"Errare, mehercule, malo cum Platone, quem tu quanti facias scio, et quem ex tuo ore admiror, quam cum istis vera sentire." — Cicero's Tusculan Disputations, Book I, Chapter XVII.
In the Illustrated London News for August 13th, 1927, G. K. Chesterton finished his usually brilliant weekly essay with these words: "M. Paul Claudel, the French poet, in writing to a French free-thinker, spoke with a splendid scorn of a remark of Renan, 'Perhaps, after all, the truth is depressing,' and appended to it some such words as these: 'When I read that I was not even a Christian myself; but I knew such divine documents as the Ninth Symphony and the Choruses of Sophocles; and I knew that a positive, passionate, living, and everlasting joy is the only reality."*. . .
*As an offset to this I read in the American Mercury, of July, 1927, p. 288, in an editorial signed by the initials H.L.M., which I take to stand for Mencken, the following words: "The aim of poetry is to give a high and voluptuous plausibility to what is palpably not true. I offer the Twenty-Third Psalm as an example: 'The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.' It is immensely esteemed by the inmates of almshouses, and gentlemen about to be hanged." Even if this was meant as a joke it is a beastly sacrilege. It was probably read by thousands of people without any emotion; and as many millions of people to-day prefer jazz to the Ninth Symphony, and the Charleston and the Black Bottom to the Dance of Nymphs and the Greek Chorus, we can understand the popularity and the howling success of the American Mercury.
These words of M. Claudel are a pure echo of the esoteric philosophy of the East with its teachings of peace and rest and infinite bliss, known as Ananda, and the Eastern ascetics who claim to have attained this infinite bliss, put Ananda on to their names, like Vivakananda, or Abedananda. Roughly, it corresponds to the idea of heaven and paradise. The great difference is that with the Western theologian this heaven or paradise comes only to the purified soul after the death of the body, while the Eastern ascetic and philosopher claims it comes while the immortal soul is still in the body, but only when in the consuming fire of truth all the low elements of egotism and physical desires have been burnt out. Perhaps I should have first started with the statement that while intellectually and emotionally we can appreciate genius, in whatever shape it may come to us, it were idle to attempt to analyse it or to approach in any way the solution of the mystery of genius unless we take it for granted that man has an immortal soul, or at least has a Self which can exist independently of the material body as we know it.
Now there are several ways by which we can approach the subject. The purely intellectual way by a study of the works of genius does not carry us anywhere. All we can say is, this is a work of genius, but what it is, or whence it came, we know nothing. The great scholar becomes the mere intellectual grubber; he can only show us the matter of fact things of the world; he can only show us his great acquisitive powers; he may show us fine logical reasoning, as we understand logic, but we are not getting below the surface, while the scholar has only the satisfaction of feeling that he knows more in a certain way than the poor labouring man. But don't forget that the poor labouring man may know a great deal more of what is below the service than the self-satisfied scholar. Truth comes not to great learning alone, it comes to something else; as a matter of fact, great learning may stand in the way. It must be admitted, however, that learning or scholarship may make genius more effective, may enlarge its scope, that is, provided the mind is constituted to produce a creative work of genius. That Shelley read Euripides in the original and thumbed a copy in his pocket probably did stimulate his poetic expression and add to its great beauty; but, on the other hand, Keats, who had no classical learning, read Homer in Chapman's translation, and even through the English words his great genius caught the spirit of the great Grecian, and in a short poem has entranced those who could appreciate his genius. It goes to show that genius can look at a little flower or a sunset and see the glory of God and his handiwork. "There exists among men a mighty complex of conceptions which lie apart from — some say beyond — articulate speech and reasoned thought. There is a march and uprising through ideal spaces which some hold as the only true ascent; there is an architecture which some count as alone abiding — 'Seeing it is built of music, therefore never built at all, and, therefore built for ever.' " (Myers, Vol. I, p. 102.)
