[Note: for the following 5 Fragments by A.P. Sinnett, see “Fragments of Occult Truth [4-8]”]
We have received from our esteemed Australian Brother Theosophist, W. H. Terry Esq., the following interesting and temperate note on some supposed errors of Occultists when dealing with the phenomena of Spiritualism. The subject is one of universal interest, and we shall require, therefore, no apology, either for reproducing our good brother’s communication in extenso, or for appending thereto some few fragments of the lessons taught us in the Occult schools, which may possibly both help to remove his personal difficulties and tend to convey to Spiritualists generally, a clearer conception of the causes of many of the phenomena of which they have had experience. Mr. Terry writes upon—
Spirits Embodied and Disembodied
“Aiming at the resuscitation of old truths, or truths long since known but lost sight of, and the evolution of new truths, or truths not yet unfolded to the comprehension of humanity, the elucidation and beneficent applications of the innate powers of the human spirit and the encouragement of harmonious thought, the Theosophical Society occupies an elevated and commanding position; but to maintain and strengthen that position it is essential that the public utterances of its prominent representatives should be strictly philosophical and capable of standing the test of critical analysis. Most of the writings and reported addresses emanating from my brother Theosophists that have come under my notice have in their main features complied with this condition, but I have observed in not a few of them a feature that to me appears to deviate from it, and that is the ignoring of disembodied human spirits as factors in the production of occult mental and physical phenomena.
“Asserting that ‘man is a spirit’ and that Will is a function of the spirit in fact its executive, (and most of those who have not had personal experience of the wonderful physical phenomena producible at will by many Indian Yogis and adepts, will on account of the clear evidence of their occurrence give credence to them,) it cannot be assumed that the physical body has anything to do with the production of these phenomena. They are undoubtedly the result of spiritual forces, and, as they come in response to the desire of the persons who have acquired or are gifted with the occult power to produce them, they are evidently the result of invisible forces, guided by the human will, and, unless the physical body can be shown to be a necessary fulcrum, there is no valid reason why the disembodied spirit should not be able to produce similar phenomena.
“Twenty years of investigation of the phenomena of Spiritualism, Psychology, Mesmerism, and Clairvoyance, although it has served to show me how little I know of the mysteries of nature, has afforded me conclusive evidence that disembodied spirits can and do produce physical and mental phenomena on the surface of this world and of the independent action of their intelligence, at least, so far as the influence of the embodied spirits of those in communication was concerned. For instance, A. B., a sensitive, passes into a trance. A voice differing from his normal one speaks through his lips and says he is C. D. who died in a neighbouring colony some years previous, and is anxious to send a message to his friends there. The message is written as dictated by him, none present having either heard of him or the persons whose names he gives; all that is stated by him provides correct; the names of his friends, the address—the fact of his passing away as specified. Again, a materialized form appears and asks for a person known to the writer, but who resides some five hundred miles away; this form which professes to be identical with one that has appeared in London and has since given many evidences of identity of both form and intelligence, avers that he has met the gentleman whose name he mentioned in London and that the said gentleman then spoke certain words to him. On writing to this gentleman the statement is corroborated, though none knew till then anything about it, and his name even had not been in the mind of the only person present who knew him.
“In these instances which are not at all singular, but rather representative of common occurrences in my experience, we have a manifestation of distinct intelligence claiming to be a disembodied human spirit, and giving proofs, more or less conclusive, of its identity, cumulative evidences of this generally resulting from further intercourse with the unseen intelligence. In another instance where what professes to be a disembodied human spirit produces certain physical phenomena we appeal to clairvoyance, whilst the phenomenon is taking place in another apartment, and the clairvoyant describes a spiritual form producing the phenomenon together with the modus operandi. Subsequently on describing the form to the only one who had known her in the body it is immediately recognised as that of a departed relative who has often written automatically through a sensitive since her departure from material life. At other times I have tested with two clairvoyants the identities of one I knew and loved in this life, and they have each minutely described the form and dress correctly, but both differing materially from the conception I had at the time in my mind, and neither of the clairvoyants having knowledge of the form described when in earth life. With innumerable experiences of this kind and constant intercourse with intelligences who consistently maintain their identity as the disembodied spirits of men and women who have lived on this earth, giving mental and physical evidences of their power over mind and matter, the position of those Theosophists who deny to disembodied spirits a legitimate share in the marvellous phenomena that are agitating the minds of all civilized nations at the present time seems eminently unphilosophical. I am not so unreasonable as to assume my personal experiences a demonstration to others. They are merely given to justify my position. I rely upon my a priori argument that the phenomena are admittedly producible by the human spirit, and that there is no evidence forthcoming to show that the said spirit loses its power in this direction when finally separated from the physical form. If my Oriental brothers can point out anything illogical in my argument or furnish a rational theory to account for the phenomena I attribute to disembodied human spirits, it will receive from me all the consideration it demands from one whose aim is to gain and give as much light as possible, not only to our Brotherhood, but to that larger brotherhood of humanity who have less facilities for acquiring it than those within our ranks, for this, in my estimation, is the essence of Theosophy.”
It is but fair that we should meet the charge brought, and in the same friendly and frank spirit shown in his letter by our esteemed Australian brother Theosophist. Until some one more competent, enters the arena of discussion to pick up the glove flung by Spiritualism to Theosophy across the oceans, we will take the liberty of saying a few words—not in our defence—but as a matter of courtesy to our correspondent.
“Those Theosophists who deny to disembodied spirits a legitimate share in the marvellous phenomena” are few, indeed, for the great majority of Theosophists concern themselves with Spiritualism very little,—if at all. Indeed, our members may be divided into five principal classes and described as follows:—
(1) Men profoundly concerned in the revival of their respective religious philosophies in all their pristine purity—Buddhist devotees outnumbering all others. These neither know of, nor do they care for, Spiritualism.
(2) Students of various philosophies, searchers after truth, whencesoever it may come. They neither believe nor disbelieve in spirits. They are open to conviction in any way, but will accept nothing on second-hand testimony.
(3) Materialists, Freethinkers, Agnostics, who care as little for Occultism as they do for Spiritualism. Their only concern is to free the masses from the fetters of ignorance and superstition, and educate them. Many, indeed most of them, are philanthropists who hold it more expedient to devote their energies to the assistance of the living, than to occupy their time in conversations with the dead.
(4) Spiritualists and Spiritists who could not be accused of any such “heresy”. And finally,
(5) Occultists, who do not number half a per cent, in the Theosophical Society.
These latter are the only “Theosophists” who are really open to our correspondent’s accusation and even these, if we look beyond the veil of words which more or less conceals the ideas of both Spiritualists and Occultists, will prove to differ less widely on these points from our correspondent than he seems to suppose. For, in this as in so many other cases, it is in a great measure to the different significations attached to the same terms by the two parties, that their apparent irreconcilable divergence is due. “Words” as Bacon, we think, says, “mightily perplex the wisdom of the wisest, and like a Tartar’s bow, shoot backwards into the minds of those that follow them, and so here the conflict of opinions between Spiritualists and Occultists is solely due to the fact that the former (who overrate their quality and character) dignify by the name of “spirits” certain reliquiae of deceased human beings, while the Occultists reserve the name of Spirit for the highest principle of human nature and treat those reliquiae as mere eidolons, or astral simulacra of the real spirit.
In order to understand clearly the view of the Occultists, it is necessary to glance at the constitution of the living human being. Even the spiritual theory teaches that man is a trinity, composed of (1) a higher spirit, or the “Spiritual Soul” as ancient philosophers designated it; (2) its envelope—the etherial form or shadow of the body—called by the Neoplatonists the “animal soul”; and (3) the physical body.
Although from one point of view this is broadly correct, yet, according to Occultists, to render our conceptions of this truth clearer and follow successfully the course of man after death, it is necessary to subdivide further these three entities and resolve them into their constituent principles. This analysis being almost wholly unknown to Western nations, it is difficult in some cases to find any English words by which to represent the Occult subdivisions, but we give them in the least obscure phraseology that we can command.
Divisions of the Spiritualists.
Subdivisions of the Occultists.
1. The Body.
1. The Physical body, composed wholly of matter in its grossest and most tangible form.
2. The Vital principle—(or Jiv-atma)—, a form of force, indestructible and when disconnected with one set of atoms, becoming attracted immediately by others.
3. The Astral body (Linga Sharira) composed of highly etherialized matter; in its habitual passive state, the perfect but very shadowy duplicate of the body; its activity, consolidation and form depending entirely on the kama rupa.
2. The Animal Soul, or Perisprit.
4. The Astral shape (kama rupa) or body of desire, a principle defining the configuration of—
5. The animal or physical intelligence or consciousness or Ego, analogous to, though proportionally higher in degree than, the reason, instinct, memory, imagination, etc., existing1 in the higher animals.
3. The Spiritual Soul or Spirit.
6. The Higher or Spiritual intelligence or consciousness, or spiritual Ego, in which mainly resides the sense of consciousness in the perfect man, though the lower dimmer animal consciousness co-exists in No. 5.
7. The Spirit—an emanation from the absolute; uncreated; eternal; a state rather than a being.
Now the change that we call death, only immediately affects the first three constituents; the body decomposes to enter into new combinations, and the vital force is dissipated to help to animate new organisms, and astral human form (Linga Sharira) dies with the body.
There remains four principles. As a rule (we except the cases of the higher adepts) one of two things occurs in accordance with the Universal Law of Affinity. If the spiritual EGO has been in life, material in its tendencies, placing its main enjoyment in, and centering its desires on, material objects and the gratification of earthly desires, then at death, it continues to cling blindly to the lower elements of its late combination, and the true spirits severs itself from these and passes away elsewhere. To follow its course is beside the present question since the remaining principles in which personal or animal consciousness remains have parted with it for ever, and it would require a complete exposition of the entire philosophy of Occultism to explain fully its course; suffice it to say, now, that it passes away (taking with it no fragment of the individual consciousness of the man with which it was temporarily associated) to fulfil its mission, still guided and governed by the irresistible cyclic impulse which first projected it through the veil of primitive kosmic matter.
But if, on the other hand, the tendencies of the EGO have been towards things spiritual, if its aspirations have been heaven-wards (we use a conventional term), if it have, when weighed as it were in the balance, a greater affinity for the spiritual than for the earthly constituents (with their accompanying desires) of the combination in which it recently took part, then will it cling to the spirit, and with this pass into the adjoining so-called world of effects, (in reality, a state, and not a place), and there purified of much of its still remaining material taints, evolve out of itself by the spirit’s aid a new Ego, to be reborn (after a brief period of freedom and enjoyment) in the next higher world of causes, an objective world similar to this present globe of ours, but higher in the spiritual scale, where matter and material tendencies and desires play a far less important part than here.
In either case, it is not a matter of Judgment, of Salvation and Damnation, of Heaven and Hell, but solely the operation of the Universal Law of Affinity or Attraction, which makes the Ego cling in one case to the more material, in the other to the spiritual components of the late, now death-parted, aggregation. Now neither during its gestation in the subjective world of effects, nor during its temporary period of the enjoyment of its newly evolved Ego-hood of the fruits of the good deeds, its Karma on earth, nor after its entry on rebirth into the higher objective world of causes can the Ego re-enter this present world. During the first period it is, so to speak, dormant, and can no more issue from the state in which it is developing than a child can come out of its mother’s womb to pay a visit before the period of pregnancy concludes. During the second period, however etherial and purified of gross matter the regenerated Ego may be, it is still subject to the physical and universal laws of matter. It cannot, even if it would, span the abyss that separates its state from ours. It can be visited in spirit by men, it cannot descend into our grosser atmosphere and reach us. It attracts, it cannot be attracted, its spiritual polarity presenting an insuperable obstacle. Once reborn into the higher world and (independent of the physical impossibility of any communication between its world and ours, to all but the very highest adepts) the new Ego has become a new person; it has lost its old consciousness linked with earthly experiences and has acquired a new consciousness which, as time rolls on, will be interpenetrated by its experiences in that higher sphere. The time will come, no doubt, but many steps higher on the ladder, when the Ego will regain its consciousness of all its past stages of existence, but in the next higher world of causes, or activity, to our own, the new Ego has no more remembrance of its earthly career than we here have of the life that preceded this present one.
