Reprinted by Blavatsky Study Center
"When years ago, we first travelled over the East, we came into contact with certain men, endowed with such mysterious powers and such profound knowledge that we may truly designate them as the sages of the Orient. To their instructions we lent a ready ear." - H.P. Blavatsky
The material below in Chapters 1 through 9 is made up of textual
Table of Contents
Isis Unveiled: H.P. Blavatsky's First Book
Isis Unveiled: An Overview
Isis Unveiled: Online and Printed Sources
Introductory Note (2)
ISIS UNVEILED is the first published work of H. P. Blavatsky. It was issued at New York City by the publishing house of J. W. Bouton in the fall of 1877.
More than once, in later years, H.P.B. threw out hints about Isis. These hints, like the book itself, were addressed to the intuition and not to the curiosity of the reader. Thus, writing in The Theosophist in November, 1882, five years after the publication of Isis, she said:
In Isis the explanations of a hundred mysteries lie but half buried ... only waiting for the application of intelligence guided by a little Occult knowledge to come out into the light of day.
Nearly eight years later, in May, 1891, she gave a final statement in regard to Isis in her article, "My Books," printed in Lucifer at London. This was written a few days before her death. This is what she said:
I maintain that Isis contains a mass of original and never hitherto divulged information on occult subjects.... I defend the ideas and teachings in it, with no fear of being charged with conceit, since neither ideas nor teaching are mine, as I have always declared; and I maintain that both are of the greatest value to mystics and students of Theosophy...
Every word of information found in this work or in my later writings, comes from the teachings of our Eastern Masters, and ... many a passage in these works has been written by me under their dictation.
The material below is made up of textual extracts from Isis Unveiled, topically and sequentially arranged. The page references from which the statements are taken, are given at the end of each chapter.
Adepts and The Secret Doctrine
FROM the first ages of man the fundamental truths of all that we are permitted to know on earth was in the safe keeping of the adepts of the sanctuaries. These guardians of the primitive divine revelation were bound together by a universal freemasonry of science and philosophy, which formed one unbroken chain around the globe.
The difference in creeds and religious practice was only external. Too many of our thinkers do not consider that the numerous changes in language, the allegorical phraseology and evident secretiveness of the old Mystical writers, who were generally under an obligation never to divulge the solemn secrets of the sanctuary, might have sadly misled translators and commentators. The phrases of the mediaeval alchemist they read literally; and even the veiled symbology of Plato is commonly misunderstood by the modern scholar.
Almost without exception ancient and mediaeval scholars believed in the arcane doctrines of wisdom. These included Alchemy, the Chaldeo-Jewish Kabala, the esoteric systems of Pythagoras and the old Magi, and those of the later Platonic philosophers and theurgists, the Indian Gymnosophists and the Chaldean astrologers.
Formerly, magic was a universal science, entirely in the hands of the sacerdotal savant. Though the focus was jealously guarded in the sanctuaries, its rays illuminated the whole of mankind. Otherwise, how are we to account for the extraordinary identity of "superstitions," customs, traditions, and even sentences, repeated in popular proverbs scattered from one pole to the other?
The fables of the mythopoeic ages will be found to have but allegorized the greatest truths of geology and anthropology. It is in these ridiculously expressed fables that science will have to look for her "missing links."
Otherwise, whence such strange "coincidences" in the respective histories of nations and peoples so widely thrown apart? Whence that identity of primitive conceptions which fables and legends though they are termed now, contain in them nevertheless the kernel of historical facts, of a truth thickly overgrown with the husks of popular embellishment, but still a truth?
Even the so-called fabulous narratives of certain Buddhistical books, when stripped of their allegorical meanings, are found to be the secret doctrines taught by Pythagoras. What Buddha taught in the sixth century, B.C., in India, Pythagoras taught in the fifth, in Greece and Italy.
There are, scattered throughout the world, a handful of thoughtful and solitary students, who pass their lives in obscurity, far from the rumors of the world, studying the great problem of the physical and spiritual universes. They have their secret records in which are preserved the fruits of the scholastic labors of the long line of recluses whose successors they are. The knowledge of their early ancestors, the sages of India, Babylonia, Nineveh, and the imperial Thebes; the legends and traditions commented upon by the masters of Solon, Pythagoras, and Plato, in the marble halls of Heliopolis and Sais; traditions which, in their days, already seemed to hardly glimmer from behind the foggy curtains of the past; -- all this, and much more, is recorded on indestructible parchment, and passed with jealous care from one adept to another. We must bear in mind that authentic treatises upon ancient magic of the Chaldean and Egyptian lore are not scattered about in public libraries, and at auction sales. That such exist is nevertheless a fact.
The keys to the Biblical miracles of old, and to the phenomena of modern days; the problems of psychology, physiology, and the many "missing links" which have so perplexed scientists, are all in the hands of secret fraternities.
No wonder that the Northern seer, Swedenborg, advises people to search for the LOST WORD among the hierophants of Tartary, China, and Thibet; for it is there, and only there now, although we find it inscribed on the monuments of the oldest Egyptian dynasties.
The grandiose poetry of the four Vedas; the Books of Hermes; the Chaldean Book of Numbers; the Nazarene Codex; the Kabala of the Tanaim; the Sepher Jezira; the Book of Wisdom of Schlomah (Solomon); the secret treatise on Muhta and Badha, attributed by the Buddhist kabalists to Kapila, the founder of the Sankhya system; the Brahmanas; the Stan-Gyour of the Thibetans; all these volumes have the same ground-work. Varying but in allegories they teach the same secret doctrine which, when once thoroughly eliminated, will prove to be the Ultima Thule of true philosophy, and disclose what is this LOST WORD. Our scientists do not -- nay, cannot understand correctly the old Hindu literature. They have a perfect right to the just consciousness of their great learning, but none at all to lead the world into their own error, by making it believe that they have solved the last problem of ancient thought in literature, whether Sanscrit or any other; that there lies not behind the external "twaddle" far more than was ever dreamed of by our modern exact philosophy; or that above and beyond the correct rendering of Sanscrit words and sentences there is no deeper thought, intelligible to some of the descendants of those who veiled it in the morning hours of earth's day, if they are not to the profane reader. No people in the world have ever attained to such grandeur of thought in ideal conceptions of the Deity and its offspring, MAN, as the Sanscrit metaphysicians and theologians.
Verily the Christs of the pre-Christian ages were many. But they died unknown to the world, and disappeared silently and mysteriously. There never was nor ever will be a truly philosophical mind, whether of Pagan, heathen, Jew, or Christian, but has followed the same path of thought.
Who, of those who ever studied the ancient philosophies, who understand intuitionally the grandeur of their conceptions, the boundless sublimity of their views of the Unknown Deity, can hesitate for a moment to give the preference to their doctrines over the incomprehensible dogmatic and contradictory theology of the hundreds of Christian sects? Who that has ever read Plato and fathomed his To On, "whom no person has seen except the son," can doubt that Jesus was a disciple of the same secret doctrine which had instructed the great philosopher? For Plato never claimed to be the inventor of all that he wrote, but gave credit for it to Pythagoras, who, in his turn, pointed to the remote East as the source whence he derived his information and his philosophy.
The mass of cumulative evidence has been reinforced to an extent which leaves little, if any, room for further controversy. A conclusive opinion is furnished by too many scholars to doubt the fact that India was the Alma-Mater, not only of the civilization, arts, and sciences, but also of all the great religions of antiquity; Judaism, and hence Christianity, included.
And when we say, indiscriminately, "India," we do not mean the India of our modern days, but that of the archaic period. In those ancient times, countries which are now known to us by other names were all called India. There was an Upper, a Lower, and a Western India, the latter of which is now Persia-Iran. The countries now named Thibet, Mongolia, and Great Tartary, were also considered by the ancient writers as India.
And now we will try to give a clear insight into one of the chief objects of this work. What we desire to prove is, that underlying every ancient popular religion was the same ancient wisdom-doctrine, one and identical, professed and practiced by the initiates of every country, who alone were aware of its existence and importance. The proofs of this identity of fundamental doctrine in the old religions are found in the prevalence of a system of initiation; in the secret sacerdotal castes who had the guardianship of mystical words of power, and a public display of a phenomenal control over natural forces, indicating association with preterhuman beings. Every approach to the Mysteries of all these nations was guarded with the same jealous care, and in all, the penalty of death was inflicted upon initiates of any degree who divulged the secrets entrusted to them. There was an identity of vows, formulas, rites, and doctrines, between the ancient faiths. Not only is their memory still preserved in India, but also the Secret Association is still alive and as active as ever. The chief pontiff and hierophant, the Brahmatma, is still accessible to those "who know," though perhaps recognized by another name; and the ramifications of his influence extend throughout the world.
The secret doctrines of the Magi, of the pre-Vedic Buddhists, of the hierophants of the Egyptian Thoth or Hermes, and of the adepts of whatever age and nationality, including the Chaldean Kabalists and the Jewish nazars, were identical from the beginning. When we use the term Buddhists we do not mean to imply by it either the exoteric Buddhism instituted by the followers of Gautama-Buddha, nor the modern Buddhistic religion, but the secret philosophy of Sakyamuni, which in its essence is certainly identical with the ancient wisdom-religion of the sanctuary, the pre-Vedic Brahmanism. By Buddhism, therefore, we mean that religion signifying literally the doctrine of wisdom, and which by many ages antedates the metaphysical philosophy of Siddartha Sakyamuni. The building of the Temple of Solomon is the symbolical representation of the gradual acquirement of the secret wisdom, or magic; this is the "Temple" which can be reared without the sound of the hammer, or any tool of iron being heard in the house while it is "in building."
In the East, this science is called, in some places, the "seven-storied," in others, the "nine-storied" Temple; every story answers allegorically to a degree of knowledge acquired. Throughout the countries of the Orient, wherever magic and the wisdom-religion are studied, its practitioners and students are known among their craft as Builders -- for they build the temple of knowledge, of secret science.
The "wisdom" of the archaic ages did not die out, and the Gnosis still lingers on earth, and its votaries are many, albeit unknown. Such secret brotherhoods have been mentioned by more than one great author. If they have been regarded as mere fictions of the novelist, that fact has only helped the "brother-adepts" to keep their incognito the more easily.
But there are numbers of these mystic brotherhoods which have naught to do with "civilized" communities. Many are the candidates at the doors of those who are supposed to know the path that leads to the secret brotherhoods. The great majority are refused admittance, and these turn away interpreting the refusal as an evidence of the non-existence of any such secret society. Thus these societies will go on and hear themselves denied without uttering a word until the day shall come for them to throw off their reserve and show how completely they are masters of the situation. The present writer states a few facts concerning them, by the special permission of one who has a right to give it. The work now submitted to public judgment is the fruit of a somewhat intimate acquaintance with Eastern adepts and study of their science.
Our work, then, is a plea for the recognition of the Hermetic Philosophy, the anciently universal Wisdom-Religion, as the only possible key to the Absolute in science and theology. The religion of the ancients is the religion of the future. A few centuries more, and there will linger no sectarian beliefs in either of the great religions of humanity. Brahmanism and Buddhism, Christianity and Mahometanism will all disappear before the mighty rush of facts. No other claim is advanced for a hearing of the opinion contained in the present work than that they are based upon many years' study of both ancient magic and its modern form, Spiritualism.
NOTE.--The volume and page references to Isis Unveiled, from which the foregoing chapter is compiled, are, in the order of the excerpts, as follows: I, 37-8; I, 205; I, 247; I, 122; I, 291; I, 347; I, 557; I, 558; I, 559; I, 573; I, 580; I, 581; I, 583; II, 43; II, 84; II, 38; II, 39; II, 30; I, 589; II, 98-9; II, 100; II, 142; II, 143; II, 391-2; II, 402-3-4; II, 307; I, v; I, vii; I, 613; I, 42.
THE Ineffable Name, in the search for which so many vainly consume their knowledge and lives, dwells latent in the heart of every man.
A man can have no god that is not bounded by his own human conceptions. The wider the sweep of his spiritual vision, the mightier will be his deity. But where can we find a better demonstration of Him than in man himself; in the spiritual and divine powers lying dormant in every human being? From the remotest antiquity mankind as a whole have always been convinced of the existence of a personal spiritual entity within the personal physical man. This inner entity was more or less divine according to its proximity to the crown -- Chrestos. This belief is neither bigotry nor superstition, only an ever-present, instinctive feeling of the proximity of another spiritual and invisible world, which, though it be subjective to the senses of the outward man, is perfectly objective to the inner ego. Humanity is the highest manifestation on earth of the Unseen Supreme Deity, and each man an incarnation of his God.
Is it enough for man to know that he exists? Is it enough to be formed a human being to enable him to deserve the appellation of MAN? To become a genuine spiritual entity, which that designation implies, man must first create himself anew, so to speak, i.e., thoroughly eliminate from his mind and spirit, not only the dominating influence of selfishness and other impurity, but also the infection of superstition and prejudice. The latter is far different from what we call antipathy or sympathy. We are at first irresistibly or unwittingly drawn within its dark circle by that peculiar influence, that powerful current of magnetism which emanates from ideas as well as from physical bodies. By this we are surrounded, and finally prevented through moral cowardice -- fear of public opinion -- from stepping out of it. It is rare that men regard a thing in either its true or false light, accepting the conclusion by the free action of their own judgment. Quite the reverse. The conclusion is more commonly reached by blindly adopting the opinion current at the hour among those with whom they associate. The work now submitted to public judgment is offered to such as are willing to accept truth wherever it may be found, and to defend it, even looking popular prejudice straight in the face. The clergy apart, none but the logician, the investigator, the dauntless explorer, should meddle with books like this. Such delvers after truth have the courage of their opinions.
When, years ago, we first traveled over the East, we came in contact with certain men, endowed with such mysterious power and such profound knowledge that we may truly designate them as the sages of the Orient. To their instructions we lent a ready ear. They showed us that by combining science with religion, the existence of God and immortality of man's spirit may be demonstrated like a problem of Euclid. The Oriental philosophy has room for no other faith than an absolute and immovable faith in the omnipotence of man's own immortal self. This omnipotence comes from the kinship of man's spirit with the Universal Soul -- God! Science, theology, every human hypothesis and conception born of imperfect knowledge, lost forever their authoritative character in our sight.
Such knowledge is priceless; and it has been hidden only from those who overlooked it, derided it, or denied its existence. Our Ego, that which lives and thinks and feels independently of us in our mortal casket, does more than believe. It knows that there exists a God in nature, for the sole and invincible Artificer of all lives in us as we live in Him. No dogmatic faith or exact science is able to uproot that intuitional feeling inherent in man, when he has once fully realized it in himself. Difficult, nay, impossible, as it seems to science to find out the invisible, universal motor of all -- Life, to explain its nature, or even to suggest a reasonable hypothesis for the same, the mystery is but half a mystery, not merely for the great adepts and seers, but even for the true and firm believers in a spiritual world. To the simple believer, there remains divine faith. The latter is firmly rooted in his inner senses; in his unerring intuition, with which cold reason has naught to do, he feels it cannot play him false. Let human-born, erroneous dogmas, and theological sophistry contradict each other; let one crowd off the other, and the subtile casuistry of one creed fell to the ground the crafty reasoning of another; truth remains one, and there is not a religion, whether Christian or heathen, that is not firmly built upon the rock of ages -- God and immortal spirit.
