[From The Banner of Light, Oct. 18th, 1879.]
PHENOMENA in Indiabeside
the undoubted interest they offer in themselves, and apart from their great
variety and in most instances utter dissimilarity from those we are accustomed
to hear of in Europe and Americapossess another feature which makes
them worthy of the most serious attention of the investigator of Psychology.
Whether Eastern phenomena are to be accounted for by the immediate interference
and help of the spirits of the departed, or attributed to some other and
hitherto unknown cause, is a question which, for the present, we will leave
aside. It can be discussed, with some degree of confidence, only after many
instances have been carefully noted and submitted, in all their truthful
and unexaggerated details, to an impartial and unprejudiced public. One
thing I beg to reaffirm, and this is, that instead of exacting the usual
"conditions" of darkness, harmonious circles, and nevertheless
leaving the witnesses uncertain as to the expected results, Indian phenomena,
if we except the independent apparitions of bhûts (ghosts of the dead),
are never sporadic and spontaneous, but seem to depend entirely upon the
will of the operator, whether he be a holy Hindû Yogî, a Mussulman
Sâdhu, Fakir, or yet a juggling Jaddugar (sorcerer).
In this connection I mean to present numerous examples of what I here
say; for whether we read of the seemingly supernatural feats produced by
the Rishis, the Âryan patriarchs of archaic antiquity, or by Âchâryas
of the Paurânic days, or hear of them from popular traditions, or
again see them repeated in our modern times, we always find such phenomena
to be of the most varied character. Besides covering the whole range of
those known to us through modern mediumistic agency, as well as repeating
the mediæval pranks of the nuns of Loudon and other historical possédées in cases of bhût obsession, we often recognize in them
the exact counterpartsas once upon a time they must have been the originalsof biblical miracles. With the exception of twothose
over which the world of piety goes most into raptures while glorifying the
Lord, and the world of scepticism grins most sardonicallyto wit, the
anti-heliocentric crime performed by Joshua, and Jonahs unpleasant
excursion into the slimy cavern of the whales bellywe have to
record as occasionally taking place in India, nearly every one of the feats
which are said to have so distinguished Moses and other "friends of
But alas for those venerable jugglers of Judæa!! And alas for those
pious souls who have hitherto exalted these alleged prophets of the forthcoming
Christ to such a towering eminence! The idols have just been all but knocked
off their pedestals by the parricidal hands of the forty divines of the
Anglican Church, who now are known to have sorely disparaged the Jewish
Scriptures. The despairing cry raised by the reviewer of the just issued Commentary on the "Holy" Bible, in the most
extreme organ of orthodoxy (the London Quarterly Review for April,
1879), is only matched by his meek submission to the inevitable. The fact I am alluding to is one already known to you, for I speak of
the decision and final conclusive opinions upon the worth of the Bible by the conclave of learned bishops who have been engaged for the last
dozen years on a thorough revision of the Old Testament. The results
of this labour of love may be summarized thus:
1. The shrinkage of the Mosaic and other "miracles" into mere
natural phenomena. (See decisions of Canon Cook, the Queens Chaplain,
and Bishop Harold Browne.)
2. The rejection of most of the alleged prophecies of Christ as such;
the said prophecies now turning out to have related simply to contemporaneous
events in Jewish national history.
3. Resolutions to place no more the Old Testament on the same
eminence as the Gospels, as it would inevitably lead to the disparagement
of the new one.
4. The sad confession that the Mosaic Books do not contain
one word about a future life, and the just complaint that:
Moses under divine direction [?] should have abstained from any recognition
of mans destiny beyond the grave, while the belief v. as prominent
in all the religions around Israel.
Confessed to be one of those enigmas which are the trial of our faith.
And it is the "trial" of our American missionaries here also.
