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Oct 24, 2005 06:48 PM
by W.Dallas TenBroeck






[THEOSOPHIST, Vol. III. Nos. 1, 6 and 12, October, 1881, March and
September, 1882.  

Part I.

    We have received from a brother Theosophist an interesting and temperate
note on some supposed errors of occultists when dealing with the phenomena
of spiritualism. The subject is one of universal interest, and we shall
therefore require no apology for publishing some fragments of the lessons
taught us on the subject in the occult schools, which may possibly both help
to remove some difficulties and tend to convey to spiritualists generally a
clearer conception of the causes of many of the phenomena of which they have
had experience.

    “Those Theosophists who deny to departed spirits a legitimate share in
the marvellous phenomena” are few indeed, for the great majority of
Theosophists concern themselves with spiritualism very little, if at all.
Indeed our members may be divided into five principal classes and described
as follows:

(1) Men profoundly concerned in the revival of their respective religious
philosophies in all their pristine purity—Buddhist devotees outnumbering all
others They neither know of nor do they care for spiritualism.

(2) Students of various philosophies, searchers after truth whence so ever
it may come. They neither believe nor disbelieve in spirits. They are open
to conviction, but will accept nothing on second-hand testimony.

(3) Materialists, freethinkers, agnostics, who care as little for occultism
as they do for spiritualism. Their only concern is to free the masses from
the fetters of ignorance and superstition and educate them. Many, indeed
most of them, are philanthropists who hold it more expedient to devote their
energies to the assistance of the living than to occupy their time in
conversations with the dead.

(4) Spiritualists and spiritists who could not well be accused of such
“heresy.” And finally,

(5) Occultists who do not number a half per cent in the Theosophical

[439] These latter are the only “Theosophists” who are really open to the
above accusation, and even these, if we look beyond the veil of words, which
more or less conceals the ideas of both spiritualists and occultists, will
prove to differ less widely on these points from the views of philosophical
spiritualists than is at first apparent. For, in this as in so many other
cases, it is in a great measure to the different significations attached to
the same terms by the two parties that their apparent irreconcilable
divergence is due.

“Words,” as Bacon, we think, says, “mightily perplex the wisdom of the
wisest, and like a Tartar’s bow, shoot backward into the minds of those that
follow them”; and so here the conflict of opinions between spiritualists and
occultists is solely due to the fact that the former, overrating the quality
and character of the communicating entities, dignify with the name of
“spirits” certain reliquiæ of deceased human beings, while the occultists
reserve the name of Spirit for the highest principle of human nature, and
treat these reliquiæ as mere eidolons, or astral simulacra, of the real

    In order to understand clearly the view of the occultists, it is
necessary to glance at the constitution of the living human being. Even the
spiritualistic theory teaches that man is a trinity, composed of (1) a
higher spirit or the “spiritual soul” as ancient philosophers designated it;
(2) its envelope—the ethereal form or shadow of the body— called by the
Neo-platonists the “animal soul”; and (3) the physical body.

    Although from one point of view this is broadly correct, yet, according
to occultists, to render our conceptions of this truth clearer and follow
out successfully the course of man after death, it is necessary to further
subdivide these three entities and resolve them into their constituent
principles. This analysis being almost wholly unknown to western nations, it
is difficult in some cases to find any English words by which to represent
the occult subdivisions, but we give them in the least obscure phraseology
that we can command.

====================== ===============================

1. The Body.	1. The Physical Body composed wholly of
matter in its grossest and most
tangible form.

2. The Vital Principle (or Jivatman) a form
of force, indestructible. When
it is disconnected with one set of
atoms, it immediately becomes attracted by others.

2. Animal Soul or Perisprit.	3. The Astral Body (Linga Sharira)— composed
of highly etherealized matter. In its
habitual passive state the perfect but
very shadowy duplicate of the body; its
activity, consolidation, and form depend entirely on
the Kama Rupa.

