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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,

Modern Panarion, p. 448 ….]






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 Augoeides of the Greeks, the whole teachings come from the medium’s own
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. 

We have seen scores, nay, rather hundreds, of ordinarily good, pure, honest
men and women, who, but for the cultivation of this evil capacity for the
reception of impressions by elementaries, might, and would in all
probability, have lived lives leading to higher things; but who, through the
gradual pernicious influence of these low, earth-bound natures, have sunk
from bad to worse, ending, often prematurely, lives that could lead but to
spiritual ruin.

These are no speculations—we speak that we do know—and if one in five
mediums, who habitually exercise their capacity, escapes the doom that
overtakes so many, these exceptions cannot justify the spiritualists in
aiding and abetting the crowd of professional mediums who gamble away their
immortality with the lower material influences. 


The practice of mediumship for good purposes, at rare intervals, by virtuous
mediums, intermediately ever careful to strengthen their moral and spiritual
natures by pure lives and holy aspirations, is one thing; and the habitual
practice, in a worldly, careless, undevout spirit, for gain, is another; and
this latter cannot be too strongly denounced, alike in the highest interests
of the mediums and of the sitters who employ them.

“Evil communications corrupt good manners,” is an eternal truth, trite
and hackneyed though it be, and no evil communications are so evil as those
subtle influences that radiate from the low, bestial elementaries who crowd
the séance of immoral, or more or less demoralized mediums, too weak and low
to make themselves heard or seen, but strong enough in their intensely
material tendencies, to diffuse a moral poison into the mental atmosphere of
all present.

That men, bewildered amidst the crumbling ruins of effete religions,
should madly grasp at every clue by which there seems some faint hope of
penetrating the cloud-covered labyrinth of the mystery of the universe, is
neither wonderful nor reprehensible; but it is not through mediums, the prey
of every idle spook and elementary, that the great

[ 450 ] truth is to be reached, but by that rigorous course of study,
self-discipline and self-purification which is taught in the temple of
occultism to which theosophy is in the present day the high road.






The question lies at the very threshold of occult study. It is, in actual
practice, the first put before a regular student of occultism who is taken
in hand by the teachers of the occult world. And the student is taught—oris
led to see—that there are two kinds of knowledge, the real and the unreal;
the real concerned with eternal verities and primal causes, the unreal with
illusory effects. 


So far the statement seems to deal with abstractions too vague to challenge
denial. Each school of thinkers will admit as much, reserving to itself the
assumption that the illusory effects are those considerations which have
fascinated its rivals; the eternal verities its own conclusions. 





But we no sooner come to a clear understanding as to what mental
presentiments must be classed as illusory effects, than we find the first
proposition of occult philosophy at war with the whole current practice of
the world at large, as regards all classes of scientific investigation. 


All PHYSICAL SCIENCE and a good deal of what the western world is pleased to
call metaphysical speculation, rests on the crude and superficial belief
that the only way in which ideas can enter the mind, is through the channels
of the senses. 




The physicist devotes all his efforts to the careful elimination from the
mass of materials on which he builds up his conclusions, of everything
except that which he conceives to be real fact—and it is exactly that which
he conceives to be real fact, anything clearly appealing to the senses—which
the profound philosophy of eastern occultism deliberately condemns at
starting, as, in its nature, illusory effect, transitory secondary
consequence of the real underlying fact. 


And in acting thus, does occult philosophy make an arbitrary choice between
rival methods, as a chemist might select one or other of two different
methods of analysis? Not at all. Real philosophy cannot make any choice
arbitrarily; there is but one eternal verity, and, in pursuit of that,
thought is forced to travel along one road.


The knowledge which appeals to the senses cannot but deal with illusory
effects, for all the forms of thus world and its material combinations are
but pictures in the great dissolving view of evolution; there is no eternity
in any of them. 


By mere inference from physical facts, science, proceeding on [ 451 ] its
own methods, will recognize that there was a time before any of the life
germs on this earth, whatever they may be, had settled into the forms in
which they manifest themselves now. 


Assuredly there will come a time when all these forms will disappear in the
progress of cosmic change. 


What preceded them, provoking their evolution from fiery nebulæ what traces
will they leave behind? From nothing they came, into nothing they will
return—according to the doubly irrational reply which is the only logical
inference from the physical philosophy which makes them the real facts, the
only basis of real knowledge.


It must be remembered of course that the unreal knowledge proceeding
from the observation of illusory, because transitory and secondary effects,
hangs together satisfactorily as regards the short chain it is able to
construct. This it is which leads so many, in many respects powerful, minds,
to blind contentment with it. Some of the laws of matter can be detected, if
not understood, by mere observation of matter. 


