LATE advices from various parts of the world seem to indicate that, while there is an increasing interest in the phenomena of spiritualism, especially among eminent men of science, there is also a growing desire to learn the views of the Theosophists. The first impulse of hostility has nearly spent itself, and the moment approaches when a patient hearing will be given to our arguments. This was foreseen by us from the beginning. The founders of our Society were mainly veteran Spiritualists, who had outgrown their first amazement at the strange phenomena, and felt the necessity to investigate the laws of mediumship to the very bottom. Their reading of mediaeval and ancient works upon the occult sciences had shown them that our modern phenomena were but repetitions of what had been seen, studied, and comprehended in former epochs. In the biographies of ascetics, mystics, theurgists, prophets, ecstatics; of astrologers, "diviners," "magicians," "sorcerers," and other students, subjects, or practitioners of the Occult Power in its many branches, they found ample evidence that Western Spiritualism could only be comprehended by the creation of a science of Comparative Psychology. By a like synthetic method the philologists, under the lead of Eugéne Burnouf, had unlocked the secrets of religious and philological heredity, and exploded Western theological theories and dogmas until then deemed impregnable.
Proceeding in this spirit, the Theosophists thought they discovered some reasons to doubt the correctness of the spiritualistic theory that all the phenomena of the circles must of necessity be attributed solely to the action of spirits of our deceased friends. The ancients knew and classified other supracorporeal entities that are capable of moving objects, floating the bodies of mediums through the air, giving apparent tests of the identity of dead persons, and controlling sensitives to write and speak strange languages, paint pictures, and play on unfamiliar musical instruments. And not only knew them, but showed how these invisible powers might be controlled by man, and made to work these wonders at his bidding. They found, moreover, that there were two sides of Occultism--a good and an evil side; and that it was a dangerous and fearful thing for the inexperienced to meddle with the latter,--dangerous to our moral as to our physical nature. The conviction forced itself upon their minds, then, that while the weird wonders of Spiritualism were among the most important of all that could be studied, mediumship, without the most careful attention to every condition, was fraught with peril.
Thus thinking, and impressed with the great importance of a thorough knowledge of mesmerism and all other branches of Occultism, these founders established the Theosophical Society, to read, inquire, compare, study, experiment and expound, the mysteries of Psychology. This range of inquiry, of course, included an investigation of Vedic, Brahmanical and other ancient Oriental literature; for in that--especially the former, the grandest repository of wisdom ever accessible to humanity--lay the entire mystery of nature and of man. To comprehend modern mediumship it is, in short, indispensable to familiarize oneself with the Yoga Philosophy; and the aphorisms of Patanjali are even more essential than the "Divine Revelations" of Andrew Jackson Davis. We can never know how much of the mediumistic phenomena we must attribute to the disembodied, until it is settled how much can be done by the embodied, human soul, and the blind but active powers at work within those regions which are yet unexplored by science. Not even proof of an existence beyond the grave, if it must come to us in a phenomenal shape. This will be conceded without qualification, we think, provided that the records of history be admitted as corroborating the statements we have made.
The reader will observe that the primary issue between the theosophical and spiritualistic theories of mediumistic phenomena is that the Theosophists say the phenomena may be produced by more agencies than one, and the latter that but one agency can be conceded, namely--the disembodied souls. There are other differences--as, for instance, that there can be such a thing as the obliteration of the human individuality as the result of very evil environment; that good spirits seldom, if ever, cause physical "manifestations"; etc. But the first point to settle is the one here first stated; and we have shown how and in what directions the Theosophists maintain that the investigations should be pushed.
Our East Indian readers, unlike those of Western countries who may see these lines, do not know how warmly and stoutly these issues have been debated, these past three or four years. Suffice it to say that, a point having been reached where arguments seemed no longer profitable, the controversy ceased; and that the present visit of the New York Theosophists, and their establishment of the Bombay Headquarters, with the library, lectures, and this journal, are its tangible results. That this step must have a very great influence upon Western psychological science is apparent. Whether our Committee are themselves fully competent to observe and properly expound Eastern Psychology or not, no one will deny that Western Science must inevitably be enriched by the contributions of the Indian, Sinhalese, and other mystics who will now find in THE THEOSOPHIST a channel by which to reach European and American students of Occultism, such as was never imagined, not to say seen, before. It is our earnest hope and belief that after the broad principles of our Society, its earnestness, and exceptional facilities for gathering Oriental wisdom are well understood, it will be better thought of than now by Spiritualists, and attract into its fellowship many more of their brightest and best intellects.
Theosophy can be styled the enemy of Spiritualism with no more propriety than of Mesmerism, or any other branch of Psychology. In this wondrous outburst of phenomena that the Western world has been seeing since 1848, is presented such an opportunity to investigate the hidden mysteries of being as the world has scarcely known before. Theosophists only urge that these phenomena shall be studied so thoroughly that our epoch shall not pass away with the mighty problem unsolved. Whatever obstructs this--whether the narrowness of sciolism, the dogmatism of theology or the prejudice of any other class, should be swept aside as something hostile to the public interest. Theosophy, with its design to search back into historic records for proof, may be regarded as the natural outcome of phenomenalistic Spiritualism, or as a touchstone to show the value of its pure gold. One must know both to comprehend what is Man.