But let us pass from the mere appreciation intellectually of genius and consider in what way or ways other than through the mere discursive and bound intellect we can approach the great mystery. We might even ask ourselves: Has the mere material brain anything to do with it? Is not genius something back of the material brain, and back of this body of ours, beautiful as it is? Personally, I have such a reverence and admiration for the body as God's handiwork and as a form of spirit itself that I cannot believe the spirit can inhabit the body unless that body were itself a form of spirit, simply in God's occult way made visible to the senses. As the great poet, Spencer, in well-known lines has said, the spirit really makes the body, — one of the greatest truths ever proclaimed, which it were well for the evolutionists to carefully consider. I am myself an evolutionist, but in a far different way from that taught by Darwin and his followers, as I have already expressed in print.
But how can we approach the subject? Is there any way open to us outside of the mere intellect? Can we get it from religion as ordinarily understood? Is it preached from the pulpit? Do we find it in Biblical exegesis? Can we find it in sacred history? It can be found in the New Testament; it can be found in the Psalms; it can be found in the esoteric religions other than Christian; and it can be found in the life of Jesus; it can be found in the histories of all the real saints; but it can be found only from a certain standpoint and in a certain spiritual attitude.
We have two main sources to help us, a true psychology and the experiences of saintship. And by psychology I do not mean the psychology taught in the universities, which is usually psychology with the psyche left out. This psychology is really the physiology of the brain and nervous system, all very good, and all very proper, as necessary as any branch of science, but it is not psychology properly so called. Academic, or official, psychology has finally recognized a consciousness other than the ordinary waking consciousness of ordinary waking life. It took it a long time to recognize it, and it was discovered not by official psychology, but by minds that were laughed at when hypnotism was first proclaimed by those who bore no relationship with official science. It was called a hocus-pocus, and never became an established fact till Charcot and his followers demonstrated it in the clinic, or from the University chair. Many of the so-called uneducated saw its reality, but the world wanted the official stamp.
And now the pendulum has even swung to the other side, for we hear of the philosophy of the unconscious, whatever that may mean, as though from a logical standpoint there was any such thing in the universe, except in an absolute void, which does not exist mathematically or intellectually or philosophically, or even expressed by zero.
If we admit the I am I in man, where can we stop? Can we stop at the animal kingdom? Can we stop at the vegetable kingdom? Can we deny that the tree has a consciousness of its treeness? Can we stop at the mineral kingdom? Can we stop at the atom? Can any matter exist without consciousness? Can the electron spin around the proton without the bliss of its spinning? Isn't it only a matter of degree between the consciousness of the electron spinning around the proton in the atom and the small boy's bliss in the merry-go-round? — One the infinitely little, and the other the infinitely lovely, or an approach to it. Again the words come to me that a positive, passionate living and everlasting joy is the only reality.
As I cannot consider genius as apart from immortality let us glance for a moment upon the mystery of immortality as treated by the psychologists and by the universities. There was founded at Harvard the Ingersoll Lectureship, where the subject of immortality is treated in a recognized, academic way. Men of recognized scholarship and academic reputation have from time to time been called upon to deliver a lecture on immortality in this course. I have not the list of these men, but I do know that Harvard is very chary of its favours, and the Harvard tradition is a castle with a very deep moat. Sir William Osler was a favoured one. Though great as he was as a physician and a man of science, his lecture carried us nowhere. So far as I know, no one with a burning belief in immortality was favoured, but there was one man who was both a psychologist and a Harvard professor who was one of the lecturers, and for the first time in the course a pregnant thought was presented as only Professor William James could present it, for he stood almost alone among the academic psychologists as one who could look beyond the neuron and the mere localization of the brain function. To him psychology was something more than the physiology of the nervous system. He argued that the transmissive theory of the so-called function of the brain was just as tenable as the productive theory; that there were certain well established facts which were more readily accounted for by this theory than by the productive theory; that, in fact, the productive theory could not account for them at all; that thought and consciousness were something back of the brain, and that the brain was simply a medium of transmission. Those who thought that thinking and consciousness were mere functions of the material brain, just as the production of bile was a function of the liver, were in a pit that had no bottom and no way out. In the notes to his published lecture, he quoted sympathetically Dr. F. C. S. Schiller, of Oxford, from his Riddles of the Sphinx: "That materialism is a hysteron proteron, a putting of the cart before the horse, which may be rectified by just inverting the connection between matter and consciousness. Matter is not that which produces consciousness but that which limits it."