4. The Astral Shape (Kama Rupa) or body of
desire—a principle defining
the configuration of

5. The Animal or Physical Intelligence or
Consciousness or Ego—analogous to,
though proportionally higher in
degree than the reason, instinct, memory,
imagination, etc., existing in the higher animals.


 3. Spiritual Soul or Spirit,	6. The Higher or Spiritual Intelligence or
Consciousness, or Spiritual Ego—in
which mainly resides the state of
consciousness of the perfect man, though the lower
dimmer animal consciousness coexists in No. 5.

7. The Spirit—an emanation from the
Absolute; uncreate, eternal; a state
rather than a being.
    Now the change that we call death only immediately affects the first
three constituents; the body decomposes to enter into new combinations, and
the vital force is dissipated to help to animate new organisms, and the
astral human form (Linga Sharira) dies with the body.

    There remain four principles. As a rule (we except the cases of the
higher adepts), one of two things occurs in accordance with the universal
law of affinity. If the spiritual Ego has been in life material in its
tendencies, placing its main enjoyment in, and centering its desires on,
material objects and the gratification of earthly desires, then, at death,

————————	FOOTNOTE	——————————————

* Western science, of course, as a rule, holds that animals have no
conscious ego, but this we know to be erroneous; they possess no spiritual,
but they do possess an animal consciousness. 


Could men communicate with them they would discover not only this, but also
that many of the anthropoid apes possess an intelligence, consciousness,
etc., little inferior to that of lunatics, madmen, and some desperately
wicked and depraved men who have, in fact, become animals, through the loss,
temporary or permanent, of their sixth and seventh principles, even while
the combination of the other five principles is still intact, i.e., even
during life. 

Was it some hazy tradition of the truth handed down through the Romish
church, which has ever possessed some secret knowledge of the teachings of
the ancient mysteries, or was it the great poet’s soul’s own glimpses into
the Astral Light, that made Dante represent the souls of several of his
enemies as already in the “Inferno” though the men themselves still lived
upon earth? Of course this fragment of truth was utterly distorted by the
malign influence of the then prevalent material hell superstition, but it
was quite possible, as the modern west has still to realize, that the souls
of some of these evil men might have already passed away (though not to the
fabled Inferno), whilst the men themselves still lived.

 [441] continues to cling blindly to the lower elements of its late
combination, and the TRUE SPIRIT severs itself from these and passes away

To follow its course is beside the question at present, since the remaining
principles in which personal or animal consciousness remains have parted
with it for ever, and it would require a complete exposition of the entire
philosophy of occultism to fully explain its course; suffice it to say now,
that it passes away—taking with it no fragment of the individual
consciousness of the man with which it was temporarily associated—to fulfill
its mission, still guided and governed, by the irresistible cyclic impulse
which first projected it through the veil of primitive cosmic matter.

    But if, on the other hand, the tendencies of the Ego have been towards
things spiritual, if its aspirations have been heavenwards—we use a
conventional term—if it has, when weighed, as it were, in the balance, a
greater affinity for the spiritual than for the earthly constituents, with
their accompanying desires, of the combination in which it recently took
part, then will it cling to the spirit, and with this pass into the
adjoining so-called world of effects, in reality a state, and not a place,
and there, purified of much of its still remaining material taints, evolve
out of itself by the spirit’s aid a new Ego, to be reborn, after a brief
period of freedom and enjoyment, in the next higher world of causes, an
objective world similar to this present globe of ours, but higher in the
spiritual scale, where matter and material tendencies and desires play a far
less important part than here.

    In either case, it is not a matter of judgment, of salvation and
damnation, of heaven and hell, but solely the operation of the universal law
of affinity or attraction, which makes the Ego cling in one case to the more
material, in the other to the spiritual components of the late aggregation
now separated by death. 

Now neither during gestation in the subjective world of effects, nor during
the temporary period of enjoyment, in its newly evolved Ego-hood, of the
fruits of good deeds, its karma on earth, nor after its entry into the
higher objective world of causes, can the Ego reenter this present world. 

