This is the heading of an article I find in a London
publication, a new weekly called Light, and described as a "Journal
Devoted to the Highest Interests of Humanity, both Here and Hereafter."
It is a good and useful journal; and, if I may judge from the only two numbers
I have ever seen, one whose dignified tone will prove far more persuasive
with the public than the passionate and often rude remarks passed on their
opponents and sceptics by its "spiritual" contemporaries. The
article to which I wish to call attention is signed by a familiar name (nom
de plume), "M.A. Oxon.," that of a profoundly sympathetic
writer, of a personal and esteemed friend of one, in short, who, I
trust, whether he remains friendly or antagonistic to our views, would never
confound the doctrine with its adherents, or, putting it more plainly, visit
the sins of the Occultists upon Occultism and vice versâ.
It is with considerable interest and attention, then, that the present
writer has read "The Claims of Occultism." As everything else
coming from "M.A. Oxon.s" pen, it bears a peculiar stamp,
not only of originality but of that intense individuality, that quiet but
determined resolution to bring every new phases, every discovery in Psychological
sciences back to its (to him) first principles Spiritualism.
And when writing the word, I do not mean by it the vulgar "seance-room"
Spiritualism, which "M.A. Oxon." has from the very first outgrown,
but that primitive idea which underlies all the subsequent theories, the
old parent root from which have sprung the modern weeds, namely, belief
in a guardian angel or a tutelary spirit, who, whether his charge is conscious
of it or not i.e., mediumistic or non-mediumistic is
placed by a still higher power over every (baptized?) mortal to watch over
his actions during life. And this, if not the correct outline of "M.A.
Oxon.s" faith, is undoubtedly the main idea of all the Christian-born
Spiritualists, past, present, and future. The doctrine, Christian as it
now may be and preëminently Roman Catholic it is has not
originated, as we all know, with the Christian, but with the Pagan world.
Besides being represented in the tutelary daimon of Socrates that
ancient "guide" of whom our Spiritualists make the most they can it
is the doctrine of the Alexandrian Greek theurgists, of the Zoroastrians,
and of the later Babylonian Jews, one, moreover, sadly disfigured by the
successors of all these the Christians. It matters little though, for
we are now concerned but with the personal views of "M.A. Oxon.,"
which he sets in opposition to those of some Theosophists.
His doctrine then seems to us more than ever to centre in, and gyrate
around, that main idea that the spirit of the living man is incapable of
acting outside of the body independently and per se; but that it
must needs be like a tottering baby guided by his mother or nurse be
led on by some kind of spiritual strings by a disembodied spirit,
an individuality entirely distinct from, and at some time even foreign to
himself, as such a spirit can only be a human soul, having at some
period or other lived on this planet of ours. I trust that I have now correctly
stated my friends belief, which is that of most of the intellectual,
progressive and liberal Spiritualists of our day, one, moreover, shared
by all those Theosophists who have joined our movement by deserting the
ranks of the hoi polloi of Spiritualism. Nevertheless, and bound
though we be to respect the private opinions of those of our Brother-Fellows
who have started out in the research of truth by the same path as "M.A.
Oxon.," however widely they may have diverged from the one we ourselves
follow, yet we will always say that such is not the belief of all the
Theosophists the writer included. For all that, we shall not follow
the nefarious example set to us by most of the Spiritualists and their papers,
which are as bitter against us as most of the missionary sectarian papers
are against each other and the infidel Theosophists. We will not quarrel,
but simply argue, for "Light! more light!" is the rallying cry
of both progressive Spiritualists and Theosophists. Having thus far explained
myself, "M.A. Oxon." will take, I am sure, en bon seigneur every remark that I may make on his article in Light, which I
here quote verbatim. I will not break his flowing narrative,
but limit my answers to modest footnotes.
It is now some years since Spiritualists were startled by the publication
of two ponderous volumes by Madame Blavatsky, under the title of Isis
Unveiled. Those who mastered the diversified contents of those
large and closely-printed pages, upwards of twelve hundred in number, bore
away a vague impression that Spiritualism had been freely handled not altogether
to its advantage, and that a portentous claim had
been more or less darkly set up for what was called Occultism. The book
was full of material so full that I shall probably be right in saying
that no one has mastered its contents so as to fully grasp the authors
plan; but the material sadly needed reducing to order, and many of the
statements required elucidation, and some, perhaps,
limitation.* Moreover, the reader wanted a guide to
pilot him through the difficulties that he encountered on every hand; and,
above all, he sorely needed some more tangible hold on the history and
pretensions of the mysterious Brotherhood for whom the author made such
It seemed vain for any seeker after truth to attempt to enter into relations,
however remote, with any adept of the order of which
Madame Blavatsky is the visible representative. All questions were met
with polite or decisive refusal to submit to any examination of the pretensions
made. The Brothers would receive an enquirer only after he had demonstrated
his truth, honesty and courage by an indefinitely prolonged probation.
