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Part II of -- H P B and the T S and "Spiritualism"

Feb 02, 2002 03:57 PM
by dalval14


Saturday, February 02, 2002

Dear Friends:

Re: Early days of the T S and "Spiritualism" Part II

Much of the history of the relations between H P B, Col. Olcott,
and the early days of the T S in an attempt to codify and make
"spiritualism" into a "science," are found illustrated in the
early writings of H P B contained in the book A MODERN PANARION.

This has been out of print for many years until recently the
THEOSOPHY COMPANY, of Los Angeles issued a photographic reprint
of the original edition of this book. It is available through at their "bookstore."

The student will find therein the attempt made in those early
years to separate true psychic and mediumistic phenomena from the

However for the sake of students who are interested in what
Theosophy has to say about the "Spiritualism" movement and
psychic phenomena we offer in 2 parts some details .

It is important in all studies for those interested to know as a
basis the rationale of that considered, as views concerning the
"history" of events are often the result of superficial gleanings
from happenings, than from any real knowledge of what is actually
being dealt with. The true student always furnishes himself with
information that relates to the causes of events. This gives
depth to any real scholarship.

The following may then perhaps be of service.





The body, as a mass of flesh, bones, muscles, nerves, brain
matter, bile, mucous, blood, and skin is an object of exclusive
care for too many people, who make it their god because they have
come to identify themselves with it, meaning it only when they
say "I." ...

It is made up of an infinitesimal number of "lives." Each of
these lives is a sensitive point. Not only are there microbes,
bacilli, and bacteria, but these are composed of others, and
those others of still more minute lives. These lives...make up
the cells, keeping ever within the limits assigned by evolution
to the cell. They are forever whirling and moving together
throughout the whole body, being in certain apparently void
spaces as well as where flesh, membrane, bones, and blood are
seen. They extend beyond the actual outer limits of the body to a
measurable distance.


One of the mysteries of physical life is hidden among these
"lives." Their action, forced forward by the Life energy --
called Prana or Jiva -- will explain active existence and
physical death. They are divided into two classes, one the
destroyers, the other the preservers, and these two war upon each
other from birth until the destroyers win. In this struggle the
Life Energy itself ends the contest because it is life that

This may seem "unorthodox," but in Theosophical philosophy it is
held to be the fact. For, it is said, the infant lives because
the combination of healthy organs is able to absorb the life all
around it in space, and is put to sleep each day by the
overpowering strength of the stream of life, since the preservers
among the cells of the youthful body are not yet mastered by the
other class.


These processes of going to sleep and waking again are simply and
solely the restoring of the equilibrium in sleep and the action
produced by disturbing it when awake... So in sleep we are
absorbing and not resisting the Life Energy. When we wake we are
throwing it off. But as it exists around us like an ocean in
which we swim, our power to throw it off is necessarily limited.
Just when we wake we are in equilibrium as to our organs and
life; when we fall asleep we are yet more full of life than in
the morning; it has exhausted us; it finally kills the body. Such
a contest could not be waged forever, since the whole solar
system's weight of life is pitted against the power to resist
focused in one small human frame.


The physical body is considered by the Masters of Wisdom to be
the most transitory, impermanent, and illusionary of the whole
series of constituents in man. Not for a moment is it the same.
Ever changing, in motion in every part, it is in fact never
complete or finished though tangible. The ancients clearly
perceived this, for they elaborated a doctrine called ...Nitya
Pralaya, or the continual change in material things, the
continual destruction. This is known now to science in the
doctrine that the body undergoes a complete alteration and
renovation every seven years. At the end of the first seven years
it is not the same body it was in the beginning. At the end of
our days it has changed seven times, perhaps more. And yet it
presents the same general appearance from maturity until death;
and it is a human form from birth to maturity. This is a mystery
science explains not; it is a question pertaining to the cell and
to the means whereby the general human shape is preserved.


The "cell" is an illusion. It is merely a word. It has no
existence as a material thing, for any cell is composed of other
cells. What, then, is a cell? It is the ideal form within which
the actual physical atoms -- made up of the "lives" -- arrange
themselves. As it is admitted that the physical molecules are
forever rushing away from the body, they must be leaving the
cells each moment. Hence there is no physical cell, but the
privative limits of one, the ideal walls and general shape.

The molecules assume position within the ideal shape according to
the laws of nature, and leave it again almost at once to give
place to other atoms. And as it is thus with the body, so is it
with the earth and with the solar system. Thus also is it, though
in slower measure, with all material objects. They are all in
constant motion and change. This is modern and also ancient
wisdom. This is the physical explanation of clairvoyance,
clairaudience, telepathy, and mind-reading. It helps to show us
what a deluding and unsatisfactory thing our body is.


