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WE ARE GLAD TO ANNOUNCE THE FORMATION AT Benares of a new Arya Samaj with nearly fifty members, as the first fruits of Swamiji Dayanand's labors at that sacred place. The officers are: President, Pandit Amar Nath; Vice-President, Dr. Harishchandra Sarma; Secretary, Moonshi Bakhtour Singh; Assistant-Secretary, Shew Gobind Singh; Treasurer, Gangadin; Librarian, Narayan Singh. Mr. Gangadin and other gentlemen of Benares have also organized an English Debating Club with the design of improving the members in the English language. We heartily wish both success.
A SOCIETY CALLED THE ARYA HITAISHINA SABHA, has been formed at Shajahanpur with the laudable object of intellectual, social and moral improvement. It is under the management of Lala Bahadur Lal, late Honorary Magistrate, and has Babu Sital Das Bandgopadhyai as Secretary. The reading of good publications; the "reformation" of injurious social customs and helping creatures in want; and the attainment of "the end to which the soul is tending, by following the true course of Nature or laws of God"; and the listening to lectures and participation in debates — are covered by the Sabha's programme. Secrecy is to be observed as to the investigations in psychological matters — a most sensible rule.
IN THE COURSE OF AN ELABORATE ESSAY ON "The Greek Oracles," Mr. F. W. H. Myers gives some very interesting information as to the beliefs entertained by the ancients on what we should now call the spirit-control. Porphyry tells how the "demon" (spirit) sometimes speaks through the mouth of the "recipient" (medium) who is entranced: sometimes presents himself in an immaterial or even material form. The trance-state is mixed with "exhausting agitation or struggle." Right choice of time and circumstances for inducing the trance-state, and obtaining oracular replies, is, according to Porphyry, most important, for a Pythian priestess (medium) compelled to prophesy (speak in trance), while under control of an alien spirit, died; and, under unfavorable conditions, "the spirit would warn the auditors that he could not give information, or even that he would certainly tell falsehoods on that particular occasion." "On descending into our atmosphere, the spirits become subject to the laws and influences that rule mankind . . . and then a confusion occurs; therefore, in such cases, the prudent inquirer should defer his researches, a rule with which inexperienced investigators fail to comply."
Given a favorable day, and a "guiltless intermediary" (a true medium), some confined space would then be selected so that the influence should not be too widely diffused. This place was sometimes made dark, and the spirit was invoked with "yells and singing." During this singing, the medium "falls into an abnormal slumber which extinguishes for the time his own identity, and allows the spirit to speak through his lips," or, in the exact words of Porphory, "to contrive a voice for himself through a mortal instrument. — Spiritual Notes.
It is now some time since this theory, which was first propounded in the oldest religion of the world, Vedaism, then taught by various Greek philosophers, and afterwards defended by the Theosophists of the Middle Ages, but which came to be flatly denied by the wise men of the West, like everything else, in this world of negation, has been gradually coming into prominence again. This once, contrary to the rule, it is the men of science themselves who take up. Statistics of events of the most varied nature are fast being collected and collated with the seriousness demanded by important scientific questions. Statistics of wars and of the periods (or cycles) of the appearance of great men — at least those as have been recognised as such by their contemporaries and irrespective of later opinions; statistics of the periods of development and progress at large commercial centres; of the rise and fall of arts and sciences; of cataclysms, such as earthquakes, epidemics; periods of extraordinary cold and heat; cycles of revolutions, and of the rise and fall of empires, &c.; all these are subjected in turn to the analysis of the minutest mathematical calculations. Finally, even the occult significance of numbers in names of persons and names of cities, events, and like matters, receives unwonted attention. If, on the one hand, a great portion of the educated public is running into atheism and scepticism, on the other hand, we find an evident current of mysticism forcing its way into science. It is the sign of an irrepressible need in humanity to assure itself that there is a Power Paramount over matter; an occult and mysterious law which governs the world, and which we should rather study and closely watch, trying to adapt ourselves to it, than blindly deny, and break our heads against the rock of destiny. More than one thoughtful mind, while studying the fortunes and reverses of nations and great empires, has been deeply struck by one identical feature in their history, namely, the inevitable recurrence of similar historical events reaching in turn every one of them, and after the same lapse of time. This analogy is found between the events to be substantially the same on the whole, though there may be more or less difference as to the outward form of details. Thus, the belief of the ancients in their astrologers, soothsayers, and prophets might have been warranted by the verification of many of their most important predictions, without these prognostications of future events implying of necessity anything very miraculous in themselves. The soothsayers and augurs having occupied in days of the old civilizations the very same position now occupied by our historians, astronomers and meteorologists, there was nothing more wonderful in the fact of the former predicting the downfall of an empire or the loss of a battle, than in the latter predicting the return of a comet, a change of temperature, or, perhaps, the final conquest of Afghanistan. The necessity for both these classes being acute, observers apart, there was the study of certain sciences to be pursued then as well as they are now. The science of to-day will have become an "ancient" science a thousand years hence. Free and open, scientific study now is to all, whereas it was then confined but to the few. Yet, whether ancient or modern, both may be called exact sciences; for, if the astronomer of to-day draws his observations from mathematical calculations, the astrologer of old also based his prognostication upon no less acute and mathematically correct observations of the ever-recurring cycles. And, because the secret of this science is now being lost, does that give any warrant to say that it never existed, or that, to believe in it, one must be ready to swallow "magic," "miracles" and the like stuff? "If, in view of the eminence to which modern science has reached, the claim to prophesy future events must be regarded as either a child's play or a deliberate deception," says a writer in the Novoye Vremya, the best daily paper of literature and politics of St. Petersburg, "then we can point at science which, in its turn, has now taken up and placed on record the question, in its relation to past events, whether there is or is not in the constant repetition of events a certain periodicity; in other words, whether these events recur after a fixed and determined period of years with every nation; and if a periodicity there be, whether this periodicity is due to blind chance or depends on the same natural laws, on which are more or less dependent many of the phenomena of human life." Undoubtedly the latter. And the writer has the best mathematical proof of it in the timely appearance of such works as that of Dr. E. Zasse, under review, and of a few others. Several learned works, treating upon this mystical subject, have appeared of late, and of some of these works and calculations we will now treat; the more readily as they are in most cases from the pens of men of eminent learning. Having already in the June number of the THEOSOPHIST noticed an article by Dr. Blohvitz. On the significance of the number seven, with every nation and people — a learned paper which appeared lately in the German journal Die Gegenwart — we will now summarize the opinions of the press in general, on a more successive work by a well-known German scientist, E. Zasse, with certain reflections of our own. It has just appeared in the Prussian Journal of Statistics, and powerfully corroborates the ancient theory of Cycles. These periods, which bring around ever-recurring events, begin from the infinitessimal small — say of ten years — rotation and reach to cycles which require 250, 500, 700 and 1000 years, to effect their revolutions around themselves, and within one another. All are contained within the Maha-Yug, the "Great Age" or Cycle of the Manu calculation, which itself revolves between two eternities — the "Pralayas" or Nights of Brahma. As, in the objective world of matter, or the system of effects, the minor constellations and planets gravitate each and all around the sun, so in the world of the subjective, or the system of causes, these innumerable cycles all gravitate between that which the finite intellect of the ordinary mortal regards as eternity, and the still finite, but more profound, intuition of the sage and philosopher views as but an eternity within THE ETERNITY. "As above, so it is below," runs the old Hermetic maxim. As an experiment in this direction, Dr. Zasse selected the statistical investigations of all the wars, the occurrence of which has been recorded in history, as a subject which lends itself more easily to scientific verification than any other. To illustrate his subject in the simplest and most easily comprehensible way, Dr. Zasse represents the periods of war and the periods of peace in the shape of small and large wave-lines running over the area of the old world. The idea is not a new one, for, the image was used for similar illustrations by more than one ancient and mediaeval mystic, whether in words or picture — by Henry Kunrath, for example. But it serves well its purpose and gives us the facts we now want. Before he treats, however, of the cycles of wars, the author brings in the record of the rise and fall of the world's great empires, and shows the degree of activity they have played in the Universal History. He points out the fact that if we divide the map of the Old World into five parts — into Eastern, Central, and Western Asia, Eastern and Western Europe, and Egypt — then we will easily perceive that every 250 years, an enormous wave passes over these areas, bringing into each in its turn the events it has brought to the one next preceding. This wave we may call "the historical wave" of the 250 years' cycle. The reader will please follow this mystical number of years.
