THE DIRGE FOR THE DEAD
[Lucifer, Vol. III, No. 18, February, 1889, pp. 526-528] *
The interesting and highly-suggestive specimen of automatic writing that appeared in the December number of Lucifer is not a little remarkable in itself, but, pardon my saying, the theory put forward by you in explanation is very far from being satisfactory to the enquiring mind.† As to the dirge, I doubt if it be known to Egyptologists; it forms no portion of the Book of the Dead; there
* [This article is published here, out of its actual chronological sequence, because of its direct bearing upon the one that precedes it. The footnotes are by H. P. B.—Compiler.]
† No doubt it is not satisfactory to the Spiritualists, not any more than the doctrine of Purgatory or any other Roman Catholic tenet is satisfactory to the Protestant Predestinarian.—[ED.]
is no copy among the papyri of the British Museum; and its appearance on the mummy of the Ptolemaic period is probably exceptional.* But my interest in the subject centres in your explanation that the communication in question is a reminiscence of past incarnations, presumably of the higher Ego of the writer. This theory of the Theosophist stands opposed to the hypothesis of the Spiritualist, who maintains such communications to be what they profess to be, viz., revelations by an independent, super-mundane intelligence, given through the medium of another organisation. From the standpoint you occupy, and the superior knowledge you possess, your explanation may, for aught I know to the contrary, be the true one, but permit me to say, you have not succeeded in making
* The Editor has premised by saying in the introductory note (which, by-the-bye, was mangled out of recognition by some printer’s mistake, who dropped out two whole lines) that some Egyptologists may have seen it, but never said they did. Of course, it is not in the Book of the Dead. Still, the Editor has seen it, and copied its translation in French and in English; and what is more, the dirge (a name given to the writing by the editor) is absolutely identical in spirit and form with other such dirges. These were chanted, ages ago, first during the Mysteries, over the apparently lifeless and entranced bodies of the mystae who were made Epoptai—i.e., passing through the trial of their last initiation, when they became the “ Dead in life,” and later over the really dead––the mummies. It is this explanation, given in the two lines, which were omitted, or dropped out in printing, which thus disfigured the whole sense of the sentence; and putting a comma after “psychographic writers” followed only by the tail end of the above explanation, namely—”as we were told it was only in the days of Ptolemy that this dirge began to be chanted over the really dead or the mummy”—it made of the last closing sentence in the editorial preface perfect nonsense. Thus, it was not found on a “mummy of the Ptolemaic period,” but on one of the IVth or Vth Dynasty, if we remember right.—[ED.]
it even plausible to the average reader. * On the contrary, the impression left on my mind after reading the editorial note was that the Theosophical theory was trotted out in support of a preconceived doctrine rather than given as a scientific conclusion deduced from the facts. On the face of it the Theosophical theory fails either to cover the ground or explain the facts. My difficulty in accepting your theory of past reminiscences from former existences is not lessened by the mystery that surrounds the doctrine of reincarnation. As gathered from the lips of Theosophists and Theosophical literature, the doctrine appears to me to be largely tinctured by the Buddhistic school of thought through which it has descended. It savours of the company it has kept so long, which may account for the apparently contradictory theories obtaining on the subject of reincarnation.† The law of Karma, and the necessary and inevitable periodic return of the ego or astral monad into material existence, and on this planet as the universal destiny of every son and daughter of Adam, I understand to be the view of reincarnation held by Theosophists. But in Isis Unveiled, page 351, the following teaching is given:
* Very likely. But the remark cuts both ways since no more has the Spiritualistic explanation ever satisfied us, or appeared “plausible” to the average Theosophist. Not only does the theory of the returning “Spirits,” so called, militate against the whole teaching of the Occult Sciences as taught in the East (the broad reincarnation theory of the Buddhist and Hindu Esoteric philosophies being assuredly that of the Theosophists), but it goes against the writer’s personal experience of about 45 years’ duration.—[ED.]
† The two theories (those of the Spiritualists and Theosophists) are a matter of personal preference. None of us need enforce his views on the other, or those who may differ from him. Time alone can show which side is right and which wrong. Meanwhile, those who study seriously the doctrine of reincarnation, and those supernal Intelligences who can, and do communicate with persons still in flesh, will find no contradictory theories among us. No one can judge of such a difficult and abstruse subject on simple hearsay.—[ED.]
