H.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, Volume 8 Page 299


[Lucifer, Vol. I, No. 4, December, 1887, pp. 329-334]


“Under the head of “Correspondence” in the present number, two remarkable letters are published (See Text). Both come from fervent Hylo-Idealists—a Master and Disciple, if we mistake not—and both charge the “Adversary,” one, of a “slighting,” the other, of a “hostile

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notice” of Hylo-Idealism, in the September number of Lucifer.


Such an accusation is better met, and answered in all sincerity; and, therefore, the reply is, a flat denial of the charge. No slight—nor hostility either, could be shown to “Hylo-Idealism,” as the “little stranger” in the happy family of philosophies was hitherto as good as unknown to Lucifer’s household gods. It was chaff, if anything, but surely no hostility; and even that was concerned with only some dreadful words and sentences, with reference to the new teaching, and had nothing whatever to do with Hylo-Idealism proper—a terra incognita for the writer at the time. But now that three pamphlets from the pens of our two correspondents have been received in our office, for review, and carefully read, Hylo-Idealism begins to assume a more tangible form before the reviewer’s eye. It becomes easier to separate the grain from the chaff, the theory from the (no doubt) scientific, nevertheless, most irritating, words in which it is presented to the reader.


This is meant in all truth and sincerity. The remarks which our two correspondents have mistaken for expressions of hostility, were as justified then, as they arc now. What ordinary mortal, we ask, before he had time (to use Dr. Lewins’ happiest expressions) to “asself or cognose”—let alone intercranialise * (!!)—the hylo-idealistic theories, however profound and philosophical these may be who, having so far come into direct contact with only the images thereof “subjected by his own egoity” (i.e., as words and sentences), who could avoid feeling his hair standing on end, over “his organs of mentation,” while

* Auto-Centricism; or the Brain Theory of Life and Mind [London, 1 888], p. 41.

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spelling out such terrible words as “vesiculo-neurosis in conjunction with medico-psychological symptomatology,” “autocentricism,” and the like? Such interminable, outlandish, multisyllabled and multicipital, newly-coined compound terms and whole sentences, maybe, and no doubt, are, highly learned and scientific. They may be most expressive of true, real meaning, to a specialist of Dr. Lewins’ powers of thought; nevertheless, I make bold to say, that they are far more calculated to obscure than to enlighten the ordinary reader. In our modern day, when new philosophies spring out from the spawn of human overworked intellect like mushrooms from their mycelium after a rainy morning, the human brain and its capacities ought to be taken into a certain thoughtful consideration, and spared useless labour. Notwithstanding Dr. Lewins’ praiseworthy efforts to prove that brain (as far as we understand his aspirations and teachings) is the only reality in the whole kosmos, its limitations are painfully evident, on the whole. As philanthropists and theosophists, we entreat the founder of Hylo-Idealism and his disciples to be merciful to their new god, the “Ego-Brain,” and not tax too heavily its powers, if they would see it happily reign. For otherwise, it is sure to collapse before the new theory—or, let us call it philosophy—is even half appreciated by that “Ego-Brain.”


By speaking as we do, we are only pursuing a life-long policy. We have criticized and opposed the coinage of hard Greek and Latin words by the New York Pantarchists; laugned at Haeckel’s pompous tendency to invent thirty-three syllabled terms, and speak of the perigenesis of plastidules, instead of honest whirling atoms—or whatever he means; and derided the modern psychists for calling simple thought transference “telepathic impact.” And now, we tearfully beg Dr. Lewins, in the interests of humanity, to have pity on his poor readers: for, unless he hearkens to our advice, we shall be compelled, in dire self-defence, to declare an open war to his newly-coined

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words. We shall fight the usurper “Solipsism” in favour of the legitimate king of the Universe—EGOISM—to our last breath.


At the same time, as we have hitherto been ignorant of the latest philosophy, described by Mr. H. L. Courtney as “the greatest change in human thought,” may we be permitted to enquire whether it is spelt as its Founder spells it, namely, “Hylo-Idealism,” or as his disciple, Mr. Courtney does, who writes Hylo-Ideaism? Is the latter a schism, an improvement on the original name, a lapsus calami, or what? And now, having disburdened our heart of a heavy weight, we may proceed to give an opinion (so far very superficial), on the three Hylo-Idealistic (or Ideaistic) pamphlets.


