Portrait of Madame Blavatsky resized


No Religion Higher Than Truth

Fragments of Occult Truth, Part III
A. O. Hume

Theosophist Magazine
Vol. 3, No. 12, September 1882
pages 307 - 314

Our friend and Brother, Mr. W. H. Terry, returns to the charge. He is in no way satisfied with our explanations of spiritualistic phenomena; he still clings to the theories of Spiritualists and rejects the facts of the Occultists.

But he will, naturally enough, say that this is begging the question, and that he sees no reason why the doctrines, propounded by the latter, should be any more accepted as facts, than those espoused by the former.

Let us see how the case stands. Suppose a number of people go to see a conjuring performance; all manner of wonderful tricks are exhibits; the more intelligent of the spectators commence evolving hypotheses to explain how these are performed; night after night the performances, though often a good deal varied in details, are repeated. The most intelligent of the spectators also return, night after night, more and more intent on discovering the rationale of the wonders they witness. They gradually work out, what appears to be, a fairly consistent theory of all that so astonishes them, and getting into conversation with some of the performers find that these, to a great extent, confirm their conclusions. Thereupon they feel convinced that their views are correct, and accept their theories as facts. But for all that they are still before the footlights; they have never been behind the curtain; they have never actually seen how the surprising results they witness are really brought about, and these so-called facts of theirs are still merely theories.

But now some of the spectators get acquainted with people, who do habitually go behind the scenes, who have examined the whole apparatus, who can make the performers play whatsoever tricks they like, and who can with their apparatus perform precisely the same (and other even more) astonishing feats, and these men tell the ingenious spectators that their theories are quite wrong, and that the facts of the case are so and so.

Now, surely our Brother will admit, that it is neither begging the question, nor presumption on the part of those who have the entree behind the scenes, but the simple truth, when they assert that their knowledge represents facts, while the conclusions of the ordinary spectators are only theories.

Such precisely are the relative positions of the Spiritualists and the Occultists; meaning, of course, by these latter, not the humble lay disciples, who endite these papers, but their pastors, masters and living spiritual guides, “THE BROTHERS.”

“But how am I to know” (Mr. Terry may enquire) “that these BROTHERS of yours can really go behind the scenes? You say so, but what proof is there of this?”

Now, in the first place, it is a fact, and this every one may prove for himself, that each and all who will lead the LIFE (as indicated at pp. 22 et seq. of HINTS ON ESOTERIC THEOSOPHY, No. 1, Second Edition) can satisfy themselves that the BROTHERS really can do this, and thus become entirely independent alike of our, and all other persons’, testimony.

But, in the second place, we can offer our correspondent some very definite, even though not absolutely conclusive, evidence on this subject. Will he read attentively all the facts connected with the transmission, by occult means, of certain letters from the steam-ship Vega (at a time when she was at sea, and some 500 miles distant from land) to Bombay and Calcutta? He will find most of the circumstances recorded in the eighth and ninth numbers of PSYCHIC NOTES, and again in the last chapter of the second edition of Mr. Sinnett’s OCCULT WORLD, but the most complete account is embodied in the Postscript to the Second Edition of the HINTS ON ESOTERIC THEOSOPHY, No. 1.

Reading this he will see that as soon as we suggested to the BROTHERS, that it might be useful for them to make themselves known to Mr. Eglinton’s controls, and so convince him of their existence, they did so, and while Mr. Eglinton himself was still utterly incredulous of there being any BROTHERS, his controls, speaking in the direct voice, while he was in trance, acknowledged the BROTHERS, spoke of one of them by a name unknown to Mr. Eglinton, and announced their intention of performing some phenomenon under their guidance. He will see further that one of them visited Mr. Eglinton when the vessel in which he had left India was at sea, and fully convinced him of the existence of the BROTHERS and of their powers.

Now, though we do not say that these incidents absolutely prove that the Brothers can go behind the scenes, we would ask Mr. Terry whether it does not look very like it.

The fact is, that, as we know, the Brothers possess the power of controlling absolutely, all the elementals and elementaries to whom (with some exceptions) are due the objective phenomena (not the work, unconscious or conscious, of the medium himself) of the seance-room. And it is the possession and exhibition of this power which makes us consider their assertion that they have been behind the scenes and do know all about it, proved, and that induces us to accept their statements of what takes place, and is done, as facts.

If as yet our correspondent does not possess the same good grounds for confidence as ourselves (though these will all come if he only truly works for them) we can only say that, perhaps, before long an even stronger proof may be given to our Spiritualistic friends, and, in the meantime, we would ask our Brother to consider whether the circumstances are not such as to lead distinctly to the inference that the BROTHERS know more of the so-called spirits, and can more efficiently deal with them, than any Spiritualistic or medium.

