Articles by H. P. Blavatsky
Articles by HPB
Full text online of 238 articles
From 1875 to about 1891 HPB wrote volumes worth of articles, all intended to explain the major principles of the Widsom Religion that were expounded in her seminal work, "The Secret Doctrine." Although archaic in phraseology, we recommend the student read her articles for insights into the doctrine that so caught the world that today she is called "The mother of modern spiritualty."
We are in the process of correcting typos and uploading them as we can. Hope to have it completed by year end.
You will also notice that where she writes in another language, we have furnished you with the translation.
A Brief Introduction to the Articles
"H.P. Blavatsky (1831-1891) was the principal founder of the Theosophical Society in 1875, and the major inspiration of the resulting Theosophical Movement. Her best known works are Isis Unveiled (1877) and The Secret Doctrine (1888). Of almost equal importance were her voluminous perodical writings, contributed to the Theosophist, which she founded in India in 1879. to Lucifer, begun in 1887, to the Path, edited by William Q. Judge (the third founder of the Theosophical Movemnet) in the United States, to some less known Theosophical journals, and a few other nineteenth-centruy periodicals. - Foreword, from Theosophical Articles".
As you can see on the right panel, the articles are listed in alphabetical order. Most of these articles are available in hardback book form in the 3 volume set "Theosophical Articles: Reprinted from the Theosophist, Lucifer and Other Nineteenth-Century Journals". These articles are marked in Articles" . The remaining articles are also available in hardback book form in "A Modern Panarion" and they are marked "In Panarion". In the coming months we will be posting her other writings as they appeared in various journals, newspapers, anthologies.
A REPLY TO OUR CRITICS
OUR FINAL ANSWER TO SEVERAL OBJECTIONS.
From A Modern Panarion
Articles by HPB
[Vol. II No. 10, July, 1881.]
IN the ordinary run of daily life speech may be silver, while "silence is gold." With the editors of periodicals devoted to some special object "silence" in certain cases amounts to cowardice and false pretences. Such shall not be our case.
We are perfectly aware of the fact that the simple presence of the word "Spiritualism" on the title-page of our journal "causes it to lose in the eyes of materialist and sceptic fifty per cent of its value"—for we are repeatedly told so by many of our best friends, some of whom promise us more popularity, hence an increase of subscribers, would we but take out the "contemptible" term and replace it by some other, synonymous in meaning, but less obnoxious phonetically to the general public. That would be acting under false pretences. The undisturbed presence of the unpopular word will indicate our reply.
That we did not include "Spiritualism" among the other subjects to which our journal is devoted ' in the hopes that it should do us good service among the Spiritualists" is proved by the following fact: From the first issue of our Prospectus to the present day, subscribers from "spiritual" quarters have not amounted to four per cent on our subscription list. Yet, to our merriment, we are repeatedly spoken of as "Spiritualists" by the press and our opponents. Whether really ignorant of, or purposely ignoring our views, they tax us with belief in spirits. Not that we would at all object to the appellation—too many far worthier and wiser persons than we firmly believing in "Spirits"—but that would be acting under "false pretences" again. And so we are called a "Spiritualist" by persons who foolishly regard the term as a "brand," while the orthodox Spiritualists, who are well aware that we attribute their phenomena to quite another agency than spirits, resent our peculiar opinions as an insult to their belief, and in their turn ridicule and oppose us.
This fact alone ought to prove, if anything ever will, that our journal pursues an honest policy. That, established for the one and sole object, namely, for the elucidation of truth, however unpopular, it has remained throughout true to its first principle—that of absolute impartiality. And that as fully answers another charge, viz., that of publishing views of our correspondents with which we often do not concur ourselves. "Your journal teems with articles upholding ridiculous superstitions and absurd ghost-stories," is the complaint in one letter. "You neglect laying a sufficient stress in your editorials upon the necessity of discriminating between facts and error, and in the selection of the matter furnished by your contributors," says another. A third one accuses us of not sufficiently rising "from supposed facts to principles, which would prove to our readers in every case the former no better than fictions." In other words, as we understand it, we are accused of neglecting scientific induction. Our critics may be right, but we also are not altogether wrong. In the face of the many crucial and strictly scientific experiments made by our most eminent savants, it would take a wiser sage than King Solomon himself to decide now between fact and fiction. The query, "What is truth?" is more difficult to answer in the nineteenth than in the first century of our era. The appearance of his "evil genius" to Brutus in the shape of a monstrous human form, which, entering his tent in the darkness and silence of the night, promised to meet him in the plains of Philippi, was a fact to the Roman tyrannicide; it was but a dream to his slaves, who neither saw nor heard anything on that night. The existence of an antipodal continent and the heliocentric system were facts to Columbus and Galileo years before they could actually demonstrate them; yet the existence of America, as that of our present solar system, was as fiercely denied several centuries back as the phenomena of Spiritualism are now. Facts existed in the "pre-scientific past," and errors are as thick as berries in our scientific present. With whom then is the criterion of truth to be left? Are we to abandon it to the mercy and judgment of a prejudiced society, constantly caught trying to subvert that which it does not understand; ever seeking to transform sham and hypocrisy into synonyms of "propriety" and "respectability"? Or shall we blindly leave it to modern exact science, so-called? But science has neither said her last word nor can her various branches of knowledge rejoice in their qualification of exact but so long as the hypotheses of yesterday are not upset by the discoveries of to-day. "Science is atheistic, phantasmagorical, and always in labour with conjecture. It can never become knowledge per se. Not to know is its climax," says Prof. A. Wilder, our New York Vice-President, certainly more of a man of science himself than many a scientist better known than he is to the world. Moreover, the learned representatives of the Royal Society have as many cherished hobbies, and are as little free of prejudice and preconception as any other mortals. It is perhaps to religion and her handmaid theology, with her "seventy-times seven" sects, each claiming and none proving its right to the claim of truth, that in our search for it we ought to humbly turn? One of our severe Christian Areopagites actually expresses the fear that "even some of the absurd stories of the Purânas have found favour with The Theosophist." But let him tell us, Has the Bible any less "absurd ghost-stories" and "ridiculous miracles" in it than the Hindu Purânas and Buddhist Mahâ Jâtaka, or even one of the most "shamefully superstitious publications" of the Spiritualists? (We quote from his letter.) We are afraid in one and all it is but
