The Path – September 1892

SPIRITUALISM OLD AND NEW: I — An Embodied Spirit

I am a spirit myself, but in some respects different from those spoken of at modern seances. I have a body and a brain to work with, while they have not; I can prove and feel my identity as son of my father, while they are not able to do so; and, more important than all, I have my due proportion of experience in the trinity of body, soul, and spirit — or in material, intellectual, and universal nature — while they, being deprived of material nerves, sensory organs, brain, blood, and flesh, are confined to a plane of consciousness where they are devoid of those organs of action and sensation which are necessary if one is to come in contact with matter and nature, with human personal experience, or with the great resounding heart-strings of the man who is made in the image of the gods.

The Chinese books called King, the Fireworshippers' Zend Avesta, the Egyptian mysterious monuments and papyri, the grandly-moving Aryan books of India, the Greek religions, the Roman records, and the Christian scriptures new and old, speak of spiritualism, write of it, explain it, symbolize it. As we see it in the olden times it is grand and philosophical, scientific and religious; but today, in Europe and America, spiritualism is deadly commonplace, bent upon nothing, without a philosophy as confessed by its leaders, piled all round with facts of many years' collection, but wholly undigested, marred with fraud and a daily pouring forth of platitudes for wonder-seekers. It is a revolt from Christianity, and yet with nothing to replace an unjust heaven but an illogical and materialistic summer-land. In the olden times its seers and vestals neither touched money nor engaged in the vulgar strife of competition for private advancement and personal pleasure; in these modern times the mediums, left unprotected by their leaders, offer to sell the spirits and the spirit-land for a dollar or two to any customer. It is a trade for a living, and not the pursuit of the things of the spirit. Such are the differences. Is the case improperly stated?

The sort of spiritualism which now prevails in the West was well known in the older days, but it was called necromancy and existed under prohibition. The history of the Jewish King Saul, and especially the 28th chapter of 1st Samuel, show this to be so. Saul was a medium of the obsessed kind. His particular variety of devil required music to still him, music furnished by David, but even then he broke out sometimes, on one occasion flinging a javelin at the player, who barely missed instant death. And that mediums flourished is proven in the chapter of Samuel I mentioned: "And Saul had put away those who had familiar spirits, and the witches, out of the land," but he retained the higher spiritualism of the Urim and Thummim, of the High Priest, and of the inspired utterances of prophets who were men of austerity working without pay. Saul fell upon evil times, and needed ghostly counsel. He consulted Urim and the prophets in vain. "And when Saul enquired of the Lord, the Lord answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by the prophets." So he asked his servants to seek him a woman who had a familiar spirit, and they mentioned one — who was not called a witch — living at Endor. It is to be noted that only a few verses above an account of Samuel's death and burial at Ramah is given; hence Samuel had not been long buried, and, as Theosophists know, his astral remains were probably not disintegrated. Saul, medium as he was, added fasting to his practise that day, and sought out the woman at Endor for the purpose of calling up the shade of Samuel. When the materialized astral form of the recently-deceased prophet arose, the woman was frightened and discovered the identity of Saul. Her clairvoyance was aroused, and, as she said, she "saw gods ascending from the earth". Here were two powerful mediums, one Saul and the other the woman. Hence the materialization of the spook was very strong. Saul had come full of the wish to see Samuel, and the strong combination brought on a necromantic evocation of the Shade, by which — reflecting through the clairvoyance of both mediums and drawing upon Saul's mind and recent history — the king was informed of his easily prognosticated defeat and death. Quite properly Moses had interdicted such seances. This one, repeating Saul's fears and indecision, weakened further his judgment, his conscience, and his resolution, precipitated his defeat, finished his reign. That the shade was merely Samuel's astral remains is very plain from its petulant inquiry as to why Saul had disquieted it to bring it up. The whole story is an ancient description of what happens every month in America among our modern necromancers and worshippers of the dead. When Moses wrote his Codes, the "voice of Bath-Col" — modern, independent voice, as well as many other mediumistic practises, prevailed, and those who could evoke the shades of the dead or give any advice from familiars were so well known to the people that the law-giver framed his oft-followed "them shalt not suffer a witch to live" which his religious descendants obeyed to the letter in Salem, Mass., in England, in Scotland, many centuries after. In the temple erected in the wilderness, as also in the permanent structure attributed to Solomon at Jerusalem, there was the Holy of Holies where the chief medium — the High Priest ringing the bells around his robe — communed with the controlling spirit who spoke from between the wings of the Cherubim. And in the Talmudic stories the Jews relate how Jesus obtained and kept the incommunicable name, although he was roared at by the animated statues that guarded the portal. All through the Old Testament the various prophets appear as inspirational mediums. One falls down in the night and the Lord, or spirit, speaks to him; another fasts for forty days, and then his controlling angel touches his lips with fire from the altar; Ezekiel himself hears the rushing of waters and roaring of wheels while his inspired ideas are coming into his amazed brain. All these duplicate our modern styles, except that the ancient inspirations have some sense and loftiness. But none of these old mediums and seers and inspired speakers — except the necromancers — took money for what they saw and said. That constituted the difference between a prophet, or one with a god, and a contemned necromancer. Could it be possible that the ancients made these distinctions, permitting the one and condemning the other, without any knowledge or good reason for such a course?