"There is a personal God, and there is a personal Devil!" thunders the Christian preacher. "There is no personal God, except the grey matter in our brain," contemptuously replies the materialist, "and there is no Devil." Between Science and Theology is a bewildered public, fast losing all belief in man's personal immortality, in a deity of any kind, and rapidly descending to the level of mere animal existence.
Human nature is like universal nature in its abhorrence of a vacuum. It feels an intuitional yearning for a Supreme Power. Mankind have one innate, irrepressible craving. This is the yearning after the proofs of immortality. How could such a belief have stood for the countless ages, were it not that among all nations, whether civilized or savage, man has been allowed the demonstrative proof? Is not the very existence of such a belief an evidence that thinking philosopher and unreasoning savage have both been compelled to acknowledge the testimony of their senses? Being forbidden to search for Him where alone His traces would be found, man filled the aching void with the personal God whom his spiritual teachers built up for him from the crumbling ruins of heathen myths and hoary philosophies of old. How otherwise explain the mushroom growth of new sects, some of them absurd beyond degree?
Sincere skepticism as to the immortality of man's soul is a malady, a malformation of the physical brain, and has existed in every age. As there are infants born with a caul upon their heads, so there are men who are incapable till their last hour of ridding themselves of that kind of caul evidently enveloping their organs of spirituality. Those who resign themselves to a materialistic existence, shutting out the divine radiance shed by their spirit, at the beginning of the earthly pilgrimage, and stifling the warning voice of that faithful sentry, the conscience, which serves as a focus for the light in the soul -- such beings as these, having left behind conscience and spirit, and crossed the boundaries of matter, will of necessity have to follow its laws.
We are at the bottom of a cycle and evidently in a transitory state. Plato divides the intellectual progress of the universe during every cycle into fertile and barren periods. During the barren periods the spiritual sight of the majority of mankind is so blinded as to lose every notion of the superior power of its own divine spirit. We are in a barren period: the eighteenth century, during which the malignant fever of skepticism broke out so irrepressibly, has entailed unbelief as an hereditary disease upon the nineteenth. The divine intellect is veiled in man; his animal brain alone philosophizes.
Reason, the outgrowth of the physical brain, develops at the expense of instinct -- the flickering reminiscence of a once divine omniscience -- spirit. Reason avails only for the consideration of material things; it is incapable of helping its possessor to a knowledge of spirit. In losing instinct, man loses his intuitional powers, which are the crown and ultimatum of instinct. Reason is the clumsy weapon of the scientists -- intuition the unerring guide of the seer. The brain feeds and lives and grows in strength and power at the expense of its spiritual parent. It aims but at the development and fuller comprehension of natural, earthly life; and thus, can discover but the mysteries of physical nature. Its grief and fear, hope and joy, are all closely blended with its terrestrial existence. It ignores all that cannot be demonstrated by either its organs of action or sensation. It begins by becoming virtually dead; it dies at last completely. It is annihilated. When death arrives, there is no more a soul to liberate. The whole essence of the latter has already been absorbed by the vital system of the physical man. Our present cycle is pre-eminently one of such soul-deaths. We elbow soulless men and women at every step in life.
There are revelations of the spiritual senses of man which may be trusted far more than all the sophistries of materialism. Instinct is more to be trusted than the most instructed and developed reason, as regards man's inner sense which assures him of his immortality. Instinct is the universal endowment of nature by the Spirit of the Deity itself; reason, the slow development of our physical constitution, an evolution of our adult material brain. Instinct, as a divine spark, grows and develops according to the law of the double evolution, physically and spiritually. It is the divine instinct in its ceaseless progress of development.
But, if the knowledge of the occult powers of nature opens the spiritual sight of man, and leads him unerringly to a profounder veneration for the Creator, on the other hand ignorance, dogmatic narrow-mindedness, and a childish fear of looking to the bottom of things, invariably leads to fetish-worship and superstition. Within the limits of his intellectual capabilities the true philosopher knows no forbidden ground, and should be content to accept no mystery of nature as inscrutable and inviolable. Fanaticism in religion, fanaticism in science, or fanaticism in any other question becomes a hobby, and cannot but blind our senses. "There is no more fatal fallacy than that the truth will prevail by its own force, that it has only to be seen to be embraced. In fact the desire for the actual truth exists in very few minds, and the capacity to discern it in fewer still. When men say they are seeking the truth, they mean that they are looking for evidence to support some prejudice or prepossession. Their beliefs are moulded to their wishes. They see all, and more than all, that seems to tell for that which they desire; they are blind as bats to whatever tells against them. The scientists are no more exempt from this common failing than are others."
Many men have arisen who have had glimpses of the truth, and fancied they had it all. Such have failed to achieve the good they might have done and sought to do, because vanity has made them thrust their personality into such undue prominence as to interpose it between their believers and the whole truth that lay behind. The world needs no sectarian church, whether of Buddha, Jesus, Mahomet, Swedenborg, Calvin, or any other. There being but ONE Truth, man requires but one church -- the Temple of God within us, walled in by matter, but penetrable by any who can find the way; the pure in heart see God. If by Christianity is meant the external religious forms of worship, then in the eyes of every truly religious man, who has studied ancient exoteric faiths, and their symbology, Christianity is pure heathenism, and Catholicism, with its fetish-worshipping, is far worse and more pernicious than Hinduism in its most idolatrous aspect. The everlasting conflict between the world-religions -- Christianity, Judaism, Brahmanism, Paganism, Buddhism, proceeds from this one source: Truth is known but to the few; the rest, unwilling to withdraw the veil from their own hearts, imagine it blinding the eyes of their neighbor. The god of every exoteric religion, including Christianity, notwithstanding its pretensions to mystery, is an idol, a fiction, and cannot be anything else.
There never was, nor can there be more than one universal religion; for there can be but one truth concerning God. Like an immense chain whose upper end, the alpha, remains invisibly emanating from a Deity -- in statu absconditu with every primitive theology -- it encircles our globe in every direction; it leaves not even the darkest corner unvisited, before the other end, the omega, turns back on its way to be again received where it first emanated. On this divine chain was strung the exoteric symbology of every people. Their variety of form is powerless to affect their substance, and under their diverse ideal types of the universe of matter, symbolizing its vivifying principles, the uncorrupted immaterial image of the spirit of being guiding them is the same. So far as human intellect can go in the ideal interpretation of the spiritual universe, its laws and powers, the last word was pronounced ages since. Let human brains submit themselves to torture for thousands of years to come; let theology perplex faith and mime it with the enforcing of incomprehensible dogmas in metaphysics; and science strengthen skepticism by pulling down the tottering remains of spiritual intuition in mankind, with her demonstrations of its fallibility, eternal truth can never be destroyed. True philosophy and divine truth are convertible terms. A religion which dreads the light cannot be a religion based on either truth or philosophy -- hence, it must be false. The ancient Mysteries were mysteries to the profane only, whom the hierophants never sought nor would accept as proselytes; to the initiates the Mysteries became explained as soon as the final veil was withdrawn. No mind like that of Pythagoras or Plato would have contented itself with an unfathomable and incomprehensible mystery, like that of the Christian dogma.
Kapila, Orpheus, Pythagoras, Plato, Basilides, Marcian, Ammonius and Plotinus, founded schools and sowed the germs of many a noble thought, and disappearing left behind them the refulgence of demi-gods. But the three personalities of Christna, Gautama, and Jesus appeared like true gods, each in his epoch, and bequeathed to humanity three religions built on the imperishable rock of ages. That all three, especially the Christian faith, have in time become adulterated, and the latter almost unrecognizable, is no fault of either of the noble Reformers. It is the priestly self-styled husbandmen of the "vine of the Lord" who must be held to account by future generations. Purify the three systems of the dross of human dogmas, the pure essence remaining will be found identical. Gautama-Buddha is mirrored in the precepts of Christ; Paul and Philo Judaeus are faithful echoes of Plato; and Ammonius Saccas and Plotinus won their immortal fame by combining the teachings of all these grand masters of true philosophy. "Prove all things; hold fast to that which is good," ought to be the motto of all brothers on earth. Not so is it with the interpreters of the Bible.
Seers, righteous men, who had attained to the highest science of the inner man and the knowledge of truth, have, like Marcus Antoninus, received instructions "from the gods," in sleep and otherwise. Helped by the purer spirits, those that dwell in "regions of eternal bliss," they have watched the process and warned mankind repeatedly. Skepticism may sneer; faith, based on knowledge and spiritual science, believes and affirms. Spiritual Life is the one primordial principle above; Physical Life is the primordial principle below, but they are one under their dual aspect. When the Spirit is completely untrammelled from the fetters of correlation, and its essence has become so purified as to be reunited with its CAUSE, it may -- and yet who can tell whether it really will -- have a glimpse of the Eternal Truth. Till then, let us not build ourselves idols in our own image, and accept the shadows for the Eternal Light.
A man's idea of God is that image of blinding light that he sees reflected in the concave mirror of his own soul, and yet this is not, in very truth, God, but only His reflection. His glory is there, but it is the light of his own Spirit that the man sees, and it is all that he can bear to look upon. The clearer the mirror, the brighter will be the divine image. In the ecstatic Yogin, in the illuminated Seer, the spirit will shine like the noon-day sun; in the debased victim of earthly attraction, the radiance has disappeared, for the mirror is obscured with the stains of matter. Such men deny their God, and would willingly deprive humanity of soul at one blow.
The profoundest and most transcendental speculations of the ancient metaphysicians are all based on that great principle underlying the whole of their religious metaphysics -- illusion of the senses. Everything that is finite is illusion, all that which is infinite and eternal is reality. The objects of sense being ever delusive and fluctuating, cannot be a reality. Spirit alone is unchangeable, hence -- alone is no illusion. The Hermetic axiom maintains that only the First Cause and its direct emanations, our spirits, are incorruptible and eternal. Christos, as a unity, is but an abstraction representing the collective aggregation of the numberless spirit-entities, which are the direct emanations of the infinite, invisible, incomprehensible FIRST CAUSE -- the individual spirits of men, erroneously called the souls. They are the divine sons of God, of which some only overshadow mortal men -- but this the majority -- some remain forever planetary spirits, and some -- the smaller and rare minority -- unite themselves during life with some men. Such God-like beings as Gautama-Buddha, Jesus, Tissoo, Christna, and a few others had united themselves with their spirits permanently -- hence they became gods on earth. Others, such as Moses, Pythagoras, Apollonius, Plotinus, Confucius, Plato, Iamblichus, and some Christian saints, having at intervals been so united, have taken rank in history as demi-gods and leaders of mankind. The Greek Logos, the Hebrew Messiah, the Latin Verbum, and the Hindu Viradj are identically the same. They represent an idea of collective entities -- of flames detached from the one eternal centre of light.
It is by the spirit of the teachings of both Buddha and Pythagoras, that we can so easily recognize the identity of their doctrines. The all-pervading, universal soul, the Anima Mundi, is Nirvana; and Buddha, as a generic name, is the anthropomorphized monad of Pythagoras. When resting in Nirvana, the final bliss, Buddha is the silent monad, dwelling in darkness and silence; he is also the formless Brahm, the sublime but unknowable Deity, which pervades invisibly the whole universe. Whenever it is manifested, desiring to impress itself upon humanity in a shape intelligent to our intellect, whether we call it an avatar or a King Messiah, or a permutation of Divine Spirit, Logos, Christos, it is all one and the same thing. In each case it is "the Father" who is in the Son, and the Son in "the Father." The immortal spirit overshadows the mortal man. It enters into him, and pervading his whole being, makes of him a god, who descends into his earthly tabernacle. Every man may become a Buddha, says the doctrine. And so throughout the interminable series of ages we find now and then men who more or less succeed in uniting themselves "with God" as the expression goes, with their own spirit, as we ought to translate. The Buddhists call such men Arhat. Though the individual human spirits are numberless, collectively they are one, as every drop of water drawn out of the ocean, metaphorically speaking, may have an individual existence, and still be one with the rest of the drops going to form that ocean; for each human spirit is a scintilla of the one all-pervading light. This divine spirit animates the flower, the particle of granite on the mountain side, the lion, the man. The same spirit that animates the particle of dust, lurking latent in it, animates man, manifesting itself in him in its highest state of activity. This doctrine of God being the universal mind diffused through all things underlies all ancient philosophies.
Who is better fitted to impart to us the mysteries of after-death, so erroneously thought impenetrable, than these men who having, through self-discipline and purity of life and purpose, succeeded in uniting themselves with their "God," were afforded some glimpses, however imperfect, of the great truth? The love of truth is inherently the love of good; and so predominating over every desire of the soul, purifying it and assimilating it to the divine, thus governing every act of the individual, it raises man to a participation and communion with Divinity.
Men possessed of such knowledge and exercising such powers patiently toiled for something better than the vain glory of a passing fame. Seeking it not, they became immortal, as do all who labor for the good of the race, forgetful of mean self. Illuminated with the light of eternal truth, these rich-poor alchemists fixed their attention upon the things that lie beyond the common ken, recognizing nothing inscrutable but the First Cause, and finding no question unsolvable. To dare, to know, to will, and REMAIN SILENT, was their constant rule; to be beneficent, unselfish, and unpretending were, with them, spontaneous impulses. Disdaining the rewards of petty traffic, spurning wealth, luxury, pomp, and worldly power, they aspired to knowledge as the most satisfying of all acquisitions.
NOTE.--The volume and page references to Isis Unveiled, from which the foregoing chapter is compiled, are, in the order of the excerpts, as follows: II, 343; II, 567; II, 593; II, 374; I, 39; I, v; II, iv; I, vi; I, vii; I, 36; I, 467; I, 36; I, x; I, 36-7; I, 115; I, 328; I, 247; I, 433; II, 368-9; I, 424; I, 425; II, 41; I, 402; I, 615; II, 635; II, 80; I, 307; I, 560; I, 561; II, 121; II, 536; II, 84; II, 369; II, 402; I, xviii; II, 157; II, 158; I, 502; II, 159; II, 158-9; I, 291; I, 292; I, 289; I, 292; I, xiii; I, 66-7.
Evolution of the Soul
ESOTERIC philosophers held that everything in nature is but a materialization of spirit. The Eternal First Cause is latent spirit and matter from the beginning. While conceding the idea of such a God to be an unthinkable abstraction to human reason, they claimed that the unerring human instinct grasped it as a reminiscence of something concrete to it though intangible to our physical senses. With the first idea, which emanated from the hitherto-inactive Deity, the first motion was communicated to the whole universe, and the electric thrill was instantaneously felt throughout the boundless space. Spirit begat force, and force matter; and thus the latent deity manifested itself as a creative energy.
