THEOSOPHY, Vol. 6, No. 8, June, 1918
(Pages 337-345; Size: 29K)
(Number 10 of a 10-part series)

STUDIES IN ISIS UNVEILED

X

MAGICAL PHENOMENA -- MODERN AND ANCIENT

The accompanying article is made up of textual extracts from Isis Unveiled, topically and sequentially arranged. The page references from which the statements are taken, are given at the conclusion of the article. --EDITORS.
SCIENCE is daily and rapidly moving toward the great discoveries in chemistry and physics, organology, and anthropology. Learned men ought to be free from preconceptions and prejudices of every kind; yet, although thought and opinion are now free, scientists are still the same men as of old. An Utopian dreamer is he who thinks that man ever changes with the evolution and development of new ideas. The soil may be well fertilized and made to yield with every year a greater and better variety of fruit; but, dig a little deeper than the stratum required for the crop, and the same earth will be found in the subsoil as was there before the first furrow was turned.

For many years we have watched the development and growth of that apple of discord -- MODERN SPIRITUALISM. Familiar with its literature both in Europe and America, we have closely and eagerly witnessed its interminable controversies and compared its contradictory hypotheses. Many educated men and women -- heterodox spiritualists, of course -- have tried to fathom the Protean phenomena. The only result was that they came to the following conclusion: whatever may be the reason of these constant failures -- whether such are to be laid at the door of the investigators themselves, or of the secret Force at work -- it is at least proved that, in proportion as the psychological manifestations increase in frequency and variety, the darkness surrounding their origin becomes more impenetrable.

Many years of wandering among "heathen" and "Christian" magicians, occultists, mesmerizers, and the tutti quanti of white and black art, ought to be sufficient, we think, to give us a certain right to feel competent to take a practical view of this doubted and very complicated question. We have associated with the fakirs, the holy men of India, and seen them when in intercourse with the Pitris. We have watched the proceedings and modus operandi of the howling and dancing dervishes; held friendly communications with the marabouts of European and Asiatic Turkey; and the serpent-charmers of Damascus and Benares have but few secrets that we have not had the fortune to study. Therefore, when scientists who have never had an opportunity of living among these oriental jugglers and can judge at the best but superficially, tell us that there is naught in their performances but mere tricks of prestidigitation, we cannot help feeling a profound regret for such hasty conclusions. That such pretentious claims should be made to a thorough analysis of the powers of nature, and at the same time such unpardonable neglect displayed of questions of purely physiological and psychological character, and astounding phenomena rejected without either examination or appeal, is an exhibition of inconsistency, strongly savoring of timidity, if not of moral obliquity.

Learned investigators, all very skeptical as to spirits in general and "departed human spirits" in particular, during the last twenty years have taxed their brains to invent new names for an old thing. Thus, with Mr. Crookes and Sergeant Cox, it is the "psychic force." Professor Thury of Geneva calls it the "psychode" or ectenic force; Professor Balfour Stewart, the "electro-biological power;" Faraday, the "great master of experimental philosophy in physics," but apparently a novice in psychology, superciliously termed it an "unconscious muscular action," an "unconscious cerebration," and what not? Sir William Hamilton, a "latent thought," Dr. Carpenter, "the ideo-motor principle," etc., etc. So many scientists -- so many names.

The psychic and ectenic forces, the "ideo-motor" and "electro-biological powers;" "latent thought" and even "unconscious cerebration" theories can be condensed in two words: the kabalistic ASTRAL LIGHT. The disputants are battling about mere words. Call the phenomena force, energy, electricity or magnetism, will, or spirit-power, it will ever be the partial manifestation of the soul, whether disembodied or imprisoned for a while in its body -- of a portion of that intelligent, omnipotent, and individual WILL, pervading all nature, and known, through the insufficiency of human language to correctly express psychological images, as -- GOD.