And again, to quote Professor Schiller: "Matter is an admirably calculated machinery for regulating, limiting, and restraining the consciousness which it encases. . . . If the material encasement be coarse and simple, as in the lower organisms, it permits only a little intelligence to permeate through it; if it is delicate and complex, it leaves more pores and exits, as it were, for the manifestations of consciousness. . . . On this analogy, then, we may say that the lower animals are still entranced in the lower stages of brute lethargy, while we have passed into the higher phase of somnambulism, which already permits us strange glimpses of a lucidity that divines the realities of a transcendent world."
Professor Schiller was at one time connected with a great American university which did not appreciate him, but he was at once received with open arms by the University of Oxford. He has since proved himself a great psychologist and a great writer.
It is a significant fact that Harvard University has not seen fit to invite men for the Ingersoll Lectureship who, besides their learning, had a firm faith in their immortality and could support their faith by their own realization and academic learning. There are many of these men in India, graduates of Oxford and Cambridge. I have in mind especially P. Ramanathan, K.C., C.M.G., Solicitor-General of Ceylon, whose published works are ample evidence of his great scholarship and of his knowledge of Eastern philosophy. I have no doubt that he is himself an ascetic and a Knower of the Soul.
My father once induced him to deliver a lecture before an American university, but he was quite too much for the ordinary academic professor. He tried to describe the state of isolation or aloneness, known in India as Kaivalya, where the soul comes face to face with itself, and God who is in it. They could not think of knowing anything outside of the discursive intellect. They might admit that the intellect alone could not know the soul of man, but they could not admit that the soul alone could know the real self as distinct from the body.
A quarter of a century ago there was published posthumously two large volumes entitled, Human Personality and its Survival of Bodily Death, by Frederick W. H. Myers. Professor Myers was not only a psychologist in the true sense of the word, but he had the stamp of the University upon him, and was classical lecturer at the University of Cambridge. He was considered the first Virgil scholar in England. As a matter of fact, his classical training was the best that an English university could give. His prose and his poetry place him definitely in the class with genius, and his untimely death was an irreparable loss to scholarship and to the higher psychology.
In the first volume there is a long chapter on genius. My father was so impressed by his treatment of the subject that he wrote to the publishers begging them to have this chapter separately published in book form, and it would have made a very handy little volume. The publishers objected, as well as the family; and there was at least this basis for the objection that other chapters in the book had a close relationship to this special chapter. This work must stand as an opus magnum. It was based on the long and sympathetic work of Professor Myers as a member of the English Society for Psychical Research. Its influence has been world wide. Certainly the Boston Society for Psychic Research was a good first follower along the same lines.
In this chapter, Professor Myers characterizes genius as an "uprush" from a deeper consciousness, from a diviner self, from a deeper consciousness than the ordinary consciousness which we understand as the I am I. The whole chapter would have to be read to take in the full scope of his treatment of the subject, as well as its brilliancy. I shall only quote three paragraphs to give a general idea of his views. In a skilful way Mr. Myers compares the different depths of consciousness to the solar spectrum and those regions which lie beyond normal vision.
"I am not indeed here assuming that the faculty which is at the service of the man of genius is of a kind different from that of common men, in such a sense that it would need to be represented by a prolongation of either end of the conscious spectrum. Rather it will be represented by such a brightening of the familiar spectrum as may follow upon an intensification of the central glow.
"The solar spectrum itself, as all know, is by no means a uniform or continuous band of coloured lights. It contains many dark lines, where some element held in vaporous suspension absorbs the special line of light which the still hotter vapour of that same element characteristically emits. Still more dimmed and interrupted are the spectra of some other stars. Bands and bars of comparative darkness stud their dispersed light. Even thus the spectrum of man's conscious faculty is not a continuous but a banded spectrum. There are groups of the dark lines of obstruction and incapacity, and even in the best of us a dim, unequal glow.
