Permit a humble Theosophist
to appear for the first time in your columns, to say a few words in defence
of our beliefs. I see in your issue of December 21st ultimo, one of your
correspondents, Mr. J. Croucher, makes the following very bold assertions:
Had the Theosophists
thoroughly comprehended the nature of the soul and spirit, and its relation
to the body, they would have known that if the soul once leaves, it leaves for ever.
This is so ambiguous that, unless he uses the term "soul" to
designate only the vital principle, I can only suppose that he falls into
the common error of calling the astral body, spirit, and the immortal essence,
"soul." We Theosophists, as Col. Olcott has told you, do vice
Besides the unwarranted imputation on us of ignorance, Mr. Croucher has
an idea (peculiar to himself) that the problem which has heretofore taxed
the powers of the metaphysicians in all ages has been solved in our own.
It is hardly to be supposed that Theosophists or any others "thoroughly"
comprehend the nature of the soul and spirit, and their relation to the
body. Such an achievement is for Omniscience, and we Theosophists treading
the path worn by the footsteps of the old Sages in the moving sands of exoteric
philosophy, can only hope to approximate to the absolute truth. It is really
more than doubtful whether Mr. Croucher can do better, even though an "inspirational
medium, and experienced "through constant sittings with
one of the best trance mediums" in your country. I may well leave to
time and Spiritual Philosophy to entirely vindicate us in the far hereafter.
When any dipus of this or the next century shall have solved this
eternal enigma of the Sphinx man, every modern dogma, not excepting
some pets of the Spiritualists, will be swept away, as the Theban monster,
according to the legend, leaped from his promontory into the sea, and was
seen no more.
As early as February 18th, 1876, your learned correspondent, "M.A.
Oxon.," took occasion, in an article entitled "Soul and Spirit,"
to point out the frequent confusion of the terms by other writers. As things
are no better now, I will take the opportunity to show how sorely Mr. Croucher,
and many other Spiritualists of whom he may be taken as the spokesman, misapprehend
Col. Olcotts meaning and the views of the New York Theosophists. Col.
Olcott neither affirmed nor dreamed of implying that the immortal spirit
leaves the body to produce the medial displays. And yet Mr. Croucher evidently
thinks he did, for the word "spirit" to him means the inner, astral
man, or double. Here is what Col. Olcott did say, double commas and all:
That mediumistic physical
phenomena are not produced by pure spirits, but by "souls"
embodied or disembodied, and usually with the help of Elementals.
Any intelligent reader must perceive that, in placing the word "souls"
in quotation marks, the writer indicated that he was using it in a sense
not his own. As a Theosophist, he would more properly and philosophically
have said for himself "astral spirits" or "astral men,"
or doubles. Hence, the criticism is wholly without even a foundation of
plausibility. I wonder that a man could be found who, on so frail a basis,
would have attempted so sweeping a denunciation. As it is, our President
only propounded the trine of man, like the ancient and Oriental Philosophers
and their worthy imitator Paul, who held that the physical corporeity, the
flesh and blood, was permeated and so kept alive by the Psuche, the
soul or astral body. This doctrine, that man is trine spirit
or Nous, soul and body was taught by the Apostle of the Gentiles
more broadly and clearly than it has been by any of his Christian successors
(see 1 Thess., v. 23). But having evidently forgotten or neglected
to "thoroughly" study the transcendental opinions of the ancient
Philosophers and the Christian Apostle upon the subject, Mr. Croucher views
the soul (Psuche) as spirit (Nous) and vice versâ.
The Buddhists, who separate the three entities in man (though viewing
them as one when on the path to Nirvâna), yet divide the soul into
several parts, and have names for each of these and their functions. Thus
confusion is unknown among them. The old Greeks did likewise, holding that
Psuche was bios, or physical life, and it was thumos, or passional
nature, the animals being accorded but the lower faculty of the soul instinct.
The soul or Psyche is itself a combination, consensus or unity of the bios,
or physical vitality, the epithumia or concupiscible nature,
and the phrên, mens or mind. Perhaps the animus ought
to be included. It is constituted of ethereal substance, which pervades
the whole universe, and is derived wholly from the soul of the world Anima
Mundi or the Buddhist Svabhâvat which is not spirit; though intangible
and impalpable, it is yet, by comparison with spirit or pure abstraction,
objective matter. By its complex nature, the soul may descend and ally itself
so closely to the corporeal nature as to exclude a higher life from exerting
any moral influence upon it. On the other hand, it can so closely attach
itself to the Nous or spirit, as to share its potency, in which case its
vehicle, physical man, will appear as a God even during his terrestrial
life. Unless such union of soul and spirit does occur, either during this
life or after physical death, the individual man is not immortal as an entity.