There are two kinds of seership -- that of the soul and that of the spirit. The seership of the ancient Pythoness, or of the modern mesmerized subject, vary but in the artificial modes adopted to induce the state of clairvoyance. But, as the visions of both depend upon the greater or less acuteness of the senses of the astral body, they differ very widely from the perfect, omniscient spiritual state; for, at best, the subject can get but glimpses of truth, through the veil which physical nature interposes. The astral principle, or mind, is the sentient soul, inseparable from our physical brain, which it holds in subjection, and is in its turn equally trammeled by it. This is the ego, the intellectual life-principle of man, his conscious entity. While it is yet within the material body, the clearness and correctness of its spiritual visions depend on its more or less intimate relation with its higher Principle. When this relation is such as to allow the most ethereal portions of the soul-essence to act independently of its grosser particles and of the brain, it can unerringly comprehend what it sees; then only is it the pure, rational, supersentient soul. That state is known in India as the Samaddi; it is the highest condition of spirituality known to man on earth. The Hindu terms Pranayama, Pratyahara, and Dharana, all relate to different psychological states, and show how much more the Sanskrit is adapted to the clear elucidation of the phenomena that are encountered by those who study this branch of psychological science, than the tongues of modern peoples, whose experiences have not yet necessitated the invention of such descriptive terms.

When the body is in the state of Dharana --a total catalepsy of the physical frame, the soul of the clairvoyant may liberate itself, and perceive things subjectively. And yet, as the sentient principle of the brain is alive and active, these pictures of the past, present, and future will be tinctured with the terrestrial perceptions of the objective world; the physical memory and fancy will be in the way of clear vision. But the seer-adept knows how to suspend the mechanical action of the brain. His visions will be as clear as truth itself, uncolored and undistorted, whereas, the clairvoyant, unable to control the vibrations of the astral waves, will perceive but more or less broken images through the medium of the brain. The seer can never take flickering shadows for realities, for his memory being as completely subjected to his will as the rest of the body, he receives impressions directly from his spirit. Between his subjective and his objective selves there are no obstructive mediums. This is the real spiritual seership, in which, according to an expression of Plato, the soul is raised above all inferior good, when we reach "that which is supreme, which is simple, pure and unchangeable, without form, color, or human qualities: the God -- our Nous."

This is the state which such seers as Plotinus and Apollonius termed "Union to the Deity;" which the ancient yogins called Isvara, and the modern call "Samaddi;" but this state is as far above modern clairvoyance as the stars above glow-worms.

In those visions there is as little to be attributed to hallucination as in the glimpses which the scientist, by the help of his optical instrument, gets into the microscopic world. A man cannot perceive, touch, and converse with pure spirit through any of his bodily senses. Only spirit alone can talk to and see spirit; and even our astral soul, the Doppelganger, is too gross, too much tainted yet with earthly matter to trust entirely to its perceptions and insinuations.

How dangerous may often become untrained mediumship, and how thoroughly it was understood and provided against by the ancient sages, is perfectly exemplified in the case of Socrates. The old Grecian philosopher was a "medium"; hence, he had never been initiated into the Mysteries; for such was the rigorous law. But he had his "familiar spirit" as they call it, his daimonium; and this invisible counsellor became the cause of his death. It is generally believed that if he was not initiated into the Mysteries it was because he himself neglected to become so. But the Secret Records teach us that it was because he could not be admitted to participate in the sacred rites, and precisely, as we state, on account of his mediumship. There was a law against the admission not only of such as were convicted of deliberate witchcraft, but even of those who were known to have "a familiar spirit." The law was just and logical, because a genuine medium is more or less irresponsible; and the eccentricities of Socrates are thus accounted for in some degree. A medium must be passive; and if a firm believer in his "spirit-guide" he will allow himself to be ruled by the latter, not by the rules of the sanctuary. A medium of olden times, like the modern "medium" was subject to be entranced at the will and pleasure of the "power" which controlled him; therefore he could not well have been entrusted with the awful secrets of the final initiation, "never to be revealed under the penalty of death." The old sage, in unguarded moments of "spiritual inspiration," revealed that which he had never learned; and was therefore put to death as an atheist.

How then, with such an instance as that of Socrates, in relation to the visions and spiritual wonders at the epoptai, of the Inner Temple, can any one assert that these seers, theurgists, and thaumaturgists were all "spirit-mediums?"

Neither Pythagoras, Plato, nor any of the later more important Neo-platonists, nor Apollonius of Tyana, were ever mediums; for in such case they would not have been admitted to the Mysteries at all. Apart from natural "mediumship" there has existed, from the beginning of time, a mysterious science, discussed by many, but known only to a few.

