THEOSOPHY, Vol. 36, No. 3, January, 1948
(Pages 211-215; Size: 14K)
(Number 48 of a 57-part series)



REFUSAL to acknowledge the vital contribution of H. P. Blavatsky to the subject of psychical research, in face of the many pressing problems in this field of study, has become a matter almost of moral perfidy, as well as of intellectual obscurantism. Even in a recent broad-minded work,(1) not a single work of Madame Blavatsky's is listed in the appended bibliography, although the author is no pedant, and himself defines psychical research as "the scientific study of human personality beyond the threshold of consciousness." He makes much of the difference between investigation "carried out seriously by serious people" and treatment of the subject "as vague borderland to the marvellous." Yet he is guilty of historical solecism in suggesting that spiritualism, as a cult, "is the modern dress of ancient occultism." Are these and other instances of confusion of thought really necessary in a serious work? Or are they merely indicative of a species of mental and emotional karma, affecting adversely those students who refuse (it is impossible to grant these researchers the excuse of ignorance) to admit the existence or importance of writings which pleaded "for the recognition of the Hermetic philosophy, the anciently universal Wisdom Religion, as the only possible key to the Absolute in science and theology"?

More regrettable is it that every advantage is not taken of H. P. Blavatsky's published knowledge and experience -- "the fruit of a somewhat intimate acquaintance with Eastern adepts and study of their science" -- when it is seen what gaps exist in the efforts to find solutions to varied mental phenomena. Instances are Mr. Tyrrell's references to telepathy and precognition. On page 71 he observes, "What the nature of the subliminal relation is which gives rise to telepathy we do not know. How can we expect to know it when we know so little about the nature of the subliminal self?" Again, as to precognition, he writes (p. 91): "Knowledge of the future event must be acquired in some way or it could not be presented to consciousness at all. It seems clear that it is the subliminal self, or some department of it, which acquires knowledge of the future, though we are totally ignorant of how it does it."

The general impression made upon the mind of Dr. F. C. S. Schiller by Dr. Walter F. Prince's The Case of Patience Worth,(2) was "to deepen the conviction that orthodox psychology and orthodox philosophy are both very far from having plumbed the depths of the soul, and that it is unreasonable to require an open-minded man to endorse their prejudices." If psychical research (as seems inevitable) involves assumptions about the nature of human beings, especially in the realm of multiple personalities, why not recognize one of the principal tenets of esoteric philosophy, namely, "that as there are seven fundamental forces in nature, and seven planes of being, so there are seven states of consciousness in which man can live, think, remember, and have his being?"

On the specific question of mediumistic communications, Mr. Tyrrell quotes from the report of a Committee of the Society for Psychical Research, appointed in 1908, to examine Eusapio Palladino in Naples:

It is understating the case to say that the vast majority of these modern wizards and witches are the merest charlatans.... Yet every now and then a personality arises whose claims to something beyond such manifest imposture it has seemed impossible to dismiss thus curtly.
Without disputing the generalization, however, it may be said that impostor is the word frequently used to designate someone associated with phenomena beyond the comprehension of investigators playing for a "safe" reputation! Apart from the fact that there are few who are in possession of "such an unerring spiritual insight as to be able to detect the false from the true" in these matters (as pointed out by H. P. Blavatsky with regard to the genuineness or otherwise of "precipitated" letters), it is difficult to understand how any proper judgment can be arrived at without some principle of law as a body of reference. It is not enough to say, as Mr. Tyrrell does, in his treatment of control-mediumship and its problems, that the conclusions which emerge are:
(1) As dramatically presented, the communicator is a psychological construct of the medium.

(2) Yet there is reason to believe that a genuine communicator, in some cases at any rate, exists in the background and uses this psychological construct by informing it to a greater or less degree with its own individuality. (p. 170.)

Neither mediumship nor sensitivity was first investigated in the nineteenth century, though Mr. Tyrrell states that psychical research is entirely modern -- "It originated with the S.P.R. in 1882." Both types of phenomena were matters of profound concern in all ages. Indeed, does the term "psychological construct" possess any significance in this connection unless it be studied in relation to the great terrestrial crucible, the Astral Light? For is not a medium "but an ordinary person who is magnetized by influx from the astral light," the chief agent in all magical phenomena?

