Let the great world spin for ever down
the ringing grooves of change. --TENNYSON The goal of yesterday will
be the starting-point of to-morrow. --CARLYLE
great mystic of the eighteenth century, the ardent disciple of Jacob
Boehme--Louis Claude de Saint Martin--used to say in the last years
of his life: "I would have loved to meet more with those who
guess at truths, for such alone are living men."
This remark implies that, outside the limited circle of mystics
which has existed in every age, people endowed with correct psychic
intuition were still fewer at the end of the last century than they
are now. These were, indeed, years of complete soul-blindness and
spiritual drought. It is during that century that the chaotic darkness
and Babylonish confusion with regard to spiritual things, which have
ever reigned in brains too crammed with mere scientific learning,
had fully asserted their sway over the masses. The lack of soul perception
was not confined to the "Forty Immortals" of the French
Academy, nor to their less pretentious colleagues of Europe in general,
but had infected almost all the classes of Society, settling down
as a chronic disease called Scepticism and the denial of all but matter.
The messengers sent out periodically in the last quarter of every
century westward--ever since the mysteries which alone had the key
to the secrets of nature had been crushed out of existence
in Europe by heathen and Christian conquerors--had appeared that time
in vain. St. Germain and Cagliostro are credited with real phenomenal
powers only in fashionable novels, to remain inscribed in encyclopedias--to
purblind the better, we suppose, the minds of forthcoming generations--as
merely clever charlatans. The only man whose powers and knowledge
could have been easily tested by exact science, thus forming a firm
link between physics and metaphysics--Friedrich Anton Mesmer--had
been hooted from the scientific arena by the greatest "scholar-ignoramuses"
in things spiritual, of Europe. For almost a century, namely from
1770 down to 1870, a heavy spiritual darkness descending on the Western
hemisphere, settled, as if it meant to stay, among cultured societies.
But an under-current appeared about the middle of our century in
America, crossing the Atlantic between 1850 and 1860. Then came in
its trail the marvelous medium for physical manifestations, D. D.
Home. After he had taken by storm the Tuileries and the Winter Palace,
light was no longer allowed to shine under a bushel. Already, some
years before his advent, "a change" had come "o'er
the spirit of the dream" of almost every civilized community
in the two worlds, and a great reactive force was now at work.
What was it? Simply this. Amidst the greatest glow of the self-sufficiency
of exact science, and the reckless triumphant crowing of victory over
the ruins of the very foundations--as some Darwinists had fondly hoped--of
old superstitions and creeds; in the midst of the deadliest calm of
wholesale negations, there arose a breeze from a wholly unexpected
quarter. At first the significant afflatus was like a hardly perceptible
stir, puffs of wind in the rigging of a proud vessel--the ship called
"Materialism," whose crew was merrily leading its passengers
toward the Maelstrom of annihilation. But very soon the breeze freshened
and finally blew a gale. It fell with every hour more ominously on
the ears of the iconoclasts, and ended by raging loud enough to be
heard by everyone who had ears to hear, eyes to see, and an intellect
to discern. It was the inner voice of the masses, their spiritual
intuition--that traditional enemy of cold intellectual reasoning,
the legitimate progenitor of Materialism--that had awakened from its
long cataleptic sleep. And, as a result, all those ideals of the human
soul which had been so long trampled under the feet of the would-be
conquerors of the world-superstitions, the self-constituted guides
of a new humanity--appeared suddenly in the midst of all these raging
elements of human thought, and, like Lazarus rising out of his tomb,
lifted their voice and loudly demanded recognition.