When; at what point of the eternity; or how? the question must always remain unanswered; for human reason is unable to grasp the great mystery. But, though spirit-matter was from all eternity, it was in a latent state; the evolution of our visible universe must have had a beginning. This mystery of first creation, which was ever the despair of science, is unfathomable, unless we accept the doctrine of the Hermetists. Though matter is co-eternal with spirit, that matter is certainly not our visible, tangible, and divisible matter, but its extreme sublimation. Pure spirit is but one remove higher. Unless we allow man to have been evolved out of this primordial spirit-matter, how can we ever come to any reasonable hypothesis as to the genesis of animate beings?
The esoteric doctrine, then, teaches, like Buddhism and Brahmanism, and even the persecuted Kabala, that the one infinite and unknown Essence exists from all eternity, and in regular and harmonious successions is either passive or active. Upon inaugurating an active period, an expansion of this Divine essence, from within outwardly, occurs in obedience to eternal and immutable law, and the phenomenal or visible universe is the ultimate result of the long chain of cosmical forces thus progressively set in motion. In like manner when the passive condition is resumed, a contraction of the Divine essence takes place, and the previous work of creation is gradually and progressively undone. The visible universe becomes disintegrated, its material dispersed; and "darkness" solitary and alone, broods once more over the face of the "deep." To use a metaphor which will convey the idea still more clearly, an outbreathing of the "unknown essence" produces the world; and an inhalation causes it to disappear. This process has been going on from all eternity, and our present universe is but one of an infinite series which had no beginning, and will have no end.
The successive existence of an incalculable number of worlds before the subsequent evolution of our own, was believed in and taught by all the ancient peoples. The Hindu doctrines teach of two Pralayas or dissolutions; the one universal, the Maha-Pralaya, the other partial, or the minor Pralaya. This does not relate to the universal dissolution which occurs at the end of every "Day of Brahma," but to the geological cataclysms at the end of every minor cycle of our globe. A partial cataclysm occurs at the close of every "age" of the world, which does not destroy the latter, but only changes its general appearance. New races of men and animals and a new flora evolve from the dissolution of the precedent one.
As well as man, and every other living thing upon it, our planet has had its spiritual and physical evolution. From an impalpable ideal thought under the creative Will of Him of whom we know nothing, and but dimly conceive in imagination, this globe became fluidic and semi-spiritual, then condensed itself more and more, until its physical development. Our physical planet is but the hand-maiden, or rather the maid-of-all-work, of the spirit, its master. The allegorical curse under which it labors, is that it only procreates, it does not create. And this curse will last until the minutest particle of matter on earth shall have outlived its days, until every grain of dust has, by gradual transformation through evolution, become a constituent part of a "living soul," and, until the latter shall reascend the cyclic arc, and finally stand -- its own Redeeming Spirit -- at the foot of the upper step of the spiritual worlds, as at the first hour of its emanation. Beyond that lies the great "Deep" -- A MYSTERY. The ancients were philosophers, consistent in all things. Hence they taught that each of these departed worlds, having performed its physical evolution, and reached -- through birth, growth, maturity, old age, and death -- the end of its cycle, had returned to its primitive subjective form of a spiritual earth. Thereafter it had to serve through all eternity as the dwelling of those who had lived on it as men, and even animals, but were now spirits.
Eternity is pointed off into grand cycles, in each of which twelve transformations of our world occur, following its partial destruction by fire and water, alternately. Of these twelve transformations,(1) the earth after each of the first six is grosser, and everything on it -- man included -- more material, than after the preceding one: while after each of the remaining six, the contrary is true, both man and earth growing more and more refined and spiritual with each terrestrial change. When the apex of the cycle is reached, a gradual dissolution takes place, and every living and objective form is destroyed. But when that point is reached, humanity has become fitted to live subjectively as well as objectively. And not humanity alone, but also animals, plants, and every atom. After a time of rest, say the Buddhists, when a new world becomes self-formed, the astral souls of animals and of all beings, except such as have reached the highest Nirvana, will return on earth again to end their cycles of transformations, and become men in their turn. If there is a developed immortal spirit in man, it must be in everything else, at least in a latent or germinal state, and it can only be a question of time for each of these germs to become fully developed. Logic shows us that as all matter had a common origin, it must have attributes in common, and as the vital and divine spark is in man's material body, so it must lurk in every subordinate species. The Hermetists held every particle of matter contains within itself a spark of the divine essence -- or light, spirit --which, through its tendency to free itself from its entanglement and return to the central source, produced motion in the particles, and from motion forms were born. As by gradual progression from the star-cloudlet to the development of the physical body of man, the rule holds good, so from the universal ether to the incarnate human spirit they traced one uninterrupted series of entities. These evolutions were from the world of spirit into the world of gross matter; and through that back again to the source of all things. The "descent of species" was to them a descent from the spirit, primal source of all, to the "degradation of matter."
The pre-existence and god-like powers of the human spirit were believed in by most all the sages of ancient days. The slow development from pre-existing forms was a doctrine with the later Rosicrucians. The Platonic philosophy was one of order, system, and proportion; it embraced the evolution of worlds and of species, the correlation and conservation of energy, the transmutation of material form, the indestructibility of matter and of spirit. The Pythagorean Monad, which lives "in solitude and darkness," may remain on this earth forever invisible, impalpable, and undemonstrated by experimental science. Still, the whole universe will be gravitating around it, as it did from the "beginning of time," and with every second, man and atom approach nearer to that solemn moment in the eternity, when the Invisible Presence will become clear to their spiritual sight. When every particle of matter, even the most sublimated, has been cast off from the last shape that forms the ultimate link of that chain of double evolution, which, throughout millions of ages and successive transformations, has pushed the entity onward; and when it shall find itself reclothed in that primordial essence, identical with that of its Creator, then this once impalpable organic atom will have run its race, and the sons of God will once more "shout for joy" at the return of the pilgrim.
The doctrine of the immortality of the soul dates from the time when the soul was an objective being, hence when it could hardly be denied by itself; when humanity was a spiritual race and death existed not. Toward the decline of the cycle of life the ethereal man-spirit then fell into the sweet slumber of temporary unconsciousness in one sphere, only to find himself awakening in the still brighter light of a higher one. But while the spiritual man is ever striving to ascend higher and higher toward its source of being, passing through the cycles and spheres of individual life, physical man had to descend with the great cycle of universal creation until it found itself clothed with the terrestrial garments. Thenceforth the soul was too deeply buried under physical clothing to reassert its existence, except in the cases of those more spiritual natures, which, with every cycle, became more rare. And yet none of the pre-historical nations ever thought of denying either the existence or the immortality of the inner man, the real "self." Only, we must bear in mind the teachings of the old philosophies: the spirit alone is immortal -- the soul, per se, is neither eternal nor divine. When linked too closely with the physical brain of its terrestrial casket, it gradually becomes a finite mind, a simple animal and sentient life-principle. The cycle is moving down, and as it descends, the physical and bestial nature of man develops more and more at the expense of the Spiritual Self.
Man before being encased in matter had no use for limbs, but was a pure spiritual entity. Hence if the Deity, and his universe, and the stellar bodies are to be conceived as spheroidal, this shape would be archetypal man's. As his enveloping shell grew heavier, there came the necessity for limbs, and the limbs sprouted. If we fancy a man with arms and legs naturally extended at the same angle, by backing him against the circle that symbolizes his prior shape as a spirit, we would have the very figure described by Plato -- the X cross within the circle. The grand cycle includes the progress of mankind from its germ in the primordial man of spiritual form to the deepest depth of degradation he can reach -- each successive step in the descent being accompanied by a greater strength and grossness of the physical form than its precursor. But while the grand cycle, or age, is running its course, seven minor cycles are passed, each marking the evolution of a new race out of the preceding one, on a new world. And each of these races, or grand types of humanity, breaks up into subdivisions of families, and they again into nations and tribes.
The "coats of skin," mentioned in the third chapter of Genesis as given to Adam and Eve, are explained by certain ancient philosophers to mean the fleshy bodies with which, in the progress of the cycles, the progenitors of the race became clothed. They maintained that the god-like physical form became grosser and grosser, until the bottom of what may be termed the last spiritual cycle was reached, and mankind entered upon the ascending arc of the first human cycle. Then began an uninterrupted series of cycles or yogas(2); the precise number of years of which each of them consisted remaining an inviolable mystery within the precincts of the sanctuaries and disclosed only to the initiates. As soon as humanity entered upon a new one, the stone age, with which the preceding cycle had closed, began to gradually merge into the following and next higher age. With each successive age, or epoch, men grew more refined, until the acme of perfection possible in that particular cycle had been reached. Then the receding wave of time carried back with it the vestiges of human, social, and intellectual progress. Cycle succeeded cycle, by imperceptible transitions; highly-civilized flourishing nations waxed in power, attained the climax of development, waned, and became extinct; and mankind, when the end of the lower cyclic arc was reached, was replunged into barbarism as at the start. Kingdoms have crumbled and nation succeeded nation from the beginning until our day, the races alternately mounting to the highest and descending to the lowest points of development. These cycles, according to the Chaldean philosophy, do not embrace all mankind at one and the same time. Draper observes that there is no reason to suppose that any one cycle applied to the whole human race. On the contrary, while man in one portion of the planet was in a condition of retrogression, in another he might be progressing in enlightenment and civilization. Whether or not the men of science are willing to concede the correctness of the Hermetic theory of the physical evolution of man from higher and more spiritual natures, they themselves show us how the race has progressed from the lowest observed point to its present development. And, as all nature seems to be made up of analogies, is it unreasonable to affirm that the same progressive development of individual forms has prevailed among the inhabitants of the unseen universe? While they made no attempt to calculate the duration of the "grand cycle," the Hermetic philosophers yet maintained that, according to the cyclic law, the living human race must inevitably and collectively return one day to that point of departure, where man was first clothed with "coats of skin;" or, to express it more clearly, the human race must, in accordance with the law of evolution, be finally physically spiritualized. We must go deep indeed into the abstruse metaphysics of Oriental mysticism before we can realize fully the infinitude of the subjects that were embraced at one sweep of the majestic thought of its exponents.
Modern science insists upon the doctrine of evolution; so do human reason and the "secret doctrine," and the idea is corroborated by ancient legends and myths, and even by the Bible itself when it is read between the lines. We see a flower slowly developing from a bud, and the bud from its seed. But whence the latter, with all its predetermined programme of physical transformation, and its invisible, therefore spiritual forces which gradually develop its form, color, and odor? The word evolution speaks for itself. The germ of the present human race must have pre-existed in the parent of this race. Physical man, as a product of evolution, may be left in the hands of the man of exact science. None but he can throw light upon the physical origin of the race. But we must positively deny the materialist the same privilege as to the question of man's psychical and spiritual evolution, for he and his highest faculties cannot be proved on any conclusive evidence to be "as much products of evolution as the humblest plant or the lowest worm." If those who believe in the evolution of spirit as firmly as the materialists believe in that of matter are charged with teaching "unverifiable hypotheses," how readily can they retort upon their accusers by saying that, by their own confession, their physical evolution is still "an unverified, if not actually an unverifiable hypothesis." The former have at least the inferential proof of legendary myth, the vast antiquity of which is admitted by both philologists and archŠologists; while their antagonists have nothing of a similar nature. For a belief to have become universal, it must have been founded on an immense accumulation of facts, tending to strengthen it, from one generation to another. The universe is the combination of a thousand elements, and yet the expression of a single spirit -- a chaos to the sense, a cosmos to the reason. In the Mysteries were symbolized the pre-existent condition of the spirit and soul, and the lapse of the latter into earth-life and Hades, the miseries of that life, the purification of the soul, and its restoration to divine bliss, or re-union with spirit. The sacred numbers of the universe in their esoteric combination solve the great problem and explain the theory of radiation and the cycle of the emanations. The lower orders before they develop into the higher ones must emanate from the higher spiritual ones, and when arrived at the turning point, be re-absorbed again into the infinite. The key to the Pythagorean dogmas is the general formula of unity in multiplicity, the one evolving the many and pervading the many. This is the ancient doctrine of emanation in few words. Even the apostle Paul accepted it as true. "Out of him and through him and in him all things are." This is purely Hindu and Brahmanical. The present earth-life is a fall and a punishment. The soul dwells in "the grave which we call the body," and in its incorporate state, and previous to the discipline of education, the noetic or spiritual element is "asleep." Life is thus a dream, rather than a reality. Is not this the idea of Maya, or the illusion of the senses in physical life, which is so marked a feature of Buddhistical philosophy? Basing all his doctrines on the presence of the Supreme Mind, Plato taught that the nous, spirit, or rational soul of man, possessed a kindred nature, or even homogeneous, with the Divinity, and was capable of beholding the eternal realities. The basis of this assimilation is always asserted to be the pre-existence of the spirit or nous. The greatest philosopher of the pre-Christian era mirrored faithfully in his works the spiritualism of the Vedic philosophers who lived thousands of years before himself, and its metaphysical expression. Thus is warranted the inference that to Plato and the ancient Hindu sages was alike revealed the same wisdom. So surviving the shock of time, what can this wisdom be but divine and eternal?
What was a demonstration and a success in the eyes of Plato and his disciples is now considered the overflow of a spurious philosophy and a failure. The scientific methods are reversed. The testimony of the men of old, who were nearer to truth, for they were nearer to the spirit of nature -- the only aspect under which the Deity will allow itself to be viewed and understood -- and their demonstrations, are rejected. The whole of the present work is a protest against such a loose way of judging the ancients. To be thoroughly competent to criticize their ideas, and assure one's self whether their ideas were distinct and "appropriate to the facts," one must have sifted these ideas to the very bottom. It is idle to repeat that which we have frequently said, and that which every scholar ought to know; namely, that the quintessence of their knowledge was in the hands of the priests, who never wrote them, and in those of the initiates who, like Plato, did not dare write them. In no country were the true esoteric doctrines trusted to writing. Therefore, those few speculations on the material and spiritual universes which they did put in writing, could not enable posterity to judge them rightly, even had not the early Christian Vandals, the later crusaders, and the fanatics of the middle ages destroyed three parts of that which remained of the Alexandrian library and its later schools. Who, then, of those who turn away from the "secret doctrine" as being "unphilosophical" and, therefore, unworthy of a scientific thought, has a right to say that he studied the ancients; that he is aware of all they knew, and knowing far more, knows also that they knew little, if anything? This "secret doctrine" contains the alpha and omega of universal science; therein lies the corner and the key-stone of all the ancient and modern knowledge; and alone in this "unphilosophical" doctrine remains buried the obsolute in the philosophy of the dark problems of life and death.