Therefore, it is that the Occultists maintain that no Spirits of the departed can appear or take part in the phenomena of seance-rooms. To what can appear and take part in these, the Occultists refuse the name of spirits.
But it may be said what is that can appear?
We reply—merely the animal souls or perisprits of the deceased. It might appear from what we have said that while this, according to our previous exposition, would be true in the case of the spiritually-minded, in that of the materially-minded we should have these plus the spiritual Ego or consciousness. But such is not the case. Immediately on the severance of the spirit, whether at death, or (as, we have already hinted, is sometimes the case) before death, the spiritual Ego is dissipated and ceases to exist. It is the result of the action of spirit on matter, and it might, to render the matter more clear, be described as a combination of spirit and matter, just as flame is the result of the combination of oxygen with the substance being oxygenized and might loosely be described as the combination of the two. Withdraw the oxygen and the flame ceases, withdraw the spirit, and the spiritual EGO disappears. The sense of individuality in spirit cannot exist without combination with matter. Thus the pure planetary spirits, when first propelled into the circle of necessity, have no individual consciousness, only the absolute consciousness which they share with all fragments of the spirit hitherto entirely uncombined with matter. As they, entering into generation, descend the ladder and grow gradually more and more hemmed in by matter and isolated from the universal spirit, so the sense of individuality, the spiritual Egoship, grows. How finally on re-ascending the circle, step by step, they regain on reunion with the universal, the absolute consciousness, and simultaneously all the individual consciousnesses which they have developed at each stage of their descending and ascending progress, is one of the highest mysteries.
But to return to the spiritual Egoship developed on this earth; if too tainted to follow the spirit in its upward course, it is, as it were, forthwith torn asunder from it. Left in the terrestrial atmosphere without the sustaining spirit that gave it existence, it has to disappear as the flame does when the oxygen is exhausted. All the material elements which in combination with the spirit gave it a consistency, fly by the Law of Affinity to join the three other principles that constitute the perisprit or natural soul, and the spiritual Ego ceases to exist.
Thus alike in all cases all that remain, all that can appear, are the shells of the deceased, the two principles which we call the animal or surviving astral souls, or animal Ego.
But there is this to be noted. As the clay, as Saadi says, long retains traces of the perfume of the roses, which once honoured it with their companionship, so the etherialized matter which has been in combination with spirit, long retains a power of resisting disintegration. The more pure the spiritual Ego, the less of the matter which in combination with the spirit went to form it, does it leave behind clinging to the two principles; the more impure, the greater the mass of such spirit-vitalized matter which remains to invigorate the reliquiae.
Thus it follows that in the case of the pure and good, the shells rapidly disintegrate, and the animal soul having ever been kept in subjection is feeble and will-less, and it can very rarely, if ever, happen that such should voluntarily appear or manifest themselves—their vitality, desires and aspirations almost exclusively existed in what has passed away. No doubt a power exists which can compel even these to appear, a power taught by the evil science of necromancy, rightly denounced by all good men of old. But why evil it may be asked? Because until these shells have dissipated, a certain sympathy exists between them and the departed spiritual Ego which is gestating in the fathomless womb of the adjoining world of effects, and to disturb the shells by necromantic sorcery is at the same time to disturb the foetal spiritual Ego.
We said that these shells in such cases rapidly decay, the rapidity being exactly proportional to the purity of the departed spiritual Ego, and we may add that similarly the rapidity of gestation of the new Ego is proportional to the purity of the old Ego out of which it is evolved. Happily necromancy is unknown to modern Spiritualists, so that it is next to impossible that the reliquiae of the good and pure should ever appear in the seance-room. No doubt, the simulacra of some spiritual Egos whose fate trembled in the balance, whose affinities, earthwards and heaven-wards, to use the popular phraseology, were nearly equal, who have left too much of the matter behind that has been in combination to form them, who will lie long in foetal bonds before being able to develop the new Ego-hood; no doubt, we say such simulacra may survive longer and may occasionally appear under exceptional conditions in seance-rooms, with a dim-dazed consciousness of their past lives. But even this, owing to the conditions of the case, will be rare, and they will never be active or intelligent, as the stronger portions of their wills—the higher portions of their intelligence—have gone elsewhere.
Nature draws no hard and fast lines though in the balance of forces very slight differences in opposing energies may produce the most divergent results. All entities shade off from one end to the other of the chain by imperceptible degrees, and it is impossible for man to gauge the exact degree of purity of the deceased at which the re-appearance voluntarily of his reliquiae through the agency of mediumship becomes impossible, but it is absolutely true that, broadly speaking, as a law, it is only the reliquiae of non-spiritually-minded men, whose spiritual Egos have perished, that appear in seance-rooms and are dignified by Spiritualists with the title of “spirits of the departed.”
These shells, these animal souls, in whom still survive the major portions of the intelligence, will-power, and knowledge that they possessed when incorporated in the human combination, invigorated too by the re-assimilation of the spirit-vitalized matter that once combined with the spirit to compose their spiritual Ego, are often powerful and highly intelligent and continue to survive for lengthened periods, their intense desire for earthly life enabling them to seize from the decaying simulacra of the good and feeble the material for prolonged existence.
To these eidolons, Occultists are used to give the name of elementaries, and these it is that by the aid of the half-intelligent forces of nature which are attracted to them, perform most of the wonders of the seance-rooms. If to these shells, these eidolons, which have lost their immortality, and whence the divine essence has for ever departed, our brothers, the Spiritualists, insist on applying the title of “spirits of the dead”—well and good—they are not spirits at all, they are of the earth, earthy, all that remains of the dead when their spirits have flown—but if this be understood, and it be nevertheless considered desirable to call them that to which they are the precise antitheses—it is after all merely a case of misnomer.
But let there be no mistake as to what they are: hundreds and thousands of lost and ruined men and women all over the globe attest the degradation to which constant subjection to their influence in mediumship, etc., too generally leads, and we who know the truth should ill discharge our duty if we did not warn all Spiritualists in the strongest terms possible, against allowing this misuse of terms to mislead them as to the real nature and character of the disembodied entities with which they so constantly and confidingly deal.
Now probably Spiritualists will admit that our views would explain the vast mass of trash, frivolous nonsense and falsehood communicated through mediums, as also the manner in which so many of these, good and honest to begin with, gradually grow into immoral impostors. But many objections will be raised. One man will say—“I have repeatedly conversed with my late father—a better, kinder-hearted, more spiritual-minded man never lived—and on one occasion he told me a fact, unknown to me, and, I believe, to every one living, which I subsequently verified.”
Nothing is simpler—the father’s image was in the son’s mind—thus put en rapport, the disembodied elementary which, if of one of the more intelligent classes, has glimpses of things in the astral light, and can here and there dimly distinguish the pictures which record every deed, word and thought, (pictures which we are all unconsciously incessantly evolving, pictures which survive long after those who originated them have passed away) the elementary, we say, scanning these easily picks up sufficient facts for its purpose, and by its will materializes itself, partly out of matter drawn from the medium’s body, partly out of inert kosmic matter drawn to it by the help of the elementals or half-blind forces of nature which it, and probably the medium also, has attracted and stands forth the counterpart of the dead father and talks of things known only to that dead father. Of course, if the matter talked of were known to any present, both elementary and medium, if in a trance, could equally know it, but we have purposely supposed one of those rare cases which are considered to be the strongest proofs of “spirit identity,” as it is called. Of course, too, every thing that has once passed before that son’s mind, intonation of voice, tricks of manner, infirmities of temper, though apparently forgotten at the moment, are really indelibly recorded in his memory, as is proved by their immediate recognition when reproduced by the elementary who has fished them out of those dormant records.
And it must be remembered that these apparently strong and perfect cases are very rare, and that the elementaries who come as A. or B., usually, if they personate people of any note, make gross blunders and almost without exception betray their falsehood in one way, or another, Shakespeare and Milton dictating trash, Newton grossly ignorant of his own Principia, and Plato teaching a washed-out Neoplatonic cum sentimental Christian philosophy and so on. At the same time undoubtedly in rare cases the ghostly relics of very clever, very bad and very determined men constitute disembodied entities of high intelligence, which survive for a lengthened period, and the wickeder and more material they are in all their tendencies, the longer do they escape disintegration.
The Orthodox Church is much nearer the truth when it calls the entities that are mostly dealt with in seance-rooms “devils”, than are the Spiritualists who call them Spirits. We do not mean that they are at all generally actively malevolent, but their magnetic attractions are evil, and they incline and lead those with whom they have much to do to the same evil, material passions, which have been their own ruin.
Naturally now some Spiritualists will object that this cannot be true since despite the mass of folly and gibberish, or worse, often heard in seance-rooms, the purest sentiments and really lofty ideas and teachings are not so very rarely expressed through mediums.
Several points have, however, to be borne in mind. In the first place, though proved unfit for further development, and, therefore, doomed in most cases by the eternal law of the survival of the fittest to be disintegrated and, losing personal consciousness, to be worked up again in the lower worlds into new combinations, all elementaries are by no means actively wicked all round. On the balance, their whole natures proved to have a greater affinity to matter than to spirit, and they are, therefore, incapable of further progress, but when dealing with a pure circle and speaking through a still pure medium (very few mediums, indeed, continue thus after a long course of mediumship) the better and less degraded side of their nature comes out, and it is quite possible for elementaries to have a perfect intellectual knowledge and appreciation of virtue and purity and enlightened conceptions of truth, and yet be innately vicious in their tendencies. We meet plenty of men who have a sentimental love for virtue, and yet whose lives are one unbroken course of lust and self-indulgence and as the men were, so are the elementaries, their reliquiae. If we at times speak bitterly of popular modern Christianity, it is because we know that with all its other ennobling and saving tendencies just on this all-important point it leads to the destruction of myriads of souls. For it leads to the belief that it signifies little what a man does, if he only finally believes that his sins are forgiven him, and that by relying on the merits of Jesus Christ he may escape the vengeance of the Lord. But there is no anthropomorphic Lord, no vengeance, no forgiveness; there is simply the action of a natural law impressed on the universe by the Absolute—simply a question of balance of affinities, and they, whose deeds and general tendencies are earthly, go down in the scale, rarely, very rarely, to rise again in their own identities, and those in whom these tendencies are spiritual pass upwards
It is not, however, possible here to enter into the great questions thus glanced at, and we return to the subject of high, or comparatively high, teachings through mediums.
Now it must not for a moment be supposed that all we hear from these latter comes from elementaries. In the first place, a great many well-known mediums are clever impostors. There are notorious trance mediums, especially women, who steadily work up for their so-called trance orations, and these being really clever and working at good books, deliver essays of a respectable and at time almost first-class character. There is no spiritual influence at work here, the only apparently abnormal feature in these cases is that persons possessing such fair abilities should be willing thus to prostitute them, and that people who can talk so well and touchingly of truth and purity, should yet live such lives of falsehood and immorality. Alas! meliora videor proboque deteriora sequor, has ever found a response in too many human hearts and has in all ages rung the annihilation-knell of too many Egos.
In the second place, in the case of pure and genuine mediums, who in a trance pass entirely under the influence of their own seventh principle, the augoeides of the Greeks, the whole teachings come from the medium’s own soul, and it is very rare to obtain thus any thing higher than the medium’s own intellect, when in a state of spiritual excitement, could produce.
It may be said that in such cases, the medium says himself or herself, that it is Judge Edmonds, or the late Bishop of —— etc., that is teaching him or her, but this is merely due to the intervention of mischievous elementaries who are always crowding about every medium, and who, if he is too pure, to enable them to get command over him, yet, ever anxious to get a finger in every pie, confuse and deceive him. Only an adept can clearly and consciously place the spiritual Ego wholly under the domination of the Spirit. Mediums who in trances, unconsciously succeed in doing this, are unaware of the source whence they derive their perceptions and can be made to believe by any elementary exerting any influence over them, through any weak point in their character, that these are derived from it. The same, though in a minor degree, is the case with those rare, high, because specially pure, mediums, whose Ego and Spirit can soar together, when the rest of the combination is in a trance, into the astral light, and there can read all the highest thoughts that man has ever thought. True, the Ego of the highest and best mediums can reproduce in this material world only in a fragmentary and confused manner what it reads in the astral light, but still even this dim reproduction is sometimes of a character far transcending the capacities alike of the medium and all those present. How it comes that the thoughts thus fished up like pearls out of the astral light come often to be attributed by the medium to spirits we have already explained.
