The Master K. H. wrote to Mr. Sinnett in July, 1883: "You share with all beginners the tendency to draw too absolutely strong inferences from partly caught hints, and to dogmatize thereupon as though the last word had been spoken. You will correct this in due time." (M. L., p. 348)
H. P. B. proves in her first book, Isis Unveiled, that she is no beginner in Occultism, for nowhere throughout the book is there a touch of dogmatism; and far from creating the impression that she is giving "the last word" on her subject, she constantly reminds the reader that she is merely giving a hint here, opening a door a bit ajar there, or throwing out a suggestion for acceptance or rejection as it rings true or not in the ears of the reader. She does not seek to force her ideas on anyone, her watchword being, as stated in her Preface, "Truth, high-seated upon its rock of adamant, is alone eternal and supreme." (v) And further on (II, 126) she quotes from the book Supernatural Religion, which she says "carries conviction in its every line," the following:
"The only thing absolutely necessary for man is Truth, and to that, and that alone, must our moral consciousness adapt itself."
Exactly sixty years ago was Isis Unveiled written; yet we can find in its pages definite answers given or brilliant light thrown upon questions which are in the forefront of inquiring minds today, — such varied matters as
1. The Theosophical attitude towards Jesus and Christianity
2. The perplexing question of mediumship, and the difference between a medium and a mediator or an adept
3. The modus operandi of Fire-walking
4. Whether animals have souls
5. Whether Buddha taught a doctrine of annihilation
6. The true meaning of so-called miracles
7. The esoteric interpretation of many of the Christian scriptures
In the present article I have selected and grouped together a few only of H. P. B.'s answers to these and other questions; and I have purposely not attempted to make my selections exhaustive, partly because it would make too lengthy an article, and partly because my aim in writing the article is to inspire others, particularly of the younger generation, to turn to the pages of Isis itself, and find the treasures hidden in it.
We spend a good deal of time and thought nowadays attempting to make our presentation of Theosophy simple; but when H. P. B. came and did her work, for several years the Theosophists of her day had nothing simpler than Isis to turn to. The title of the book, by the way, proves in itself the inaccuracy of those who maintain that H. P. B. based all her philosophy on Hindu teachings alone. In ancient days there was a temple in the Egyptian town of Sais, dedicated to the Goddess Isis, and over its portico was the following:
"Isis am I. All which ever was, is, or will be; and no human has ever lifted my veil. The fruit which I brought forth became the Sun." And Dr. de Purucker, commenting on this says: "It is to this Inscription to Isis, the Mystical Goddess of Nature, spiritual and material, the great life-giving energy, the fructifying and mother-influence in the Universe, surrounded by her veil of nature, i. e., all the phenomenal worlds and hierarchies of beings, that H. P. B. referred when she spoke of the Veil of Isis; and she wrote her first book as she said in order to raise the veil of Isis, at least a little." It is interesting to note that when she started writing the book, she called it "The Veil of Isis," and the whole of the first volume had been written and printed when she found out that another book, obscure it is true, had already been published bearing that name. So she changed her title to "Isis Unveiled"; and I think it may be taken as a happy omen that after she had launched her work she found she was able to give the world more than just a glimpse behind the Veil.
The following gives us a further keynote to H. P. B.'s work. She says (II, 120):
It is not alone for the esoteric philosophy that we fight; nor for any modern system of moral philosophy, but for the inalienable right of private judgment, and especially for the ennobling idea of a future life of activity and accountability.
I will now copy, under their appropriate headings, quotations from Isis bearing on the various questions enumerated above; and they need little or no comment. In fact, I found that one did not improve on H. P. B. by trying either to paraphrase and condense, or enlarge and explain:
Jesus and Christianity.
To this day people — even some Theosophists who should know better — accuse H. P. B. of belittling Jesus and attacking Christianity. But read the following, which are only a few out of scores of passages in the book that show her fidelity to true Christianity. Whereas when H. P. B. began her work she had to attack vigorously the dogmas of the Christian Church which had a stranglehold upon people's minds at that time, nowadays when there is such a prevalence of the spirit of casting aside all religion, Christians can well turn to H. P. B. to find one of the greatest champions of their true religion.