The use of it is a longing toward our only true and real home -- the after-life, and a desire to cling more closely to our parent spirit; abuse of it is sorcery, witchcraft, black magic. Between the two is placed natural "mediumship;" a soul clothed with imperfect matter, a ready agent for either the one or the other, and utterly dependent on its surroundings of life, constitutional heredity -- physical as well as mental -- and on the nature of the "spirits" it attracts around itself. A blessing or a curse, as fate will have it, unless the medium is purified of earthly dross.

The reason why in every age so little has been generally known of the mysteries of initiation, is twofold. The first has already been explained by more than one author, and lies in the terrible penalty following the least indiscretion. The second, is the superhuman difficulties and even dangers which the daring candidate of old had to encounter, and either conquer, or die in the attempt, when, what is still worse, he did not lose his reason. There was no real danger to him whose mind had become thoroughly spiritualized, and so prepared for every terrific sight. He who fully recognized the power of his immortal spirit, and never doubted for one moment its omnipotent protection, had naught to fear. But woe to the candidate in whom the slightest physical fear -- sickly child of matter -- made him lose sight and faith in his own invulnerability. He who was not wholly confident of his moral fitness to accept the burden of these tremendous secrets was doomed.

The philosophers, and especially those who were initiated into the Mysteries, held that the astral soul is the impalpable duplicate of the gross external form which we call body. It is the perisprit of the Kardecists and the spirit-form of the spiritualists. Above this internal duplicate, and illuminating it as the warm ray of the sun illuminates the earth, fructifying the germ and calling out to spiritual vivification the latent qualities dormant in it, hovers the divine spirit. The astral perisprit is contained and confined within the physical body as ether in a bottle, or magnetism in magnetized iron. It is a centre and engine of force, fed from the universal supply of force, and moved by the same general laws which pervade all nature and produce all cosmical phenomena. Its inherent activity causes the incessant physical operations of the animal organism and ultimately results in the destruction of the latter by over-use and its own escape. It is the prisoner, not the voluntary tenant, of the body. It has an attraction so powerful to the external universal force, that after wearing out its casing it finally escapes to it. The stronger, grosser, more material its encasing body, the longer is the term of its imprisonment. Some persons are born with organizations so exceptional, that the door which shuts other people in from communication with the world of the astral light, can be easily unbarred and opened, and their souls can look into, or even pass into that world, and return again. Those who do this consciously, and at will, are termed magicians, hierophants, seers, adepts; those who are made to do it, either through the fluid of the mesmerizer or of "spirits," are "mediums."

Prophecies are delivered in two ways -- consciously, by magicians who are able to look into the astral light; and unconsciously, by those who act under what is called inspiration. To the latter class belonged and belong the Biblical prophets and the modern trance-speakers.

There are two kinds of magnetization; the first is purely animal, the other transcendent, and depending on the will and knowledge of the mesmerizer, as well as on the degree of spirituality of the subject, and his capacity to receive the impressions of the astral light. But now it is next to ascertain that clairvoyance depends a great deal more on the former than on the latter. To the power of an adept, the most positive subject will have to submit. If his sight is ably directed by the mesmerizer, magician, or spirit, the light must yield up its most secret records to our scrutiny; for, if it is a book which is ever closed to those "who see and do not perceive," on the other hand it is ever opened for one who wills to see it opened. It keeps an unmutilated record of all that was, that is, or ever will be. The minutest acts of our lives are imprinted on it, and even our thoughts rest photographed on its eternal tablets. It is the book which we see opened by the angel in the Revelation, "which is the Book of life, and out of which the dead are judged according to their works." It is, in short, the MEMORY OF GOD!

It is on the indestructible tablets of the astral light that is stamped the impression of every thought we think, and every act we perform; and that future events -- effects of long-forgotten causes -- are already delineated as a vivid picture for the eye of the seer and the prophet to follow. Memory -- the despair of the materialist, the enigma of the psychologist, the sphinx of science -- is to the student of old philosophies merely a name to express that power which man unconsciously exerts, and shares with many of the inferior animals -- to look with inner sight into the astral light, and there behold the images of past sensations and incidents. Instead of searching the cerebral ganglia for "micrographs of the living and the dead, of scenes that we have visited, of incidents in which we have borne a part," they went to the vast repository where the records of every man's life as well as every pulsation of the visible cosmos are stored up for all Eternity!