"It will, then, be the special characteristic of genius that its uprushes of sumliminal faculty will make the bright parts of the habitual spectrum more brilliant, will kindle the dim absorption-bands to fuller brightness, and will even raise quite dark lines into an occasional glimmer. But if, as I believe, we can best give to the idea of genius some useful distinctness by regarding it in such way as this, we shall find also that genius will fall into line with many other sensory and motor automotisms to which the word could not naturally be applied. Genius represents a narrow selection among a great many cognate phenomena, — among a great many uprushes or emergencies of subliminal faculty both within and beyond the limits of the ordinary conscious spectrum." — Myers, Vol. I, p. 78
And now official psychology is treating of the subconscious state, one it has long pooh-poohed, and in many instances it is making a mess of it. Personally, I get nothing out of these books. If the new catch-word and fashion known as "Behaviorism" gives us any glimpses into the human soul I am not aware of it. Mr. Myers tries to show that through a study of certain forms of automatisms, and an analysis of works of genius, especially where the authors have attempted to show how they produced their work, he has more fully elaborated his theory of genius as an "uprush" from this deeper consciousness.
As a starting point he gives some examples of mathematical prodigies where it is quite evident that the ordinary mental processes of the schools can have no predominant influence in the case.
A small boy of six years, walking with his father before breakfast, asked his father at what hour he was born. He was told 4 a.m. What o'clock is it now? He was told 7.50 a.m. In a short while the child told his father how many seconds he had lived. The father on returning home made the calculation and told his son he had made a mistake of 172,800 seconds, to which the child replied: "Oh, papa, you have left out the two days for the leap years, 1820 and 1824." Now this is not ordinary schoolroom mentality, however brilliant, but something a great deal more. These examples might be increased to great length, and examples demanding a more subtle mathematical mind. Professor Myers gives these examples as admitting of some degree of quantitative measurement.
Of his manner of work, De Musset wrote: "On ne travaille pas, on ecoute, c'est comme un inconnu que vous parle a l'oreille."
And Lamartine: "Ce n'est pas moi qui pense; ce sont mes idees qui pensent pour moi."
These expressions are illuminating. Mr. Myers analyses at some length George Sand and Wordsworth, both having given some idea of how they produced their work, and especially Wordsworth.
George Sand in a way was the most remarkable woman of her generation. While in her youth she ignored conventions, her mature years were those of calm and normalcy, to use a word which I do not very much like. Her portrait by Thomas Couture shows a face of great calm and character. Mr. Myers writes:
"George Sand throughout long years of healthy maturity and age formed a striking example of the combination of enormous imaginative productiveness with inward tranquillity and meditative calm. What George Sand felt in the act of composition was a continuous and effortless flow of ideas, sometimes with and sometimes without an apparent externalization of the characters who spoke in her romances."
We have another interesting example with Dickens. Mrs. Gamp, his greatest creation, he tells us (generally in church), spoke to him as with an inward monitory voice. (Myers, Vol. I, p. 106.)
Quotations might be given indefinitely where the poets and artists have given expression to their mental and spiritual states while under the spell of creative work; but I must quote from Mr. Myers certain passages from Wordsworth which give perhaps fuller expression to that spiritual state which produces a work of art which the world recognizes as a work of genius. I might mention in passing that Lord Tennyson has himself tried in well known lines to give some idea of this state, which has been described as ecstasy, or trance, where the consciousness becomes intensified and expands apparently to a limitless extent.
"Let us begin with the strictly limited inquiry from which we started, and let us consider merely the description given by this one poet of the apparent content of moments of profound inspiration. We find Wordsworth insisting, in the first place, upon the distinctive character of this subliminal uprush.
"He speaks of the 'haze within,' which becomes
'A tempest, a redundant energy
Vexing its own creation.'