The first of these waves began in China, 2,000 years B. C. — the "golden age" of this Empire, the age of philosophy, of discoveries and reforms. "In 1750 B. C., the Mongolians of Central Asia establish a powerful empire. In 1500, Egypt rises from its temporary degradation and carries its sway over many parts of Europe and Asia; and about 1250, the historical wave reaches and crosses over to Eastern Europe, ruling it with the spirit of the Argonautic expedition, and dies out in 1000 B. C. at the siege of Troy."
A second historical wave appears about that time in Central Asia. "The Scythians leave her steppes, and inundate towards the year 750 B. C. the adjoining countries, directing themselves towards the South and West; about the year 500 in Western Asia begins an epoch of splendour for ancient Persia; and the wave moves on to the east of Europe, where, about 250 B. C., Greece reaching her highest state of culture and civilization — and further on to the West, where, at the birth of Christ, the Roman Empire finds itself at its apogee of power and greatness."
Again, at this period we find the rising of a third historical wave at the far East. After prolonged revolutions, about this time, China forms once more a powerful empire, and its arts, sciences and commerce flourish again. Then 250 years later, we find the Huns appearing from the depths of Central Asia; in the year 500 A. D. a new and powerful Persian kingdom is formed; in 750 — in Eastern Europe — the Byzantine empire; and, in the year 1,000 — on its western side — springs up the second Roman Power, the Empire of the Papacy, which soon reaches an extraordinary development of wealth and brilliancy.
At the same time, the fourth wave approaches from the Orient. China is again flourishing; in 1250, the Mongolian wave from Central Asia has overflowed and covered an enormous area of land, including with it Russia. About 1500, in Western Asia, the Ottoman Empire rises in all its might and conquers the Balkan peninsula; but at the same time in Eastern Europe, Russia throws off the Tartar yoke, and about 1750, during the reign of Empress Catherine, rises to an unexpected grandeur and covers itself with glory. The wave ceaselessly moves further on to the West, and, beginning with the middle of the past century, Europe is living over an epoch of revolutions and reforms, and, according to the author, "if it is permissible to prophetize, then, about the year 2,000, Western Europe will have lived one of those periods of culture and progress so rare in history." The Russian press, taking the cue, believes that "toward those days the Eastern Question will be finally settled, the national dissensions of the European peoples will come to an end, and the dawn of the new millenium will witness the abolishment of armies and an alliance between all the European empires." The signs of regeneration are also fast multiplying in Japan and China, as if pointing to the approach of a new historical wave at the extreme East.
If, from the cycle of two-and-a-half century duration, we descend to those which leave their impresses every century, and, grouping together the events of ancient history, will mark the development and rise of empires, then we will assure ourselves that, beginning from the year 7O0 B. C., the centennial wave pushes forward, bringing into prominence the following nations — each in its turn — the Assyrians, the Medes, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Macedonians, the Carthagenians, the Romans and the Germanians.
The striking periodicity of the wars in Europe is also noticed by Dr. E. Zasse. Beginning with 1700 A. D., every ten years have been signalized by either a war or a revolution. The periods of the strengthening and weakening of the warlike excitement of the European nations represent a wave strikingly regular in its periodicity, flowing incessantly, as if propelled onward by some invisible fixed law. This same mysterious law seems at the same time to make these events coincide with astronomical wave or cycle, which, at every new revolution, is accompanied by the very marked appearance of spots in the sun. The periods, when the European powers have shown the most destructive energy, are marked by a cycle of 50 years' duration. It would be too long and tedious to enumerate them from the beginning of History. We may, therefore, limit our study to the cycle beginning with the year 1712, when all the European nations were fighting at the same time — the Northern, and the Turkish wars, and the war for the throne of Spain. About 1761, the "Seven Years' War"; in 1810 the wars of Napoleon I. Towards 1861, the wave has a little deflected from its regular course, but, as if to compensate for it, or, propelled, perhaps, with unusual forces, the years directly preceding, as well as those which followed it, left in history the records of the most fierce and bloody war — the Crimean war — in the former period, and the American Rebellion in the latter one. The periodicity in the wars between Russia and Turkey appears peculiarly striking and represents a very characteristic wave. At first the intervals between the cycles, returning upon themselves, are of thirty years' duration — 1710, 1740, 1770; then these intervals diminish, and we have a cycle of twenty years — 1790, 1810, 1829-30; then the intervals widen again — 1853 and 1878. But, if we take note of the whole duration of the in-flowing tide of the warlike cycle, then we will have at the centre of it — from 1768 to 1812 — three wars of seven years' duration each, and, at both ends, wars of two years.
Finally, the author comes to the conclusion that, in view of facts, it becomes thoroughly impossible to deny the presence of a regular periodicity in the excitement of both mental and physical forces in the nations of the world. He proves that in the history of all the peoples and empires of the Old World, the cycles marking the milleniums, the centennials as well as the minor ones of 50 and 10 years' duration, are the most important, inasmuch as neither of them has ever yet failed to bring in its rear some more or less marked event in the history of the nation swept over by these historical waves.
The history of India is one which, of all histories, is the most vague and least satisfactory. Yet, were its consecutive great events noted down, and its annals well searched, the law of cycles would be found to have asserted itself here as plainly as in every other country in respect of its wars, famines, political exigencies and other matters.
In France, a meteorologist of Paris went to the trouble of compiling the statistics of the coldest seasons, and discovered, at the same time, that those years, which had the figure 9 in them, had been marked by the severest winters. His figures run thus: In 859 A. D. the northern part of the Adriatic sea was frozen and was covered for three months with ice. In 1179, in the most moderate zones, the earth was covered with several feet of snow. In 1209, in France, the depth of snow and the bitter cold caused such a scarcity of fodder that most of the cattle perished in that country. In 1249, the Baltic Sea, between Russia, Norway and Sweden remained frozen for many months and communication was held by sleighs. In 1339, there was such a terrific winter in England, that vast numbers of people died of starvation and exposure. In 1409, the river Danube was frozen from its sources to its mouth in the Black Sea. In 1469 all the vineyards and orchards perished in consequence of the frost. In 1609, in France, Switzerland and Upper Italy, people had to thaw their bread and provisions before they could use them. In 1639, the harbour of Marseilles was covered with ice to a great distance. In 1659 all the rivers in Italy were frozen. In 1699 the winter in France and Italy proved the severest and longest of all. The prices for articles of food were so much raised that half of the population died of starvation. In 1709 the winter was no less terrible. The ground was frozen in France, Italy and Switzerland, to the depth of several feet, and the sea, south as well as north, was covered with one compact and thick crust of ice, many feet deep, and for a considerable space of miles, in the usually open sea. Masses of wild beasts, driven out by the cold from their dens in the forests, sought refuge in villages and even cities; and the birds fell dead to the ground by hundreds. In 1729, 1749 and 1769 (cycles of 20 years' duration) all the rivers and streams were ice-bound all over France for many weeks, and all the fruit trees perished. In 1789, France was again visited by a very severe winter. In Paris, the thermometer stood at 19 degrees of frost. But the severest of all winters proved that of 1829. For fifty-four consecutive days, all the roads in France were covered with snow several feet deep, and all the rivers were frozen. Famine and misery reached their climax in the country in that year. In 1839, there was again in France a most terrific and trying cold season. And now the winter of 1879 has asserted its statistical rights and proved true to the fatal influence of the figure 9. The meteorologists of other countries are invited to follow suit and make their investigations likewise, for the subject is certainly one of the most fascinating as well as instructive kind.