Thus it is that all the religious monuments of old, in whatever land or under whatever climate, are the expression of the same identical thoughts, the key to which is in the esoteric doctrine. It would be vain, without studying the latter, to seek to unriddle the mysteries enshrouded for centuries in the temples and ruins of Egypt and Assyria, or those of Central America, British Columbia, and the Nagkon-Wat of Cambodia. If each of these was built by a different nation; and neither nation had had intercourse with the others for ages, it is also certain that all were planned and built under the direct supervision of the priests. And the clergy of every nation, although practicing rites and ceremonies which may have differed externally, had evidently been initiated into the same traditional mysteries which were taught all over the world. As cycle succeeded cycle, and one nation after another came upon the world's stage to play its brief part in the majestic drama of human life, each new people evolved from ancestral traditions its own religion, giving it a local color, and stamping it with its individual characteristics. While each of these religions had its distinguishing traits, by which, were there no other archaic vestiges, the physical and psychological status of its creators could be estimated, all preserved a common likeness to one prototype. This parent cult was none other than the primitive "wisdom-religion." We can assert, with entire plausibility, that there is not one of all these sects -- Kabalism, Judaism, and our present Christianity included -- but sprung from the two main branches of that one mother-trunk, the once universal religion, which antedated the Vedic ages -- we speak of that prehistoric Buddhism which merged later into Brahmanism.
Many and various are the nationalities to which belong the disciples of that mysterious school, and many the side-shoots of that one primitive stock. The secrecy preserved by these sub-lodges, as well as by the one great and supreme lodge, has ever been proportionate to the activity of religious persecutions; and now, in the face of the growing materialism, their very existence is becoming a mystery. But it must not be inferred, on that account, that such a mysterious brotherhood is but a fiction, not even a name, though it remains unknown to this day. Whether its affiliates are called by an Egyptian, Hindu, or Persian name, it matters not.
Most assuredly, no one could expect to find, in a work open to the public, the final mysteries of that which was preserved for countless ages as the grandest secret of the sanctuary. But, without divulging the key to the profane, or being taxed with undue indiscretion, we may be allowed to lift a corner of the veil which shrouds the majestic doctrines of old. The key must be turned seven times before the whole system is divulged. We will give it but one turn, and thereby allow the profane one glimpse into the mystery. Happy he, who understands the whole!
NOTE.--The volume and page references to Isis Unveiled, from which the foregoing chapter is compiled, are, in the order of the excerpts, as follows: I, 428; I, 429; II, 264-5; II, 424; II, 420; II, 455-6; I, 330; I, 433; I, 258; I, 285; I, 251; I, 257; I, 238; I, 212-13; II, 362; II, 366; II, 469; II, 263; I, 293-4; I, 6; I, 294; I, 295; I, 296; I, 297; I, 152; I, 153; I, 155; I, 612; I, xvi; I, xiv; I, 7; I, xvi; I, xiii; I, xi; I, 424; I, 510; I, 271 fn.; I, 511; I, 561; II, 216; II, 123; II, 307; II, 460; II, 461.
Pre-Existence, Metempsychosis, Reincarnation
Where, WHO, WHAT is GOD? Who ever saw the IMMORTAL SPIRIT of man, so as to be able to assure himself of man's immortality?
The Oriental philosophy has room for no other faith than an absolute and immovable faith in the omnipotence of man's own immortal self. This omnipotence comes from the kinship of man's spirit with the Universal Soul -- God! The latter can never be demonstrated but by the former. Man-spirit proves God-spirit, as the one drop of water proves a source from which it must have come. Prove the soul of man by its wondrous powers -- you have proved God!
The unity of God, the immortality of the spirit, belief in salvation only through our works, merit and demerit(1); such are the principal articles of faith of the Wisdom-religion. Nirvana represents the dogma of the spirit's immortality. To reach the Nirvana means absorption into the great universal soul, the latter representing a state, not an individual being or an anthropomorphic god, as some understand the great EXISTENCE. A spirit reaching such a state becomes a part of the integral whole, but never loses its individuality for all that. Henceforth; the spirit lives spiritually, without any fear of further modifications of form; for form pertains to matter, and the state of Nirvana implies a complete purification or a final riddance from even the most sublimated particle of matter.
Nirvana means the certitude of personal immortality, immortality in Spirit, not in Soul, which, as a finite emanation, must certainly disintegrate its particles, a compound of human sensations, passions, and yearning for some objective kind of existence.
Both the human spirit and soul are pre-existent. But while the former exists as a distinct entity, an individualization, the soul exists as pre-existing matter, an unscient portion of an intelligent whole. Matter is as indestructible and eternal as the immortal spirit itself, but only in its particles, and not as organized forms. Annihilation means only a dispersion of matter, in whatever form or semblance of form it may be; for everything that bears a shape was created, and thus must sooner or later perish, i.e., change that shape; even our astral bodies, pure ether, are but illusions of matter, so long as they retain their terrestrial outline. The latter changes according to the merits or demerits of the person during his lifetime, and this is metempsychosis. The purifying process of transmigrations -- the metempsychoses -- esoterically relates to the purely spiritual peregrinations of the human soul. The key to it lies in the refined and mystical tenets of the spiritual influx of divine life.
The cause of reincarnation is ignorance of our senses, and the idea that there is any reality in the world, anything except abstract existence. Thus, like the revolutions of a wheel, there is a regular succession of death and birth, the moral cause of which is the cleaving to existing objects, while the instrumental cause is karma (the power which controls the universe, prompting it to activity), merit and demerit. "It is, therefore, the great desire of all beings who would be released from the sorrows of successive birth, to seek the destruction of the moral cause, the cleaving to existing objects, or evil desire." They, in whom evil desire is entirely destroyed, are called Arhats. At his death, the Arhat is never reincarnated; he invariably attains Nirvana, the world of cause, in which all deceptive effects or delusions of our senses disappear.
The metempsychosis was a succession of disciplines through refuge-heavens(2) to work off the exterior mind, or soul,(3)that principle that lives from Karma and the Skandhas (groups). It is the latter, the metaphysical personations of the "deeds" of man, whether good or bad, which, after the death of the body, incarnate themselves, so to say, and form their many invisible but never-dying compounds into a new body, or rather into an ethereal being, the double of what man was morally. It is the astral body of the kabalist and the "incarnated deeds" which form the new sentient self, as his Ahancara (the ego, self-consciousness),(4) can never perish, for it is immortal per se as a spirit; hence the sufferings of the newly-born self till he rids himself of every earthly thought, desire, and passion. Thus the disembodied Ego, through this sole undying desire in him, unconsciously furnishes the conditions of his successive self-procreations in various forms, which depend on his mental state and Karma, the good or bad deeds of his preceding existence, commonly called "merit and demerit."
The doctrine of Metempsychosis has been abundantly ridiculed by men of science and rejected by theologians, yet if it had been properly understood in its application to the indestructibility of matter and the immortality of spirit, it would have been perceived that it is a sublime conception. If the Pythagorean metempsychosis should be thoroughly explained and compared with the modern theory of evolution it would be found to supply every "missing link" in the chain of the latter. There was not a philosopher of any notoriety who did not hold to this doctrine, as taught by the Brahmans, Buddhists, and later by the Pythagoreans.
NOTE.--The volume and page references to Isis Unveiled, from which the foregoing chapter is compiled, are, in the order of the excerpts, as follows:-- I, vi; II, 116-17; II, 320; I, 316-17; I, 328; I, 290; I, 289; I, 346; II, 286-87; II, 320; I, 8-9; I, 12.
Magic and Magical Powers
IS it too much to suppose that man should be developing new sensibilities and a closer relation with nature? The logic of evolution must teach as much, if carried to its legitimate conclusions. If, somewhere in the line of ascent from vegetable or ascidian to the noblest man a soul was evolved, gifted with intellectual qualities, it cannot be unreasonable to infer and believe that a faculty of perception is also growing in man, enabling him to descry facts and truths even beyond our ordinary ken. We believe in no Magic which transcends the scope and capacity of the human mind, nor in "miracle," whether divine or diabolical, if such imply a transgression of the laws of nature instituted from all eternity. Nevertheless, we accept the saying of the gifted author of Festus, that the human heart has not yet fully uttered itself, and that we have never attained or even understood the extent of its powers.
Among the many phenomenal outgrowths of our century, the strange creed of the so-called Spiritualists has arisen amid the tottering ruins of self-styled revealed religions and materialistic philosophies; and yet it alone offers a possible last refuge of compromise between the two. Because the champions of Spiritualism have in their fanaticism magnified its qualities and remained blind to its imperfections, that gives no excuse to doubt its reality. A forgery is impossible where we have no model to forge after. The fanaticism of Spiritualists is itself a proof of the genuineness and possibility of their phenomena. They give us facts that we may investigate, not assertions that we must believe without proof. That phenomena are actually witnessed, mysterious in their nature -- generally and perhaps wrongfully termed spiritual -- it is now idle to deny. Allowing a large discount for clever fraud, what remains is quite serious enough to demand the careful scrutiny of science.
True, the great majority of "spiritual" communications are calculated to disgust investigators of even moderate intelligence. Even when genuine they are trivial, commonplace, and often vulgar. During the past twenty years we have received through various mediums messages purporting to be from Shakespeare, Byron, Franklin, Peter the Great, Napoleon and Josephine. The general impression made upon us was that the French conqueror and his consort seemed to have forgotten how to spell words correctly; Shakespeare and Byron had become chronic inebriates; and Voltaire had turned an imbecile. The huckstering about of pompous names attached to idiotic communications has given the scientific stomach such an indigestion that it cannot assimilate even the great truth which lies on the telegraphic plateaux of this ocean of psychological phenomena. They judge by its surface covered with froth and scum. But they might with equal propriety deny that there is any clear water in the depths of the sea when an oily scum was floating on the surface.
It is easier by far to deny the reality of such manifestations than to find for them a proper place among the classes of natural phenomena accepted by exact science. And how can they, since all such phenomena pertain to psychology, and the latter, with its occult and mysterious powers, is a terra incognita for modern science. Thus, powerless to explain that which proceeds directly from the nature of the human soul itself -- the existence of which most of them deny -- unwilling at the same time to confess their ignorance, scientists retaliate very unjustly on those who believe in the evidence of their senses without any pretense to science. The recognized laws of physical science account for but a few of the more objective of the so-called spiritual phenomena. While proving the reality of certain visible effects of an unknown force, they have not thus far enabled scientists to control at will even this portion of the phenomena. The truth is that the professors have not yet discovered the necessary conditions of their occurrence. They must go as deeply into the study of the triple nature of man -- physiological, psychological, and divine -- as did their predecessors, the magicians, theurgists, and thaumaturgists of old. Until the present moment, even those who have investigated the phenomena as thoroughly and impartially as Mr. Crookes, have set aside the cause as something not to be discovered now, if ever. They have troubled themselves no more about that than about the first cause of the cosmic phenomena of the correlation of forces, whose endless effects they are at such pains to observe and classify. It is in the denial of the boundless and endless Entity, possessor of that invisible Will which we for lack of a better term call GOD, that lies the powerlessness of every materialistic science to explain the occult phenomena. It is in the rejection a priori of everything which might force them to cross the boundary of exact science and step into the domain of psychological, or, if we prefer, metaphysical physiology, that we find the secret cause of their discomfiture by the manifestations, and their absurd theories to account for them.
The ancient philosophy affirmed that it is in consequence of the manifestation of that Will -- termed by Plato the Divine Idea -- that everything visible and invisible sprung into existence. As that Intelligent Idea, which, by directing its sole will-power toward a centre of localized forces called objective forms into being, so can man, the microcosm of the great Macrocosm, do the same in proportion with the development of his will-power. As God creates, so man can create. Given a certain intensity of will, and the shapes created by the mind become subjective. Hallucinations, they are called, although to their creator they are as real as any visible object to any one else. Given a more intense and intelligent concentration of this will, and the form becomes concrete, visible, objective; the man has learned the secret of secrets; he is a MAGICIAN. The materialist should not object to this logic, for he regards thought as matter. Conceding it to be so, the cunning mechanism contrived by the inventor; the fairy scenes in the poet's brain; the gorgeous painting limned by the artist's fancy; the peerless statue chiseled in ether by the sculptor; the palaces and castles built in the air by the architect -- all these, though invisible and subjective, must exist, for they are matter, shaped and moulded. Who shall say, then, that there are not some men of such imperial will as to be able to drag these air-drawn fancies into view, enveloped in the hard casing of gross substance to make them tangible?
The whole question of phenomena rests on the correct comprehension of old philosophies. Whither, then, should we turn, in our perplexity, but to the ancient sages, since, on the pretext of superstition, we are refused an explanation by the modern? We may find our profit in comparing this boasted modern science, this improved modern theology, with the "Secret doctrines" of the ancient universal religion. No other claim is advanced for a hearing of the opinions contained in the present work than that they are based upon many years' study of both ancient magic and its modern form, Spiritualism. We hold fast to the wisdom of the ages, in preference to any new theories that may have been hatched from the occurrences of our later days, respecting the laws of intermundane intercourse and the occult powers of man. What we have said of mediums and the tendency of their mediumship is not based upon conjecture, but upon actual experience and observation. There is scarcely one phase of mediumship that we have not seen exemplified during the past twenty-five years, in various countries. India, Thibet, Borneo, Siam, Egypt, Asia Minor, America (North and South), and other parts of the world, have each displayed to us its peculiar phase of mediumistic phenomena and magical power. Our varied experience has taught us two important truths, viz.: that for the exercise of the latter personal purity and the exercise of a trained and indomitable will-power are indispensable; and that spiritualists can never assure themselves of the genuineness of mediumistic manifestations, unless they occur in the light and under such reasonable test conditions as would make an attempted fraud instantly noticed. "The reader may inquire wherein consists the difference between a medium and a magician? The medium is one through whose astral spirit other spirits can manifest, making their presence known by various kinds of phenomena. Whatever these consist in, the medium is only a passive agent in their hands. He can neither command their presence, nor will their absence; can never compel the performance of any special act, nor direct its nature. The magician, on the contrary, can summon and dismiss spirits at will; can perform many feats of occult power through his own spirit; can compel the presence and assistance of spirits of lower grades of being than himself, and effect transformations in the realm of nature upon animate and inanimate bodies." Physical phenomena are the result of the manipulation of forces through the physical system of the medium, by the unseen intelligences, of whatever class. In a word, physical mediumship depends on a peculiar organization of the physical system; spiritual mediumship, which is accompanied by a display of subjective, intellectual phenomena, depends upon a like peculiar organization of the spiritual nature of the medium. Apart from natural "mediumship," there has existed, from the beginning of time, a mysterious science, discussed by many, but known only to a few. The use of it is a longing toward our only true and real home -- the after-life, and a desire to cling more closely to our parent spirit, abuse of it is sorcery, witchcraft, black magic. Between the two is placed natural "mediumship;" a soul clothed with imperfect matter, a ready agent for either the one or the other, and utterly dependent on its surroundings of life, constitutional heredity -- physical as well as mental -- and on the nature of the "spirits" it attracts around itself. A blessing or a curse, as fate will have it, unless the medium is purified of earthly dross. The reason why in every age so little has been generally known of the mysteries of initiation, is twofold. The first lies in the terrible penalty following the least indiscretion. The second, is the superhuman difficulties and even dangers. There was no real danger to him whose mind had become thoroughly spiritualized. He who fully recognized the power of his immortal spirit, and never doubted for one moment its omnipotent protection, had naught to fear. He who was not wholly confident of his moral fitness to accept the burden of these tremendous secrets was doomed.