H. P. Blavatsky
Theosophist, October, 1879
No doubt but ye are the people and wisdom shall die with you.
JOB xii. 2.
But wisdom is justified of her children.
MATTHEW xi. 19.
IT is the privilege--as also occasionally the curse--of editors to receive numerous letters of advice, and the conductors of Lucifer have not escaped the common lot. Reared in the aphorisms of the ages they are aware that "he who can take advice is superior to him who gives it," and are therefore ready to accept with gratitude any sound and practical suggestions offered by friends; but the last letter received does not fulfill the condition. It is not even his own wisdom, but that of the age we live in, which is asserted by our adviser, who thus seriously risks his reputation for keen observation by such acts of devotion on the altar of modern pretensions. It is in defense of the "wisdom" of our century that we are taken to task, and charged with "preferring barbarous antiquity to our modern civilization and its inestimable boons," with forgetting that "our own-day wisdom compared with the awakening instincts of the Past is in no way inferior in philosophic wisdom even to the age of Plato." We are lastly told that we, Theosophists, are "too fond of the dim yesterday, and as unjust to our glorious (?) present-day, the bright noon-hour of the highest civilization and culture"! !
Well, all this is a question of taste. Our correspondent is welcome to his own views, but so are we to ours. Let him imagine that the Eiffel Tower dwarfs the Pyramid of Ghizeh into a mole-hill, and the Crystal Palace grounds transform the hanging gardens of Semiramis into a kitchen-garden--if he likes. But if we are seriously "challenged" by him to show "in what respect our age of hourly progress and gigantic thought"--a progress a trifle marred, however, by our Huxleys being denounced by our Surgeons, and the University ladies, senior classics and wranglers, by the "hallelujah lasses"--is inferior to the ages of, say, a hen-pecked "Socrates and a cross-legged Buddha," then we will answer him, giving him, of course, our own personal opinion.
Our age, we say, is inferior in Wisdom to any other, because it professes, more visibly every day, contempt for truth and justice, without which there can be no Wisdom. Because our civilization, built up of shams and appearances, is at best like a beautiful green morass, a bog, spread over a deadly quagmire. Because this century of culture and worship of matter, while offering prizes and premiums for every "best thing" under the Sun, from the biggest baby and the largest orchid down to the strongest pugilist and the fattest pig, has no encouragement to offer to morality; no prize to give for any moral virtue. Because it has Societies for the prevention of physical cruelty to animals, and none with the object of preventing the moral cruelty practiced on human beings. Because it encourages, legally and tacitly, vice under every form, from the sale of whiskey down to forced prostitution and theft brought on by starvation wages, Shylock-like exaction, rents and other comforts of our cultured period. Because, finally, this is the age which, although proclaimed as one of physical and moral freedom, is in truth the age of the most ferocious moral and mental slavery, the like of which was never known before. Slavery to State and men has disappeared only to make room for slavery to things and Self, to one's own vices and idiotic social customs and ways. Rapid civilization, adapted to the needs of the higher and middle classes, has doomed by contrast to only greater wretchedness the starving masses. Having leveled the two former it has made them the more to disregard the substance in favor of form and appearance, thus forcing modern man into duress vile, a slavish dependence on things inanimate, to use and to serve which is the first bounded duty of every cultured man.
Where then is the Wisdom of our modern age?
In truth, it requires but a very few lines to show why we bow before ancient Wisdom, while refusing absolutely to see any in our modem civilization. But to begin with, what does our critic mean by the word "wisdom"? Though we have never too unreasonably admired Lactantius, yet we must recognize that even that innocent Church Father, with all his cutting insults anent the heliocentric system, defined the term very correctly when saying that "the first point of Wisdom is to discern that which is false, and the second, to know that which is true." And if so. what chance is there for our century of falsification, from the revised Bible texts down to natural butter, to put forth a claim to "Wisdom"? But before we cross lances on this subject we may dowell, perchance, to define the term ourselves.
Let us premise by saying that Wisdom is, at best, an elastic word --at any rate as used in European tongues. That it yields no clear idea of its meaning, unless preceded or followed by some qualifying adjective. In the Bible, indeed, the Hebrew equivalent Chokmah (in Greek, Sophia) is applied to the most dissimilar things--abstract and concrete. Thus we find "Wisdom" as the characteristic both of divine inspiration and also of terrestrial cunning and craft; as meaning the Secret Knowledge of the Esoteric Sciences, and also blind faith; the "fear of the Lord," and Pharaoh's magicians. The noun is indifferently applied to Christ and to sorcery, for the witch Sedecla is also referred to as the "wise woman of En-Dor." From the earliest Christian antiquity, beginning with St. James (iii, 13-17), down to the last Calvinist preacher, who sees in hell and eternal damnation a proof of "the Almighty's wisdom," the term has been used with the most varied meanings. But St. James teaches two kinds of wisdom; a teaching with which we fully concur. He draws a strong line of separation between the divine or noëtic "Sophia"--the Wisdom from above--and the terrestrial, psychic, and devilish wisdom (iii, 15). For the true Theosophist there is no wisdom save the former. Would that such an one could declare with Paul, that he speaks that wisdom exclusively only among them "that are perfect," i.e., those initiated into its mysteries, or familiar, at least, with the A B C of the sacred sciences. But, however great was his mistake, however premature his attempt to sow the seeds of the true and eternal gnosis on unprepared soil, his motives were yet good and his intention unselfish, and therefore has he been stoned. For had he only attempted to preach some particular fiction of his own, or done it for gain, who would have ever singled him out or tried to crush him, amid the hundreds of other false sects, daily "collections" and crazy "societies"? But his case was different. However cautiously, still he spoke "not the wisdom of this world" but truth or the "hidden wisdom . . . which none of the Princes of this World know (I Corinth. ii.) least of all the archons of our modern science. With regard to "psychic" wisdom, however, which James defines as terrestrial and devilish, it has existed in all ages, from the days of Pythagoras and Plato, when for one philosophus there were nine sophistae, down to our modern era. To such wisdom our century is welcome, and indeed fully entitled, to lay a claim. Moreover, it is an attire easy to put on; there never was a period when crows refused to array themselves in peacock's feathers, I if the opportunity was offered.