In like manner, when I endeavor to destroy the current heathenism, which has assumed the garb of Christianity, I do not attack real religion. — I. U., II, 81
There never was nor ever will be a truly philosophical mind, whether of Pagan, heathen, Jew, or Christian, but has followed the same path of thought. Gautama-Buddha is mirrored in the precepts of Christ; Paul and Philo Judaeus are faithful echoes of Plato; and Ammonius Saccas and Plotinus won their immortal fame by combining the teachings of all these grand masters of true philosophy. — II, 84
The religion which the primitive teaching of the early few apostles most resembled — a religion preached by Jesus himself — is the elder of these two, Buddhism. The latter as taught in its primitive purity, and carried to perfection by the last of the Buddhas, Gautama, based its moral ethics on three fundamental principles. It alleged that 1, every thing existing, exists from natural causes; 2, that virtue brings its own reward, and vice and sin their own punishment; and, 3, that the state of man in this world is probationary. We might add that on these three principles rested the universal foundation of every religious creed; God, and individual immortality for every man — if he could but win it. However puzzling the subsequent theological tenets; however seemingly incomprehensible the metaphysical abstractions which have convulsed the theology of every one of the great religions of mankind as soon as it was placed on a sure footing, the above is found to be the essence of every religious philosophy, with the exception of later Christianity. It was that of Zoroaster, of Pythagoras, of Plato, of Jesus, and even of Moses, albeit the teachings of the Jewish law-giver have been so piously tampered with. — II, 123-4
And whatever Moses is now believed to have been, we will demonstrate that he was an initiate. — II, 129
The motive of Jesus was evidently like that of Gautama-Buddha, to benefit humanity at large by producing a religious reform which should give it a religion of pure ethics; the true knowledge of God and nature having remained until then solely in the hands of the esoteric sects, and their adepts. — II, 133
These murderous expressions illustrate the spirit of Christianity till this day. But do they illustrate the teachings of Christ? By no means. — II, 250
All this points undeniably to the fact, that except a handful of self-styled Christians who subsequently won the day, all the civilized portion of the Pagans who knew of Jesus honored him as a philosopher, an adept whom they placed on the same level with Pythagoras and Apollonius. Whence such a veneration on their part for a man, were he simply, as represented by the Synoptics, a poor, unknown Jewish carpenter from Nazareth? As an incarnated God there is no single record of him on this earth capable of withstanding the critical examination of science; as one of the greatest reformers, an inveterate enemy of every theological dogmatism, a persecutor of bigotry, a teacher of one of the most sublime codes of ethics, Jesus is one of the grandest and most clearly-defined figures on the panorama of human history. His age may, with every day, be receding farther and farther back into the gloomy and hazy mists of the past; and his theology — based on human fancy and supported by untenable dogmas may, nay, must with every day lose more of its unmerited prestige; alone the grand figure of the philosopher and moral reformer instead of growing paler will become with every century more pronounced and more clearly defined. It will reign supreme and universal only on that day when the whole of humanity recognizes but one father — the unknown one above — and one brother — the whole of mankind below. — II, 150-1
Alas, alas! How little has the divine seed, scattered broadcast by the hand of the meek Judean philosopher, thrived or brought forth fruit. He, who himself had shunned hypocrisy, warned against public prayer, showing such contempt for any useless exhibition of the same, could he but cast his sorrowful glance on the earth, from the regions of eternal bliss, would see that this seed fell neither on sterile rock nor by the way-side. Nay, it took deep root in the most prolific soil; one enriched even to plethora with lies and human gore! — II, 303
All this did Siddhartha six centuries before another reformer [Jesus], as noble and as loving, though less favored by opportunity, in another land. — II, 319
And these men — we will not say teach the doctrine of Jesus, for that would be to insult his memory, but — are paid to teach his doctrine! — II, 474
If we do not accept Jesus as God, we revere him as a man. — II, 530
Like Jesus, he [Gautama] felt dissatisfied with the dogmatic spirit of the religion of his country, the intolerance and hypocrisy of the priesthood, their outward show of devotion, and their useless ceremonials and prayers. As Buddha broke violently through the traditional laws and rules of the Brahmans, so did Jesus declare war against the Pharisees, and the proud Sadducees. . . . Each aimed at a social as well as at a religious reform; and giving a death-blow to the old religions of his countries, each became the founder of a new one. — II, 339
There is quite enough in the four gospels to show what was the secret and most fervent hope of Jesus; the hope in which he began to teach, and in which he died. In his immense and unselfish love for humanity, he considers it unjust to deprive the many of the results of the knowledge acquired by the few. . . . unity of a spiritual God, whose temple is within each of us. . . . — II, 561
Do these not sound as though H. P. B. had the true understanding of the life and work of Jesus because she came from the same Brotherhood that sent him forth?