Enough has been shown, however, to prove that neither the ideas of Pythagoras on the mysterious influence of numbers, nor the theories of ancient world-religions and philosophies are as shallow and meaningless as some too forward free-thinkers would have had the world to believe.
By Barada Kanta Majumdar.
* The fondness of the Asiatic mind for allegory and parable is well illustrated in this paper on Tatrik Occultism. To a Western man, who cannot read the meaning between the lines, it will very likely seem void of sense. Thus the atharva Veda appeared to Max Muller only 'theological twaddle,' whereas its text is full of profound philosophy and proves that its author or authors were intimately acquainted with the hidden energies of nature. The significant feature of the present essay is that the Tantrik Yogi, from whom whose work the extracts are translated, knew the great and mysterious law that there are within the human body a series of centres of force-evolution, the location of which becomes known to the ascetic in the course of his physical self. development, as well as the means which must be resorted to, to bring the activities at these centres under the control of the will. To employ the Oriental figurative method, these points are so many outworks to be captured in succession before the very citadel can be taken. — H.S.O.
There is a point beyond which experimental science cannot go; and that is the point which divides the empire of what is called matter from the empire of force. Certainly the physicist is acquainted with the nature and laws of certain forces, or, more correctly, certain modifications of some mysterious force, but beyond this every thing is in darkness. To the modern scientist the land of mystery is sealed with seven seals. His instruments and machines, his scalpel and retort, serve him ill to solve the grand problem of existence. Is there no hope then? Are there no means by which the occultism of nature may be revealed to man? Aryan philosophy says there are. But the ways are different. The external senses are but the vehicles for communicating to the mind impressions of those objects which these senses can take cognizance of. But these senses are not adapted to receive impressions of the ultra-gaseous or force state of matter. Sight, smell, hearing, touch and taste are essentially those attributes of the mind which under certain conditions receive physical impressions from things without and transmit those impressions to an observant faculty within. And yet a proof of the existence of these attributes of the mind is best had in the dream state, when not only is mental vision brought in requisition, but smell, taste, touch and hearing, all have their fair play independently of the external senses. When we confess to ourselves the existence of matter and force which are not cognizable by the senses, we can, perhaps, safely look upon the mind as the only agent that can perceive such subtle phenomena; for in one state at least, I mean dream, we know of its independent powers to see, hear, &c. This clairvoyance of the mind was known to the ancients many thousand years ago. During their trance state (samadhi), the Yogis, by means of inner vision, could see the mysterious agencies of nature underlying the universe.
In verse 61, Chapter XVIII. of the Bhagabagita, Sri-Krishna says to Arjun, sitting in the hearts of the created objects, "Oh Arjun, God turns the machinery by his Maya." But nowhere in that learned philosophy is any mention made of what this machinery of Maya is, and how it is worked. Purnananda Goswami, an eminent Tantrik Yogi, who lived more than two hundred years ago, has left a book in Sanskrit, the name of which is Shat Chakrabhed, in which he treats of the occult nerves and forces in the human body. Mention of these nerves and forces, however, is to be found in the Brahmananda Purana, (Uttra-gita, Chapter II., verses from 11 to 18), but credit is due to the Tantrik author for having described them at length. It is to be regretted that the author has used figurative language throughout the work, which renders it valueless, except to such as have the key to the allegories.
The six revolving wheels of force, mentioned in the sequel, are connected with one another and are further connected with the grand machinery of Maya pervading the Universe. It is not to be supposed that there is in reality any wheel or lotus in the human body; the author means only to point out the active centres of certain forces.
Outside the spine, to the left, is the Ira nerve, resplendent like the moon, and, to the right, is the Pingala nerve, resplendent like the sun. Between these nerves, that is, within the canal of the spine, is the Sushumna nerve, effulgent like the sun, moon and fire, and possessing the three attributes of Satwa, Rajas and Tamas. Assuming the shape of a full-blown Datura metel towards the Muladhar Padma (radical substratum of the psychological forces), it extends to the crown; and within the aperture of this nerve is a nerve called Bajra, extending from the to the crown. The interior of this latter nerve is perpetually blazing.
"Within this blaze of the Bajra nerve is a nerve called Chitrini, girdled by the Pranava (that is, the three powers explicated by it) and fine as the spider's web. This nerve permeates the six lotuses (the trijunction points or cells where the Ira and the Pingala nerves meet with the Sushumna nerve) on the Sushumna nerve. Within the Chitrini is a nerve called Brahma nerve, which extends from the mouth of the great positive force (Mahadeva) in the first cell to the crown.
"There is a very delightful place (the fissure of Sylvius?) where the mouth of the Brahma nerve emits nectar. This place is the function of the frontal lobe with the temporal lobe of the cerebral hemispheres and is the mouth of the Sushumna nerve."
The author now proceeds to describe the seven systems of psychological forces pervading the body through the cerebro-spinal cord. There are seven points where the spinal accessory nerves, Ira and Pingala, meet with the Sushumna nerve. Each of these points is called a lotus. I will in the sequel call them cells.
"The first cell, called Adhar Padma.
"This cell is situated on the Sushumna nerve below the pudendum virile and above the fundament. It is bright as gold and has four petals of the color of Bignonia Indica, symbolized by the four letters ba, sa, sa and sha. It is situated topsy-turvy.
"Within this cell is the quadrangular mundane discus surrounded by eight spears, soft and yellow as the lightning. Within this discus is deposited the procreative semen virile.
"This semen virile is decorated with four hands and is mounted on the elephant of India. In its lap is the creator-boy, having four hands and holding the four Vedas in his mouth.
"Within the quadrangular discus above referred to, is a goddess (passion, I believe] named Dakini with swinging four hands and blood-red eyes. She is glorious like twelve suns rising at the same time; but visible only to the pure-minded Yogi.
"Within the pericarp of the Bajra nerve, bright as the lightning, is the philoprogenitive triangular discus of Tripura Devi. Within this discus is the air of Kandarpa (cupid), which is capable of passing freely through all the members of the body. It is the sovereign lord of animals, is blown like the Banduli flower and glorious like hundreds of millions of suns.
"Within it is the phallus of a Siva, facing west, his body soft like melted gold, embodiment of wisdom and communion, red like a new twig, and soft as the beams of the moon. It lives in the sacred city (Kasi), is full of felicity and is round like a whirlpool.
"Fine as the string of the stalk of lotus plays above this phallus the charmer of the Universe (Kulakundalini), extending to the nectar-flowing fissure of the Brahma nerve. Like the lightning playing in new clouds and the spiral turn of a shell, she rests over the phallas in three and a half circles as does the sleeping serpent over the head of Siva.
"This Kulakundalini, residing in the Muladhar Padma, hums like the bee inebriated with the nectar of flowers, and by distributing the inspiration and respiration of animals keeps them alive.
"Within this Kulakundalini, subtiler than the subtilest and, resplendent as the lightning, is Sri Parameswari (that is, Prakriti or mundane source), whose brightness manifests the Universe like a caldron."
The second cell, called Swadhishtan Padma.
"On the Sushumna nerve is another cell at the root of the puendum virile, which is red like vermillion and bright as lightning. It has six petals symbolized by the six letters ba, bha, ma,ya, ra and la.