But an even more common source of inspiration of mediums, is the mind of one or more of those present. When in a trance, the spiritual soul, (the sixth and seventh principles) can read all that is recorded in the mind or memory of those towards whom it is in any way attracted, and the medium’s utterances will in such cases be quite up to the highest standard of those with whom it is thus en rapport, and if these are pure, highly cultivated persons, the teachings thus received will be equally pure and intellectual. But here again the unconscious medium as a whole does not know whence its perceptions are being derived. In its spiritual soul it knows no doubt, but in its combination with the other principles—a combination necessary for the writing or speaking of those perceptions,—it is quite in the dark and can be impressed by any elementary, of sufficient force, at hand, with any conception in regard to this point that it chooses to convey.
In truth, mediumship is a dangerous, too often a fatal capacity, and if we oppose Spiritualism, as we have ever consistently done, it is not because we question the reality of their phenomena, which, we know, can and do occur (despite the multitudes of fraudulent imitations) and which our adepts can reproduce at will without danger to themselves, but because of the irreparable spiritual injury (we say nothing of the mere physical sufferings) which the pursuit of Spiritualism inevitably entails on nine-tenths of the mediums employed. We have seen scores, nay rather hundreds of, so to say, good, pure, honest young men and women, who but for the cultivation of this evil capacity for the reception of impressions by elementaries, might, and would in all probability have lived lives, leading to higher things, but who through the gradual pernicious influence of these low, earth-bound natures have sunk, from bad to worse, ending, often prematurely, lives that could lead but to spiritual ruin.
These are no speculations—we speak that we do know—and if one in five mediums, who habitually exercise their capacity, escape the doom that overtakes so many, these exceptions cannot justify the Spiritualists in aiding and abetting the crowd of professional mediums who gamble away their immortality with the lower material influences. The practice of mediumship for good purposes, at rare intervals, by virtuous mediums, intermediately ever careful to strengthen their moral and spiritual natures, by pure lives and holy aspirations, is one thing, and the habitual practice, in a worldly, careless, undevout spirit, for gain is another, and this latter cannot be too strongly denounced alike in the highest interests of the mediums and of the sitters who employ them.
“Evil communications corrupt good manners” is an eternal truth, trite and hackneyed though it be, and no evil communications are so evil as those subtle influences, that radiate from the low, bestial elementaries who crowd the seance-rooms of immoral, or more or less demoralized, mediums, too weak and low to make themselves heard or seen, but strong enough in their intensely material tendencies, to diffuse a moral poison into the mental atmosphere of all present.
That men bewildered amidst the crumbling ruins of effete religions, should madly grasp at every clue by which there seems some faint hope of penetrating the cloud-shrouded labyrinth of the mystery of the universe, is neither wonderful nor reprehensible, but it is not through mediums, the prey of every idle spook and elementary that the great truth is to be reached, but by that rigorous course of study, self-discipline and self-purification which is taught in the temple of Occultism to which Theosophy is, in the present day, the high road.
But we digress. Whether he accepts our explanations or not, (and we know that they are true) our correspondent will, we believe, admit that in what we have written we have explained according to our philosophy, not only the particular instances he quotes, but at the same time the modus occurrendi of most of the phenomena of the seance-room, and though in doing this we have glanced at numberless subjects of the highest importance requiring much further explanation, we have already so far exceeded the space usually allotted to such disquisitions, that we must, however unwillingly, close, for the present, this interesting discussion.
Mr. W. H. Terry, F. T. S., of Melbourne, Australia, whose letter on “Spirits Embodied and Disembodied” called forth certain explanations published under the above heading in the October number of the Theosophist, finds our elucidation of the occult mysteries underlying the external facts of spiritualism, an unsatisfactory solution of the difficulties presented to the mind even by “the few instances of assumed spirit communication “ which he originally presented for consideration. The letter in which he replies to our explanations is as follows:—
“In the Theosophist for October, in conjunction with my letter on “Spirits Embodied and Disembodied,” appears an outline from your pen of Occult Philosophy intended as a reply to my strictures on the attitude of some Theosophists in relation to Spiritualism. The theory there propounded, although it may absolve the Occultist from inconsistency in the direction indicated by me, does not, in my opinion, satisfactorily explain even the few instances of assumed spirit communication quoted in my letter, but of that anon.
“I am desirous not only of arriving at “Truth” myself, but of assisting others in the same direction, and how can we better do this than by presenting the result of our experiences in search of it?
“Theosophy (as I understand it) is a knowledge of the secrets of nature acquired by intercourse with God; it is not to be assumed, however, that the latter expression implies direct communication with the Great Spirit of the Universe, but rather rapport with the higher spheres of spirit, the Great Vortex of Spiritual Knowledge.2
“The result of my experiences up to the present time has been to show that the Human Spirit not only retains its individuality and memory of all that is worth retaining of its earthly existence, but as it ascends by a series of progressive unfoldments to higher states of existence, knowing more of God and his works, it becomes a vehicle for the transmission of ‘God Knowledge’ to its less favourably situated brethren in earth life.
“Now you say you know that the Occult theory is correct. I might, with equal justice, say, I know what my theory is, because all my experiences so far confirm it; but it is only in this sense that I do know, further experience may modify or change my sense that I do know, further experience may modify or change my belief, for I am not so presumptuous as to imagine I have reached the ultima thule of knowledge in this direction. So far my position stands best, for as yet you have only unfolded a theory whilst I have given facts which, even were your theory substantiated, would not be entirely covered by it. I will not, however, analyze either the theory or the facts as most of the readers of the Theosophist who are familiar with the subject treated upon, will be able to judge for themselves, but will add some further reasons why I am constrained to believe in the continuity of individuality and the preservation of the unity of soul and spirit after the dissolution of the more material physical body. First then during my early experiments my arm was influenced by what purported to be disembodied human spirits who wrote in handwritings different from my own and whose earthly autographs I had never seen. Moreover, I was generally alone when these writings were done. Yet when subsequently I was enabled to compare them with the autographs of the writer whose spirit professed to control my arm, they were found to be facsimiles of the automatic writing. Again for the past fifteen years an intelligence who professes to have existed on this earth in human form upwards of a century since, and who exhibits a distinct individuality, has conversed with me by magnetic impression, and occasionally orally through various media, has advised me on medical and other matters pertaining to the welfare of humanity, has comforted and consoled me in distress, and encouraged me in well-doing. He has been seen again and again by seers and seeresses who describe him as a fine intelligent and benevolent-looking man. For the period I mention, I have ever found him wise and truthful, and he endorses the spiritual theory of the continued personality of spirit and its progression from plane to plane as it increases in wisdom and purity, can it be wondered at that I should attach importance to, and have some faith in this intelligence, a faith founded upon a substantial experience?
“You speak of the deterioration of mediums as a natural sequence of mediumship; in that I might almost say I know you err for I have had media whose whole natures have refined and beautified on the practice of their mediumship, but it is the wise use of it that leads to this result: excess of any good thing inverts its issue. I am quite aware of the tendency to deterioration in public media, especially those who are mediums for materialization and purely physical phenomena, but there are adequate causes to account for this within the spiritual philosophy, the first of which is the psychological influence of those who come to witness the phenomena with minds full of suspicion and animated with a desire to detect what they have in many instances decided beforehand to be a fraud; secondly, the influences from the spiritual side attracted by such conditions; thirdly, the more material nature of the lower order of spirits, which facilitates their manifesting in this direction; fourthly, the deterioration of moral tone that inevitably follows the decadence of the religious sentiment (which in many cases was the primary motor to the pursuit of mediumship) when its practice becomes purely a matter of business. Are not these causes adequate to account for the deterioration of tone and moral decadence of many media? Surrounding a medium of this class with good moral influences and so circumstancing him as to keep the selfish propensities in abeyance, will prevent all this. I have an instance in the person of Mr. George Sprigg who, for five years, have been a medium for materialization. During the year I have known him, his health and intellect have undoubtedly improved rather than deteriorated and as far as a most intimate acquaintance will allow me to judge, his moral nature has not deteriorated one iota.”
The main point on which our correspondent insists, is that he has had intercourse with a spirit himself and cannot, therefore, be talked out of a conviction that spirits exist. The teaching he has received by subjective impressions, and oral communications through other mediums,—(we say “other” because our correspondent is clearly mediumistic himself, which accounts for the tenacity of his belief,)—constitute a substantial experience, which is fortified by the testimony of some seers who have perceived, in a shape visible to them, the individuality conversing with our correspondent and describe him as a being of a dignified appearance and apparently an elevated type of mind. “You say,” writes our correspondent, “you know the occult theory is correct; I might with equal justice say I know that my theory is.” Here lies the all important difficulty. Who shall decide,—says the familiar proverb—when doctors disagree—that is to say, when people both professing to know, make statements that are incompatible with each other. (Clearly in such a case one of the conflicting statements rests on a misconception of what constitutes knowing of what real knowledge consists). This question takes us up into an elevated region of metaphysics; but it is only by the light of metaphysics that we can possibly secure a sufficiently wide-reaching prospect of the questions to be dealt with, to feel sure we are not misled by the mere shows and seeming of its minor details.
What constitutes real knowledge? The question lies at the very threshold of occult study. We say so, not merely because of the prominent way in which it crops up in this discussion, but, because as a fact, having nothing to do with the questions now raised by Mr. Terry, nor with Spiritualism, nor with any controversies in the ordinary world, that query is, in actual practice, the first put before a regular student of occultism, who is taken in hand by the Professors of the Occult World. And the student is taught,—or is led to see,—that there are two kinds of knowledge, the real and the unreal; the real concerned with eternal verities and primal causes, the unreal with illusory effects. So far the statement seems to deal with abstractions too vague to challenge denial. Each school of thinkers will admit so much, reserving to itself the assumption that the illusory effects are those considerations which have fascinated its rivals; the eternal verities its own conclusions. But we no sooner come to a clear understanding as to what mental presentiments must be classed as illusory effects, than we find the first proposition of Occult Philosophy at war with the whole current practice of the world at large, as regards all classes of scientific investigation. All physical science, and a good deal of what the Western world is pleased to call metaphysical speculation, rests on the crude and superficial belief that the only way in which ideas can get into the mind, is through the channels of the senses. The physicist devotes all his efforts to the careful elimination from the mass of materials on which he builds up his conclusions, of everything except that which he conceives to be real fact—and it is exactly that which he conceives to be real fact,—anything clearly appealing to the senses—which the profound philosophy of Eastern Occultism deliberately condemns at starting as, in its nature, illusory effects, transitory secondary consequences of the real underlying fact. And in acting thus, does Occult Philosophy make an arbitrary choice between rival methods, as a chemist might select one or other of two different methods of analysis? Not at all. Real philosophy cannot make any choice arbitrarily: there is but one eternal verity and, in pursuit of that, thought is forced to travel along one road. The knowledge which appeals to the senses cannot but deal with illusory effects, for all the forms of this world and its material combinations are but pictures in the great dissolving view of evolution; there is no eternity in any of them. By mere influence from physical facts, science, proceeding on its own methods, will recognize that there was a time in its history before any of the life germs on this earth (whatever they may be) had settled into the forms in which they manifest themselves now. Assuredly there will come a time when all these forms will disappear in the progress of cosmic change. What preceded them, provoking their evolution from fiery nebulae, what traces will they leave behind? From nothing they came; into nothing they will return according to the doubly irrational reply which is the only logical inference from the physical philosophy which makes them the real facts,—the only basis of real knowledge.
Of course, it must be remembered that the unreal knowledge, proceeding from the observation of illusory, because transitory and secondary effects, hangs together satisfactorily as regards the short chain it is able to construct. This it is which leads so many, in many respects powerful, minds, to be blindly contended with it. Some of the laws of matter can be detected (if not understood) by mere observation of matter. But it is obvious that the something out of which matter proceeded, the something into which it will return, cannot be observed by material senses. In which other way can observation be extended beyond the range of material senses? Only if it can be so extended, it is any knowledge extended, is any knowledge attainable by Man which has to do with eternal verities and primal causes, which is real as distinguished from the transitory and the unreal? Promptly, in ignorance of the methods by which observation can be extended beyond the range of the senses, the physicist declares—concerning the hypothetical eternal verities you can only dream and indulge in illusory conjecture—all mere brain-spun fancy. Thus the world at large, not content with hugging illusions and calling them realities, spurns the reality and denounces it as illusion.