Although, strictly speaking, the second constituent of man is the
ASTRAL BODY -- called in Sanskrit Linga Sarira -- we will
consider Life Energy -- or Prana and Jiva in Sanskrit --
together, because to our observation the phenomenon of life is
more plainly exhibited in connection with the body.

Life is not the result of the operation of the organs, nor is it
gone when the body dissolves. It is a universally pervasive
principle. It is the ocean in which the earth floats; it
permeates the globe and every being and object on it. It works
unceasingly on and around us, pulsating against and through us

When we occupy a body we merely use a more specialized instrument
than any other for dealing with both Prana and Jiva. Strictly
speaking, Prana is breath; and as breath is necessary for
continuance of life in the human machine, that is the better
word. Jiva means "life," and also is applied to the living soul,
for the life in general is derived from the Supreme Life itself.
Jiva is therefore capable of general application, whereas Prana
is more particular.

It cannot be said that one has a definite amount of this Life
Energy, but rather that it works with whatever be the mass of
matter in it. We, as it were, secrete or use it as we live. For
whether we are alive or dead, life-energy is still there; in life
among our organs sustaining them, in death among the innumerable
creatures that arise from our destruction. We can no more do away
with this life than we can erase the air in which the bird
floats, and like the air it fills all the spaces on the planet,
so that nowhere can we lose the benefit of it nor escape its
final crushing power. But in working upon the physical body this
life -- Prana -- needs a vehicle, means, or guide, and this
vehicle is the ASTRAL BODY.


There are many names for the ASTRAL BODY. Here are a few: Linga
Sarira, Sanskrit, meaning design body, and the best one of all;
ethereal double; phantom; wraith; apparition; doppelganger;
personal man; perisprit; irrational soul; animal soul; Bhuta;
elementary; spook; devil; demon.

Some of these apply only to the astral body when devoid of the
corpus after death. Bhuta, devil, and elementary are nearly
synonymous; the first Sanskrit, the other English. With the
Hindus the Bhuta is the Astral Body when it is by death released
from the body and the mind; and being thus separated from
conscience, is a devil in their estimation. They are not far
wrong, if we abolish the old notion that a devil is an angel
fallen from heaven, for this bodily devil is something which
rises from the earth.

It may be objected that the term Astral Body is not the right one
for this purpose. The objection is one which arises from the
nature and genesis of the English language, for its
philosophers have not admitted the existence of these inner
organs, the right terms do not exist in the language. So in
looking for words to describe the inner body the only ones found
in English were the "astral body."

This term comes near to the real fact, since the substance of
this form is derived from cosmic matter or star matter, roughly
speaking. But the old Sanskrit word describes it exactly -- Linga
Sarira, the design body -- because it is the design or model for
the physical body.

This is better than "ethereal body," as the latter might be said
to be subsequent to the physical, whereas in fact the astral body
precedes the material one. The astral body is made of matter of
very fine texture as compared with the visible body, and has a
great tensile strength, so that it changes but little during a
lifetime, while the physical alters every moment. And not only
has it this immense strength, but at the same time possesses an
elasticity permitting its extension to a considerable distance.
It is flexible, plastic, extensible, and strong.


The matter of which it is composed is electrical and magnetic in
its essence, and is just what the whole world was composed of in
the dim past when the processes of evolution had not yet arrived
at the point of producing the material body for man. But it is
not raw or crude matter. Having been through a vast period of
evolution and undergone purifying processes of an incalculable
number, its nature has been refined to a degree far beyond the
gross physical elements we see and touch with the physical eye
and hand.


The astral body is the guiding model for the physical one, and
all the other kingdoms have the same astral model. Vegetables,
minerals, and animals have the ethereal double, and this theory
is the only one which will answer the question how it is that the
seed produces its own kind and all sentient beings bring forth
their like. Biologists can only say that the facts are as we know
them, but can give no reason why the acorn will never grow
anything but an oak except that no man ever knew it to be


This doctrine is, that in early times of the evolution of this
globe the various kingdoms of nature are outlined in plan or
ideal form first, and then the astral matter begins to work on
this plan with the aid of the Life principle, until after long
ages the astral human form is evolved and perfected.