During the first period it is, so to speak, dormant, and can no more issue
from the state in which it is developing than a child can come out of its
mother’s womb to pay a visit before the period of pregnancy concludes.
During the second period, however ethereal and purified of gross matter the
regenerated Ego may be, it is still subject to the physical and universal
laws of matter. 

It cannot, even if it would, span the abyss that [442] separates its state
from ours. It can be visited in spirit by men, but it cannot descend into
our grosser atmosphere and reach us. It attracts, it cannot be attracted;
its spiritual polarity presenting an insuperable obstacle. 

Once reborn into the higher world, and apart from the physical impossibility
of any communication between its world and ours, to all but the very highest
adepts, the new Ego has become a new person; it has lost its old
consciousness linked with earthly experiences, and has acquired a new
consciousness, which, as time rolls on, will be interpenetrated by its
experiences in that higher sphere. 

The time will come, no doubt, but many steps higher on the ladder, when the
Ego will regain its consciousness of all its past stages of existence; but
in the next higher world of causes, or activity, to our own, the new Ego has
no more remembrance of its earthly career than we here have of the life that
preceded this present one.

    Therefore it is that the occultists maintain that no “spirits” of the
departed can appear or take part in the phenomena of séance-rooms. To what
can appear and take part in these, the occultists refuse the name of

    But it may be asked what is it that can appear?
    We reply—merely the animal souls or perisprits of the deceased.It might
appear from what we have said that, while this, according to our previous
exposition, would be true in the case of the spiritually-minded, in that of
the materially-minded we should have these and the spiritual Ego or
consciousness. But such is not the case. 

Immediately on the severance of the spirit, whether at death, or, as we have
already hinted is sometimes the case, before death, the spiritual Ego is
dissipated and ceases to exist. It is the result of the action of spirit on
matter, and it might, to render the matter more clear, be described as a
combination of spirit and matter, just as flame is the result of the
combination of oxygen with the substance being oxygenized, and might loosely
be described as the combination of the two. Withdraw the oxygen and the
flame ceases; withdraw the spirit, and the spiritual Ego disappears. 

The sense of individuality in spirit cannot exist without combination with

Thus the pure planetary spirits, when first propelled into the circle of
necessity, have no individual consciousness, only the absolute consciousness
which they share with all fragments of the spirit hitherto entirely
uncombined with matter. 

As they, entering into generation, descend the ladder and grow gradually
more and more hemmed in by matter and isolated from the universal spirit, so
the [443 ] sense of individuality, the spiritual Ego-ship, grows. How
finally, on reascending the circle, step by step, they regain, on reunion
with the universal, the absolute consciousness, and simultaneously all the
individual consciousnesses which they have developed at each stage of their
descending and ascending progress, is one of the highest mysteries.

    But to return to the spiritual Ego-ship developed on this earth; if too
tainted to follow the spirit in its upward course, it is, as it were,
forthwith torn asunder from it. Left in the terrestrial atmosphere without
the sustaining spirit that gave it existence, it has to disappear as the
flame does when the oxygen is exhausted. All the material elements which, in
combination with the spirit, gave it consistency, fly by the law of affinity
to join the three other principles that constitute the perisprit or natural
soul, and the spiritual Ego ceases to exist.

    Thus alike in all cases that remain, all that can appear are the shells
of the deceased, the two principles which we call the animal or surviving
astral souls or animal Ego.

    But there is this to be noted. As the clay, as Saadi says, long retains
traces of the perfume of the roses which once honoured it with their
companionship, so the etherealized matter which has been in combination with
spirit, long retains a power of resisting disintegration. 

The more pure the spiritual Ego, the less of the matter, which in
combination with the spirit went to form it, does it leave behind clinging
to the two principles; the more impure, the greater the mass of such
spirit-vitalized matter which remains to invigorate the reliquiæ.