The Psyche is sooner or later disintegrated. Though the man may have
gained "the whole world," he has lost his "soul." Paul,
when teaching the anastasis, or continuation of individual spiritual
life after death, set forth that there was a physical body which was raised
in incorruptible substance.
The spiritual body is most assuredly not one of the bodies, or
visible or tangible larvae, which form in circle-rooms, and are so improperly
termed "materialized spirits." When once the metanoia, the
full developing of spiritual life, has lifted the spiritual body out of
the psychical (the disembodied, corruptible, astral man, what Col. Olcott
calls "soul"), it becomes, in strict ratio with its progress,
more and more an abstraction for the corporeal senses. It can influence,
inspire, and even communicate with men subjectively; it can make itself
felt, and even, in those rare instances when the clairvoyant is perfectly
pure and perfectly lucid, be seen by the inner eye (which is the eye of
the purified Psyche soul). But how can it ever manifest objectively?
It will be seen, then, that to apply the term "spirit" to the
materialized eidola of your "form-manifestations" is grossly
improper, and something ought to be done to change the practice, since scholars
have begun to discuss the subject. At best, when not what the Greeks termed
phantasma, they are but phasma or apparitions.
In scholars, speculators, and especially in our modern savants, the
psychical principle is more or less pervaded by the corporeal, and "the
things of the spirit are foolishness and impossible to be known" (1
Cor., ii. 14). Plato was then right, in his way, in despising
land-measuring, geometry and arithmetic, for all these overlooked all high
ideas. Plutarch taught that at death Proserpine separated the body and the
soul entirely, after which the latter became a free and independent demon
(daimon). Afterward the good underwent a second dissolution: Demeter divided
the Psyche from the Nous or Pneuma. The former was dissolved after a time
into ethereal particles hence the inevitable dissolution and subsequent
annihilation of the man who at death is purely psychical; the latter, the
Nous, ascended to its higher divine power and became gradually a pure, divine
spirit. Kapila, in common with all Eastern Philosophers, despised the purely
psychical nature. It is this agglomeration of the grosser particles of the
soul, the mesmeric exhalations of human nature imbued with all its terrestrial
desires and propensities, its vices, imperfections and weakness, forming
the astral body, which can become objective under certain circumstances,
which the Buddhists call the Skandhas (the groups), and Col. Olcott has
for convenience termed the "soul." The Buddhists and Brâhmans
teach that the mans individuality is not secured until he has passed
through and become disembarrassed of the last of these groups, the final
vestige of earthly taint. Hence their doctrine of metempsychosis, so ridiculed
and so utterly misunderstood by our greatest Orientalists.
Even the physicists teach us that the particles composing physical man
are, by evolution, reworked by nature into every variety of inferior physical
form. Why, then, are the Buddhists unphilosophical or even unscientific,
in affirming that the semi-material Skandhas of the astral man (his very
ego, up to the point of final purification) are appropriated to the evolution
of minor astral forms (which, of course, enter into the purely physical
bodies of animals) as fast as he throws them off in his progress toward
Nirvâna? Therefore, we may correctly say, that so long as the disembodied
man is throwing off a single particle of these Skandhas, a portion of him
is being reïncarnated in the bodies of plants and animals. And if he,
the disembodied astral man, be so material that "Demeter" cannot
find even one spark of the Pneuma to carry up to the "divine power,"
then the individual, so to speak, is dissolved, piece by piece, into the
crucible of evolution, or, as the Hindus allegorically illustrate it, he
passes thousands of years in the bodies of impure animals. Here we see how
completely the ancient Greek and Hindu Philosophers, the modern Oriental
schools, and the Theosophists, are ranged on one side, in perfect accord,
and the bright array of "inspirational mediums" and "spirit
guides" stand in perfect discord on the other. Though no two of the
latter, unfortunately, agree as to what is and what is not truth, yet they
do agree with unanimity to antagonize whatever of the teachings of the Philosophers
we may repeat.
