the publications of which he edited. He was lecturer on anatomy in the medical school of the Columbian University in 1877-1882, and professor of anatomy there in 1882-1887.

He was a careful bibliographer and in his work on the Birds of the Colorado Valley he included a special section on swallows and attempted to resolve whether they migrated in winter or hibernated under lakes as was believed at the time:

I have never seen anything of the sort, nor have I ever known one who had seen it; consequently, I know nothing of the case but what I have read about it. But I have no means of refuting the evidence, and consequently cannot refuse to recognize its validity. Nor have I aught to urge against it, beyond the degree of incredibility that attaches to highly exceptional and improbable allegations in general, and in particular the difficulty of understanding the alleged abruptness of the transition from activity to torpor. I cannot consider the evidence as inadmissible, and must admit that the alleged facts are as well attested, according to ordinary rules of evidence, as any in ornithology. It is useless as well as unscientific to pooh-pooh the notion. The asserted facts are nearly identical with the known cases of many reptiles and batrachians. They are strikingly like the known cases of many bats. They accord in general with the recognized conditions of hibernation in many mammals.

—Birds of the Colorado Valley (1878), Chapter XIV.[3]


He resigned from the army in 1881 to devote himself entirely to scientific research. He was a founder of the American Ornithologists' Union, and edited its organ, The Auk, and several other ornithological periodicals. He died in Baltimore, Maryland.

In addition to ornithology he did valuable work in mammalogy; his book Fur-Bearing Animals (1877) being distinguished by the accuracy and completeness of its description of species, several of which were already becoming rare. Coues Deer are named after him.

Spirituality

Coues took an interest in Spiritualism and began speculations in Theosophy. He felt the inadequacy of formal orthodox science in dealing with the deeper problems of human life and destiny. Convinced by the principles of evolution, he believed that these principles may be capable of being applied in psychic research and he proposed to use it to explain obscure phenomena such as hypnotism, clairvoyance, telepathy and the like.

Coues had claimed to have witnessed levitation of objects and developed a theory to try and explain the phenomena.[4] His "telekinetic theory of levitation" claimed that luminiferous ether or a similar energy causes the moving of tables and other objects under given conditions, and that the motions which are set up in the ether are in some way connected with mental activities, which enable the mind to control the movement of objects through the hands and the spheres flowing forth through them.[5][6]

He visited Madame Blavatsky in Europe. He then founded the Gnostic Theosophical Society of Washington, and in 1890 he became the president of the Esoteric Theosophical Society of America. Around this time he also exposed Blavatsky and lost his interest in the theosophical movement.[7]


E.S.T.S. Document signed May 14, 1889 by H.P. Blavatsky

H.P. Blavatsky having learned that Professor Elliot Coues (1) of Washington D.C. calls himself “Perpetual President of the Esoteric Theosophical Society of America”, feels it necessary to warn the members of the Esoteric Section of the T.S. of which she is the Head, that Professor Coues is not even a member of her Section.

1. The Head of the Section desires therefore, to inform all members of the E.S. that Prof. Coues has no authority, except his own, for assuming such a title; that he is not, & never has been, a member of Esoteric Section to which you belong; & that no papers, documents, memoranda or teachings given in this section must be shown or communicated to him.

2. Having learned that a memorandum dated March 17th 1889, relating to the duty which is incumbent on members of the E.S. to defend the T.S. & its leaders, has got into the hands of Col. Bundy of the Religio-Philosophic Journal, the Head of the Section desires to say that should any Member of the E.S. know how this has happened, it is his duty to communicate at once with the Council (vide memorandum appended to Instruction No 2). Should such a breach of faith ever occur again, the Esoteric Section will at once be broken up & all further instruction cease. It is therefore the duty of all who desire its continuance to exercise the greatest possible care & circumspection.

3. In order to prevent any mistake or deception arising as to membership in the E.S., the Head of the Section has selected the following Passwords: ---

The member desiring to ascertain whether another person belongs to the E.S. will first say “Dhyani” to which the person addressed (if a member of the E.S. will reply “Pura”. The questioner must then say “Satri”, to which the reply will be “Asoph”.