Faith, fanatic faith, once wedded fast
and—we decline accepting anything on faith. In common with most of the periodicals we remind our readers in every number of The Theosophist that its "Editors disclaim responsibility for opinions expressed by contributors," with some of which they (we) do not agree. And that is all we can do. We never started out in our paper as teachers, but rather as humble and faithful recorders of the innumerable beliefs, creeds, scientific hypotheses, and—even "superstitions" current in the past ages and now more than lingering yet in our own. Never having been a sectarian—i.e., an interested party—we maintain that in the face of the present situation, during that incessant warfare, in which old creeds and new doctrines, conflicting schools and authorities, revivals of blind faith and incessant scientific discoveries, running a race as though for the survival of the fittest, swallow up and mutually destroy and annihilate each other—daring indeed were that man who would assume the task of deciding between them! Who, we ask, in the presence of those most wonderful and most unexpected achievements of our great physicists and chemists would risk to draw the line of demarcation between the possible and the impossible? Where is the honest man who, conversant at all with the latest conclusions of archæology, philology, palæography and especially Assyriology, would undertake to prove the superiority of the religious "superstitions" of the civilized Europeans over those of the "heathen," and even of the fetish-worshipping savages?
Having said so much, we have made clear, we hope, the reason why, believing no mortal man infallible, nor claiming that privilege for ourselves, we open our columns to the discussion of every view and opinion, provided it is not proved absolutely supernatural. Besides, whenever we make room for "unscientific" contributions it is when these treat upon subjects which lie entirely out of the province of physical science—generally upon questions that the average and dogmatic scientist rejects à priori and without examination, but which the real man of science finds not only possible, but after investigation very often fearlessly proclaims the disputed question as an undeniable fact. In respect to most transcendental subjects the sceptic can no more disprove than the believer prove his point. Fact is the only tribunal we submit to, and recognize it without appeal. And before that tribunal a Tyndall and an ignoramus stand on a perfect par. Alive to the truism that every path may eventually lead to the highway as every river to the ocean, we never reject a contribution simply because we do not believe in the subject it treats upon, or disagree with its conclusions. Contrast alone can enable us to appreciate things at their right value; and unless a judge compares notes and hears both sides he can hardly come to a correct decision. Dum vitant stulti vitia in contraria is our motto; [Translation: When fools try to avoid errors...BNet Editors] and we seek to walk prudently between the many ditches without rushing into either. For one man to demand from another that he shall believe like himself, whether in a question of religion or science, is supremely unjust and despotic. Besides, it is absurd. For it amounts to exacting that the brains of the convert, his organs of perception, his whole organization, in short, be reconstructed precisely on the model of that of his teacher, and that he shall have the same temperament and mental faculties as the other has. And why not his nose and eyes, in such a case? Mental slavery is the worst of all slaveries. It is a state over which brutal force having no real power, it always denotes either an abject cowardice or a great intellectual weakness.
Among many other charges, we are accused of not sufficiently exercising our editorial right of selection. We beg to differ and contradict the imputation. As every other person blessed with brains instead of calves' feet jelly in his head we certainly have our opinions upon things in general, and things occult especially, to some of which we hold very firmly. But these being our personal views, and though we have as good a right to them as any, we have none whatever to force them for recognition upon others. We do not believe in the activity of "departed spirits"—others, and among these many of the Fellows of the Theosophical Society, do, and we are bound to respect their opinions so long as they respect ours. To follow every article from a contributor with an Editor's Note correcting "his erroneous ideas" would amount to turning our strictly impartial journal into a sectarian organ. We decline such an office of "Sir Oracle."
The Theosophist is a journal of our Society. Each of its Fellows being left absolutely untrammelled in his opinions, and the body representing collectively nearly every creed, nationality and school of philosophy, every member has a right to claim room in the organ of his Society for the defence of his own particular creed and views. Our Society being an absolute and an uncompromising Republic of Conscience, preconception and narrow-mindedness in science and philosophy have no room in it. They are as hateful and as much denounced by us as dogmatism and bigotry in theology; and this we have repeated usque ad nauseam.
Having explained our position, we will close with the following parting words to our sectarian friends and critics. The materialists and sceptics who upbraid us in the name of modern science—the dame who always shakes her head and finger in scorn at everything she has not yet fathomed—we would remind of the suggestive but too mild words of the great Arago: "He is a rash man who outside of pure mathematics pronounces the word 'impossible.'" And to theology, which under her many orthodox masks throws mud at us from behind every secure corner, we retort by Victor Hugo's celebrated paradox: "In the name of Religion we protest against all and every religion!"