Under the extraordinary title of Auto-Centricism and Humanisˆ versus Theism, or “Solipsism (Egoism) = Atheism” (W. Stewart & Co., 41, Farringdon Street, E.C.; and Freethought Publishing Co., 63, Fleet Street, E.C.)—Dr. Lewins publishes a series of letters on the subject of the philosophy of which he is the founder. It is impossible not to feel admiration for the manner in which these letters are written. They show a great deal of sincere conviction and deep thought, and give evidence of a most wide and varied reading. However his readers may dissent from the writer's conclusions, the research with which he has strengthened his theory, cannot fail to attract their attention, and smooth their way through the somewhat tortuous labyrinth of arguments before them. But—
Dr. Lewins is among those who regard consciousness as a function of the nerve-tissue; and in this aspect, he is an uncompromising materialist. Yet, on the other hand, he holds that the Universe, God, and thought, have no reality whatever, apart from the individual Ego. The

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Ego is again resolvable into brain-process. We thus arrive at the doctrine that Brain is the workshop in which all our ideas of external things are originated. Apart from brain there is no Ego, no external world. What, then, is the Brain itself—this solitary object in a void universe? Hylo-Idealism does not say. Thus, the author cannot escape the confusion of thought which his unique working-union of materialism and idealism involves. The oscillation between these two poles is strikingly apparent in the subjoined quotations. At one point Matter is discussed as if it were an objective reality; at another, it is regarded as a mere “phantasm of the Ego.” The Brain alone survives throughout in solitary state. We quote from the two pamphlets—


“Matter, organic and inorganic . . . is now fully known . . . . to perform . . . all material operations.”
—Auto-Centricism, p. 40.
“. . . man is all body or matter. . . .”
—Ibid., p. 40.
“Abstract . . . thought [is] neuropathy . . . disease of the nervous centres.”
—Humanism versus Theism, p. 25.
“What we call mind . . . is a function of certain nerve structures in the organism.”
—Humanism v. Theism, p. 24.


“All discovery is . . . . a subjective phenomenon.”
—Humanism v. Theism, p. 17.
“All things are for us but modes of perception.” [Mental figments].
The “celestial vault and garniture of Earth,” are “a mere projection or extension of our own inner consciousness.”
—Humanism v. Theism, p. 17.
“We get rid of Matter altogether.”
—Humanism v. Theism, p. 17.

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“. . . . The whole objective world . . [is] phenomenal or ideal. . . .”
––Auto-Centricism, p. 9.
“Everything is spectral” (i.e., unreal).
—Ibid., p. 13.

Matter is at one time credited with a real being, and again resolved into a mere mental figment as circumstances demand. If Matter is, as the author frequently states, unreal, it is at least clear that the brain, one of its many phases, goes with it!!
As to the learned doctor’s assertion that perception is relative, a theory which runs through his whole work, we have but one answer. This conception is, in no sense whatever, a monopoly of Hylo-Idealists, as Dr. Lewins appears to think. The illusory nature of the phenomenal world—of the things of sense—is not only a belief common to the old Brahminical metaphysics, and to the majority of modern psychologists, but it is also a vital tenet of Theosophy. The latter distinctly realises matter as a “bundle of attributes,” ultimately resolvable into the subjective sensations of a “percipient.” The connection of this simple truth with the hylo-idealistic denial of soul is not apparent. Its acceptance has, also, no bearing on the problem as to whether there may not exist a duality—within the limits of manifested being—or contrast between Mind and the Substance of matter. This Cosmic Duality is symbolised by the Vedantins in the relations between the Logos and Mulaprakriti—i.e., the Universal Spirit and the “material” basis (or root) of the objective planes of nature. The Monism, then, of Dr. Lewins and other negative thinkers of the day, is evidently at fault, when applied to unify the contrast of mental and material facts in the conditioned universe. Beyond the latter, it is indeed valid, but that is scarcely a question for practical philosophy.
To close with a reference this once to Dr. Lewins’ letter (see “Correspondence” in the text), in which he makes his subsequent assertion to the effect that God is the "functional [sic] image,” of the Ego, we should prefer

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to suggest that all individual “selves” are but dim reflections of the universal soul of the Kosmos. The orthodox concept of God is not, as he contends, a myth or phantasm of the brain; it is rather an expression of` a vague consciousness of the universal, all-pervading Logos. It is because SELF pinions man within a narrow sphere “beyond which mortal mind can never range,” that the destruction of the personal sense of separateness is indispensable to the Occultist.


The New Gospel of Hylo-Idealism or Positive Agnosticism, (Freethought Publishing Co., 73, Fleet Street, E.C. Price 3d.), is another pamphlet on the same subject, in which Mr. Herbert L. Courtney contributes his quota to the discussion of the “Brain Theory of mind and matter.” He is, if we mistake not, an avowed disciple of Dr. Lewins, and, perhaps, identical, with the “C.N.,” who watched over the cradle of the “new philosophy.” * The whole gist of the latter may be summed up as an attempt to frame a working-union of Materialism and Idealism. This result is effected on two lines: (1) in the acceptance of the idealistic theorem, that the so-called external world only exists in our consciousness; and (2) in the designation of that consciousness, in its turn, as a mere function of Brain. The first of these contentions is unquestionably valid, in so far as it concerns the world of appearances, or Maya; it is, however, as “old as the hills,” and incorporated into the Hylo-Ideal argument from anterior sources. The second is untenable, for the simple reason that on the premises of the new creed itself, the brain, as an object of perception, can possess no reality outside of the Ego. Hegelians might reply that Brain is but an idea of the Ego, and cannot hence determine the existence of the latter—its creator.