This is, then, the first form that the human race had.... After
another long period, during which the cycle of further descent
into matter is rolling forward, the astral form at last clothes
itself with a "coat of skin," and the present physical form is on
the scene. This is the explanation of the verse of the book of
Genesis which describes the giving of coats of skin to Adam and
Eve. It is the final fall into matter, for from that point on the
man within strives to raise the whole mass of physical substance
up to a higher level, and to inform it all with a larger measure
of spiritual influence, so that it may be ready to go still
further on during the next great period of evolution after the
present one is ended.


So the model for the growing child in the womb is the astral
body, already perfect in shape before the child is born. It is on
this model the molecules arrange themselves until the child is
complete, and the presence of the ethereal design-body will
explain how the form grows into shape, how the eyes push
themselves out from within to the surface of the face, and many
other mysterious matters in embryology which are passed over by
medical men with a description but with no explanation.

The growing physical form is subject to the astral model; it is
connected with the imagination of the mother by physical and
psychical organs; the mother makes a strong picture from horror,
fear, or otherwise, and the astral model is then similarly
affected. In the case of marking by being born legless, the ideas
and strong imagination of the mother act so as to cut off or
shrivel up the astral leg, and the result is that the molecules,
having no model of leg to work on, make no physical leg whatever;
and similarly in all such cases.

But where we find a man who still feels the leg which the surgeon
has cut off, or perceives the fingers that were amputated, then
the astral member has not been interfered with, and hence the man
feels as if it were still on his person. For knife or acid will
not injure the astral model, but in the first stages of its
growth, ideas and imagination have the power of acid and
sharpened steel.


In the ordinary man who has not been trained in practical
occultism or who has not the faculty by birth, the astral body
cannot go more than a few feet from the physical one. It is a
part of that physical, it sustains it and is incorporated in it
just as the fibers of the mango are all through that fruit.

But there are those who, by reason of practices pursued in former
lives on the earth, have a power born with them of unconsciously
sending out the astral body. These are mediums, some seers, and
many hysterical, cataleptic, and scrofulous people. Those who
have trained themselves by a long course of excessively hard
discipline which reaches to the moral and mental nature and quite
beyond the power of the average man of the day, can use the
astral form at will, for they have gotten completely over the
delusion that the physical body is a permanent part of them, and,
besides, they have learned the chemical and electrical laws
governing in this matter. In their case they act with knowledge
and consciously; in the other cases the act is done without power
to prevent it, or to bring it about at will, or to avoid the
risks attendant on such use of potencies in nature of a high


The astral body has in it the real organs of the outer sense
organs. In it are the sight, hearing, power to smell, and the
sense of touch. It has a complete system of nerves and arteries
of its own for the conveyance of the astral fluid which is to
that body as our blood is to the physical. It is the real
personal man. There are located the subconscious perception and
the latent memory, which the hypnotizers of the day are dealing
with and being baffled by.


When the body dies the astral man is released, and as at death
the immortal man -- the Triad -- flies away to another state, the
astral becomes a shell of the once living man and requires time
to dissipate. It retains all the memories of the life lived by
the man, and thus reflexly and automatically can repeat what the
dead man knew, said, thought, and saw. It remains near the
deserted physical body nearly all the time until that is
completely dissipated, for it has to go through its own process
of dying. It may become visible under certain conditions.


It is the spook of the spiritualistic seance-rooms, and is there
made to masquerade as the real spirit of this or that individual.
Attracted by the thoughts of the medium and the sitters, it
vaguely flutters where they are, and then is galvanized into a
factitious life by a whole host of elemental forces, and by the
active astral body of the medium who is holding the seance or of
any other medium in the audience.


>From it (as from a photograph) are then reflected into the
medium's brain all the boasted evidences which spiritualists
claim go to prove identity of deceased friend or relative. These
evidences are accepted as proof that the spirit of the deceased
is present, because neither mediums nor sitters are acquainted
with the laws governing their own nature, nor with the
constitution, power, and function of astral matter and astral

The Theosophical philosophy does not deny the facts proven in
spiritualistic seances, but it gives an explanation of them
wholly opposed to that of the spiritualists. And surely the utter
absence of any logical scientific explanation by these so-called
spirits of the phenomena they are said to produce supports the
contention that they have no knowledge to impart. They can merely
cause certain phenomena; the examination of those and deductions
therefrom can only be properly carried on by a trained brain
guided by a living trinity of spirit, soul, and mind. And here
another class of spiritualistic phenomena requires brief notice.
That is the appearance of what is called a "materialized spirit."


Three explanations are offered:

First, that the astral body of the living medium detaches itself
from its corpus and assumes the appearance of the so-called
spirit; for one of the properties of the astral matter is
capacity to reflect an image existing unseen in ether.

