[Vol. III. No. 4, January, 1882.]
SAYS Light, in its "Notes by
the Way," edited by "M.A. Oxon.":
The current number of The Theosophist contains an important manifesto,
which establishes and defines the ground finally taken up by that body.
Shortly put, it is one of complete antagonism to Spiritualism. The Spiritualist
believes that it is possible for spirits of the departed to communicate
with this earth. Whatever divergence of opinion there may be among us in
respect of other matters, we are agreed on this, the cardinal article of
our faith. Our daily experience affirms its truth. The con sentient testimony
of the most experienced among us agrees that, whether there be, or whether
there be not, other agencies at work, the spirits we know of are human
spirits who have once lived on this earth. To this the Theosophist returns
the simple answer that we are mistaken. No spirits communicate with earth
for the sufficient reason that they cannot. It is idle to argue further.
We can but go on our way with the assured conviction that, whatever may
be the case in the east, we find that the departed spirits of mankind are
both able and willing to communicate with us in the west. And no metaphysical
theorizing as to what cannot be disposes in any degree of what
The Theosophist is forced to take exception to the form
of statement of "facts" above used. As it now stands, it
is but a short series of speculative deductions from the very superficially
defined doctrines in our " Fragments of Occult Truth," which give
a by no means complete idea of what is really taught in the doctrine, scraps
of which were explained in the article now most incorrectly styled a "manifesto."
We regret the necessity to contradict once more our esteemed opponent, who
seems to be giving Up the Theosophists in despair. But were we also to conclude
it "idle to argue further," then the position taken Up by us would,
indeed, give rise again to endless misinterpretations. The question of mans
state after death, the future progress of his soul, spirit and other principleswhatever
anyone may call themwas hardly touched upon in the short article under
our critics notice. In itself the subject embraces a field of boundless
extent and of the most metaphysical intricacy, one which would demand volumes
of commentaries and explanations to be thoroughly sifted and understood.
Yet superficially sketched as our ideas may have been in the "Fragments"which
was but an answer to the direct questions, not to say reproaches, of an
esteemed brother, resident in Australiawe nevertheless fail to detect
in it such passages or ideas as justify "M.A. Oxon." in saying
that our doctrine is "one of complete antagonism to Spiritualism."
It is not half so antagonistic as he believes it to be, as we will try to
"The Spiritualist believes that it is possible for spirits of the
departed to communicate with this earth," says the writer . . . "and
to this the Theosophist returns the simple answer that we are mistaken."
In this sentence alone, as a kernel in a nut-shell, lies hidden the reason
of that partial antagonism. Had "M.A. Oxon.," slightly modifying
the construction of the above-quoted sentencewritten instead that
"it is possible for spirits yet embodied on this earth to communicate
with the spirits of the departed"then would there have been hardly
any antagonism at all to deplore. What we hold and do maintain is that all
of the so-called "physical phenomena," and "materializations"
especially, are produced by something, to which we refuse the name of "spirit."
In the words of the President of our Berhampore Branch (Babu Nobin Krishna
Banerjee, President of the Adhi Bhautic Bhratru Theosophical Society): "We,
Hindus [and along with them the European disciples of Eastern philosophy]
are trying to spiritualize our grosser material selves, while
the American and European Spiritualists are endeavouring in their séance-rooms to materialize spirits." These words of wisdom well show
the opposite tendencies of the Eastern and the Western mindsnamely,
that while the former are trying to purify matter, the latter do
their best to degrade spirit. Therefore what we say is, that
ninety-nine times out of one hundred, "materializations" so-called,
when genuine, and whether they be partial of complete, are produced by what
we call "shells," and occasionally, perhaps, by the living mediums astral bodybut certainly never, in our humble opinion,
by "disembodied" spirits themselves.
