The Theosophical Forum February 1949

PSYCHIC OR SPIRITUAL? Philip A. Malpas

We have been often enough reminded to study technical Theosophy. The advice is more timely than many may think. The word Theosophy is not copyrighted and it is not illegal to make it mean whatever we wish it to mean. But the origin of it is clear enough and it should mean today what it meant originally, if for no other reason than that it obviously originated with the class of people who have been described as "Those who know."

The meaning is "God-Wisdom," "The Wisdom of the Gods," "Divine Wisdom." But already in the Western world we have the word God crystallized into meaning a personal god, and the "God-Wisdom," with many, automatically suggests the wisdom of a personal god, such as Jehovah, or Jesus, or any of the other denizens of the Hebrew Pantheon. That means a personification of the God-principle in all men and all things.

Again the word god has come to mean, correctly enough in its way, the manifold and multiple powers in nature, whose number is legion. This is quite a different field of meaning.

So let us say that Theosophy is the wisdom of the god-part which is in all men and all things in the universe and beyond. If others choose to define it otherwise, they may, but we hold that the originators of the word defined it as we say. They had one advantage over the average Theosophist of today in that if they were such as we believe them to have been, they were consciously exercising that god-power or consciousness, and not, as we are, looking at it from outside, as it were. We are speculatives and they were operatives.

We have been taught about the seven principles in man. One or two of them may be called the psychic principles, and anyone who has had the merest training in genuine psychology is perfectly aware that psychism is so far from spirituality (or spiritualism in its original pure sense, not the popularly accepted sense of the word in modern Europe and America, which more properly answers to the word spiritism or some other term not suggesting spirit) that it is its antithesis. Either you can have psychism or spirituality, but taken together they "cancel each other out." A flood of book-mind argument will doubtless meet this statement, but the simplest apprentice of the true training of the life of a mystic will know how to value it.

So in the same way, technically, the Divine is far higher than the spiritual. One of the most beautiful things in all pseudo-mystic literature is the phrase the English phrase, not the Greek "the peace of god which passeth all understanding." In the Greek it means what we say, "the peace of the divine which is far above even the glorious peace of the spiritual part of everyman." We are forced to say pseudo-mystical because the English is so very different from the original Greek.

H. P. Blavatsky, who spent so much of her life trying to drum the elementary principles into nineteenth century noddles, was forever warning us that to reach the spiritual and divine as active things in our nature we had to pass through the morass of psychism. It is as fascinating to our lower unspiritual selves as the vegetation of a tropical swamp, and about as dangerous to the tyro and we are all tyros.

After a fierce battle Theosophy began to rise above the miasma of the psychic marshes and the world today is quite well enough acquainted with the difference between the psychic and spiritual, so far as it desires to be. That is an immense step forward, even though that desire may be quite rarely evident.

We have been passing through a phase of softness and lack of self-discipline culminating in two great struggles which in their way have shown the necessity for that discipline. The Theosophical Society, if you like, any Theosophical Society, not any one in particular, mirrors the world conditions or vice versa, according to the way you look at it. Or at least the living core, if any, does this.

Therefore it is only natural to find in Theosophical circles a somewhat mushy or hazy idea of just what spirituality is. And of course the self-confident and self-assertive man who has not yet fully risen above the fascination of the lower, emotional, psychic realm is going to be the first to protest that he is right and that psychism in one or another of its subtle forms and they are subtle beyond conception is just as important as anything spiritual: that psychic practices are just as important as the effort to attain, spiritually. It is true no step may be omitted on the way up, but beyond saying that, we need not pay much attention to the psychic, any more than we need emphasize the demands of the body when talking about intellectual progress.

To save any roundabout rigmarole let us say at once that perfect self-control is necessary before we can profitably play in our psychic backyards. And it might be well for most of us to devote a few lifetimes to that alone before talking about psychic things as being of interest. And, let us remark as an aside, that when we have done that we shall, with few exceptions, hardly bother our heads about psychic things; we shall have more important things to do. A great philosopher may have dreams or even nightmares, but very few philosophers, if any, spend time over seriously considering those dreams.

"Ye cannot serve God and Mammon" is one rather pithy phrase expressing much the same idea as we are dealing with. It is Jewish.

We have a great regard and admiration for the doughty editor of Eirenicon but here we must allow ourselves to take issue with him in what he says in No. 86, of the summer of 1948.

After a preliminary quotation he says

The Covina Society cannot present 100 per cent . . . Theosophy of H. P. B. and debar astrology, psychic problems, or any other branch of science. We intend to prove shortly that the theosophical message of the Masters and H. P. Blavatsky embraced astrology, psychic powers and other sciences, and integrated them into the spiritual whole. They were against science and psychism that was unillumined by the Light of the Spirit, but they considered that the theosophical task is to bring illumination to those subjects, not to sheer off from them; to build bridges to the spiritual world from every phase of human life, not to run away from possible englamourment. The Theosophist is a man who aims to meet every enquirer on his own ground without being carried away by maya. We quite agree with our Covina friends that a Lodge which interests itself exclusively or excessively in any branch of knowledge, and fails to bring to it a comprehensive background of the spiritual philosophy that gives such special studies a balanced setting, is unworthy of being called Theosophical.

Are we correct in thinking that this is written a little from the point of view that the Theosophical movement, that is, the part that moves, has not advanced beyond H. P. B.'s day? In private teaching she gave at least an hour to the subject of dreams. Are we to assume from that that Theosophists today should busy themselves with dreams, that fascinating psychical subject? Is it profitable today to enter into long polemics as to what is popularly known as spiritualism? Are we to say that the dangers of hypnotism are not better known now than then? In short, the world has had its chance to know what psychism is from a general standpoint and if it does not act up to what has been shown to it, so much the worse for the world. At this date spiritual issues are in the air, and though the whole atmosphere is murky and alive with the fascinating will-o-the-wisps of psychism, the sunlight is breaking through and the dawn will disperse with the wind of the spirit much that we have thought was permanent and important. The plea that we must busy ourselves with all sorts of pseudo-Theosophy so that we can answer any fool question correctly is not convincing. Our work is Theosophy, not psychic curiosity.

The sifting time comes as surely as the harvest, and the winnowing fan will in its due time thoroughly purge the spiritual floor. It is not psychic things that stand against that wind; spiritual things are made stronger thereby.

* * *

In the same number of Eirenicon doubt is thrown upon the statement that there is but one "formally organised" esoteric school. This is hardly a matter of opinion but one of fact, and it stands to reason that some know the fact of the case while others do not.

The statement that the work of the T. S. is linked in with similar work which is secretly going on in all parts of the world certainly speaks of secret work, but there are many secret activities which are not the formally organized work of the one esoteric school connected with the Great Lodge, or whatever its title should be, and yet the people carrying on those activities may or may not be members of that school. Who knows whether there may not be much unorganized secret work carried on by the students of the organized esoteric school? Or on the other hand by those with whom they are in touch who do not even know of the school?


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