Second, the actual astral shell of the deceased -- wholly devoid
of his or her spirit and conscience -- becomes visible and
tangible when the condition of air and ether is such as to so
alter the vibration of the molecules of the astral shell that it
may become visible. The phenomena of density and apparent weight
are explained by other laws.

Third, an unseen mass of electrical and magnetic matter is
collected, and upon it is reflected out of the astral light a
picture of any desired person either dead or living. This is
taken to be the "spirit" of such persons, but it is not, and has
been justly called by H. P. Blavatsky a "psychological fraud,"
because it pretends to be what it is not. And, strange to say,
this very explanation of materializations has been given by a
"spirit" at a regular seance, but has never been accepted by the
spiritualists just because it upsets their notion of the return
of the spirits of deceased persons.

Finally, the astral body will explain nearly all the strange
psychical things happening in daily life and in dealings with
genuine mediums; it shows what an apparition may be and the
possibility of such being seen, and thus prevents the scientific
doubter from violating good sense by asserting you did not see
what you know you have seen; it removes superstition by showing
the real nature of these phenomena, and destroys the unreasonable
fear of the unknown which makes a man afraid to see a "ghost." By
it also we can explain the apportation of objects without
physical contact, for the astral hand may be extruded and made to
take hold of an object, drawing it in toward the body. When this
is shown to be possible, then travelers will not be laughed at
who tell of seeing the Hindu yogee make coffee cups fly through
the air and distant objects approach apparently of their own
accord untouched by him or anyone else.


All the instances of clairvoyance and clairaudience are to be
explained also by the astral body and astral light. The astral --
which are the real -- organs do the seeing and the hearing, and
as all material objects are constantly in motion among their own
atoms the astral sight and hearing are not impeded, but work at a
distance as great as the extension of the astral light or matter
around and about the earth. Thus it was that the great seer
Swedenborg saw houses burning in the city of Stockholm when he
was at another city many miles off, and by the same means any
clairvoyant of the day sees and hears at a distance.


During life the emplacement of the desires and passions [Kama]
is, as obtains with the astral body, throughout the entire lower
man, and like that ethereal counterpart of our physical person it
may be added to or diminished, made weak or increased in
strength, debased or purified.


At death [Kama] informs the astral body, which then becomes a
mere shell; for when a man dies his astral body and principle of
passion and desire leave the physical in company and coalesce. It
is then that the term Kamarupa may be applied, as Kamarupa is
really made of astral body [Rupa], and Kama in conjunction.

This joining of the two makes a shape or form which though
ordinarily invisible is material and may be brought into
visibility. Although it is empty of mind and conscience, it has
powers of its own that can be exercised whenever the conditions
permit. These conditions are furnished by the medium of the
spiritualists, and in every seance room the astral shells of
deceased persons are always present to delude the sitters, whose
powers of discrimination have been destroyed by wonderment.

It is the "devil" [Bhut] of the Hindus, and a worse enemy the
poor medium could not have. For the astral spook -- or
Kamarupa -- is but the mass of the desires and passions abandoned
by the real person who has fled to "heaven" [Devachan] and has no
concern with the people left behind, least of all with seances
and mediums. Hence, being devoid of the nobler soul, these
desires and passions work only on the very lowest part of the
medium's nature and stir up...always the lower leanings of the
being. Therefore it is that even the spiritualists themselves
admit that in the ranks of the mediums there is much fraud, and
mediums have often confessed, "the spirits did tempt me and I
committed fraud at their wish."


This Kamarupa spook is also the enemy of our civilization, which
permits us to execute men for crimes committed and thus throw out
into the ether the mass of passion and desire free from the
weight of the body and liable at any moment to be attracted to
any sensitive person. Being thus attracted, the deplorable images
of crimes committed and also the picture of the execution and all
the accompanying curses and wishes for revenge are implanted in
living persons, who, not seeing the evil, are unable to throw it
off. Thus crimes and new ideas of crimes are wilfully propagated
every day by those countries where capital punishment prevails.


The astral shells together with the still living astral body of
the medium, helped by certain forces of nature which the
Theosophists call "elementals," produce nearly all the phenomena
of non-fraudulent spiritualism.

The medium's astral body having the power of extension and
extrusion forms the framework for what are called "materialized
spirits," makes objects move without physical contact, gives
reports from deceased relatives, none of them anything more than
recollections and pictures from the astral light, and in all this
using and being used by the shells of suicides, executed
murderers, and all such spooks as are naturally near to this
plane of life.