But can the eternal verity be reached? Even if hard facts be acknowledged as illusion so far as they are transitory, is not that which is exempt from change removed from observation? Must we not follow up the theoretical admission of the possibility of real knowledge, by the practical admission that no human being can ever have anything to do with it? Now the consistent materialist who honestly believes that a man is simply a structure of gas, phosphates, etc., functioning within itself entirely, would have to be answered by reference to facts which it is unnecessary to rehearse in dealing with controversialists who recognise at all events that the living body includes a spiritual principle, and that the spiritual principal is capable of a life apart from the body when the body itself is dead. There can be no difficulty for a spiritualist in the way of the conception that if the spirit of a man lives, observes, thinks, and communicates its impressions, after the body is burned or buried, so under peculiar conditions, that same spirit, may separate itself from the body temporarily during life and may thus get into such relation with the world of spirit, as to take direct cognisance of its phenomena. Now it is quite clear that relatively to our own, at all events, such a world is a world of eternal verities. We know that this world is fleeting and transitory. It is readily conceivable, and all analogies suggest the conclusion, which every sort of spiritual statement confirms, that the world of spirit is more durable. So, as that knowledge is real which lasts, and that is unreal which passes away, the spirit of man which comes into direct and conscious relations with the world of spirit acquires the real knowledge,3 the spirit of man which lives imprisoned in the body and is merely led through the senses with crumbs of knowledge, possesses the unreal only.
But when the imprisoned spirit does not itself rise into direct relations with the world of spirit, but is visited by an emanation from the world of spirit,—or by a spirit, (to work with the spiritualistic hypothesis for a moment,) is it entitled to assume that it is coming into possession of real knowledge? Certainly not; for though discussing spiritual things, it is acquiring its knowledge in no way which essentially differs from the method by which mere knowledge of the purely physical sort, knowledge of illusory effects are acquired. The spiritualist, even when himself a medium sitting in receipt of communications, is taking in knowledge juste as unreal, just as untrustworthy, and liable to be distorted by an erroneous observation as that which is dealt with by the wholly unspiritual observer of matter. This is the point we have been leading up to and is our reply to Mr. Terry’s contention that when we say we know the occult theory is correct, he might with equal say he knows his theory is. It was a very natural thing for him to say, but, in reality, he is entirely unjustified in saying it. He is not in a position to trust to his own observation. With the leader please refrain even for an instant from imagining that the form of our argument rests in any sort of way on an arrogant personal claim set up in opposition to that of our correspondent? It is enough for us to know at second hand, that the theory set forth in our preceding article, is correct. There are those who know, of real personal knowledge, and they are living men who can communicate their knowledge to other living men, who, in receiving it, however commonplace themselves, are not subject to fall into the mistakes which ordinary men may clearly be liable to make when they attempt to take their teaching from the “spirit world” direct.
Who possess the real knowledge as contradistinguished from the unreal?—the student of Occultism is asked, and he is taught to reply—that which we have shown to be the only possible reply—“the adepts alone possess the real knowledge, their minds alone being en rapport with the universal mind.” Now it is the teaching of the adepts4 that Spiritualists,—in ninety-nine cases of a hundred—are mistaken when they think themselves in contact with the spirits of departed friends, or with such benevolent beings of another sphere as him with whom our present correspondent believes himself to converse; and to us, who know something of who, and what the adepts are, that is conclusive as to the fact. But the fact being so, every conception of Spiritualism which conflicts with it must be explainable—every incident of Spiritualism must be susceptible to transfer to some group of phenomena which can be shown to be something different from what Spiritualists imagine it. While the phenomena of Spiritualism are thrown off in all directions so freely, it is nearly impossible to follow them up in every case and, as regards the general subject, it is best to try and explain, as we sought to do in the last of these articles, why the phenomena of Spiritualism cannot be what Spiritualists think them, rather than why each in turn is actually something else. But it is only due to our correspondent whose letters have furnished the text of this occult sermon, that the special incidents he quotes should be discussed in detail. First then as regards the automatic writing of which Mr. Terry speaks:—We need not go further than the personal experience of the Editor of this magazine to show Mr. Terry that the production through a medium’s arm of handwriting, the facsimile of that produced in life by an alleged spirit, is no proof of the alleged spirit’s identity at all,—nor even of its individuality. A certain Russian lady who was afflicted or gifted (whichever way the reader likes, to put it) with mediumship in her youth was “controlled” for about six years by a “spirit” who came evening after evening and wrote reams through the child’s arm in the usual automatic way. The spirit professed to be that of an old lady who had lived in a part of Russia far away from that in which she was then manifesting herself. She gave many details of her life and family and told how her son had committed suicide. Sometimes the son came himself (in spirit) and controlled the little medium’s arm and gave long accounts of his remorse and sufferings consequent on the crime of self-murder. The old lady was eloquent on the subject of Heaven and its inhabitants including the Virgin Mary. Needless to say that she was garrulous concerning the circumstances of her own death, and the interesting ceremony of the last sacrament. But she also wrote of worldly matters. She gave a detailed account of a petition she had presented to the Emperor Nicholas and the text of it, verbatim. She wrote partly in Russian, partly in German, which the child-medium at the time knew very slightly. Eventually one of the young lady’s relatives went to the place where the spirit had lived. Yes: she was well remembered; she had been troubled by a dissolute son who committed suicide; she had gone away to Norway where it was believed she had died, etc., etc. All the automatic communications were verified, in short, and the petition was turned up in the archives of the Home Office at St. Petersburg. The handwriting was perfectly reproduced. Now what better identification could a spirit have? Would not Mr. Terry on such an experience say—“I know that the spirits of dead persons can communicate and prove their continued individuality”? A year after the identification of the deceased person at the place where she had lived and of the petition, etc., there came to T * * * where the young medium and her people were living, an officer who proved out to be the nephew of the “spirit.” He chanced to show the child a miniature. She recognised it as that of the spirit. Explanations ensued and it turned out that Madam——— the officer’s aunt, was not dead at all; nor was her son. In all other respects the mediumistic communications were perfectly well substantiated. The son had attempted to commit suicide, but the bullet with which he had shot himself had been extracted, and his life had been saved.
Now, without going further, this story as a mere statement of facts, is enough to answer Mr. Terry’s story about the automatic writing through him. It shows that without the instrumentality of any deceased person’s “spirit” at all, automatic writing attributed by spiritualists to the agency of such spirits may take place; therefore, that no weight can be attached to the experiences on which Mr. Terry partly relies, when he says or implies that he knows his theory is correct. But we may go somewhat further and endeavour to account for the Russian story at any rate by the occult “hypothesis,” as some of our readers will no doubt regard it. Who, or what was the intelligence writing through the hand of the Russian child-medium. The Devil?—as the priests of the Greek Church contended; some lying spirit?—as the spiritualists might suggest; the elementaries?—as some readers of occult literature might conceive. No; it was the fifth principle of the medium herself, her animal, or physical soul, the portion of the Universal Proteus, and it acted as the soul of the clairvoyant acts during the sleep of the body. The officer, who ultimately visited T……, and showed the miniature, had been acquainted with the family several years previously. The medium had seen the picture when quite a young child, but had forgotten it utterly. She had also played with various things that had belonged to Madam———— and had been her nephew’s possession.
Preserving faithfully the memory of all it saw and heard in the “Astral Light,” or in the “Soul of Things” (many readers will, no doubt, comprehend the allusion here to the book of that name) while playing with the miniature and other trifles, the young medium’s inner-self, years afterwards, owing to some associations of memory, began one day unconsciously reproducing these pictures. Little by little the inner-self or fifth principle, was drawn into the current of those personal or individual associations, and Madam————’s emanations, and once the mediumistic impulse given—bon voyage—nothing would arrest its progress. The facts accurately observed by the “Flying Soul” were inextricably mixed up with pure fancy derived from the teaching to which the medium had been subjected, and hence the account of Heaven and the Virgin Mary.
Mutatis mutandis a similar explanation would, in all probability, meet the case not merely of the automatic writing, of which Mr. Terry speaks, but also of the guiding or protecting spirit, who mentally impresses him, and has been seen by seers and seeresses. That the teaching of this intelligence confirms the spiritualistic doctrine of progression from place to place and so forth, is strongly an indication of its real emanation from Mr. Terry’s own mind and the fact that the supposed spirit has been seen by clairvoyant mediums cannot be taken as proof of its objective existence. The pictures in the astral light present all the appearance of reality to those who can discern them, and Madam ————’s appearance was as real to our medium in T… as that of any spirit ever materialized in the wonderful seance-room of the Eddy Brothers in America, though the good lady herself all the while was quietly attending to her knitting with the breadth of Europe between her and the family circle which she had unconsciously entered as a spectral guest.
The difficulty of distinguishing between the creations of the seer’s brain and spectral or spiritual phenomena really external to himself5 appears to be the cause of the confusion into which untrained, uninitiated observers fall when natural mediumistic gifts enable them to cross the threshold of the world of spirit and awake to a perception of the wonders hanging like an aura around the physical planet. From Socrates to Swedenborg, from Swedenborg to the latest clairvoyant, no uninitiated seer ever saw quite correctly. But whatever confusing influences have been brought to bear on natural seers of past times, none have been beset with the artificial bewilderments that operate to cloud the faculties of the modern spiritualistic medium. A great mass of prepossessions occupy his mind at starting; every observation he makes, is twisted into the mould of an elaborate predetermined theory, and every picture presented to his finer senses is distorted to suit the expectations of his fancy and coloured to the complexion of a previously formulated creed. The spiritualist may honestly believe himself a seeker after truth, but the spiritualist, who is himself in any degree a medium, is fascinated by the creations of his faith and borne away on an induced current into a phantasmagorical world peopled with his own imaginings. Their apparent reality confirms the conjectures from which they spring, and all suggestions which claim a reconsideration of their character seem almost a blasphemy to their eager devotee. But to the student of occult philosophy there is a grander beauty in the consistent teaching of adeptship, than in the startling excitement of mediumistic revelation, while over it all there shines, for him, the solemn light of absolute truthfulness. Mediumship may afford sudden glimpses of unsuspected wonder,—as bits of a strange landscape may be momentarily revealed by lightning, but the science of adeptship casts the steady light of day upon the whole scene. Surely the spiritualists, who have at least shot leagues ahead, in intelligence, of the mere materialistic moles of their purblind generation,—insofar as they recognize that there is a landscape to be seen if it can only be lighted up,—will not deliberately prefer to guess at its features by the help of occasional flashes from the fitful planes of mediumship, but will accept the aid of that nobler illumination which the elevated genius and untiring exertion of Occult Sages of the East have provided for those whose spiritual intentions enable them to appreciate its sublimity, and confide their aspirations to its guidance.
Our friend and Brother, Mr. W. H. Terry, returns to the charge. He is in no way satisfied with our explanations of spiritualistic phenomena; he still clings to the theories of Spiritualists and rejects the facts of the Occultists.
But he will, naturally enough, say that this is begging the question, and that he sees no reason why the doctrines, propounded by the latter, should be any more accepted as facts, than those espoused by the former.
Let us see how the case stands. Suppose a number of people go to see a conjuring performance; all manner of wonderful tricks are exhibits; the more intelligent of the spectators commence evolving hypotheses to explain how these are performed; night after night the performances, though often a good deal varied in details, are repeated. The most intelligent of the spectators also return, night after night, more and more intent on discovering the rationale of the wonders they witness. They gradually work out, what appears to be, a fairly consistent theory of all that so astonishes them, and getting into conversation with some of the performers find that these, to a great extent, confirm their conclusions. Thereupon they feel convinced that their views are correct, and accept their theories as facts. But for all that they are still before the footlights; they have never been behind the curtain; they have never actually seen how the surprising results they witness are really brought about, and these so-called facts of theirs are still merely theories.
But now some of the spectators get acquainted with people, who do habitually go behind the scenes, who have examined the whole apparatus, who can make the performers play whatsoever tricks they like, and who can with their apparatus perform precisely the same (and other even more) astonishing feats, and these men tell the ingenious spectators that their theories are quite wrong, and that the facts of the case are so and so.