Educated natives all read the English papers and magazines, and it now becomes
harder than ever to convince these "heathen" matriculates of the
"sublime truths" of Christianity. But this by way of a small parenthesis;
for I mention these newly evolved facts only as having an important bearing
upon Spiritualism in general, and its phenomena especially. Spiritualists
have always taken such pains to identify their manifestations with the Bible miracles, that such a decision, coming from witnesses certainly
more prejudiced in favour of than opposed to "miracles" and divine supernal phenomena, is rather a new and unexpected difficulty in our
way. Let us hope that in view of these new religious developments, our esteemed
friend Dr. Peebles, before committing himself too far to the establishment
of "independent Christian churches," will wait for further ecclesiastical
verdicts, and see how the iconoclastic verdicts, and how the iconoclastic
English divines will overhaul the phenomena of the New Testament. Maybe, if their consistency does not evaporate, they will have to attribute
all the miracles worked by Jesus also to "natural phenomena"!
Very happily for Spiritualists, and for Theosophists likewise, the phenomena
of the nineteenth century cannot be as easily disposed of as those of the Bible. We have had to take the latter for nearly two thousand
years on mere blind faith, though but too often they transcended every possible
law of nature; while quite the reverse is our own case, and we can offer facts.
But to return. If manifestations of an Occult nature of the most various
character may be said to abound in India, on the other hand, the frequent
statements of Dr. Peebles to the effect that this country is full of native
Spiritualists, arehow shall I say it?a little too hasty and
exaggerated. Disputing this point in the London Spiritualist of Jan.
18th, 1878, with a Madras gentleman, now residing in New York, he maintained
his position in the following words:
I have met not only Sinhalese and Chinese Spiritualists, but hundreds
of Hindû Spiritualists, gifted with the powers of conscious mediumship.
And yet Mr. W. L. D. OGrady, of New York, informs the readers of The Spiritualist (see issue Nov. 23rd) that there are no Hindû
Spiritualists. These are his words: "No Hindû is a Spiritualist."
And as an offset to this assertion, Dr. Peebles quotes from the letter
of an esteemed Hindû gentleman, Mr. Peary Chand Mittra, of Calcutta,
a few words to the effect that he blesses God that his "inner vision
is being more and more developed" and that he talks "with spirits."
We all know that Mr. Mittra is a Spiritualist, but what does it prove? Would
Dr. Peebles be justified in stating that because H. P. Blavatsky and half
a dozen other Russians have become Buddhists and Vedântists, Russia
is full of Buddhists and Vedântists? There may be in India a few Spiritualists
among the educated reading classes, scattered far and wide over the country,
but I seriously doubt whether our esteemed opponent could easily find a
dozen of such among this population numbering 240,000,000. There are solitary
exceptions, which only go to strengthen a rule, as everyone knows.
Owing to the rapid spread of spiritualistic doctrines the world over,
and to my having left India several years before, at the time I was in America
I abstained from contradicting in print the great spiritualistic "pilgrim"
and philosopher, surprising as such statements seemed to me, who thought
myself pretty well acquainted with this country. India, unprogressive as
it is, I thought might have changed, and I was not sure of my facts. But
now that I have returned for the fourth time to this country, and have had
over five months residence in it, after a careful investigation into
the phenomena and especially into the opinions held by the people on this
subject, and seven weeks of travelling all over the country, mainly for
the purpose of seeing and investigating every kind of manifestations, I
must be allowed to know what I am talking about, as I speak by the book.
Mr. OGrady was right. No "Hindû is a Spiritualist"
in the sense we all understand the term. And I am now ready to prove, if
need be, by dozens of letters from the most trustworthy natives who
are educated by Brâhmans, and know the religious and superstitious
views of their countrymen better than any one of us, that whatever else
Hindûs may be termed it is not Spiritualists. "What
constitutes a Spiritualist?" very pertinently enquires, in a London
spiritual organ, a correspondent with "a passion for definition"
(see Spiritualist, June 13th, 1879). He asks:
Is Mr. Crookes a Spiritualist, who, like my humble self, does not believe
in spirits of the dead as agents in the phenomena?