"Of 'imagination' he says (Book VI):
'That awful Power rose from the mind's abyss,
Like an unfathomed vapour that enwraps,
At once, some lonely traveller. I was lost;
Halted without an effort to break through;
But to my conscious soul I now can say:
'I recognise thy glory'; in such strength
Of usurpation, when the light of sense
Goes out, but with a flash that has revealed
The invisible world, doth greatness make abode.'
"Of childish hours the poet says:
'Even then I felt
Gleams like the flashing of a shield; the earth
And common face of Nature spake to me
"And in a further stage he writes:
'An auxiliar light
Came from my mind, which on the setting sun
Bestowed new splendour.'
"And still further:
Were utterly forgotten, and what I saw
Appeared like something in myself, a dream,
A prospect in the mind.'
'In a world of life they live,
By sensible impressions not enthralled,
But by their quickening impulse made more prompt
To hold fit converse with the spiritual world.' — (Myers, Vol. I, pp. 110-111)
Of course, the subject can be elaborated to vast proportions and to unmanageable bulk.
In a subsequent chapter, Mr. Myers has dwelt at length on Plotinus, who represents the Neo-Platonists, and who has described at length the mystery of trance and illumination, that entrance into a wider and deeper consciousness:
"So let the soul that is not unworthy of that Vision contemplate the Great Soul; freed from deceit and every witchery, and collected into calm. Calmed be the body for her in that hour, and the tumult of the flesh; ay, all that is about her, calm; calmed be the earth, the sea, the air, and let Heaven itself be still. Then let her feel how into that silent heaven the Great Soul floweth in. . . . And so man's soul be sure of Vision, when suddenly she is filled with light; for this light is from Him, and is He; and then surely shall one know His presence when, like a god of old time, He entered into the house of one that calleth Him, and maketh it full of light."
"And how," concludes Plotinus, "may this thing be for us? Let all else go."
In the study of literature as literature the discriminating student must see a vast difference between merely intellectual and research work, and that creative work known as genius. And the more we study carefully this difference the more does Mr. Myers' theory come to us at least as a working hypothesis and a guide to distinguish the two forms of literary production. If we study, for example, the literary work of Macaulay as a historian, we see at once great talent and great scholarship, and we also see throughout the whole work a great uniformity. There is a high level of literary excellence, but we fail to get any of those uprushes from the deeper self which mark the character of genius. Even in the Lays of Ancient Rome we are still on the borderland of that faery land of fancy; but this nearer approach to this faery land will give the lays a longer life than the history. Gibbon's history, a greater work, is still the result of great research and learning, and will long stand as a monumental work, but it may well be questioned whether his prose approaches closer to this mystic land of fancy. An impassioned prose can show genius just as clearly as the poetic form. Lincoln's Address at Gettysburg is a good example.
In the study of poetry, even among the greatest poets, we do not get uniformity. There are vast differences showing how differently the uprushes have come. It is unnecessary to quote examples. All lovers of literature will see this.
Many years ago Max Nordau wrote a voluminous work on "Degeneration," to try to show that genius was abnormal and allied to insanity. I reviewed the work and criticized it severely at the time. He could not show that genius itself was abnormal, however many examples he could bring forward as concomitants of genius. The brain, as a physical organ of the physical body, controls it. The ordinary moral and steady man, alive to all conventions, under the direct control of the supraliminal world escapes many of the dangers where this brain and will are less cohesive and less efficient, and where deeper forms of consciousness take control, and the will and the nervous system show less balance and less efficiency. How often do we find that where there is brain degeneracy the reflexes are over active, showing that the spinal cord has more control. And so with genius, the deeper self ignores more the ordinary man, with his conventions and his steadiness, and his will to do as his good neighbour does. It becomes a law unto itself, and while the man must come within the jurisdiction of the law and the police-court, the world should think of him more as an unfortunate in polite society than as a criminal to be punished. Of course, many great geniuses could be mentioned who were everything that society could demand, and who were admired as men of great character and uprightness. The great thing is to discriminate between the normal deep self and the physical organism through which it has to function. The artist is real, but the instrument is out of tune.