But it is obvious that the something out of which matter proceeded, the
something into which it will return, cannot be observed by material senses.
In what other way can observation be extended beyond the range of material
senses? Only if it can be so extended, is any knowledge attainable by man
which has to do with eternal verities and primal causes; which is real, as
distinguished from the transitory and the unreal. 


Promptly, in ignorance of the methods by which observation can be extended
beyond the range of the senses, the physicist declares: Concerning the
hypothetical eternal verities you can only dream and indulge in illusory
conjecture—all mere brain-spun fancy. Thus the world at large, not content
with hugging illusions and calling them realities, spurns the reality and
denounces it as illusion.


But can the eternal verity be reached? Even if hard facts be
acknowledged as illusion so far as they are transitory, is not that which is
exempt from change removed from observation? 


Must we not follow up the theoretical admission of the possibility of real
knowledge, by the practical admission that no human being can ever have
anything to do with it? Now the consistent materialist who honestly believes
that a man is simply a structure of gas, phosphates, and chemical elements,
functioning entirely within itself, would have to be answered by reference
to facts, which it is unnecessary to rehearse, in dealing with
controversialists who recognize at all events that the living body includes
a spiritual principle, and that the spiritual principle is capable [ 452 ]

of a life apart from the body when the body itself is dead. 


There can be no difficulty for a spiritualist in the way of the conception
that, if the spirit of a man lives, observes, thinks, and communicates its
impressions, after the body is burned or buried, so, under peculiar
conditions, that same spirit may separate itself from the body temporarily
during life, and may thus come into such relation with the world of spirit
as to take direct cognizance of its phenomena. Now it is quite clear that,
relatively to our own at all events, such a world is a world of eternal


We know that this world is fleeting and transitory. It is readily
conceivable, and all analogies suggest the conclusion, which every sort of
spiritual statement confirms, that the world of Spirit is more durable. That
knowledge is real which lasts, and that is unreal which passes away—as in
the case of an initiated adept who brings back upon earth with him the clear
and distinct recollection, correct to a detail, of facts gathered, and the
information obtained in the invisible sphere of realities; the spirit of
man, which comes into direct and conscious relations with the world of
spirit, acquires real knowledge; while the spirit of man which lives
imprisoned in the body and is merely fed through the senses with crumbs of
knowledge, possesses the unreal only.


But when the imprisoned spirit does not itself rise into direct
relations with the world of spirit, but is visited by an emanation from the
world of spirit—or by a spirit, to work with the spiritualistic hypothesis
for a moment—is it entitled to assume that it is coming into possession of
real knowledge? 


Surely not; for though discussing spiritual things it is acquiring its
knowledge in no way which essentially differs from the method by which mere
knowledge of the purely physical sort, knowledge of illusory effects, is


The spiritualist, even when himself a medium receiving communications, is
taking in knowledge just as unreal, just as untrustworthy, and liable to be
distorted by an erroneous observation as that which is dealt with by the
wholly unspiritual observer of matter.


Who possesses the real knowledge as contradistinguished from the unreal?
the student of occultism is asked, and he is taught to reply— that which we
have shown to be the only possible reply “adepts alone possess the real
knowledge, their minds alone being en rapport with the universal mind.” 


Now, according to the teaching of the adepts, spiritualists, in ninety-nine
cases out of a hundred, are mistaken when they think themselves in contact
with the spirits of departed [ 453 ] friends, or with benevolent beings of
another sphere; and to those who know something of who and what the adepts
are, that is conclusive as to the fact. But the fact being so, every
conception of spiritualism which conflicts with it must be explainable—every
incident of spiritualism must be susceptible of transfer to some group of
phenomena which can be shown to be something different from what
spiritualists imagine it. 


While the phenomena of spiritualism are thrown off in all directions so
freely, it is nearly impossible to follow them up in every case, and, as
regards the general subject, it is best to try and explain why the phenomena
of spiritualism cannot be what spiritualists think them, rather than why
each in turn is actually something else. First then as regards automatic
writing; we need not go further than personal experience to show that the
production through a medium’s arm, of handwriting, the facsimile of that
produced in life by an alleged spirit, is no proof of the alleged spirit’s
identity at all, or even of its individuality.