But now we much let Mr. Terry speak for himself: –

  1. I have perused with interest the able article, in reply to my second letter, published in the THEOSOPHIST for March last, and although I have weighed the theories there presented as dispassionately as possible, I must confess they have brought me very little nearer to an acceptance of the “occult” in preference to the “spiritual” philosophy. This may not be the case with others who read them, but with me the evidences, in support of my present position, are so diverse and manifold that the explanations afforded, if they shook my faith in, or even destroyed, the foundation of the few instances previously presented, still leave an unbroken link of stubborn facts confronting me, behind which, I cannot go.
  2. But you will demur to the word facts and substitute “illusory effects.” Yet how are we, ordinary mortals, to discriminate between the real and the unreal? For what purpose are our reasoning faculties given to us, but to get knowledge by their exercise and evolve wisdom therefrom? The man who views all phenomena through the physical senses and realizes only what they cognize limits his knowledge to purely terrestrial things, but the philosophical Spiritualist has a wider range of observation, and by the aid of his own spiritual perceptions, or those of others more lucid than himself, opens up a broad field of phenomena, unrecognized by the physical scientist. He realizes, moreover, the supremacy of spirit and views (as far as his material environments will admit) all things from their spiritual aspect. Yet withal, reason is the touchstone by which his experiences must be tested. He has no sound basis outside of it, whilst in the material body.
  3. I do not ignore intuition. Great truths dawn upon the mental perception through this channel, but they rarely conflict with the operation of the individual reason. I doubt not but that, in the spiritual state, the latter will be superseded by the former, but, in this material sphere, reason is the primary and legitimate avenue for the absorption of knowledge.
  4. You say “the spirit of man which comes into direct and conscious relations with the world of spirit acquires the real knowledge.” This I admit, and it is by this means much of my knowledge has reached me. I have by magnetic action liberated the spirits of men and women, placed them en rapport with the world of spirit, compared their descriptions of spiritual things and found (save in details) a general harmony of results, each and all of them describing worlds or spheres more beautiful than this, peopled by forms in human shape exhibiting a higher average intelligence and greater refinement than pertains to our physical life here, and all professing to be men and women, who had been denizens of this world, rehabilitated in forms adapted to their more refined condition of existence. Some of these intelligences in conversation with my subjects have conveyed the most beautiful sentiments displaying the highest conceivable morality and inculcating harmonial principles intuitionally acceptable.
  5. It may be well here to allude to the explanation, or partial explanation, by analogy of incidents in my experience given in the last “Fragments of Occult Truth,” but the analogy is not complete, as in the one instance there is no psychometrical basis, and in the other there is. I am aware how difficult it is to distinguish psychometry from clairvoyance, but with care and a lucid instrument it is practicable. I am also aware of the difficulty, and, perhaps, impossibility, of demonstrating to others the distinct identity and objective existence of what I believe to be my spirit-guide, but it is much more conceivable to me, that this intelligence which almost daily gives some evidence of its independence from my mind, often opposing my preconceptions in a most decided manner, is what it professes to be, than that it is one part of myself misleading the other. It would require a strong evidence to convince me (or this portion of me that now expresses itself) that I have two intelligent consciousnesses so distinct from each other as not to know their relationship.
  6. I will, however, give one or two more instances of apparent spirit communion from very many that I could call to mind. Nineteen years ago, during my early investigation of the subject, I was sitting with an intelligent, but, not highly educated, gentleman newer to the subject than myself when his hand was controlled by some invisible force to write in rather a laboured manner something encouraging to our efforts. Whilst conversing about this, his hand rose suddenly from the table, whirled round with great velocity, and, descending upon some paper, wrote in a bold, free hand totally different from his own, and resembling none he knew of. “You now see we have full command over your hand, let us have as full command over your heart, and you will be nearer God.” None could be more astonished at this unexpected phenomenon than the writer himself, and, when, on being interrogated, the intelligence professed to be one of a band of spirits interested in the moral and spiritual progress of humanity, probabilities all pointed to the truth of the assertion. About nine months’ intercourse with this band tended to confirm in every respect what had been stated. Questions were satisfactorily answered, difficulties solved, moral and philosophical teachings were volunteered; all in harmony with the idea and commendable to our reason, though often new to our perceptions. Is this the ordinary work of astral tramps or “Kama Rupa’s”? I have recently gone over the original MS. and find it all consistent. Twenty years’ experience, with the mental and spiritual development it has brought, fail to exhibit any defects in it.
  7. Again, nearly three years since, a very dear friend passed out of mortal existence. For years before her death the spiritual part of her nature largely predominated over the animal, and, according to the occult theory, the spiritual Ego would pass into a world of effects, whence there is no return to this world. Yet a few days after her departure a lady (who had but a slight acquaintance with her in the body) came to me and informed me that my friend had appeared to her (whilst in an apparently normal state) as a glorified human form, and given a message for me which had been literally recorded as given. The tone, words and sentiment of this message were eminently characteristic of her, and it conveyed a hidden meaning readily understood by me, but which would be unintelligible to others. Some months after, the same form appeared to another seeress who had not known the deceased in the body, and by symbols recalled to my mind some touching incidents of the past. A year later, whilst visiting in the country, I magnetized a sensitive to aid her development. This lady had never known my friend, and in her own person bore not the slightest resemblance to her. Having induced the magnetic sleep, I sat quietly by, not expecting any phenomenal result, but, on looking at her, a short time after, I observed, first a change of complexion from dark to fair, next a gradual alteration of the contour of the face, the nose became more acquiline, the lips thin, the face longer, and the expression more refined, until in about ten minutes the transformation was complete; and, with the exception of the colour of the hair which remained unchanged, there was before me with all minutiae the face of my deceased friend. That this was no hallucination is shown by the fact of there being another witness of the phenomenon, who was as fully conscious of the change as myself, though unable to recognize my friend not having known her in the body. This was repeated subsequently and verified by three witnesses, one of whom, being called and asked if she recognized the face, immediately gave the name of my friend. Such incidents as these seem to me to conflict with the occult theory, and must have weight against it, unless it can be philosophically shown to cover them.
  8. The Occultists assume their position to be irrefragable; they are not singular in this, though more philosophical in their arguments than many who have preceeded them, but in these times men want evidence which the senses given them can grasp. It is not reasonable on the part of those who doubt what they assert, to demand a demonstration as objectors to any theory often do, but it is reasonable for the truth-seeker to say “show me how I can prove what you affirm,” and to expect a practicable road to be pointed out to him. If the proof can only be obtained by a practical renunciation of the world, a severance of all human ties, affections and responsibilities, of what use is it to humanity? Only one in a million may avail themselves of it, and how many of the remaining 999,999 would have faith in his testimony.
  9. You say that “the sense of individuality in spirit cannot exist without combination with matter.” This seems highly probable, though not demonstrable, and, I assume, that the bodies of these spiritual forms seen by seers and clairvoyants are material, though much more refined than the matter we are clothed in. Is not the atmosphere of our world full of material particles invisible to our physical sense?
  10. Your assertion, that from Socrates to the present day “no uninitiated seer ever saw quite correctly,” can hardly be disputed, but the question is, does the initiated seer do so? How is it possible for him to be free from bias? Are not the present beliefs or formulae of occultism the basis on which he starts? Does not the novice have them presented to him as facts at the commencement of his initiation, and do not all experiences of the past and present prove to us that, except in absolute physical facts, the basic bias gives a colouring to all the knowledge we accumulate?
  11. You misinterpret my last letter when you charge me with saying “I know I am right,” I simply demured to your taking that position in a former article, asserting merely that, as our knowledge is based upon experience, and as my experiences all tend to the confirmation of my theory, as yours do to the opposite, I might AS REASONABLY say I KNOW. Your experiences may transcend mine in my directions, but whilst the ground I stand on has all the appearance of solidity and feels firm under my feet, it requires more than assertion to convince me that it is a quicksand. With the tides of error drifting all around, I must be satisfied of a better foot-hold ere I abandon my present one.
  12. There is one Spiritualist, at least, who will gladly accept the aid of the “occult sages of the East” to obtain a better knowledge of the after-state, but as I have never in the past accepted the dictum of either man or spirit by faith alone, neither can I in the future (unless by some unlooked-for change in my nature) accept as truth anything contrary to my own experiences until it commends itself to my reason and intuition.