The time has come when psychical research must be recognized as a valuable contribution to psychology, let alone its efforts to prove survival after bodily death. As a matter of fact, there are many centres all over the civilized world where men of intellect and real scientific ability are studying the phenomena of the unusual and the supernormal, mental and psychical states, viewed with a sympathetic yet not uncritical or unscientific attitude. The English, French, German, and Italian investigators have produced a great mass of observations and literature on automatism, both motor and visual, and we are beginning to see into the secrets of the subconscious as well as the deepest regions of consciousness, showing us how little of the real self we are aware of, a self which seems without limit, apparently omniscient and all powerful, beyond all limitations of time and space, and where earthly things and interests grow pale and indistinct.
During Mr. Myers' life automatic writing, so called, had not advanced or shown much to us of the subconscious, beyond more descriptive writing, and so-called evidential stuff, pointing to the survival of the self after bodily death; but since then, due undoubtedly to a greater general interest in the matter and more experimentation, this form of automatism has made great strides and has increased in quality in certain instances to an astounding extent. For instance, the literature concerning the Glastonbury scripts, and all the events and personages connected with its history, and the automatic drawings of the great abbey, will long mark a great forward step in this line of psychical research. The scripts of Mrs. Hester Dowden are of equal value, and more recently the Chronicles of Cleophas, as automatically written by Miss Cummins, have been studied and criticized by the best Biblical scholars as to the accuracy of Hebrew and Greek terms or proper names relating to the time of Christ. They are of surpassing interest, and in our own country, a script known as Patience Worth, automatically written under the hand of a Mrs. Curran, of St. Louis, beginning with the Sorry Tale, published by Henry Holt & Co., has grown into such proportions as to demand its own publishing company, and even its own magazine, and where, outside of mere descriptive literature, we have evidence of real genius, and genius working with lightning rapidity, responsive to almost any subject.
Dr. Walter Franklin Prince, Ph.D., executive research officer of the Boston Society of Psychic Research, has just published a work of 509 pages, entitled The Case of Patience Worth: A Critical Study of Certain Unusual Phenomena. This book must attract wide attention for its critical and scientific worth, as well as for its literary value as mere literature. It should have a wide circulation.
In the Sorry Tale, also in our library, we have a life of Christ full of local colour, written in a spirit of deep reverence and piety. The language is archaic and dialectal, which may deter many from reading it, for the general public has grown so accustomed to facile reading, as well as facile thinking, that it has no time for more attentive reading and thinking. The Life of Christ by Renan, long regarded as a very great work by a great scholar, and recognized as a great work in the literature of any country, may be viewed in comparison with the Sorry Tale. The life of Christ, aside from the study of the four Gospels, offers little enough for mere historical research and scholarship to the devot. The subject demands a wholly different treatment. It ceases to be historical in a way and becomes an apotheosis of the divine person, the glorification of the Son of God, and the facts and teachings of the New Testament require the touch of genius where beautiful pictures and images are brought before the reader as a background to the mere teaching. In the Sorry Tale you can see that this has been attempted. The life of Christ has become a drama where we see before us the landscapes of Palestine and the streets of Jerusalem with its everyday life. It becomes a story, rather than a history. Christ becomes both the man and the divine person. We see the street scenes as in a moving picture, the very dogs in the street, and the ill-smelling camels, with their burdens, and as Christ and the persons connected with Him have been the theme for the greatest artists in the world, so the written picture demands unequalled genius. Now this has been at least attempted in the Sorry Tale. You feel that the treatment has been one of reverence and piety, and that the story has been told by a true follower.
I am glad to see the appearance of two new books which follow more closely the latter model. One is by a French writer, Alphonse Seche, The Radiant Story of Jesus, and the other is by a Hindu, A. J. Appasamy, Christianity as Baktimarga, Baktimarga meaning the way of love. And let me say right here that the Hindu idea has always seemed to me more expressive of the divine Christ and His glorious presence and personality than the ordinary run of books on the subject in the Western world.
