[Lucifer, Vol. IX, No. 51, November, 1891, pp. 182-187]
[The superior numbers occurring throughout this essay refer to the
Compiler’s Notes appended at the end of it.]
[In her essay entitled “Theories about Reincarnation and Spirits,” H.P.B. mentions this material, together with her essay on “Egyptian Magic,” as intended to form an Appendix to The Secret Doctrine. By this she meant, of course, her First Draft of this work. Apparently, “Chinese Spirits” was not used by her when her magnum opus was published in 1888. On the basis of what she says in her “Theories, etc.,” the present essay must have been written before 1886, and possibly in 1885, and therefore belongs approximately within this period.]
The following notes have been collected partly from an old work by a French missionary who lived in China for over forty years;1 some from a very curious unpublished work by an American gentleman who has kindly lent the writer his notes; some from information given by the Abbé Huc to the Chevalier Gougenot des Mousseaux and the Marquis de Mirville—for these the last two gentlemen are responsible. Most of our facts, however, come from a Chinese gentleman residing for some years in Europe.
Man, according to the Chinaman, is composed of four root-substances and three acquired “semblances.” This is the magical and universal occult tradition, dating from an antiquity which has its origin in the night of time. A Latin poet shows the same source of information in his country, when declaring that:—
Bis duo sunt hominis: manes, caro, spiritus, umbra;
Quatuor ista loca bis duo suscipiunt.
Terra tegit carnem, tumulum circumvolat umbra,
Orcus habet manes, spiritus astra petit.2
The phantom known and described in the Celestial Empire is quite orthodox according to occult teachings, though there exist several theories in China upon it.
The human soul, says the chief (temple) teaching, helps man to become a rational and intelligent creature, but it is neither simple (homogeneous) nor spiritual; it is a compound of all that is subtle in matter. This “soul”
is divided by its nature and actions into two principal parts: the LING and the HOUEN. The ling is the better adapted of the two for spiritual and intellectual operations, and has an “upper” ling or soul over it which is divine. Moreover, out of the union of the lower ling and houen is formed, during man’s life, a third and mixed being, fit for both intellectual and physical processes, for good and evil, while the houen is absolutely bad. Thus we have four principles in these two “substances,” which correspond, as is evident, to our Buddhi, the divine “upper” ling; to Manas, the lower ling whose twin, the houen, stands for Kama-rupa—the body of passion, desire and evil; and then we have in the “mixed being” the outcome or progeny of both ling and houen—the “Mayavi,” the astral body.
Then comes the definition of the third root-substance. This is attached to the body only during life, the body being the fourth substance, pure matter; and after the death of the latter, separating itself from the corpse—but not before its complete dissolution—it vanishes in thin air like a shadow with the last particle of the substance that generated it. This is of course Prâna, the life-principle or vital form. Now, when man dies, the following takes place:—the “upper” ling ascends heavenwards—into Nirvâna, the paradise of Amitâbha, or any other region of bliss that agrees with the respective sect of each Chinaman—carried off by the Spirit of the Dragon of Wisdom (the seventh principle); the body and its principle vanish gradually and are annihilated; remain the ling-houen and the “mixed being.” If the man was good, the “mixed being” disappears also after a time; if he was bad and was entirely under the sway of houen, the absolutely evil principle, then the latter transforms his “mixed being” into koueïs—which answers to the Catholic idea of a damned soul*—and, imparting to it a terrible vitality and
* The spiritual portion of the ling becomes chen (divine and saintly), after death, to become hien—an absolute saint (a Nirvanee) when joined entirely with the “Dragon of Wisdom.”
power, the koueïs becomes the alter ego and the executioner of houen in all his wicked deeds. The houen and koueïs unite into one shadowy but strong entity, and may, by separating at will, and acting in two different places at a time, do terrible mischief.