He then brings forward several definitions,
From the most latitudinarian to the most restricted definitions.
Let us see to which of these "definitions" the Spiritualism
of the HindusI will not say of the mass, but even of a majoritywould
answer. Since Dr. Peeblesduring his two short visits to India and
while on his way from Madras, crossing the continent in its diameter from
Calcutta to Bombaycould meet "hundreds of Spiritualists,"
then these must indeed form, if not the majority, at least a considerable
percentage of the 240,000,000 of India. I will now quote the definitions
from the letter of the enquirer who signs himself "A Spiritualist"
(?), and add my own remarks thereupon:
A.Everyone is a Spiritualist who believes in the immortality of
I guess not; otherwise the whole of Christian Europe and America would
be Spiritualists; nor does this definition A answer to the religious views
of the Hindûs of any sect, for while the ignorant masses believe in
and aspire to Moksha, i.e., literal absorption of the spirit
of man in that of Brahman, or loss of individual immortality, as
means of avoiding the punishment and horrors of transmigration, the Philosophers,
Adepts, and learned Yogîs, such as our venerated master, Svamî
Dyanand Sarasvati, the great Hindû reformer, Sanskrit scholar, and
supreme chief of the Vaidic Section of the Eastern division of the Theosophical
Society, explain the future state of mans Spirit, its progress and
evolution, in terms diametrically opposite to the views of the Spiritualists.
These views, if agreeable, I will give in some future letter.
B.Anyone who believes that the continued conscious existence of
deceased persons has been demonstrated by communication is a Spiritualist.
A Hindû, whether an erudite scholar and Philosopher or an ignorant
idolater, does not believe in "continued conscious existence," though the former assigns for the holy, sinless soul,
which has reached Svarga (heaven) and Moksha, a period of many millions
and quadrillions of years, extending from one Pralaya* to the next. The Hindû believes in cyclic transmigration of the soul,
during which there must be periods when the soul loses its recollections
as well as the consciousness of its individuality; since, if it were otherwise,
every person would distinctly remember all his previous existences, which
is not the case. Hindû Philosophers are likewise consistent with logic.
They at least will not allow an endless eternity of either reward or punishment
for a few dozens of years of earthly life, whether this life be wholly blameless
or yet wholly sinful.
C.Anyone is a Spiritualist who believes in any of the alleged
objective phenomena, whatever theory he may favour about them, or even
if he have none at all.
Such are "phenomenalists," not Spiritualists, and in this sense
the definition answers to Hindû beliefs. All of them, even those who,
aping the modern school of Atheism, declare themselves Materialists, are
yet phenomenalists in their hearts, if one only sounds them.
D and E.Does not allow of Spiritualism without spirits, but the
spirits need not be human.
At this rate Theosophists and Occultists generally may also be called
Spiritualists, though the latter regard them as enemies; and in this sense
only all Hindûs are Spiritualists, though their ideas about human
Spirits are diametrically opposed to those of the "Spiritualists."
They regard bhûtswhich are the Spirits of those who died with
unsatisfied desires, and who on account of their sins and earthly attractions, are earth-bound and kept back from elementaries
of the Theosophists)as having become wicked devils, liable to be annihilated any day under the potent curses of much-sought-for and appreciated mediums. The Hindû regards as the greatest curse a
person can be afflicted with, possession and obsession by a bhût,
and the most loving couples often part if the wife is attacked by the bhût
of a relative, who, it seems, seldom or never attacks any but women.
F.Considers that no one has a right to call himself a Spiritualist
who has any new-fangled notions about "Elementaries," spirit
of the medium, and so forth; or does not believe that departed human spirits,
high and low, account for all the phenomena of every description.