The case of Patience Worth has seemed to me of special interest and value as throwing some light on the mystery. Through the hand of one psychically gifted, but not to be classed with the elect, has come a literary effort giving undoubted evidence of genius. It is a sort of artificial genius. F. W. H. Myers alone seemed to see the value of certain psychical phenomena as an approach to the great mystery. His characterizations can all be checked off, so to speak, with certain phases of psychical phenomena; the automatisms, the visualizations, the spontaneity, the tireless uprushes, and the winged and vitalized thoughts independent of the conscious or unconscious automaton. In Patience Worth we see it giving expression with lightning rapidity. While we often see this improvization, I know of no example outside the mathematical genius where the response is so immediate. The treasure is all there ready and eager for the uprush. The diver has picked his pearl and is anxious to reach the surface. Once only was there any hesitation, and that was when a child's prayer was asked for, and it took a month for its full expression; when it came it was a real bit of genius, as much so as Newman's Lead, Kindly Light, and perhaps more difficult of accomplishment. Natural, or artificial, so called, basically they must be the same, and the source, whatever the opening way, must also be the same. In the higher realms this opening way becomes as wide as the universe, and all is simple comme bonjour. I am quite sure that Shakespeare's greatest flights were the easiest. I would point to a characteristic of genius not especially emphasized by Myers, but which is also found under other conditions and among other types of men.
In a presidential address before the American Philosophical Association at Columbia University, December 28th, 1906, by Professor William James, on "The Energies of Men," he has treated the subject in his usual lucid way. He speaks of the reservoirs of power which ordinary men fail to tap, but which, when available, increase man's actions and accomplishments far beyond our usual conceptions of his energies. Great emotional strains, great devotion to some coveted object, a burning sense of patriotism, and especially genius itself, may awaken dormant powers whose onward course no obstacles can stem. In its essence this energy is but a dominant and well-directed will. This will is what distinguishes men and gives them what we call character. As Novalis describes it, "A character is a completely fashioned will" (Vollkommen gebildeter Wille). The emotions lead to action, but there must be the will back of the emotion. We can point to many examples of this among geniuses. George Eliot could keep up long-sustained mental work without fatigue. Myers speaks of George Sand's long consecutive hours of composition. In a recent Life of her, entitled George Sand, the Search for Love, by Marie Jenny Howe, she gives us very definite details of the wonderful flow of her productive work. She would sit for hours writing off page after page, sometimes to the break of day, and then take a long walk in the woods to get some fresh air in her lungs. Of course, there must be the "uprush from the subliminal self," but there must also be the will and energy to carry it along.
Now I contend that H.P.B. had this energy to a superlative degree. She had her uprushes, and with them "the thews of Anakim, the pulses of a titan's heart." I was fortunate to come across a letter from my father in which he writes: "Mme. B. has gone. Though there were many things unpleasant in her stay with us, altogether we enjoyed her visit. She is a very remarkable woman, a woman of a frantic intensity. I never knew such a worker. She would write from morning until midnight often, without stopping longer than to take dinner and make a cigarette. She smoked two hundred cigarettes in a day. Beardsley has taken some magnificent pictures of her. I shall send you one as soon as they are ready. . . ."
Here is another expression of my father in a letter dated October 2nd, 1875: "Mme. B. is still with us. She gives us a good deal of trouble, and we get very little from her in return, for she is occupied wholly with her own work. I had expected we should have some 'sittings' together; but she is not only not disposed, but is decidedly opposed to anything of the kind. She is a smart woman, but ignorant of all the graces and amenities of life. She is a great Russian bear."
This energy continued up to the last day of her life. Even near the end, when dropsical from nephritis, she continued this Herculean effort as though the very world depended upon it.
As Witte wrote in his Memoirs: "Let him who still doubts the non-material origin and the independent existence of the soul in man, consider the personality of Madame Blavatsky. During her earthly existence she housed a spirit which was no doubt independent of physical and physiological being. As for the particular realm of the invisible world from which that spirit emerged, there may be some doubt whether it was inferno, purgatory, or paradise. I cannot help feeling that there was something demoniac in that extraordinary woman."