Fraternally yours,

Now, to the first para. of Mr. Terry’s letter no reply is called for. To the second it will be sufficient to say that we doubt, if we should ever find occasion to call in question any of our correspondent’s facts; we believe that we should be able unhesitatingly to accept them all, for he is clearly a reliable observer; it would only be with the conclusions he forms, based on those facts, that we should be compelled to differ.

The third para., again, is in perfect harmony with our own views.

The fourth para. must be more particularly noticed. It will be borne in mind that we have never denied that communication in a certain sense can be established between men and real spirits of deceased persons. What we have maintained is that, except in certain cases, of which hereafter, only shells, not true spirits, can appear or operate in the seance-room.

We said of the spirit in our first “Fragment”: “It can be visited in spirit by men, it cannot descend into our grosser atmosphere and reach us. It attracts, it cannot be attracted.”

Nor have we ever disputed that there was a state (out of which the Spiritualist’s conceptions of the Summer Land have no doubt arisen) in which the spirits of those who have passed away, receive the reward of their deserts. To this state, known to Tibetan Occultists as the Devachan, we specially alluded in that first paper, when we said “nor during the temporary period of its enjoyment in its newly-evolved Ego-hood of the fruits of its good deeds, &c.”

Therefore, we are far from desiring to contest our correspondent’s assertion, that by magnetic action he has succeeded in placing some of the incorporeal principles of certain sensitives en rapport (if not, as he says, with the world of spirit – a very large world indeed – at any rate) with certain spiritual entities.

It is quite certain that in the case of pure sensitives, this can be accomplished, but what we contend is that the information thus obtained will never be reliable. For this there are several reasons. In the first place the principles that cognize in such a case are different from those that give outward expression to the matters cognized, and in the case of no untrained seer can the transfer of the impressions from the spiritual faculties which record, to the more physical faculties which publish, be perfectly effected. Even supposing both sensitive and her magnetizer to be absolutely free from all preconceived ideas about, or expectations in regard to the subjects investigated, still in the mere transfer of the observations from the one to the other class of faculties, mistakes and misconceptions must occur.

But, further, it is not too much to say that it is quite impossible for the spiritual faculties of any untrained seer even to record correctly in the first instance. Even our physical powers of observation require careful training before they will serve us faithfully. See how utterly unable young children are, as a rule, to judge distances, &c., and just as the physical faculties are untrained in the child, so are the spiritual faculties untrained in the magnetic sensitive. No doubt, in the course of years, if their health and circumstances permit their constantly exploring the unseen world, even such untrained sensitives may acquire for themselves a certain amount of experience and training, and become capable of comparatively accurate observation; but few and far between have such sensitives been, and, even the very best, have fallen far short of accuracy. So that under the most exceptionally favourable conditions, you have first an imperfect record; and, second, a more or less erroneous presentation of that imperfect record.

But in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, either or both sensitive and magnetizer have well-defined preconceptions of what they think ought to be the case, and then, however honest and conscientious both may be, these preconceptions will more or less colour the evidence given. Indeed, so certainly is this the case that, broadly speaking, there is twice the probability of error in the case of a magnetized sensitive, to what there is in the case of a seer, who without the intervention of a magnetizer can by hypnotism (of one kind or another) unaided, place himself en rapport with spiritual entities. Thus a Swedenborg would be much less likely to err, than the best sensitive requiring the intervention of a magnetiser to awaken her supersensuous faculties.

But there is yet another source of error. Even the best and purest sensitive can at most only be placed at any time en rapport with a particular spiritual entity, and can only know, see and feel, what that particular entity knows, sees and feels. Now no spiritual entity in Devachan, or hybernating prior to passing out of this earth’s attraction; (and it is, broadly speaking, only with such that a sensitive can be placed en rapport,) is in a position to generalize. It lives in a paradise or dream of its own creating, and it is utterly unable to give any idea of how it is faring with others. Each individual spirit in Devachan dreams its own dream, lives in its own Summer Land (but it is a state, not a land), surrounded by all the people and things it loves and longs for. But these are ideal, and the very people by whom it believes itself surrounded may be each dreaming his own dream, in his own ideal paradise; or some of them may be perhaps really still on earth, or even passing through the remorseless wheels of annihilation. And through the veils that curtain in each spirits dream of felicity, there is no peeping down to earth, a glimpse of which would necessarily mingle some bitterness with the cup of happiness, nor is there any conscious communication with the flying souls that come, as it were to learn where the spirits are, what they are doing, and what they think, feel and see.

What, then, is being en rapport? It is simply an identity of molecular vibration between the astral part of the incarnated sensitive and the astral part of the disincarnate personality. The spirit of the sensitive gets “odylized,” so to speak by the Aura of the spirit whether this be hybernating in the early region or dreaming in the Devachan; identity of molecular vibration is established, and for a brief space the sensitive becomes the departed personality, and writes in its handwriting, uses its language and thinks its thoughts. At such times sensitives may believe that those with whom they are for the moment en rapport descend to earth and communicate with them, whereas, in reality, it is merely their own spirits which being correctly attuned to those others are, for the time, blended with them.