A thorough familiarity with the occult faculties of everything existing in nature, visible as well as invisible; their mutual relations, attractions, and repulsions; the cause of these, traced to the spiritual principle which pervades and animates all things; the ability to furnish the best conditions for this principle to manifest itself, in other words a profound and exhaustive knowledge of natural law -- this was and is the basis of magic. The trinity of nature is the lock of magic, the trinity of man the key that fits it. When psychology and physiology become worthy of the name of sciences, Europeans will be convinced of the weird and formidable potency existing in the human will and imagination, whether exercised consciously or otherwise. And yet, how easy to realize such power in spirit, if we only think of that grand truism in nature that every most insignificant atom in it is moved by spirit, which is one in its essence, for the least particle of it represents the whole; and that matter is but the concrete copy of the abstract idea, after all. From whatever aspect we view and question matter, the world-old philosophy that it was vivified and fructified by the eternal idea, or imagination, is unavoidable. If we reject this doctrine, the theory of a cosmos evolving gradually out of its chaotic disorder becomes an absurdity.
Magnetism is the alphabet of magic. It is idle for any one to attempt to understand either the theory or the practice of the latter until the fundamental principle of magnetic attractions and repulsions throughout nature is recognized. Nothing can be easier accounted for than the highest possibilities of magic. By the radiant light of the universal magnetic ocean, whose electric waves bind the cosmos together, and in their ceaseless motion penetrate every atom and molecule of the boundless creation, the disciples of mesmerism -- howbeit insufficient their various experiments -- intuitionally perceive the alpha and omega of the great mystery. Magic, as a science, is the knowledge of the way by which the omniscience and omnipotence of the spirit and its control over nature's forces may be acquired by the individual while still in the body. Magic, as an art, is the application of this knowledge in practice. The corner-stone of MAGIC is an intimate practical knowledge of magnetism and electricity, their qualities, correlations, and potencies. Arcane knowledge misapplied, is sorcery; beneficently used, true magic or WISDOM. To sum up all in a few words, MAGIC is spiritual WISDOM; nature, the material ally, pupil and servant of the magician. One common vital principle pervades all things, and this is controllable by the perfected human will. The adept can stimulate the movements of the natural forces in plants and animals in a preternatural degree. Such experiments are not obstructions of nature, but quickenings; the conditions of intenser vital action are given. The adept can control the sensations and alter the conditions of the physical and astral bodies of other persons not adepts; he can also govern and employ, as he chooses, the spirits of the elements. He cannot control the immortal spirit of any human being, living or dead, for all such spirits are alike sparks of the Divine Essence, and not subject to any foreign domination.
It will naturally be asked, to what practical issue this book tends. Do we wish to affirm that the occult sciences ought to be studied and practiced throughout the world? Would we replace modern spiritualism with the ancient magic? Neither; the substitution could not be made, nor the study universally prosecuted, without incurring the risk of enormous public dangers. A sorcerer is a public enemy, and mesmerism may most readily be turned into the worst of sorceries. We would have neither scientists, theologians nor spiritualists turn practical magicians, but all to realize true science, profound religion, and genuine phenomena before this modern era. We would that all who have a voice in the education of the masses should first know and then teach that the safest guides to human happiness and enlightenment are those writings which have descended to us from the remotest antiquity; and that nobler spiritual aspirations and a higher average morality prevail in the countries where the people take their precepts as the rule of their lives. We would have all to realize that magical, i.e., spiritual powers exist in every man, and those few to practice them who feel called to teach, and are ready to pay the price of discipline and self-conquest which their development exacts.
NOTE.--The volume and page references to Isis Unveiled, from which the foregoing chapter is compiled, are, in the order of the excerpts, as follows: I, v; I, x-xi; I, 40; I, 41; I, 45-6; I, 49; I, 61; I, 62; I, xi; I, 42; I, 218; I, 320; I, 367; II, 118-19; I, 244; II, 635; I, 384; I, 396; II, 610; I, 282; II, 588-9; II, 590; II, 634.
Adeptship and Mediumship
MAGIC is spiritual WISDOM; nature, the material ally, pupil and servant of the magician. One common vital principle pervades all things, and this is controllable by the perfected human will. The trinity of nature is the lock of magic, the trinity of man the key that fits it.
To comprehend the principles of natural law involved, the reader must keep in mind the fundamental propositions of the Oriental philosophy.
1st. There is no miracle. Everything that happens is the result of law -- eternal, immutable, ever active. Apparent miracle is but the operation of forces antagonistic to what Dr. W. B. Carpenter, F.R.S. -- a man of great learning but little knowledge -- calls "the well-ascertained laws of nature." Like many of his class, Dr. Carpenter ignores the fact that there may be laws once "known," now unknown to science.
2nd. Nature is triune: there is a visible, objective nature; an invisible, indwelling, energizing nature, the exact model of the other, and its vital principle; and, above these two, spirit, source of all forces, alone eternal, and indestructible. The lower two constantly change; the higher third does not.
3rd. Man is also triune: he has his objective, physical body; his vitalizing astral body (or soul), the real man; and these two are brooded over and illuminated by the third -- the sovereign, the immortal spirit. When the real man succeeds in merging himself with the latter, he becomes an immortal entity.
4th. Magic, as a science, is the knowledge of these principles, and of the way by which the omniscience and omnipotence of the spirit and its control over nature's forces may be acquired by the individual while still in the body. Magic, as an art, is the application of this knowledge in practice.
5th. Arcane knowledge misapplied, is sorcery; beneficently used, true magic or WISDOM.
6th. Mediumship is the opposite of adeptship; the medium is the passive instrument of foreign influences; the adept actively controls himself and all inferior potencies.
7th. All things that ever were, that are, or that will be, having their record upon the astral light, or tablet of the unseen universe, the initiated adept, by using the vision of his own spirit, can know all that has been known or can be known.
8th. Races of men differ in spiritual gifts as in color, stature, or any other external quality; among some peoples seership naturally prevails, among others mediumship. Some are addicted to sorcery, and transmit its secret rules of practice from generation to generation, with a range of psychical phenomena, more or less wide, as the result.
9th. One phase of magical skill is the voluntary and conscious withdrawal of the inner man (astral form) from the outer man (physical body). In the cases of some mediums withdrawal occurs, but it is unconscious and involuntary. With the latter the body is more or less cataleptic at such times; but with the adept the absence of the astral form would not be noticed, for the physical senses are alert, and the individual appears only as though in a fit of abstraction -- "a brown study," as some call it.
To the movements of the wandering astral form neither time nor space offer obstacles. The thaumaturgist, thoroughly skilled in occult science, can cause himself (that is, his physical body) to seem to disappear, or to apparently take on any shape that he may choose. He may make his astral form visible, or he may give it protean appearances. In both cases these results will be achieved by a mesmeric hallucination of the senses of all witnesses, simultaneously brought on. This hallucination is so perfect that the subject of it would stake his life that he saw a reality, when it is but a picture in his own mind, impressed upon his consciousness by the irresistible will of the mesmerizer.
But, while the astral form can go anywhere, penetrate any obstacle, and be seen at any distance from the physical body, the latter is dependent upon ordinary methods of transportation. It may be levitated under prescribed magnetic conditions, but not pass from one locality to another. Hence we discredit all stories of the aerial flight of mediums in body, for such would be miracle, and miracle we repudiate. Inert matter may be, in certain cases and under certain conditions, disintegrated, passed through walls, and recombined, but living animal organisms cannot.
The adept can stimulate the movements of the natural forces in plants and animals in a preternatural degree. Such experiments are not obstructions of nature, but quickenings; the conditions of intenser vital action are given.
The adept can control the sensations and alter the conditions of the physical and astral bodies of other persons not adepts; he can also govern and employ, as he chooses, the spirits of the elements. He cannot control the immortal spirit of any human being, living or dead, for all such spirits are alike sparks of the Divine Essence, and not subject to any foreign domination.
A familiar example of one phase of the power of the soul or astral body to manifest itself, is the phenomenon of the so-called spirit-hand. In the presence of certain mediums these seemingly detached members will gradually develop from a luminous nebula, pick up a pencil, write messages, and then dissolve before the eyes of the witnesses. Many such cases are recorded by competent and trustworthy persons. These phenomena are real, and require serious consideration.
The fluttering phantom-hand is an emanation from the medium. The "force concerned in the phenomenon" is the will of the medium, exercised unconsciously to the outer man, which for the time is semi-paralyzed and cataleptic; the phantom-hand is an extrusion of the man's inner or astral member.
The same principle involved in the unconscious extrusion of a phantom limb by the cataleptic medium, applies to the projection of his entire "double" or astral body. This may be withdrawn by the will of the medium's own inner self, without his retaining in his physical brain any recollection of such an intent -- that is one phase of man's dual capacity. It may also be effected by elementary and elemental spirits, to whom he may stand in the relation of mesmeric subject.
Dr. Fairfield is right in one position taken, viz.: mediums are usually diseased, and in many if not most cases the children or near connection of mediums. But he is wholly wrong in attributing all psychical phenomena to morbid physiological conditions. The adepts of Eastern magic are uniformly in perfect mental and bodily health, and in fact the voluntary and independent production of phenomena is impossible to any others. We have known many, and never a sick man among them. The adept retains perfect consciousness; shows no change of bodily temperature, or other sign of morbidity, but will do his feats anywhere and everywhere; and instead of being passive and in subjection to a foreign influence, rules the force with an iron will. The medium and the adept are as opposed as the poles. The body, soul, and spirit of the adept are all conscious and working in harmony, and the body of the medium is an inert clod, and even his soul may be away in a dream while its habitation is occupied by another.
A medium needs either a foreign intelligence -- whether it be spirit or living mesmerizer -- to overpower his physical and mental parts, or some factitious means to induce trance. An adept requires but a few minutes of "self-contemplation." The adept has no need of extraneous aids -- the simple exertion of his will-power is all-sufficient.
The mediums for real manifestations are least able, as a rule, to comprehend or explain them. The medium need not exercise any will-power. It suffices that she or he shall know what is expected by the investigators. The medium's "spiritual" entity, when not obsessed by other spirits, will act outside the will or consciousness of the physical being, as surely as it acts when within the body during a fit of somnambulism. Its perceptions, external and internal, will be acuter and far more developed, precisely as they are in the sleep-walker. And this is why "the materialized form sometimes knows more than the medium," for the intellectual perception of the astral entity is proportionately as much higher than the corporeal intelligence of the medium in its normal state, as the spirit entity is finer than itself. Generally the medium will be found cold, the pulse will have visibly changed, and a state of nervous prostration succeeds the phenomena, bunglingly and without discrimination attributed to disembodied spirits; whereas, but one-third of them may be produced by the latter, another third by elementals, and the rest by the astral double of the medium himself.
The mesmerizer wills a thing, and if he is powerful enough, that thing is done. The medium, even if he had an honest purpose to succeed, may get no manifestation at all; the less he exercises his will, the better the phenomena: the more he feels anxious, the less he is likely to get anything; to mesmerize requires a positive nature, to be a medium a perfectly passive one. This is the Alphabet of Spiritualism, and no medium is ignorant of it.
It is erroneous to speak of a medium having powers developed. A passive medium has no power. He has a certain moral and physical condition which induces emanations, or an aura, in which his controlling intelligences can live, and by which they manifest themselves. He is only the vehicle through which they display their power. This aura varies day by day. It is an external effect resulting from interior causes. The medium's moral state determines the kind of spirits that come; and the spirits that come reciprocally influence the medium, intellectually, physically, and morally. The perfection of his mediumship is in ratio to his passivity, and the danger he incurs is in equal ratio. When he is fully "developed" -- perfectly passive -- his own astral spirit may be benumbed, and even crowded out of his body, which is then occupied by an elemental, or, what is worse, by a human fiend of the eighth sphere, who proceeds to use it as his own. But too often the cause of the most celebrated crime is to be sought in such possessions.
The reader may inquire wherein consists the difference between a medium and a magician? The medium is one through whose astral spirit other spirits can manifest, making their presence known by various kinds of phenomena. Whatever these consist in, the medium is only a passive agent in their hands. He can neither command their presence, nor will their absence; can never compel the performance of any special act, nor direct its nature. The magician, on the contrary, can summon and dismiss spirits at will; can perform many feats of occult power through his own spirit; can compel the presence and assistance of spirits of lower grades than himself, and effect transformations in the realm of nature upon animate and inanimate bodies.
Physical phenomena are the result of the manipulation of forces through the physical system of the medium, by the unseen intelligences, of whatever class. In a word, physical mediumship depends on a peculiar organization of the physical system; spiritual mediumship, which is accompanied by a display of subjective, intellectual phenomena, depends upon a like peculiar organization of the spiritual nature of the medium. As the potter from one lump of clay fashions a vessel of dishonor, and from another a vessel of honor, so, among physical mediums, the plastic astral spirit of one may be prepared for a certain class of objective phenomena, and that of another for a different one. Once so prepared, it appears difficult to alter the phase of mediumship. As a rule, mediums who have been developed for one class of phenomena, rarely change to another, but repeat the same performance ad infinitum.
The majority of these spirits have naught to do with the phenomena consciously and deliberately produced by the Eastern magicians. The latter leave to sorcerers the help even of elemental spirits and the elementary spooks. The adept has an unlimited power over both, but he rarely uses it. For the production of physical phenomena he summons the nature-spirits as obedient powers, not as intelligences.
Were these god-like men "mediums," as the orthodox spiritualists will have it? By no means, if by the term we understand those "sick-sensitives" who are born with a peculiar organization, and who in proportion as their powers are developed become more and more subject to the irresistible influence of miscellaneous spirits, purely human, elementary, or elemental. Unquestionably so, if we consider every individual a medium in whose magnetic atmosphere the denizens of higher invisible spheres can move, and act, and live. In such a sense every person is a medium. Mediumship may be either 1st, self-developed; 2nd, by extraneous influences; or 3rd, may remain latent throughout life. The reader must bear in mind the definition of the term, for, unless this is clearly understood, confusion will be inevitable. Mediumship of this kind may be either active or passive, repellent or receptive, positive or negative. Mediumship is measured by the quality of the aura with which the individual is surrounded. This may be dense, cloudy, noisome, mephitic, nauseating to the pure spirit, and attract only those foul beings who delight in it, as the eel does in turbid waters, or, it may be pure, crystalline, limpid, opalescent as the morning dew. All depends upon the moral character of the medium.