Now, surely our Brother will admit, that it is neither begging the question, nor presumption on the part of those who have the entree behind the scenes, but the simple truth, when they assert that their knowledge represents facts, while the conclusions of the ordinary spectators are only theories.
Such precisely are the relative positions of the Spiritualists and the Occultists; meaning, of course, by these latter, not the humble lay disciples, who endite these papers, but their pastors, masters and living spiritual guides, “The Brothers.”
“But how am I to know” (Mr. Terry may enquire) “that these Brothers of yours can really go behind the scenes? You say so, but what proof is there of this?”
Now, in the first place, it is a fact, and this every one may prove for himself, that each and all who will lead the Life (as indicated at pp. 22 et seq. of Hints On Esoteric Theosophy, No. 1, Second Edition) can satisfy themselves that the Brothers really can do this, and thus become entirely independent alike of our, and all other persons’, testimony.
But, in the second place, we can offer our correspondent some very definite, even though not absolutely conclusive, evidence on this subject. Will he read attentively all the facts connected with the transmission, by occult means, of certain letters from the steam-ship Vega (at a time when she was at sea, and some 500 miles distant from land) to Bombay and Calcutta? He will find most of the circumstances recorded in the eighth and ninth numbers of Psychic Notes, and again in the last chapter of the second edition of Mr. Sinnett’s Occult World, but the most complete account is embodied in the Postscript to the Second Edition of the Hints On Esoteric Theosophy, No. 1.
Reading this he will see that as soon as we suggested to the Brothers, that it might be useful for them to make themselves known to Mr. Eglinton’s controls, and so convince him of their existence, they did so, and while Mr. Eglinton himself was still utterly incredulous of there being any Brothers, his controls, speaking in the direct voice, while he was in trance, acknowledged the Brothers, spoke of one of them by a name unknown to Mr. Eglinton, and announced their intention of performing some phenomenon under their guidance. He will see further that one of them visited Mr. Eglinton when the vessel in which he had left India was at sea, and fully convinced him of the existence of the Brothers and of their powers.
Now, though we do not say that these incidents absolutely prove that the Brothers can go behind the scenes, we would ask Mr. Terry whether it does not look very like it.
The fact is, that, as we know, the Brothers possess the power of controlling absolutely, all the elementals and elementaries to whom (with some exceptions) are due the objective phenomena (not the work, unconscious or conscious, of the medium himself) of the seance-room. And it is the possession and exhibition of this power which makes us consider their assertion that they have been behind the scenes and do know all about it, proved, and that induces us to accept their statements of what takes place, and is done, as facts.
If as yet our correspondent does not possess the same good grounds for confidence as ourselves (though these will all come if he only truly works for them) we can only say that, perhaps, before long an even stronger proof may be given to our Spiritualistic friends, and, in the meantime, we would ask our Brother to consider whether the circumstances are not such as to lead distinctly to the inference that the Brothers know more of the so-called spirits, and can more efficiently deal with them, than any Spiritualistic or medium.
But now we much let Mr. Terry speak for himself:—
1. I have perused with interest the able article, in reply to my second letter, published in the Theosophist for March last, and although I have weighed the theories there presented as dispassionately as possible, I must confess they have brought me very little nearer to an acceptance of the “occult” in preference to the “spiritual” philosophy. This may not be the case with others who read them, but with me the evidences, in support of my present position, are so diverse and manifold that the explanations afforded, if they shook my faith in, or even destroyed, the foundation of the few instances previously presented, still leave an unbroken link of stubborn facts confronting me, behind which, I cannot go.
2. But you will demur to the word facts and substitute “illusory effects.” Yet how are we, ordinary mortals, to discriminate between the real and the unreal? For what purpose are our reasoning faculties given to us, but to get knowledge by their exercise and evolve wisdom therefrom? The man who views all phenomena through the physical senses and realizes only what they cognize limits his knowledge to purely terrestrial things, but the philosophical Spiritualist has a wider range of observation, and by the aid of his own spiritual perceptions, or those of others more lucid than himself, opens up a broad field of phenomena, unrecognized by the physical scientist. He realizes, moreover, the supremacy of spirit and views (as far as his material environments will admit) all things from their spiritual aspect. Yet withal, reason is the touchstone by which his experiences must be tested. He has no sound basis outside of it, whilst in the material body.
3. I do not ignore intuition. Great truths dawn upon the mental perception through this channel, but they rarely conflict with the operation of the individual reason. I doubt not but that, in the spiritual state, the latter will be superseded by the former, but, in this material sphere, reason is the primary and legitimate avenue for the absorption of knowledge.
4. You say “the spirit of man which comes into direct and conscious relations with the world of spirit acquires the real knowledge.” This I admit, and it is by this means much of my knowledge has reached me. I have by magnetic action liberated the spirits of men and women, placed them en rapport with the world of spirit, compared their descriptions of spiritual things and found (save in details) a general harmony of results, each and all of them describing worlds or spheres more beautiful than this, peopled by forms in human shape exhibiting a higher average intelligence and greater refinement than pertains to our physical life here, and all professing to be men and women, who had been denizens of this world, rehabilitated in forms adapted to their more refined condition of existence. Some of these intelligences in conversation with my subjects have conveyed the most beautiful sentiments displaying the highest conceivable morality and inculcating harmonial principles intuitionally acceptable.
5. It may be well here to allude to the explanation, or partial explanation, by analogy of incidents in my experience given in the last “Fragments of Occult Truth,” but the analogy is not complete, as in the one instance there is no psychometrical basis, and in the other there is. I am aware how difficult it is to distinguish psychometry from clairvoyance, but with care and a lucid instrument it is practicable. I am also aware of the difficulty, and, perhaps, impossibility, of demonstrating to others the distinct identity and objective existence of what I believe to be my spirit-guide, but it is much more conceivable to me, that this intelligence which almost daily gives some evidence of its independence from my mind, often opposing my preconceptions in a most decided manner, is what it professes to be, than that it is one part of myself misleading the other. It would require a strong evidence to convince me (or this portion of me that now expresses itself) that I have two intelligent consciousnesses so distinct from each other as not to know their relationship.
6. I will, however, give one or two more instances of apparent spirit communion from very many that I could call to mind. Nineteen years ago, during my early investigation of the subject, I was sitting with an intelligent, but, not highly educated, gentleman newer to the subject than myself when his hand was controlled by some invisible force to write in rather a laboured manner something encouraging to our efforts. Whilst conversing about this, his hand rose suddenly from the table, whirled round with great velocity, and, descending upon some paper, wrote in a bold, free hand totally different from his own, and resembling none he knew of. “You now see we have full command over your hand, let us have as full command over your heart, and you will be nearer God.” None could be more astonished at this unexpected phenomena than the writer himself, and, when, on being interrogated, the intelligence professed to be one of a band of spirits interested in the moral and spiritual progress of humanity, probabilities all pointed to the truth of the assertion. About nine months’ intercourse with this band tended to confirm in every respect what had been stated. Questions were satisfactorily answered, difficulties solved, moral and philosophical teachings were volunteered; all in harmony with the idea and commendable to our reason, though often new to our perceptions. Is this the ordinary work of astral tramps or “Kama Rupa’s”? I have recently gone over the original MS. and find it all consistent. Twenty years’ experience, with the mental and spiritual development it has brought, fail to exhibit any defects in it.
7. Again, nearly three years since, a very dear friend passed out of mortal existence. For years before her death the spiritual part of her nature largely predominated over the animal, and, according to the occult theory, the spiritual Ego would pass into a world of effects, whence there is no return to this world. Yet a few days after her departure a lady (who had but a slight acquaintance with her in the body) came to me and informed me that my friend had appeared to her (whilst in an apparently normal state) as a glorified human form, and given a message for me which had been literally recorded as given. The tone, words and sentiment of this message were eminently characteristic of her, and it conveyed a hidden meaning readily understood by me, but which would be unintelligible to others. Some months after, the same form appeared to another seeress who had not known the deceased in the body, and by symbols recalled to my mind some touching incidents of the past. A year later, whilst visiting in the country, I magnetized a sensitive to aid her development. This lady had never known my friend, and in her own person bore not the slightest resemblance to her. Having induced the magnetic sleep, I sat quietly by, not expecting any phenomenal result, but, on looking at her, a short time after, I observed, first a change of complexion from dark to fair, next a gradual alteration of the contour of the face, the nose became more acquiline, the lips thin, the face longer, and the expression more refined, until in about ten minutes the transformation was complete; and, with the exception of the colour of the hair which remained unchanged, there was before me with all minutiae the face of my deceased friend. That this was no hallucination is shown by the fact of there being another witness of the phenomenon, who was as fully conscious of the change as myself, though unable to recognize my friend not having known her in the body. This was repeated subsequently and verified by three witnesses, one of whom, being called and asked if she recognized the face, immediately gave the name of my friend. Such incidents as these seem to me to conflict with the occult theory, and must have weight against it, unless it can be philosophically shown to cover them.
8. The Occultists assume their position to be irrefragable; they are not singular in this, though more philosophical in their arguments than many who have preceeded them, but in these times men want evidence which the senses given them can grasp. It is not reasonable on the part of those who doubt what they assert, to demand a demonstration as objectors to any theory often do, but it is reasonable for the truth-seeker to say “show me how I can prove what you affirm,” and to expect a practicable road to be pointed out to him. If the proof can only be obtained by a practical renunciation of the world, a severance of all human ties, affections and responsibilities, of what use is it to humanity? Only one in a million may avail themselves of it, and how many of the remaining 999,999 would have faith in his testimony.
9. You say that “the sense of individuality in spirit cannot exist without combination with matter.” This seems highly probable, though not demonstrable, and, I assume, that the bodies of these spiritual forms seen by seers and clairvoyants are material, though much more refined than the matter we are clothed in. Is not the atmosphere of our world full of material particles invisible to our physical sense?
10. Your assertion, that from Socrates to the present day “no uninitiated seer ever saw quite correctly,” can hardly be disputed, but the question is, does the initiated seer do so? How is it possible for him to be free from bias? Are not the present beliefs or formulae of occultism the basis on which he starts? Does not the novice have them presented to him as facts at the commencement of his initiation, and do not all experiences of the past and present prove to us that, except in absolute physical facts, the basic bias gives a colouring to all the knowledge we accumulate?
11. You misinterpret my last letter when you charge me with saying “I know I am right,” I simply demured to your taking that position in a former article, asserting merely that, as our knowledge is based upon experience, and as my experiences all tend to the confirmation of my theory, as yours do to the opposite, I might as reasonably say I know. Your experiences may transcend mine in my directions, but whilst the ground I stand on has all the appearance of solidity and feels firm under my feet, it requires more than assertion to convince me that it is a quicksand. With the tides of error drifting all around, I must be satisfied of a better foot-hold ere I abandon my present one.
12. There is one Spiritualist, at least, who will gladly accept the aid of the “occult sages of the East” to obtain a better knowledge of the after-state, but as I have never in the past accepted the dictum of either man or spirit by faith alone, neither can I in the future (unless by some unlooked-for change in my nature) accept as truth anything contrary to my own experiences until it commends itself to my reason and intuition.
W. H. TERRY.
Now, to the first para. of Mr. Terry’s letter no reply is called for. To the second it will be sufficient to say that we doubt, if we should ever find occasion to call in question any of our correspondent’s facts; we believe that we should be able unhesitatingly to accept them all, for he is clearly a reliable observer; it would only be with the conclusions he forms, based on those facts, that we should be compelled to differ.
The third para., again, is in perfect harmony with our own views.
The fourth para. must be more particularly noticed. It will be borne in mind that we have never denied that communication in a certain sense can be established between men and real spirits of deceased persons. What we have maintained is that, except in certain cases, of which hereafter, only shells, not true spirits, can appear or operate in the seance-room.
We said of the spirit in our first “Fragment”: “It can be visited in spirit by men, it cannot descend into our grosser atmosphere and reach us. It attracts, it cannot be attracted.”
Nor have we ever disputed that there was a state (out of which the Spiritualist’s conceptions of the Summer Land have no doubt arisen) in which the spirits of those who have passed away, receive the reward of their deserts. To this state, known to Tibetan Occultists as the Devachan, we specially alluded in that first paper, when we said “nor during the temporary period of its enjoyment in its newly-evolved Ego-hood of the fruits of its good deeds, etc.”