This one is the most proper and correct of all the above given "definitions,"
from the standpoint of orthodox Spiritualism, and settles our dispute with
Dr. Peebles. No Hindû, were it even possible to bring him to regard
bhûts as low, suffering Spirits on their way to progress and final
pardon (?), could, even if he would, account for all the phenomena
on this true spiritualistic theory. His religious and philosophical traditions
are all opposed to such a limited idea. A Hindû is, first of all,
a born metaphysician and logician. If he believes at all, and in whatever
he believes, he will admit of no special laws called into existence for
men of this planet alone, but will apply these laws throughout the universe;
for he is a Pantheist before being anything else, and notwithstanding his
possible adherence to some special sect. Thus Mr. Peebles has well defined
the situation himself, in the following happy paradox, in his Spiritualist letter above quoted, and in which he says:
Some of the best mediums that it has been my good fortune to know, I
met in Ceylon and India. And these were not mediums; for, indeed,
they held converse with the Pays and Pesatyas, having their
habitations in the air, the water, the fire, in rocks and trees, in the
clouds, the rain, the dew, in mines and caverns!
Thus these mediums who were not mediums, were
no more Spiritualists than they were mediums, andthe house (Dr. Peebles
house) is divided against itself and must fall. So far we agree, and I will
now proceed further on with my proofs.
As I mentioned before, Colonel Olcott and myself, accompanied by a Hindû
gentleman, Mr. Mulji-Taker-Sing, a member of our Council, started on our
seven weeks journey early in April. Our object was twofold: (I) to
pay a visit to and remain for some time with our ally and teacher, Svamî
Dyanand, with whom we had corresponded so long from America, and thus consolidate
the alliance of our Society with the Ârya Samâjes of India (of
which there are now over fifty); and (2) to see as much of the phenomena
as we possibly could; and, through the help of our Svamîa Yogi
himself and an Initiate into the mysteries of the Vidyâ (or Secret
Science)to settle certain vexed questions as to the agencies and powers
at work, at first hand. Certainly no one could find a better opportunity
to do so than we had. There we were, on friendly relations of master and
pupils with Pandit Dyanand, the most learned man in India, a Brâhman
of high caste, and one who had for seven long years undergone the usual
and dreary probations of Yogism in a mountainous and wild region, in solitude,
in a state of complete nudity and constant battle with elements and wild
beaststhe battle of the divine human Spirit and the imperial will
of man against gross blind matter in the shape of tigers, leopards, rhinoceroses
and bears, without noting venomous snakes and scorpions. The inhabitants
of the village nearest to that mountain are there to certify that sometimes
for weeks no one would venture to take a little fooda handful of riceto
our Svamî; and yet, whenever they came, they
always found him in the same posture and on the same spotan open,
sandy hillock, surrounded by thick jungle full of beasts of prey and
apparently as well without food and water for whole weeks, as if he were
made of stone instead of human flesh and bones. He has explained to us this mysterious secret which enables man to
suffer and conquer at last the most cruel privations, which permits him
to go without food or drink for days and weeks; to become utterly insensible
to the extremes of either heat or cold; and finally, to live for days outside
instead of within his body.
