“THE CLAIMS OF OCCULTISM”
[The Theosophist, Vol. II, No. 12, September, 1881, pp. 258-260]
This is the heading of an article I find in a London publication, a new weekly called Light and described as a “JOURNAL DEVOTED TO THE HIGHEST INTERESTS OF HUMANITY, BOTH HERE AND HEREAFTER. It is a good and useful journal; and, if I may judge by the only two numbers I have ever seen, one, whose dignified tone will prove far more persuasive with the public than the passionate and often rude remarks passed on their opponents and sceptics by its “spiritual” contemporaries. The article to which I wish to call attention, is signed by a familiar name, nom de plume—“M. A. (Oxon),” that of a profoundly sympathetic writer, of a personal and esteemed friend; of one, in short, who, I trust, whether he remains friendly or antagonistic to our views, would never confound the doctrine with its adherents, or, putting it more plainly, visit the sins of the occultists upon occultism and—vice versa.
It is with considerable interest and attention then, that the present writer has read “The Claims of Occultism.” As everything else coming from M. A. (Oxon)’s pen, it bears a peculiar stamp, not only of originality, but of that intense individuality, that quiet but determined resolution to bring every new phase, every discovery in psychological sciences back to its (to him) first principles—Spiriutalism. And when writing the word, I do not mean by it the vulgar “séance-room” spiritualism which M. A. (Oxon) has from the very first outgrown; but that primitive idea, which
underlies all the subsequent theories; the old parent root from which have sprung the modern weeds, namely—belief in a guardian angel, or a tutelary spirit, who, whether his charge is conscious of it or not—i.e., mediumistic or non-mediumistic—is placed by a still higher power over every (baptized?) mortal to watch over his actions during life. And this, if not the correct outline of M. A. (Oxon)’s faith, is undoubtedly the main idea of all the Christian born Spiritualists, past, present and future. The doctrine, Christian as it now may be—and pre-eminently Roman Catholic it is—has not originated, as we all know, with the Christian but with the Pagan world. Besides, being represented in the tutelary Daimon of Socrates, that ancient “guide” of whom our Spiritualists make the most they can—it is the doctrine of the Alexandrian Greek theurgists, of the Zoroastrians, and of the later Babylonian Jews, one, moreover, sadly disfigured by the successors of all these—the Christians. It matters little though, for we are now concerned but with the personal views of M. A. (Oxon) which he sets in opposition to those of some Theosophists.
His doctrine then seems to us more than ever to centre in, and gyrate around, that main idea that the spirit of the living man is incapable of acting outside of its body independently and per se; but that it must needs be like a tottering baby guided by his mother or nurse—led on by some kind of spiritual strings by a disembodied spirit, an individuality entirely distinct from, and, at some time even foreign to himself, as such a spirit can only be a human soul, having at some period or other, lived on this planet of ours. I trust that I have now correctly stated my friend’s belief which is that of most of the intellectual, progressive and liberal Spiritualists of our day, one, moreover, shared by all those Theosophists who have joined our movement by deserting the ranks of the hoi polloi of Spiritualism. Nevertheless, and bound though we be to respect the private opinions of those of our Brother-Fellows who have started out at the research of truth by the same path as M. A. (Oxon), however widely they may have diverged from the one we ourselves follow—yet we will always say that such
is not the belief of all the Theosophists—the writer included. For all that, we shall not follow the nefarious example set to us by most of the Spiritualists and their papers, which are as bitter against us as most of the missionary sectarian papers are against each other and the infidel Theosophists. We will not quarrel, but simply argue, for “Light! More Light!” is the rallying cry of both, progressive Spiritualists and Theosophists. Having thus far explained myself, M. A. (Oxon) will take, I am sure, en bon Seigneur every remark that I may make on his article in Light which I here quote verbatim. I will not break his flowing narrative, but limit my answers to modest footnotes.
[“M. A. (Oxon)” gives his impressions of Isis Unveiled and the statements contained therein about the adepts of Tibet. He refers also to A. P. Sinnett’s The Occult World, and the “glimpses revealed of this silent Brotherhood.” He says in part:
“The material sadly needed reducing to order and many of the statements required elucidation.”]
It is not the first time that the just reproach is unjustly laid at my door. It is but too true, that “the material sadly needed reducing to order,” but it never was my province to do so, as I gave out one detached chapter after the other and was quite ignorant, as Mr. Sinnett correctly states in The Occult World, whether I had started upon a series of articles, one book or two books. Neither did I much care. It was my duty to give out some hints, to point to the dangerous phases of modern Spiritualism, and to bring to bear upon that question all the assertions and testimony of the ancient world and its sages that I could find—as an evidence to corroborate my conclusions. I did the best I could and knew how. If the critics of Isis Unveiled but consider that (1) its author had never studied the English language, and after learning it in her childhood colloquially had not spoken it before coming to America half a dozen of times during a period of many years; (2) that most of the doctrines (or shall we say hypotheses?) given, had to be translated from an Asiatic language; and (3) that most, if not all of the quotations from, and references to, other works—some of these out of print, and many inaccessible
but to the few—and which the author personally had never read or seen, though the passages quoted were proved in each instance minutely correct, then my friends would perhaps feel less critically inclined.* However, Isis Unveiled is but a natural entrée en matière in the above article, and I must not lose time over its merits or demerits.
[“. . . the mysterious Brotherhood for whom the author made such tremendous claims.”]
Indeed, the claims made for a “Brotherhood” of living men, were never half as pretentious as those which are daily made by the Spiritualists on behalf of the disembodied souls of dead people!
[“The Brothers . . . sought no one, they promised to receive none. ]
No more do they now.
[“The Theosophical Society, which has been the accepted, though not the prescribed organization of the Occult Brotherhood.”]
We beg to draw to this sentence the attention of all those of our fellows and friends in the West as in India, who felt inclined to either disbelieve in, or accuse the “Brothers of the 1st Section” on account of the administrative mistakes and shortcomings of the Theosophical Society. From the first the Fellows were notified that the first Section might issue occasionally orders to those who knew them personally, yet had never promised to guide, or even protect, either the Body or its members.
[“We have Mr. Sinnett coming forward . . . to give us his correspondence with Koot Hoomi, an adept and member of the Brotherhood, who had entered into closer relations . . . with him than had been vouchsafed to other men.”]
With Mr. Sinnett—and only so far. His relations with a few other fellows have been as personal as they might desire.
* [This sentence is correctly copied from the original. It seems to be lacking the verb.—Compiler.]
[“Madame Blavatsky . . . possessed certain occult powers that seemed to the Spiritualist strangely like those of mediumship.”]
Medium—in the sense of the postman who brings a letter from one living person to another; in the sense of an assistant electrician whose master tells him how to turn this screw and arrange that wire in the battery; never in the sense of a Spiritual medium. “Madame Blavatsky” neither needed nor did she ever make use of either dark séance-rooms, cabinets, “trance-state,” “harmony” nor any of the hundreds of conditions required by the passive mediums who know not what is going to occur. She always knew beforehand, and could state what was going to happen save infallibly answering each time for complete success.