The Occult World
Alfred Percy Sinnett
Theosophy Wales are pleased to present this
Tour de Force of esoteric writing.
The Occult World is an treatise on the Occult and Occult Phenomena, presented in readable style,
by an early giant of the Theosophical Movement.
Alfred Percy Sinnett and his wife Patience were personally invited to join the Theosophical
Society by the founder of modern Theosophy,
Helena Petrovna Blavatsky herself
Theosophists nowadays hesitate to use the word “Occult” as it has been kicked around, adapted
and reworked to suit many purposes and contexts.
A P Sinnett uses the word to describe the study
of a deeper spiritual reality that extends beyond
rigid rational thinking and the accepted
boundaries of the physical sciences.
The Occult World
Alfred Percy Sinnett
LATER acquaintance with the subject has done much to show me that the
reserve hitherto maintained by the masters of occult science was inevitable. It
is useless to offer any man information which his faculties are not
sufficiently expanded to receive. Only a few hundred years after the physical
science that has been absorbed by the last two or three generations with
avidity would have been unwelcome and despised. Till quite recently the serious
contemplation of psychic phenomena would have been resented as a relapse into
superstition. No man can investigate causes till he is willing to observe
facts, and it was only the other day that a disposition to observe facts lying
outside the domain of physical causation would have alienated any prematurely
developed enthusiast from the sympathies of all his contemporaries. The light
of mere worldly wisdom may thus vindicate the reticence of the few and secluded
custodians of the higher knowledge, but with far greater precision is their
policy vindicated when with their own help we come at last to comprehend the
scientific law of human intellectual development. The progress of the world is
not rolling on under the direction of blind chance. Propelled though it is by
the collective impulses of individual energy, it advances in a defined path,
and the knowledge, the discoveries, the spiritual teaching, which breaks upon
the world at each stage of its advancement, is precisely proportioned to the receptivity
of mankind at that period of its evolution. The revelation of occult truth
going on in the world just now in many ways and under various aspects- though
as I most emphatically believe, under none more unequivocally or satisfactorily
than in the case of the direct teaching of occult science I am instrumental in
bringing to public notice - is the legitimate inheritance of this generation,
and the good it may do in the world now could not have been done only a few
decades ago. It is useless to try to take a photographic picture upon a
non-sensitized plate; it is useless to present the subtle conceptions of
spiritual science to minds on which no psychic collodion has previously been
deposited. The Esoteric study in which some of us connected with the
Theosophical Society have been privileged, during the last two or three years,
to engage, has so effectually dispelled the discontent we first felt at the
jealousy that had withheld this teaching from the world so long, that we
recognise the message we are now commissioned to convey as addressed so far
only to the most highly advanced and intuitive minds of our time. We are but
beginning to put forward a doctrine which will only be appreciated in its full
significance later on.
It is interesting to observe that, in accordance with predictions made to me when I began to write on these subjects, the dawn of psychic truth has begun to brighten our sky from several directions at once. The psychological telegraphy here referred to was quite unheard of In the world at large in 1880. But for the last year or two the Psychic Research Society in London has been specially engaged on a long series of experiments in what it calls " thought transference," the phenomena of which contain the germs of the adepts' psychic telegraph. If anyone still doubts that thought impressions really can be conveyed from one mind to another, without the aid of speech or any sign or communication whatever having to do with the physical senses, he is unacquainted with the result of scientific enquiry in that direction. The transactions of the society referred to put the broad fact just noted beyond the reach of incredulity that can any longer be regarded as intelligent.
It is too late in the day now, when several editions of this book have
already passed through the press, to affect any reserve about this name. But in
truth I greatly regret now that I ever permitted it to become public property.