H. P. BLAVATSKY
The veil which covers the face of futurity is woven by the hand of Mercy. --BULWER LYTTON
A HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL! This seems easy enough to say, and everyone expects some such greeting. Yet, whether the wish, though it may proceed from a sincere heart, is likely to be realized even in the case of the few--is more difficult to decide. According to our theosophical tenets, every man or woman is endowed, more or less, with a magnetic potentiality, which when helped by a sincere, and especially by an intense and indomitable will--is the most effective of magic levers placed by Nature in human hands--for woe as for weal. Let us then, Theosophists, use that will to send a sincere greeting and a wish of good luck for the New Year to every living creature under the sun--enemies and relentless traducers included. Let us try and feel especially kindly and forgiving to our foes and persecutors, honest or dishonest, lest some of us should send unconsciously an "evil eye" greeting instead of a blessing. Such an effect is but too easily produced even without the help of the occult combination of the two numbers, the 8 and the 9, of the late departed, and of the newly-born year. But with these two numbers staring us in the face, an evil wish, just now, would be simply disastrous!
"Hulloo!" we hear some casual readers exclaiming. "Here's a new superstition of the theosophic cranks: let us hear it. . . ."
You shall, dearly beloved critics, though it is not a new but a very old superstition. It is one shared, once upon a time, and firmly believed in, by all the Cæsars and World-potentates. These dreaded the number 8, because it postulates the equality of all men. Out of eternal unity and the mysterious number seven, out of Heaven and the seven planets and the sphere of the fixed stars, in the philosophy of arithmetic, was born the ogdoad. It was the first cube of the even numbers, and hence held sacred.1 In Eastern philosophy number eight symbolises equality of units, order and symmetry in heaven, transformed into inequality and confusion on earth, by selfishness, the great rebel against Nature's decrees.
"The figure 8 or indicates the perpetual and regular motion of the Universe," says Ragon. But if perfect as a cosmic number it is likewise the symbol of the lower Self, the animal nature of man. Thus, we augur ill for the unselfish portion of humanity from the present combination of the year-numbers. For the central figures 89 in the year 1890, are but a repetition of the two figures in the tail-end of 1889. And nine was a digit terribly dreaded by the ancients. With them it was a symbol of great changes, cosmic and social, and of versatility, in general; the sad emblem of the fragility of human things. Figure 9 represents the earth under the influence of an evil principle; the Kabalists holding, moreover, that it also symbolises the act of reproduction and generation. That is to say that the year 1890 is preparing to reproduce all the evils of its parent 1889, and to generate plenty of its own. Three times three is the great symbol of corporisation, or the materialisation of spirit according to Pythagoras--hence of gross matter.2 Every material extension, every circular line was represented by number 9, for the ancient philosophers had observed that, which the philosophicules of our age either fail to see, or else attribute to it no importance whatever. Nevertheless, the natural depravity of this digit and number is awful. Being sacred to the spheres it stands as the sign of circumference, since its value in degrees is equal to 9--i.e., to 3+6+0. Hence it is also the symbol of the human head--especially of the modern average head, ever ready to be parading as 9 when it is hardly a 3. Moreover, this blessed 9 is possessed of the curious power of reproducing itself in its entirety in every multiplication and whether wanted or not; that is to say, when multiplied by itself or any other number this cheeky and pernicious figure will always result in a sum of 9--a vicious trick of material nature, also, which reproduces itself on the slightest provocation. Therefore it becomes comprehensible why the ancients made of 9 the symbol of Matter, and we, the modern Occultists, make of it that of the materialism of our age--the fatal nineteenth century, now happily on its decline.
If this antediluvian wisdom of the ages fails to penetrate the "circumference" of the cephaloid "spheres" of our modern Scientists and Mathematicians--then we do not know what will do so. The occult future of 1890 is concealed in the exoteric past of 1889 and its preceding patronymical eight years.
Unhappily--or shall we say, happily--man in this dark cycle is denied, as a collective whole, the faculty of foresight. Whether we take into our mystic consideration the average business man, the profligate, the materialist, or the bigot, it is always the same. Compelled to confine his attention to the day's concern, the business man but imitates the provident ant by laying by a provision against the winter of old age; while the elect of fortune and Karmic illusions tries his best to emulate the grasshopper in his perpetual buzz and summer-song. The selfish care of the one and the utter recklessness of the other make both disregard and often remain entirely ignorant of any serious duty towards Human kind. As to the latter two, namely the materialist and the bigot, their duty to their neighbours and charity to all begin and end at home. Most men love but those who share their respective ways of thinking, and care nothing for the future of the races or the world; nor will they give a thought, if they can help it, to post-mortem life. Owing to their respective psychical temperaments each man expects death will usher him either through golden porches into a conventional heaven, or through sulphurous caverns into an asbestos hell, or else to the verge of an abyss of non-existence. And lo, how all of them--save the materialist--do fear death to be sure! May not this fear lie at the bottom of the aversion of certain people to Theosophy and Metaphysics? But no man in this century--itself whirling madly towards its gaping tomb--has the time or desire to give more than a casual thought either to the grim visitor who will not miss one of us, or to Futurity.
They are, perhaps, right as to the latter. The future lies in the present and both include the Past. With a rare occult insight Rohel made quite an esoterically true remark, in saying that "the future does not come from before to meet us, but comes streaming up from behind over our heads." For the Occultist and average Theosophist the Future and the Past are both included in each moment of their lives, hence in the eternal PRESENT. The Past is a torrent madly rushing by, that we face incessantly, without one second of interval; every wave of it, and every drop in it, being an event, whether great or small. Yet, no sooner have we faced it, and whether it brings joy or sorrow, whether it elevates us or knocks us off our feet, than it is carried away and disappears behind us, to be lost sooner or later in the great Sea of Oblivion. It depends on us to make every such event non-existent to ourselves by obliterating it from our memory; or else to create of our past sorrows Promethean Vultures--those "dark-winged birds, the embodied memories of the Past," which, in Sala's graphic fancy wheel and shriek over the Lethean lake." In the first case, we are real philosophers; in the second--but timid and even cowardly soldiers of the army called mankind, and commanded in the great battle of Life by "King Karma." Happy those of its warriors by whom Death is regarded as a tender and merciful mother. She rocks her sick children into sweet sleep on her cold, soft bosom but to awake them a moment after, healed of all ailing, happy, and with a tenfold reward for every bitter sigh or tear. Post-mortem oblivion of every evil--to the smallest--is the most blissful characteristic of the "paradise" we believe in. Yes: oblivion of pain and sorrow and the vivid recollection only, nay once more the living over of every happy moment of our terrestrial drama; and, if no such moment ever occurred in one's sad life, then, the glorious realization of every legitimate, well-earned, yet unsatisfied desire we ever had, as true as life itself and intensified seventy-seven times sevenfold. . . .
