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Theosophical miracle stories: a suggestion for categorization

Nov 24, 2002 09:50 AM
by Steve Stubbs

After all the discussion there seems to remain considerable confusion 
about the matter of evaluating the Theosophical miracle stories. I 
have thought about this at some lenth and would like to propose the 
following categorization system. Notice that of seven categories, 
two are probably evidence of unusual phenomena, one is ambiguous and 
non evidential, and four can be reasonably discounted. Interestingly 
from a Theosophical point of view, it turns out there are SEVEN 

Category I: This would include stories such as the Ootan Liatto story 
in which internal evidence makes it clear the "miracle" was actually 
a drug experience. Olcott's experience of walking into a cloud of 
smoke and seeing Blavatsky hold up multiple pencils when he knew 
there was only one there falls into this category, as do several 
other stories.

Category II: Instances in which a hostile witness claims to have 
actually caught Blavatsky in the act of imposture or to have been 
recruited for an act of imposture, The testimonies of Emma Coulomh 
and others fall into this category.

Category III: Stories in which the witness is known to have been a 
pathological liar. Every account by "W.C." Leadbeater falls into 
this category as Dr. Tillett has shown.

Category IV: Stories in which the Theosophists themselves admit the 
phenomenon was a leg pull at best. Thus when Judge visited Adyar 
Hartmann came up behind him and threw a mahatma letter over his 
shoulder to show how letters could be "precipitated." The letters 
themselves admit most of them were delivered by non phenomenal means.

Category V: Stories in which there is no testimony weakening the 
miraculous claim and which may in fact be miraculous, but which could 
easily have been done by any ten year old with a magic set. In these 
cases one can only judge the miraculous or non miraculous nature of 
the story based on prejudice. Unbiased observers would have to 
consider the question open. Most of the Theosophical miracle stories 
fall into this category.

Category VI: Stories which, if accurately reported, can hardly be 
explained except by occult agency. The Shannon letter, the Gephard 
letter, the buried teacups, and a few other phenomena fall into this 
category. These and the next category are the only ones worthy of 
serious consideration as candidates for proof of "occult" power.

Category VII: Miracles which consisted of subjective phenomena. Thus 
Blavatsky claimed to have read newspapers that had not yet arrived, 
she and others claimed to have experienced "astral projection," etc. 
These stories are credible because the performers claimed no more 
than has been claimed by others before and since. However we explain 
it, people do have unusual experiences.

Anyone can post or cross post this, or publish this in print or on a 
web site, but leave my name off unless you ask.

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