That flash of memory which is traditionally supposed to show a drowning man every long-forgotten scene of his mortal life -- as the landscape is revealed to the traveller by intermittent flashes of lightning -- is simply the sudden glimpse which the struggling soul gets into the silent galleries where his history is depicted in imperishable colors.

Dreams, forebodings, prescience, prognostications and presentiments are impressions left by our astral spirit on our brain, which receives them more or less distinctly, according to the proportion of blood with which it is supplied during the hours of sleep. The more the body is exhausted, the freer is the spiritual man, and the more vivid the impressions of our soul's memory.

No man, however gross and material he may be, can avoid leading a double existence; one in the visible universe, the other in the invisible. The life-principle which animates his physical frame is chiefly in the astral body; and while the more animal portions of him rest, the more spiritual ones know neither limits nor obstacles. If we study Plato and the philosophers of old, we may readily perceive that while the "irrational soul," by which Plato meant our astral body, or the more ethereal representation of ourselves, can have at best only a more or less prolonged continuity of existence beyond the grave; the divine spirit -- wrongly termed soul, by the Church -- is immortal by its very essence.

If the life-principle is something apart from the astral spirit and in no way connected with it, why is it that the intensity of the clairvoyant powers depends so much on the bodily prostration of the subject? The deeper the trance, the less signs of life the body shows, the clearer become the spiritual perceptions, and the more powerful are the soul's visions. The soul, disburdened of the bodily senses, shows activity of power in a far greater degree of intensity than it can in a strong, healthy body.

But though during its brief sojourn on earth our soul may be assimilated to a light hidden under a bushel, it still shines more or less bright and attracts to itself the influences of kindred spirits; and when a thought of good or evil import is begotten in our brain, it draws to it impulses of like nature as irresistibly as the magnet attracts iron filings. This attraction is also proportionate to the intensity with which the thought-impulse makes itself felt in the ether; and so it will be understood how one man may impress himself upon his own epoch so forcibly, that the influence may be carried -- through the ever-interchanging currents of energy between the two worlds, the visible and the invisible -- from one succeeding age to another, until it affects a large portion of mankind.

The medium is but an ordinary person who is magnetized by influx from the astral light. The intensity and permanency of mediumistic power is in proportion to the saturation of the medium with the magnetic or astral force. This condition of saturation may be congenital, or brought about in any one of these ways:-- by the mesmeric process; by spirit-agency; or by self-will. As to the process of self-saturation, the ecstatic so enormously reinforces his willpower, as to draw into himself, as into a vortex, the potencies resident in the astral light to supplement his own natural store.

It is in the denial of the boundless and endless Entity, possessor of that invisible Will which we for lack of a better term, call GOD, that lies the powerlessness of every materialistic science to explain the occult phenomena. It is in the rejection a priori of everything which might force them to cross the boundary of exact science and step into the domain of psychological, or, if we prefer, metaphysical physiology, that we find the secret cause of their discomfiture by the manifestations, and their absurd theories to account for them. It is easier by far to deny the reality of such manifestations from a secure distance, than find for them a proper place among the classes of natural phenomena accepted by exact science. And how can they, since all such phenomena pertain to psychology, and the latter, with its occult and mysterious powers, is a terra incognita for modern science.

The highest visions, the most truthful, are produced, not through natural ecstatics or "mediums," as it is sometimes erroneously asserted, but through a regular discipline of gradual initiations and development of psychical powers.

The AUM contains the evocation of the Vedic triad. It is the trinity of man himself, on his way to become immortal through the solemn union of his inner triune SELF -- the exterior, gross body, the husk not even being taken into consideration in this human trinity. Ceres-Demeter and her earthly wanderings in search of her daughter are the euhemerized descriptions of one of the most metaphysico-psychological subjects ever treated of by human mind. It is a mask for the transcendent narrative of the initiated seers; the celestial vision of the freed soul of the initiate of the last hour describing the process by which the soul that has not yet been incarnated descends for the first time into matter. The Lesser Mysteries signify occultly the condition of the unpurified soul invested with an earthly body, and enveloped in a material and physical nature. The body is the sepulchre, the prison of the soul. The astral soul is placed between matter (body) and the highest intellect (its immortal spirit or nous). Which of these two will conquer? The result of the battle of life lies between the triad. It is a question of a few years of physical enjoyment on earth and -- if it has begotten abuse -- of the dissolution of the earthly body being followed by death of the astral body, which is thus prevented from being united with the highest spirit of the triad, which alone confers on us individual immortality; or, on the other hand, of becoming immortal mystae; initiated before death of the body into the divine truths of the after-life. Demi-gods below, and GODS above.