"Within this lotus is the white discus of Baruna (Neptune), in which is the seed, , argent like the autumnal moon) having crescent on its forehead and mounted on . [The Sanskrit word is , means Baruna, but I don't know what this means.]
"In the lap of this seed, blue like the cloud, young, and wearing red cloth is Hari (positive force) having Sribatsa and Koustava-mani on his breast, and holding the four Vedas in his four hands with Lakshmi (negative force).
"Within the said discus is a goddess, Rakini, her color is like the blue lotus, holding many arms in her hands ready to attack, wearing many ornaments and apparel, and his mind inebriated.
"Who can realize the discus of Varuna in his mind becomes in a moment freed from individual consciousness and emerging from the darkness of folly shines like the sun."
(To be continued.)
Rajshahi in Bengal, April 1880.
By V. P. Zelihovsky.*
* Written for the THEOSOPHIST, by a near relative of ours, as the truthful narrative of an occurrence which set the whole town and the police of Tiflis aghast.
At the end of November, 1879, occurred in our town of Tiflis (Russian Caucasus) an event so extraordinary and incomprehensible, as to persuade more than one hitherto sceptical person that there must be some truth in the belief of the spiritualists. It is in the police and criminal records now, and can be verified at any day. I was a witness to it myself, and the chief personages of the tragedy live but a few steps from my own family residence in the Nicolaefskaya Street, which adjoins the Ovtchalsk Street, where stands the house of the Kaazmin family. The event is thus summed up in the police records: —
"The discovery of the crime is due to the apparition of the murdered man himself, in full daylight and before a number of witnesses."
In the Molokan quarter, on the outskirts of Tiflis, between the garden of Moushtaid and the railroad, lives a widow, whose only son, Alexander, a lad of about eighteen, left free after his father's death to do as he pleased in the house and with himself, soon fell into bad company and took uncontrollably to drink. The mother was in despair; she preached and begged and threatened, but all in vain. Alexander Kaazmin went on, and with every day matters became worse with him.
Once, before sunset, he left the house after quarreling with his mother. She had insisted upon his remaining at home, for she well knew he would return drunk. Though he had deceived her more than once, and usually broke his promises, yet this time as he had solemnly pledged his word to come home earlier, the mother, having put the youngest girls to bed, sat at her work to await the return of her prodigal son.
Thus she sat quietly sewing, eagerly catching every sound, in the hope of hearing the creak of the opening gate and the familiar footsteps; but she listened in vain. Hours passed on, and midnight struck at last. The silence was profound around her, and no sound was heard but the chirp of the cricket behind the fire-place, and the monotonous ticking of the clock . . . . Of late, her Sashka (diminutive for Alexander) had been more than once absent on drunken sprees for days together, but the poor widow had never awaited him with such an anxiety as on that memorable night, and never longed so despairingly to see him back. Several times she had gone outside the gate to watch for his return. The night was frosty and as light day, the November moon being at the full.
Two o'clock . . . then three in the morning! . . . The sad mother went once more into the street, and seeing no one, with a heavy sigh concluded to wait no longer and after shutting and firmly bolting the gate, went to her bed-room. But hardly had she crossed the threshold, when the iron latch of the gate was lifted, and the familiar footsteps of her son sounded heavily upon the frozen ground. She heard them across the yard, then pass under the windows toward the hall, but no one entered. Thinking that in her anxiety she had inadvertently fastened the hall door with the hook, she returned to open it for him.
Neither in the hall, nor in the yard was there any one; but the watch-dog, which had growled at first, was now howling and moaning piteously, and the gate which she had bolted stood wide open. . . . . . .
The heart of the mother was struck with terror. She ran out into the street again, looking to the right and left, — but not a soul was there to be seen at that late hour. With a heavy presentiment of something evil, she returned to her work, for she could sleep no more. There she sat — according to her own simple narrative — thinking how two years before, just before her husband's death, that same gate, do what they might, would not keep shut. It was useless to bolt it, however firmly, for as soon as shut, it would be flung open, as though some invisible hand had unbolted it. And this went on until the master's death. After they had buried him, the gate opened no longer. . . . . . .
While brooding over the past, and overcome by her sad thoughts, the widow suddenly fell asleep over the table. It was but for a moment, for she suddenly awoke, trembling from head to foot and covered with the cold sweat-terror; in vision she had seen her only son, calling her pitifully to his help, and she knew that he himself could come no more. She could hardly wait for day-break, and at early dawn sallied forth to search for her boy in all the neighbouring taverns and gin-shops. But Alexander Kaazmin could not be found, nor had any one seen him on the night before. The old woman had thus visited many drinking places, and was already returning home a few minutes before noon, tired out, and in both mental and physical agony.
Everywhere the quest was fruitless, and the load grew heavier on her heart at every disappointment. The passers-by looked wonderingly into her grief-stricken face, and some who knew would have stopped to ask the cause of her trouble and offer their help. But she saw no one, heard no one; one image alone occupied her thoughts, and her eyes wandered from face to face only to see if it were his, whom she sought, but finding it was not, looked no longer. The direful sense of impending disaster grew stronger every moment, and though she ceased not to look in every direction, despair possessed her soul more and more. Now she found herself in a crowd which had been gathered by some temporary obstruction of the footway, but she kept on, and the people, as though moved by the subtle influence of her sorrow, parted to the right and left for her that she might pass through. She had reached a street-corner and was about to cross when at the opposite side the figure of a young man whose back was towards her, arrested her attention. The mother's quick glance recognized it instantly as her Alexander's, and with a cry of joy she darted forward to catch hold of him. The man turned at the sound of her voice . . . yes, it was he, but how pallid! His face was bloodless as that of a corpse, and there was no life in the eyes that looked into her own, but a far-away look and an expression of pain that sent a thrill through her every fibre. "Sashka!", she screamed, "Sashka!" Some would have held her, thinking her ill, but she broke from them and ran to the place where she had seen him last. He was gone, she knew not whither, but she hurried away in the direction in which he had been proceeding — the pale, despairing face seeming to bid her follow. Again, but this time far away down the street she saw him, and pressed forward, determined this time not to lose sight of him. He had no hat on, and the November sun shone on his light hair so as to make it to her indulgent fancy, almost like a mass of golden thread. Once he seemed about to stop until she should come up, but he only raised his arm and beckoned to her, at the same moment turning the corner of a street which led towards her own quarter. Fear lent speed to her weary feet, and she ran as though she were a young girl again instead of a matron full of years. She reached the corner, turned it, but he was not in sight, though she could see farther than he could possibly have gone in the few seconds that had elapsed. She could not repress the groan that burst from her lips. And yet up to this moment, strangely enough, the idea had not occurred to her that she had not been seeing her own living son in flesh and blood. Truth to say, what with her night-long vigil, her anxiety, and the excitement of the day's adventures, she was in no mood to reflect. But now a superstitious horror came over her all at once. The death-like face, the vacant eye, the dumb appeal for her to follow, the disappearance and re-appearance, and now the final vanishing of the substantial figure into thin air, rushed to her consciousness in one crushing thought that her guide was but the spectre of her son. For a moment she tottered and everything swam before her eyes, she felt that she was about to swoon; but some new strength seemed suddenly given her, and she darted forward down the street.
She had ransacked, as she thought, every place of dissipation where Alexander would be likely to have passed his night of riot. Seeing the apparition no more she was perplexed which way to turn; but, just when her confusion of mind was greatest, an inner voice seemed to tell her to inquire in an inn situated close to her own house. It was not precisely a gin-shop, but a kind of eating-house and beer-drinking saloon combined, which her son was not in the habit of visiting. As it was Sunday the inn was full and customers plentiful at the bar. To the mother's questions, they all manifested sympathy for her, and answered kindly, but no one had seen her son.
