The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett

Theosophical University Press Edition

Letter No. 20a

[The original letter of A.O.H. to K.H. has some passages numbered and underlined with blue pencil by K.H. These are printed in bold type. The numbers refer to K.H.'s replies, for which see post Letter No. 20c. — Ed.]

Received August, 1882.


My dear Master,

In speaking of Fragments No. III of which you will receive proofs soon, I said it was far from satisfactory though I had done my best.

It was necessary to advance the doctrine of the Society another stage, so as gradually to open the eyes of the Spiritualists — so I introduced as the most pressing matter the suicide etc. view given in your last letter to S.

Well it is this that seems to me most unsatisfactory and it will lead to anumber of questions that I shall feel puzzled to reply to.

Our first doctrine is that the majority of objective phenomena were due to shells. 1½ and 2½ principled shells, i.e. principles entirely separated from their sixth and seventh principles.

But as a further (1) development we admit that there are some spirits, i.e. 5th and 4th principles not wholly dissevered from their sixth and seventh which also may be potent in the seance room. These are the spirits of suicides and the victims of accident or violence.

Here the doctrine is that each particular wave of life must run on to its appointed shore and with the exception of the very good, that all spirits prematurely divorced from the lower principles, must remain on earth, until the foredestined hour of what would have been the natural death strikes.

Now this is all very well but this being so, it is clear that in opposition to our former doctrine, shells will be few and spirits many (2).

For what difference can there be to take the case of suicides, whether these be conscious or unconscious, whether the man blows his brains out, or only drinks or womanizes himself to death, or kills himself by over-study? In each case equally the normal natural hour of death is anticipated and a spirit and not a shell the result — or again what difference does it make whether a man is hung for murder, killed in battle, in a railway train or a powder explosion, or drowned or burnt to death, or knocked over by cholera or plague, or jungle fever or any of the other thousand and one epidemic diseases of which the seeds were not ab initio, in his constitution, but were introduced therein in consequence of his happening to visit a particular locality or undergo a given experience, both of which he might have avoided? Equally in all cases the normal death hour is anticipated and a spirit instead of a shell the result.

In England it is calculated that not 15% of the population reach their normal death period — and what with fevers and famines and their sequelae, I fear the percentage is not much larger here even — where the people are mostly vegetarian and as a rule live under less unfavourable sanitary conditions.

So then the great bulk of all the physical phenomena of spiritualists ought apparently to be due to these spirits and not to shells.

I should be glad to have further information on this point.

There is a second point (3) very often as I understand the spirits of very fair average good people dying natural deaths, remain some time in the earth's atmosphere — from a few days to a few years — why cannot such as these communicate? And if they can this is a most important point that should not have been overlooked. (4) And thirdly it is a fact that thousands of spirits do appear in pure circles and teach the highest morality and moreover tell very closely the truths as to the unseen world (witness Alan Kardec's books pages on pages of which are identical with what you yourself teach) and it is unreasonable to suppose that such are either shells or bad spirits. But you have not given us any opening for any large number of pure high spirits — and until the whole theory is properly set forth and due place made for these which seem to me a thoroughly well established fact, you will never win over the Spiritualists. I dare say it is the old story — only part of the truth being told to us and the rest reserved — if so it is merely cutting the Society's throat. Better to tell the outside world nothing — than to tell them half truths the incompleteness of which they detect at once, the result being a contemptuous rejection of what is truth and though they cannot accept it in this fragmentary state.

Yours affectionately,

A. O. Hume.

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