* [“C.N.” stands for Constance Naden, pseud. of Caroline Woodhill (1858-89).—Compiler.]

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Metaphysicism will, however, find much to interest them in Mr. Courtney’s brochure, representative, as it is, of the new and more subtle phase into which modern scepticism is entering. Some expressions we may demur to—e.g., “That which we see is not Sirius, but the light-wave.” So far from the light-wave being “seen,” it is a mere working hypothesis of Science. All we experience is the retinal sensation, the objective counterpart to which is a matter of pure inference. So far as we can learn, Hylo-Idealism is chiefly based upon gigantic paradoxes, and even contradictions in terms. For, with regard to the speculations anent the Noumenon (p. 8) what justification can be found for terming it “MATTER,” especially as it is said to be “unknowable”? Obviously it may be of the nature of mind, or—something HIGHER. How is the Hylo-Idealist to know?


The Jewish World enters bravely enough (in its issue of the 11th November, 1887) on its new character of professor of symbology and History. It accuses in no measured terms one of the editors of Lucifer of ignorance; and criticises certain expressions used in our October number, in a foot-note inserted to explain why the “Son of the Morning,” LUCIFER, is called in Mr. G. Massey’s little poem, “Lady of Light.” The writer objects, we see, to Lucifer-Venus being called in one of its aspects “the Jewish Astoreth”; or to her having ever been offered cakes by the Jews. As explained in a somewhat confused sentence: “There was no Jewish Astoreth, though the Syrian goddess, Ashtoreth, or Astarte, often appears in Biblical literature, the moon goddess, the complement of Baal, the Sun God.”
This, no doubt, is extremely learned and conveys quite new information. Yet such an astounding statement as that the whole of the foot-note in Lucifer is “pure imagination and bad history” is very risky indeed. For it requires no more than a stroke or two of our pen to make the whole edifice of this denial tumble on the Jewish

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World and mangle it very badly. Our contemporary has evidently forgotten the wise proverb that bids one to let "sleeping dogs lie," and therefore, it is with the lofty airs of superiority that he informs his readers that though the Jews in Palestine lived surrounded with (? sic) this pagan form of worship, and may, at times (? !), have wandered towards it, they HAD NOTHING IN THEIR WORSHIP IN COMMON WITH CHALDEAN OR SYRIAN BELIEFS IN MULTIPLICITY OF DEITIES (! !).
This is what any impartial reader might really term “bad history,” and every Bible worshipper describe as a direct lie given to the Lord God of Israel. It is more than suppressio veri, suggestio falsi, for it is simply a cool denial of facts in the face of both Bible and History. We advise our critic of the Jewish World to turn to his own prophets, to Jeremiah, foremost of all. We open “Scripture” and find in it: “the Lord God” while accusing his “backsliding Israel and treacherous Judah” of following in “the ways of Egypt and of Assyria,” of drinking the waters of Sihor, and “serving strange Gods,” enumerating his grievances in this wise:

. . . . . according to the number of thy cities are thy gods, O Judah. . . . . (Jer., ii, 28).

They are turned back to the iniquities of their forefathers, which refused to hear my words; and they went after other gods to serve them. . . . . (xi, 10).

. . . . . according to the number of the streets of Jerusalem have ye set up altars to that shameful thing, even altars to burn incense unto Baal. (xi, 13).

So much for Jewish monotheism. And is it any more “pure imagination” to say that the Jews offered cakes to their Astoreth and called her “Queen of Heaven”? Then the “Lord God” must, indeed, be guilty of more than “a delicate expansion of facts” when thundering to, and through,Jeremiah:

Seest thou not what they do in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem?
The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead their dough, TO MAKE CAKES to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto other gods. . . . . (Jer., vii, 17-18).

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“The Jews may AT TIMES” only (?) have wandered towards pagan forms of worship but “had nothing in common in it with Syrian beliefs in multiplicity of deities.” Had they not? Then the ancestors of the editors of the Jewish World must have been the victims of “suggestion,” when, snubbing Jeremiah (and not entirely without good reason), they declared to him:

As for the word that thou hast spoken unto us in the name of the Lord, we will not hearken unto thee.

But we will certainly do whatsoever thing goeth forth out of our own mouth, to burn incense unto the queen of heaven * as we have done, we, AND OUR FATHERS, our kings, and our princes, in the cities of Judah, and in the streets of Jerusalem: for then had we plenty of victuals, and were well, and saw no evil.