Then Mrs. Kaazmin prepared to leave the place. The saloon door opened into a yard, in which an exterior wooden staircase led to the upper part of a building, a kind of loft where hay was stored. The poor mother, now convinced of her son's death, came out into the yard, followed by all the visitors of the beer-house and even by the proprietor of the place himself — an Armenian, all loudly expressing, their sympathy for her despair and trying to give her hopes. Suddenly as she turned to leave, her eye caught sight of the staircase of the hay-loft, and on the platform at the bottom, whom did she see but her son, Alexander, standing right before the middle one of three doors, the one of the staircase leading to the hay-loft. This at any rate could be no ghost, for there he was as solid and substantial as any of the men about her! In a gush of joy she exclaimed — "Sashka! . . . Thank God! . . . What are you doing there? . . . Here am I worrying myself to death in search of you, and you . . . there! Sleeping over the wine-fumes, no doubt? . . . Come here, you good for-nothing vagabond! . . . What are you beckoning me for?" But suddenly, her face became deadly pale, and she staggered. The remembrance had flashed upon her that now in full sunlight, and at noon, her son was repeating the same gesture of mute entreaty he had used in her vision of him, the night before, and his life had the very same awful look she had noticed in the street just now.
Then, a wild terror seized hold of the woman. To use the words of her own testimony in the police-court — she felt that something dragged her irresistibly there, towards her son; and, forgetting her fatigue and everything else, she rushed towards the staircase, and shouting to him to wait for her and not to go away again — for she now was convinced that she saw her living son — she flew up the steps taking two at a time. The witnesses to her conversation with empty space, and her strange actions testified, at the coroner's inquest and also in court, that they had verily believed her for one moment utterly insane.
Though her Alexander had again disappeared, and did not wait for his mother on the platform, she nevertheless felt, as she says, the same mysterious force dragging her across the yard, and compelling her to select out of the three doors before her the right one. Upon entering the hay-loft, the mother began loudly calling her son, but there was no answer. He was not there. . . .
"I cannot describe what then possessed me," she testified. "I neither felt astonished at the new disappearance, nor did I think of any thing, or desire for aught. I only felt, though I neither saw nor found him anywhere, that my son was there, near me! . . . There was a large bundle of hay lying on the floor . . . And I heard as if it were voice whispering within me: search it, search it . . . turn it over! . . . and I rushed to do so. I immediately found a pair of legs encased in boots, which I recognized; and before uncovering the rest of the body, I remember well . . . I pushed and shook the legs, as one does to awake a sleeping man, repeating loudly, 'Come, get up! you have had enough sleep there! Come out!' And then, seeing that he heeded me not, I uncovered his head and face . . . It was only then, that I saw he was indeed cold and dead! . . . But even then I did not feel surprised, I neither shouted nor screamed, but only turned round to call upon the witnesses, to see what I had discovered. . . . "
The amazed bystanders had, of course, followed her immediately into the hay-loft and had witnessed the strange scene. But, as soon as the legs had been round, some quick-witted men among them took upon themselves to secure the landlord. Livid and struck with superstitions terror, the doakhoantchik (inn-keeper), as soon as he had seen wither the mother was rushing to look for her son, Alexander, who had appeared to her alone — waited neither for police nor coroner, but falling upon his knees confessed before all the people that young Kaazmin had been killed.
The inquest now showed that neither the doakhanchik nor his two accomplices were murderers by premeditation, but only intended to gratify their baser instincts at his expense. Having plied the boy with drinks till he had become insensible, they wanted to have some "fun" they said, and dragging him to the hay-loft, piled upon him heaps of hay and pillows to stifle his cries. But they had miscalculated, it seems, the strength of the liquor and were very much astonished upon finding at the end of the "trick" that the victim had become quite stiff and lay before them — a corpse! Young Kaazmin had died of either apoplexy or suffocation!* Then, the playful brutes decided in their piety that such was the Will of God . . . and having covered the body with hay, waited for the following night to come to dispose of it in some ditch. They felt sure, they said, that the young man being known for a drunkard, his death would be attributed to apoplexy resulting from drink, and buried without any further enquiry.
* The Coroner's inquest brought out this fact.
So had the murderers decided, but not so the miserable Alexander Kaazmin, or his perisprit as the French spiritists would say. The wraith of the dead man had itself led the search for his sinful body.
By Rao Bahadu Gopalrao Hurree Desmukh,
Vice-President of the Theosophical Society.
The sacred literature of the Aryas is divided by the Brahmans who follow the right-hand way of worship () into three classes called from shruti or Vedas, from Rishees or literature composed by Rishees, and from or literature written by men.
The Tantric Brahmans, who follow the left-hand way of worship, take a different view. They divide the sacred literature into two classes or Vedic and or Tantric. They maintain that Tantras are like being mostly revealed by Shiv, the favourite deity of the Yogis. Kulucka Bhut in his commentary on the laws of Manu, says —
literature includes the whole range of the Vedic books, such as , and which collectively are called . There are different Shakhas, founded on different Vedas and different readings of the Vedas.
— Auxiliary sciences to four Vedas are called "Upvedas." These are and i. e., medicine, mechanics, music and military art.
is figuratively considered a person having six organs, described in the following verses —
These verses say that —
His legs are Prosody
His hands are Ritual or
His eyes are Astronomy
His ears are Vocabulary
His nose is Rules of Pronunciation
His mouth is Grammar
Whoever reads the Vedas with the help of these organs goes to the Heaven of Brahma. has minor organs or six Darshans or six systems of philosophy, called and .
Hence the complete study of the Vedas is called or swadhyaya .
Vedas are recited according to a peculiar musical system in eight ways, called
These originate in or separated words and or separated words twice repeated. There are five, called , and .
Now the second branch of the Aryan literature is . It includes or treatises on law and customs, and or religious legendary stories. These together are called .
A large number of these books and a variety of their character have induced Brahmans to divide them under three classes according to their own views. These classes are called and or divine, human and diabolical. This principle is sometimes applied to shruti also. is set down as though supported by Vedas.
are divided into and large and small.
are also divided into and .
There are other branches of the literature which go by the following names: —
1. — Ethics.
2. — Doctrine of devotion and faith as laid down by and .
3. — Rhetoric, including ,, &c.
4. — Culinary art.
5. — Treatise on relations between man and woman as laid down by and .
6. — Magic as laid down by Shiv.
7. — Political Economy.
Now the third class of the literature consists of books, written by the learned men in Kali age, within fifteen hundred years or from the time the Rishees ceased to exist or from the time the Sanskrit died as a spoken language. These works are collectively called and are variously styled as —
These works always depend for their authority on books of ; who preceded these learned men. The Rishees depend on for authority and is allowed to be authority by itself, never referring to any other authority. Hence it is called
Bombay, 5th May 1880.
By the Late Brahmachari Bawa.
Long before their discovery by the European astronomers, the theory of gravitation, and the fact that the earth revolves round the sun, and not the sun round the earth, was known to the Aryans, for in the fifth Varag of the fourth Adhyaya of the third Ashtak of the Sanhita in the Rig Veda there is this Shruti: —
It means that
— all objects are supported by their nourishing friend, the sun.
— the friend (the sun) attracts towards it the earth.
— not for a single moment is the earth freed from its attraction.
Now in this Shruti from the Vedas we find the earth to be the object attracted () and the sun the attractor (). And as the attractor will never revolve round the thing it attracts, it becomes clearly proved that the Aryans knew that it was the earth which revolved round the sun and not the sun round the earth.
The origin and formation of rain was not unknown to the Aryans, for there is the following Shruti about it in the eleventh Anuvak of the fourth Adhyaya of the second Ashtak of the Sanhita of the Apastamb Sakha in the Yajur Veda: —
It means that — heat (agni) is the cause of the rain.