"In ancient India, the mystery of the triad, known but to the initiated, could not, under the penalty of death, be revealed to the vulgar," says Vrihaspati.

Neither could it in the ancient Grecian and Samothracian Mysteries. Nor can it be now. It is in the hands of the adepts, and must remain a mystery to the world so long as the materialistic savant regards it as an undemonstrated fallacy, an insane hallucination, and the dogmatic theologian, a snare of the Evil One.

Subjective communication with the human, god-like spirits of those who have preceded us to the silent land of bliss, is in India divided into three categories. Under the spiritual training of a guru the neophyte begins to feel them. Were he not under the immediate guidance of an adept, he would be controlled by the invisibles, and utterly at their mercy, for among these subjective influences he is unable to discern the good from the bad. Happy the sensitive who is sure of the purity of his spiritual atmosphere! But the guru's influence is there; it is the most powerful shield against the intrusion of the bhutna(1) into the atmosphere of the neophyte.

By those who have followed us thus far, it will naturally be asked, to what practical issue this book tends; much has been said about magic and its potentiality, much of the immense antiquity of its practice. Do we wish to affirm that the occult sciences ought to be studied and practiced throughout the world? Would we replace modern spiritualism with the ancient magic? Neither; the substitution could not be made, nor the study universally prosecuted, without incurring the risk of enormous public dangers. A sorcerer is a public enemy, and mesmerism(2) may most readily be turned into the worst of sorceries.

We would have neither scientists, theologians, nor spiritualists turn practical magicians, but all to realize that there was true science, profound religion, and genuine phenomena before this modern era. We would that all who have a voice in the education of the masses should first know and then teach that the safest guides to human happiness and enlightenment are those writings which have descended to us from the remotest antiquity; and that nobler spiritual aspirations and a higher average morality prevail in the countries where the people take their precepts as the rule of their lives. We would have all to realize that magical, i.e., spiritual powers exist in every man, and those few to practice them who feel called to teach, and are ready to pay the price of discipline and self-conquest which their development exacts.

Besides, there are many good reasons why the study of magic, except in its broad philosophy, is nearly impracticable in Europe and America. Magic being what it is, the most difficult of all sciences to learn experimentally -- its acquisition is practically beyond the reach of the majority of white-skinned people; and that, whether their effort is made at home or in the East. Probably not more than one man in a million of European blood is fitted -- either physically, morally, or psychologically, -- to become a practical magician, and not one in ten millions would be found endowed with all these three qualifications as required for the work. To become a neophyte, one must be ready to devote himself heart and soul to the study of mystic sciences. Magic -- most imperative of mistresses -- brooks no rival. Unlike other sciences, a theoretical knowledge of formulae without mental capacities or soul powers, is utterly useless in magic. The spirit must hold in complete subjection the combativeness of what is loosely termed educated reason, until facts have vanquished cold human sophistry.

NOTE.--The volume and page references to Isis Unveiled, from which the foregoing article is compiled, are, in the order of the excerpts, as follows: I, 40, 43, 55, 58; II, 590, 591, 117, 118, 119; I, 197-8, 200-1, 178, 179, 181, 499, 500, 61, 45, 46; II, 114, 111, 112, 114, 115, 634, 635, 636.

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TWO (2) FOOTNOTES LISTED BELOW:

(1) Bhutna, a variant spelling of Bhuts, i.e., "spooks," elementaries, vampires, the larvae or reliquae of degraded human beings, the still living but disembodied consciousness of suicides, etc.
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(2) Students should be on their guard to attach to words as far as possible the meaning poured into them by H.P.B. Isis Unveiled was published in 1877 at which time no vocabulary of occultism or occult terms existed in English, and H.P.B., taking the vocabulary as well as the mind of the race as she found it, had to mould it to the meanings she had to convey. [EDITORS THEOSOPHY.]
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