About such men as Apollonius there gathered this heavenly nimbus. It was evolved by the power of their own souls in close unison with their spirits; by the superhuman morality and sanctity of their lives, and aided by frequent interior ecstatic contemplation. Such holy men pure spiritual influences could approach. Radiating around an atmosphere of divine beneficence, they caused evil spirits to flee before them. Not only is it not possible for such to exist in their aura, but they cannot even remain in that of obsessed persons, if the thaumaturgist exercises his will, or even approaches them. This is MEDIATORSHIP, not mediumship. Such persons are temples in which dwells the spirit of the living God;(2) but if the temple is defiled by the admission of an evil passion, thought or desire, the mediator falls into the sphere of sorcery. The door is opened; the pure spirits retire and the evil ones rush in. This is still mediatorship, evil as it is; the sorcerer, like the pure magician, forms his own aura and subjects to his will congenial inferior spirits.
But mediumship, as now understood and manifested, is a different thing. Circumstances, independent of his own volition, may, either at birth or subsequently, modify a person's aura, so that strange manifestations, physical or mental, diabolical or angelic, may take place. Such mediumship, as well as the above-mentioned mediatorship, has existed on earth since the first appearance here of living man. The former is the yielding of weak, mortal flesh to the control and suggestion of spirits and intelligences other than one's own immortal demon.(3) It is literally obsession and possession; and mediums who pride themselves on being the faithful slaves of their "guides," and who repudiate with indignation the idea of "controlling the manifestations," could not very well deny the fact without inconsistency. This mediumship, whether beneficent or maleficent, is always passive. Happy are the pure in heart who repel unconsciously, by that very cleanness of their inner nature, the dark spirits of evil. For verily they have no other weapons of defense but that inborn goodness and purity. Mediumism, as practiced in our days, is a more undesirable gift than the robe of Nessus.
Physical mediumship depending upon passivity, its antidote suggests itself naturally; let the medium cease being passive. Spirits never control persons of positive character who are determined to resist all extraneous influences. The weak and feeble-minded whom they can make their victims they drive into vice. It is notorious that the best physical mediums are either sickly, or, sometimes, what is still worse, inclined to some abnormal vice or other.
"The tree is known by its fruits." Side by side with passive mediums appear active mediators. We designate them by this name for lack of a better one. The ancient witches and wizards, and those who had a "familiar spirit," generally made of their gifts a trade. Not so with the mediators, or hierophants. These men were guided merely by their own personal spirit, or divine soul, and availing themselves of the help of spirits but so far as these remain in the right path.
What we have said of mediums and the tendency of their mediumship is not based upon conjecture, but upon actual experience and observation. There is scarcely one phase of mediumship that we have not seen exemplified during the past twenty-five years(4) in various countries. India, Thibet, Borneo, Siam, Egypt, Asia Minor, America (North and South) and other parts of the world, have each displayed to us its peculiar phase of mediumistic phenomena and magical power. Our varied experience has taught us two important truths, viz.: that for the exercise of the latter personal purity and the exercise of a trained and indomitable willpower are indispensable; and that spiritualists can never assure themselves of the genuineness of mediumistic manifestations, unless they occur in the light and under such reasonable test conditions as would make an attempted fraud instantly noticed.
NOTE.--The volume and page references to Isis Unveiled, from which the foregoing chapter is compiled, are, in the order of the excerpts as follows:-- Volume II, 590, 635, 588, 589, 590, 594, 595, 596, 592, 594, 596; volume I, 109, 490, 367, 457, 487, 488, 490, 488.
THOSE best prepared to appreciate occultism are the spiritualists, although, through prejudice, until now they have been the bitterest opponents to its introduction to public notice. Despite all foolish negations and denunciations, their phenomena are real. Despite, also, their own assertions they are wholly misunderstood by themselves. The totally insufficient theory of the constant agency of disembodied human spirits in their production has been the bane of the Cause. A thousand mortifying rebuffs have failed to open their reason or their intuition to the truth. Ignoring the teachings of the past, they have discovered no substitute. We offer them philosophical deductions instead of unverifiable hypothesis, scientific analysis and demonstration instead of undiscriminating faith. Occult philosophy gives them the means of meeting the reasonable requirements of science, and frees them from the humiliating necessity to accept the oracular teachings of "intelligences," which as a rule have less intelligence than a child at school. So based and so strengthened, modern phenomena would be in a position to command the attention and enforce the respect of those who carry with them public opinion. Without invoking such help, spiritualism must continue to vegetate, equally repulsed -- not without cause -- both by scientists and theologians. In its modern aspect, it is neither a science, a religion, nor a philosophy.
Are we unjust; does any intelligent spiritualist complain that we have misstated the case? To what can he point us but a confusion of theories, a tangle of hypotheses mutually contradictory? Can he affirm that spiritualism, even with its thirty years(1) of phenomena, has any defensible philosophy; nay, that there is anything like an established method that is generally accepted and followed by its recognized representatives?
And yet, there are many thoughtful, scholarly, earnest writers among the spiritualists, scattered the world over. There are men who, in addition to a scientific mental training and a reasoned faith in the phenomena per se, possess all the requisites of leaders of the movement. How is it then, that, except throwing off an isolated volume or so, or occasional contributions to journalism, they all refrain from taking any active part in the formation of a system of philosophy? This is from no lack of moral courage, as their writings well show. Nor because of indifference, for enthusiasm abounds, and they are sure of their facts. Nor is it from lack of capacity, because many are men of mark, the peers of our best minds. It is simply for the reason that, almost without exception, they are bewildered by the contradictions they encounter, and wait for tentative hypotheses to be verified by further experience. Doubtless this is the part of wisdom. It is that adopted by Newton, who, with the heroism of an honest, unselfish heart, withheld for seventeen years the promulgation of his theory of gravitation, only because he had not verified it to his own satisfaction.
Spiritualism, whose aspect is rather that of aggression than of defense, has tended towards iconoclasm, and so far has done well. But, in pulling down, it does not rebuild. Every really substantial truth it erects is soon buried under an avalanche of chimeras, until all are in one confused ruin. At every step of advance, at the acquisition of every new vantage-ground of FACT, some cataclysm, either in the shape of fraud and exposure, or of premeditated treachery, occurs, and throws the spiritualists back powerless because they cannot and their invisible friends will not (or perchance can, less than themselves) make good their claims. Their fatal weakness is that they have but one theory to offer in explanation of their challenged facts -- the agency of human disembodied spirits, and the medium's complete subjection to them. They will attack those who differ in views with a vehemence only warranted by a better cause, they will regard every argument contradicting their theory as an imputation upon their common sense and powers of observation; and they will positively refuse even to argue the question.
How, then, can spiritualism be ever elevated to the distinction of a science? This, as Professor Tyndall shows, includes three absolutely necessary elements; observation of facts; induction of laws from these facts; and verification of those laws by constant practical experience. What experienced observer will maintain that spiritualism presents either one of these three elements? The medium is not uniformly surrounded by such test conditions that we may be sure of the facts; the inductions from the supposed facts are unwarranted in the absence of such verification; and, as a corollary, there has been no sufficient verification of these hypotheses by experience. In short, the primary element of accuracy has, as a rule, been lacking.
That we may not be charged with desire to misrepresent the position of spiritualism, at the date of this present writing, or accused of withholding credit for advances actually made, we will cite a few passages from the London Spiritualist of March 2, 1877. At the fortnightly meeting, held February 19, a debate occurred upon the subject of "Ancient Thought and Modern Spiritualism." Some of the most intelligent Spiritualists of England participated. Among these was Mr. W. Stainton Moses, M. A.,(2) who has recently given some attention to the relation between ancient and modern phenomena. He said: "Popular spiritualism is not scientific; it does very little in the way of scientific verification. Moreover, exoteric spiritualism is, to a large extent, devoted to presumed communication with personal friends, or to the gratification of curiosity, or the mere evolution of marvels. The truly esoteric science of spiritualism is very rare, and not more rare than valuable. To it we must look for the origination of knowledge which may be developed exoterically. We proceed too much on the lines of the physicists; our tests are crude, and often illusory; we know too little of the Protean power of spirit. Here the ancients were far ahead of us, and can teach us much. We have not introduced any certainty into the conditions -- a necessary prerequisite for true scientific experiment. This is largely owing to the fact that our circles are constructed on no principle. We have not even mastered the elementary truths which the ancients knew and acted on, e.g., the isolation of mediums. We have been so occupied with wonder-hunting that we have hardly tabulated the phenomena, or propounded one theory to account for the production of the simplest of them. We have never faced the question: What is the intelligence? This is the great blot, the most frequent source of error, and here we might learn with advantage from the ancients. There is the strongest disinclination among spiritualists to admit the possibility of the truth of occultism. In this respect they are as hard to convince as is the outer world of spiritualism. Spiritualists start with a fallacy, viz.; that all phenomena are caused by the action of departed human spirits; they have not looked into the powers of the human spirit: they do not know the extent to which spirit acts, how far it reaches, what it underlies."
Our position could not be better defined.
Self-complacency is the most serious obstacle to the enlightenment of the modern spiritualist. His thirty years' experience with the phenomena seem to him sufficient to have established intermundane intercourse upon an unassailable basis. His thirty years have not only brought to him the conviction that the dead communicate and thus prove the spirit's immortality, but also settled in his mind an idea that little or nothing can be learned of the other world, except through mediums.
For the spiritualists, the records of the past either do not exist, or if they are familiar with its garnered treasures, they regard them as having no bearing upon their own experiences. And yet, the problems which so vex them, were solved thousands of years ago by the theurgists, who have left the keys to those who will search for them in the proper spirit and with knowledge. Is it possible that nature has changed her work, and that we are encountering different spirits and different laws from those of old? Or can any spiritualist imagine that he knows more, or even as much about mediumistic phenomena or the nature of various spirits, as a priest-caste who spent their lives in theurgical practice, which had been known and studied for countless centuries? If the spiritualists have their phenomena under test-conditions, so had the old theurgists, whose records, moreover, show that they could produce and vary them at will. The day when this fact shall be recognized, and profitless speculations of modern investigators shall give place to patient study of the works of the theurgists, will mark the dawn of new and important discoveries in the field of psychology.
When the possible nature of the manifesting intelligences, which science believes to be "psychic force," and spiritualists the identical spirits of the dead, is better known, then will academicians and believers turn to the old philosophers for information.
We are forced to contradict, point-blank, the assertion that "the marvellous wonders of the present day, which belong to so-called modern spiritualism, are identical in character with the experiences of the patriarchs and prophets of old." They are identical only so far that the same forces and occult powers of nature produce them. But though these powers and forces may be, and most assuredly are, all directed by unseen intelligences, the latter differ more in essence, character and purpose than mankind itself, composed, as it now stands, of white, black, brown, red, and yellow men, and numbering saints and criminals, geniuses and idiots. The writer may avail himself of the services of a tame orang-outang or a South Sea islander; but the fact alone that he has a servant makes neither the latter nor himself identical with Aristotle and Alexander.
Now, except the story of Saul and Samuel, there is not a case instanced in the Bible of the "evocation of the dead." As to being lawful, the assertion is contradicted by every prophet. Nowhere through the Old Testament, nor in Homer, nor Virgil is communion with the dead termed otherwise than necromancy. One of the greatest reasons for it was the doctrine of the ancients, that no soul from the "abode of the blessed" will return to earth, unless, indeed, upon rare occasions its apparition might be required to accomplish some great object in view, and so bring benefit upon humanity. In this latter instance the "soul" had no need to be evoked. It sent its portentous message either by an evanescent simulacrum(3) of itself, or through messengers, who could appear in material form, and personate faithfully the departed. The souls that could so easily be invoked were deemed neither safe nor useful to communicate with. They were the souls, or larvae rather, from the infernal regions of the limbo -- the sheol, the region known by the kabalists as the eighth sphere.
The only standard within the reach of spiritualists and present-day mediums by which they can try the spirits, is to judge, 1, by their actions and speech; 2, by their readiness to manifest themselves; and 3, whether the object in view is worthy of the apparition of a "disembodied spirit," or can excuse any one for disturbing the dead. Saul was on the eve of destruction, himself and his sons, yet Samuel inquired of him: "Why hast thou disquieted me, to bring me up?" But the "intelligences" that visit the circle-rooms come at the beck of every trifler who would while away a tedious hour. And this word "up" from the spirit of a prophet whose abode ought certainly to be in heaven, is very suggestive in itself to a Christian who locates paradise and hell at two opposite points.
NOTE.--The volume and page references to Isis Unveiled, from which the foregoing chapter is compiled, are, in order of the excerpts, as follows:-- Volume II, 636, 637, 638; volume I, 334, 335, 492, 493.
Spirits of Various Kinds
FROM the moment when the foetal embryo is formed until the old man, gasping his last, drops into the grave, neither the beginning nor the end is understood by scholastic science; all before us is a blank, all after us chaos. For it there is no evidence as to the relations between spirit, soul, and body, either before or after death. The mere life-principle itself presents an unsolvable enigma, upon the study of which materialism has vainly exhausted its intellectual powers. In the presence of a corpse the skeptical physiologist stands dumb when asked by his pupil whence came the former tenant of that empty box, and whither it has gone. The pupil must either, like his master, rest satisfied with the explanation that protoplasm made the man, and force vitalized and will now consume his body, or he must go outside the walls of his college and the books of its library to find an explanation of the mystery.
Why should there be an attraction between the molecules of matter and none between those of spirit? By whatsoever name the physicists may call the energizing principle in matter is of no account; it is a subtile something apart from the matter itself, and, as it escapes their detection, it must be something besides matter. If the law of attraction is admitted as governing the one, why should it be excluded from influencing the other? Leaving logic to answer, we turn to the common experience of mankind, and there find a mass of testimony corroborative of the immortality of the soul, if we judge but from analogies. But we have more than that -- we have the unimpeachable testimony of thousands upon thousands, that there is a regular science of the soul, which, notwithstanding that it is now denied the right of a place among other sciences, is a science. This science, by penetrating the arcana of nature far deeper than our modern philosophy ever dreamed possible, teaches us how to force the invisible to become visible; the existence of elementary spirits; the nature and magical properties of the astral light; the power of living men to bring themselves into communication with the former through the latter.
The existence of spirit in the common mediator, the ether, is denied by materialism; while theology makes of it a personal god. Every organized thing in this world, visible as well as invisible, has an element appropriate to itself. The fish lives and breathes in the water; the plant consumes carbonic acid, which for animals and men produces death; some beings are fitted for rarefied strata of air, others exist only in the densest. Life, to some, is dependent on sunlight, to others, upon darkness; and so the wise economy of nature adapts to each existing condition some living form. These analogies warrant the conclusion that, not only is there no unoccupied portion of universal nature, but also that for each thing that has life, special conditions are furnished, and, being furnished, they are necessary. Now, assuming that there is an invisible side to the universe, the fixed habit of nature warrants the conclusion that this half is occupied, like the other half; and that each group of its occupants is supplied with the indispensable conditions of existence. It is as illogical to imagine that identical conditions are furnished to all, as it would be to maintain such a theory respecting the inhabitants of the domain of visible nature.