But now as then, we have a right to analyze the terms used and inquire in the words of the book of Job, that suggestive allegory of Karmic purification and initiation rites: "Where shall (true) wisdom be found? Where is the place of understanding?" and to answer again in his words: "With the ancient is wisdom and in the length of days understanding" (Job xxviii, 12 and xii, 12) .
Here we have to qualify once more a dubious term, viz: the word "ancient," and to explain it. As interpreted by the orthodox churches, it has in the mouth of Job one meaning; but with the Kabalist, quite another; while in the Gnosis of the Occultist and Theosophist it has distinctly a third signification, the same which it had in the original Book of Job, a pre-Mosaic work and a recognized treatise on Initiation. Thus, the Kabalist applies the adjective "ancient" to the Manifested WORD or LOGOS (Dabar) of the forever concealed and uncognizable deity. Daniel, in one of his visions, also uses it when speaking of Jahve--the androgynous Adam Kadmon. The Church man connects it with his anthropomorphic Jehovah, the "Lord God" of the translated Bible. But the Eastern Occultist employs the mystic term only when referring to the reincarnating higher Ego. For, divine Wisdom being diffused throughout the infinite Universe, and our impersonal HIGHER SELF being an integral part of it, the atmic light of the latter can be centered only in that which though eternal is still individualized--i.e., the noëtic Principle, the manifested God within each rational being, or our Higher Manas at one with Buddhi. It is this collective light which is the "Wisdom that is from above," and which whenever it descends on the personal Ego, is found "pure, peaceable, gentle." Hence, Job's assertion that "Wisdom is with the Ancient," or Buddhi-Manas. For the Divine Spiritual "I," is alone eternal, and the same throughout all births; whereas5 the "personalities" it informs in succession are evanescent, changing like the shadows of a kaleidoscopic series of forms in a magic lantern It is the "Ancient," because, whether it be called Sophia, Krishna, Buddhi-Manas or Christos, it is ever the "first-born" of Alaya-Mahat, the Universal Soul and the Intelligence of the Universe. Esoterically then, Job's statement must read: "With the Ancient (man's Higher Ego) is Wisdom, and in the length of days (or number of its re-incarnations) is understanding." No man can learn true and final Wisdom in one birth; and every new rebirth, whether we be reincarnated for weal or for woe, is one more lesson we receive at the hands of the stern yet ever just schoolmaster-- KARMIC LIFE.
But the world--the Western world, at any rate--knows nothing of this, and refuses to learn anything. For it, any notion of the Divine Ego or the plurality of its births is "heathen foolishness." The Western world rejects these truths, and will recognize no wise men except those of its own making, created in its own image, born within its own Christian era and teachings. The only "wisdom" it understands and practices is the psychic, the "terrestrial and devilish" wisdom spoken of by James, thus making of the real Wisdom a misnomer and a degradation. Yet, without considering her multiplied varieties, there are two kinds of even "terrestrial" wisdom on our globe of mud--the real and the apparent. Between the two, there is even for the superficial observer of this busy wicked world, a wide chasm, and yet how very few people will consent to see it! The reason for this is quite natural. So strong is human selfishness, that wherever there is the smallest personal interest at stake, there men become deaf and blind to the truth, as often consciously as not. Nor are many people capable of recognizing as speedily as is advisable the difference between men who are wise and those who only seem wise, the latter being chiefly regarded as such because they are very clever at blowing their own trumpet. So much for "wisdom" in the profane world.