— Marut or wind is the disperser and distributor of rain in the Shrusti.
— but the principal cause of rain is — the sun's heat (rasmi) which turns water into the steamy vapour and carries it upwards towards the sky.
— and it rains (when the vapour cooled comes down again in the shape of water).
There is also the following Samarti which gives the same reason for the formation and fall of rain.
In many other places in the Vedas there are full and descriptive accounts of the causes of rain. It would be needless to enumerate them here. In short one should know that there is nothing which cannot be found in the Vedas. Only the learned and the attentive will ever come to know what treasures lie buried within them.
It was Attraya Rushi who first discovered the cause of the eclipse of the celestial bodies, for there is the following Shruti in the fourth Ashtak of the Sanhita of the Asvalayan Sakha in the Rig Veda.
It means that — the luminous body () (sur) means a body which like the sun shines of its own light). — by the intervention of the darkness (tam) of the non-luminous-body (called asur or savarbhanu.*
* Asur, because it is not a sur or a luminous body; and Savarbhanu (1) because it cannot shine without the light of the Bhanu or luminous body, and (2) because it intervenes between our eyes and the luminous body.
— is prevented from being seen.
— Attraya Rishi knew this.
— it was not known to any one before him.
The Aryans knew that the earth was round, as will be seen from the following forty-third shloka of the twenty-third Adhyaya of the third Skandha, of the Shrimad or Vishnu Bhagvat.
Here now means that the earth is round.
Vyas has also said something about it in the Wudyoga Parva in the Bharat.
In the same way in the Siddhantshiromani of the Jyotish Shastra it is said that : — the earth is round.
But the Aryans also knew that the earth was not exactly round as will be seen from the roots of the antique words Brahmand and Bhumandal. The word Brahmand literally means "a large egg," and Bhumandal means the sphere of the earth," "the spherical earth."
They knew the other heavenly bodies to be also spherical, for they called the lunar orb , and the sun the .
That the heavenly bodies were inhabited was not unknown to them, as will be seen from the words , .
There are a great many proofs of their knowledge of the different planets which compose the Solar System. The days of the week were named after the different planets. The first day of the week is called after the sun, because the sun is the centre of our Solar System and because he is the first cause of the system of measuring time. The second is called after the moon; for in the system of reckoning time the moon on account of its proximity to the earth is found to be of greater importance than the other more distant planets. Its daily motions and phases are more conspicuous than those of the other planets.
The Aryans were great explorers of the countries on the face of the earth, and knew the science of measuring heights (distances, &c.), because in the twenty-fifth shloka of the tenth Adhyaya of Bhagvat Gita it is said that the first among mountains is the Himalaya.
From the following shloka of the Jyotish Shastra, the reader can judge how well the ancients knew about the force of the gravitation of the earth.
It means that the earth has within it its attractive power whereby things in the sky are attracted towards it, and that is why bodies seem (to us) to fall downwards. In fact they do not fall. They are drawn by the attraction of gravitation. In the infinite extent of space where should bodies reside or stand? There only where they are drawn by the force of attraction.
Rev. A. L. HATCH, CONGREGATIONAL MINISTER, of 59, Liberty Street, New York, furnishes the following statement to the New York World: --
"You know he [Mr. Edison] is a medium, and his great invention of the quadruplex telegraph instrument was revealed to him in a trance state. He sat one day and passing into that condition seized some paper lying before him, and wrote until he had filled several sheets with closely-written notes. Then waking up, and rubbing his eyes, he said he thought he had been asleep, until his attention was called to the paper, which he had not read through before he broke out with his usual expletives, and said he had got the idea he had been struggling for so long."
By Rao Bahadur Dadoba Pandurang.
There may be but few languages in the world, if any, which abound in such a large number of synonyms as the Sanskrit. This is a fact of which every student of that language becomes fully aware at the very threshold of his studies, which threaten, as he progresses on, the imposition of no small task on his memory; and if he happen to be a wavering and fickle-minded student, the very phalanx of these synonyms is quite enough to deter him from the prosecution of his further studies in that noble language. For who will have patience enough to study a language which contains no less than 135 names or words meaning the sun, 104 meaning the moon, 87 meaning the earth, 55 meaning water, 74 meaning fire, 45 meaning the horse, 30 meaning a male elephant, 5 meaning a female elephant, 33 meaning the cow; 43 names of Vishnu, (not to speak of his thousand names or attributes mentioned in the Vishnu Sahasranama) 169 names of Shiva, (independent of his thousand names mentioned in the Shiva Purana), 80 names of Indra, and so forth.
Now any person of common intelligence would at once perceive from such a large number of words apparently conveying in each case, and to all intents and purposes, precisely the same idea, that if analysed, a large number of them could not be otherwise than mere epithets or attributes, disclosing at the same time, many qualities, virtues, or other incidental circumstances, inseparably associated with those ideas or objects. To illustrate this, I shall first begin with the name of God — the Supreme Being; then those of the divinities, or chief gods and goddesses of the Aryan mythology, and at last those of other common objects which fall under the cognizance of our senses.
I and my learned friend, Rao Babadur Gopalrao Hari Deshmukh, have already explained at some length the monosyllabic Om as expressive of the name of the Supreme Being, used at the commencement of every holy prayer of the Brahmans (vide Theosophist Nos. 5, 8). I shall now begin here with the holy Vyahriti, which immediately follows the Pranava or Onkara in the recitation of the Vedic mantras and prayers by the Brahmana priest. It points more to the idea of the locus or space co-incident with the Supreme Spirit, rather than to the circumincumbent spirit himself. Both being co-eval and co-existent, the two ideas can never be so separated as to form a distinct duality. Hence, the Vyahriti is the necessary concomitant of the Pranava. Bhur Bhuvar Swar is the vocal form of the Vyahriti, and the necessary appendix to the Onkara. It consists of three sylables — Bhur, Bhuvar, Swar, which point respectively to the three regions of the whole universe, viz., the lower, the middle, and the upper; the three forming the triple universe, one within the other, and each extending its influence all around, though in different degrees. These three regions are occupied by the Great Spirit, Brahma, under its now Pauranika and adorable name Vasudeva or Vishnu.
Vishnu. — This name is derived from the root Vis to pervade with the affix nu, meaning all-pervading — the all-pervading spirit. In the course of time as the exigency of the human mind required a more tangible form of contemplation and worship, the mere abstract idea of the all-pervading spirit was personified into the tangible form of a benign and omnipotent god with four hands, each holding in it a symbol denotative of his power and attributes. In one hand he holds his shankha, or couch, by the blowing of which he is supposed to announce to the whole world that he is the creator and preserver of all. In the other he holds his chakra or wheel or discus, symbolic of the revolution of time, and the cycles of all the sublunary events; or the various dispensations of Providence. In the third hand be holds his gada or mace or club, giving thereby the whole world to understand that he is the chastiser of the wicked and the evil-doers; and that by its blows be is able to put down all the arrogance and pride of the world. In the fourth hand he at last exhibits his Padma or lotus flower, not only to appease and tranquillize the mind of his worshippers, and the virtuous, but to rejoice and gladden their hearts by his assurance that he will keep them as fresh and delightful as the flower itself which he holds in his hand. This is the true and philosophic meaning involved in the original conception of the form of Vishnu with his four hands holding four symbols, as represented in the Hindu pantheon.
I shall now represent another form of Vishnu recommended to all the Vaishnavas in their Dhyana Puja of that deity. It is epitomized in one shloka which is in the mouth of every Vaishnava. It is as follows:
Translation of the above.