    Thus it follows that, in the case of the pure and good, the shells
rapidly disintegrate; and the animal soul, having ever been kept in
subjection, is feeble and will-less; and it can very rarely, if ever, happen
that such should involuntarily appear or manifest themselves, for their
vitality, desires and aspirations existed almost exclusively in what has
passed away. 

No doubt a power exists which can compel even these to appear, a power
taught by the evil science of necromancy, rightly denounced by all good men
of old. But why evil, it may be asked? 

Because until these shells have dissipated, a certain sympathy exists
between them and the departed spiritual Ego which is gestating in the
fathomless womb of the adjoining world of effects; and to disturb the shells
by necromantic sorcery is at the same time to disturb the foetal spiritual


    We have said that these shells in such cases rapidly decay, the [444]
rapidity being exactly proportional to the purity of the departed spiritual
Ego; and we may add that similarly the rapidity of gestation of the new Ego
is proportional to the purity of the old Ego out of which it is evolved.
Happily necromancy is unknown to modern spiritualists, so that it is next to
impossible that the reliquiæ of the good and pure should ever appear in the

No doubt, the simulacra of some spiritual Egos whose fate trembled in the
balance, whose affinities, earthwards and heavenwards, to use the popular
phraseology, were nearly equal, who have left behind too much of the matter
that was combined to form them, who will lie long in fœtal bonds before
being able to develop the new Ego-hood; no doubt, we say, such simulacra may
survive longer and may occasionally appear under exceptional conditions in
seance-rooms, with a dim, dazed consciousness of their past lives. But even
this, owing to the conditions of the case, will be rare, and they will never
be active or intelligent, as the stronger portions of their wills, the
higher portions of their intelligence, have gone elsewhere.

    Nature draws no hard and fast lines, though in the balance of forces
very slight differences in opposing energies may produce the most divergent
results. All entities shade off from one end to the other of the chain by
imperceptible degrees, and it is impossible for man to gauge the exact
degree of purity of the deceased at which the voluntary reappearance of his
reliquiæ through the agency of mediumship becomes impossible; but it is
absolutely true that, broadly speaking, as a law, it is only the reliquiæof
non-spiritually-minded men, whose spiritual Egos have perished, that appear
in séance-rooms, and are dignified by spiritualists with the title of
“spirits of the departed.”


    These shells, these animal souls, in whom still survive the major
portions of the intelligence, will-power and knowledge that they possessed
when incorporated in the human combination, invigorated too by the
reassimilation of the spirit-vitalized matter that once combined with the
spirit to compose their spiritual Ego, are often powerful and highly
intelligent, and continue to survive for lengthened periods, their intense
desire for earthly life enabling them to seize from the decaying simulacra
of the good and feeble the material for prolonged existence.

    To these eidola occultists are used to give the name of ELEMENTARIES,
and these, by the aid of the half-intelligent forces of nature [ELEMENTALS]
which are attracted to them, perform most of the wonders of the
seance-rooms. [ 445 ]

If to these shells, these eidola which have lost their immortality, and
whence the divine essence has for ever departed, the spiritualists insist on
applying the title of “spirits of the dead,” well and good; they are not
spirits at all, they are of the earth earthy, all that remains of the dead
when their spirits have flown, but if this be understood, and it be
nevertheless considered desirable to call them that to which thee are the
precise antithesis, it is after all merely a case of misnomer.


    But let there be no mistake as to what they are; hundreds and thousands
of lost and ruined men and women all over the globe attest the degradation
to which constant subjection to their influence in mediumship too generally
leads, and we who know the truth should ill discharge our duty if we did not
warn all spiritualists, in the strongest terms possible, against allowing
the misuse of terms to mislead them as to the real nature and character of
the disembodied entities with which they so constantly and confidingly deal.

    Now probably spiritualists will admit that our views would explain the
vast mass of trash, frivolous nonsense and falsehood communicated through
mediums, as also the manner in which so many of these, good and honest to
begin with, gradually grow into immoral impostors. But many objections will
be raised. 