As to the world of the students in mystic lore, it is almost worse. Things have strangely altered since the days of antiquity, when the truly wise made it their first duty to conceal their knowledge, deeming it too sacred to even mention before the hoi polloi. While the mediæval Rosecroix, the true philosopher, keeping old Socrates in mind, repeated daily that all he knew was that he knew nothing, his modern self-styled successor announces in our day, through press and public, that those mysteries in Nature and her Occult laws of which he knows nothing, have never existed at all. There was a time when the acquirement of Divine Wisdom (Sapientia) required the sacrifice and devotion of a man's whole life. It depended on such things as the purity of the candidate's motives, on his fearlessness and independence of spirit; but now, to receive a patent for wisdom and adept-ship requires only unblushing impudence. A certificate of divine wisdom is now decreed, and delivered to a self-styled "Adeptus" by a regular majority of votes of profane and easily caught gulls, while a host of magpies driven away from the roof of the Temple of Science will herald it to the world in every marketplace and fair. Tell the public that now, even as of old, the genuine and sincere observer of life and its underlying phenomena, the intelligent co-worker with nature, may, by becoming an expert in her mysteries thereby become a "wise" man, in the terrestrial sense of the word, but that never will a materialist wrench from nature any secret on a higher plane--and you will be laughed to scorn. Add, that no "wisdom from above" descends on any one save on the sine quâ non condition of leaving at the threshold of the Occult every atom of selfishness, or desire for personal ends and benefit--and you will be speedily declared by your audience a candidate for the lunatic asylum. Nevertheless, this is an old, very old truism. Nature gives up her innermost secrets and imparts true wisdom only to him, who seeks truth for its own sake, and who craves for knowledge in order to confer benefits on others, not on his own unimportant personality. And, as it is precisely to this personal benefit that nearly every candidate for adept-ship and magic looks, and that few are they, who consent to learn at such a heavy price and so small a benefit for themselves in prospect--the really wise Occultists become with everycentury fewer and rarer. How many are there, indeed, who would not prefer the will-o'-the-wisp of even passing fame to the steady and ever-growing light of eternal, divine knowledge, if the latter has to remain, for all but oneself--a light under the bushel?
The same is the case in the world of materialistic science, where we see a great paucity of really learned men and a host of skin-deep scientists, who yet demand each and all to be regarded as Archimedes and Newtons. As above so below. Scholars who pursue knowledge for the sake of truth and fact, and give these out, however unpalatable, and not for the dubious glory of enforcing on the world their respective personal hobbies--may be counted on the fingers of one hand: while legion is the name of the pretenders. In our day, reputations for learning seem to be built by suggestion on the hypnotic principle, rather than by real merit. The masses cower before him who imposes himself upon them: hence such a galaxy of menregarded as eminent in science, arts and literature; and if they are so easily accepted, it is precisely because of the gigantic self-opinionated and self-assertion of, at any rate, the majority of them. Once thoroughly analyzed, however, how many of such would remain who truly deserve the appellation of "wise" even in terrestrial wisdom? How many, we ask, of the so-called authorities" and "leaders of men" would prove much better than those of whom it was said--by one "wise" indeed--"they be blind leaders of the blind"? That the teachings of neither our modern teachers nor preachers are "wisdom from above" is fully demonstrated. It is proved not by any personal incorrectness in their statements or mistakes in life, for "to err is but human," but by incontrovertible facts. Wisdom and Truth are synonymous terms, and that which is false or well-known representative of the Church of England, that the Sermon of the Mount would, in its practical application, mean utter ruin for his country less than three weeks; and if it is no less true, as asserted by a literary critic of science, that "the knell of Charles Darwinism is rung in Mr. A.R. Wallace's present book,"1 an event already predicted by Quatrefages--then we are left to choose between two courses. We have either to take both Theology and Science on blind faith and trust; or, to proclaim both untrue and untrustworthy there is however, a third course open: to pretend that we believe in both at the same time, and say nothing, as many do; but this would be sinning against Theosophy and pandering to the prejudices of Society--and that we refuse to do. More than this: we declare openly, quand mëme, that not one of the two, neither Theologist nor Scientist, has the right in the face of this to claim, the one that he preaches that which is divine inspiration, and the other--exact science; since the former enforces that, which is on his own recognition, pernicious to men and states--i.e. the ethics of Christ; and the other (in the person of the eminent naturalist, Mr. A. R. Wallace, as shown by Mr. Samuel Butler) teaches Darwinian evolution, in which he believes no longer; a scheme, moreover, which has never existed in nature, if the opponents of Darwinism are correct.
Nevertheless, if anyone would presume to call "unwise" or "false" the world-chosen authorities, or declare their respective policies dishonest, he would find himself promptly reduced to silence. To doubt the exalted wisdom of the religion of the late Cardinal Newman, of the Church of England, or again of our great modern scientists, is to sin against the Holy Ghost and Culture. Woe unto him who refuses to recognize the World's "Elect." He has to bow before one or the other, though, if one is true, the other must be false; and if the "wisdom" of neither Bishop nor Scientist is "from above"--which is pretty fairly demonstrated by this time--then their "wisdom" is at best--"terrestrial, psychic, devilish."
Now our readers have to bear in mind that note of the above is meant as a sign of disrespect for the true teachings of Christ, or true science: nor do we judge personalities but only the systems of our civilized world. Valuing freedom of thought above all things as the only wayof reaching at some future time that Wisdom, of which every Theosophist ought to be enamored, we recognize the right to the same freedom in our foes as in our friends. All we contend for is their claim to Wisdom--as we understand this term. Nor do we blame, but rather pity, in our innermost heart, the "wise men" of our age for trying to carry out the only policy that will keep them on the pinnacle of their "authority"; as they could not, if even they would, act otherwise and preserve their prestige with the masses, or escape from being speedily outcast by their colleagues. The party spirit is so strong with regard to the old tracks and ruts, that to turn on a side path means deliberate treachery to it. Thus, to be regarded now-a-days as an authority in some particular subject, the scientist has to reject nolens volens the metaphysical, and the theologian to show contempt for the materialistic teachings. All this is worldly policy and practical common sense, but it is not the Wisdom of either Job or James.