The great oracles of Greece and other places had their vestals. These were mediums through whom the "controls", as Spiritualists would say, made answer to the questions put. It is true that money and gifts were poured into the establishments, but the officiating vestals were not in the world; they received no money and could not fix a fee; they accumulated no property; they were unfettered by ambitions and petty daily strifes; but their lives were given up to the highest spiritual thought the times permitted, and they were selected for their purity. And, still more, the Oracle could not be compelled by either money or gifts. If it spoke, well and good; if it remained silent, the questioner went sorrowfully and humbly away. There was no expressed or hidden demand for the worth of the money. In fact, very often, after the Oracle had spoken and a large gift had been made, another utterance directed the entire gift to be given back.

This is another difference between the old and new spiritualism, as shown in the attitude of the attendant upon mediums. Ask any of the latter and you will find how strong is the demand for a compensating return for the money paid beforehand for the privilege of a sitting. It presses on the unfortunate creature who offers to be a channel between this plane and the next one. If no results are obtained, as must often be the case, the seeker is dissatisfied and the medium hastens to offer another sitting, somewhat on the principle of the quacks who promise to return the fee if there is no cure of the disease.

Turning to India, living yet although once, without doubt, contemporary with the Egyptians from whom the Jews obtained their magic, necromancy, and spiritualism, we have the advantage of studying a living record. The Hindus always had spiritualism among them. They have it yet, so that there it is both old and new. They made and still make the same distinction between the higher sort and the modern necromantic perversion. Through ages of experience their people have discovered the facts and the dangers, the value of the higher and the injury flowing from the lower. It is very true that we have not much to learn from the simple lower classes who with oriental passivity cling to the customs and the ideas taught by their forefathers. But that very passivity brings up before us as in a gigantic camera the picture of a past that lives and breathes when the philosophy which is the foundation of the present beliefs is studied. Women there, just as here, often become obsessed. "Controlled" would be the word with our spiritualistic friends. But they do not hail with joy this post-mortem appearance of immediate or remote ancestor. They abhor it. They run to the priest, or pursue a prescription physical or psychical, for exorcising the obsessor. They call it a bhuta, which with the vulgar means "devil", but among the educated class means "elemental remains". They neither fail to admit the fact and the connection of the obsession with the deceased, nor fall into the other error of supposing it to be the conscious, intelligent, and immortal centre of the one who had died. Just as the ancient philosophy universally taught, so they assert that this spook is a portion of the psychic clothing the departed soul once wore, and the thing is as much to be respected as any old suit of clothes a man had discarded. But as it belongs to the psychic realm and has a capability of waking up the lower elements in man's being as well as mere mechanical hidden forces of nature, and is devoid of soul and conscience, it is hence called a devil, or rather, the word elementary has acquired with them the significance of devil from the harm which follows in the wake of its appearance.

In following papers I will carry the enquiry into present spiritualistic phenomena, their dangers, their use and abuse, as well as reviewing the ancient higher spiritualism and the possibility of its revival.


The Path

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