[ see also below ]


A certain Russian lady who was afflicted or gifted, whichever way the reader
likes to put it, with medium-ship in her youth, was “controlled” for about
six years by a “spirit” who came evening after evening and wrote reams
through the child’s arm in the usual automatic way. The spirit professed to
be that of an old lady who had lived in a part of Russia far away from that
in which she was then manifesting herself. She gave many details of her life
and family and told how her son had committed suicide. Sometimes the son
came himself, “in spirit,” and controlled the little medium’s arm andgave
long accounts of his remorse and sufferings consequent on the crime of
self-murder. The old lady was eloquent on the subject of heaven and its
inhabitants, including the Virgin Mary. Needless to say that she was
garrulous concerning the circumstances of her own death and the interesting
ceremony of the last sacrament. But she also wrote of worldly matters. She
gave a detailed account of a petition she had presented to the Emperor
Nicholas, and the text of it, word for word. She wrote partly in Russian,
partly in German, which the child-medium knew very slightly at the time.
Eventually one of the young lady’s relatives went to the place where the
spirit had lived. Yes; she was well remembered; she had been troubled by a
dissolute son who committed suicide; she had gone away to Norway where it
was believed she had died, and so on. All the automatic communications were
verified, in short, and the petition was turned up in the archives of the
Home [ 454 ] Office at St. Petersburg. The handwriting was perfectly
reproduced. Now what better identification could a spirit have? Would not a
spiritualist say of such an experience, “I know that the spirits of dead
persons can communicate and prove their continued individuality”? 

A year after the identification of the deceased person at the place where
she had lived, and of the petition, there came to —, where the young medium
and her relations were living, an officer who proved to be the nephew of the
“spirit.” He chanced to show the child a miniature. She recognized it as
that of the spirit. Explanations ensued, and it turned out that the
officer’s aunt was not dead at all, nor was her son. In all other respects
the mediumistic communications were perfectly well substantiated. The son
had attempted to commit suicide, but the bullet with which he had shot
himself had been extracted and his life had been saved.


Now, without going further, this story as a mere statement of facts is
enough to answer the spiritualists’ contention as to automatic writing. It
shows that, without the instrumentality of any deceased person’s “spirit” at
all, automatic writing attributed by spiritualists to the agency of such
spirits may take place; therefore, that no weight can be attached to the
experiences on which the spiritualist relies. But we may go somewhat further
and endeavour to account for the Russian story at any rate by the occult
“hypothesis” as some of our readers will no doubt regard it. Who or what was
the intelligence writing through the hand of the Russian child-medium? The
devil? as the priests of the Greek Church contended; some lying spirit? as
the spiritualists might suggest; the elementaries? as some readers of occult
literature might conceive. 


No; it was the fifth principle [ Kama-Manas – Lower Mind ] of the medium
herself, her animal or physical soul, the portion of the universal Proteus,
and it acted as the soul of the clairvoyant acts during the sleep of the
body. The officer who ultimately showed the miniature had been acquainted
with the family several years previously. The medium had seen the picture
when quite a young child, but had forgotten it utterly. She had also played
with various things that had belonged to the “spirit,” and had been in her
nephew’s possession.


Preserving faithfully the memory of all it saw and heard in the “astral
light,” or in the “soul of things”—many readers will, no doubt, comprehend
the allusion here to Denton’s book of that name—while playing with the
miniature and other trifles, the young medium’s inner self years afterwards,
owing to some associations of memory, began [ 455 ] unconsciously
reproducing these pictures. Little by little the inner self, or fifth
principle [Lower manas] , was drawn into the current of those personal or
individual associations and emanations, and once the mediumistic impulse
given, nothing would arrest its progress. The facts accurately observed by
the “flying soul” were inextricably mixed up with pure fancy, derived from
the teaching to which the medium had been subjected, and hence the account
of heaven and the Virgin Mary.


Mutatis mutandis, a similar explanation would, in all probability, meet the
case not merely of automatic writing, but also of the guiding or protecting
spirit who mentally impresses the medium, and has been seen by seers and
seeresses. That the teaching of this intelligence generally confirms the
spiritualistic doctrine of progression from place to place and so forth, is
a strong indication that it is really an emanation from the medium’s own
mind; and the fact that the supposed spirit has been seen by clairvoyant
mediums cannot be taken as proof of its objective existence. The pictures in
the astral light present all the appearance of reality to those who can
discern them, and the appearance of the “spirit” we have spoken of was as
real to our child-medium as that of any spirit ever materialized in the
wonderful seance-room of the Eddy brothers in America, though the good lady
herself was all the while quietly attending to her knitting, with the
breadth of Europe between her and the family circle which she had
unconsciously entered as a spectral guest.