One man will say: “I have repeatedly conversed with my late father; a
better, kinder-hearted, more spiritual- minded man never lived; and on one
occasion he told me a fact, unknown to me, and, I believe to everyone
living, which I subsequently verified.”

    Nothing is simpler; the father’s image was in the son’s mind;thus put
en rapport the disembodied elementary which, if of one of the more
intelligent classes, has glimpses of things in the astral light, and can
here and there dimly distinguish the pictures which record every deed, word
and thought—pictures which we are all unconsciously incessantly evolving,
pictures which survive long after those who originated them have passed
away—the elementary, we say, scanning these, easily picks up sufficient
facts for its purpose, and by its will materializes itself partly out of
matter drawn from the medium’s body, partly out of inert cosmic matter drawn
to it by the help of the elementals or half-blind forces of nature which it
and probably the medium also, has attracted, and stands forth the
counterpart of the dead father and talks of things known only to that dead

Of course, if the matter talked of were known to any present, both
elementary and medium, if in a trance, could equally know it, but we have
purposely supposed one of [ 446 ] those rare cases which are considered to
be the strongest proofs of “spirit identity,” as it is called. Of course,
too, everything that has once passed before that son’s mind, intonation of
voice, tricks of manner, infirmities of temper, though apparently forgotten
at the moment, are really indelibly recorded in his memory, as is proved by
their immediate recognition when reproduced by the elementary who has
gathered them out of those dormant records.


    And it must be remembered that these apparently strong and perfect cases
are very rare, and that the elementaries, if they personate people of any
note, usually make gross blunders, and almost without exception betray their
falsehood in one way or another—Shakespeare and Milton dictating trash,
Newton grossly ignorant of his own Principia, and Plato teaching a
washed-out Neo-platonic or sentimental Christian philosophy, and so on. 

At the same time undoubtedly in rare cases the ghostly relics of very
clever, very bad and very determined, men constitute disembodied entities of
high intelligence, which survive for a lengthened period, and the more
wicked and more material they are in all their tendencies, the longer do
they escape disintegration.

    The Orthodox Church is much nearer the truth when it calls the entities
that are mostly dealt with in s “devils” than are the spiritualists whocall
them “spirits.” We do not mean that they are generally actively malevolent,
but their magnetic attractions are evil, and they incline and lead those
with whom they have much to do to the same evil material passions which have
been their own ruin.

    Naturally spiritualists will object that this cannot be true, since
despite the mass of folly and gibberish or worse often heard in seance
rooms, the purest sentiments and really lofty ideas and teachings are not
rarely expressed through mediums.


    Several points have, however, to be borne in mind. In the first place,
though proved unfit for further development, and, therefore, doomed in most
cases by the eternal law of the survival of the fittest to be disintegrated
and, losing personal consciousness, to be worked up again in the lower
worlds into new combinations, all elementaries are by no means actively
wicked all round. When weighed in the balance, their whole natures have
proved to have a greater affinity to matter than to spirit, and they are,
therefore, incapable of further progress, but when dealing with a pure
circle and speaking through a still pure medium—very few mediums, indeed,
continue thus after a long course of mediumship—the better and less degraded
side of their nature comes out, and [ 447 ] it is quite possible for
elementaries to have a perfect intellectual knowledge and appreciation of
virtue and purity and enlightened conceptions of truth, and yet be innately
vicious in their tendencies. 

We meet plenty of men who have a sentimental love for virtue, and yet whose
lives are one unbroken course of lust and self-indulgence; and as the men
were, so are the elementaries, their reliquiæ. 