The koueïs is an anima damnata according to the good missionaries, who thus make of the milliards of deceased “unbaptized” Chinamen an army of devils, who, considering they are of a material substance, ought by this time to occupy the space between our earth and the moon and feel themselves as much at ease as closely packed-up herrings in a tin-box. “The koueïs, being naturally wicked,” say the Mémoires, “do all the evil they can. They hold the middle between man and the brute and participate of the faculties of both. They have all the vices of man and every dangerous instinct of the animal. . . . . Sentenced to ascend no higher than our atmosphere, they congregate around the tombs and in the vicinity of mines, swamps, sinks and slaughter-houses, everywhere wherein rottenness and decay are found. The emanations of the latter are their favourite food, and it is with the help of those elements and atoms, and of the vapours from corpses, that they form for themselves visible and fantastic bodies to deceive and frighten men with . . . . . These miserable spirits with deceptive bodies seek incessantly the means for preventing men from getting salvation” (read, being baptised), “. . . . . and of forcing them to become damned as they themselves are” (pp. 221-222, Mémoires concernant l’histoire, les sciences, les arts, les mœurs, etc., par les Missionaires de Pékin, 1791).*
* According to the most ancient doctrines of magic, violent deaths and leaving the body exposed, instead of burning or burying it—led to the discomfort and pain of its astral (Linga Sarira), which died out only at the dissolution of the last particle of the matter that had composed the body. Sorcery or black magic, it is said, had always availed itself of this knowledge for necromantic and sinful purposes. “Sorcerers offer to unrestful souls decayed remnants of animals to force them to appear” (See Porphyry, de Sacrifice). St. Athanasius was accused of the black art, for having preserved the hand of Bishop
This is how our old friend, the Abbé Huc, the Lazarist, unfrocked for showing the origin of certain Roman Catholic rites in Tibet and China, describes the houen. “What is the houen is a question to which it is difficult to give a clear answer . . . . It is, if you so like it, something vague, something between a spirit, a genii, and vitality” (see Huc’s Voyage à la Chine, Vol. II, p. 394). He seems to regard the houen as the future operator in the business of resurrection, which it will effect by attracting to itself the atomic substance of the body, which will be thus reformed on the day of resurrection. This answers well enough the Christian idea of one body and merely one personality to be resurrected. But if the houen has to unite on that day the atoms of all the bodies the Monad had passed through and inhabited, then even that “very cunning creature” might find itself not quite equal to the occasion. However, as while the ling is plunged in felicity, its ex-houen is left behind to wander and suffer, it is evident that the houen and the “elementary” are identical. As it is also undeniable that had disembodied man the faculty of being at one and the same time in Devachan and in Kama-loka, whence he might come to us, and put in an occasional appearance in a séance-room or elsewhere—
Arsenius for magical operations. “Patet quod animae illae quae, post mortem, adhuc, relicta corpora diligunt, quemadmodum animae sepultura carentium, et adhuc in turbido illo humidoque spiritu [the spiritual or fluidic body, the houen] circa cadavera sua oberrant, tanquam circa cognatum aliquod eos alliciens,” etc. See Cornelius Agrippa, De Occulta Philosophia, pp. 354-55; Le Fantôme Humain, by Des Mousseaux.3 Homer and Horace have described many a time such evocations. In India it is practised to this day by some Tântrikas. Thus modern sorcery, as well as white magic, occultism and spiritualism, with their branches of mesmerism, hypnotism, etc., show their doctrines and methods linked to those of the highest antiquity, since the same ideas, beliefs and practices are found now as in old Aryavarta, Egypt and China, Greece and Rome. Read the treatise, careful and truthful as to facts, however erroneous as to the author’s conclusions, by P. Thyrée, Loca Infesta, and you will find that the localities most favourable for the evocations of spirits are those where a murder has been committed, a burying ground, deserted places, etc.4
then man—as just shown by the ling or houen—would be possessed of the double faculty of experiencing a simultaneous and distinct feeling of two contraries—bliss and torture. The ancients understood so well the absurdity of this theory, knowing that no absolute bliss could have place wherein there was the smallest alloy of misery, that while supposing the higher Ego of Homer to be in Elysium, they showed the Homer weeping by the Acherusia as no better than the simulacrum of the poet, his empty and deceptive image, or what we call the “shell of the false personality.” *
There is but one real Ego in each man and it must necessarily be either in one place or in another, in bliss or in grief.†
The houen, to return to it, is said to be the terror of men; in China, “that horrid spectre” troubles the living, penetrates into houses and closed objects, and takes possession of people, as “spirits” are shown to do in Europe and America—the houens of children being of still greater malice than the houens of adults. This belief is so strong in China that when they want to get rid of a child they carry it far away from home, hoping thereby to puzzle the houen and make him lose his way home.