In London a large and earnestly studious branch of the Theosophical Society has been formed, and long contact with the grand conceptions of Esoteric philosophy has developed on the part of its members a sentiment of reverence for the Mahatmas only second in intensity to that of the regular oriental initiates. It would spare all such persons a great deal of indignant distress, if the name I was unfortunately led to print in this work at full length had never been disclosed. To most Western readers the matter may seem very unimportant, but trouble and annoyance which I greatly deplore have ensued from the mistake thus committed. As a matter of fact, I may here observe that the original manuscript of my book , was written from end to end without the use of the name, instead of ,which I had placed a mere initial, " H", but a letter I received from India shortly before the publication of the book authorised the use of the name, and I felt at that time that it was absurd to be plus royaliste que le roi. So the step came to be taken which cannot now be recalled. The name of the Mahatma here made use of, I may explain, in conclusion of this digression.
The necessity of reprinting this work for a fourth edition gives me an opportunity of noticing some discussion that has taken place in the spiritualistic press on the subject of a letter addressed to Light, of September 1st, 1883, by Mr. Henry Kiddle, an American spiritualist. The letter was as follows:
To THE EDITOR OF "LIGHT."
-In a communication that appeared in your issue of July 21st, '" G. W., M.D.," reviewing '" Esoteric Buddhism," says: Regarding this Koot Hoomi, it is a very remarkable and unsatisfactory fact that Mr. Sinnett, although in correspondence with him for years, has yet never been permitted to see him." I agree with your corespondent entirely ; and this is not the only fact that is unsatisfactory to me. On reading Mr. Sinnett's "Occult World," more than a year ago, I was very greatly surprised to find in one of the letters presented by Mr. Sinnett as having been transmitted to him by Koot Hoomi, in the mysterious manner described, a passage taken almost verbatim from an address on Spiritualislm by me at Lake Pleasant in August, 1880, and published the same month by the Banner of Light. As Mr. Sinnett's book did not appear till a considerable time afterwards (about a year, I think), it is certain that I did not quote, consciously or unconsciously, from its pages. How, then, did it get into Koot Hoomi's mysterious letter?
I sent to Mr. Sinnett a letter through his publishers, enclosing the printed pages of my address, with the part used by Koot Hoomi marked upon it, and asked for an explanation, for I wondered that so great a sage as Koot Hoomi should need to borrow anything from so humble a student of spiritual things as myself. As yet I have received no reply; and the query has been suggested to my mind -Is Koot Hoomi a myth? or, if not, is he so great an adept as to have impressed my mind with his thoughts and word while I was preparing my address?If the latter were the case he could not consistently exclaim: '" Pereant qui ante nos nostra dixerunt."
Perhaps Mr. Sinnett may think it scarcely worth while to solve this
little problem; but the fact that the existence of the brotherhood has not yet
been proved may induce some to raise the question suggested by "G. W ., M.
D". Is there any such secret order ? On this question, which is not
intended to imply anything offensive to Mr. Sinnett, that other still more
important question may depend. Is Mr. Sinnett's recently published book an
exponent of Esoteric Buddhism ? It Is, doubtless, a work of great ability, and
its statements are worthy of deep thought; but the main question is, are they
true, or how can they be verified ?' As this cannot he accomplished except by
the exercise of abnormal or transcendental faculties, they must be accepted, if
at all, upon the ipse dixtt of the accomplished adept, who has
been so kind as to sacrifice his esoteric character or vow, and make Mr.
Sinnett his channel of communication with the outer world, thus rendering his
sacred knowledge exoteric. Hence, if this publication, with its wonderful
doctrine of Shells," overturning the consolatory conclusions of
Spiritualists, is to be accepted, the authority must he established, and the existence
of the adept or adepts -indeed, the facts of adeptship - must be proved. The
first step in affording this proof has hardly yet, I think, been taken. I trust
this book will be very carefully analysed, and the nature of its inculcations
exposed, whether they are Esoteric Buddhism or not,
The following are the passages referred to, printed side by side [ in the book, but one after the other in this document ]- for the sake of ready reference. .
