COMMENT ON “CURIOUS MEDIUMISTIC PHENOMENA”
[The Theosophist, Vol. IV, No. 4, January, 1883, p. 86]
[Under the above title, Dr. J. D. Buck recounts his experiences in the search for occult knowledge: his study of the Theosophical doctrines and his investigation of the spiritualistic phenomena encountered in séance-rooms. In the course of his letter the writer remarks: “I understand you to say that in such cases the intelligence is absolutely the medium’s own”; to which H. P. B. appends the following footnote:]
Our brother is mistaken, what we say is, that no “spirit” can tell, do, or know anything that is absolutely unknown to either the medium or one of the sitters. Some “shells” have a dim intelligence of their own.
[After a detailed account of the drawing of pictures by a certain medium, which he declares to be “works of art,” Dr. J. D. Buck concludes by asking what is the difference between these and “the Astral Soul of the Brothers as seen at distances from their physical body.” To this H. P. B. replies:]
What might be said in answer to our correspondent is much; what we have time to say is little. The more so,
since his reading in mesmeric and other branches of the literature of psychology, in connection with his profession, must have shown him that the waking medium’s ignorance of art is no conclusive proof that in the somnambulic state, however induced, he might not draw and paint very skilfully. As for the merit of his pictures being so great as to make them equal to Titian’s, of course none but a connoisseur would be competent to pronounce upon. The fact of their being executed in total darkness has little or no significance, since the somnambulist works with closed or sightless eyes, and equally well in the dark as in the light. If our friend will consult Dr. James Esdaile’s Natural and Mesmeric Clairvoyance (London, 1852, H. Ballière) he will find quoted from the great French Encyclopedia, the interesting case of a young ecclesiastic, reported by the Archbishop of Bordeaux, who in the dead of night and in perfect darkness wrote sermons and music; from the report of a Committee of the Philosophical Society of Lausanne, a similar one; and others, from other sources. In Sir B. Brodie’s Psychological Inquiries, Macnish’s The Philosophy of Sleep, Abercrombie’s Intellectual Powers, Braid’s Neurypnology; or the Rationale of Nervous Sleep, not to mention later writers, are also found many examples of the exaltation of the mental and psychic powers in the somnambulic state. Some of these are quite sufficient to warrant our holding in reserve all opinions respecting the “Old Judge” and “Titian” of the Cincinnati medium. This, in fact, has been our issue with the Spiritualists from the beginning of our Theosophical movement. Our position is that in logic as in science we must always proceed from the Known to the Unknown; must first eliminate every alternative theory of the mediumistic phenomena, before we concede that they are of necessity attributable to “spiritual” agencies. Western psychology is confessedly as yet but in the elementary and tentative stage, and for that very reason we maintain that the proofs of the existence of adepts of psychological science in the ancient schools of Asiatic mysticism should be carefully and frankly examined.