During this voyage we visited the very cradle of Indian Mysticism, the
hot-bed of ascetics, where the remembrance of the wondrous phenomena performed
by the Rishis of old is now as fresh as it ever was during those days when
the School of Patanjalithe reputed founder of Yogismwas filled,
and where his Yog-Sânkhya is still studied with as much fervour, if
not with the same powers of comprehension. To Upper India and the North-Western
Provinces we went; to Allahabad and Cawnpore, with the shores of their sacred
Ganga (Ganges) all studded with devotees; whither the latter, when disgusted
with life, proceed to pass the remainder of their days in meditation and
seclusion, and become Sannyâsis, Gossains, Sâdhus. Thence to
Agra, with its Taj Mâhal, "the poem in marble," as Bishop
Heber happily called it, and the tomb of its founder, the great Emperor-Adept,
Akbar, at Secundra; to Agra, with its temples crowded with Shakti-worshippers,
and to that spot, famous in the history of Indian Occultism, where the Jumna
mixes its blue waters with the patriarchal Ganges, and which is chosen by
the Shâktas (worshippers of the female power) for the performance
of their pûjâs, during which ceremonies the famous black crystals
or mirrors mentioned by P. B. Randolph are fabricated by the hands of young
virgins. From there, again, to Saharampore and Meerut, the birthplace of
the mutiny of 1857. During our sojourn at the former town, it happened to
be the central railway point to which, on their return from the Hardwâr
pilgrimage, flocked nearly twenty-five thousand Sannyâsis and Gossains,
to numbers of whom Col. Olcott put close interrogatories, and with whom
he conversed for hours. Then to Râjputana, the land inhabited by the
bravest of all races in India, as well as the most mystically inclinedthe
Solar Race, whose Râjahs trace descent from the sun itself. We penetrated
as far as Jeypore, the Paris, and at the same time the Rome of the Râjput
land. We searched through plains and mountains, and all along the sacred
groves covered with pagodas and devotees, among whom we found some very
holy men, endowed with genuine wondrous powers, but the majority were unmitigated
frauds. And we got into the favour of more than one Brâhman, guardian
and keeper of his Gods secrets and the mysteries of his temple; but
got no more evidence out of these "hereditary dead beats," as
Col. Olcott graphically dubbed them, than out of the Sannyâsis and
exorcizers of evil spirits, as to the similarity of their views with those
of the Spiritualists. Neither have we ever failed, whenever coming across
any educated Hindû, to pump him as to the ideas and views of his countrymen
about phenomena in general, and Spiritualism especially. And to all our
questions, who it was in the case of holy Yogîs, endowed "with
miraculous powers," that produced the manifestations, the astonished
answer was invariably the same: "He [the Yogî] himself having
become one with Brahm, produces them," and more than once our
interlocutors got thoroughly disgusted and extremely offended at Col. Olcotts
irreverent question, whether the bhûts might not have been at work
helping the Thaumaturgist. For nearly two months uninterruptedly our premises
at Bombaygarden, verandahs and hallswere crammed from early
morning till late at night with native visitors of the most various sects,
races and religious opinions, averaging from twenty to a hundred and more
a day, coming to see us with the object of exchanging views upon metaphysical
questions, and to discuss the relative worth of Eastern and Western PhilosophiesOccult
Sciences and Mysticism included. During our journey we had to receive our
brothers of the Ârya Samâjes, which sent their deputations wherever
we went to welcome us, and wherever there was a Samaj established. Thus
we became intimate with the previous views of hundreds and thousands of
the followers of Svamî Dyanand, every one of whom had been converted
by him from one idolatrous sect or another. Many of these were educated
men, and as thoroughly versed in Vaidic Philosophy as in the tenets of the
sect from which they had separated. Our chances, then, of getting acquainted
with Hindû views, Philosophies and traditions, were greater than those
of any previous European traveller; nay, greater even than those of any
officials who had resided for years in India, but who, neither belonging
to the Hindû faith nor on such friendly terms with them as ourselves,
were neither trusted by the natives, nor regarded as and called by them
"brothers" as we are.
It is, then, after constant researches and cross-questioning, extending
over a period of several months, that we have come to the following conclusions,
which are those of Mr. OGrady: No Hindû is a Spiritualist; and, with the exception of extremely rare instances, none of them have
ever heard of Spiritualism or its movements in Europe, least of all in Americawith
which country many of them are as little acquainted as with the North Pole.