Many of the subjective spiritual communications are genuine; the majority where the sensitive is pure-minded; but (1) they only reflect in each case the ideas of a single spirit, unable to see beyond the limits of its own mental chrysalis or ideal paradise; (2) it is impossible for the uninitiated sensitive to observe and record altogether correctly what it does see and hear during its amalgamation; (3) it is equally impossible for the sensitive to transfer intact the impressions recorded by the supersensuous faculties, to the senses through which alone they can be communicated to the world; and (4) such communications will be still further vitiated by any pre-existing conceptions or beliefs inhering in the minds of either sensitive or magnetizer, or both.

But Mr. Terry says that, having compared the descriptions of things spiritual given to him by different sensitives when in trance, he found a general harmony “each and all describing worlds or spheres more beautiful than this, peopled by forms in human shape, exhibiting a higher average intelligence, &c., &c.” But what else could he expect, he is pure-minded, educated European of the present day, dealing also with pure, more or less educated sensitives? If he had tried a native Australian woman sensitive, and had studiously kept his own mind passive, he would have heard a very different story. Nay, though a certain skeleton of truth (but partial truth) runs through all genuine communications, he will find the widest discrepancies in details between the so-called facts elicited by himself and those elicited by equally good men, with equally pure mediums in France, (1) [Footnote: (1)  Allan Kardec is probably the one untrained experimenter, who has got nearest the truth, and this because he generalized from such a vast mass of communications by very carefully picked sensitives and did thus eliminate a vast amount of error.] Germany and America.

It is unnecessary, however, now to press this point further; all we desire for the moment to make clear is that while we in no way dispute the genuineness of the class of communications to which our correspondent refers, we, yet for the above reasons, know them to be necessarily unreliable, necessarily more or less incorrect and inaccurate.

And now turning to para. fifth, we would remark that it may possibly be that there really is a distinct spiritual entity impressing our correspondent’s mind. In other words, there may, for all we know, be some spirit, with whom his spiritual nature becomes habitually, for the time, thoroughly harmonized, and whose thoughts, language, &c., become his for the time, the result being that this spirit seems to communicate with him. All we said before was that a similar explanation to that we had offered of the facts of a certain case would in all probability meet Mr. Terry’s case. But if he feels confident that this explanation does not fit his case, then it is possible (though by no means probable) that he habitually passes into a state of rapport with a genuine spirit, and, for the time, is assimilated therewith, thinking (to a great extent, if not entirely,) the thoughts that spirit would think, writing in its handwriting, &c.

But even so Mr. Terry must not fancy that that spirit is consciously communicating with him, or knows in any way, anything of him, or any other person or thing on earth. It is simply that the rapport established, he, Mr. Terry, becomes for the nonce assimilated with that other personality, and thinks, speaks and writes as it would have done on earth.

As for the figure of the fine, intelligent and benevolent-looking man, seen repeatedly by the seers and seeresses, this may well be a real astral picture of the earth-life form of that very spirit, drawn into the aura of our correspondent by the synchronism of his and that spirit’s nature.

Many other explanations are possible; the variety of the causes of phenomena is great, and one need be an adept, and actually look into and examine what transpires in order to be able to explain in each case, what really underlies it; but this much is certain, viz., that no good benevolent person, who passed away upwards of a century ago, can possibly be visiting here on earth, and advising and comforting our correspondent. The molecules of his astral nature may from time to time vibrate in perfect unison with those of some spirit of such a person, now in Devachan, and the result may be that he appears to be in communication with that spirit, and to be advised, &c., by him, and clairvoyants may see in the Astral light a picture of the earth-life form of that spirit, but, so far as we have as yet been instructed, this is the nearest approach to what our correspondent supposes, that is possible.

No doubt had our Brother’s guide not departed from this earth so very long ago, another explanation, to which we will refer later, more in consonance with his views would have been possible, though extremely improbable.

Taking next his sixth para., the experience therein detailed seems sufficiently explained on either of two hypotheses. First, despite their unobjectionable character, these teachings may have come from mere reliquiae of men or personalities, not sufficiently spiritual for further progress. In our first fragment we distinctly said “All elementaries are by no means actively wicked all round…..when, speaking through a still pure medium, the better and less degraded side of their nature comes out, and it is quite possible for elementaries to have a perfect intellectual knowledge and appreciation of virtue and purity and enlightened conceptions of truth, and yet be innately vicious in their tendencies.”

It is perfectly possible, that the admirable teachings referred to by Mr. Terry may have come from a high class, though still lost personality, too intellectual to show in its true colours before him and his friend, and yet capable of playing a very different part in a less pure circle.

But it is far more likely that the medium’s spirit really became en rapport with some spiritual entity in Devachan, the thoughts, knowledge and sentiments of which formed the substance, while the medium’s own personality and pre-existing ideas more or less governed the form of the communication. We attach no special importance to the particular form of words in which the first message is said to have been given. This may perfectly have been the medium’s share of the communication, when for the moment he identified his spiritual nature with that of the spiritual entity.

Here, again, there is another possible, but not at all probable, explanation to which we shall refer later.

The experience recorded in para. seven is a most interesting one, and, as stated, somewhat difficult to explain with confidence. If we had something more than the very slight sketch afforded, we should find less difficulty.

The first appearance might possibly be thus explained; for a very short period after death, while the incorporeal principles remain within the sphere of our earth’s attraction, it is possible for the spirit, under peculiar and favourable conditions, to appear.

But, as a broad rule, such appearances only take place within a few minutes after, or shortly before, the physical death. Of course, we mean the real death; the last portion of the frame that dies is the brain – which is often still alive and thronged with images, long after, or, at any rate, for many hours and days after life has been pronounced by the spectators to be extinct. It is true that the period intervening between death and the entry into the gestation state, varies in the case of persons dying a natural death from a few hours to a few years, but it is quite abnormal for the spirit to appear during this period, except within a very short period after death. Putting aside the case of adepts and those trained by them to that end, the Ego within a few moments after death sinks into a state of unconsciousness, from which it does not recover until the struggle between the higher and lower duads has been fought out, and there remains inside the sphere of the earth’s attraction, (the Region of Desire,) only the shell, either, in the rarer case of personalities doomed to annihilation, a two-and-a-half principle-shell, or in the case in which the higher principles having triumphed, they have passed on taking with them the better portions of the fifth principle, also a one-and-a-half principle-shell soon to disintegrate.