This was brought on by the invasion of "Spirit" manifestations,
when mediumistic phenomena had broken out like an influenza all over
Europe. However unsatisfactory their philosophical interpretation,
these phenomena being genuine and true as truth itself in their being
and their reality, they were undeniable; and being in their very nature
beyond denial, they came to be regarded as evident proofs of a life
beyond--opening, moreover, a wide range for the admission of every
metaphysical possibility. This once the efforts of materialistic science
to disprove them availed it nothing. Beliefs such as man's survival
after death, and the immortality of Spirit, were no longer pooh-poohed
as figments of imagination; for, prove once the genuineness of such
transcendental phenomena to be beyond the realm of matter, and beyond
investigation by means of physical science, and--whether these
phenomena contain per se or not the proof of immortality, demonstrating as they do the existence of invisible and spiritual
regions where other forces than those known to exact science are at
work--they are shown to lie beyond the realm of materialism. Cross,
by one step only, the line of matter and the area of Spirit becomes
infinite. Therefore, believers in them were no longer to be brow-beaten
by threats of social contumacy and ostracism; this, also, for the
simple reason that in the beginning of these manifestations almost
the whole of the European higher classes became ardent "Spiritualists."
To oppose the strong tidal wave of the cycle there remained at one
time but a handful, in comparison with the number of believers, of
grumbling and all-denying fogeys.
Thus was once more demonstrated that human life, devoid of all its
world-ideals and beliefs--in which the whole of philosophical and
cultured antiquity, headed in historical times by Socrates and Plato,
by Pythagoras and the Alexandrian Neo-Platonists, believed--becomes
deprived of its higher sense and meaning. The world-ideals can never
completely die out. Exiled by the fathers, they will be received with
opened arms by the children.
Let us recall to mind how all this came to pass.
It was, as said, between the third and fourth quarters of the present
century that reaction set in in Europe--as still earlier in the United
States. The days of a determined psychic rebellion against the cold
dogmatism of science and the still more chilling teachings of the
schools of Büchner and Darwin, had come in their pre-ordained
and pre-appointed time of cyclic law. Our older readers may easily
recollect the suggestive march of events. Let them remember how the
wave of mysticism, arrested in its free course during its first twelve
or fifteen years in America by public, and especially by religious,
prejudices, finally broke through every artificial dam and over-flooded
Europe, beginning with France and Russia and ending with England--the
slowest of all countries to accept new ideas, though these may bring
us truths as old as the world.
Nevertheless, and notwithstanding every opposition, "Spiritualism,"
as it was soon called, got its rights of citizenship in Great Britain.
For several years it reigned undivided. Yet in truth, its phenomena,
its psychic and mesmeric manifestations, were but the cyclic pioneers
of the revival of prehistoric Theosophy, and the occult Gnosticism
of the antediluvian mysteries. These are facts which no intelligent
Spiritualist will deny; as, in truth, modern Spiritualism is but an
earlier revival of crude Theosophy, and modern Theosophy a renaissance of ancient Spiritualism.
Thus, the waters of the great "Spiritual" flood were neither
primordial nor pure. When, owing to cyclic law, they had first appeared,
manifesting at Rochester, they were left to the mercies and mischievous
devices of two little girls to give them a name and an interpretation.
Therefore when, breaking the dam, these waters penetrated into Europe,
they bore with them scum and dross, flotsam and jetsam, from the old
wrecks of hypotheses and hazily outlined aspirations, based upon the
dicta of the said little girls. Yet the eagerness with which "Spiritualism"
and its twin-sister Spiritism were received, all their inanities notwithstanding,
by almost all the cultured people of Europe, contains a splendid lesson.
In this passionate aspiration of the human Soul--this irrepressible
flight of the higher elements in man toward their forgotten Gods and
the God within him--one heard the voice of the public conscience.
It was an undeniable and not to be misunderstood answer of the inner
nature of man to the then revelling, gloating Materialism of the age,
as an escape from which there was but another form of evil--adherence
to the dogmatic, ecclesiastical conventionalism of State religions.
It was a loud, passionate protest against both, a drifting towards
a middle way between the two extremes--namely, between the enforcement
for long centuries of a personal God of infinite love and mercy
by the diabolical means of sword, fire, and inquisitional tortures;
and, on the other hand, the reign, as a natural reaction, of complete
denial of such a God, and along with him of an infinite Spirit, a
Universal Principle manifesting as immutable LAW.