Shall it be then regarded as too far fetched, if, basing our words on a life-long observation and experience, we venture to offer our ideas as to the quickest and most efficient means of obtaining our present World's universal respect and becoming an "authority"? Show the tender regard for the corns of every party's hobbies, and offer yourself as the chief executioner, the hangman, of the reputations of men and things regarded as unpopular. Learn, that the great secret of power consists in the art of pandering to popular prejudices, to the World's likes and dislikes. Once this principal condition complied with, he who practices it is certain of attracting to himself the educated and their satellites--the less educated--they whose rule it is to place themselves invariably on the safe side of public opinion. This will lead to a perfect harmony or simultaneous action. For, while the favorite attitude of the cultured is to hide behind the intellectual bulwarks of the favorite leaders of scientific thought, and jurare in verba magistri, that of the less cultured is to transform themselves into the faithful, mechanical telephones of their superiors, and to repeat like well-trained parrots the dicta of their immediateleaders The now aphoristical precept of Mr. Artemus Ward, the showman of famous memory--"Scratch my back, Mr. Editor, and I will scratch yours"--proves immortally true. The "rising Star," whether hebe a theologian, a politician, an author, a scientist, or a journalist--has to begin scratching the back of public tastes and prejudices--a hypnotic method as old as human vanity. Gradually the hypnotized masses begin to purr, they are ready for "suggestion." Suggest whatever you want them to believe, and forthwith they will begin to return your caresses, and purr now to your hobbies, and pander in their turn to anything suggested by theologian, politician, author, scientist, or journalist. Such is the simple secret of blossoming into an "authority" or a "leader of men"; and such is the secret of our modern-day wisdom.
And this is also the "secret" and the true reason of the unpopularity of Lucifer and of the ostracism practiced by this same modern world on the Theosophical Society: for neither Lucifer, nor the Society it belongs to, has ever followed Mr. Artemus Ward's golden precept. No true Theosophist, in fact, would consent to become the fetish of a fashionable doctrine, any more than he would make himself the slave of a decaying dead-letter system, the spirit from which has disappeared for ever. Neither would he pander to anyone or anything, and therefore would always decline to show belief in that in which he does not, nor can he believe, which is lying to his own soul. Therefore there, where others see "the beauty and graces of modern culture," the Theosophist sees only moral ugliness and the somersaults of the clowns of the so-called cultured centres. For him nothing applies better to modern fashionable society than Sydney Smith's description of Popish ritualism: "Posture and imposture, flections and genuflections, bowing to the right, curtsying to the left, and an immense amount of male (and especially female) millinery." There may be, no doubt, for some worldly minds, a great charm in modern civilization; but for the Theosophist all its bounties can hardly repay for the evils it has brought on the world. These are so many, that it is not within the limits of this article to enumerate these offspring of culture and of the progress of physical science, whose latest achievements begin with vivisection and end in improved murder by electricity.
Our answer, we have no doubt, is not calculated to make us more friends than enemies, but this can be hardly helped. Our magazine may be looked upon as "pessimistic," but no one can charge it with publishing slanders or lies, or, in fact, anything but that which wehonestly believe to be true. Be it as it may, however, we hope never to lack moral courage in the expression of our opinions or in defense of Theosophy and its Society. Let then nine-tenths of every population arise in arms against the Theosophical Society wherever it appears--they will never be able to suppress the truths it utters. Let the masses of growing Materialism, the hosts of Spiritualism, all the Church-going congregations, bigots and iconoclasts, Grundy-worshippers, aping-followers and blind disciples, let them slander, abuse, lie, denounce, and publish every falsehood about us under the sun-- they will not uproot Theosophy, nor even upset her Society, if only its members hold together. Let even such friends and advisers as he who is now answered, turn away in disgust from those whom he addresses in vain--it matters not, for our two paths in life run diametrically opposite. Let him keep to his "terrestrial" wisdom: we will keep to that pure ray "that comes from above," from the light of the "Ancient."
What indeed, has WISDOM, Theosophia--the Wisdom "full of mercy and good fruits, without wrangling or partiality and without hypocrisy" (James iii, 17)--to do with our cruel, selfish, crafty, andhypocritical world? What is there in common between divine Sophia and the improvements of modern civilization and science; between spirit and the letter that killeth? The more so as at this stage ofevolution the wisest man on earth, according to the wise Carlyle, is but a clever infant spelling letters from a hieroglyphical, prophetic book, the lexicon of which lies in eternity."
H. P. Blavatsky
Lucifer, September, I890
1 See "The Deadlock of Darwinism," by Samuel Butler, in the Universal Review for April, 1890.
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[The following letter was addressed to a contemporary journal by Mme. Blavatsky, and was handed to us for publication in The Daily Graphic, as we have been taking the lead in the discussion of the curious subject of Spiritualism-EDITOR "DAILY GRAPHIC."]
AWARE in the past of your love of justice and fair play, I most earnestly solicit the use of your columns to reply to an article by Dr. G. M. Beard in relation to the Eddy family in Vermont. He, in denouncing them and their spiritual manifestations in a most sweeping declaration, would aim a blow at the entire spiritual world of to-day. His letter appeared this morning (October 27th). Dr. George M. Beard has for the last few weeks assumed the part of the "roaring lion" seeking for a medium "to devour." It appears that to-day the learned gentleman is more hungry than ever. No wonder, after the failure he has experienced with Mr. Brown, the "mind-reader," at New Haven.