It seems, therefore, extremely doubtful whether even the first appearance can be explained as a bona fide one, consciously made by the spirit of the deceased. It is possible, for the true death, the death of the brain, is sometimes delayed long after the death of the rest of the body, the apparent death – and, though the first appearance took place “a few days after” apparent death, it may really have only occurred at the moment of true death. But this is less probable than that, despite the facts that would lead to a contrary conclusion, even this first was really an unconscious appearance. The spirit sunk in its post mortem trance, (of course, for all its comparative etheriality and non-corporeality a space occupying and material entity) is borne about by magnetic currents swayed here and there like dead leaves whirling in the bosom of a stream. Thus carried, it may pass within the range of vision of some seer, or its reflection in the astral light may be caught by the inner eye of a clairvoyant. The spirit itself will have no more consciousness of such an appearance than a person passing through a room in which there happens, unknown to him, to be a mirror, is of having cast a reflection therein. Usually the position and aspect of the forms indicate unmistakably the unconsciousness of the spirit – but this is not invariable – the mental activity of the spirit may revive in a succession of dreams, restoring a subjective consciousness, while objective unconsciousness still prevails, and in such cases the form may assume a conscious and animated, or even transfigured, appearance – all depends on the character and intensity of the dreams, and these again depend upon the degree of the spirituality and purity of the deceased.

It is not at all necessary (nor, indeed, is it possible under our present hypothesis) that any real conscious communication should have passed between the dormant spirit and the seeress. It was all sufficient for the latter to have come thus in direct rapport with the spirit or its astral image, to think precisely what the spirit, if still conscious and in earth-life, would have thought. This present absolutely no difficulty.

Possibly the second appearance may be similarly explained. But here the question arises. When this second appearance took place, was the seeress under our correspondent’s magnetism? If so, there was probably no appearance at all. The magnetizer tenderly attached to the deceased, by the exertion of his magnetic power unconsciously placed the seeress en rapport with the spirit of the deceased, with which for the time her spirit was more or less perfectly identified, leading to an idea of seeing her (as she was wont to appear when on earth), and receiving from her messages or indications, of which the seeress really became cognizant, when the two spirits were for the moment blended.

The transfigurations are less doubtful in character, and there are three ways of explaining them: –

  1. The mesmeric action of our correspondent placed the sensitive’s spirit en rapportwith that of his dearly-loved deceased friend. Then when for the time the identity of the two was established, the nature of the deceased taken on by the sensitive, being much more spiritual and powerful than her own, and her physical constitution being of such a nature as to admit such changes, her body began at once to exhibit an analogous change corresponding to the change undergone by her spiritual nature in consequence of the amalgamation.
  2. The transfiguration may have been due to the intensity and clearness of the deceased friend’s face in Mr. Terry’s thought. That face being so strongly impressed on his memory, it is but natural that the latter, owing to its intensified activity during such seances, should be throwing off an unusual amount of energy and solidifying, so to say, the familiar image, on the etheric waves of his aura. Thus, unknown to himself, Mr. Terry may have aroused it up into sympathetic action, which, transforming the image from a subjective into an objective picture, finally caused it to move on, guided by the current of attraction, until it settled upon, and so was found reflected on the medium’s face. The images we find in the endless galleries of space, nailed on to the indestructible walls of Akasa, are but lifeless and empty masks after all, the pictorial records of our thoughts, words and deeds. In Mr. Terry’s case, the invisible Realityin the magnetizer’s aura threw an objective adumbration on the plastic features of his sensitive, and – the phenomenon was produced.
  3. Thought, Memory, and Will are the energies of the brain, and, like all other forces of nature – to use the language of modern science – have two general forms: the potential and the kinetic form of energy. Potential thoughtclairvoyantly discerns and chooses its subject in the astral light, – the Willbecomes the motor power that causes it to move, that directs and guides it whithersoever it likes…and, it is thus that the adept produces his occult phenomena, whether of a physical or a spiritual character. But the latter can also occur without any intervention of an intelligent will. The passive condition of the medium, leaves him (a) an easy prey to the pranks of the elementaries, as well as to those semi-intelligent elemental beings ever basquing and masquerading in the sidereal light; and (b) such a phenomenon may as easily occur of itself, simply owing to the surrounding and favourable conditions. The sidereal image of a person we think of, will remain pale and quiescent in its indelible impression of the ether, until its atoms are propelled into action by the strong magnetic attraction which emanates from the molecular tissues of the medium, saturated as they are with the mesmerizer’s thought full of the image. Hence – the phenomenon of TRANSFIGURATION.

These transfigurations are rare; but we have yet known of a good many instances, and some very remarkable ones will be found recorded in Colonel Olcott’s work entitled “People from the Other World.”

The above probably explains all the features of this case; but to enable us to assert positively in any case that the occurrence was brought about in this or that way, it is essential that we should be acquainted with every single detail. So long as we only have the barest outlines to deal with all we can pretend to offer are more or less probable solutions.

Our correspondent tells us in his first para. that even if we explain one or two cases, he still finds an unbroken line of stubborn facts opposing our explanations behind which he is unable to penetrate. We can only promise that if he will furnish us with accurate details of all cases within his personal knowledge, which, in his opinion, are not explicable by the Occult Doctrines, we will show him that they are so explicable, or abandon the field.

But we must premise two conditions. First, we will only accept cases of which he has a complete personal knowledge – we will not accept cases picked up out of books and papers. He is a reliable, philosophical observer, from whom we are sure to get facts carefully observed and accurately recorded. With these we can have no difficulty in dealing. But as for cases recorded here, there and everywhere, many are, to our knowledge, pure inventions, while many more although recorded in good faith, have been so transmogrified in the processes of observation, and record that it would be hopeless to discuss them.

Secondly, he must not be surprised, if in the course of our explanations, all kinds of new facts not hitherto touched on are brought to notice. The subject is a vast one. There are wheels within wheels – laws within laws, exceptions to all these. Purposely hitherto we have only endeavoured to convey a general conception of the more important features of the Truth. If exact accuracy of detail is required, every one of our general laws will require certain provisos and riders. To detail only what we know in regard to these spiritual phenomena would occupy several complete numbers of the THEOSOPHIST, and if our explanation had to include the whole system of elementals (future men during a coming cycle) and other obscure powers and forces, which cannot even be mentioned, several octavo volumes would be needed to contain it.