Christians--the Continental especially--celebrate their New Year days with special pomp. That day is the Devachan of children and servants, and every one is supposed to be happy, from Kings and Queens down to the porters and kitchen-malkins. The festival is, of course, purely pagan, as with very few exceptions are all our holy days. The dear old pagan customs have not died out, not even in Protestant England, though here the New Year is no longer a sacred day--more's the pity. The presents, which used to be called in old Rome strenœ (now, the French étrennes), are still mutually exchanged. People greet each other with the words: Annum novum faustum felicemque tibi, as of yore; the magistrates, it is true, sacrifice no longer a white swan to Jupiter, nor priests a white steer to Janus. But magistrates, priests and all devour still in commemoration of swan and steer, big fat oxen and turkeys at their Christmas and New Year's dinners. The gilt dates, the dried and gilt plums and figs have now passed from the hands of the tribunes on their way to the Capitol unto the Christmas trees for children. Yet, if the modern Caligula receives no longer piles of copper coins with the head of Janus on one side of them, it is because his own effigy replaces that of the god on every coin, and that coppers are no longer touched by royal hands. Nor has the custom of presenting one's Sovereigns with strenœ been abolished in England so very long. D'Israeli tells us in his Curiosities of Literature of 3,000 gowns found in Queen Bess's wardrobe after her death, the fruits of her New Year's tax on her faithful subjects, from Dukes down to dustmen. As the success of any affair on that day was considered a good omen for the whole year in ancient Rome, so the belief exists to this day in many a Christian country, in Russia pre-eminently so. Is it because instead of the New Year, the mistletoe and the holly are now used on Christmas day, that the symbol has become Christian? The cutting of the mistletoe off the sacred oak on New Year's day is a relic of the old Druids of pagan Britain. Christian Britain is as pagan in her ways as she ever was.
But there are more reasons than one why England is bound to include the New Year as a sacred day among Christian festivals. The 1st of January being the 8th day after Christmas, is, according to both profane and ecclesiastical histories, the festival of Christ's circumcision, as six days later is the Epiphany. And it is as undeniable and as world-known a fact as any, that long before the advent of the three Zoroastrian Magi, of Christ's circumcision, or his birth either, the 1st of January was the first day of the civil year of the Romans, and celebrated 2,000 years ago as it is now. It is hard to see the reason, since Christendom has helped itself to the Jewish Scriptures, and along with them their curious chronology, why it should have found it unfit to adopt also the Jewish Rosh-Hashonah (the head of the year), instead of the pagan New Year. Once that the 1st Chapter of Genesis is left headed in every country with the words, "Before Christ, 4004," consistency alone should have suggested the propriety of giving preference to the Talmudic calendar over the pagan Roman. Everything seemed to invite the Church to do so. On the undeniable authority of revelation Rabbinical tradition assures us that it was on the 1st day of the month of Tisri, that the Lord God of Israel created the world--just 5,848 years ago. Then there's that other historical fact, namely that our father Adam was like wise created on the first anniversary of that same day of Tisri--a year after. All this is very important, pre-eminently suggestive, and underlines most emphatically our proverbial western ingratitude. Moreover, if we are permitted to say so, it is dangerous. For that identical first day of Tisri is also called "Yom Haddin," the Day of Judgment. The Jewish El Shaddai, the Almighty, is more active than the "Father" of the Christians. The latter will judge us only after the destruction of the Universe, on the Great Day when the Goats and the Sheep will stand, each on their allotted side, awaiting eternal bliss or damnation. But El Shaddai, we are informed by the Rabbins, sits in judgment on every anniversary of the world's creation--i.e. on every New Year's Day. Surrounded by His archangels, the God of Mercy has the astro-sidereal minute books opened, and the name of every man, woman and child is read to Him aloud from these Records, wherein the minutest thoughts and deeds of every human (or is it only Jewish?) being are entered. If the good deeds outnumber the wicked actions, the mortal whose name is read lives through that year. The Lord plagues for him some Christian Pharaoh or two, and hands him over to him to shear. But if the bad deeds outweigh the good--then woe to the culprit; he is forthwith condemned to suffer the penalty of death during that year, and is sent to Sheol.
This would imply that the Jews regard the gift of life as something very precious indeed. Christians are as fond of their lives as Jews, and both are generally scared out of their wits at the approach of Death. Why it should be so has never been made clear. Indeed, this seems but a poor compliment to pay the Creator, as suggesting the idea that none of the Christians care particularly to meet the Unspeakable Glory of the "Father' face to face. Dear, loving children!
A pious Roman Catholic assured us one day that it was not so, and attributed the scare to reverential awe. Moreover, he tried to persuade his listeners that the Holy Inquisition burnt her "heretics" out of pure Christian kindness. They were put out of the way of terrestrial mischief in this way, he said, for Mother Church knew well that Father God would take better care of the roasted victims than any mortal authority could, while they were raw and living. This may be a mistaken view of the situation, nevertheless, it was meant in all Christian charity.