Mediums, Mediators, and Adepts
This question is closely linked with the general subject of Spiritualism. About twenty-five years before H. P. B. began her public work the Spiritualists began their activities and naturally met with a great deal of opposition from the materialistic world of their day; but together with the truths that they had, some of them had wandered into many bypaths of error; so that although H. P. B.'s first endeavor was to vindicate the Spiritualists before the world, a good deal of her energy had to be expended in correcting their errors — for which she received no thanks from them.
We are far from believing that all the spirits that communicate at circles are of the classes called "Elemental," and "Elementary." Many — especially among those who control the medium subjectively to speak, write, and otherwise act in various ways — are human, disembodied spirits. Whether the majority of such spirits are good or bad, largely depends on the private morality of the medium, much on the circle present, and a great deal on the intensity and object of their purpose. . . . But, in any case, human spirits can never materialize themselves in propria persona. — I, 67
We will now only again assert that no spirit claimed by the spiritualists to be human was ever proved to be such on sufficient testimony. The influence of the disembodied ones can be felt, and communicated subjectively by them to sensitives. They can produce objective manifestations, but they cannot produce themselves otherwise than as described above. They can control the body of a medium, and express their desires and ideas in various modes well known to spiritualists; but not materialize what is matterless and purely spiritual — their divine essence. — I, 68
The rest of this and the following page and a half are worth turning to for a clear explanation on the subject of materializations and attractions. It is too long to quote in extenso here.
The mesmerizer wills a thing, and if he is powerful enough, that thing is done. The medium, even if he had an honest purpose to succeed, may get no manifestations at all; the less he exercises his will, the better the phenomena: the more he feels anxious, the less he is likely to get anything; to mesmerize requires a positive nature, to be a medium a perfectly passive one. This is the Alphabet of Spiritualism, and no medium is ignorant of it. — I, 109
About such men as Apollonius, Iamblichus, Plotinus, and Porphyry, there gathered this heavenly nimbus. It was evolved by the power of their own souls in close unison with their spirits; by the superhuman morality and sanctity of their lives, and aided by frequent interior ecstatic contemplation. Such holy men pure spiritual influences could approach. Radiating around an atmosphere of divine beneficence, they caused evil spirits to flee before them. Not only is it not possible for such to exist in their aura, but they cannot even remain in that of obsessed persons, if the thaumaturgist exercises his will, or even approaches them. This is mediatorship, not mediumship. Such persons are temples in which dwells the spirit of the living God; but if the temple is defiled by the admission of an evil passion, thought or desire, the mediator falls into the sphere of sorcery. The door is opened; the pure spirits retire and the evil ones rush in. This is still mediatorship, evil as it is; the sorcerer, like the pure magician, forms his own aura and subjects to his will congenial inferior spirits .
But mediumship, as now understood and manifested, is a different thing. Circumstances, independent of his own volition, may, either at birth or subsequently, modify a person's aura, so that strange manifestations, physical or mental, diabolical or angelic, may take place. Such mediumship, as well as the above-mentioned mediatorship, has existed on earth since the first appearance here of living man. The former is the yielding of weak, mortal flesh to the control and suggestions of spirits and intelligences other than one's own immortal demon. It is literally obsession and possession; . . .. This mediumship, whether beneficent or maleficent, is always passive. Happy are the pure in heart, who repel unconsciously, by that very cleanness of their inner nature, the dark spirits of evil. For verily they have no other weapons of defense but that inborn goodness and purity. Mediumism, as practiced in our days, is a more undesirable gift than the robe of Nessus. — I, 487-8
Far from us be the thought of casting an unjust slur on physical mediums . . . heaven knows, as recent events have too well proved, whether the calling is one to be envied by any one! It is not mediums, real, true, and genuine mediums that we would ever blame, but their patrons, the spiritualists. — I, 488-9
It is erroneous to speak of a medium having powers developed. A passive medium has no power. He has a certain moral and physical condition which induces emanations, or an aura, in which his controlling intelligences can live, and by which they manifest themselves. He is only the vehicle through which they display their power. . . . The medium's moral state determines the kind of spirits that come; and the spirits that come reciprocally influence the medium, intellectually, physically, and morally. The perfection of his mediumship is in ratio to his passivity, and the danger he incurs is in equal degree. When he is fully "developed" — perfectly passive — his own astral spirit may be benumbed, and even crowded out of his body, which is then occupied by an elemental, or, what is worse, by a human fiend of the eighth sphere, who proceeds to use it as his own. But too often the cause of the most celebrated crime is to be sought in such possessions.
