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Periodical: Wilford's Microcosm

Summary:   From Pat Deveney's database:

Microcosm, The.
The Organ of Substantial Philosophy /A Religio-Scientific Monthly devoted to the Discoveries, Theories, and Investigations of Modern Science, in their bearing upon the Religious Thought of the Age / A Monthly Jounral of Substantialism and Collateral Discussions.
Other titles: Wilford's Microcosm
1881--1893 Monthly
New York, NY. Publisher: Hall & Company; Microcosm Publishing Company; Hudson & Co.. Editor: Alexander Wilford Hall, Ph.D., Ll.D., founder and editor; Henry A. Mott; Henry B. Hudson; Robert Rogers. Succeeded by: Scientific Arena --> Microcosm 1/1, August 1881-November 1893. 30 pp., $1.00-2.00, and then 50 cents a year.

Through vol. 4, ending September 1885, the journal was called Wilford's Microcosm and was under Hall's ownership and primary editorship. In October 1885 the business was transferred to the "proprietorship and energetic management of young men who are . . . ardent Substantialists and very capable journalists and business men," who published vol. 5 in a new format under the name the Microcosm. They also raised the price to $2.00, and promptly fell upon hard times. In June 1886, Hall, with Henry B. Hudson, started Scientific Arena, originally in competition with the original journal and then, beginning in December 1886, as its successor.

Alexander Wilford Hall (1819-1902) was the sort of man that the nineteenth century produced in abundance: a noted inventor (a peddle-less bicycle, the "double tin foil phonograph," improved pianos, water meters, washing machines, etc.), controversialist, early proponent of cremation, and medical crank who was widely respected for his unhesitating willingness to point out the fundamental theoretical errors in Newton, Darwin, Haeckel, and others in the scientific establishment, despite his lack of formal education.

His fame rested on his resolution of the nineteenth century's conflict between "materialism" and "idealism" by declaring, in The Problem of Human Life (1877) and then in this journal, that everything in nature (principles, forces, atoms, etc., including the minds and mental powers of every sentient being) was "substantial" and thus naturally immortal. "His basic argument ," as a critic noted, "is this: Anything that exists is substance; all visible forms of substance were created out of the invisible forces of nature, as light, heat, sound, magnetism, gravitation, and all life given direct from God, the highest of all substance. Then he concludes, that, as substance is eternal, and as man is part of that substance, he is indestructible and eternal." This verbal slight-of-hand found more success with some than with others, gaining traction among Christian ministers and to a lesser extent among spiritualists, homeopaths and advocates of New Thought as a weapon against scientific materialism--though Hall criticized the latter for failing to understand substantialism--but the general opinion was that he "appeared to be a philosophical quack of the first water," bent on "demolishing all the established theories of physics." Spiritualism, Hall thought, promised to do what substantialism in fact did: "The much derided, much doubted, and much believed in physical phenomena of Spiritualism -- the tipping of tables and chairs -- would come in and prove useful, and even invaluable, in demonstrably crushing out materialism, could these physical manifestations be absolutely established without the possibility of collusion or trickery. Such visible and sensible manifestations would be demonstrative of the substantial nature of man's vital and mental being, and would utterly wipe out materialism by physical tests, the one thing so much courted by advanced scientists."

Hall was born in Bath Township in upstate New York in 1819 and was practically illiterate until almost grown, when he was injured and taken in by a minister while tramping in the Western Reserve and taught his letters, and then went forth as an itinerant evangelist. The degrees that graced name on the journal's masthead were honorary, awarded for The Problem of Life, but also added gravitas to his most enduring contribution: "Dr. A. Wilford Hall's Hygienic Treatment, for the Cure of Disease, Preservation of Health and the Promotion of Longevity without Drug Medication." This, the secret of the "internal bath" (flushing the colon) became a mainstay of the mail order mages of the time, like P. Braun, R.S. Clymer, Harry Gaze, Otomar zar Adusht Ha'nish, Nancy McKay Gordon, William Walker Atkinson, et al.

The journal consisted primarily of Hall's minute criticisms of his scientific opponents and refinements of his arguments, with contributions by fellow enthusiasts in support of his positions, but also carried the likes of his "A Visit to Mr. Keely" (July 1886), predicting a great future for Keely's Motor. His substantialism came in for criticism by H.P. Blavatsky in Secret Doctrine for missing the point: "Of course we shall never agree with the American Substantialists who call every Force and Energy--whether Light, Heat, Electricity or Cohesion--an 'Entity'; for this would be equivalent to calling the noise produced by the rolling of the wheels of a vehicle an Entity--thus confusing and identifying that 'noise' with the driver outside, and the guiding Master Intelligence within the vehicle." Hall returned the favor by regular discussion of Mme Blavatsky and her claims to longevity and eastern connections.

The journal was said to have had 2,000 subscribers after its first year, and Scientific Arena at one point claimed an unlikely 700,000. NY Historical Society; Princeton University; NYPL; Columbia University; Lutheran Theological Seminary, Philadelphia; etc.

Issues:Microcosm V1 1881
Microcosm V2 Aug 1882-jul 1883
Microcosm V3 1883
Microcosm V4 1884
Microcosm V5 1885
Scientific Arena V1 Jun 1886-may 1887
Scientific Arena V2 Jun 1887-jan 1888
Microcosm V6 1889
Microcosm V7 1890
Microcosm V8 1891

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