In the first part of our correspondent’s eighth para. we quite concur, but when he goes on to say “if the proof can only be obtained by a practical renunciation of the world, a severance of all human ties, affections and responsibilities, of what use is it to humanity? only one in a million may avail themselves of it, and how many of the remaining 999,999 would have faith in his testimony.” – we are compelled to point out that he is in error in his premises, and that his conclusions even were these premises correct, are untenable. For even admit that only one in a million would consent to avail themselves of the opportunity afforded for obtaining proof, would this be any reason for the remaining 999,999 refusing to accept their evidence? Is this so in practice? Certainly not! At the present time not more than one in a million, (if so many,) are willing to avail themselves of the opportunity of obtaining for themselves proof of the facts of astronomy. Yet the remainder accept these facts, perfectly satisfied with the knowledge that any one who chooses to go through the necessary training and study can acquire that proof, and that all who have gone through that training, &c., are agreed as to the sufficiency of the proof.

Astronomy is a science with the name and general bearing of which all fairly educated men are familiar. Occultism, is a science which has hitherto been veiled in the most profound secresy and of which, so far, none but Occultists have possessed any knowledge. But once let mankind be familiarized with the idea; let it become known that any one who chooses to make the necessary sacrifices can obtain the proofs, and that those who have obtained the proofs consider these conclusive, and the mass of mankind will be quite content to accept the facts, even on the testimony of the one per million, who does undertake the verification of the assertions of his predecessors.

But our correspondent’s assumptions are erroneous; a practical renunciation of the world in the sense in which the apostle exerted all Christians to be in the world, but not of the world is doubtless essential, but it is by no means requisite to sever all human ties and affections; nor can it ever be permitted, much less required, to abjure human responsibilities. These latter may change in character, and may – indeed must – with increased knowledge and power, assume a wider reach, and the affections must broaden and become more cosmopolitan, but it is self-abnegation (not selfishness), and a devotion to the welfare of others, that smooths the path to adeptship.

Replying to the ninth para., we may say that not only our atmosphere, but the entire universe, is pervaded by substance incognizable alike by our physical and spiritual senses, and again by forms of matter normally incognizable by our physical senses, but more or less cognizable by spiritual senses of different degrees of development.

As regards the freedom from error claimed for the teachings of occultism, referred to in para. tenth, Mr. Terry, we venture to submit, mistakes the position. It is needless to point out to him the difference between empiricism and science, and the uninitiated are empiricists; the occultists, scientists. This will be obvious at once when it is borne in mind, that for thousands of years, hundreds of initiates have been exploring the unseen world. That the results of their explorations have been recorded and collected, and discrepancies eliminated by fresh verifications. That the facts ascertained have been generalized and the laws governing them deduced therefrom, and the correctness of these deductions verified by experiment. Occultism, is therefore, in every sense of the word an exact science, while the teachings of the very ablest untrained seer who has worked single-handed can only be empiric.

When in our first article we said we know, (an expression to which our Brother, perhaps rightly, takes objection in his fourth para.) we only said this in the sense, that talking to people ignorant of mathematics, we should say that we know that the curve described by the moon in space is a form of epicycloid represented by such and such an equation. Not meaning thereby that we had ourselves investigated this somewhat abstruse problem, but that we were aware of the method by which this was solved, and knew that numerous competent mathematicians had so solved it, and had all arrived at the same solution. Surely those ignorant alike of mathematics and of the work of mathematicians, could by no means as reasonably say in reply, that they knew that the orbit of the moon was something wholly different. It is not our experiences (though these collectively are considerable) on which we rely, as our correspondent seems to fancy. For all we know his experiences may transcend ours, and, be this as it may, we should certainly never have presumed to traverse, authoritatively, his views on the strength of our own experiences or knowledge. What we rely on are the generalized results of the experiences during a vast period of time of a large body of trained Psychists, who have ever made the attainment of truth, in matters spiritual, the foremost object of their desire, and the promotion (though in secret) of the welfare of mankind, their primary duty.

With Mr. Terry’s last para. we should be the last to quarrel. It is endited in the true spirit of the philosopher, and one of the first warnings that the neophyte in occultism receives is thenceforth to believe nothing the truth, rationality, or probability, of which cannot be established to his satisfaction.

And now, having attempted to answer para. by para. every portion of our esteemed correspondent’s kind favour (that seemed to require a reply), we think it might be well to develop a little further one doctrine, that we broached in our first paper, and explain more in detail why we are so strongly opposed to habitual mediumism.

Broadly speaking, the objective phenomena of Spiritualists (of subjective communications we have already spoken) are the work of, or, at any rate, result from the activities of intervention of (1) ELEMENTALS, half intelligent nature forces, entities, which in a far distant cycle, after passing through all the lower objective Kingdoms will ultimately be born as men; (2) ELEMENTARIES or SHELLS. These shells are of two kinds – first, those belonging to men whose sixth and seventh principles having attracted to themselves the quintessence, as it were of the fifth also, have moved on to fresh developments. These shells consist of the fourth, and only a portion of the fifth principles. Half or more of the personal memory is gone, and the more animal or material instincts only survive. This relic, this dross left behind in the crucible, when the refined gold was taken is commonly the “angel guide” of the average medium. Such entities, of course, only survive for a time; gradually all consciousness departs they disintegrate. Only highly mediumistic natures attract these, and only certain of these. The purer the personality, the less their vitality; the shorter their period of survival and the less the chance of their contributing to mediumistic displays. The more full of blemishes, the more disfigured by sins and animal desires the personality; the greater the vitality of its reliquiae, the longer their survival, the greater the chance of their finding their way into the seance-room. The man, as a whole, as the world goes, may have been a good man, good may have actively predominated in him, and yet the worse portions of his nature, his lower and more animal instincts standing now alone and unneutralized by the better portions of his character, may be evil enough.