I do not know Dr. Beard personally, nor do I care to know how far he is entitled to wear the laurels of his profession as an M. D., but what I do know is that he may never hope to equal, much less to surpass, such men and savants as Crookes, Wallace, or even Flammarion, the French astronomer, all of whom have devoted years to the investigation of Spiritualism. All of them came to the conclusion that, supposing even the well-known phenomenon of the materialization of spirits did not prove the identity of the persons whom they purported to represent, it was not, at all events, the work of mortal hands; still less was it a fraud.
Now to the Eddys. Dozens of visitors have remained there for weeks and even for months; not a single séance has taken place without some of them realizing the personal presence of a friend, a relative, a mother, father, or dear departed child. But lo! here comes Dr. Beard, stops less than two days, applies his powerful electrical battery, under which the spirit does not even wink or flinch, closely examines the cabinet (in which he finds nothing), and then turns his back and declares most emphatically "that he wishes it to be perfectly understood that if his scientific name ever appears in connection with the Eddy family, it must be only to expose them as the greatest frauds who cannot do even good trickery." Consummatum est! Spiritualism is defunct. Requiescat in pace! Dr. Beard has killed it with one word. Scatter ashes over your venerable but silly heads, O Crookes, Wallace and Varley! Henceforth you must be considered as demented, psychologized lunatics, and so must it be with the many thousands of Spiritualists who have seen and talked with their friends and relatives departed, recognizing them at Moravia, at the Eddys', and elsewhere throughout the length and breadth of this continent. But is there no escape from the horns of this dilemma? Yea verily, Dr. Beard writes thus: "When your correspondent returns to New York I will teach him on any convenient evening how to do all that the Eddys do." Pray why should a Daily Graphic reporter be the only one selected by G. M. Beard, M. D. for initiation into the knowledge of so clever a "trick"? In such a case why not publicly denounce this universal trickery, and so benefit the whole world? But Dr. Beard seems to be as partial in his selections as he is clever in detecting the said tricks. Didn't the learned doctor say to Colonel Olcott while at the Eddys' that three dollars' worth of second-hand drapery would be enough for him to show how to materialize all the spirits that visit the Eddy homestead?
To this I reply, backed as I am by the testimony of hundreds of reliable witnesses, that all the wardrobe of Niblo's Theatre would not suffice to attire the numbers of "spirits" that emerge night after night from an empty little closet.
Let Dr. Beard rise and explain the following fact if he can: I remained fourteen days at the Eddys'. In that short period of time I saw and recognized fully, out of 119 apparitions, seven "spirits." I admit that I was the only one to recognize them, the rest of the audience not having been with me in my numerous travels throughout the East, but their various dresses and costumes were plainly seen and closely examined by all.
The first was a Georgian boy, dressed in the historical Caucasian attire, the picture of whom will shortly appear in The Daily Graphic. I recognized and questioned him in Georgian upon circumstances known only to myself. I was understood and answered. Requested by me in his mother tongue (upon the whispered suggestion of Colonel Olcott) to play the Lezguinka, a Circassian dance, he did so immediately upon the guitar.
Second—A little old man appears. He is dressed as Persian merchants generally are. His dress is perfect as a national costume. Everything is in its right place, down to the "babouches" that are off his feet, he stepping out in his stockings. He speaks his name in a loud whisper. It is "Hassan Aga," an old man whom I and my family have known for twenty years at Tiflis. He says, half in Georgian and half in Persian, that he has got a "big secret to tell me," and comes at three different times, vainly seeking to finish his sentence.
Third—A man of gigantic stature comes forth, dressed in the picturesque attire of the warriors of Kurdistan. He does not speak, but bows in the oriental fashion, and lifts up his spear ornamented with bright-coloured feathers, shaking it in token of welcome. I recognize him immediately as Jaffar Ali Bek, a young chief of a tribe of Kurds, who used to accompany me in my trips around Ararat in Armenia on horseback, and who on one occasion saved my life. More, he bends to the ground as though picking up a handful of mould, and scattering it around, presses his hand to his bosom, a gesture familiar only to the tribes of the Kurdistan.
Fourth—A Circassian comes out. I can imagine myself at Tiflis, so perfect is his costume of "nouker" (a man who either runs before or behind one on horseback). This one speaks more, he corrects his name, which I pronounced wrongly on recognizing him, and when I repeat it he bows, smiling, and says in the purest guttural Tartar, which sounds so familiar to my ear, "Tchoch yachtchi" (all right), and goes away.
Fifth—An old woman appears with Russian headgear. She comes out and addresses me in Russian, calling me by an endearing term that she used in my childhood. I recognize an old servant of my family, a nurse of my sister.
Sixth—A large powerful negro next appears on the platform. His head is ornamented with a wonderful coiffure something like horns wound about with white and gold. His looks are familiar to me, but I do not at first recollect where I have seen him. Very soon he begins to make some vivacious gestures, and his mimicry helps me to recognize him at a glance. It is a conjurer from Central Africa. He grins and disappears.