We have heard a less charitable version of the real reason for burning heretics and all whom the Church was determined to get rid of; and by comparison this reason colours the Calvinistic doctrine of predestination to eternal bliss or damnation with quite a roseate hue. It is said to be stated in the secret records of the Vatican archives, that burning to the last atom of flesh, after breaking all the bones into small fragments, was done with a predetermined object. It was that of preventing the "enemy of the Church," from taking his part and share even in the last act of the drama of the world--as theologically conceived--namely in "the Resurrection of the Dead," or of all flesh, on the great Judgment Day. As cremation is to this hour opposed by the Church on the same principle--to wit, that a cremated "Sleeper" will upon awakening at the blast of the angel's trumpet, find it impossible to gather up in time his scattered limbs--the reason given for the auto da fé seems reasonable enough and quite likely. The sea will give up the dead which are in it, and death and hell will deliver up their dead (Vide "Revelation" xx. 13); but terrestrial fire is not to be credited with a like generosity, nor supposed to share in the asbestosian characteristics of the orthodox hellfire. Once the body is cremated it is as good as annihilated with regard to the last rising of the dead. If the occult reason of the inquisitorial autos da fé rests on fact--and personally we do not entertain the slightest doubt of it, considering the authority it was received from--then the Holy Inquisition and Popes would have very little to say against the Protestant doctrine of Predestination. The latter, as warranted in Revelation, allows some chance, at least, to the "Damned" whom hell delivers at the last hour, and who may thus yet be pardoned. While if things took place in nature as the theology of Rome decreed that they should, the poor "Heretics" would find themselves worse off than any of the "damned." Natural query: which of the two, the God of the Calvinists or the Jesuit of God, he who first invented burning, beats the other in refined and diabolical cruelty? Shall the question remain in 1890, sub judice, as it did in 1790?
But the Inquisition, with its stake and rack and diabolical tortures, is happily abolished now, even in Spain. Otherwise these lines would never have been written; nor would our Society have such zealous and good theosophists in the land of Torquemada and the ancient paradise of man-roasting festivals, as it has now. Happy NEW YEAR to them, too, as to all the Brethren scattered all over the wide globe. Only we, theosophists, so kindly nicknamed the "sevening lunatics," would prefer another day for our New Year. Like the apostate Emperor, many of us have still a strong lingering love for the poetical, bright gods of Olympus and would willingly repudiate the double-faced Thessalonian. The first of Januarius was ever more sacred to Janus than Juno; and janua, meaning "the gate that openeth the year," holds as good for any day in January. January 3, for instance, was consecrated to Minerva-Athene the goddess of wisdom and to Isis, "she who generates life," the ancient lady patroness of the good city of Lutetia. Since then, mother Isis has fallen a victim to the faith of Rome and civilization. and Lutetia along with her. Both were converted in the Julian calendar (the heirloom of pagan Julius Cæsar used by Christendom till the XIIIth century). Isis was baptized Geneviéve, became a beatified saint and martyr, and Lutetia was called Paris for a change, preserving the same old patroness but with the addition of a false nose.3 Life itself is a gloomy masquerade wherein the ghastly danse Macabre is every instant performed; why should not calendars and even religion in such case be allowed to partake in the travesty?
To be brief, it is January the 4th which ought to be selected by the Theosophists--the Esotericists especially--as their New Year. January is under the sign of Capricornus, the mysterious Makara of the Hindu mystics--the "Kumaras," it being stated, having incarnated in mankind under the 10th sign of the Zodiac. For ages the 4th of January has been sacred to Mercury-Budha,4 or Thoth-Hermes. Thus everything combines to make of it a festival to be held by those who study ancient Wisdom. Whether called Budh or Budhi by its Aryan name, Mercurios, the son of Cœlus and Hecate truly, or of the divine (white) and infernal (black) magic by its Hellenic, or again Hermes or Thoth its Greco-Egyptian name, the day seems in every way more appropriate for us than January 1, the day of Janus, the double-faced "god of the time"--servers. Yet it is well named, and as well chosen to be celebrated by all the political Opportunists the world over.
Poor old Janus! How his two faces must have looked perplexed at the last stroke of midnight on December 31! We think we see these ancient faces. One of them is turned regretfully toward the Past, in the rapidly gathering mists of which the dead body of 1889 is disappearing. The mournful eye of the God follows wistfully the chief events impressed on the departed Annus: the crumbling Eiffel tower; the collapse of the "monotonous"--as Mark Twain's "tenth mule"--Parnell-Pigot alliteration; the sundry abdications, depositions and suicides of royalty; the Hegira of aristocratic Mahomeds, and such like freaks and fiascos of civilization. This is the Janus face of the Past. The other, the face of the Future, is enquiringly turned the other way, and stares into the very depths of the womb of Futurity; the hopeless vacancy in the widely open eye bespeaks the ignorance of the God. No; not the two faces, nor even the occasional four heads of Janus and their eight eyes can penetrate the thickness of the veils that enshroud the karmic mysteries with which the New Year is pregnant from the instant of its birth. What shalt thou endow the world with, O fatal Year 1890 with thy figures between a unit and a cipher, or symbolically between living man erect, the embodiment of wicked mischief-making, and the universe of matter!5 The "influenza" thou hast already in thy pocket, for people see it peeping out. Of people daily killed in the streets of London by tumbling over the electric wires of the new "lighting craze," we have already a premonition through news from America. Dost thou see, O Janus, perched like "sister Anne" upon the parapet dividing the two years, a wee David slaying the giant Goliath, little Portugal slaying great Britain, or her prestige, at any rate. on the horizons of the torrid zones of Africa? Or is it a Hindu Soodra helped by a Buddhist Bonze from the Empire of the Celestials who make thee frown so? Do they not come to convert the two-thirds of the Anglican divines to the worship of the azure coloured Krishna and of the Buddha of the elephant-like pendant ears, who sits cross-legged and smiles so blandly on a cabbage-like lotus? For these are the theosophical ideals--nay, Theosophy itself, the divine Wisdom--as distorted in the grossly materialistic, all-anthropomorphizing mind of the average British Philistine. What unspeakable new horrors shalt thou, O year 1890, unveil before the eyes of the world? Shall it though ironclad and laughing at every tragedy of life sneer too, when Janus, surnamed on account of the key in his right hand, Janitor, the door-keeper to Heaven--a function with which he was entrusted ages before he became St. Peter--uses that key? It is only when he has unlocked one after the other door of every one of the 365 days (true "Blue Beard's secret chambers") which are to become thy future progeny, O mysterious stranger, that the nations will be able to decide whether thou wert a "Happy," or a Nefast Year.
