[The Theosophist, Vol. III, No. 9, June, 1882, pp. 227-228]
No Hindu needs to be told the meaning of the term Angânta Yênê. It is the action of a bhûta, who enters into or possesses itself of the body of a sensitive, to act and speak through his organism. In India such a possession or obsession is as dreaded now as it was five thousand years back; and, like the Jews of old, the natives compassionately say of such a victim—“He hath a devil.” No Hindu, Tibetan, or Sinhalese, unless of the lowest caste and intelligence, can see, without a shudder of horror, the signs of “mediumship” manifest themselves in a member of his family. This “gift,” “blessing,” and “holy mission,” as it is variously styled in Europe and America is, among the older peoples, in the cradlelands of our race—where, presumably, longer experience than ours has taught them more wisdom—regarded as a direful misfortune, and this applies to both, what Westerns call physical and inspirational mediumship. Not so in the West. . . .
The extracts that follow are taken from an “inspirational discourse” of a very celebrated American lady-medium, delivered November 24, 1878. Those who are familiar with the literature of Spiritualism, will instantly recognize the style. The prophecy, uttered in this oration, purports to come from “An Ancient Astrologer,” who, returning to earth as a spirit, “controlled” the speaker. We republish these extracts to give our Asiatic friends a specimen of the weird eloquence that often marks the mediumistic utterances of this gifted lady. Other trance-speakers are also eloquent, but none of them so famous as this medium. Personally we have always admired that rare talent of hers to come almost night after night, for years successively, upon the rostrum, and hold her audience spellbound, some with reverential awe at hearing, as they believe, the voice of “controlling” angels, others by surprise. Too often this latter feeling first awakened by her wonderful fluency of language, has become confirmed by finding, after the flush of the first wonder had passed and the oration has been put into cold printer’s type, that hardly a sentence is there which could not have been uttered by her apart from any theory. Her personal idiosyncrasies of thought and language constantly obtrude themselves, whether the “controlling spirit” be the late Professor Mapes of New York, the lamented Osiris of Egypt, or any intermediate notability who may have flourished between their respective epochs. Those who have followed her trance-speeches, since her debut in 1852, as a girl orator of fourteen, until now, notice the striking sameness in them. The mode of delivery is always hers; the style is her style; and the flow of language, though sparkling as a pellucid mountain brook, seems yet to be always the same familiar flow, fed at the same source. The constant recurrence of familiar rhetorical figures, and flowers of speech in this intellectual current, recalls to mind the bubbling jet of clear crystalline water in a parlour-aquarium, which brings around, in the swirl of its eddy, always the same bits of detached moss and leaves. The Hindu will naturally ask, why the names of different “spirits” should be given to a series of orations, any two
of which resemble each other like two beads on the same string, when, intrinsically, they show so little evidence of separate authorship, and such constant marks of strong individuality? Another lady orator, of deservedly great fame, both for eloquence and learning—the good Mrs. Annie Besant—without believing in controlling spirits, or, for that matter, in her own spirit, yet speaks and writes such sensible and wise things that we might almost say that one of her speeches or chapters contains more matter to benefit humanity, than would equip a modern trance-speaker for an entire oratorical career. There are, of course, great differences between these trance-speakers, and at least one—Mrs. Emma Hardinge-Britten, one of the founders of our Society—always speaks with power and to the point. But even in her case, is the trance-discourse above the capacity of her own large mind?