No member must ever speak or discuss the teachings given in the E.S. or any of its confidential documents with any person to whom he has not previously given these Pass-words, & received from him the correct replies as given above.

The Head of the Section
(signed) H.P. Blavatsky

For the Council
Bertram Keightley :>
Secretary
14 May 1889

***

"A VOICE FROM OVER THE SEAS" BY H.P. BLAVATSKY

"A VOICE FROM OVER THE SEAS."

A QUESTION has reached the Head of the Esoteric section of the Theosophical Society, regarding the alleged representation of that Section in America. This question is accompanied by a cutting from the Press of April 21st, 1889, which reads as follows:-

"Dr. Elliot Coues, the Founder of the Gnostic Theosophical Society of Washington, is also perpetual President of the Esoteric Theosophical Society of America."

In reply, I most emphatically state that I am entirely ignorant of the origin or career of the above named "Esoteric Theosophical Society" of which Dr. Coues is said to be the "perpetual President," and that this gentleman is in no way connected with the Esoteric Section of the T. S. of which I am the sole Head; nor can I help thinking that the said Esoteric "Theosophical Society" is a printers mistake. The only Esoteric Society which has any LEGAL right to the name "Theosophical" is that which Col. Olcott founded and chartered in London in October, 1888, for the proofs of which see LUCIFER of that month.

H. P. BLAVATSKY.

***

Why has he done it? The motive is plainly shown by a letter received by me from Dr. Coues a few days before the Convention of the American Section T.S. at Chicago. This letter was an ultimatum in which the Professor offered me the choice of the following alternatives: Either to telegraph immediately to the Convention, using all my influence to have him appointed President or “Boss” of the whole T.S. in America, or to see him bust up the T.S. forever. Not being easily intimidated, I replied that he might do his worst. His letter and my reply can be published, if thought proper.

-- The Esoteric Papers of Madame Blavatsky, by Helena Petrovna Blavatsky


Publications

Among the most important of his publications, in several of which he had collaboration, are A Field Ornithology (1874); Birds of the North-west (1874); Monographs on North American Rodentia, with J. A. Allen (1877); Birds of the Colorado Valley (1878); A Bibliography of Ornithology (1878–1880, incomplete); New England Bird Life (1881); A Dictionary and Check List of North American Birds (1882); Biogen, A Speculation on the Origin and Motive of Life (1884); The Daemon of Darwin (1884); Can Matter Think? (1886); and Neuro-Myology (1887). He also contributed numerous articles to the Century Dictionary, wrote for various encyclopaedias, and edited the Journals of Lewis and Clark (1893), The Travels of Zebulon M. Pike (1895), New Light on the Early History of the Greater Northwest: The Manuscript Journals of Alexander Henry, Fur Trader of the Northwest Company and of David Thompson, Official Geographer and Explorer of the Same Company, 1799-1814 (1897) and Forty Years A Fur Trader on the Upper Missouri: The Personal Narrative of Charles Larpenteur 1833-1872 (1898)

References

1. "A Great Ornithologist". The Outlook 64: 98. January 13 1900. http://books.google.com/?id=l2pyPw_hYuAC&pg=PA98. Retrieved 2009-07-30.
2. "The American Ornithologists' Union", Bulletin of the Nuttall Ornithological Club VIII (4): 221-226, October 1883
3. Allen, JA (1909). "Biographical memoir of Elliott Coues.". National Academy of Sciences: Biographical Memoirs 6: 395–446. http://books.nap.edu/html/biomems/ecoues.pdf.
4. Metaphysical magazine: a monthly review of the occult sciences and metaphysical philosophy, Volume 1, The Metaphysical Publishing Company., 1895, p. 206
5. The Nation, Volumes 60-61, The Nation Company, 1895, p. 125
6. Paul Russell Cutright, Michael J. Brodhead Elliott Coues: naturalist and frontier historian 2001, p. 302
7. Marble, C. C. 1900. The Late Dr. Elliott Coues. Birds and All Nature: February 1900.
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