Meanwhile, let every nation, as every reader, fly for inquiry to their respective gods, if they would learn the secrets of Futurity. Thus the American, Nicodemus-like, may go to one of his three living and actually reincarnated Christs, each calling himself Jesus, now flourishing under the star-bespangled Banner of Liberty. The Spiritualist is at liberty to consult his favorite medium, who may raise Saul or evoke the Spirit of Deborah for the benefit and information of his client. The gentleman-sportsman can bend his steps to the mysterious abode of his rival's jockey, and the average politician consult the secret police, a professional chiromancer, or an astrologer, etc., etc. As regards ourselves we have faith in numbers and only in that face of Janus which is called the Past. For--doth Janus himself know the future?--or
. . . perchance himself he does not know.
--H. P. Blavatsky
Lucifer, January, 1890
1 As shown by Ragon, the Mason-Occultist, the gnostic ogdoad had eight stars representing the 8 cabiri of Samothrace, the 8 principles of the Egyptians and Phœnicians, the 8 gods of Xenocrates, the 8 angles of the cubic stone.
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2 The reason for this is because according to the Pythagoreans each of the three elements that constitute our bodies is a ternary: water. containing earth and fire: earth containing aqueous and igneous particles; and fire being tempered by aqueous globules and terrestrial corpuscles serving it as food. Hence the name given to matter, the "nonagous envelope."
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3This festival remains thus unchanged as that of the lady Patroness of Lutetia=Paris, and to this day Isis is offered religious honours in every Parisian and Latin church.
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4The 4th of January being sacred to Mercury, of whom the Greeks made Hermes the R. Catholics have included St. Hermes in their Calendar. Just in the same way, the 9th of that month having been always celebrated by the pagans as the day of the "conquering sun" the R. Catholics have transformed the noun into a proper name, making, of it St. Nicanor (from the Greek nican, to conquer), whom they honour on the 10th of January.
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5 It is only when the cipher or nought stands by itself and without being preceded by any digit that it becomes the symbol of the infinite Kosmos and--of absolute Deity.
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PEOPLE usually wish that their friends shall have a happy new year, and sometimes "prosperous" is added to "happy." lt. is not likely that much happiness or prosperity can come to those who are living for the truth under such a dark number as 1888; but still the year is heralded by the glorious star Venus-Lucifer, shining so resplendently that it has been mistaken for that still rarer visitor, the star of Bethlehem. This too, is at hand; and surely something of the Christos spirit must be born upon earth under such conditions. Even if happiness and prosperity are absent, it is possible to find something greater than either in this coming year. Venus-Lucifer is the sponsor of our magazine, and as we chose to come to light under its auspices so do we desire to touch on its nobility. This is possible for us all personally, and instead of wishing our readers a happy or prosperous New Year, we feel more in the vein to pray them to make it one worthy of its brilliant herald. This can be effected by those who are courageous and resolute. Thoreau pointed out that there are artists in life, persons who can change the colour of a day and make it beautiful to those with whom they come in contact. We claim that there are adepts, masters in life who make it divine, as in all other arts. Is it not the greatest art of all, this which affects the very atmosphere in which we live? That it is the most important is seen at once, when we remember that every person who draws the breath of life affects the mental and moral atmosphere of the world, and helps to colour the day for those about him. Those who do not help to elevate the thoughts and lives of others must of necessity either paralyse them by indifference, or actively drag them down. When this point is reached, then the art of life is converted into the science of death; we see the black magician at work. And no one can be quite inactive. Although many bad books and pictures are produced, still not everyone who is incapable of writing or painting well insists on doing so badly. Imagine the result if they were to! Yet so it is in life. Everyone lives, and thinks, and speaks. If all our readers who have any sympathy with LUCIFER endeavoured to learn the art of making life not only beautiful but divine, and vowed no longer to be hampered by disbelief in the possibility of this miracle, but to commence the Herculean task at once, then 1888, however unlucky a year, would have been fitly ushered in by the gleaming star. Neither happiness nor prosperity are always the best of bedfellows for such undeveloped mortals as most of us are; they seldom bring with them peace, which is the only permanent joy. The idea of peace is usually connected with the close of life and a religious state of mind. That kind of peace will however generally be found to contain the element of expectation. The pleasures of this world have been surrendered, and the soul waits contentedly in expectation of the pleasures of the next. The peace of the philosophic mind is very different from this and can be attained to early in life when pleasure has scarcely been tasted, as well as when it has been fully drunk of. The American Transcendentalists discovered that life could be made a sublime thing without any assistance from circumstances or outside sources of pleasure and prosperity. Of course this had been discovered many times before, and Emerson only took up again the cry raised by Epictetus. But every man has to discover this fact freshly for himself, and when once he realised it he knows that he would be a wretch if he did not endeavour to make the possibility a reality in his own life. The stoic became sublime because he recognised his own absolute responsibility and did not try to evade it; the Transcendentalist was even more, because he had faith in the unknown and untried possibilities which lay within himself. The occultist fully recognises the responsibility and claims his title by having both tried and acquired knowledge of his own possibilities.