They sought no one; they promised to receive none. Meantime, they rejected no one who was persevering enough to go forward
in the prescribed path of training by which alone the divine powers of
the human spirit can, they allege, be developed.
The only palpable outcome of all this elaborate
effort at human enlightenment was the foundation in America of the Theosophical
Society, which has been the accepted, though not the prescribed, organization
of the Occult Brotherhood.§ They would utilize
the Society, but they would not advise as to the methods by which it should
be regulated, nor guarantee it any special aid, except in so far as to
give the very guarded promise that whatever aid might at any time be vouchsafed
by them to enquiring humanity, would come, if at all, through that channel.
It must be admitted that this was a microscopically small crumb of comfort
to fall from so richly laden a table as Madame Blavatsky had depicted.
But Theosophists had to be content, or, at least, silent; and so they betook
themselves, some of them, to reflection.
What ground had they for belief in the existence of these Brothers,
adepts who had a mastery over the secrets of nature which dwarfed the results
of modern scientific research, who had gained the profoundest knowledge "Know
thyself" and could demonstrate by actual experiment the transcendent
powers of the human spirit, spurning time and space, and proving the existence
of soul by the methods of exact experimental science? What ground for such
claims existed outside of that on which the Theosophical Society rested?
For a long time the answer was of the vaguest.
But eventually evidence was gathered, and in this book¶ we have Mr. Sinnett coming forward to give us the benefit
of his own researches into the matter, and especially to give us his correspondence
with Koot Hoomi, an adept and member of the Brotherhood, who had entered
into closer relations, still however of a secondary nature,** with him than had been vouchsafed to other men. These letters are of an
extremely striking nature, and their own intrinsic value is high. This
is greatly enhanced by the source from which they come, and the light they
throw upon the mental attitude of these Tibetan recluses to whom the world
and the things of the world are alike without interest, save in so far
as they can ameliorate mans state, and teach him to develop and use
Another fruitful subject of questioning among those who leaned to theosophical
study was as to the nature of these occult powers. It was impossible to
construct from Isis Unveiled any exact scheme, supported by adequate
testimony, or by sufficient evidence from any proper
source, of what was actually claimed for the adept. Madame Blavatsky herself,
though making no pretension to having attained the full development of
those whose representative she was, possessed certain occult powers that
seemed to the Spiritualist strangely like those of mediumship. This, however, she disclaimed with much indignation.
A medium, she explained, was but a poor creature, a sort of conduit through
which any foul stream might be conveyed, a gas-pipe by means of which gas
of a very low power of illumination reached this earth. And much pain was
taken to show that the water was very foul, and that the gas was
derived from a source that, if at all spiritual, was such as we, who craved
true illumination, should by no means be content with. It is impossible
to deny that the condition of public Spiritualism in America, at the time
when these strictures were passed upon it, was such as to warrant grave
censure. It had become sullied in the minds of observers, who viewed it
from without, and who were not acquainted with its redeeming features,
by association with impurity and fraud. The mistake was to assume that
this was the complexion of Spiritualism in itself, and not of Spiritualism
as depraved by adventitious causes. This, however, was assumed. If we desired
true light, then we were told that we must crush out mediumship, close
the doors through which the mere Spiritual loafers come to perplex and
ruin us, and seek for the true adepts who alone could safely pilot us in
our search. These, it was explained, had by no means given up the right
of entrance to their Spiritual house to any chance spirit that might take
a fancy to enter. They held the key and kept intruders out, while, by unaided
powers of their own, they performed wonders before which medial phenomena
paled. This was the only method of safety; and these powers, inherent in
all men, though susceptible of development only in the purest, and then
with difficulty, were the only means by which the adept worked.
Some Theosophists demonstrated by practical experiment that there is
a foundation of truth in these pretensions. I am not aware whether anyone
has found himself able to separate quite conclusively between his own unaided
efforts and those in which external spirit has had a share. There is, however,
one very noteworthy fact which gives a clue to the difference between the
methods of the Spiritualist and the Occultist. The medium is a passive
recipient of spirit-influence. The adept is an active, energizing, conscious
creator of results which he knowingly produces, and of which evidence exists
and can be sifted. Spiritualists have been slow to accept this account
of what they are familiar with in another shape. Theosophists have been
equally slow to estimate the facts and theories of Spiritualism with candour
and patience. Mr. Sinnett records many remarkable experiences of his own,
which are well worthy of study, and which may lead those who now approach
these phenomena from opposite sides to ponder whether there may not be
a common ground on which they can meet. We do not know so much of the working
of spirit that we can afford to pass by contemptuously any traces of its
operation. Be we Spiritualists or Theosophists odd names to ticket
ourselves with! we are all looking for evidence of the whence and
whither of humanity. We want to know somewhat of the great mystery of life,
and to pry a little into the no less sublime mystery of death. We are gathering
day by day more evidence that is becoming bewildering in its minute perplexities.