True science had wisely endeavored to make away, along with the
mental slavery of mankind, with its orthodox, paradoxical God; pseudo-science
had devised by means of sophistry to do away with every belief save
in matter. The haters of the Spirit of the world, denying God in Nature
as much as an extra-cosmic Deity, had been preparing for long years
to create an artificial, soulless humanity; and it was only just that
their Karma should send a host of pseudo-"Spirits" or Souls to thwart their efforts. Shall anyone deny that the highest
and the best among the representatives of Materialistic
science have succumbed to the fascination of the will-o'-the-wisps which
looked at first sight as the most palpable proof
of an immortal Soul in man1--i.e., the alleged communion between the dead and the living?2 Yet, such as they were, these abnormal manifestations, being in
their bulk genuine and spontaneous, carried away and won all those who
had in their souls the sacred spark of intuition. Some clung to them
because, owing to the death of ideals, of the crumbling of the Gods
and faith in every civilized centre, they were dying themselves of spiritual
starvation; others because, living amidst sophistical perversion of
every noble truth, they preferred even a feeble approximation to truth
to no truth whatever.
But, whether they placed belief in and followed "Spiritualism"
or not, many were those on whom the spiritual and psychic evolution
of the cycle wrought an indelible impression; and such ex-materialists
could never return again to their iconoclastic ideas. The enormous
and ever-growing numbers of mystics at the present time show better
than anything else the undeniably occult working of the cycle. Thousands
of men and women who belong to no church, sect, or society, who are
neither Theosophists nor Spiritualists, are yet virtually members
of that Silent Brotherhood the units of which often do not know each
other, belonging as they do to nations far and wide apart, yet each
of whom carries on his brow the mark of the mysterious Karmic seal--the
seal that makes of him or her a member of the Brotherhood of the Elect
of Thought. Having failed to satisfy their aspirations in their respective orthodox faiths, they have severed themselves from their Churches
in soul when not in body, and are devoting the rest of their lives
to the worship of loftier and purer ideals than any intellectual speculation
can give them. How few, in comparison to their numbers, and how rarely
one meets with such, and yet their name is legion, if they only chose
to reveal themselves.
Under the influence of that same passionate search of "life
in spirit" and "life in truth," which compels every
earnest Theosophist onward through years of moral obloquy and public
ostracism; moved by the same dissatisfaction with the principles of
pure conventionality of modern society, and scorn for the still triumphant,
fashionable thought, which, appropriating to itself unblushingly the
honoured epithets of "scientific" and "foremost,"
of "pioneer" and "liberal," uses these prerogatives
but to domineer over the fainthearted and selfish--these earnest men
and women prefer to tread alone and unaided the narrow and thorny
path that lies before him who will neither recognize authorities nor
bow before cant. They may leave "Sir Oracles" of modern
thought, as well as the Peck-sniffs of time-dishonoured and dogma-soiled
lay-figures of Church-conventionality, without protest; yet, carrying
in the silent shrine of their soul the same grand ideals as all mystics
do, they are in truth Theosophists de facto if not de jure. We meet such in every circle of society, in every class of life.
They are found among artists and novelists, in the aristocracy and
commerce, among the highest and the richest, as among the lowest and
the poorest. Among the most prominent in this century is Count L.
Tolstoi, a living example, and one of the signs of the times in this
period, of the occult working of the ever moving cycle. Listen to
a few lines of the history of the psycho-spiritual evolution of this
aristocrat, the greatest writer of modern Russia, by one of the best feuilletonistes in St. Petersburg.
. . . The most famous of our Russian authors, the "word-painter,"
a writer of Shakespearean realism, a heathen poet, one who in a certain
sense worshipped in his literary productions life for the sake of
life, an sich und fur sich--as the Hegelians used to say--collapses
suddenly over his fairy palette, lost in tormenting thought; and forthwith
he commences to offer to himself and the world the most abstruse and
insoluble problems.... The author of the 'Cossacks'
and 'Family Happiness,' clad in peasant's garb
and bast shoes, starts as a pilgrim on foot in search of divine truth.