"I salute Vishnu who is of peaceful form; who lies down on that great serpent; whose navel is lotus; who is the Lord of the gods; who supports the universe; who resembles the sky; whose colour is that of the cloud whose body is beautiful; who is the favorite of Lukshmi whose eyes resemble the lotus; who is apprehensible in meditation by the Yogis; who is the remover of the fears attending the present state of existence; and who is the only Lord of all the worlds."
Vishnu, the Supreme Spirit, is here represented as peaceful or tranquil, without motions or perturbations. The great serpent is here understood to be the Ananta — a name which etymologically means infinity — the great Spirit dwelling in infinity. Lotus is symbolical of the creative power of the Great Spirit; and that power inheres in him. The Lord of the gods, and the supporter of the universe, are attributes too plain to require any explanation. Lukshmi is the goddess of beauty and prosperity — the splendour of the whole universe, and the original conception of Vishnu as the favorite or husband of that goddess could mean no more than the fact that all the beauty and splendour of the universe proceed from him and are his. The other attributes, in fact all the attributes which are ascribed to Vishnu, are more applicable to him as the representative of the Saguna, (invested with attributes and property,) rather than of the Nirguna, (without attributes) Brahma. And, though the explanation offered herein may rightly be considered as forced and far-fetched when applied to Universal Spirit represented by Vishnu, — yet the original conception of the forms and personages which are usually ascribed to him and other divinities of the Hindu pantheon, can hardly be considered as altogether devoid of any deep and philosophical meaning, for their very preposterousness is hardly consistent and in harmony with the well-known wisdom and philosophic mind of the old Aryans, which gave birth to such original ideas.
But let it not for a moment be understood from my great inclination, as it might be thought, to philosophise such poetical ideas, that I am in any way blind to the great harm done by them to the development of right and correct understanding in the subsequent generations of the Hindus. Nay, on the contrary, I fully believe that such representations of the gods and goddesses of the Hindu mythology have furthered and encouraged the present idle and, in some respects, gross system of Hindu idolatry and superstitions.
Bombay, 9th June, 1880.
(To be continued.)
By Nicolas Lyeskof.*
*Author of the "On the Borderland of the World;" of "Laughter and Sorrow," etc. The latter novel, in the shape of an autobiography of a Russian nobleman, is a merciless satire against the terrorizing system of the Government during the reign of Emperor Nicolas, and also against abuses perpetrated in our present days. The hero, an unsuspecting character, is persecuted during his whole life with the friendship of a designing and ambitious young officer of the gendarmerie of the St. Petersburg secret police. Finding no opportunities to distinguish himself and thus obtain promotion, this "friend" ensnares the hero, leaves in his room forbidden books of a revolutionary character, passes him off for a political conspirator, arrests him and gets rewarded. The nobleman finally succumbs — the victim of a judiciary mistake in 1870. During the mutiny and persecution against the Jews in that year in Odessa, he, just as he arrived by the train from Moscow, is mistaken by the police for one of the chief mutineers, seized by the orders of the General-Governor Kotzebue and publicly flogged by the Cossacks. He dies of the shock, and the story ends there. M. N. Lyeskof is a well-known writer, and a contributor to various periodicals.
If the following narrative does not appear in the memoirs of the renowned, "St. Petersburg Decameron," * it is only because circumstances prevented me from taking advantage of the amiable invitation of the gentleman, in whose house the narratives, subsequently printed under this heading, were first made public. But now, when "the cultus of the dead" is followed by so many, I do not see why I should not also offer my mite to the "Decameron."
* The author alludes to a series of authenticated "ghost-stories" which appeared under this title in the St. Petersburg daily paper Novae Vryema.
My narrative — brief and truthful, as the feelings of friendship which bound me years ago to the ghost — differs from some of those given in the "Decameron" only in this, that I put no mask, but give the true names of the still living personages, members of our literary circle, who, whether directly or indirectly, found themselves connected with an event, which remained as strange and mysterious for me now, as it was when it took place.
In view of the very reasonable diffidence shown in the so-called "supernatural" phenomena, it appears to me of the utmost importance that the narrator of all such stories should never conceal himself. Thus, both the public and the critics would have a hold or a defendant whom they could always have the means of judging with all the severity of a critical exigency.
The event, I am about to speak of, concerns personally but myself and a late friend, once a great favourite in our literary circles — Arthur Benny; he it was of whom Tolbin (another departed writer) used to say, that he had found out for a certainty, that he was a disguised young English lady. In the prologue of the story there was, besides that, another personage as well known, the writer D. V. Averkief, who, I am sure, will forgive me for mentioning his name in connection with this story.
It was in St. Petersburg during the memorable winter when the political exile, V. J. Kelsief, having returned secretly to Moscow, Arthur Benny was charged of having sheltered and concealed him from the police.
Benny and I worked at that time on the journal "The Northern Bee," (Sevrnaya Ptcheyla). We were both young and great friends, visiting each other every day, and trying to be always together. Once, as I had to change my lodgings, to get nearer to our office, I found very easily rooms to suit me. As to Benny he had the greatest difficulty of securing a place suitable to his taste and habits. He had a mania for the largest rooms he could find, and such lodgings are very seldom procurable for bachelors. Having passed several days in vain search, one evening, just as I was at my dinner, he rushed into my rooms with a cry of triumph, explaining that he had found an elegant suit of three rooms, had secured them, and already dispatched his servant with his household goods and library. He wanted me to follow him immediately on the premises and help him to unpack his books, adding that our friend, D. V. Averkief, was there already. The latter inducement made me follow him as soon as my dinner was over. It must have been, therefore, about six p. m.
* * * *
The elegant suit of rooms were near the Stone Bridge. When we entered it, Averkief was already there, waiting for Benny. The apartment consisted, as he had told me, of three very large rooms, nearly all dark at that time, the hall alone, where too the servant was busy unpacking, being lighted, as well as the farthest room, in which, stretched upon a sofa, Averkief was reading at the light of one candle. Disorder was reigning everywhere as is usual in such cases, especially in the middle room in which heaped in confusion stood portable shelves, book-cases and library ladders, and books and manuscripts were scattered everywhere. As soon as we had arrived, Benny gave orders for tea, and himself began busying himself with the arrangement of his books, while Averkief, after exchanging a few words, returned once more to his reading. At first, I tried to help Benny in arranging his library, but got very soon tired, and threw myself into a large arm-chair. The servant after bringing the tea, retired into the hall, from whence we heard issuing in a few moments a tremendous snoring which nobody thought of interrupting. M. Averkief kept on reading while I sat silently musing. Benny alone, was diligently sorting his volumes. As collectors of books will often do, before placing a work upon the shelf, he would sometimes open and peruse it unconsciously to himself, read loudly a passage or two, think over it, and then read again, without caring whether any one listened to him or not. Such was his constant habit. Thus after a verse or two from the Bible in English, he would pick up a volume of Goete or Heine, and read from them in German, jumping from it to the poet he most favoured, Longfellow. Having discussed the merits and demerits of the Patriarch Jacob; meditated upon the inconceivable hallucination of Joshua, the son of Nun, in relation to the sun, and dusted Goete and Heine, Benny finally gave himself up entirely to the recitation of the favorite poem of his favorite Longfellow — the poet who handles with such delicacy and at the same time firmness of touch all the unsolved problems of life. . . . .
I cannot well recall now, how we began a conversation very unusual to both of us. We discussed about the universality of the belief in a future life and its possibility, now so variedly conceived and explained by the presentiment of mortals. Such a subject is, as all know, one of extraordinary elasticity and attraction, especially when it is taken in hand by persons who require no a priori deductions and conclusions. And Benny and I were just such men: none of us felt ashamed of his faith in that his "real self will escape decay and run away from death," and at the same time we never allowed ourselves to be carried away with the painful and hitherto, ever useless efforts of "solving the unsolvable."