Mr. Tyrrell's work has a wealth of illustrative phenomena, and reviews the laboratory research work by Rhine, Carington, and others. To anyone unfamiliar with the subject, the book should bring conviction of the need for enquiry. Equally, Mr. Tyrrell's indictment of the attitude of most men of science to psychical research is well-founded. The instances mentioned by him where personal bias and prejudice do duty for reasoned investigation, remind one of H. P. Blavatsky's recital of "respectable" theories about psychical phenomena in Isis Unveiled (Vol. I, Chapter IV). Her summing up of the position then (1877) is still apposite, and the reproach to science continues undiminished:

What psychology has long lacked to make its mysterious laws better understood and applied to the ordinary as well as extraordinary affairs of life, is not facts. These it has had in abundance. The need has been for their recording and classification -- for trained observers and competent analysts. From the scientific body these ought to have been supplied. If error has prevailed and superstition run riot these many centuries throughout Christendom, it is the misfortune of the common people, the reproach of science. The generations have come and gone, each furnishing its quota of martyrs to conscience and moral courage, and psychology is little better understood in our day than it was when the heavy hand of the Vatican sent those brave unfortunates to their untimely doom, and branded their memories with the stigma of heresy and  sorcery. (p. 124.)
Nowadays, the "scientific" treatment of a subject would not be thought worthy of consideration if it so much as whispered the word "morality"! Psychical research is no exception to the seeming rule. Nowhere in Mr. Tyrrell's argument (and he has been President of the British S.P.R.) is any reference made to the harm that may accrue to mediums or sensitives, or to the karma that is involved for those who use them as laboratory specimens, in connection with experiments in paranormal phenomena.

It was always the ardent desire of the founders of the Theosophical Movement of the nineteenth century that the development of the psychic faculties, premonitory symptoms of which were in evidence in the United States, should proceed healthily and normally. By encouraging thinking and internationally-minded people with the need of furnishing the materials for a universal religious philosophy, it was hoped to save mankind from "the terrible dangers, both mental and bodily" accompanying any unfoldment of psychic powers "in a hot-bed of selfishness and all evil passions." The object was to enable man's psychological growth to proceed in harmony with his moral improvement, at what time his material surroundings would "reflect the peace and fraternal goodwill which will reign in his mind."

One would think that to this noble ideal there could have been a sustained affirmative response. On the contrary, history records few instances of such tragic calumny and treachery as were the lot of H. P. Blavatsky. Amongst her vilifiers was the very Society whose work is extolled by Mr. Tyrrell in The Personality of Man. Quoting from an address given in 1882 by the first president of the S.P.R. (Professor Henry Sidgwick), in which he stated(3) that the members were all agreed that any investigation should be carried out "with a single-minded desire to ascertain the facts and without any foregone conclusion as to their nature," Mr. Tyrrell goes on to say: "That has been the policy of this society ever since. Its standard of evidence has never been allowed to flag." A psychical phenomenon itself worthy of full investigation is how it became possible for a committee of eminent persons with such high aspirations to present the Report on phenomena connected with the Theosophical Society of the day (for all practical purposes, this meant connected with H. P. Blavatsky), published in December, 1885. The travesty of justice thus perpetrated officially by the S.P.R. has been exposed again and again. Not once, however, since 1885, has the S.P.R. acknowledged the grotesque nature of the evidence on which it founded its condemnation of a great Teacher, or even referred those interested in its work to the published case for the defence. To the committee which sponsored this Report, some words of Mr. Tyrrell apply: "The antecedent attitude of the human mind towards the paranormal becomes a factor of the greatest importance -- of greater importance, even, than the evidence. Why not, then, go straight to the crux of the matter and investigate this attitude?" To do so, however, raises issues of some magnitude. In all that concerns the paranormal, the man or woman of our civilization is in the position of one who wishes to be shravaka, and he or she would do well to listen to these words:

Contaminated by centuries of dogmatic superstition, by an ineradicable -- though quite unwarranted -- sense of superiority over those whom the English term so contemptuously "niggers," the White European would hardly submit himself to the practical tuition of either Kopt, Brahman, or Lama. 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. (Isis Unveiled, II, 636.)

COMPILER'S NOTE: The following is a separate item which followed the above article but was on the same page. I felt it was useful to include it here:


At the beginning of each Manvantara (the remanifestation of a world and man upon it), a planetary spirit appears among men, and implants the great ideas afterwards held intuitionally. They are projected with a spiritual force and power that carries them through all the ages of that manvantara, now appearing and again apparently lost to sight. The original impulse every now and then, receives additions, through such beings as: Jesus, Buddha, Confucius and others, who appear in intermediate periods. 

--The Path, July, 1886

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(1) The Personality of Man, by G. N. M. Tyrrell, London, 1946.
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(2) Boston S.P.R., 1927. Dr. Schiller's statement occurs in the Proceedings, S.P.R., Vol. XXXVI, p. 576.
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(3) Proceedings, Vol. I, p. 8.
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