Therefore, we are far from desiring to contest our correspondent’s assertion, that by magnetic action he has succeeded in placing some of the incorporeal principles of certain sensitives en rapport (if not, as he says, with the world of spirit—a very large world indeed—at any rate) with certain spiritual entities.
It is quite certain that in the case of pure sensitives, this can be accomplished, but what we contend is that the information thus obtained will never be reliable. For this there are several reasons. In the first place the principles that cognize in such a case are different from those that give outward expression to the matters cognized, and in the case of no untrained seer can the transfer of the impressions from the spiritual faculties which record, to the more physical faculties which publish, be perfectly effected. Even supposing both sensitive and her magnetizer to be absolutely free from all preconceived ideas about, or expectations in regard to the subjects investigated, still in the mere transfer of the observations from the one to the other class of faculties, mistakes and misconceptions must occur.
But, further, it is not too much to say that it is quite impossible for the spiritual faculties of any untrained seer even to record correctly in the first instance. Even our physical powers of observation require careful training before they will serve us faithfully. See how utterly unable young children are, as a rule, to judge distances, etc., and just as the physical faculties are untrained in the child, so are the spiritual faculties untrained in the magnetic sensitive. No doubt, in the course of years, if their health and circumstances permit their constantly exploring the unseen world, even such untrained sensitives may acquire for themselves a certain amount of experience and training, and become capable of comparatively accurate observation; but few and far between have such sensitives been, and, even the very best, have fallen far short of accuracy. So that under the most exceptionally favourable conditions, you have first an imperfect record; and, second, a more or less erroneous presentation of that imperfect record.
But in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, either or both sensitive and magnetizer have well-defined preconceptions of what they think ought to be the case, and then, however honest and conscientious both may be, these preconceptions will more or less colour the evidence given. Indeed, so certainly is this the case that, broadly speaking, there is twice the probability of error in the case of a magnetized sensitive, to what there is in the case of a seer, who without the intervention of a magnetizer can by hypnotism (of one kind or another) unaided, place himself en rapport with spiritual entities. Thus a Swedenborg would be much less likely to err, than the best sensitive requiring the intervention of a magnetiser to awaken her supersensuous faculties.
But there is yet another source of error. Even the best and purest sensitive can at most only be placed at any time en rapport with a particular spiritual entity, and can only know, see and feel, what that particular entity knows, sees and feels. Now no spiritual entity in Devachan, or hybernating prior to passing out of this earth’s attraction; (and it is, broadly speaking, only with such that a sensitive can be placed en rapport,) is in a position to generalize. It lives in a paradise or dream of its own creating, and it is utterly unable to give any idea of how it is faring with others. Each individual spirit in Devachan dreams its own dream, lives in its own Summer Land (but it is a state, not a land), surrounded by all the people and things it loves and longs for. But these are ideal, and the very people by whom it believes itself surrounded may be each dreaming his own dream, in his own ideal paradise; or some of them may be perhaps really still on earth, or even passing through the remorseless wheels of annihilation. And through the veils that curtain in each spirits dream of felicity, there is no peeping down to earth, a glimpse of which would necessarily mingle some bitterness with the cup of happiness, nor is there any conscious communication with the flying souls that come, as it were to learn where the spirits are, what they are doing, and what they think, feel and see.
What, then, is being en rapport? It is simply an identity of molecular vibration between the astral part of the incarnated sensitive and the astral part of the disincarnate personality. The spirit of the sensitive gets “odylized,” so to speak by the Aura of the spirit whether this be hybernating in the early region or dreaming in the Devachan; identity of molecular vibration is established, and for a brief space the sensitive becomes the departed personality, and writes in its handwriting, uses its language and thinks its thoughts. At such times sensitives may believe that those with whom they are for the moment en rapport descend to earth and communicate with them, whereas, in reality, it is merely their own spirits which being correctly attuned to those others are, for the time, blended with them.
Many of the subjective spiritual communications are genuine; the majority where the sensitive is pure-minded; but (1) they only reflect in each case the ideas of a single spirit, unable to see beyond the limits of its own mental chrysalis or ideal paradise; (2) it is impossible for the uninitiated sensitive to observe and record altogether correctly what it does see and hear during its amalgamation; (3) it is equally impossible for the sensitive to transfer intact the impressions recorded by the supersensuous faculties, to the senses through which alone they can be communicated to the world; and (4) such communications will be still further vitiated by any pre-existing conceptions or beliefs inhering in the minds of either sensitive or magnetizer, or both.
But Mr. Terry says that, having compared the descriptions of things spiritual given to him by different sensitives when in trance, he found a general harmony “each and all describing worlds or spheres more beautiful than this, peopled by forms in human shape, exhibiting a higher average intelligence, etc., etc.” But what else could he expect, he is pure-minded, educated European of the present day, dealing also with pure, more or less educated sensitives? If he had tried a native Australian woman sensitive, and had studiously kept his own mind passive, he would have heard a very different story. Nay, though a certain skeleton of truth (but partial truth) runs through all genuine communications, he will find the widest discrepancies in details between the so-called facts elicited by himself and those elicited by equally good men, with equally pure mediums in France,6 Germany and America.
It is unnecessary, however, now to press this point further; all we desire for the moment to make clear is that while we in no way dispute the genuineness of the class of communications to which our correspondent refers, we, yet for the above reasons, know them to be necessarily unreliable, necessarily more or less incorrect and inaccurate.
And now turning to para. fifth, we would remark that it may possibly be that there really is a distinct spiritual entity impressing our correspondent’s mind. In other words, there may, for all we know, be some spirit, with whom his spiritual nature becomes habitually, for the time, thoroughly harmonized, and whose thoughts, language, etc., become his for the time, the result being that this spirit seems to communicate with him. All we said before was that a similar explanation to that we had offered of the facts of a certain case would in all probability meet Mr. Terry’s case. But if he feels confident that this explanation does not fit his case, then it is possible (though by no means probable) that he habitually passes into a state of rapport with a genuine spirit, and, for the time, is assimilated therewith, thinking (to a great extent, if not entirely,) the thoughts that spirit would think, writing in its handwriting, etc.
But even so Mr. Terry must not fancy that that spirit is consciously communicating with him, or knows in any way, anything of him, or any other person or thing on earth. It is simply that the rapport established, he, Mr. Terry, becomes for the nonce assimilated with that other personality, and thinks, speaks and writes as it would have done on earth.
As for the figure of the fine, intelligent and benevolent-looking man, seen repeatedly by the seers and seeresses, this may well be a real astral picture of the earth-life form of that very spirit, drawn into the aura of our correspondent by the synchronism of his and that spirit’s nature.
Many other explanations are possible; the variety of the causes of phenomena is great, and one need be an adept, and actually look into and examine what transpires in order to be able to explain in each case, what really underlies it; but this much is certain, viz., that no good benevolent person, who passed away upwards of a century ago, can possibly be visiting here on earth, and advising and comforting our correspondent. The molecules of his astral nature may from time to time vibrate in perfect unison with those of some spirit of such a person, now in Devachan, and the result may be that he appears to be in communication with that spirit, and to be advised, etc., by him, and clairvoyants may see in the Astral light a picture of the earth-life form of that spirit, but, so far as we have as yet been instructed, this is the nearest approach to what our correspondent supposes, that is possible.
No doubt had our Brother’s guide not departed from this earth so very long ago, another explanation, to which we will refer later, more in consonance with his views would have been possible, though extremely improbable.
Taking next his sixth para., the experience therein detailed seems sufficiently explained on either of two hypotheses. First, despite their unobjectionable character, these teachings may have come from mere reliquiae of men or personalities, not sufficiently spiritual for further progress. In our first fragment we distinctly said “All elementaries are by no means actively wicked all round…..when, speaking through a still pure medium, the better and less degraded side of their nature comes out, and it is quite possible for elementaries to have a perfect intellectual knowledge and appreciation of virtue and purity and enlightened conceptions of truth, and yet be innately vicious in their tendencies.”
It is perfectly possible, that the admirable teachings referred to by Mr. Terry may have come from a high class, though still lost personality, too intellectual to show in its true colours before him and his friend, and yet capable of playing a very different part in a less pure circle.
But it is far more likely that the medium’s spirit really became en rapport with some spiritual entity in Devachan, the thoughts, knowledge and sentiments of which formed the substance, while the medium’s own personality and pre-existing ideas more or less governed the form of the communication. We attach no special importance to the particular form of words in which the first message is said to have been given. This may perfectly have been the medium’s share of the communication, when for the moment he identified his spiritual nature with that of the spiritual entity.
Here, again, there is another possible, but not at all probable, explanation to which we shall refer later.
The experience recorded in para. seven is a most interesting one, and, as stated, somewhat difficult to explain with confidence. If we had something more than the very slight sketch afforded, we should find less difficulty.
The first appearance might possibly be thus explained; for a very short period after death, while the incorporeal principles remain within the sphere of our earth’s attraction, it is possible for the spirit, under peculiar and favourable conditions, to appear.
But, as a broad rule, such appearances only take place within a few minutes after, or shortly before, the physical death. Of course, we mean the real death; the last portion of the frame that dies is the brain—which is often still alive and thronged with images, long after, or, at any rate, for many hours and days after life has been pronounced by the spectators to be extinct. It is true that the period intervening between death and the entry into the gestation state, varies in the case of persons dying a natural death from a few hours to a few years, but it is quite abnormal for the spirit to appear during this period, except within a very short period after death. Putting aside the case of adepts and those trained by them to that end, the Ego within a few moments after death sinks into a state of unconsciousness, from which it does not recover until the struggle between the higher and lower duads has been fought out, and there remains inside the sphere of the earth’s attraction, (the Region of Desire,) only the shell, either, in the rarer case of personalities doomed to annihilation, a two-and-a-half principle-shell, or in the case in which the higher principles having triumphed, they have passed on taking with them the better portions of the fifth principle, also a one-and-a-half principle-shell soon to disintegrate.
It seems, therefore, extremely doubtful whether even the first appearance can be explained as a bona fide one, consciously made by the spirit of the deceased. It is possible, for the true death, the death of the brain, is sometimes delayed long after the death of the rest of the body, the apparent death—and, though the first appearance took place “a few days after” apparent death, it may really have only occurred at the moment of true death. But this is less probable than that, despite the facts that would lead to a contrary conclusion, even this first was really an unconscious appearance. The spirit sunk in its post mortem trance, (of course, for all its comparative etheriality and non-corporeality a space occupying and material entity) is borne about by magnetic currents swayed here and there like dead leaves whirling in the bosom of a stream. Thus carried, it may pass within the range of vision of some seer, or its reflection in the astral light may be caught by the inner eye of a clairvoyant. The spirit itself will have no more consciousness of such an appearance than a person passing through a room in which there happens, unknown to him, to be a mirror, is of having cast a reflection therein. Usually the position and aspect of the forms indicate unmistakably the unconsciousness of the spirit—but this is not invariable—the mental activity of the spirit may revive in a succession of dreams, restoring a subjective consciousness, while objective unconsciousness still prevails, and in such cases the form may assume a conscious and animated, or even transfigured, appearance—all depends on the character and intensity of the dreams, and these again depend upon the degree of the spirituality and purity of the deceased.
It is not at all necessary (nor, indeed, is it possible under our present hypothesis) that any real conscious communication should have passed between the dormant spirit and the seeress. It was all sufficient for the latter to have come thus in direct rapport with the spirit or its astral image, to think precisely what the spirit, if still conscious and in earth-life, would have thought. This present absolutely no difficulty.
Possibly the second appearance may be similarly explained. But here the question arises. When this second appearance took place, was the seeress under our correspondent’s magnetism? If so, there was probably no appearance at all. The magnetizer tenderly attached to the deceased, by the exertion of his magnetic power unconsciously placed the seeress en rapport with the spirit of the deceased, with which for the time her spirit was more or less perfectly identified, leading to an idea of seeing her (as she was wont to appear when on earth), and receiving from her messages or indications, of which the seeress really became cognizant, when the two spirits were for the moment blended.