As the houen is the fluidic or gaseous likeness of its defunct body, in judicial medicine experts use this likeness in cases of suspected murders to get at the truth. The formulae used to evoke the houen of a person dying under suspicious circumstances are officially accepted and these means are resorted to very often, according to Huc, who told Des Mousseaux (see Les Médiateurs et les Moyens
* See Lucretius, De Rerum Natura, I, 123, who calls it a simulacrum.
† Though antiquity (like esoteric philosophy) seems to divide soul into the divine and the animal, anima divina and anima bruta, the former being called nous and phren, yet the two were but the double aspect of a unity. Diogenes Laërtius (De clarorum philosophorum vitis, BK. VIII, 30) gives the common belief that the animal soul, phren—, generally the diaphragm—resided in the stomach, Diogenes calling the anima bruta .5 Pythagoras and Plato also make the same division, calling the divine or rational soul , and the
de la Magie, p. 310) that the instructing magistrate after having recited the evocation over the corpse, used vinegar mixed with some mysterious ingredients, as might any other necromancer. When the houen has appeared, it is always in the likeness of the victim as it was at the moment of its death. If the body has been burned before judicial enquiry, the houen reproduces on its body the wounds or lesions received by the murdered man—the crime is proven and justice takes note of it. The sacred books of the temples contain the complete formulae of such evocations, and even the name of the murderer may be forced from the complacent houen. In this the Chinamen were followed by Christian nations, however. During the Middle Ages the suspected murderer was placed by the judges before the victim, and if at that moment blood began to flow from the open wounds, it was held as a sign that the accused was the criminal. This belief survives to this day in France, Germany, Russia, and all the Slavonian countries. “The wounds of a murdered man will re-open at the approach of his murderer,” says a jurisprudential work (Binsfeld, De Conf. Malef:, p. 137).6
“The houen can neither be buried underground nor drowned; he travels above the ground and prefers keeping at home.”
In the province of Ho-nan the teaching varies. Delaplace, a bishop in China,* tells of the “heathen Chinee” most extraordinary stories with regard to this subject.
Every man, they say, has three houens in him. At death one of the houens incarnates in a body he selects for himself; the other remains in, and with, the family, and becomes the lar; and the third watches
irrational . Empedocles gives to men and animals a dual soul, not two souls as is believed. The Theosophists and Occultists divide man into seven principles and speak of a divine and animal soul; but they add that Spirit being one and indivisible, all these “souls” and principles are only its aspects. Spirit alone is immortal, infinite, and the one reality—the rest is all evanescent and temporary, illusion and delusion. Des Mousseaux is very wrath with the late Baron Dupotet, who places an intelligent “spirit” in each of our organs, simply because he is unable to grasp the Baron’s idea.
* Annales de la propagation de la foi, t. XXIV, No. 143, July, 1852.
the tomb of its corpse. Papers and incense are burnt in honour of the latter, as a sacrifice to the manes; the domestic houen takes his abode in the family record-tablets amidst engraved characters, and sacrifice is also offered to him, hiangs (sticks made of incense) are burnt in his honour, and funeral repasts are prepared for him; in which case the two houens will keep quiet
—if they are those of adults, nota bene.7
Then follows a series of ghastly stories. If we read the whole literature of magic from Homer down to Dupotet we shall find everywhere the same assertion:—Man is a triple, and esoterically a septenary, compound of mind, of reason, and of an eidolon, and these three are (during life) one.