The Theosophist who is at all in earnest, sees his responsibility and endeavours to find knowledge, living, in the meantime, up to the highest standard of which he is aware. To all such, Lucifer gives greeting! Man's life is in his own hands, his fate is ordered by himself. Why then should not 1888 be a year of greater spiritual development than any we have lived through? It depends on ourselves to make it so. This is an actual fact, not a religious sentiment. In a garden of sunflowers every flower turns towards the light. Why not so with us?
And let no one imagine that it is a mere fancy, the attaching of importance to the birth of the year. The earth passes through its definite phases and man with it; and as a day can be coloured so can a year. The astral life of the earth is young and strong between Christmas and Easter. Those who form their wishes now will have added strength to fulfill them consistently.
--H. P. BLAVATSKY
Lucifer, January, 1888
BEFORE we enter into the subject of the occult art as practised on the West Coast of Africa, it will be well to clear the ground by first considering for a moment what we mean by the much-abused term "Magic."
There are many definitions of this word; and, in bygone ages, it was simply used to designate anything and everything which was "not understanded of the vulgar." It will be sufficient for our purpose to define it as the knowledge of certain natural laws which are not merely unknown but absolutely unsuspected by the scientists of Europe and America.
It is a recognized fact that no law of Nature can be--even for a single moment--abrogated. When, therefore, this appears to us to be the case--when, for instance, such a universally known law as that of the attraction of gravitation seems to be annihilated, we must recognize the fact that there may be other laws at present unknown to Western science which have the power of overriding and suspending for the time being the action of the known law.
The knowledge of these hidden laws is what we understand by the term occult science, or magic. And there is no other magic than this, and never has been, at any period of the world's history. All the so-called "miracles" of ancient times can be and are reproduced at the present day by magists when occasion requires. An act of magic is a pure scientific feat, and must not be confounded with legerdemain or trickery of any kind.
There are several schools of magism, all proceeding and operating on entirely different lines. The principal of these, and on whose philosophy all others are founded, are the Hindu; the Thibetan, the Egyptian (including the Arab) and the Obeeyan or Voodoo. The last named is entirely and fundamentally opposed to the other three: it having its root and foundation in necromancy or "black magic," while the others all operate either by means of what is known to experts as "white magic," or in other cases by "psychologizing" the spectator. And, a whole crowd of spectators can be psychologized and made at the will of the operator to see and feel whatever things he chooses, all the time being in full possession of their ordinary faculties. Thus, perhaps a couple of travelling fakirs give their performance in your own compound or in the garden of your bungalow. They erect a small tent and tell you to choose any animal which you wish to see emerge therefrom. Many different animals are named in rotation by the bystanders, and in every case the desired quadruped, be he tiger or terrier dog, comes out of the opening in the canvas and slowly marches off until he disappears round some adjacent corner. Well, this is done simply by "psychologizing," as are all the other great Indian feats, such as "the basket trick" "the mango tree," throwing a rope in the air and climbing up it, pulling it up and disappearing in space, and the thousand and one other similar performances which are "familiar as household words" to almost every Anglo-Indian.
The difference between these schools and that of the Voodoo or Obeeyah is very great, because in them there is a deception or want of reality in the performance. The spectator does not really see what he fancies he sees: his mind is simply impressed by the operator and the effect is produced. But in African magic, on the contrary, there is no will impression: the observer does really and actually see what is taking place. The force employed by the African necromancers is not psychological action but demonosophy.
White magists have frequently dominated and employed inferior spirits to do their bidding, as well as invoked the aid of powerful and beneficent ones to carry out their purposes. But this is an entirely different thing: The spirits which are naturally maleficent become the slaves of the magist, and he controls them and compels them to carry out his beneficent plans. The necromancer, or votary of black magic, is, on the contrary, the slave of the evil spirit to whom he has given himself up.
While the philosophy of the magist demands a life of the greatest purity and the practice of every virtue, while he must utterly subdue and have in perfect control all his desires and appetites, mental and physical, and must become simply an embodied intellect, absolutely purged from all human weakness and pusillanimity, the necromancer must outrage and degrade human nature in every way conceivable. The very least of the crimes necessary for him (or her) to commit to attain the power sought is actual murder, by which the human victim essential to the sacrifice is provided. The human mind can scarcely realise or even imagine one tithe of the horrors and atrocities actually performed by the Obeeyah women.
Yet, though the price is awful, horrible, unutterable, the power is real. There is no possibility of mistake about that. Every petty king on the West Coast has his "rain-maker." It is the fashion among travellers, and the business of the missionaries, to ridicule and deny the powers of these people. But they do possess and do actually use the power of causing storms of rain, wind, and lightning. When one considers that however ignorant and brutal a savage may be, yet that he has an immense amount of natural cunning, and his very ignorance makes him believe nothing that cannot be proved to him, no "rain-maker" could live for one year unless he gave repeated instances of his powers when required by the king. Failure would simply mean death. And the hypothesis that they only work their conjurations when the weather is on the point of change is only an invention of the missionaries. The native chiefs are, like all savages, able to detect an approaching change of weather many hours before it takes place. And is it at all likely that they would send for the rain-maker and give him sufficient cattle to last him for twelve months, besides wives and other luxuries, if there were the slightest appearance of approaching rain?