The transfigurations are less doubtful in character, and there are three ways of explaining them:—
1. The mesmeric action of our correspondent placed the sensitive’s spirit en rapport with that of his dearly-loved deceased friend. Then when for the time the identity of the two was established, the nature of the deceased taken on by the sensitive, being much more spiritual and powerful than her own, and her physical constitution being of such a nature as to admit such changes, her body began at once to exhibit an analogous change corresponding to the change undergone by her spiritual nature in consequence of the amalgamation.
2. The transfiguration may have been due to the intensity and clearness of the deceased friend’s face in Mr. Terry’s thought. That face being so strongly impressed on his memory, it is but natural that the latter, owing to its intensified activity during such seances, should be throwing off an unusual amount of energy and solidifying, so to say, the familiar image, on the etheric waves of his aura. Thus, unknown to himself, Mr. Terry may have aroused it up into sympathetic action, which, transforming the image from a subjective into an objective picture, finally caused it to move on, guided by the current of attraction, until it settled upon, and so was found reflected on the medium’s face. The images we find in the endless galleries of space, nailed on to the indestructible walls of Akasa, are but lifeless and empty masks after all, the pictorial records of our thoughts, words and deeds. In Mr. Terry’s case, the invisible Reality in the magnetizer’s aura threw an objective adumbration on the plastic features of his sensitive, and—the phenomenon was produced.
3. Thought, Memory, and Will are the energies of the brain, and, like all other forces of nature—to use the language of modern science—have two general forms: the potential and the kinetic form of energy. Potential thought clairvoyantly discerns and chooses its subject in the astral light,—the Will becomes the motor power that causes it to move, that directs and guides it whithersoever it likes…and, it is thus that the adept produces his occult phenomena, whether of a physical or a spiritual character. But the latter can also occur without any intervention of an intelligent will. The passive condition of the medium, leaves him (a) an easy prey to the pranks of the elementaries, as well as to those semi-intelligent elemental beings ever basquing and masquerading in the sidereal light; and (b) such a phenomenon may as easily occur of itself, simply owing to the surrounding and favourable conditions. The sidereal image of a person we think of, will remain pale and quiescent in its indelible impression of the ether, until its atoms are propelled into action by the strong magnetic attraction which emanates from the molecular tissues of the medium, saturated as they are with the mesmerizer’s thought full of the image. Hence—the phenomenon of Transfiguration.
These transfigurations are rare; but we have yet known of a good many instances, and some very remarkable ones will be found recorded in Colonel Olcott’s work entitled “People from the Other World.”
The above probably explains all the features of this case; but to enable us to assert positively in any case that the occurrence was brought about in this or that way, it is essential that we should be acquainted with every single detail. So long as we only have the barest outlines to deal with all we can pretend to offer are more or less probable solutions.
Our correspondent tells us in his first para. that even if we explain one or two cases, he still finds an unbroken line of stubborn facts opposing our explanations behind which he is unable to penetrate. We can only promise that if he will furnish us with accurate details of all cases within his personal knowledge, which, in his opinion, are not explicable by the Occult Doctrines, we will show him that they are so explicable, or abandon the field.
But we must premise two conditions. First, we will only accept cases of which he has a complete personal knowledge—we will not accept cases picked up out of books and papers. He is a reliable, philosophical observer, from whom we are sure to get facts carefully observed and accurately recorded. With these we can have no difficulty in dealing. But as for cases recorded here, there and everywhere, many are, to our knowledge, pure inventions, while many more although recorded in good faith, have been so transmogrified in the processes of observation, and record that it would be hopeless to discuss them.
Secondly, he must not be surprised, if in the course of our explanations, all kinds of new facts not hitherto touched on are brought to notice. The subject is a vast one. There are wheels within wheels—laws within laws, exceptions to all these. Purposely hitherto we have only endeavoured to convey a general conception of the more important features of the Truth. If exact accuracy of detail is required, every one of our general laws will require certain provisos and riders. To detail only what we know in regard to these spiritual phenomena would occupy several complete numbers of the THEOSOPHIST, and if our explanation had to include the whole system of elementals (future men during a coming cycle) and other obscure powers and forces, which cannot even be mentioned, several octavo volumes would be needed to contain it.
In the first part of our correspondent’s eighth para. we quite concur, but when he goes on to say “if the proof can only be obtained by a practical renunciation of the world, a severance of all human ties, affections and responsibilities, of what use is it to humanity? only one in a million may avail themselves of it, and how many of the remaining 999,999 would have faith in his testimony.”—we are compelled to point out that he is in error in his premises, and that his conclusions even were these premises correct, are untenable. For even admit that only one in a million would consent to avail themselves of the opportunity afforded for obtaining proof, would this be any reason for the remaining 999,999 refusing to accept their evidence? Is this so in practice? Certainly not! At the present time not more than one in a million, (if so many,) are willing to avail themselves of the opportunity of obtaining for themselves proof of the facts of astronomy. Yet the remainder accept these facts, perfectly satisfied with the knowledge that any one who chooses to go through the necessary training and study can acquire that proof, and that all who have gone through that training, etc., are agreed as to the sufficiency of the proof.
Astronomy is a science with the name and general bearing of which all fairly educated men are familiar. Occultism, is a science which has hitherto been veiled in the most profound secresy and of which, so far, none but Occultists have possessed any knowledge. But once let mankind be familiarized with the idea; let it become known that any one who chooses to make the necessary sacrifices can obtain the proofs, and that those who have obtained the proofs consider these conclusive, and the mass of mankind will be quite content to accept the facts, even on the testimony of the one per million, who does undertake the verification of the assertions of his predecessors.
But our correspondent’s assumptions are erroneous; a practical renunciation of the world in the sense in which the apostle exerted all Christians to be in the world, but not of the world is doubtless essential, but it is by no means requisite to sever all human ties and affections; nor can it ever be permitted, much less required, to abjure human responsibilities. These latter may change in character, and may—indeed must—with increased knowledge and power, assume a wider reach, and the affections must broaden and become more cosmopolitan, but it is self-abnegation (not selfishness), and a devotion to the welfare of others, that smooths the path to adeptship.
Replying to the ninth para., we may say that not only our atmosphere, but the entire universe, is pervaded by substance incognizable alike by our physical and spiritual senses, and again by forms of matter normally incognizable by our physical senses, but more or less cognizable by spiritual senses of different degrees of development.
As regards the freedom from error claimed for the teachings of occultism, referred to in para. tenth, Mr. Terry, we venture to submit, mistakes the position. It is needless to point out to him the difference between empiricism and science, and the uninitiated are empiricists; the occultists, scientists. This will be obvious at once when it is borne in mind, that for thousands of years, hundreds of initiates have been exploring the unseen world. That the results of their explorations have been recorded and collected, and discrepancies eliminated by fresh verifications. That the facts ascertained have been generalized and the laws governing them deduced therefrom, and the correctness of these deductions verified by experiment. Occultism, is therefore, in every sense of the word an exact science, while the teachings of the very ablest untrained seer who has worked single-handed can only be empiric.
When in our first article we said we know, (an expression to which our Brother, perhaps rightly, takes objection in his fourth para.) we only said this in the sense, that talking to people ignorant of mathematics, we should say that we know that the curve described by the moon in space is a form of epicycloid represented by such and such an equation. Not meaning thereby that we had ourselves investigated this somewhat abstruse problem, but that we were aware of the method by which this was solved, and knew that numerous competent mathematicians had so solved it, and had all arrived at the same solution. Surely those ignorant alike of mathematics and of the work of mathematicians, could by no means as reasonably say in reply, that they knew that the orbit of the moon was something wholly different. It is not our experiences (though these collectively are considerable) on which we rely, as our correspondent seems to fancy. For all we know his experiences may transcend ours, and, be this as it may, we should certainly never have presumed to traverse, authoritatively, his views on the strength of our own experiences or knowledge. What we rely on are the generalized results of the experiences during a vast period of time of a large body of trained Psychists, who have ever made the attainment of truth, in matters spiritual, the foremost object of their desire, and the promotion (though in secret) of the welfare of mankind, their primary duty.
With Mr. Terry’s last para. we should be the last to quarrel. It is endited in the true spirit of the philosopher, and one of the first warnings that the neophyte in occultism receives is thenceforth to believe nothing the truth, rationality, or probability, of which cannot be established to his satisfaction.
And now, having attempted to answer para. by para. every portion of our esteemed correspondent’s kind favour (that seemed to require a reply), we think it might be well to develop a little further one doctrine, that we broached in our first paper, and explain more in detail why we are so strongly opposed to habitual mediumism.
Broadly speaking, the objective phenomena of Spiritualists (of subjective communications we have already spoken) are the work of, or, at any rate, result from the activities of intervention of (1) elementals, half intelligent nature forces, entities, which in a far distant cycle, after passing through all the lower objective Kingdoms will ultimately be born as men; (2) elementaries or shells. These shells are of two kinds—first, those belonging to men whose sixth and seventh principles having attracted to themselves the quintessence, as it were of the fifth also, have moved on to fresh developments. These shells consist of the fourth, and only a portion of the fifth principles. Half or more of the personal memory is gone, and the more animal or material instincts only survive. This relic, this dross left behind in the crucible, when the refined gold was taken is commonly the “angel guide” of the average medium. Such entities, of course, only survive for a time; gradually all consciousness departs they disintegrate. Only highly mediumistic natures attract these, and only certain of these. The purer the personality, the less their vitality; the shorter their period of survival and the less the chance of their contributing to mediumistic displays. The more full of blemishes, the more disfigured by sins and animal desires the personality; the greater the vitality of its reliquiae, the longer their survival, the greater the chance of their finding their way into the seance-room. The man, as a whole, as the world goes, may have been a good man, good may have actively predominated in him, and yet the worse portions of his nature, his lower and more animal instincts standing now alone and unneutralized by the better portions of his character, may be evil enough.
It is impossible that any real good can come of intercourse with even this class of shell; it will not be actively wicked, it is too imperfect and weak for that, but yet its influence in the long run cannot be elevating. But, besides this, it is wrong to encourage such shells into activity or convey to them a fresh impulse such as they often obtain through mediums, since a strong sympathy continues to subsist between the departed personality, and its reliquiae, and any excitement of these latter, any galvanization of them with a fictitious renewed life, such as results from mediums dealing with them, distinctly disturbs the gestation of the personality, hinders the evolution of its new Egohood, and delays, therefore, its entry into the state of felicity (Devachan), in which, in its new Egohood, it reaps the fruits of its good deeds, prior to re-incarnation and re-birth here, if it has not completed its appointed tale of earth-lives, or in the next superior planet.
But the other kind of elementary is far more dangerous as a rule to deal with. In this case the man has been weighed in the balance and found wanting—his personality has to be blotted out—the fourth and fifth principles are intact; and, more than this, the fifth will have assimilated all that there may be left of personal recollection and perceptions of its personal individuality in the sixth. This second class of shell is in every way more enduring, more active, and in the majority of cases, distinctly wicked. No doubt it can suffer no injury from its intercourse with men, but these latter must inevitably deteriorate in consequence of association with shells of this class. Fortunately these are not, comparatively speaking, very numerous; of course, absolutely, there have been millions of millions of such, but, to the credit of human nature be it said, that the personalities that have to be absolutely blotted out form but a fractional percentage of the whole.
Moreover, shells of this nature do not remain for any great length of time in the atmosphere of this earth, but like straws floating near a whirlpool get caught up by and dragged down in that terrible Maelstrom, which hurries off the failures towards disintegration, in other words to the planet of matter and death—the mental as well as the physical satelite of our earth.
As for the elementals, rudimentary men no doubt, but more embryotic even than the spirit that sleeps in the mineral, these, though capable of, becoming powerful forces in association with shells, under the spells of sorcerers and under the guidance of adepts, are, as a rule, irresponsible, purblind, neutral entities, taking character and colour moral and mental from the active and more developed spiritual entity with or under whose control they work; but even these, though themselves incapable of being injured, may become very dangerous to mediums with any inherent evil tendencies.
Here then in elementals and elementaries are to be found the majority, probably, of the performers of the physical phenomena of Spiritualists. Association with no one of these three classes, can possibly benefit mankind as a whole. The variety of natures is so infinite, that we do not assert that in no case has any human being benefited by intercourse with any individual specimen of either class. But we do say that broadly speaking, nothing but harm can be expected from association with such. Further in the case of one of the three classes, mediumistic intercourse inflicts a distinct injury upon innocent beings.