Physical mediumship depending upon passivity, its antidote suggests itself naturally; let the medium cease being passive. Spirits never control persons of positive character who are determined to resist all extraneous influences. The weak and feeble-minded whom they can make their victims they drive into vice. — I, 490
How dangerous may often become untrained mediumship, and how thoroughly it was understood and provided against by the ancient sages, is perfectly exemplified in the case of Socrates. The old Grecian philosopher was a "medium"; hence, he had never been initiated into the Mysteries; for such was the rigorous law. But he had his "familiar spirit" as they call it, his daimonion; and this invisible counsellor became the cause of his death. It is generally believed that if he was not initiated into the Mysteries it was because he himself neglected to become so. But the Secret Records teach us that it was because he could not be admitted to participate in the sacred rites, and precisely, as we state, on account of his mediumship. There was a law against the admission not only of such as were convicted of deliberate witchcraft [an interesting footnote here that is worth turning to — E. V. S.] but even of those who were known to have "a familiar spirit." The law was just and logical, because a genuine medium is more or less irresponsible; and the eccentricities of Socrates are thus accounted for in some degree. A medium must be passive; and if a firm believer in his "spirit-guide" he will allow himself to be ruled by the latter, not by the rules of the sanctuary. A medium of olden times, like the modern "medium" was subject to be entranced at the will and pleasure of the "power" which controlled him; therefore, he could not well have been entrusted with the awful secrets of the final initiation, "never to be revealed under the penalty of death." The old sage, in unguarded moments of "spiritual inspiration," revealed that which he had never learned; and was therefore put to death as an atheist. — II, 117-8
The use of it [a mysterious science referred to in paragraph which precedes this one] is a longing toward our only true and real home — the after-life, and a desire to cling more closely to our parent spirit; abuse of it is sorcery, witchcraft, black magic. Between the two is placed natural "mediumship"; a soul clothed with imperfect matter, a ready agent for either the one or the other, and utterly dependent on its surroundings of life, constitutional heredity — physical as well as mental — and on the nature of the "spirits" it attracts around itself. A blessing or a curse, as fate will have it, unless the medium is purified of earthly dross. — II, 118
One of the ten fundamental propositions of the Oriental philosophy is:
6th. Mediumship is the opposite of adeptship; the medium is the passive instrument of foreign influences, the adept actively controls himself and all inferior potencies. — II, 588
The adept can control the sensations and alter the conditions of the physical and astral bodies of other persons not adepts; he can also govern and employ, as he chooses, the spirits of the elements. He cannot control the immortal spirit of any human being, living or dead, for all such spirits are alike sparks of the Divine Essence, and not subject to any foreign domination. — II, 590
But the seer-adept knows how to suspend the mechanical action of the brain. His visions will be as clear as truth itself, uncolored and undistorted, whereas, the clairvoyant, unable to control the vibrations of the astral waves, will perceive but more or less broken images through the medium of the brain. The seer can never take flickering shadows for realities, for his memory being as completely subjected to his will as the rest of the body, he receives impressions directly from his spirit. Between his subjective and objective selves there are no obstructive mediums. This is the real spiritual seership, in which, according to an expression of Plato, soul is raised above all inferior good. . . . — II, 591
. . . mediums are usually diseased, . . . The adepts of Eastern magic are uniformly in perfect mental and bodily health, and in fact the voluntary and independent production of phenomena is impossible to any others. . . . The adept retains perfect consciousness; shows no change of bodily temperature, or other sign of morbidity; requires no "conditions," but will do his feats anywhere and everywhere; and instead of being passive and in subjection to a foreign influence, rules the forces with iron will. But we have elsewhere shown that the medium and the adept are as opposed as the poles. We will only add here that the body, soul, and spirit of the adept are all conscious and working in harmony, and the body of the medium is an inert clod, and even his soul may be away in a dream while its habitation is occupied by another. — II, 595-6
"It requires no conjuration and ceremonies; circle-making and incensing are mere nonsense and juggling," says Paracelsus. The human spirit "is so great a thing that no man can express it; as God Himself is eternal and unchangeable, so also is the mind of man. If we rightly understood its powers, nothing would be impossible to us on earth. The imagination is strengthened and developed through faith in our will. Faith must confirm the imagination, for faith establishes the will." — II, 597
(To be continued)