He goes to the solitary forest skits3 of the Raskolnikyi,4 visits the monks of the Desert of Optino, passes his time in fasting
and prayer. For his belles lettres and philosophy he substitutes
the Bible and the writings of the Church Fathers; and, as a sequel
to 'Anna Karenina' he creates his 'Confessions' and 'Explanations
of the New Testament.'
The fact that Count Tolstoi, all his passionate earnestness notwithstanding,
did not become an orthodox Christian, nor has succumbed to the wiles
of Spiritualism (as his latest satire on mediums and "spirits"
proves), prevents him in no way from being a full-fledged mystic.
What is the mysterious influence which has suddenly forced him into
that weird current almost without any transition period? What unexpected
idea or vision led him into that new groove of thought? Who knoweth
save himself, or those real "Spirits," who are not likely
to gossip it out in a modern seance-room?
And yet Count Tolstoi is by no means a solitary example of the work
of that mysterious cycle of psychic and spiritual evolution now in
its full activity--a work which, silently and unperceived, will grind
to dust the most grand and magnificent structures of materialistic
speculations, and reduce to nought in a few days the intellectual
work of years. What is that moral and invisible Force? Eastern philosophy
alone can explain.
In 1875 the Theosophical Society came into existence. It was ushered
into the world with the distinct intention of becoming an ally to,
a supplement and a helper of, the Spiritualistic movement --of course,
in its higher and more philosophical aspect. It succeeded, however,
only in making of the Spiritualists its bitterest enemies, its most
untiring persecutors and denunciators. Perchance the chief reason
for it may be found in the fact that many of the best and most intellectual
of their representatives passed body and soul into the Theosophical
Society. Theosophy was, indeed, the only system that gave a philosophical rationale of mediumistic phenomena, a logical raison d'etre for them. Incomplete and unsatisfactory some of its teachings
certainly are, which is only owing to the imperfections of the human
nature of its exponents, not to any fault in the system itself or
its teachings. Based as these are upon philosophies hoary with age,
the experience of men and races nearer than we are to the source of
things, and the records of sages who have questioned successively
and for numberless generations the Sphinx of Nature, who now holds
her lips sealed as to the secrets of life and death--these teachings
have to be held certainly as a little more reliable than the dicta
of certain "intelligences."
Whether the intellect and consciousness of the latter be induced and artificial--as we hold--or emanate from a personal source
and entity, it matters not. Even the exoteric philosophies
of the Eastern sages--systems of thought whose grandeur and logic
few will deny--agree in every fundamental doctrine with our Theosophical
teachings. As to those creatures which are called and accepted as
"Spirits of the Dead"--because, forsooth, they themselves
say so--their true nature is as unknown to the Spiritualists as to
their mediums. With the most intellectual of the former the question
remains to this day sub judice. Nor is it the Theosophists
who would differ from them in their higher view of Spirits.
As it is not the object of this article, however, to contrast the
two most significant movements of our century, nor to discuss their
relative merits or superiority, we say at once that our only aim in
bringing them forward is to draw attention to the wonderful progress
of late of this occult cycle. While the enormous numbers of adherents
to both Theosophy and Spiritualism, within or outside of our respective
societies, show that both movements were but the necessary and, so
to say, Karmically pre-ordained work of the age, and that each of
them was born at its proper hour and fulfilled its proper mission
at the right time, there are other and still more significant signs
of the times.
A few years ago we predicted in print that after a short cycle of
abuse and persecution, many of our enemies would come round, while
others would, en désespoir de cause follow our example
and found mystic Societies. As Egypt in the prophecy of Hermes, Theosophy
was accused by "impious foreigners" (in our case, those
outside its fold) of adoring monsters and chimaeras, and teaching
"enigmas incredible to posterity." If our "sacred scribes
and hierophants" are not wanderers upon the face of the earth,
it was through no fault of good Christian priests and clergymen; and
no less than the Egyptians in the early centuries of the new faith
and era, had we, from fear of a still worse profanation of sacred
things and names, to bury deeper than ever the little of the esoteric
knowledge that had been permitted to be given out to the world.