I call the soul’s idol that power which vivifies and governs bodies, whence are derived the senses, and through which the soul displays the strength of the senses . . . . . and FEEDS A BODY WITHIN ANOTHER BODY.*
“Triplex unicuique homini daemon, bonus est proprius custos,” said Cornelius Agrippa,8 from whom Dupotet had the idea about the “soul’s idol.” For Cornelius says:
Anima humana constat mente, ratione et idolo. Mens illuminat rationem; ratio fluit in idolum; . . . . . idolum autem animae est, supra naturam, quae corporis et animae quodammodo nodus est . . . . . Dico autem animae idolum, potentiam illam VIVIFICATIVAM et rectricem corporis, sensuum originem, per quam . . . . . . . alit in torpore corpus. . . †
This is the houen of China, once we divest him of the excrescence of popular superstition and fancy. Nevertheless the remark of a Brahman made in the review of A Fallen Idol (The Theosophist, Vol. VII, September 1886, p. 793)—whether meant seriously or otherwise by the writer—that “if the rules [of mathematical proportions and measurements] are not accurately followed in every detail, the idol is liable to be taken possession of by some powerful evil spirit”—is quite true. And as a moral law of nature—a counterpart to the mathematical—if the
* Dupotet, La Magie dévoilée, p. 250.
† De Occulta Philosophia, Vol. III, pp. 357, 358.9
rules of harmony in the world of causes and effects are not observed during life, then our inner idol is as liable to turn out a maleficent demon (a bhoot) and to be taken possession of by other “evil” spirits, which are called by us “Elementaries” though treated almost as gods by sentimental ignoramuses.
Between these and those who, like Des Mousseaux and De Mirville, write volumes—a whole library!—to prove that with the exception of a few Biblical apparitions and those that have favoured Christian saints and good Catholics, there never was a phantom, ghost, spirit, or “god,” that had appeared that was not a ferouer, and impostor, a usurpator—Satan, in short, in one of his masquerades—there is a long way and a wide margin for him who would study Occult laws and Esoteric philosophy. “A god who eats and drinks and receives sacrifice and honour can be but an evil spirit,” argues De Mirville. “The bodies of the evil spirits who were angels have deteriorated by their fall and partake of the qualities of a more condensed air” (ether?), teaches Des Mousseaux (Le Monde Magique, p. 287).10 “And this is the reason of their appetite when they devour the funeral repasts the Chinese serve before them to propitiate them; they are demons.”
Well, if we go back to the supposed origin of Judaism and the Israelite nation, we find angels of light doing just the same—if “good appetite” be a sign of Satanic nature. And it is the same Des Mousseaux who, unconsciously lays, for himself and his religion, a trap. “See,” he exclaims, “the angels of God descend under the green trees near Abraham’s tent. They eat with appetite the bread and meat, the butter and the milk prepared for them by the patriarch” (Gen., xviii, 2 et seq.). Abraham dressed a whole “calf tender and good” and “they did eat” (verses 7 and 8); and baked cakes and milk and butter besides. Was their “appetite” any more divine than that of a “John King” drinking tea with rum and eating toast in the room of an English medium, or than the appetite of a Chinese houen?
The Church has the power of discernment, we are assured; she knows the difference between the three, and
judges by their bodies. Let us see. “These [the Biblical] are real, genuine spirits”! Angels, beyond any doubt (certes), argues Des Mousseaux. “Theirs are bodies which, no doubt, in dilating could, in virtue of the extreme tenuity of the substance, become transparent, then melt away, dissolve, lose their colour, become less and less visible, and finally disappear from our sight” (p. 388).
So can a “John King” we are assured, and a Pekin houen no doubt. Who or what then can teach us the difference if we fail to study the uninterrupted evidence of the classics and the Theurgists, and neglect the Occult sciences?