I remember well my first experience of these wizards. For weeks and weeks there had been no rain, although it was the rainy season. The mealies were all dying for want of water; the cattle were being slaughtered in all directions; women and children had died by scores, and the fighting men were beginning to do the same, being themselves scarcely more than skeletons. Day after day, the sun glared down on the parched earth, without one intervening cloud, like a globe of glowing copper, and all Nature languished in that awful furnace. Suddenly the king ordered the great war drum to be beaten, and the warriors all gathered hurriedly. He announced the arrival of two celebrated rain-makers, who would forthwith proceed to relieve the prevailing distress. The elder of the two was a stunted, bow-legged little man, with wool which would have been white had it not been messed up with grease, filth and feathers. The second was rather a fine specimen of the Soosoo race, but with a very sinister expression. A large ring being formed by the squatting negroes, who came--for some unknown reason--all armed to the teeth, the king being in the centre, and the rain-makers in front of him, they commenced their incantations. The zenith and the horizon were eagerly examined from time to time, but not a vestige of a cloud appeared. Presently the elder man rolled on the ground in convulsions, apparently epileptic, and his comrade started to his feet pointing with both hands to the copper-colored sky. All eyes followed his gesture, and looked at the spot to which his hands pointed, but nothing was visible. Motionless as a stone statue he stood with gaze rivetted on the sky. In about the space of a minute a darker shade was observable in the copper tint, in another minute it grew darker and darker, and, in a few more seconds developed into a black cloud, which soon overspread the heavens. In a moment, a vivid flash was seen, and the deluge that fell from that cloud, which had now spread completely overhead, was something to be remembered. For two days and nights that torrent poured down, and seemed as if it would wash everything out of the ground.
After the king had dismissed the rain-makers, and they had deposited the cattle and presents under guard, I entered the hut in which they were lodged, and spent the night with them, discussing the magical art. The hut was about fourteen feet in diameter, strongly built of posts driven firmly into the ground, and having a strong thatched conical roof. I eventually persuaded them to give me one or two examples of their skill. They began singing, or rather crooning, a long invocation, after a few minutes of which the younger man appeared to rise in the air about three feet from the ground and remain there unsuspended, and floating about. There was a brilliant light in the hut from a large fire in the centre, so that the smallest detail could be distinctly observed. I got up and went to feel the man in the air, and there was no doubt about his levitation. He then floated close to the wall and passed through it to the outside. I made a dash for the doorway, which was on the opposite side of the hut, and looked round for him. I saw a luminous figure which appeared like a man rubbed with phosphorised oil; but I was glad to rapidly take shelter from the torrents of rain. When I re-entered the hut, there was only the old man present. I examined the logs carefully, but there was no aperture whatever. The old man continued his chant, and in another moment his comrade re-appeared floating in the air. He sat down on the ground, and I saw his black skin glistening with rain, and the few rags he wore were as wet as if he had been dipped in a river.
The next feat was performed by the old man, and consisted in several instantaneous disappearances and reappearances. The curious point about this was that the old man also was dripping wet.
Following this was a very interesting exhibition. By the old man's directions we arranged ourselves round the fire at the three points of an imaginary triangle. The men waved their hands over the fire in rhythm with their chant when dozens of tic-polongas, the most deadly serpent in Africa, slowly crawled out from the burning embers, and interlacing themselves together whirled in a mad dance on their tails round the fire, making all the while a continuous hissing. At the word of command they all sprang into the fire and disappeared. The young man then came round to me, and, kneeling down, opened his mouth, out of which the head of a tic-polonga was quickly protruded. He snatched it out, pulling a serpent nearly three feet long out of his throat, and threw it also into the fire. In rapid succession he drew seven serpents from his throat, and consigned them all to the same fiery end.
But I wanted to know what they could do in the way of evocation of spirits. The incantation this time lasted nearly twenty minutes, when, rising slowly from the fire, appeared a human figure, a man of great age, a white man too, but absolutely nude. I put several questions to him, but obtained no reply. I arose and walked round the fire, and particularly noticed a livid scar on his back. I could get no satisfactory explanation of who he was, but they seemed rather afraid of him, and had evidently--from the remarks they interchanged--expected to see a black man.
After the appearance of this white man, I could not persuade them that night to attempt anything more, although the next night I had no difficulty with them. A most impressive feat, which they on a subsequent occasion performed, was the old custom of the priests of Baal. Commencing a lugubrious chant they slowly began circling around the fire (which said fire always is an essential part of the proceedings), keeping a certain amount of rhythm in both their movements and cadences. Presently, the movement grew faster and faster till they whirled round like dancing dervishes. There were two distinct movements; all the time during which they were gyrating round the circle, they were rapidly spinning on their own axes. With the rapidity of their evolutions their voices were raised higher and higher until the din was terrific. Then, by a simultaneous movement, each began slashing his naked body on arms, chest, and thighs, until they were streaming with blood and covered with deep gashes. Then the old man stopped his erratic course, and sitting down on the ground narrowly watched the younger one with apparent solicitude. The young man continued his frantic exertions until exhausted Nature could bear no more, and he fell panting and helpless on the ground. The old man took both the knives and anointed the blades with some evil smelling grease from a calabash, and then stroked the young man's body all over with the blade which had done the injuries, and finished the operation by rubbing him vigorously with the palms of the hands smeared with the unguent.
In a few minutes time the young man arose, and there was not the slightest trace of wound or scar in his ebony skin. He then performed the same good offices on the old man with the same effect. Within ten minutes afterwards they were both laid on their mats in a sweet and quiet sleep. In this performance there were many invocations, gestures, the circular fire, and other things which satisfied me that some portion, at all events, of the magical processes of West Africa had been handed down from the days when Baal was an actual God, and mighty in the land.
H. P. Blavatsky
Lucifer, November, 1890