But, during the last three years all this has rapidly changed, and
the demand for mystic information became so great, that the Theosophical
Publishing Society could not find workers enough to supply the demand.
Even the "Secret Doctrine," the most abstruse of our publications--notwithstanding
its forbidding price, the conspiracy of silence, and the nasty, contemptuous
flings at it by some daily papers--has proved financially a success.
See the change. That which Theosophists hardly dared speak about with
bated breath for fear of being called lunatics but a few years ago,
is now being given out by lecturers, publicly advocated by mystical
clergymen. While the orthodox hasten to make away with the old hell
and sapphire-paved New Jerusalem, the more liberal accept now under
Christian veils and biblical nomenclature our Doctrine of Karma, Reincarnation,
and God as an abstract Principle.
Thus the Church is slowly drifting into philosophy and pantheism.
Daily, we recognize some of our teachings creeping out as speculations--religious,
poetical and even scientific: and these noticed with respect by the
same papers which will neither admit their theosophical origin nor
abstain from vilipending the very granary of such mystic ideas--the
Theosophical Society. About a year ago a wise criticaster exclaimed
in a paper we need not advertise:--
To show the utterly unscientific ideas with which
the work (the Secret Doctrine ) is crammed, it may be sufficient
to point out that its author refuses belief in the existence of inorganic
matter and endows atoms with intelligence.
And to-day we find Edison's conception of matter quoted with approval
and sympathy by London magazines from Harper's, in which
I do not believe that matter is inert, acted upon by an
outside force. To me it seems that every atom is possessed by a certain
amount of primitive intelligence: look at the thousand ways in which
atoms of hydrogen combine with those of other elements. . . . Do you
mean to say they do this without intelligence? . . .
Mr. Edison is a Theosophist, though not a very active one. Still
the very fact of his holding a diploma seems to inspire him with Theosophical
"Theosophists believe in reincarnation!" say contemptuously
our Christian enemies. "We do not find one word ever said by
our Saviour that could be interpreted against the modern belief
in reincarnation. . . ." preaches the Rev. Mr. Bullard, thus
half opening, and very wisely too, a back door for the day when this
Buddhistical and Brahminical "inane belief" will have become
Theosophists believe that the earliest races of men were as ethereal
as are now their astral doubles, and call them chhayas (shadows).
And now hear the English poet-laureate singing in his last book, "Demeter,
and other Poems"--
The ghost in man, the
ghost that once was man,
But cannot wholly free itself from men,
Are calling to each other through a Dawn,
Stronger than earth has ever seen; the veil
Is rending, and the voices of the day
Are heard across the voices of the Dark.
No sudden heaven, nor sudden hell for man,
. . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . .
Æonian evolution, swift or slow,
Through all the spheres--an ever opening height,
An ever lessening earth. . . .5
This looks as if Lord Tennyson had read Theosophical books, or is
inspired by the same grand truths as we are.
"Oh!" we hear some sceptics exclaiming, "but there
are poetical licenses. The writer does not believe a word of it."
How do you know this? But even if it were so, here is one more proof
of the cyclic evolution of our Theosophical ideas, which, I hope,
will not be dubbed, to match, as "clerical licenses." One
of the most esteemed and sympathetic of London clergymen, the Rev.
G. W. Allen, has just stepped into our Theosophical shoes and followed
our good example by founding a "Christo-Theosophical Society."
As its double title shows, its platform and programme have to be necessarily
more restricted and limited than our own, for in the words of its
circular "it is (only) intended to cover ground which that (the
original or 'Parent') Society at present does not cover." However
much our esteemed friend and co-worker in Theosophy may be mistaken
in believing that the teachings of the Theosophical Society do not
cover esoteric Christianity as they do the esoteric aspect
of all other world-religions, yet his new Society is sure to do good
work. For, if the name chosen means anything at all, it means that
the work and study of the members must of necessity be Theosophical.