We want to get light from all sources; let us be patient, tolerant of divergent
opinion, quick to recognize the tiny hold that any one soul can have on
truth, and the multiform variety in which that which we call truth is presented
to mans view. Is it strange that we should see various sides of it?
Can we not see that it must needs be so? Can we not wait for the final
moment of reconciliation, when we shall see with clearer eye and understand
as now we cannot?
There is much in Mr. Sinnetts little book that may help those
who are trying to assume this mental attitude. The philosophy that it contains
is clearly stated, and affords rich material for thought. The facts recorded
are set forth with scientific accuracy, and must profoundly impress the
careful and candid reader. The glimpses revealed of this silent Brotherhood,
in its lonely home on one of the slopes of the mountains of Tibet, working
to solve the mighty problem, and to confer on humanity such benefits as
it can receive, are impressive enough even to the Philistine sceptic. If
they should indeed be flashes of a greater truth, now only dimly revealed,
the importance of such revelation is not to be measured in words.
Be this, however, as it may and there are many points on which
light is necessary before a decisive opinion may be pronounced there
is no doubt whatever that the philosophy contained in Mr. Sinnetts
book is similar to that which the great students of Theosophy in ages past
have arrived at. It is a mere piece of nineteenth-century arrogance to
pooh-pooh it as unworthy of attention by those on whom has flashed the
dazzling light of the spirit circle. The facts recorded are at least as
scientifically conclusive as any recorded as having happened in a dark séance, or under the ordinary conditions of Spiritualistic
investigation. The letters of Koot Hoomi are fruitful of suggestion, and
will repay careful study on their own merits. The whole book contains only
172 pages, and will not, therefore, unduly tax the readers patience.
If any instructed Spiritualist will read it, and can say that there is
nothing in it that adds to his knowledge, he will at least have the satisfaction
of having read both sides of the question, and that should present itself
to all candid thinkers as a paramount and imperative duty.
[Vol. II. No. 12, September, 1881.
H. P. Blavatsky
* It is not the first time that the just reproach is
unjustly laid at my door. It is but too true that "the material sadly
needed reducing to order," but it never was my province to do
so, as I gave out one detached chapter after the other, and was quite ignorant,
as Mr. Sinnett correctly states in The Occult World, whether I had
started upon a series of articles, one book or two books. Neither did I
much care. It was my duty to give out some hints, to point to the dangerous
phases of modern Spiritualism, and to bring to bear upon that question all
the assertions and testimony of the ancient world and its sages that I could
find, as an evidence to corroborate my conclusions. I did the best I could
and knew how. If the critics of Isis Unveiled but consider that (1)
its author had never studied the English language, and after learning it
in her childhood colloquially had not spoken it before coming to
America half-a-dozen of times during a period of many years; (2) that most
of the doctrines (or shall we say hypotheses) given had to be translated
from an Asiatic language; and (3) that most, if not all of the quotations
from, and references to, other works some of these out of print, and
many inaccessible but to the few and which the author personally had
never read or seen, though the passages quoted were proved in each instance
minutely correct, then my friends would perhaps feel less critically inclined.
However, Isis Unveiled is but a natural entrée en matière in the above article, and I must not lose time over
its merits or demerits.
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Indeed, the claims made for a "Brotherhood" of living men were never half as pretentious as those which are daily made by the
Spiritualists on behalf of the disembodied souls of dead people.
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No more do they now.
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§ We beg to draw to this sentence the attention of all those of
our Fellows and friends in the West as in India, who felt inclined to either
disbelieve in, or accuse the "Brothers of the First Section" on
account of the administrative mistakes and shortcomings of the Theosophical
Society. From the first the Fellows were notified that the First Section
might issue occasionally orders to those who knew them personally, yet had
never promised to guide, or even protect, either the body or its members.
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¶ The Occult World, by A. P. Sinnett.
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** With Mr. Sinnett, and only so far. His relations with a few other
Fellows have been as personal as they could desire.
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Medium, in the sense of the postman who brings a letter
from one living person to another; in the sense of an assistant electrician
whose master tells him how to turn this screw and arrange that wire in the
battery; never in the sense of a spiritual medium. "Madame Blavatsky"
neither needed nor did she ever make use of either dark séance-rooms,
cabinets, "trance-state," "harmony," nor any of the
hundreds of conditions required by the passive mediums who know not
what is going to occur. She always knew beforehand, and could state
what was going to happen save infallibly answering each time for complete
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