Let it not be inferred, though, from this, that I, or any other real
Theosophist, undervalue true spiritual phenomena or philosophy, or that
we do not believe in the communication between mortals and pure Spirits,
any less than we do in communication between bad men and bad Spirits, or
even of good men with bad Spirits under bad conditions. Occultism is the
essence of Spiritualism, while modern or popular Spiritualism I cannot better
characterize than as adulterated unconscious Magic. We go so far as to say
that all the great and noble characters, all the grand geniuses, the poets,
painters, sculptors, musicians, all who have worked at any time for the
realization of their highest ideal, irrespective of selfish ends have
been spiritually inspired; not mediums, as many Spiritualists call them passive
tools in the hands of controlling guides but incarnate, illuminated
souls, working consciously in collaboration with the pure disembodied human
and new-embodied high Planetary Spirits, for the elevation and spiritualization
of mankind. We believe that everything in material life is most intimately
associated with spiritual agencies. As regards physical phenomena and mediumship,
we believe that it is only when the passive medium has given place, or rather
grown into, the conscious mediator, that he discerns between Spirits good
and bad. And we do believe, and know also, that while the incarnate man
(though the highest Adept) cannot vie in potency with the pure disembodied
Spirits, who, freed of all their Skandhas, have become subjective to the
physical senses, yet he can perfectly equal, and can far surpass in the
way of phenomena, mental or physical, the average "Spirit" of
modern mediumship. Believing this, you will perceive that we are better
Spiritualists, in the true acceptation of the word, than so-called Spiritualists,
who, instead of showing the reverence we do to true Spirits Gods debase
the name of Spirit by applying it to the impure, or at best, imperfect beings
who produce the majority of the phenomena.
The two objections urged by Mr. Croucher against the claim of the Theosophists,
that a child is but a duality at birth, "and perhaps until the sixth
or seventh year," and that some depraved persons are annihilated at
some time after death, are (1) the mediums have described to him his three
children "who passed away at the respective ages of two, four, and
six years"; and (2) that he has known persons who were "very depraved"
on earth come back. He says:
These statements have
been afterwards confirmed by glorious beings who came after, and who have
proved by their mastery of the laws which are governing the universe,
that they are worthy of being believed.
I am really happy to hear that Mr. Croucher is competent to sit in judgment
upon these "glorious beings," and give them the palm over Kapila,
Manu, Plato, and even Paul. It is worth something, after all, to be an "inspirational
medium." We have no such "glorious beings" in the Theosophical
Society to learn from; but it is evident that while Mr. Croucher sees and
judges things through his emotional nature, the Philosophers whom we study
took nothing from any "glorious being" that did not perfectly
accord with the universal harmony, justice, and equilibrium of the manifested
plan of the Universe. The Hermetic axiom, "as below, so above,"
is the only rule of evidence accepted by the Theosophists. Believing in
a spiritual and invisible Universe, we cannot conceive of it in any other
way than as completely dovetailing and corresponding with the material,
objective Universe; for logic and observation alike teach us that the latter
is the outcome and visible manifestation of the former, and that the laws
governing both are immutable.
In this letter of Dec. 7th Colonel Olcott very appropriately illustrates
his subject of potential immortality by citing the admitted physical law
of the survival of the fittest. The rule applies to the greatest as to the
smallest things, to the planet equally with the plant. It applies to man.
And the imperfectly developed man-child can no more exist under the conditions
prepared for the perfected types of its species, than can an imperfect plant
or animal. In infantile life the higher faculties are not developed, but,
as everyone knows, are only in the germ, or rudimentary. The babe is an
animal, however "angelic" he may, and naturally enough ought to,
appear to his parents. Be it ever so beautifully modelled, the infant body
is but the jewel-casket preparing for the jewel. It is bestial, selfish,
and, as a babe, nothing more. Little of even the soul, Psyche, can be perceived
except so far as vitality is concerned; hunger, terror, pain and pleasure
appear to be the principal of its conceptions. A kitten is its superior
in everything but possibilities. The grey neurine of the brain is equally
unformed. After a time mental qualities begin to appear, but they relate
chiefly to external matters. The cultivation of the mind of the child by
teachers can only affect this part of the nature what Paul calls natural
or physical, and James and Jude sensual or psychical. Hence the words of
Jude, "psychical, having not the spirit," and of Paul:
The psychical man
receiveth not the things of the spirit, for to him they are foolishness; the
spiritual man discerneth.
It is only the man of full age, with his faculties disciplined to discern
good and evil, whom we can denominate spiritual, noetic, intuitive. Children
developed in such respects would be precocious, abnormal abortions.