Extract from Mr. Kiddle's discourse, entitled "The Present Outlook
of Spiritualism", delivered at
"My friends, ideas rule the world; and as men's minds receive new ideas, laying aside the old and effete, the world advances. Society rests upon them; mighty revolutions spring from them ; institutions crumble before their onward march. It is just as impossible to resist their influx, when the time comes, as to stay the progress of the tide.
And the agency called Spiritualism is bringing a new set of ideas into the world - ideas on the most momentous subjects,touching man's true position in the universe; his origin and destiny; the relation of the mortal to the immortal; of the temporary to the Eternal; of the finite to the Infinite; of man's deathless soul to the material universes in which it now dwells - ideas larger, more general, more comprehensive, recognising more fully the universal reign of law as the expression of the Divine will, unchanging and unchangeable in regard to which there is only an Eternal Now, while to mortals time is past or future, as related to their finite existence on this material plane; etc., etc., etc.,
Extract from Koot Hoomi's letter to Mr. Sinnett, in the "Occult World", 3rd Edition, page 102. The first edition was published in June 1881.
Ideas rule the world; and as men's minds receive new ideas, laying aside the old and effete, the world will advance, mighty revolutions will spring from them, creeds and even powers will crumble before their onward march, crushed by their irresistible force. It will be just as impossible to resist their influence when the time comes as to stay the progress of the tide. But all this will come gradually on, before it comes we have a duty set before us; that of sweeping away as much as possible the dross left to us by our pious forefathers. New ideas have to be planted on clean places, for these ideas touch upon the most momentous subjects. It is not physical phenomena,but these universal ideas that we study, as to comprehend the former, we have first to understand the latter. They touch man's true position in the universe in relation to his previous and future births, his origin and ultimate destiny; the relation of the mortal to the immortal, of the temporary to the Eternal, of the finite to the Infinite; ideas larger, grander, more comprehensive, recognising the eternal reign of immutable law, unchanging and unchangeable, in regards to which there is only an ETERNAL NOW; while to uninitiated mortals time is past or future as related to their finite existence on this material speck of dirt, etc., etc., etc.
The appearance of this letter puzzled, without very much disturbing, the
equanimity of Theosophical students. If it had been published immediately after
the first publication of the " Occult World," its effect might have
been more serious, but in the interim the Brothers had by degrees communicated
to the public through my agency such a considerable block of philosophical
teaching, then already embodied in my second book, " Esoteric Buddhism,"
and scattered through two or three volumes of the Theosophist, that
appreciative readers had passed beyond the stage of development in which it
might have been possible for them to suppose that the principal author of this
teaching could at any time have been under any intellectual temptation to
borrow thoughts from a spiritualistic lecture. Various hypotheses were framed
to account for the mysterious identity between the two passages cited, and
people to whom the Theosophic teachings were unacceptable, as overthrowing
conceptions to which they were attached, were greatly enchanted to find my
revered instructor convicted, as they thought, of a commonplace plagiarism. A
couple of months necessarily elapsed before an answer could be obtained from
India on the subject, and meanwhile the " Kiddle incident," as it
came to be called, was joyfully treated by various correspondents writing in
the columns of Light, as having dealt a fatal blow at the authority of
the Indian Mahatmas as "' exponents of esoteric truth.