It is impossible that any real good can come of intercourse with even this class of shell; it will not be actively wicked, it is too imperfect and weak for that, but yet its influence in the long run cannot be elevating. But, besides this, it is wrong to encourage such shells into activity or convey to them a fresh impulse such as they often obtain through mediums, since a strong sympathy continues to subsist between the departed personality, and its reliquiae, and any excitement of these latter, any galvanization of them with a fictitious renewed life, such as results from mediums dealing with them, distinctly disturbs the gestation of the personality, hinders the evolution of its new Egohood, and delays, therefore, its entry into the state of felicity (Devachan), in which, in its new Egohood, it reaps the fruits of its good deeds, prior to re-incarnation and re-birth here, if it has not completed its appointed tale of earth-lives, or in the next superior planet.

But the other kind of elementary is far more dangerous as a rule to deal with. In this case the man has been weighed in the balance and found wanting – his personality has to be blotted out – the fourth and fifth principles are intact; and, more than this, the fifth will have assimilated all that there may be left of personal recollection and perceptions of its personal individuality in the sixth. This second class of shell is in every way more enduring, more active, and in the majority of cases, distinctly wicked. No doubt it can suffer no injury from its intercourse with men, but these latter must inevitably deteriorate in consequence of association with shells of this class. Fortunately these are not, comparatively speaking, very numerous; of course, absolutely, there have been millions of millions of such, but, to the credit of human nature be it said, that the personalities that have to be absolutely blotted out form but a fractional percentage of the whole.

Moreover, shells of this nature do not remain for any great length of time in the atmosphere of this earth, but like straws floating near a whirlpool get caught up by and dragged down in that terrible Maelstrom, which hurries off the failures towards disintegration, in other words to the planet of matter and death – the mental as well as the physical satelite of our earth.

As for the elementals, rudimentary men no doubt, but more embryotic even than the spirit that sleeps in the mineral, these, though capable of, becoming powerful forces in association with shells, under the spells of sorcerers and under the guidance of adepts, are, as a rule, irresponsible, purblind, neutral entities, taking character and colour moral and mental from the active and more developed spiritual entity with or under whose control they work; but even these, though themselves incapable of being injured, may become very dangerous to mediums with any inherent evil tendencies.

Here then in elementals and elementaries are to be found the majority, probably, of the performers of the physical phenomena of Spiritualists. Association with no one of these three classes, can possibly benefit mankind as a whole. The variety of natures is so infinite, that we do not assert that in no case has any human being benefited by intercourse with any individual specimen of either class. But we do say that broadly speaking, nothing but harm can be expected from association with such. Further in the case of one of the three classes, mediumistic intercourse inflicts a distinct injury upon innocent beings.

But though elementaries and elementals constitute a large proportion of the performers, there are other classes of actors. We do not pretend – we are not permitted – to deal exhaustively with the question at present, but we may refer to one of the most important classes of entities, who can participate in objective phenomena, other than elementaries and elementals.

This class comprises the spirits of conscious sane suicides. They are Spirits, and not Shells, because there is not in their cases, at any rate until later, a total and permanent divorce between the fourth and fifth principles on the one hand, and the sixth and seventh on the other. The two decades are divided, they exist apart, but a line of connection still unites them, they may yet reunite, and the sorely threatened personality avert its doom; the 5th principal still holds in its hands the clue by which, traversing the labyrinth of earthly sins and passions, it may regain the sacred penetralia. But, for the time, though really a spirit, and, therefore, so designated, it is practically not far removed from a shell.

This class of spirit can undoubtedly communicate with men, but, as a rule, its members have to pay dearly for exercising the privilege, while it is scarcely possible for them to do otherwise than lower and debase the moral nature of those with and through whom they have much communication. It is merely, broadly speaking, a question of degree; of much or little injury resulting from such communication; the cases in which real, permanent good can arise are too absolutely exceptional to require consideration.

Understand how the case stands. The unhappy being revolting against the trials of life; trials, the results of its own former actions; trials, heaven’s merciful medicine for the mentally and spiritually deceased, determines, instead of manfully taking arms against the sea of troubles, to let the curtain drop, and, as it fancies, end them.

It destroys the body, but finds itself precisely as much alive, mentally, as before. It had an appointed life-term determined by an intricate web of prior causes, which its own wilful sudden act cannot shorten. That term must run out its appointed sands. You may smash the lower half of the hour glass, so that the impalpable sand shooting from the upper bell is dissipated by the passing aerial currents as it issues; but that stream will run on, unnoticed, though it remain, until the whole store in that upper receptacle is exhausted.

So you may destroy the body, but not the appointed period of sentient existence, foredoomed (because simply the effect of a plexus of causes) to intervene before the dissolution of the personality; this must run on for its appointed period.

This is so in other cases, e.g., those of the victims of accident or violence; they, too, have to complete their life-term, and of these, too, we may speak on another occasion – but here it is sufficient to notice that, whether good broad, their mental attitude, at the time of death, alters wholly their subsequent position. They, too, have to wait on within the “Region of Desires” until their wave of life runs on to and reaches its appointed shore, but they wait on, wrapped in dreams, soothing and blissful, or the reverse, according to their mental and moral state at, and prior to the fatal hour, but nearly exempt from further material temptations, and, broadly speaking, incapable (except just at the moment of real death) of communicating scio motu with mankind, though not wholly beyond the possible of reach of the higher forms of “the Accursed Science, ” Necromancy. The question is a profoundly abstruse one; it would be impossible to explain within the brief space still remaining to us, how the conditions immediately after death in the case (1), of the man who deliberately lays down (not merely risks) his life from altruistic motives in the hope of saving those of others; and (2) of him, who deliberately sacrifices his life from selfish motives, in the hopes of escaping trials and troubles, which loom before him, differ so entirely as they do. Nature or Providence Fate, or God, being merely a self-adjusting machine it would at first sight seem as if the results must be identical in both cases, But machine though it be, we must remember that it is a machine sui generis –

“Out of himself he span
Th’ eternal web of right and wrong,
And ever feels the subtlest thrill
The slenderest thread along”!

A machine compared with whose perfect sensitiveness and adjustment, the highest human intellect is but a coarse clumsy replica, inpetto.