But since we left off to burn incense to the queen of heaven, and to pour out drink offerings unto her, we have wanted all things, and have been consumed by the sword and by the famine. . . . . (Jer., xliv, 16-18).

Thus, according to their own confession, it is not “at times” that the Jews made cakes for, and worshipped Astoreth and the strange gods, but constantly: doing, moreover, as their forefathers, kings and princes did.
“Bad history”? And what was the “golden calf” but the sacred heifer, the symbol of the “Great Mother,” first the planet Venus, and then the moon? For the esoteric doctrine holds (as the Mexicans held) that Venus, the morning star, was created before the sun and moon; metaphorically, of course, not astronomically,† the assumption being based upon, and meaning that which the Nazars and the Initiates alone understood among the Jews, but that the writers of the Jewish World are not supposed to know. For the same reason the Chaldeans

* Astoreth-Diana, Isis, Melita, Venus, etc., etc.
† Because the stars and planets are the symbols and houses of Angels and Elohim, who were, of course, “created,” or evoluted before the physical or cosmic sun or moon. “Hence the sun-god was called the child of the moon-god Sin, in Assyria, and the lunar god, Taht, or Tehuti, is called the father of Osiris, the sun-god, in Egypt.” (G. Massey, “The Hebrew and other Creations, etc.,” pp. 15-16.)

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maintained that the moon was produced before the sun (see Babylon—Account of Creation, by George Smith).* The morning star, Lucifer-Venus was dedicated to that Great Mother symbolized by the heifer or the “Golden Calf.” For, as says Mr. G. Massey in his lecture on “The Hebrew and other Creations Fundamentally Explained” [p. 16]:

This [the Golden Calf] being of either sex, it supplied a twin type for Venus, as Hathor or Ishtar [Astoreth], the double Star, that was male at rising and female at sunset, and therefore the Twin-Stars of the “First Day.”

She is the “Celestial Aphrodite,” Venus Victrix, , associated with Ares (see Pausanias, Periêgêsis, I, viii, 4; II, xxv, 1).
We are told that “happily for them [the Jews] there was no Jewish Astoreth.” The Jewish World has yet to learn, we see, that there would have been no Greek Venus Aphrodite; no Ourania, her earlier appellation; nor would she have been confounded with the Assyrian Mylitta (Herodotus, History, I, 199; Pausanias, Periêgêsis, I, xiv, 7; Hesychius, < had it not been for the Phoenicians and other Semites. We say the “Jewish Astoreth,” and we maintain what we say, on the authority of the Iliad, the Odyssey, of Renan, and many others. Venus Aphrodite is one with the Astarte, Astoreth, etc. of the Phoenicians, and she is one (as a planet) with “Lucifer” the “Morning Star.” So far back as the days of Homer, she was confounded with Kypris, an Oriental goddess brought by the Phoenician Semites from their Asiatic travels (Iliad, V, 330, 422, 458). Her worship appears first at Cythera, a Phoenician settlement depôt or trade-establishment (Odyssey, VIII, 362; F. G. Welcker, Griechische Götterlehre, I, 666). Herodotus shows that the sanctuary of Ascalon, in Syria, was the most ancient of the fanes of Aphrodite

* [This is most likely The Chaldean Account of Genesis, by George Smith. Chapter V, “Babylonian Legend of the Creation,” p. 65, new and rev. ed., 1880.—Compiler.]

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Ourania (I, 105); and Decharme tells us in his Mythologie de la Grèce Antique, p. 195, that whenever the Greeks alluded to the origin of Aphrodite they designated her as Ourania, an epithet translated from a Semitic word, as Jupiter Epouranios of the Phoenician inscriptions, was the Samemroum of Philo of Byblos, according to Renan (Mission de Phénicie). Astoreth was a goddess of generation, presiding at human birth (as Jehovah was god of generation, foremost of all). She was the moon-goddess, and a planet at the same time, whose worship originated with the Phoenicians and Semites. It flourished most in the Phoenician settlements and colonies in Sicily, at Eryx. There hosts of Hetaerae were attached to her temples, as hosts of Kadeshim, called by a more sincere name in the Bible, were, to the house of the Lord, “where the women wove hangings for the grove” (II Kings, xxiii, 7). All this shows well the Semitic provenance of Astoreth-Venus in her capacity of “great Mother.” Let us pause. We advise sincerely the Jewish World to abstain from throwing stones at other peoples’ beliefs, so long as its own faith is but a house of glass. And though Jeremy Taylor may think that “to be proud of one's learning is the greatest ignorance,” yet, in this case it is but simple justice to say that it is really desirable for our friends the Jews that the writer in Lucifer of the criticised note about Astoreth should know less of history and the Bible, and her unlucky critic in the Jewish World learn a little more about it.