THEOSOPHY, Vol. 6, No. 6, April, 1918
(Pages 241-245; Size: 17K)
(Number 8 of a 10-part series)
STUDIES IN ISIS UNVEILED
SPIRITUALISMThe accompanying article is made up of textual extracts from Isis Unveiled, topically and sequentially arranged. The page references from which the statements are taken, are given at the conclusion of the article. --EDITORS.THOSE best prepared to appreciate occultism are the spiritualists, although, through prejudice, until now they have been the bitterest opponents to its introduction to public notice. Despite all foolish negations and denunciations, their phenomena are real. Despite, also, their own assertions they are wholly misunderstood by themselves. The totally insufficient theory of the constant agency of disembodied human spirits in their production has been the bane of the Cause. A thousand mortifying rebuffs have failed to open their reason or their intuition to the truth. Ignoring the teachings of the past, they have discovered no substitute. We offer them philosophical deductions instead of unverifiable hypothesis, scientific analysis and demonstration instead of undiscriminating faith. Occult philosophy gives them the means of meeting the reasonable requirements of science, and frees them from the humiliating necessity to accept the oracular teachings of "intelligences," which as a rule have less intelligence than a child at school. So based and so strengthened, modern phenomena would be in a position to command the attention and enforce the respect of those who carry with them public opinion. Without invoking such help, spiritualism must continue to vegetate, equally repulsed -- not without cause -- both by scientists and theologians. In its modern aspect, it is neither a science, a religion, nor a philosophy.
Are we unjust; does any intelligent spiritualist complain that we have misstated the case? To what can he point us but a confusion of theories, a tangle of hypotheses mutually contradictory? Can he affirm that spiritualism, even with its thirty years(1) of phenomena, has any defensible philosophy; nay, that there is anything like an established method that is generally accepted and followed by its recognized representatives?
And yet, there are many thoughtful, scholarly, earnest writers among the spiritualists, scattered the world over. There are men who, in addition to a scientific mental training and a reasoned faith in the phenomena per se, possess all the requisites of leaders of the movement. How is it then, that, except throwing off an isolated volume or so, or occasional contributions to journalism, they all refrain from taking any active part in the formation of a system of philosophy? This is from no lack of moral courage, as their writings well show. Nor because of indifference, for enthusiasm abounds, and they are sure of their facts. Nor is it from lack of capacity, because many are men of mark, the peers of our best minds. It is simply for the reason that, almost without exception, they are bewildered by the contradictions they encounter, and wait for tentative hypotheses to be verified by further experience. Doubtless this is the part of wisdom. It is that adopted by Newton, who, with the heroism of an honest, unselfish heart, withheld for seventeen years the promulgation of his theory of gravitation, only because he had not verified it to his own satisfaction.
Spiritualism, whose aspect is rather that of aggression than of defense, has tended towards iconoclasm, and so far has done well. But, in pulling down, it does not rebuild. Every really substantial truth it erects is soon buried under an avalanche of chimeras, until all are in one confused ruin. At every step of advance, at the acquisition of every new vantage-ground of FACT, some cataclysm, either in the shape of fraud and exposure, or of premeditated treachery, occurs, and throws the spiritualists back powerless because they cannot and their invisible friends will not (or perchance can, less than themselves) make good their claims. Their fatal weakness is that they have but one theory to offer in explanation of their challenged facts -- the agency of human disembodied spirits, and the medium's complete subjection to them. They will attack those who differ in views with a vehemence only warranted by a better cause, they will regard every argument contradicting their theory as an imputation upon their common sense and powers of observation; and they will positively refuse even to argue the question.
How, then, can spiritualism be ever elevated to the distinction of a science? This, as Professor Tyndall shows, includes three absolutely necessary elements; observation of facts; induction of laws from these facts; and verification of those laws by constant practical experience. What experienced observer will maintain that spiritualism presents either one of these three elements? The medium is not uniformly surrounded by such test conditions that we may be sure of the facts; the inductions from the supposed facts are unwarranted in the absence of such verification; and, as a corollary, there has been no sufficient verification of these hypotheses by experience. In short, the primary element of accuracy has, as a rule, been lacking.
That we may not be charged with desire to misrepresent the position of spiritualism, at the date of this present writing, or accused of withholding credit for advances actually made, we will cite a few passages from the London Spiritualist of March 2, 1877. At the fortnightly meeting, held February 19, a debate occurred upon the subject of "Ancient Thought and Modern Spiritualism." Some of the most intelligent Spiritualists of England participated. Among these was Mr. W. Stainton Moses, M. A.,(2) who has recently given some attention to the relation between ancient and modern phenomena. He said: "Popular spiritualism is not scientific; it does very little in the way of scientific verification. Moreover, exoteric spiritualism is, to a large extent, devoted to presumed communication with personal friends, or to the gratification of curiosity, or the mere evolution of marvels. The truly esoteric science of spiritualism is very rare, and not more rare than valuable. To it we must look for the origination of knowledge which may be developed exoterically. We proceed too much on the lines of the physicists; our tests are crude, and often illusory; we know too little of the Protean power of spirit. Here the ancients were far ahead of us, and can teach us much. We have not introduced any certainty into the conditions -- a necessary prerequisite for true scientific experiment. This is largely owing to the fact that our circles are constructed on no principle. We have not even mastered the elementary truths which the ancients knew and acted on, e.g., the isolation of mediums. We have been so occupied with wonder-hunting that we have hardly tabulated the phenomena, or propounded one theory to account for the production of the simplest of them. We have never faced the question: What is the intelligence? This is the great blot, the most frequent source of error, and here we might learn with advantage from the ancients. There is the strongest disinclination among spiritualists to admit the possibility of the truth of occultism. In this respect they are as hard to convince as is the outer world of spiritualism. Spiritualists start with a fallacy, viz.; that all phenomena are caused by the action of departed human spirits; they have not looked into the powers of the human spirit: they do not know the extent to which spirit acts, how far it reaches, what it underlies."