And we must remember that thoughts and motives are material, and at time marvelously potent material forces, and we may then begin to comprehend why the hero sacrificing his life on pure altruistic grounds, sinks as his life-blood ebbs away into a sweet dream, wherein –

“All that he wishes and all that he loves
Come smiling around his sunny way”

only to wake into active or objective consciousness when re-born in the Region of Happiness, while the poor, unhappy and misguided mortal who, seeking to elude fate, selfishly loosens the silver string and breaks the golden bowl, finds himself terribly alive and awake, instinct with all the evil cravings and desires that embittered his world-life, without a body in which to gratify these and capable of only such partial alleviation as is possible by more or less vicarious gratification, and this only, at the cost of the ultimate complete rupture with his 6th and 7th principles, and consequent ultimate annihilation after, alas! prolonged periods of suffering.

Let it not be supposed that there is no hope for this class – the sane deliberate suicide. If bearing steadfastly his cross, he suffers patiently his punishment, striving against carnal appetites, still alive in him, in all their intensity, though, of course, each in proportion to the degree to which it had been indulged in earth-life. If we say he bears this humbly, never allowing himself to be tempted here or there into unlawful gratifications of unholy desires, then when his fated death-hour strikes his four higher principles reunite, and in the final separation that then ensues, it may well be that all may be well with him, and that he passes on to the gestation period and its subsequent developments.

Till the predestined death-knell rings he has his chance, he may wipe off in suffering and repentance many a sad black score from the page of “KARMA,” but, alas! and this is the point we desire to impress upon Spiritualists, he may add a hundred fouler ones to the sad blots already damning the record.

It is not merely for the sake of the mediums, not merely “for the sake of those that set at meat with these,” but, above all, for the sakes of these miserable half-lost brothers and sisters that we appeal.

Suddenly cut short in careers, always more or less deeply befouled in all sane suicides (and we speak only of these, for insane suicides are but victims), with one of the deadliest sins, rage, hatred, lust, greed, &c., they awake to find themselves haunted by their besetting sin in all its intensity. Around them are mediums, many of them of sad purpose throwing themselves open to what they idly dream to be angel guides. They have but to obsess these only too willing partners, to share in their evil gratifications, or collecting out of their aura and loosely coherent physical organizations, and from even fouler sources, the tombs and shambles, materials from a fragile physical organization of their own, revel in this with their mediums in all imaginable iniquity. These were the incubi and succubi of mediaeval times, these are the “Spirit wives” and husbands of modern days, and these, when merely obsessing and not assuming a separate objective form, are the demons of drunkenness, gluttony, hatred and malice, the memorials of whose fiendish excesses crowd the sad records alike of the present and the past.

Evil, to begin with and separated (though not as yet irrevocably) from their 6th and 7th principles, and such restraining influence as these may have insensibly exercised, these spirits too often pass from bad to worse, develop into true psychic vampires, driving victim after victim to destruction, inciting to, and glorying in the foulest, the most incredible crimes, to be swept at last, when the appointed death-hour strikes, on the flood-tide of their own enormities, far out of the earths aura into regions, where cold annihilation, alone, drops the curtain on Eons of unimaginable misery.

And many of these, veritable fiends as they become were not so very, very bad in this life; “shady lots” perhaps in modern phraseology, with some rebellious, bitter, angry taint in the character, which led them to suicide – but after all very far removed from the demons in which they eventuated, and this awful and incredible development devil-wards which they underwent, though indirectly facilitated by the separation of their highest principles was primarily, and almost exclusively, due to the temptations, the facilities for the gratification of their worst desires, held out to them by mediums (recognized as such or not) of the low physical-manifestation type.

Alas! for the great bulk of such mediums! Alas! for too many of their Spiritualistic admirers and associates! Little do they dream that two-thirds of all the most monstrous crimes in the world have their origin in this low physical mediumistic capacity. Unrecognized as such, hundreds of miserable mediums perish on the scaffold, declaring, and declaring truly, that they were egged on to the crimes for which they suffer by a devil in reality, an obsessing spirit, mostly of this class. In thousands and thousands of cases, the gross sins, drunkenness, gluttony, lewdness, beastiality in all its forms, which spread desolation to innumerably happy hearths, and plunge in misery and disgrace countless happy households, are all really traceable to this same class of spirit, deriving alike the intensity of its evil desires and the power to do harm, from that fatal capacity of mediumship of the low class, favourable to physical manifestations.

And this mediumship is a plant, that like a noxious weed spreads as time runs on, under encouraging influences. Do the Spiritualists who deal so complacently, nay, who so greedily run after, these physical-manifestation mediums reflect on, or at all realize what they are doing? It is not merely that both they themselves and the mediums are running a fearful risk of moral shipwreck through this intercourse. This can, to a certain extent, be guarded against (though it too seldom is) by perfect purity of word, thought and deed; and again the medium may (though this too is rare) be naturally so well-disposed that the obsessing spirit, if not already rabidly evil, may do little harm, but what is alike beyond control of medium and his or her supporters is, diffusion as the mediumship is developed of mediumistic germs through the Akasic atmosphere which lighting here and there in appropriate soils the weakest and most sensual natures will produce later a crop of more degraded mediums, destined certainly to include many of the vilest sinners, if not several of the deepest-dyed criminals of the age.

This form of mediumship is a deadly weed, and so far from being encouraged into reproduction (and that is what the Spiritualists, as a body, do), it should be starved out, by disuse, whenever and wherever it is recognized. It will always unfortunately exist, springing up sporadically here and there, and though dwarfed in habit, contributing largely to the loathsome annals of sin and crime; but it is truly monstrous to aid the propagation, and in an intensified form, fo this curse, by aiding and abeting the development and function of prominent specimens.

Let none, who do this, dream that they can escape the consequences. All who share in transactions by which sin and misery are multiplied for others, must share the recoil. They may act in ignorance, in good faith and so escape the moral taint, the most grievous of the consequences of evil, but they can by no means escape the other consequences, and they will have to brave in coming lives the angry buffets of a retributive justice, which, though sleeping during the present, never sleeps during a second life.

Back to Theosophical Writings