Late advices from various parts of the world
seem to indicate that, while there is an increasing interest in
the phenomena of spiritualism, especially among eminent men of
science, there is also a growing desire to learn the views of
the Theosophists. The first impulse of hostility has nearly spent
itself, and the moment approaches when a patient hearing will
be given to our arguments. This was foreseen by us from the beginning.
The founders of our Society were mainly veteran Spiritualists,
who had outgrown their first amazement at the strange phenomena,
and felt the necessity to investigate the laws of mediumship to
the very bottom. Their reading of mediaeval and ancient works
upon the occult sciences had shown them that our modern phenomena
were but repetitions of what had been seen, studied, and comprehended
in former epochs. In the biographies of ascetics, mystics, theurgists,
prophets, ecstatics; of astrologers, "diviners," "magicians,"
"sorcerers," and other students, subjects, or practitioners
of the Occult Power in its many branches, they found ample evidence
that Western Spiritualism could only be comprehended by the creation
of a science of Comparative Psychology. By a like synthetic method
the philologists, under the lead of Eugéne Burnouf, had
unlocked the secrets of religious and philological heredity, and
exploded Western theological theories and dogmas until then deemed
Proceeding in this spirit, the Theosophists thought they discovered
some reasons to doubt the correctness of the spiritualistic theory
that all the phenomena of the circles must of necessity be attributed solely to the action of spirits of our deceased friends.
The ancients knew and classified other supracorporeal entities
that are capable of moving objects, floating the bodies of mediums
through the air, giving apparent tests of the identity of dead
persons, and controlling sensitives to write and speak strange
languages, paint pictures, and play on unfamiliar musical instruments.
And not only knew them, but showed how these invisible powers
might be controlled by man, and made to work these wonders at
his bidding. They found, moreover, that there were two sides of
Occultism a good and an evil side; and that it was a dangerous
and fearful thing for the inexperienced to meddle with the latter, dangerous
to our moral as to our physical nature. The conviction forced
itself upon their minds, then, that while the weird wonders of
Spiritualism were among the most important of all that could be
studied, mediumship, without the most careful attention to every
condition, was fraught with peril.
Thus thinking, and impressed with the great importance of a thorough
knowledge of mesmerism and all other branches of Occultism, these
founders established the Theosophical Society, to read, inquire,
compare, study, experiment and expound, the mysteries of Psychology.
This range of inquiry, of course, included an investigation of
Vedic, Brahmanical and other ancient Oriental literature; for
in that especially the former, the grandest repository of wisdom
ever accessible to humanity lay the entire mystery of nature
and of man. To comprehend modern mediumship it is, in short, indispensable
to familiarize oneself with the Yoga Philosophy; and the aphorisms
of Patanjali are even more essential than the "Divine Revelations"
of Andrew Jackson Davis. We can never know how much of the mediumistic
phenomena we must attribute to the disembodied, until it
is settled how much can be done by the embodied, human
soul, and the blind but active powers at work within those regions
which are yet unexplored by science. Not even proof of an existence
beyond the grave, if it must come to us in a phenomenal shape.
This will be conceded without qualification, we think, provided
that the records of history be admitted as corroborating the statements
we have made.
The reader will observe that the primary issue between the theosophical
and spiritualistic theories of mediumistic phenomena is that the
Theosophists say the phenomena may be produced by more agencies
than one, and the latter that but one agency can be conceded,
namely the disembodied souls. There are other differences as,
for instance, that there can be such a thing as the obliteration
of the human individuality as the result of very evil environment;
that good spirits seldom, if ever, cause physical "manifestations";
etc. But the first point to settle is the one here first stated;
and we have shown how and in what directions the Theosophists
maintain that the investigations should be pushed.
Our East Indian readers, unlike those of Western countries who
may see these lines, do not know how warmly and stoutly these
issues have been debated, these past three or four years. Suffice
it to say that, a point having been reached where arguments seemed
no longer profitable, the controversy ceased; and that the present
visit of the New York Theosophists, and their establishment of
the Bombay Headquarters, with the library, lectures, and this
journal, are its tangible results. That this step must have a
very great influence upon Western psychological science is apparent.
Whether our Committee are themselves fully competent to observe
and properly expound Eastern Psychology or not, no one will deny
that Western Science must inevitably be enriched by the contributions
of the Indian, Sinhalese, and other mystics who will now find
in THE THEOSOPHIST a channel
by which to reach European and American students of Occultism,
such as was never imagined, not to say seen, before. It is our
earnest hope and belief that after the broad principles of our
Society, its earnestness, and exceptional facilities for gathering
Oriental wisdom are well understood, it will be better thought
of than now by Spiritualists, and attract into its fellowship
many more of their brightest and best intellects.
Theosophy can be styled the enemy of Spiritualism with no more
propriety than of Mesmerism, or any other branch of Psychology.
In this wondrous outburst of phenomena that the Western world
has been seeing since 1848, is presented such an opportunity to
investigate the hidden mysteries of being as the world has scarcely
known before. Theosophists only urge that these phenomena shall
be studied so thoroughly that our epoch shall not pass away with
the mighty problem unsolved. Whatever obstructs this whether
the narrowness of sciolism, the dogmatism of theology or the prejudice
of any other class, should be swept aside as something hostile
to the public interest. Theosophy, with its design to search back
into historic records for proof, may be regarded as the natural
outcome of phenomenalistic Spiritualism, or as a touchstone to
show the value of its pure gold. One must know both to comprehend
what is Man.
Theosophist, October, 1879
H. P. Blavatsky