If we at times speak bitterly of popular modern Christianity, it is because
we know that, with all its other ennobling and saving tendencies, on this
all-important point it leads to the destruction of myriads of souls. For it
leads to the belief that it signifies little what a man does, if he only
believes that his sins are forgiven him, and that by relying on the merits
of Jesus Christ he may escape the vengeance of the Lord. But there is no
anthropomorphic Lord, no vengeance, no forgiveness; there is simply the
action of a natural law impressed on the universe by the Absolute, simply a
question of balance of affinities; and they, whose deeds and general
tendencies are earthly, go down in the scale, rarely, very rarely, to rise
again in their own identities; while those in whom these tendencies are
spiritual pass upwards.
    It is not, however, possible to enter here into the great questions thus
glanced at, and we return to the subject of high, or comparatively high,
teachings through mediums.

    Now it must not for a moment be supposed that all we hear from these
latter comes from elementaries. In the first place, a great many well-known
mediums are clever impostors. There are notorious trance mediums, especially
women, who steadily work up for their so-called trance orations, and these
being really clever, and working at good books, deliver essays of a
respectable, and at times almost first-class, character. There is no
spiritual influence at work here; the only apparently abnormal feature in
these cases is that persons possessing such fair abilities should be willing
thus to prostitute them; and that people who can talk so well and touchingly
of truth and purity, should yet live such lives of falsehood and immorality.
Video meliora proboque, deteriora sequor has ever found a response in too
many human hearts, and has in all ages rung the annihilation-knell of too
many personalities.


    In the second place, in the case of pure and genuine mediums, who, in
trance, pass entirely under the influence of their own seventh principle,
the Augoeidês of the Greeks, the whole teachings come from the medium’sown
soul, and it is very rare to obtain thus anything higher [ 448 ] than what
the medium’s own intellect, when in a state of spiritual excitement, could

    It may be said that, in many such cases, the medium says himself or
herself, that it is Judge Edmonds, or the late Bishop of , who is teaching
him or her, but this is merely due to the intervention of mischievous
elementaries who are always crowding about every medium, and who, if he is
too pure to enable them to get command over him, yet, ever anxious to get a
finger in every pie, confuse and deceive him. 

Only an adept can clearly and consciously place the spiritual Ego wholly
under the domination of the spirit. 

Mediums who, in trance, unconsciously succeed in doing this, are unaware of
the source whence they derive their perceptions, and can be made, by any
elementary exerting any influence over them, through any weak point in their
character, to believe that these are derived from it. 

The same, though in a minor degree, is the case with those rare, high,
because specially pure, mediums, whose Ego and Spirit can soar together when
the rest of the combination is in a trance, into the astral light, and there
can read all the highest thoughts that man has ever thought. 

True, the Ego of the highest and best mediums can reproduce in this material
world only in a fragmentary and confused manner what it reads in the astral
light; but still even this reproduction is sometimes of a character far
transcending the capacities alike of the medium and all those present. How
it comes that the thoughts thus fished up like pearls out of the astral
light come often to be attributed by the medium to spirits, we have already

    But an even more common source of inspiration of mediums is the mind of
one or more of those present. When in a trance, the spiritual soul—the sixth
and seventh principles—can read all that is recorded in the mind or memory
of those towards whom it is in any way attracted; and the medium’s
utterances will in such cases be quite up to the highest standard of those
with whom it is thus en rapport; and if these are pure, highly cultivated
persons, the teachings thus received will be equally pure and intellectual. 

But here again the unconscious medium as a whole does not know whence these
perceptions are being derived. In its spiritual soul it knows no doubt, but
in its combination with the other principles—a combination necessary for the
writing or speaking of those perceptions—it is quite in the dark, and canbe
impressed by any elementary at hand of sufficient force, with any conception
in regard to the point that it chooses to convey. [ 449 ]

    In truth, mediumship is a dangerous, too often a fatal, capacity;and if
we oppose spiritualism, as we have ever consistently done, it is not because
we question the reality of the phenomena which, we know, can and do occur,
despite the multitudes of fraudulent imitations, and which our adepts can
reproduce at will without danger to themselves, but because of the
irreparable spiritual injury—we say nothing of the mere physical
sufferings—which the pursuit of spiritualism inevitably entails on
nine-tenths of the mediums employed. 

Next: Part II

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