Our position could not be better defined.
Self-complacency is the most serious obstacle to the enlightenment of the modern spiritualist. His thirty years' experience with the phenomena seem to him sufficient to have established intermundane intercourse upon an unassailable basis. His thirty years have not only brought to him the conviction that the dead communicate and thus prove the spirit's immortality, but also settled in his mind an idea that little or nothing can be learned of the other world, except through mediums.
For the spiritualists, the records of the past either do not exist, or if they are familiar with its garnered treasures, they regard them as having no bearing upon their own experiences. And yet, the problems which so vex them, were solved thousands of years ago by the theurgists, who have left the keys to those who will search for them in the proper spirit and with knowledge. Is it possible that nature has changed her work, and that we are encountering different spirits and different laws from those of old? Or can any spiritualist imagine that he knows more, or even as much about mediumistic phenomena or the nature of various spirits, as a priest-caste who spent their lives in theurgical practice, which had been known and studied for countless centuries? If the spiritualists have their phenomena under test-conditions, so had the old theurgists, whose records, moreover, show that they could produce and vary them at will. The day when this fact shall be recognized, and profitless speculations of modern investigators shall give place to patient study of the works of the theurgists, will mark the dawn of new and important discoveries in the field of psychology.
When the possible nature of the manifesting intelligences, which science believes to be "psychic force," and spiritualists the identical spirits of the dead, is better known, then will academicians and believers turn to the old philosophers for information.
We are forced to contradict, point-blank, the assertion that "the marvellous wonders of the present day, which belong to so-called modern spiritualism, are identical in character with the experiences of the patriarchs and prophets of old." They are identical only so far that the same forces and occult powers of nature produce them. But though these powers and forces may be, and most assuredly are, all directed by unseen intelligences, the latter differ more in essence, character and purpose than mankind itself, composed, as it now stands, of white, black, brown, red, and yellow men, and numbering saints and criminals, geniuses and idiots. The writer may avail himself of the services of a tame orang-outang or a South Sea islander; but the fact alone that he has a servant makes neither the latter nor himself identical with Aristotle and Alexander.
Now, except the story of Saul and Samuel, there is not a case instanced in the Bible of the "evocation of the dead." As to being lawful, the assertion is contradicted by every prophet. Nowhere through the Old Testament, nor in Homer, nor Virgil is communion with the dead termed otherwise than necromancy. One of the greatest reasons for it was the doctrine of the ancients, that no soul from the "abode of the blessed" will return to earth, unless, indeed, upon rare occasions its apparition might be required to accomplish some great object in view, and so bring benefit upon humanity. In this latter instance the "soul" had no need to be evoked. It sent its portentous message either by an evanescent simulacrum(3) of itself, or through messengers, who could appear in material form, and personate faithfully the departed. The souls that could so easily be invoked were deemed neither safe nor useful to communicate with. They were the souls, or larvae rather, from the infernal regions of the limbo -- the sheol, the region known by the kabalists as the eighth sphere.
The only standard within the reach of spiritualists and present-day mediums by which they can try the spirits, is to judge, 1, by their actions and speech; 2, by their readiness to manifest themselves; and 3, whether the object in view is worthy of the apparition of a "disembodied spirit," or can excuse any one for disturbing the dead. Saul was on the eve of destruction, himself and his sons, yet Samuel inquired of him: "Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up?" But the "intelligences" that visit the circle-rooms come at the beck of every trifler who would while away a tedious hour. And this word "up" from the spirit of a prophet whose abode ought certainly to be in heaven, is very suggestive in itself to a Christian who locates paradise and hell at two opposite points.NOTE.--The volume and page references to Isis Unveiled, from which the foregoing article is compiled, are, in order of the excerpts, as follows:-- Volume II, 636, 637, 638; volume I, 334, 335, 492, 493. --EDITORS THEOSOPHY.
COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:
SECRET DOCTRINE EXTRACTS(4)
... The true philosopher, the student of the Esoteric Wisdom, entirely loses sight of personalities, dogmatic beliefs and special religions. Moreover, Esoteric philosophy reconciles all religions, strips every one of its outward, human garments, and shows the root of each to be identical with that of every other great religion. It proves the necessity of an absolute Divine Principle in nature. It denies Deity no more than it does the Sun. Esoteric philosophy has never rejected God in Nature, nor Deity as the absolute and abstract Ens. It only refuses to accept any of the gods of the so-called monotheistic religions, gods created by man in his own image and likeness, a blasphemous and sorry caricature of the Ever Unknowable.
STUDIES IN ISIS UNVEILED
SPIRITS OF VARIOUS KINDS
(Part 9 of a 10-part series)
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FOUR (4) FOOTNOTES LISTED BELOW:
(1) It is to be remembered that Isis Unveiled was published in 1877. --EDITORS THEOSOPHY.
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(2) Mr. Moses was a leading writer upon Spiritualism a generation ago. His writings were usually signed with his nom de plume, "M. A. Oxon." --EDITORS THEOSOPHY.
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(3) Mayavi Rupa. --EDITORS THEOSOPHY.
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(4) From the Original Edition, Vol. I, Introductory, p. xx.
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