But though elementaries and elementals constitute a large proportion of the performers, there are other classes of actors. We do not pretend—we are not permitted—to deal exhaustively with the question at present, but we may refer to one of the most important classes of entities, who can participate in objective phenomena, other than elementaries and elementals.
This class comprises the spirits of conscious sane suicides. They are Spirits, and not Shells, because there is not in their cases, at any rate until later, a total and permanent divorce between the fourth and fifth principles on the one hand, and the sixth and seventh on the other. The two decades are divided, they exist apart, but a line of connection still unites them, they may yet reunite, and the sorely threatened personality avert its doom; the 5th principal still holds in its hands the clue by which, traversing the labyrinth of earthly sins and passions, it may regain the sacred penetralia. But, for the time, though really a spirit, and, therefore, so designated, it is practically not far removed from a shell.
This class of spirit can undoubtedly communicate with men, but, as a rule, its members have to pay dearly for exercising the privilege, while it is scarcely possible for them to do otherwise than lower and debase the moral nature of those with and through whom they have much communication. It is merely, broadly speaking, a question of degree; of much or little injury resulting from such communication; the cases in which real, permanent good can arise are too absolutely exceptional to require consideration.
Understand how the case stands. The unhappy being revolting against the trials of life; trials, the results of its own former actions; trials, heaven’s merciful medicine for the mentally and spiritually deceased, determines, instead of manfully taking arms against the sea of troubles, to let the curtain drop, and, as it fancies, end them.
It destroys the body, but finds itself precisely as much alive, mentally, as before. It had an appointed life-term determined by an intricate web of prior causes, which its own wilful sudden act cannot shorten. That term must run out its appointed sands. You may smash the lower half of the hour glass, so that the impalpable sand shooting from the upper bell is dissipated by the passing aerial currents as it issues; but that stream will run on, unnoticed, though it remain, until the whole store in that upper receptacle is exhausted.
So you may destroy the body, but not the appointed period of sentient existence, foredoomed (because simply the effect of a plexus of causes) to intervene before the dissolution of the personality; this must run on for its appointed period.
This is so in other cases, e.g., those of the victims of accident or violence; they, too, have to complete their life-term, and of these, too, we may speak on another occasion—but here it is sufficient to notice that, whether good broad, their mental attitude, at the time of death, alters wholly their subsequent position. They, too, have to wait on within the “Region of Desires” until their wave of life runs on to and reaches its appointed shore, but they wait on, wrapped in dreams, soothing and blissful, or the reverse, according to their mental and moral state at, and prior to the fatal hour, but nearly exempt from further material temptations, and, broadly speaking, incapable (except just at the moment of real death) of communicating scio motu with mankind, though not wholly beyond the possible of reach of the higher forms of “the Accursed Science, “ Necromancy. The question is a profoundly abstruse one; it would be impossible to explain within the brief space still remaining to us, how the conditions immediately after death in the case (1), of the man who deliberately lays down (not merely risks) his life from altruistic motives in the hope of saving those of others; and (2) of him, who deliberately sacrifices his life from selfish motives, in the hopes of escaping trials and troubles, which loom before him, differ so entirely as they do. Nature or Providence Fate, or God, being merely a self-adjusting machine it would at first sight seem as if the results must be identical in both cases, But machine though it be, we must remember that it is a machine sui generis—
“Out of himself he span
Th’ eternal web of right and wrong,
And ever feels the subtlest thrill
The slenderest thread along”!
A machine compared with whose perfect sensitiveness and adjustment, the highest human intellect is but a coarse clumsy replica, inpetto.
And we must remember that thoughts and motives are material, and at time marvelously potent material forces, and we may then begin to comprehend why the hero sacrificing his life on pure altruistic grounds, sinks as his life-blood ebbs away into a sweet dream, wherein—
“All that he wishes and all that he loves
Come smiling around his sunny way”
only to wake into active or objective consciousness when re-born in the Region of Happiness, while the poor, unhappy and misguided mortal who, seeking to elude fate, selfishly loosens the silver string and breaks the golden bowl, finds himself terribly alive and awake, instinct with all the evil cravings and desires that embittered his world-life, without a body in which to gratify these and capable of only such partial alleviation as is possible by more or less vicarious gratification, and this only, at the cost of the ultimate complete rupture with his 6th and 7th principles, and consequent ultimate annihilation after, alas! prolonged periods of suffering.
Let it not be supposed that there is no hope for this class—the sane deliberate suicide. If bearing steadfastly his cross, he suffers patiently his punishment, striving against carnal appetites, still alive in him, in all their intensity, though, of course, each in proportion to the degree to which it had been indulged in earth-life. If we say he bears this humbly, never allowing himself to be tempted here or there into unlawful gratifications of unholy desires, then when his fated death-hour strikes his four higher principles reunite, and in the final separation that then ensues, it may well be that all may be well with him, and that he passes on to the gestation period and its subsequent developments.
Till the predestined death-knell rings he has his chance, he may wipe off in suffering and repentance many a sad black score from the page of “Karma,” but, alas! and this is the point we desire to impress upon Spiritualists, he may add a hundred fouler ones to the sad blots already damning the record.
It is not merely for the sake of the mediums, not merely “for the sake of those that set at meat with these,” but, above all, for the sakes of these miserable half-lost brothers and sisters that we appeal.
Suddenly cut short in careers, always more or less deeply befouled in all sane suicides (and we speak only of these, for insane suicides are but victims), with one of the deadliest sins, rage, hatred, lust, greed, etc., they awake to find themselves haunted by their besetting sin in all its intensity. Around them are mediums, many of them of sad purpose throwing themselves open to what they idly dream to be angel guides. They have but to obsess these only too willing partners, to share in their evil gratifications, or collecting out of their aura and loosely coherent physical organizations, and from even fouler sources, the tombs and shambles, materials from a fragile physical organization of their own, revel in this with their mediums in all imaginable iniquity. These were the incubi and succubi of mediaeval times, these are the “Spirit wives” and husbands of modern days, and these, when merely obsessing and not assuming a separate objective form, are the demons of drunkenness, gluttony, hatred and malice, the memorials of whose fiendish excesses crowd the sad records alike of the present and the past.
Evil, to begin with and separated (though not as yet irrevocably) from their 6th and 7th principles, and such restraining influence as these may have insensibly exercised, these spirits too often pass from bad to worse, develop into true psychic vampires, driving victim after victim to destruction, inciting to, and glorying in the foulest, the most incredible crimes, to be swept at last, when the appointed death-hour strikes, on the flood-tide of their own enormities, far out of the earths aura into regions, where cold annihilation, alone, drops the curtain on Eons of unimaginable misery.
And many of these, veritable fiends as they become were not so very, very bad in this life; “shady lots” perhaps in modern phraseology, with some rebellious, bitter, angry taint in the character, which led them to suicide—but after all very far removed from the demons in which they eventuated, and this awful and incredible development devil-wards which they underwent, though indirectly facilitated by the separation of their highest principles was primarily, and almost exclusively, due to the temptations, the facilities for the gratification of their worst desires, held out to them by mediums (recognized as such or not) of the low physical-manifestation type.
Alas! for the great bulk of such mediums! Alas! for too many of their Spiritualistic admirers and associates! Little do they dream that two-thirds of all the most monstrous crimes in the world have their origin in this low physical mediumistic capacity. Unrecognized as such, hundreds of miserable mediums perish on the scaffold, declaring, and declaring truly, that they were egged on to the crimes for which they suffer by a devil in reality, an obsessing spirit, mostly of this class. In thousands and thousands of cases, the gross sins, drunkenness, gluttony, lewdness, beastiality in all its forms, which spread desolation to innumerably happy hearths, and plunge in misery and disgrace countless happy households, are all really traceable to this same class of spirit, deriving alike the intensity of its evil desires and the power to do harm, from that fatal capacity of mediumship of the low class, favourable to physical manifestations.
And this mediumship is a plant, that like a noxious weed spreads as time runs on, under encouraging influences. Do the Spiritualists who deal so complacently, nay, who so greedily run after, these physical-manifestation mediums reflect on, or at all realize what they are doing? It is not merely that both they themselves and the mediums are running a fearful risk of moral shipwreck through this intercourse. This can, to a certain extent, be guarded against (though it too seldom is) by perfect purity of word, thought and deed; and again the medium may (though this too is rare) be naturally so well-disposed that the obsessing spirit, if not already rabidly evil, may do little harm, but what is alike beyond control of medium and his or her supporters is, diffusion as the mediumship is developed of mediumistic germs through the Akasic atmosphere which lighting here and there in appropriate soils the weakest and most sensual natures will produce later a crop of more degraded mediums, destined certainly to include many of the vilest sinners, if not several of the deepest-dyed criminals of the age.
This form of mediumship is a deadly weed, and so far from being encouraged into reproduction (and that is what the Spiritualists, as a body, do), it should be starved out, by disuse, whenever and wherever it is recognized. It will always unfortunately exist, springing up sporadically here and there, and though dwarfed in habit, contributing largely to the loathsome annals of sin and crime; but it is truly monstrous to aid the propagation, and in an intensified form, fo this curse, by aiding and abeting the development and function of prominent specimens.
Let none, who do this, dream that they can escape the consequences. All who share in transactions by which sin and misery are multiplied for others, must share the recoil. They may act in ignorance, in good faith and so escape the moral taint, the most grievous of the consequences of evil, but they can by no means escape the other consequences, and they will have to brave in coming lives the angry buffets of a retributive justice, which, though sleeping during the present, never sleeps during a second life.
[Note: for the remainder of this series, authored by A. P. Sinnett, see: “Fragments of Occult Truth [4-8]”]
1. Western Science, of course, as a rule, holds that animals have no conscious Ego, but this we know to be erroneous; they possess no spiritual, but they do possess an animal, consciousness. Could men communicate with them, they would discover not only this, but also that many of the anthropoid apes possess an intelligence, consciousness etc., little inferior to that of lunatics and madmen, and some desperately wicked and depraved men who have, in fact, become animals, through the loss, temporary or permanent, of their sixth and seventh principles, even while the combination of the other five principles is still intact, e., even during life.
Was it some hazy tradition of the truth handed down through the Romish Church, which has ever possessed some secret knowledge of the teachings of the ancient mysteries, or was it the great Poet Soul’s own glimpses into the Astral Light, that made Dante represent the souls of several of his enemies as already in the “Inferno” though the men themselves still lived upon earth? Of course, the fragment of truth thus embodied, was utterly distorted by the malign influence of the then prevalent material Hell superstition—but it was quite possible, as the Modern West has still to realize, that the souls of some of these evil men might have already passed away (though not to the fabled Inferno), whilst the men themselves still lived.—Ed. Theos. [H.P.B.]
2. We object to this definition. Theosophy means divine or God-Wisdom.—Ed. [H.P.B.]
3. As in any case, say—of an initiated adept,—who brings back upon earth with him the clear and distinct recollection—correct to a detail—of facts gathered, and the information obtained in the invisible sphere of Realities.—Ed. [H.P.B.]
4. Those real, genuine adepts who neither thrust themselves upon the public notice, nor do they invite us at the top of their voices:—“Come all ye, poor ignorant fools, come to me . . . come to learn from me who has nothing more to learnsince he has made himself omniscient—how to reach ‘Christ-State’ and Buddha-State . . .”—Our adepts compare themselves neither with Christ nor Buddha; nor even with Ammonius Sakka—the Theodidaktosor the “God-Taught” Seer; but they may be all that combined, and much more, since they are a Body of men—not one isolated, self-taught individual.—Ed. [H.P.B.]
5. The few exceptional cases of genuine spirit-communications will be treated of, in one of the future parts of “Fragments”—as the greatest attention and caution must be bestowed upon the subject to avoid every possible misunderstanding. Before we rebuild a house, we have to pull down the old structure. We know that we shall displease many and receive no thanks for it. But it cannot be helped. The Spiritualists having insisted upon having our opinion, we must be left to proceed systematically.—Ed. [H.P.B.]
6. Allan Kardec is probably the one untrained experimenter, who has got nearest the truth, and this because he generalized from such a vast mass of communications by very carefully picked sensitives and did thus eliminate a vast amount of error.