To say that all spirits are alike, or fitted to the same atmosphere, or possessed of like powers, or governed by the same attractions -- electric, magnetic, odic, astral, it matters not which -- is as absurd as though one should say that all planets have the same nature, or that all animals are amphibious, or all men can be nourished on the same food. It accords with reason to suppose that the grossest natures among the spirits will sink to the lowest depths of the spiritual atmosphere -- in other words, be found nearest to the earth. Inversely, the purest would be farthest away. In what, were we to coin a word, we should call the Psychomatics of Occultism, it is as unwarrantable to assume that either of these grades of spirits can occupy the place, or subsist in the conditions, of the other, as in hydraulics it would be to expect that two liquids of different densities could exchange their markings on the scale of Beaume's hydrometer.
Whether or not the men of science are willing to concede the correctness of the Hermetic theory of the physical evolution of man from higher and more spiritual natures, they themselves show us how the race has progressed from the lowest observed point to its present development. And, as all nature seems to be made up of analogies, is it unreasonable to affirm that the same progressive development of individual forms has prevailed among the inhabitants of the unseen universe? If such marvellous effects have been caused by evolution upon our little insignificant planet, producing reasoning and intuitive men from some higher type of the ape family, why suppose that the boundless realms of space are inhabited only by disembodied angelic forms? Why not give place in that vast domain to the spiritual duplicates of these hairy, long-armed and half-reasoning ancestors, their predecessors, and all their successors, down to our time? Of course, the spiritual parts of such primeval members of the human family would be as uncouth and undeveloped as were their physical bodies. While they made no attempt to calculate the duration of the "grand cycle," the Hermetic philosophers yet maintained that, according to the cyclic law, the living human race must inevitably and collectively return one day to that point of departure, where man was first clothed with "coats of skin;" or, to express it more clearly, the human race must, in accordance with the law of evolution, be finally physically spiritualized.
Lowest in the scale of being are those invisible creatures called by the kabalist the "elementary." There are three distinct classes of these. The highest, in intelligence and cunning, are the so-called terrestrial spirits. They are the larvae, or shadows of those who have lived on earth, have refused all spiritual light, remained and died deeply immersed in the mire of matter, and from whose sinful souls the immortal spirit has gradually separated. The second class is composed of the invisible antitypes of the men to be born. No form can come into objective existence -- from the highest to the lowest -- before the abstract ideal of this form -- or, as Aristotle would call it, the privation of this form -- is called forth. Before an artist paints a picture every feature of it exists already in his imagination; to have enabled us to discern a watch, this particular watch must have existed in its abstract form in the watchmaker's mind. So with future men.
Only it must not be understood that this thought creates matter. No; it creates but the design for the future form; the matter which serves to make this design having always been in existence, and having been prepared to form a human body, through a series of progressive transformations, as the result of evolution. Forms pass; ideas that created them and the material which gave them objectiveness, remain. These models, as yet devoid of immortal spirits, are "elementals," -- properly speaking, psychic embryos -- which, when their time arrives, die out of the invisible world, and are born into this visible one as human infants, receiving in transitu that divine breath called spirit which completes the perfect man. This class cannot communicate objectively with men.
The third class are the "elementals" proper, which never evolve into human beings, but occupy, as it were, a specific step of the ladder of being, and, by comparison with the others, may properly be called nature-spirits, or cosmic agents of nature, each being confined to its own element and never transgressing the bounds of others. These are what Tertullian called "the princes of the powers of the air."
This class is believed to possess but one of the three attributes of man. They have neither immortal spirits nor tangible bodies; only astral forms, which partake, in a distinguishing degree, of the element to which they belong and also of the ether. They are a combination of sublimated matter and a rudimental mind. Some are changeless, but still have no separate individuality, acting collectively, so to say. Others, of certain elements and species, change form under a fixed law which kabalists explain. The most solid of their bodies is ordinarily just immaterial enough to escape perception by our physical eyesight, but not so unsubstantial but that they can be perfectly recognized by the inner, or clairvoyant vision. They not only exist and can all live in ether, but can handle and direct it for the production of physical effects, as readily as we can compress air or water for the same purpose by pneumatic and hydraulic apparatus; in which occupation they are readily helped by the "human elementary." More than this; they can so condense it as to make to themselves tangible bodies, which by their Protean powers they can cause to assume such likeness as they choose, by taking as their models the portraits they find stamped in the memory of the persons present. It is not necessary that the sitter should be thinking at the moment of the one represented. His image may have faded many years before. The mind receives indelible impressions even from chance acquaintance or persons encountered but once. As a few seconds exposure of the sensitized photograph plate is all that is requisite to preserve indefinitely the image of the sitter, so it is with the mind.
Though spiritualists discredit them ever so much, these nature-spirits are realities. The Christians call them "devils," "imps of Satan," and like characteristic names. They are nothing of the kind, but simply creatures of ethereal matter, irresponsible, and neither good nor bad, unless influenced by a superior intelligence.
What should sensible spiritualists think of the character of angel guides, who after monopolizing, perhaps for years, a poor medium's time, health and means, suddenly abandons him when he most needs their help? None but creatures without soul or conscience would be guilty of such injustice. Conditions? -- mere sophistry. What sort of spirits must they be who would not summon if necessary an army of spirit-friends (if such there be) to snatch the innocent medium from the pit dug for his feet? Such things happened in the olden time, such may happen now. There were apparitions before modern spiritualism, and phenomena like ours in every previous age. If modern manifestations are a reality and palpable facts, so must have been the so-called "miracles" and thaumaturgic exploits of old; or if the latter are but fictions of superstition, so must be the former, for they rest on no better testimony.
But, in this daily-increasing torrent of occult phenomena that rushes from one end of the globe to the other, though two-thirds of the manifestations are proved spurious, what of those which are proved genuine without doubt or cavil? Among these may be found communications coming through non-professional as well as professional mediums, which are sublime and divinely grand. Who are those spirits, what those powers or intelligences which are evidently outside of the medium proper and entities per se? These intelligences deserve the appellation; and they differ as widely from the generality of spooks and goblins that hover around the cabinets for physical manifestations, as day from night.
Be it however a "spirit of health or goblin damn'd" it is of little consequence; for if it be once proved that its organism is not solid matter, then it must be and is a "spirit," an apparition, a breath. It is an intelligence which acts outside our organisms, and therefore must belong to some existing even though unseen race of beings. But what is it? What is this something which thinks and even speaks but yet is not human; that is impalpable and yet not a disembodied spirit; that simulates affection, passion, remorse, fear, joy, but yet feels neither? What is this canting creature which rejoices in cheating the truthful inquirer and mocking at sacred human feeling? For, if not Mr. Crookes's Katie King, other similar creatures have done all these. Who can fathom the mystery? The true psychologist alone. And where should he go for his text-books but to the neglected alcoves of libraries where the works of despised hermetists and theurgists have been gathering dust these many years.
Skeptics, and even skeptical spiritualists, have often unjustly accused mediums of fraud, when denied what they consider their inalienable right to test the spirits. But where there is one such case, there are fifty in which spiritualists have permitted themselves to be practiced upon by tricksters, while they neglected to appreciate genuine manifestations procured for them by their mediums. Ignorant of the laws of mediumship, such do not know that when an honest medium is once taken possession of by spirits, whether disembodied or elemental, he is no longer his own master. He cannot control the actions of the spirits, nor even his own. They make him a puppet to dance at their pleasure while they pull the wires behind the scenes. The false medium may seem entranced, and yet be playing tricks all the while; while the real medium may appear to be in full possession of his senses, when in fact he is far away, and his body is animated by his "Indian guide," or "control." Or, he may be entranced in his cabinet, while his astral body (double) or doppelganger, is walking about the room, moved by another intelligence.
Far from us be the thought of casting an unjust slur on physical mediums. Harassed by various intelligences, reduced by their overpowering influence -- which their weak and nervous natures are unable to shake off -- to a morbid state, which at last becomes chronic, they are impeded by these "influences" from undertaking other occupation. They become mentally and physically unfit for any other. Who can judge them harshly when, driven to the last extremity, they are constrained to accept mediumship as a business? And heaven knows whether the calling is one to be envied by any one! It is not mediums, real true, and genuine mediums that we would ever blame, but their patrons, the spiritualists. The ancients, unlike ourselves, could "try" the spirits and discern the difference between the good and evil ones, the human and the elemental. They also knew that unregulated spirit intercourse brought ruin upon the individual and disaster to the community.
This view of mediumship may be novel and perhaps repugnant to many modern spiritualists; but still it is the view taught in the ancient philosophy, and supported by the experience of mankind from time immemorial.
We are far from believing that all the spirits that communicate at circles are of the classes called "Elemental" and "Elementary." Many -- among those who control the medium subjectively to speak, write, and otherwise act in various ways -- are human, disembodied spirits. Whether the majority of such spirits are good or bad, largely depends on the private morality of the medium, much on the circle present, and a great deal on the intensity and object of their purpose. But in any case, human spirits can never materialize themselves in propria persona.
The recognized laws of physical science account for but a few of the more objective of the so-called spiritual phenomena. While proving the reality of certain visible effects of an unknown force, they have not thus far enabled scientists to control at will even this portion of the phenomena. The truth is that the professors have not yet discovered the necessary conditions of their occurrence. They must go as deeply into the study of the triple nature of man -- physiological, psychological, and divine --as did their predecessors, the magicians, theurgists, and thaumaturgists of old.
NOTE.--The volume and page references to Isis Unveiled, from which the foregoing chapter is compiled, are, in the order of the excerpts, as follows:-- Volume I, 336, 340, 341, 343, 344, 295, 296, 310, 311, 325, 53, 54, 360, 488-9, 490, 67.
Magical Phenomena -- Modern and Ancient>
SCIENCE is daily and rapidly moving toward the great discoveries in chemistry and physics, organology, and anthropology. Learned men ought to be free from preconceptions and prejudices of every kind; yet, although thought and opinion are now free, scientists are still the same men as of old. An Utopian dreamer is he who thinks that man ever changes with the evolution and development of new ideas. The soil may be well fertilized and made to yield with every year a greater and better variety of fruit; but, dig a little deeper than the stratum required for the crop, and the same earth will be found in the subsoil as was there before the first furrow was turned.
For many years we have watched the development and growth of that apple of discord -- MODERN SPIRITUALISM. Familiar with its literature both in Europe and America, we have closely and eagerly witnessed its interminable controversies and compared its contradictory hypotheses. Many educated men and women -- heterodox spiritualists, of course -- have tried to fathom the Protean phenomena. The only result was that they came to the following conclusion: whatever may be the reason of these constant failures -- whether such are to be laid at the door of the investigators themselves, or of the secret Force at work -- it is at least proved that, in proportion as the psychological manifestations increase in frequency and variety, the darkness surrounding their origin becomes more impenetrable.
Many years of wandering among "heathen" and "Christian" magicians, occultists, mesmerizers, and the tutti quanti of white and black art, ought to be sufficient, we think, to give us a certain right to feel competent to take a practical view of this doubted and very complicated question. We have associated with the fakirs, the holy men of India, and seen them when in intercourse with the Pitris. We have watched the proceedings and modus operandi of the howling and dancing dervishes; held friendly communications with the marabouts of European and Asiatic Turkey; and the serpent-charmers of Damascus and Benares have but few secrets that we have not had the fortune to study. Therefore, when scientists who have never had an opportunity of living among these oriental jugglers and can judge at the best but superficially, tell us that there is naught in their performances but mere tricks of prestidigitation, we cannot help feeling a profound regret for such hasty conclusions. That such pretentious claims should be made to a thorough analysis of the powers of nature, and at the same time such unpardonable neglect displayed of questions of purely physiological and psychological character, and astounding phenomena rejected without either examination or appeal, is an exhibition of inconsistency, strongly savoring of timidity, if not of moral obliquity.
Learned investigators, all very skeptical as to spirits in general and "departed human spirits" in particular, during the last twenty years have taxed their brains to invent new names for an old thing. Thus, with Mr. Crookes and Sergeant Cox, it is the "psychic force." Professor Thury of Geneva calls it the "psychode" or ectenic force; Professor Balfour Stewart, the "electro-biological power;" Faraday, the "great master of experimental philosophy in physics," but apparently a novice in psychology, superciliously termed it an "unconscious muscular action," an "unconscious cerebration," and what not? Sir William Hamilton, a "latent thought," Dr. Carpenter, "the ideo-motor principle," etc., etc. So many scientists -- so many names.
The psychic and ectenic forces, the "ideo-motor" and "electro-biological powers;" "latent thought" and even "unconscious cerebration" theories can be condensed in two words: the kabalistic ASTRAL LIGHT. The disputants are battling about mere words. Call the phenomena force, energy, electricity or magnetism, will, or spirit-power, it will ever be the partial manifestation of the soul, whether disembodied or imprisoned for a while in its body -- of a portion of that intelligent, omnipotent, and individual WILL, pervading all nature, and known, through the insufficiency of human language to correctly express psychological images, as -- GOD.
There are two kinds of seership -- that of the soul and that of the spirit. The seership of the ancient Pythoness, or of the modern mesmerized subject, vary but in the artificial modes adopted to induce the state of clairvoyance. But, as the visions of both depend upon the greater or less acuteness of the senses of the astral body, they differ very widely from the perfect, omniscient spiritual state; for, at best, the subject can get but glimpses of truth, through the veil which physical nature interposes. The astral principle, or mind, is the sentient soul, inseparable from our physical brain, which it holds in subjection, and is in its turn equally trammeled by it. This is the ego, the intellectual life-principle of man, his conscious entity. While it is yet within the material body, the clearness and correctness of its spiritual visions depend on its more or less intimate relation with its higher Principle. When this relation is such as to allow the most ethereal portions of the soul-essence to act independently of its grosser particles and of the brain, it can unerringly comprehend what it sees; then only is it the pure, rational, supersentient soul. That state is known in India as the Samaddi; it is the highest condition of spirituality known to man on earth. The Hindu terms Pranayama, Pratyahara, and Dharana, all relate to different psychological states, and show how much more the Sanskrit is adapted to the clear elucidation of the phenomena that are encountered by those who study this branch of psychological science, than the tongues of modern peoples, whose experiences have not yet necessitated the invention of such descriptive terms.
When the body is in the state of Dharana --a total catalepsy of the physical frame, the soul of the clairvoyant may liberate itself, and perceive things subjectively. And yet, as the sentient principle of the brain is alive and active, these pictures of the past, present, and future will be tinctured with the terrestrial perceptions of the objective world; the physical memory and fancy will be in the way of clear vision. But the seer-adept knows how to suspend the mechanical action of the brain. His visions will be as clear as truth itself, uncolored and undistorted, whereas, the clairvoyant, unable to control the vibrations of the astral waves, will perceive but more or less broken images through the medium of the brain. The seer can never take flickering shadows for realities, for his memory being as completely subjected to his will as the rest of the body, he receives impressions directly from his spirit. Between his subjective and his objective selves there are no obstructive mediums. This is the real spiritual seership, in which, according to an expression of Plato, the soul is raised above all inferior good, when we reach "that which is supreme, which is simple, pure and unchangeable, without form, color, or human qualities: the God -- our Nous."