In due course I received a long and instructive explanation of the mystery from Mahatma Koot Hoomi himself; but this letter reached me under the seal of the most absolute confidence. Rigidly adhering to the policy which had all along restrained within narrow limits the communication of their teaching to the world at large, the Brothers remained as anxious as ever to leave everybody full intellectual liberty to disbelieve in them, and reject their revelation if his spiritual intuitions were not of a kind to be readily kindled. In the same way that from the first they had refused me the overwhelming and irresistible proofs of their power, which I had sought for in the beginning as weapons with which I might successfully combat incredulity, they now shrank from interfering with the conclusions of any readers who might be found capable, after the rich assurances of the later teaching, of distrusting the Mahatmas on the strength of a suspicion which was ill founded in reality, plausible though it might seem. Debarred myself, however,from making any public use of the Mahatma's letter, some of the residents and visitors at the Headquarters of the Theosophical Society at Adyar, Madras, came into possession of the true facts of the case, and some communications appeared in the society's magazine which afforded everyone honestly desirous of comprehending the truth of the matter, all necessary information. In the December number of the Theosophist, Mr. Subba Row put forward a very cautiously worded article, hinting merely at the actual explanation of the identity of the passages cited by Mr. KiddIe, and concerned chiefly with an elaborate analysis of the " plagiarised" sentences, the object of which was to show that in truth we might have divined for ourselves, if we had been sharp enough in the beginning, that some mistake had been made, and that the Mahatma could not have intended to write the sentences just as they stood. The hint conveyed by Mr. Subba was as follows: -
" Therefore from a careful perusal of the passage and its contents, any unbiased reader will come to the conclusion that somebody must have greatly blundered over the said passage, and will not be surprised to hear that it was unconsciously altered through the carelessness and ignorance of the chela by whose instrumentality it was 'precipitated.' Such alterations, omissions, and mistakes sometimes occur in the process of precipitation; and I now assert I know it for certain, from an inspection of the original precipitation proof, that such was the case with regard to the passage under discussion."
The same Theosophist in which this article appeared contained a letter from General Morgan in reply to various spiritualistic attacks on the Theosophical position, and in the course of his remarks he referred to the " Kiddle incident " as follows :-
" Happily we have been permitted, many of us, to look behind the veil of the parallel passage mystery, and the whole affair is very satisfactorily explained to us; but all that we are permitted to say is that many a passage was entirely omitted from the letter received by Mr. Sinnett, its precipitation from the original dictation to the chela. Would our Great Master but permit us his humble followers to photograph and publish in the Theosophist the scraps shown to us, scraps in which whole sentences parenthetical and quotation marks are defaced and obliterated and consequently omitted in the chela' clumsy transcription - the public would be treated to a rare sight -something entirely unknown to modern science- namely, an akasic impression as good as a photograph of mentally expressed thoughts dictated from a distance."
A month or two after the appearance of these fragmentary hints, I received a note from the Mahatma relieving me of all restrictions previously imposed on the full letter of explanation he had previously sent me. The subject, by that time, however, seemed to have lost its interest for all persons in
Now, however, that this new edition of the Occult World II is required,
there is an obvious propriety in the course I now take. The new letter from the
Mahatma constitutes in itself a correction of the letter from which I quote on
pages 101-102, and apart from the interest of the explanation it furnishes in
regard to the precipitation process, the thoughts it conveys are in themselves
valuable and suggestive.
"The letter in question," writes the Mahatma, referring to the communication I originally received, "was framed by me while on a journey and on horseback. It was dictated mentally in the direction of and precipitated by a young chela not yet expert at this branch of psychic chemistry, and who had to transcribe it from the hardly visible imprint. Half of it, therefore, was omitted, and the other half more or less distorted by the °'artist. ' When asked by him at the time whether I would look over and correct it, I answered -imprudently, I I confess - "Anyhow will do, my boy; it is of no great importance if you skip a few words.' I was physically very tired by a ride of forty-eight hours consecutively, and (physically again) half asleep. Besides this, I had very important business to attend to psychically, and therefore little remained of me to devote to that letter. When I awoke I found it had already been sent on, and as I was not then anticipating its publication, I never gave it from that time a thought. Now I had never evoked spiritual Mr. Riddle's physiognomy, never had heard of his existence, was not aware of his name. Having, owing to our correspondence, and your Simla surroundings and friends, felt interested in the intellectual progress of the Phenomenalists, I had directed my attention, some two months previous, to the great annual camping movement of the American Spiritualists in various directions, among others to Lake or Mount Pleasant. Some of the curious ideas and sentences representing the general hopes and aspirations of the American Spiritualists remained impressed on my memory, and I remembered only these ideas and detached sentences quite apart from the personalities of those who harboured or pronounced them. Hence my entire ignorance of the lecturer whom I have innocently defrauded, as it would appear, and who raises the hue and cry. Yet had I dictated my letter in the form it now appears in print, it would certainly look suspicious, and however far from what is generally called plagiarism, yet in the absence of any inverted commas it would lay a foundation for censure. But I did nothing of the kind, as the original impression now before me clearly shows. And before I proceed any further I must give you some explanation of this mode of precipitation.