It is but now, when Svamî Dvanand, in his learned researches, has
found out that America must have been known to the early Âryansas
Arjuna, one of the five Pândavas, the friend and disciple of Christna,
is shown in Paurânic history to have gone to Pâtâl(a)
in search of a wife, and married in that country Ulûpî, the
widow daughter of Nâga, the king of Pâtâl(a), an antipodal
country answering perfectly in its description to America, and unknown in
those early days to any but the Âryansthat an interest for this
country is being felt among the members of the Samâjes. But, as we
explained the origin, development and doctrines of the Spiritual Philosophy
to our friends, and especially the modus operandi of the mediumsi.e., the communion of the Spirits of the departed with living men and women,
whose organisms the former use as modes of communicationthe horror
of our listeners was unequalled and undisguised in each case. "Communion
with bhûts!" they exclaimed. "Communion with souls that
have become wicked demons, to whom we are ready to offer sacrifices in food
and drink to pacify them and make them leave us quiet, but who never come
but to disturb the peace of families; whose presence is a pollution! What
pleasure or comfort can the Bellate [white foreigners] find
in communicating with them?" Thus, I repeat most emphatically that
not only are there, so to say, no Spiritualists in India, as we understand
the term, but I affirm and declare that the very suggestion of our so-called
"Spirit intercourse" is obnoxious to most of themthat is
to say, to the oldest people in the world, people who have known all about
the phenomena for thousands upon thousands of years. Is this fact nothing
to us, who have just begun to see the wonders of mediumship? Ought we to
estimate our cleverness at so high a figure as to make us refuse to take
instruction from these Orientals, who have seen their holy mennay,
even their Gods and demons and the Spirits of the elementsperforming
"miracles" since the remotest antiquity? Have we so perfected
a Philosophy of our own that we can compare it with that of India, which
explains every mystery, and triumphantly demonstrates the nature of every
phenomenon? It would be worth our while, believe me, to ask Hindû
help, if it were but to prove, better than we can now, to the Materialists
and sceptical Science, that, whatever may be the true theory as to the agencies,
the phenomena, whether biblical or Vaidic, Christian or heathen, are in
the natural order of this world, and have a first claim to scientific investigation.
Let us first prove the existence of the Sphinx to the profane, and afterwards
we may try to unriddle its mysteries. Spiritualists will always have time
enough to refute "antiquated doctrines" of old. Truth is eternal,
and however long trampled down will always come out the brighter in the
expiring twilight of superstition. But in one sense we are perfectly warranted
in applying the name of Spiritualists to the Hindus. Opposed as they are
to physical phenomena as produced by the bhûts, or unsatisfied
souls of the departed, and to the possession by them of mediumistic persons,
they still accept with joy those consoling evidences of the continued interest
in themselves of a departed father or mother. In the subjective phenomena
of dreams, in visions of clairvoyance or trance, brought on by the powers
of holy men, they welcome the Spirits of their beloved ones, and often receive
from them important directions and advice.
If agreeable to your readers I will devote a series of letters to the
phenomena taking place in India, explaining them as I proceed. I sincerely
hope that the old experience of American Spiritualists, massing in threatening
force against iconoclastic Theosophists and their "superannuated"
ideas will not be repeated; for my offer is perfectly impartial and friendly.
It is with no desire to either teach new doctrines or carry on an unwelcome
Hindû propaganda that I make it; but simply to supply material for
comparison and study to the Spiritualists who think.
H. P. BLAVATSKY.
Bombay, July, 1879.
* For the meaning of the word Pralaya see vol. ii.
of Isis Unveiled I am happy to say that notwithstanding the satirical
criticisms upon its Vaidic and Buddhistic portions by some American "would-be"
Orientalists, Svamî Dyanand and the Rev. Sumangala of Ceylon, respectively
the representatives of Vaidic and Buddhistic scholarship and literature
in Indiathe first the best Sanskrit, and the other the most eminent
Pâli scholarboth expressed their entire satisfaction with the
correctness of my esoteric explanations of their respective religions. Isis Unveiled is now being translated into Marathi and Hindi in India,
and into Pâli in Ceylon.
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[Evidently the word "medium" is here used for "exorcist."EDS.]
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Yogîs and ascetics are not the only examples of such protracted
fastings; for if these can be doubted, and sometimes utterly rejected by
sceptical Science as void of any conclusive prooffor the phenomenon
takes place in remote and inaccessible placeswe have many of the Jains,
inhabitants of populated towns, to bring forward as exemplars of the same.
Many of them fast, abstaining even from one drop of water, for forty days at a timeand survive always.
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