The number of cases in which any communication comes from an
actual spirit out of the body is so small as to be countable
almost on one hand. But the spirits of living men sometimes,
while their bodies are asleep, come to seances and take part
therein. But they cannot recollect it, do not know how they do
it, and are not distinguished by mediums from the mass of astral
corpses. The fact that such things can be done by the inner man
and not be recollected proves nothing against these theories, for
the child can see without knowing how the eye acts, and the
savage who has no knowledge of the complex machinery working in
his body still carries on the process of digestion perfectly. And
that the latter is unconscious with him is exactly in line with
the theory, for these acts and doings of the inner man are the
unconscious actions of the subconscious mind. These words
"conscious" and "subconscious" are of course used relatively, the
unconsciousness being that of the brain only. And hypnotic
experiments have conclusively proved all these theories, as on
one day not far away will be fully admitted. Besides this, the
astral shells of suicides and executed criminals are the most
coherent, longest lived, and nearest to us of all the shades of
Hades, and hence must, out of the necessity of the case, be the
real "controls" of the seance room.


Passion and desire, together with astral model-body, are common
to men and animals, as also to the vegetable kingdom, though in
the last but faintly developed. And at one period in evolution no
further material principles had been developed, and all the three
higher, of Mind, Soul, and Spirit, were but latent. Up to this
point man and animal were equal, for the brute in us is made of
the passions and the astral body.

The development of the germs of Mind made man. because it
constituted the great differentiation.

The God within begins with Manas or mind, and it is the struggle
between this God and the brute below which Theosophy speaks of
and warns about. The lower principle is called bad because by
comparison with the higher it is so, but still it is the basis of
action. We cannot rise unless self first asserts itself in the
"desire to do better."

In this aspect [in the philosophy of the "Bhagavad Gita"] it is
called rajas or the active and bad quality, as distinguished from
tamas, or the quality of darkness and indifference. Rising is not
possible unless rajas is present to give the impulse, and by the
use of this principle of passion all the higher qualities are
brought to at last so refine and elevate our desires that they
may be continually placed upon truth and spirit [sattva].

By this Theosophy does not teach that the passions are to be
pandered to or satiated, for a more pernicious doctrine was never
taught, but the injunction is to make use of the activity given
by the fourth principle so as to ever rise and not to fall under
the dominion of the dark quality that ends with annihilation,
after having begun in selfishness and indifference.
But believing in his teacher, the theosophist sees all around him
the evidence that the race mind is changing by enlargement, that
the old days of dogmatism are gone and the "age of inquiry" has
come, that the inquiries will grow louder year by year, and the
answers be required to satisfy the mind as it grows more and
more. Until at last, all dogmatism being ended, the race will be
ready to face all problems, each man for himself, all working for
the good of the whole, and that the end will be the perfecting of
those who struggle to overcome the brute. For these reasons the
old doctrines are given out again, and Theosophy asks every one
to reflect whether to give way to the animal below or look up to
and be governed by the God within.

In our analysis of man's nature we have so far considered only
the perishable elements which make up the lower man, and have
arrived at the fourth principle or plane -- that of desire --
without having touched upon the question of Mind.
But even so far as we have gone it must be evident that there is
a wide difference between the ordinary ideas about Mind and those
found in Theosophy. Ordinarily the Mind is thought to be
immaterial, or to be merely the name for the action of the brain
in evolving thought, a process wholly unknown other than by
inference, or that if there be no brain there can be no mind. A
good deal of attention has been paid to cataloging some mental
functions and attributes, but the terms are altogether absent
from the language to describe actual metaphysical and spiritual
facts about man.
This confusion and poverty of words for these uses are due almost
entirely, first, to dogmatic religion, which has asserted and
enforced for many centuries dogmas and doctrines which reason
could not accept, and secondly to the natural war which grew up
between science and religion just as soon as the fetters placed
by religion upon science were removed and the latter was
permitted to deal with facts in nature. The reaction against
religion naturally prevented science from taking any but a
materialistic view of man and nature. So from neither of these
two have we yet gained the words needed for describing the fifth,
sixth, and seventh principles, those which make up the Trinity,
the real man, the immortal pilgrim.
The fifth principle is Manas, and is usually translated Mind.
Other names have been given to it, but it is the knower, the
perceiver, the thinker.
The sixth is Buddhi, or spiritual discernment; the seventh is
Atma, or Spirit, the ray from the Absolute Being. The English
language will suffice to describe in part what Manas is, but not
Buddhi, or Atma, and will leave many things relating to Manas


Part 3 == will be continued in the next posting


Best wishes,


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