But we must make some allowance for the opinion of a very conservative, conventional, and ambitious diplomat whose ambitions were wholly material and selfish.
As Professor Myers in his characterization allows the genius to describe his own psychical experience, we may allow H.P.B. to describe the workings of her own psyche, a description more intimate and more illuminating than any record we possess. Before her eyes passes a phantasmagoria of oriental splendour, richer than Kubla Khan, and yet infused with the images of the Western world; it is a meeting of the East and the West, pictures in detail as well as composite.
In the course of another family letter, she writes (Incidents in the Life of Madame Blavatsky, by A. P. Sinnett, George Redway, London, 1886):*
"Upon my word I can hardly understand why you and people generally should make such a fuss over my writings, whether Russian or English! True, during the long years of my absence from home, I have constantly studied and have learned certain things. But when I wrote Isis I wrote it so easily, that it was certainly no labour, but a real pleasure. Why should I be praised for it? Whenever I am told to write, I sit down and obey, and then I can write easily upon almost anything — metaphysics, psychology, philosophy, ancient religions, natural sciences, or what-not. I never put myself the question: 'Can I write on this subject?' . . . or, 'Am I equal to the task?' but I simply sit down and write. Why? Because somebody who knows all dictates to me . . . MY MASTER, and occasionally others whom I knew in my travels years ago. . . . Please do not imagine that I have lost my senses. I have hinted to you before now about them . . . and I tell you candidly, that whenever I write upon a subject I know little or nothing of, I address myself to Them, and one of Them inspires me, i.e. he allows me to simply copy what I write from manuscripts, and even printed matter that pass before my eyes, in the air, during which process I have never been unconscious one single instant. . . . It is that knowledge of His protection and faith in His power that have enabled me to become mentally and spiritually so strong . . . and even He (the Master) is not always required; for, during His absence on some other occupation, He awakens in me His substitute in knowledge. . . . At such times it is no more I who write, but my inner Ego, my 'luminous self,' who thinks and writes for me. Only see . . . you who know me. When was I ever so learned as to write such things? . . . Whence all this knowledge? . . ."
On another occasion again she wrote also to her sister:
"You may disbelieve me, but I tell you that in saying this I speak but the truth; I am solely occupied, not with writing Isis, but with 'Isis' herself. I live in a kind of permanent enchantment, a life of visions and sights with open eyes, and no trance whatever to deceive my senses! I sit and watch the fair goddess constantly. And as she displays before me the secret meaning of her long lost secrets, and the veil becoming with every hour thinner and more transparent, gradually falls off before my eyes, I hold my breath and can hardly trust to my senses. . . . For several years in order not to forget what I have learned elsewhere, I have been made to have permanently before my eyes all that I need to see. Thus, night and day, the images of the past are ever marshalled before my inner eye. Slowly, and gliding silently like images in an enchanted panorama, centuries after centuries appear before me . . . and I am made to connect these epochs with certain historical events, and I know there can be no mistake. Races and nations, countries and cities, emerge during some former century, then fade out and disappear during some other one, the precise date of which I am then told by . . . Hoary antiquity gives room to historical periods; myths are explained by real events and personages who have really existed; and every important and often unimportant event, every revolution, a new leaf turned in the book of life of nations — with its incipient course and subsequent natural results — remains photographed in my mind as though impressed in indelible colours. . . . When I think and watch my thoughts, they appear to me as though they were like those little bits of wood of various shapes and colours, in the game known as the casse tete: I pick them up one by one, and try to make them fit each other, first taking one, then putting it aside, until I find its match, and finally there always comes out in the end something geometrically correct. . . . I certainly refuse point-blank to attribute it to my own knowledge or memory, for I could never arrive alone at either such premises or conclusions. . . . I tell you seriously I am helped. And he who helps me is my Guru. . . ."
There can be no difficulty in classifying this extraordinary spirit, and in classifying her we are following entirely the classification so eloquently set forth by Professor Myers. It was the spirit of a genius of one idea, of one purpose, of one absorbing desire, of one exalted idea, and she must be judged wholly as a genius and by what she accomplished.