Why, then, should a child who has never lived other than an animal life;
who never discerned right from wrong; who never cared whether he lived or
died since he could not understand either of life or death become
individually immortal? Mans cycle is not complete until he has passed
through the earth-life. No one stage of probation and experience can be
skipped over. He must be a man before he can become a Spirit. A dead child is a failure of nature he must live again;
and the same Psuche reënters the physical plane through another birth.
Such cases, together with those of congenital idiots, are, as stated in
Isis Unveiled, the only instances of human reincarnation.* If every child-duality were to be immortal, why deny a like
individual immortality to the duality of the animal? Those who believe in
the trinity of man know the babe to be but a duality body and soul and
the individuality which resides only in the psychical is, as we have seen
proved by the Philosophers, perishable. The completed trinity only survives.
Trinity, I say, for at death the astral form becomes the outward body, and
inside a still finer one evolves, which takes the place of the Psyche on
earth, and the whole is more or less overshadowed by the Nous. Space prevented
Col. Olcott from developing the doctrine more fully, or he would have added
that not even all of the Elementaries (human) are annihilated. There is
still a chance for some. By a supreme struggle these may retain their third
and higher principle, and so, though slowly and painfully, yet ascend sphere
after sphere, casting off at each transition the previous heavier garment,
and clothing themselves in more radiant spiritual envelopes, until, rid
of every finite particle, the trinity merges into the final Nirvâna,
and becomes a unity a God.
A volume would scarce suffice to enumerate all the varieties of Elementaries
and Elementals; the former being so called by some Kabalists (Henry Kunrath,
for instance) to indicate their entanglement in the terrestrial elements
which hold them captive, and the latter designated by that name to avoid
confusion, and equally applying to those which go to form the astral body
of the infant and to the stationary Nature Spirits proper. Éliphas
Lévi, however, indifferently calls them all "Elementary"
and "souls." I repeat again, it is but the wholly psychical disembodied
astral man which ultimately disappears as an individual entity. As to the
component parts of his Psyche, they are as indestructible as the atoms of
any other body composed of matter.
The man must indeed be a true animal who has not, after death, a spark
of the divine Ruach or Nous left in him to allow him a chance of self-salvation.
Yet there are such lamentable exceptions, not alone among the depraved,
but also among those who, during life, by stifling every idea of an after
existence, have killed in themselves the last desire to achieve immortality.
It is the will of man, his all-potent will, that weaves his destiny, and
if a man is determined in the notion that death means annihilation, he will
find it so. It is among our commonest experiences that the determination
of physical life or death depends upon the will. Some people snatch themselves
by force of determination from the very jaws of death, while others succumb
to insignificant maladies. What man does with his body he can do with his
Nothing in this militates against the images of Mr. Crouchers children
being seen in the Astral Light by the medium, either as actually left by
the children themselves, or as imagined by the father to look when grown.
The impression in the latter case would be but a phasma, while in
the former it is a phantasma, or the apparition of the indestructible
impress of what once really was.
In days of old the "mediators" of humanity were men like Christna,
Gautama Buddha, Jesus, Paul, Apollonius of Tyana, Plotinus, Porphyry, and
the like of them. They were Adepts, Philosophers men who, by struggling
their whole lives in purity, study, and self-sacrifice, through trials,
privations and self-discipline, attained divine illumination and seemingly
superhuman powers. They could not only produce all the phenomena seen in
our times, but regarded it as a sacred duty to cast out "evil spirits,"
or demons, from the unfortunates who were obsessed in other words,
to rid the medium of their days of the "Elementaries."
But in our time of improved psychology every hysterical sensitive looms
into a seer, and behold! there are mediums by the thousand! Without any
previous study, self-denial, or the least limitation of their physical nature,
they assume, in the capacity of mouthpieces of unidentified and unidentifiable
intelligences, to outrival Socrates in wisdom, Paul in eloquence, and Tertullian
himself in fiery and authoritative dogmatism. The Theosophists are the last
to assume infallibility for themselves, or recognize it in others; as they
judge others, so they are willing to be judged.
In the name, then, of logic and common sense, before bandying epithets,
let us submit our difference to the arbitrament of reason. Let us compare
all things, and, putting aside emotionalism and prejudice as unworthy of
the logician and the experimentalist, hold fast only to that which passes
the ordeal of ultimate analysis.
[From the London Spiritualist.
New York, Jan. 14th, 1878
H. P. Blavatsky
* [Note that "reïncarnation" is here used as a term applying
only to the Psuche. This does not reïncarnate, it has always been taught,
except in the instances given. EDS. back to text