The recent experiments of the Psychic Research Society will help you greatly to comprehend the rationale of this mental telegraphy. You have observed in the journal of that body, how thought transference is cumulatively effected. The image of the geometrical or other figure which the active brain has had impressed upon it is gradually imprinted upon the recipient brain of the passive subject, as the series of reproductions illustrated in the cuts show. Two factors are needed to produce a perfect and instantaneous mental telegraphy- close concentration in the operator and complete receptive passivity in the reader subject. Given a disturbance of either condition, and the result is proportionately imperfect. The reader does not see the image as in the telegrapher's brain, but as arising in his own. When the latter's thought wanders, the psychic current becomes broken, the communication disjointed and incoherent. In a case such as mine the chela had, as it were, to pick up what he could from the current I was sending him, and, as above remarked, patch the broken bits together as best he might. Do not you see the same thing in ordinary mesmerism -the maya impressed upon the subject's imagination by the operator becoming now stronger, now feebler, as the latter keeps the intended illusive image more or less steadily before his own fancy. And how often the clairvoyants reproach the magnetiser for taking their thoughts off the subject under consideration. And the mesmeric healer will always bear you witness that if he permits himself to think of anything but the vital current he is pouring into his patient, he is at once compelled to either establish the current afresh or stop the treatment. So I, in this instance, having at the moment more vividly in my mind the psychic diagnosis of current spiritualistic thought, of which the Lake PIeasant speech was one marked symptom, unwittingly transferred that reminiscence more vividly than my own remarks upon it and deductions therefrom. So to say, the' despoiled victim's' -Mr. KiddIe's -utterances came out as a high light, and were more sharply photographed (first, in the chela's brain, and thence on the paper before him, a double process, and one far more difficult than thought reading simply), while the rest, my remarks thereupon and arguments -as I now find, are hardly visible and quite blurred on the original scraps before me. Put into a mesmeric subject's hand a sheet of bank paper, tell him it contains a certain chapter of some book that you have read, concentrate your thoughts upon the words, and see how -provided that he has himself not read the chapter, but only takes it from your memory, his reading will reflect your own more or less vivid successive recollections of your author's language. The same as to the precipitation by the chela of the transferred thought upon (or rather into) paper. If the mental picture received be feeble, his visible reproduction of it must correspond. And the more so in proportion to the closeness of attention he gives. He might- were he but merely a person of the true mediumistic temperament -be employed by his " Master " as a sort of psychic printing machine (producing lithographed or psychographed impressions of what the operator had in mind; his nerve system the machine, his nerve aura the printing fluid, the colors drawn from that exhaustless store-house of pigments (as of everything else) the akasa. But the medium and the chela are diametrically dissimilar, and the latter acts consciously, except under exceptional circumstances, during development not necessary to dwell upon here.