The above is again proven by what the circular of the "Christo-Theosophical
Society" states in the following words:--
It is believed that at the present day there are many persons
who are dissatisfied with the crude and unphilosophic enunciation
of Christianity put forward so often in sermons and theological writings
Some of these persons are impelled to give up all faith in Christianity,
but many of them do this reluctantly, and would gladly welcome a presentation
of the old truths which should show them to be in harmony with the
conclusions of reason and the testimony of undeniable intuition. There
are many others, also, whose only feeling is that the truths of their
religion mean so very little to them practically, and have such very
little power to influence and ennoble their daily life and character.
To such persons the Christo-Theosophical Society makes its appeal,
inviting them to join together in a common effort to discover that
apprehension of Christian Truth, and to attain that Power, which must
be able to satisfy the deep yearnings of the human heart, and give
strength for self-mastery and a life lived for others.
This is admirable, and shows plainly its purpose of countering the
very pernicious influences of exoteric and dogmatic theology, and
it is just what we have been trying to do all along. All simililarity,
however, stops here, as it has nothing to do, as it appears, with universal but only sectarian Theosophy. We fear greatly that
the "C.T.S."--by inviting
to its membership those persons who, while desirous of
apprehending ever more and more clearly the mysteries of Divine Truth, yet wish to retain as the foundation of their philosophy the Christian
doctrines of God as the Father of all men, and Christ as His revelation
of Himself to mankind
--limits thereby "the Mysteries of the Divine Truth" to
one single and the youngest of all religions, and avatars to
but one man. We hope sincerely that the members of the Christo-Theosophical
Society may be able to avoid this Charybdis without falling into Scylla.
There is one more difficulty in our way, and we would humbly ask
to have it explained to us. "The Society," states the circular,
"is not made up of Teachers and Learners. We are all learners."
This, with the hope distinctly expressed a few lines higher, that
the members will "gladly welcome a presentation of the old truths
. . . in harmony with the conclusions of reason," etc., leads
to a natural query: Which of the "learners" is to present
the said truths to the other learners? Then comes the unavoidable
reasoning that whosoever the "learner" may be, no sooner
he will begin his "presentation" than he will become nolens
volens a "teacher."
But this is, after all, a trifle. We feel too proud and too satisfied
with the homage thus paid to Theosophy, and with the sight of a representative
of the Anglican clergy following in our track, to find fault with
details, or wish anything but good luck to the Christo-Theosophical
Lucifer, March, 1890
1 Let our readers recall the names
of the several most eminent men in literature and science who had become
openly Spiritualists. We have but to name Professor Hare, Epes Sarjeant,
Robert Dale Owen, Judge Edmonds, etc., in America; Professors Butlerof,
Wagner, and, greater than they, the late Dr. Pirogoff (see his posthumous
"Memoirs," published in Rooskaya Starina, 1884-1886),
in Russia; Zöllner, in Germany; M. Camille Flammarion, the Astronomer,
in France; and last but not least, Messrs. A. Russell Wallace, W. Crookes,
Balfour Stewart, etc., in England, followed by a number of scientific
stars of the second magnitude.
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2 We hope that the few friends we
have left in the ranks of the Spiritualists may not misunderstand us.
We denounce the bogus "spirits" of seances held by
professional mediums, and deny the possibility of such manifestations
of spirits on the physical plane. But we believe thoroughly in Spiritualistic
phenomena, and in the intercourse between Spirits of Egos--of
embodied and disembodied entities; only adding that, since the latter
cannot manifest on our plane, it is the Ego of the living man which
meets the Ego of the dead personality, by ascending to the Devachanic
plane, which may be accomplished in trance. during sleep in dreams,
and by other subjective means.
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3 Skit is a religious hermitage.
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4 Raskolnik, a Dissenter; hitherto persecuted and forbidden sects in Russia.
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5 The italics are ours.
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