While we sincerely regret this divergence of opinions with Light, we feel inclined to smile at the naïveté of some
other Spiritualist opponents; as, for instance, at that of the editor of
the London Spiritualist, who, in his leading editorial of
Nov. 18th, entitled "Speculation-Spinning," calls the scraps of
occult doctrine given in our "Fragments" "unscientific,"
reproaching the writer (than whom there is no abler metaphysician, nor closer
or more acute and clever logician among Anglo-Indian writers) with a want
of "scientific method" in the presentation of his facts! At the
same time, the editorial informs us that by "facts" it does not
"necessarily mean physical facts, for there are demonstrable truths
outside the realms of physics." Precisely. And it is upon just such
"facts," the existence of which is based for us upon evidence
which we "have weighed and examined" for ourselves, that we maintain
the demonstrability of the deductions and final conclusions at which we
have arrived. These we preach but to those who really want to know them.
As none, they say, are so blind as they who will not see, we abstain from
offering our doctrines to such as find them offensiveamong whom are
some Spiritualists. But to the masses of impartial readers whose minds are
not yet wedded to this or that theory, we present our facts and tell them
to see, hear and judge for themselves; and there have been some who have
not found our theories merely "speculation-spinning," based upon
hypotheses and the crass sentimentalism of a faithwelcome, because of its implied promises of a life hereafterbut theories resting
upon the logical and stern deduction from facts, which constitute in themselves
a knowledge. Now, what are these facts, and what do they show
and teach us?
First of all, and as a rulethe rare exceptions to which but confirm
it the morewe find that the so-called "disembodied spirits,"
instead of becoming the wiser for being rid of the physiological impediments
and the restraints of their gross material senses, would seem to have become
far more stupid, far less perspicacious and, in every respect, worse than
they were during their earthly life. Secondly, we have to take note of the
frequent contradictions and absurd blunders; of the false information offered,
and the remarkable vulgarity and commonplace exhibited during their interviews
with mortals; in-materializing séances their oral utterances
being invariably vulgar common-place, and their inspirational speeches or
second-hand communication through trance and other mediums frequently so.
Adding to this the undeniable fact which shows their teachings reflecting
most faithfully the special creed, views, and thoughts
of the sensitive or medium used by them, or of a sitter or sitters, we have
already sufficient proof to show that our theory, that they are "shells"
and not disembodied spirits at all, is far more logical and "scientific"
than that of the Spiritualists.* Speaking here in general,
we need not take into consideration exceptional cases, instances of undeniable
spiritual identity with which we are sure to find our arguments met by our
spiritual opponents. No one ever thought of calling "Imperator"
a "shell"; but then the latter, whether a living or a disembodied
spirit, neither materializes himself objectively, nor is it yet proved
to the satisfaction of anyone except "M.A. Oxon." himself that
"he" descends to the medium, instead of the spirit of the
latter ascending to meet his instructor.
Thus, we maintain that "spirits" are no more what they claim
to be, than the chrysalis shell is the butterfly which left it. That their
personations of various individuals, whom they sometimes represent, are
mostly due to the accidental contact of an "elementary" or "eidôlon"
(attracted by the medium and the intense magnetic desire of the circle present)
with the personal "aura" of this or that individual. The thoughts
of the latter, the various acts and scenes in his past life, the familiar
and beloved faces of his departed ones, are then all drawn out of the all-containing
depths of the Astral Light and utilized. At times this is done successfully,
but frequently the thing proves a total failure. Only while the former are,
as a rule, recorded, the mention of the latter is tacitly avoided; no spiritualistic
journal having ever been edited with that special view. So much for materialization
and physical phenomena. As for the rest, we are at one with the Spiritualists
with but slight variances, more of form than of substance.
* We will not go to the trouble of showing how much,
or rather how little, of "scientific method" is to be generally
found in The Spiritualist. But while speaking of science and
its methods, we may simply remark that though both our theories (theosophical
and spiritualistic) are sure to be viewed by the men of science as "speculation-spinning"
and metaphysical windmills, yet the hypotheses of Spiritualistsas
broadly accepted and whether "scientifically" or unscientifically
statedare certain to be pronounced by the majority of men of real
science, not merely unscientific, but very unphilosophical and illogical
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