The difficulty of distinguishing between the creations of the seer’s
brain and spectral or spiritual phenomena really external to himself appears
to be the cause of the confusion into which untrained, uninitiated observers
fall when natural mediumistic gifts enable them to cross the threshold of
the astral world and awake to a perception of the wonders hanging like an
aura around the physical planet. From Socrates to Swedenborg, from
Swedenborg to the latest clairvoyant, no uninitiated seer has ever seen
quite correctly. But whatever confusing influences have been brought to bear
on natural seers of past times, none have been beset with the artificial
bewilderments that cloud the faculties of the modern spiritualistic medium.
A mass of prepossessions occupy his mind at starting; every observation he
makes is twisted into the mould of an elaborate, predetermined theory; and
every picture presented to his finer senses is distorted to suit the
expectations of his fancy and coloured to the complexion of a previously
formulated creed. The spiritualist may honestly believe himself a seeker
after truth, but [ 456 ] the spiritualist who is himself in any degree a
medium is fascinated by the creations of his faith and borne away on an
induced current into a phantasmagorical world peopled with his own





Their apparent reality confirms the conjectures from which they spring, and
all suggestions which claim a reconsideration of their character seem almost
a blasphemy to their eager devotee, But to the student of occult philosophy
there is a grander beauty in the consistent teaching of adeptship than in
the startling excitement of mediumistic revelation, while over it all there
shines for him the solemn light of absolute truthfulness. 


Mediumship may give sudden glimpses of unsuspected wonder, as bits of a
strange landscape may be momentarily revealed by lightning, but the science
of adeptship casts the steady light of day upon the whole scene. Surely the
spiritualists, who have at least shot leagues ahead in intelligence of the
mere materialistic moles of their purblind generation in so far as they
recognize that there is a landscape to be seen if it can only be lighted up,
will not deliberately prefer to guess at its features by the help of
occasional flashes from the fitful planes of mediumship, but will accept the
aid of that nobler illumination which the elevated genius and untiring
exertion of occult sages of the east have provided for those whose spiritual
intuitions enable them to appreciate its sublimity and confide their
aspirations to its guidance.




What reply could we give to one who is in no way satisfied with our
explanations of spiritualistic phenomena, who still clings to the theories
of spiritualists and rejects the facts of the occultists?

But one may, naturally enough, say that this is begging the question,
and that he sees no reason why the doctrines propounded by the latter should
be any more accepted as facts than those espoused by the former.

Let us see how the case stands. Suppose a number of people go to see a
conjurer’s performance; all manner of wonderful tricks are exhibited; the
more intelligent of the spectators begin evolving hypotheses to explain how
these are performed; night after night the performances, though often a good
deal varied in details, are repeated. The most intelligent of the spectators
also return, night after night, more and more intent on discovering time
rationale of the wonders they witness. They gradually work out what appears
to be a fairly consistent theory of all that so astonishes them, and,
getting into conversation [ 457 ] with some of the performers, find that
these to a great extent confirm their conclusions. Thereupon they feel
convinced that their views are correct, and accept their theories as facts
But for all that they are still before the footlights; they have never been
behind the curtain; they have never actually seen how the surprising results
they witness are really brought about, and these so-called facts of theirs
are still merely theories.


But now some of the spectators become acquainted with people who do
habitually go behind the scenes, who have examined the whole apparatus, who
can make the performers play whatever tricks they like, and who can, with
their apparatus perform precisely the same, and other even more astonishing
feats, and these men tell the ingenious spectators that their theories are
quite wrong, and that the facts of the case are so and so.

Now, surely it will be admitted that it is neither begging the question
nor presumption on the part of those who have the entree behind the scenes,
but the simple truth, when they assert that their knowledge represents facts
while the conclusions of the ordinary spectators are only theories.

Such precisely are the relative positions of the spiritualists and the
occultists; meaning, of course, by these latter, not the humble lay
disciples who indite these papers, but their pastors, masters and living
spiritual guides.


“But how am I to know,” a spiritualist may enquire, “that these Masters
of yours can really go behind the scenes? You say so; but what proof is
there of this?”

Now, in the first place, it is a fact, and this everyone may prove for
himself, that each and all who will lead the life can satisfy themselves
that the Masters really can do this, and thus become entirely independent
alike of our and all other persons’ testimony.


The fact is that, as we know, the Masters possess the power of
controlling absolutely all the elementals and elementaries to whom, with
some exceptions, are due the objective phenomena, not the work, unconscious
or conscious, of the medium himself, of the séance-room. And it is the
possession and exhibition of this power which makes us consider their
assertion that they have been behind the scenes and do know all about it,
proved, and that induces us to accept their statements of what takes place
and is done as fact.


It will be borne in mind that we have never denied that communication [
458 ] in a certain sense can be established between men and real spirits of
deceased persons. What we have maintained is that, except in certain cases,
of which hereafter, only shells, not true spirits, can appear or operate in
the séance-room.


We said of the spirit in our first “Fragment”: “It can be visitedin
spirit by men; it cannot descend into our grosser atmosphere and reach us.
It attracts; it cannot be attracted.”




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