Seventh and last—A large, grey-haired gentleman comes out attired in the conventional suit of black. The Russian decoration of St. Ann hangs suspended by a large red moiré ribbon with two black stripes-a ribbon, as every Russian will know, belonging to the said decoration. This ribbon is worn around his neck. I feel faint, for I think I recognize my father. But the latter was a great deal taller. In my excitement I address him in English, and ask him: "Are you my father?" He shakes his head in the negative, and answers as plainly as any mortal man can speak, and in Russian, "No; I am your uncle." The word "diadia" was heard and remembered by all the audience. It means "uncle." But what of that? Dr. Beard knows it to be but a pitiful trick, and we must submit in silence. People that know me know that I am far from being credulous. Though an Occultist of many years' standing, I am more sceptical in receiving evidence from paid mediums than many unbelievers. But when I receive such evidences as I received at the Eddys', I feel bound on my honour, and under the penalty of confessing myself a moral coward, to defend the mediums, as well as the thousands of my brother and sister Spiritualists against the conceit and slander of one man who has nothing and no one to back him in his assertions. I now hereby finally and publicly challenge Dr. Beard to the amount of $500 to produce before a public audience and under the same conditions the manifestations herein attested, or failing this, to bear the ignominious consequences of his proposed exposé.
H. P. BLAVATSKY.
124, East Sixteenth Street, New York City,
October 27th, 1874.
PHENOMENA in India—beside 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 America—possess 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 counterparts—as once upon a time they must have been the originals—of biblical miracles. With the exception of two—those over which the world of piety goes most into raptures while glorifying the Lord, and the world of scepticism grins most sardonically—to wit, the anti-heliocentric crime performed by Joshua, and Jonah's unpleasant excursion into the slimy cavern of the whale's belly—we 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 God."
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 Queen's 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 man's 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, are—how 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. O'Grady, 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. O'Grady 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 Hindus—I will not say of the mass, but even of a majority—would answer. Since Dr. Peebles—during his two short visits to India and while on his way from Madras, crossing the continent in its diameter from Calcutta to Bombay—could 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 the soul.
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 man's 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 bhûts—which 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, and—the 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 Svamî—a 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 beasts—the 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 food—a handful of rice—to our Svamî; and yet, whenever they came, they always found him in the same posture and on the same spot—an 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 Patanjali—the reputed founder of Yogism—was 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 inclined—the 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 God's 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. Olcott's irreverent question, whether the bhûts might not have been at work helping the Thaumaturgist. For nearly two months uninterruptedly our premises at Bombay—garden, verandahs and halls—were 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 Philosophies—Occult 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. O'Grady: 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 America—with 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 Âryans—as 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 Âryans—that 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 mediums—i.e., the communion of the Spirits of the departed with living men and women, whose organisms the former use as modes of communication—the 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 them—that 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 men—nay, even their Gods and demons and the Spirits of the elements—performing "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 India—the first the best Sanskrit, and the other the most eminent Pâli scholar—both 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 proof—for the phenomenon takes place in remote and inaccessible places—we 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 time—and survive always.
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WE have received several communications for publication, bearing on the subjects discussed in the editorial of our last issue, "Let every man prove his own work." A few brief remarks may be made, not in reply to any of the letters--which, being anonymous, and containing no card from the writers, cannot be published (nor are such noticed, as a general rule)--but to the ideas and accusations contained in one of them, a letter signed "M." Its author takes up the cudgels on behalf of the Church. He objects to the statement that this institution lacks the enlightenment necessary to carry out a true system of philanthropy. He appears, also, to demur to the view that "the practical people either go on doing good unintentionally and often do harm," and points to the workers amid our slums as a vindication of Christianity--which, by-the-bye, was in no sense attacked in the editorial so criticized.
To this, repeating what was said, we maintain that more mischief has been done by emotional charity than sentimentalists care to face. Any student of political economy is familiar with this fact, which passes for a truism with all those who have devoted attention to the problem. No nobler sentiment than that which animates the unselfish philanthropist is conceivable; but the question at issue is not summed up in the recognition of this truth. The practical results of his labours have to be examined. We have to see whether he does not sow the seeds of a greater--while relieving a lesser--evil.
The fact that "thousands are making great efforts in all the cities throughout our land" to meet want, reflects immense credit on the character of such workers. It does not affect their creed, for such natures would remain the same, whatever the prevailing dogmas chanced to be. It is certainly a very poor illustration of the fruits of centuries of dogmatic Christianity that England should be so honeycombed with misery and poverty as she is--especially on the biblical ground that a tree must be judged by its fruits! It might, also, be argued, that the past history of the Churches, stained as it is with persecutions, the suppression of knowledge, crime and brutality, necessitates the turning over of a new leaf. The difficulties in the way are insuperable. "Churchianity" has, indeed, done its best to keep up with the age by assimilating the teachings of, and making veiled truces with, science, but it is incapable of affording a true spiritual ideal to the world.