As I well remember, the conversation led us to speak of Miss Catherine Crowe's work "The Night Side of Nature," in which, the authoress collated with evident conscientiousness such a number of authenticated events and stories, where, to all appearance, intelligent forces make themselves felt to men, thus manifesting their existence, sometimes their desires, and showing their predisposition towards the living.
In those days, I had not read the book myself, and therefore, listened to Benny — who had a wonderful memory, added to a remarkable gift of elocution — with great pleasure. It would seem that we had been talking in our half dark corner, very long; for at the time of a remark, which brought our conversation abruptly to a close, it was very late. It so happened that Benny in answer to a doubt expressed by myself as to the possibility of the objective manifestations of spiritual incorporeal beings to man, confessed in his turn that he had also similar doubts, but that, so many had testified to and believed in it, that it became hard to deny the fact against the face of such an evidence.
"Events are told of friends," he went on, "who intently bent upon the same question and, to test it personally, had exchanged pledge of honours to verify it. He who would be the first to leave life in this body — if there be any other life worthy of the name — was to direct all his efforts at the first moment of the return of consciousness to come back and thus testify to the fact to those who had survived him." And, he added, "as we are now three in the room, and that it is more than likely that one of us will become a corpse earlier than the two others who will thus remain witnesses to this conversation, I offer you a covenant, gentlemen. Let as swear mutually on our honour, that he, among us, who will die the first, will use every endeavour possible, under the conditions of that life of which we are ignorant, to send a message of the event to the other two. Do you accept? As I start the idea, I am the first to pledge my word to you for it most solemnly."
"In what shape, do you mean to return, Benny? You must not frighten us too much," I remarked laughing.
"Oh, no, why should I!" he answered with a merry laugh.
"I will do it thus: I. . . . . . ."
But, at this moment, D. V. Averkief nervously shouted from his sofa: "Do you mean to keep on long with this nonsense! You have unstrung all my nerves, and bothered me quite long enough with it, I believe?" . . . .
We tried to turn the whole into a joke, but Averkief, protesting with a great determination, declared that if we did not change our subject, he would immediately go home, the more so as it was getting very late.
As it was far after midnight, the unwelcome subject was dropped; and, very soon we both took leave of Benny and left the house together. As far as I remember, Averkief and I parted near the Bridge, without one word more said of it. But he must well remember this little circumstance, as, at our next meeting he reproved Benny and myself for such conversation. He was at the time very nervous and unwell, and we both tried to excuse ourselves.
And here ends the first act of the drama. The interval between this and the following was very, very long, and pregnant with events for Benny. The poor young man had more than his share of suffering for his noble-minded nature and love to humanity; he suffered want and privations, had to struggle hard and even found himself in prison, until exiled from Russia, he found himself finally among the ranks of the Garibaldians.
His exile, conjointly with another drama which shattered his life, forced him to isolate himself from anything that reminded him of it. When Benny was sent out of the country with an armed escort, I was at Kief, visiting friends; I had bidden him good bye, and parted from him in his prison, two months before his departure, and since then I had lost all sight of him. I had heard upon one occasion that he was upon the Saturday Review staff and that interesting articles, written by him about Russia, were at one time expected, from this quarter; but hardly had anything of the kind appeared. This connection was, however, discontinued and all remembrance of him was lost even in our literary circles.
As far as I can collect my remembrances, neither our conversation, on that night, nor his "word of honour" to send to me a message from the "world of the unknown," ever recurred to me again. The event was entirely obliterated from my memory. And, when it returned to me again, it was with such a freshness and reality that to this day, I have my doubts, whether my memory was not assisted in this case by one, who had just received that hour, another appellation in another world.
What I am about to relate, may seem very trifling and I am ready to submit to criticism with all humility; I would ask but one thing of the public, though, namely, to understand that the little I do say, is — positive truth, as neither seriously, nor jokingly would I permit myself to invent stories, taking for my hero, a deceased friend known to many, and that too, without any object or purpose.
The interval between the two acts had been in my case also memorable; I, too, had been — to use an expression of Oblomof — "handled by life," and it had left me but little time for mysticism; all of which did not prevent the following.
I was living then, at St. Petersburg, at the corner of Tauridian Garden, house No. 62. My library windows, on the third floor, were situated towards that garden, which had not lost then as it has now, its solitary beauty and freshness. Instead of an orchestra playing there, as in our days, Nachtigal-polka, real, silvery-toned, strong-voiced northern nightingales sing there at nights — and to them I used to listen with delight in my idle hours.
On one of such evenings, after having in turn sat at the window, and walked about the room, I finally settled at my writing-table and worked till midnight. In those days I was disagreeably occupied with fighting out a law-suit with the journal Zaria, which had confiscated during the term of two years, the whole time of the trial, my novel, the "Soborcaney," and thus, instead of rest I forced upon myself a far more inconvenient work*
* A Russian author
* * * * *
If I mention this at all, it is not to remind the public of personal matters which can interest but myself, but with the determined object of showing that there was nothing then, in my mental state, which could have predisposed me either to mystical reverie or hallucinations; but quite the contrary. I was utterly plunged into the prose and mire of daily life, with which I had to struggle, thinking of no one far away, but deeply engrossed in stemming the opposing torrent and militating against the charges of those very near me at that time.
It is in such a state that I, tired out mentally and physically, went to bed at about one o'clock, a.m., after pulling down the heavy draperies of the windows and putting out my student's lamp. The solitary street was quite still and everything quiet; the night was fresh and through the opened window the songs of the nightingales reached me as usual. I went to sleep immediately — sleeping for a long while dreamless, heavy sleep, until I suddenly found myself in the middle of a battle-field. I had never seen battles, but what I now witnessed was in a most extraordinary way, real and life-like. What struck me the most, was a smoky darkness, and running along it, a stream of red-bluish flashes of fire, mingling somewhere afar, with a blue and golden horizon, which had nothing of the Russian sky in it, and somebody falling. . . . One or many men — I could not say, but some one, whom I well knew had been struck down. . . . . I awoke with a start, and found myself sitting on my bed, and . . . . now heard distinctly terrific bombardment, while in my mind, without any apparent cause for it, arose as real as life the image of Arthur Benny and a voice inside me pronounced with the uttermost distinctness, his pledge — "the word of honour" — to warn me of his death. Why, and how, it has thus happened . . . I know not and at that time, I understood it less even than I do now. Isn't it perfectly immaterial whether I have to attribute it to a coincidence, and association of ideas, or the hallucination of a tired-out brain, once that it did so happen? I am ready to accept the explanation either way.
As it was nearly daylight then, I arose, and getting dressed, went down in the garden, having again forgotten all about my "nocturnal vision." I worked for an hour at my writing desk, and then left my rooms to go to Bazounof's Publishing Office. At the first corner of the street, I met P. S. Cussof,* who was driving in a drogki, and who upon perceiving me, made a sign to stop.
*A Russian author.
"Did you hear the news," he asked me, shaking hands.
At this very instant I felt that I did know the news and, mechanically, before realizing even what I did, I answered — Arthur Benny is dead?
Yes; the news is just received: he was wounded at Mentane, and died from hemorrhage. But how could you know? who told you?
I scarcely remember my answer to the enquiry; but what I strongly realized was my own astonishment at knowing the news without being told of it by any one. And to the present day it is as great a puzzle to me as ever; how could I have known of my friend's death? Yes; it must be a coincidence, an association of ideas, the hallucination of an overworked brain, — anything you like, — I am open to any of these theories, though I do not understand them clearly.
For some time I was greatly impressed by the event, and I unbosomed myself to several friends, among others to A. N. Aksakof; and then, I again forgot all about it and never remembered till last year when we got a sudden fancy of "turning over" from one side to the other our dead ones. And now, shall it make us any livelier?
Carlsbad, June 16, 1879.