This is the state which such seers as Plotinus and Apollonius termed "Union to the Deity;" which the ancient yogins called Isvara, and the modern call "Samaddi;" but this state is as far above modern clairvoyance as the stars above glow-worms.
In those visions there is as little to be attributed to hallucination as in the glimpses which the scientist, by the help of his optical instrument, gets into the microscopic world. A man cannot perceive, touch, and converse with pure spirit through any of his bodily senses. Only spirit alone can talk to and see spirit; and even our astral soul, the Doppelganger, is too gross, too much tainted yet with earthly matter to trust entirely to its perceptions and insinuations.
How dangerous may often become untrained mediumship, and how thoroughly it was understood and provided against by the ancient sages, is perfectly exemplified in the case of Socrates. The old Grecian philosopher was a "medium"; hence, he had never been initiated into the Mysteries; for such was the rigorous law. But he had his "familiar spirit" as they call it, his daimonium; and this invisible counsellor became the cause of his death. It is generally believed that if he was not initiated into the Mysteries it was because he himself neglected to become so. But the Secret Records teach us that it was because he could not be admitted to participate in the sacred rites, and precisely, as we state, on account of his mediumship. There was a law against the admission not only of such as were convicted of deliberate witchcraft, but even of those who were known to have "a familiar spirit." The law was just and logical, because a genuine medium is more or less irresponsible; and the eccentricities of Socrates are thus accounted for in some degree. A medium must be passive; and if a firm believer in his "spirit-guide" he will allow himself to be ruled by the latter, not by the rules of the sanctuary. A medium of olden times, like the modern "medium" was subject to be entranced at the will and pleasure of the "power" which controlled him; therefore he could not well have been entrusted with the awful secrets of the final initiation, "never to be revealed under the penalty of death." The old sage, in unguarded moments of "spiritual inspiration," revealed that which he had never learned; and was therefore put to death as an atheist.
How then, with such an instance as that of Socrates, in relation to the visions and spiritual wonders at the epoptai, of the Inner Temple, can any one assert that these seers, theurgists, and thaumaturgists were all "spirit-mediums?"
Neither Pythagoras, Plato, nor any of the later more important Neo-platonists, nor Apollonius of Tyana, were ever mediums; for in such case they would not have been admitted to the Mysteries at all. Apart from natural "mediumship" there has existed, from the beginning of time, a mysterious science, discussed by many, but known only to a few.
The use of it is a longing toward our only true and real home -- the after-life, and a desire to cling more closely to our parent spirit; abuse of it is sorcery, witchcraft, black magic. Between the two is placed natural "mediumship;" a soul clothed with imperfect matter, a ready agent for either the one or the other, and utterly dependent on its surroundings of life, constitutional heredity -- physical as well as mental -- and on the nature of the "spirits" it attracts around itself. A blessing or a curse, as fate will have it, unless the medium is purified of earthly dross.
The reason why in every age so little has been generally known of the mysteries of initiation, is twofold. The first has already been explained by more than one author, and lies in the terrible penalty following the least indiscretion. The second, is the superhuman difficulties and even dangers which the daring candidate of old had to encounter, and either conquer, or die in the attempt, when, what is still worse, he did not lose his reason. There was no real danger to him whose mind had become thoroughly spiritualized, and so prepared for every terrific sight. He who fully recognized the power of his immortal spirit, and never doubted for one moment its omnipotent protection, had naught to fear. But woe to the candidate in whom the slightest physical fear -- sickly child of matter -- made him lose sight and faith in his own invulnerability. He who was not wholly confident of his moral fitness to accept the burden of these tremendous secrets was doomed.
The philosophers, and especially those who were initiated into the Mysteries, held that the astral soul is the impalpable duplicate of the gross external form which we call body. It is the perisprit of the Kardecists and the spirit-form of the spiritualists. Above this internal duplicate, and illuminating it as the warm ray of the sun illuminates the earth, fructifying the germ and calling out to spiritual vivification the latent qualities dormant in it, hovers the divine spirit. The astral perisprit is contained and confined within the physical body as ether in a bottle, or magnetism in magnetized iron. It is a centre and engine of force, fed from the universal supply of force, and moved by the same general laws which pervade all nature and produce all cosmical phenomena. Its inherent activity causes the incessant physical operations of the animal organism and ultimately results in the destruction of the latter by over-use and its own escape. It is the prisoner, not the voluntary tenant, of the body. It has an attraction so powerful to the external universal force, that after wearing out its casing it finally escapes to it. The stronger, grosser, more material its encasing body, the longer is the term of its imprisonment. Some persons are born with organizations so exceptional, that the door which shuts other people in from communication with the world of the astral light, can be easily unbarred and opened, and their souls can look into, or even pass into that world, and return again. Those who do this consciously, and at will, are termed magicians, hierophants, seers, adepts; those who are made to do it, either through the fluid of the mesmerizer or of "spirits," are "mediums."
Prophecies are delivered in two ways -- consciously, by magicians who are able to look into the astral light; and unconsciously, by those who act under what is called inspiration. To the latter class belonged and belong the Biblical prophets and the modern trance-speakers.
There are two kinds of magnetization; the first is purely animal, the other transcendent, and depending on the will and knowledge of the mesmerizer, as well as on the degree of spirituality of the subject, and his capacity to receive the impressions of the astral light. But now it is next to ascertain that clairvoyance depends a great deal more on the former than on the latter. To the power of an adept, the most positive subject will have to submit. If his sight is ably directed by the mesmerizer, magician, or spirit, the light must yield up its most secret records to our scrutiny; for, if it is a book which is ever closed to those "who see and do not perceive," on the other hand it is ever opened for one who wills to see it opened. It keeps an unmutilated record of all that was, that is, or ever will be. The minutest acts of our lives are imprinted on it, and even our thoughts rest photographed on its eternal tablets. It is the book which we see opened by the angel in the Revelation, "which is the Book of life, and out of which the dead are judged according to their works." It is, in short, the MEMORY OF GOD!
It is on the indestructible tablets of the astral light that is stamped the impression of every thought we think, and every act we perform; and that future events -- effects of long-forgotten causes -- are already delineated as a vivid picture for the eye of the seer and the prophet to follow. Memory -- the despair of the materialist, the enigma of the psychologist, the sphinx of science -- is to the student of old philosophies merely a name to express that power which man unconsciously exerts, and shares with many of the inferior animals -- to look with inner sight into the astral light, and there behold the images of past sensations and incidents. Instead of searching the cerebral ganglia for "micrographs of the living and the dead, of scenes that we have visited, of incidents in which we have borne a part," they went to the vast repository where the records of every man's life as well as every pulsation of the visible cosmos are stored up for all Eternity!
That flash of memory which is traditionally supposed to show a drowning man every long-forgotten scene of his mortal life -- as the landscape is revealed to the traveller by intermittent flashes of lightning -- is simply the sudden glimpse which the struggling soul gets into the silent galleries where his history is depicted in imperishable colors.
Dreams, forebodings, prescience, prognostications and presentiments are impressions left by our astral spirit on our brain, which receives them more or less distinctly, according to the proportion of blood with which it is supplied during the hours of sleep. The more the body is exhausted, the freer is the spiritual man, and the more vivid the impressions of our soul's memory.
No man, however gross and material he may be, can avoid leading a double existence; one in the visible universe, the other in the invisible. The life-principle which animates his physical frame is chiefly in the astral body; and while the more animal portions of him rest, the more spiritual ones know neither limits nor obstacles. If we study Plato and the philosophers of old, we may readily perceive that while the "irrational soul," by which Plato meant our astral body, or the more ethereal representation of ourselves, can have at best only a more or less prolonged continuity of existence beyond the grave; the divine spirit -- wrongly termed soul, by the Church -- is immortal by its very essence.
If the life-principle is something apart from the astral spirit and in no way connected with it, why is it that the intensity of the clairvoyant powers depends so much on the bodily prostration of the subject? The deeper the trance, the less signs of life the body shows, the clearer become the spiritual perceptions, and the more powerful are the soul's visions. The soul, disburdened of the bodily senses, shows activity of power in a far greater degree of intensity than it can in a strong, healthy body.
But though during its brief sojourn on earth our soul may be assimilated to a light hidden under a bushel, it still shines more or less bright and attracts to itself the influences of kindred spirits; and when a thought of good or evil import is begotten in our brain, it draws to it impulses of like nature as irresistibly as the magnet attracts iron filings. This attraction is also proportionate to the intensity with which the thought-impulse makes itself felt in the ether; and so it will be understood how one man may impress himself upon his own epoch so forcibly, that the influence may be carried -- through the ever-interchanging currents of energy between the two worlds, the visible and the invisible -- from one succeeding age to another, until it affects a large portion of mankind.
The medium is but an ordinary person who is magnetized by influx from the astral light. The intensity and permanency of mediumistic power is in proportion to the saturation of the medium with the magnetic or astral force. This condition of saturation may be congenital, or brought about in any one of these ways:-- by the mesmeric process; by spirit-agency; or by self-will. As to the process of self-saturation, the ecstatic so enormously reinforces his willpower, as to draw into himself, as into a vortex, the potencies resident in the astral light to supplement his own natural store.
It is in the denial of the boundless and endless Entity, possessor of that invisible Will which we for lack of a better term, call GOD, that lies the powerlessness of every materialistic science to explain the occult phenomena. It is in the rejection a priori of everything which might force them to cross the boundary of exact science and step into the domain of psychological, or, if we prefer, metaphysical physiology, that we find the secret cause of their discomfiture by the manifestations, and their absurd theories to account for them. It is easier by far to deny the reality of such manifestations from a secure distance, than find for them a proper place among the classes of natural phenomena accepted by exact science. And how can they, since all such phenomena pertain to psychology, and the latter, with its occult and mysterious powers, is a terra incognita for modern science.
The highest visions, the most truthful, are produced, not through natural ecstatics or "mediums," as it is sometimes erroneously asserted, but through a regular discipline of gradual initiations and development of psychical powers.
The AUM contains the evocation of the Vedic triad. It is the trinity of man himself, on his way to become immortal through the solemn union of his inner triune SELF -- the exterior, gross body, the husk not even being taken into consideration in this human trinity. Ceres-Demeter and her earthly wanderings in search of her daughter are the euhemerized descriptions of one of the most metaphysico-psychological subjects ever treated of by human mind. It is a mask for the transcendent narrative of the initiated seers; the celestial vision of the freed soul of the initiate of the last hour describing the process by which the soul that has not yet been incarnated descends for the first time into matter. The Lesser Mysteries signify occultly the condition of the unpurified soul invested with an earthly body, and enveloped in a material and physical nature. The body is the sepulchre, the prison of the soul. The astral soul is placed between matter (body) and the highest intellect (its immortal spirit or nous). Which of these two will conquer? The result of the battle of life lies between the triad. It is a question of a few years of physical enjoyment on earth and -- if it has begotten abuse -- of the dissolution of the earthly body being followed by death of the astral body, which is thus prevented from being united with the highest spirit of the triad, which alone confers on us individual immortality; or, on the other hand, of becoming immortal mystae; initiated before death of the body into the divine truths of the after-life. Demi-gods below, and GODS above.
"In ancient India, the mystery of the triad, known but to the initiated, could not, under the penalty of death, be revealed to the vulgar," says Vrihaspati.
Neither could it in the ancient Grecian and Samothracian Mysteries. Nor can it be now. It is in the hands of the adepts, and must remain a mystery to the world so long as the materialistic savant regards it as an undemonstrated fallacy, an insane hallucination, and the dogmatic theologian, a snare of the Evil One.
Subjective communication with the human, god-like spirits of those who have preceded us to the silent land of bliss, is in India divided into three categories. Under the spiritual training of a guru the neophyte begins to feel them. Were he not under the immediate guidance of an adept, he would be controlled by the invisibles, and utterly at their mercy, for among these subjective influences he is unable to discern the good from the bad. Happy the sensitive who is sure of the purity of his spiritual atmosphere! But the guru's influence is there; it is the most powerful shield against the intrusion of the bhutna(1) into the atmosphere of the neophyte.
By those who have followed us thus far, it will naturally be asked, to what practical issue this book tends; much has been said about magic and its potentiality, much of the immense antiquity of its practice. Do we wish to affirm that the occult sciences ought to be studied and practiced throughout the world? Would we replace modern spiritualism with the ancient magic? Neither; the substitution could not be made, nor the study universally prosecuted, without incurring the risk of enormous public dangers. A sorcerer is a public enemy, and mesmerism(2) may most readily be turned into the worst of sorceries.
We would have neither scientists, theologians, nor spiritualists turn practical magicians, but all to realize that there was true science, profound religion, and genuine phenomena before this modern era. We would that all who have a voice in the education of the masses should first know and then teach that the safest guides to human happiness and enlightenment are those writings which have descended to us from the remotest antiquity; and that nobler spiritual aspirations and a higher average morality prevail in the countries where the people take their precepts as the rule of their lives. We would have all to realize that magical, i.e., spiritual powers exist in every man, and those few to practice them who feel called to teach, and are ready to pay the price of discipline and self-conquest which their development exacts.
Besides, there are many good reasons why the study of magic, except in its broad philosophy, is nearly impracticable in Europe and America. Magic being what it is, the most difficult of all sciences to learn experimentally -- its acquisition is practically beyond the reach of the majority of white-skinned people; and that, whether their effort is made at home or in the East. Probably not more than one man in a million of European blood is fitted -- either physically, morally, or psychologically, -- to become a practical magician, and not one in ten millions would be found endowed with all these three qualifications as required for the work. To become a neophyte, one must be ready to devote himself heart and soul to the study of mystic sciences. Magic -- most imperative of mistresses -- brooks no rival. Unlike other sciences, a theoretical knowledge of formulae without mental capacities or soul powers, is utterly useless in magic. The spirit must hold in complete subjection the combativeness of what is loosely termed educated reason, until facts have vanquished cold human sophistry.
NOTE.--The volume and page references to Isis Unveiled, from which the foregoing chapter is compiled, are, in the order of the excerpts, as follows: I, 40, 43, 55, 58; II, 590, 591, 117, 118, 119; I, 197-8, 200-1, 178, 179, 181, 499, 500, 61, 45, 46; II, 114, 111, 112, 114, 115, 634, 635, 636.
(1) This series of articles was first published in Theosophy (Los Angeles, CA, USA) in the monthly issues of March to August, 1917 and April to June 1918 under the title of "Studies in Isis Unveiled."
An online edition of this series as first published in Theosophy was reprinted on John DeSantis' WisdomWorld.org Web Site. See Studies in Isis Unveiled at his site. Mr. DeSantis has kindly allowed us to reprint this article.
(2) This "Introductory Note" is an abridged & updated version of the original "Introductory" by the Editors of Theosophy.