The same Church-Christianity assails with fruitless pertinacity, the ever-growing host of Agnostics and Materialists, but is as absolutely ignorant, as the latter, of the mysteries beyond the tomb. The great necessity for the Church, according to Professor Flint, is to keep the leaders of European thought within its fold. By such men it is, however, regarded as an anachronism. The Church is eaten up with scepticism within its own walls; free-thinking clergymen being now very common. This constant drain of vitality has reduced the true religion to a very low ebb, and it is to infuse a new current of ideas and aspirations into modern thought, in short, to supply a logical basis for an elevated morality, a science and philosophy which is suited to the knowledge of the day, that Theosophy comes before the world. Mere physical philanthropy, apart from the infusion of new influences and ennobling conceptions of life into the minds of the masses, is worthless. The gradual assimilation by mankind of great spiritual truths will alone revolutionize the face of civilization, and ultimately result in a far more effective panacea' for evil, than the mere tinkering of superficial misery. Prevention is better than cure. Society creates its own outcasts, criminals, and profligates, and then condemns and punishes its own Frankensteins, sentencing its own progeny, the "bone of its bone, and the flesh of its flesh," to a life of damnation on earth. Yet that society recognises and enforces most hypocritically Christianity--i.e. "Churchianity." Shall we then, or shall we not, infer that the latter is unequal to the requirements of mankind? Evidently the former, and most painfully and obviously so, in its present dogmatic form, which makes of the beautiful ethics preached on the Mount, a Dead Sea fruit, a whitened sepulchre, and no better.
Furthermore, the same "M," alluding to Jesus as one with regard to whom there could be only two alternatives, writes that he "was either the Son of God or the vilest imposter who ever trod this earth." We answer, not at all. Whether the Jesus of the New Testament ever lived or not, whether he existed as an historical personage, or was simply a lay figure around which the Bible allegories clustered--the Jesus of Nazareth of Matthew and John, is the ideal for every would-be sage and Western candidate Theosophist to follow. That such an one as he, was a "Son of God," is as undeniable as that he was neither the only "Son of God," nor the first one, nor even the last who closed the series of the "Sons of God," or the children of Divine Wisdom, on this earth. Nor is that other statement that in "His life he (Jesus) has ever spoken of himself as co-existent with Jehovah, the Supreme, the Centre of the Universe," correct, whether in its dead letter, or hidden mystic sense. In no place does Jesus ever allude to "Jehovah"; but, on the contrary, attacking the Mosaic laws and the alleged Commandments given on Mount Sinai, he disconnects himself and his "Father" most distinctly and emphatically from the Sinaitic tribal God. The whole of Chapter V., in the Gospel of Matthew, is a passionate protest of the "man of peace, love and charity," against the cruel, stern, and selfish commandments of "the man of war," the "Lord" of Moses (Exod. xv., 3). "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old times,"--so and so--"But I say unto you," quite the reverse. Christians who still hold to the Old Testament and the Jehovah of the Israelites, are at best schismatic Jews. Let them be that, by all means, if they will so have it; but they have no right to call themselves even Chréstians, let alone Christians.1
It is a gross injustice and untruth to assert, as our anonymous correspondent does, that "the freethinkers are notoriously unholy in their lives." Some of the noblest characters, as well as deepest thinkers of the day, adorn the ranks of Agnosticism, Positivism and Materialism The latter are the worst enemies of Theosophy and Mysticism; but this is no reason why strict justice should not be done unto them. Colonel Ingersoll, a rank materialist, and the leader of freethought in America, is recognised, even by his enemies as an ideal husband, father, friend and citizen, one of the noblest characters that grace the United States. Count Tolstoi is freethinker who has long parted with the orthodox Church, yet his whole life is an exemplar of Christ-like altruism and self-sacrifice. Would to goodness every "Christian" should take those two "infidels" as his models in private and public life. The munificence of many freethinking philanthropists stands out in startling contrast with the apathy of the monied dignitaries of the Church. above fling at the "enemies of the Church," is as absurd as it is contemptible.
"What can you offer to the dying woman who fears to tread alone the DARK UNKNOWN?" we are asked. Our Christian critic here frankly confesses (a.) that Christian dogmas have only developed fear of death, and (b.) the agnosticism of the orthodox believer in Christian theology as to the future post-mortem state. It is, indeed, difficult to appreciate the peculiar type of bliss which orthodoxy offers its believers in--damnation.
The dying man--the average Christian--with a dark retrospect in life can scarcely appreciate this boon; while the Calvinist or the Predestinarian, who is brought up in the idea that God may have pre-assigned him from eternity to everlasting misery, through no fault of that man, but simply because he is God, is more than justified in regarding the latter as ten times worse than any devil or fiend that unclean human fancy could evolve.
Theosophy, on the contrary, teaches that perfect, absolute justice reigns in nature, though short-sighted man fails to see it in its details on the material and even psychic plane, and that every man determines his own future. The true Hell is life on Earth, as an effect of Karmic punishment following the preceding life during which the evil causes were produced. The Theosophist fears no hell but confidently expects rest and bliss during the interim between two incarnations, as a reward for all the unmerited suffering he has endured in an existence into which he was ushered by Karma, and during which he is, in most cases, as helpless as a torn-off leaf whirled about by the conflicting winds of social and private life. Enough has been given out at various times regarding the conditions of post-mortem existence, to furnish a solid block of information on this point. Christian theology has nothing to say on this burning question, except where it veils its ignorance by mystery and dogma; but Occultism, unveiling the symbology of the Bible, explains it thoroughly.--[ED. Lucifer.]
H. P. Blavatsky
Lucifer, December, 1887
1 See "The Esoteric Character of the Gospels," in this number. [This volume pp.168-202.]
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