“Reincarnation, i.e., the appearance of the same individual, or rather of his astral monad, twice on the same planet,* is not a rule in nature; it is an exception, like the teratological phenomenon of a two-headed infant. It is preceded by a violation of the laws of harmony of nature, and happens only when the latter, seeking to restore its disturbed equilibrium, violently throws back into earth-life the astral monad which had been tossed out of the circle of necessity by crime or accident. . . . If reason has been so far developed as to become active and discriminative, there is no [immediate]
* Since 1882 when the mistake was first found out in Isis Unveiled, it has been repeatedly stated in The Theosophist, and last year in The Path, that the word “planet” was a mistake and that “cycle” was meant, i.e., the “cycle of Devachanic rest.” This mistake, due to one of the literary editors—the writer knowing English more than imperfectly twelve years ago, and the editors being still more ignorant of Buddhism and Hinduism—has led to great confusion and numberless accusations of contradictions between the statements in Isis and later theosophical teaching. The paragraph quoted meant to upset the theory of the French Reincarnationists who maintain that the same personality is reincarnated, often a few days after death, so that a grandfather can be reborn as his own grand-daughter. Hence the idea was combated, and it was said that neither Buddha nor any of the Hindu philosophers ever taught reincarnation in the same cycle, or of the same personality, but of the “triune man” (vide note which follows) who, when properly united, was “capable of running the race” forward to perfection. The same and a worse mistake occurs on pages 346 and 347 (Vol. I). For on the former it is stated that the Hindus dread reincarnation “only on other and inferior planets,” instead of what is the case, that Hindus dread reincarnation in other and inferior bodies, of brutes and animals or transmigration, while on page 347 the said error of putting “planet” instead of “cycle” and “personality,” shows the author (a professed Buddhist) speaking as though Buddha had never taught the doctrine of reincarnation!! The sentence ought to
reincarnation on this earth, for the three parts of the triune man* have been united together, and he is capable of running the race.”
Here, we have propounded a theory of re-incarnation that must, I think, address itself to every mind as at once probable, scientific, and rational; † a reasonable provision of the All-wise for meeting the case of exceptions to a rule of life. But how can this theory of re-incarnation be accorded with the Theosophical teaching of the same doctrine? If the re-incarnation of Isis be the truth, then the explanation of automatic communications, such as that of the “Dirge for the Dead in Life,” or the spirit teachings of M. A. Oxon,
read that the “former life believed in by Buddhists is not a life in the same cycle and personality,” as no one appreciates more than they do “the great doctrine of cycles.” As it reads now, however, namely that “this former life believed in by the Buddhists is not a life on this planet,” and this sentence on page 347 just preceded by that other (paragraph 2 on page 346), “Thus, like the revolutions of a wheel, there is a regular succession of death and birth,” etc.—the whole reads like the raving of a lunatic, and a jumble of contradictory statements. If asked why the error was permitted to remain and run through ten editions, it is answered that (a) the attention of the author was drawn to it only in 1882; and (b) that the undersigned was not in a position to alter it from stereotyped plates which belonged to the American publisher and not to her. The work was written under exceptional circumstances, and no doubt more than one great error may be discovered in Isis Unveiled.—[ED.]
* “The three parts,” are Atma, Buddhi-Manas, which this condition of perfect union entitles to a rest in Devachan which cannot be less than 1,000 years in duration, sometimes 2,000, as the “cycle of rest” is proportioned to the merits and demerits of the Devachanee.—[ED.]
† So it is, minus the erroneous qualification “only this planet,” and the omission of “immediate” before “re-incarnation.” If the correction and the substitution of the word planet by that of cycle, are made, there will be no contradiction.—[ED.]
by the “reminiscences of past existences,” will be found to utterly break down. The re-incarnation theory of explanation will have to be reconsidered and the intelligence who stoutly maintains that he is what he says he is, must be heard in his own defence.
J. H. MITALMIER, F. R. A. S.
ED. NOTE.—Re-incarnation in Isis was made faulty by the mistakes as explained, and no edition has been yet corrected. The author proposes, as soon as time permits it, to re-edit entirely, to correct and abridge Isis Unveiled to one volume.