" Well, as soon as I heard of the change, the commotion among my defenders having reached me across the eternal snows, I ordered an investigation into the original scraps of the impression. At the first glance I saw that it was I the only and most guilty party, the poor boy having done hut that which he was told. Having now restored the characters and the lines omitted and blurred beyond hope of recognition by anyone but their original evolver, to their primitive color and places, I now find my letter reading quite differently, as you will observe. Turning to the' Occult World', the copy sent by you, to the page cited, I was struck, upon carefully reading it, by the great discrepancy between the sentences, a gap, so to say, of ideas between part 1 and part 2, the plagiarised portion so called. There seems no connection at all between the two; for what has indeed the determination of our chiefs (to prove to a sceptical world that physical phenomena are as reducible to law as anything else) to do with Plato's ideas which' rule the world,' or' Practical Brotherhood of Humanity .' I fear that it is your personal friendship alone for the writer that has blinded you to the discrepancy and disconnection of ideas in this abortive precipitation even until now. Otherwise you could not have failed to perceive that something was wrong on that page, that there was a glaring defect in the connection. Moreover, I have to plead guilty to another sin: I have never so much as looked at my letters in print, until the day of the forced investigation. I had read only your own original matter, feeling it a loss of time to go over my hurried bits and scraps of thought. But now I have to ask you to read the passages as they were originally dictated by me, and make the comparison with the' Occult World ' before you. ..I enclose the copy verbatim from the restored fragments, underlining in red the omitted sentences for easier comparison.
" ...Phenomenal elements previously unthought of. .. will disclose
at last the secrets of their mysterious workings. Plato was right to readmit
every element of speculation which Socrates had discarded. The problems of
universal being are not unattainable, or worthless if attained. But the latter
can be solved only by mastering those elements that are now looming on the
horizons of the profane. Even the Spiritualists, with their mistaken,
grotesquely perverted views and notions, are hazily realising the new
situation. They prophecy -and their prophecies are not always without a point
of truth in them -or intuitional prevision, so to say. Hear some of them
reasserting the old, old axiom that' ideas rule the world,' and as men's
minds receive new ideas, laying aside the old and effete, the world will advance,
mighty revolutions will spring from them; institutions, aye, and even
creeds and powers, they may add, will crumble before their onward march,
crushed by their own inherent force, not the irresistible force of the'
new ideas' offered by the Spiritualists. Yes, they are both right and wrong.
It will be' just as impossible to resist their influence when the time comes as
to stay the progress of the tide- to be sure. But what the Spiritualists fail
to perceive, I see, and their spirits to explain (the latter knowing no more
than what they can find in the brain of the former) is that all this will
come gradually on, and that before it comes they, as well us
ourselves, have all a duty to perform, a task set before us
-that of sweeping away as much as possible the dross left to us by our pious
forefathers. New ideas have to be planted on clean places, for these ideas
touch upon the most momentous subjects. It is not physical phenomena, or the
agency called Spiritualism, but these universal ideas that we have
precisely to study; the noumenon, not the phenomenon: for to comprehend the
latter we have first to understand the former. They do
touch man's true position in the universe, to be sure, but only in relation
to his future not previous births. It is not physical
phenomena, however wonderful, that can ever explain to man his origin,
let alone his ultimate destiny, or as one of them expresses it, the
relation of the mortal to the immortal, of the temporary to the eternal, of the
finite to the infinite, etc. They talk very glibly of what they regard as
new ideas, ' larger, more general, grander, more comprehensive,' and at
the same time they recognise instead of the eternal reign of immutable law,
the universal reign of law and the expression of a Divine will. Forgetful of
their "earlier beliefs, and that' it repented the Lord that he had made
man,' these would-be philosophers and reformers would impress upon their
hearers that the expression of the said Divine will ' is unchanging and
unchangeable, in regard to which there is only an Eternal Now, while to
mortals [uninitiated ] time is past or future as related to their finite
existence on this material plane,'- of which they know as little as of their
spiritual spheres - a speck of dirt they have made the latter, like our own
earth, a future life that the true philosopher would rather avoid than court.
But I dream with my eyes open. ...At all events, this is not any privileged
teaching of their own. Most of these ideas are taken piecemeal from Plato and
the Alexandrian philosophers. It is what we all study, and what many have
solved, etc. , etc.
" This is the true copy of the original document as now restored- the 'Rosetta stone' of the Kiddle incident. And now, if you have understood my explanations about the process, as given in a few words further back, you need not ask me how it came to pass that, though somewhat disconnected, the sentences transcribed by the chela are mostly those that are now considered as plagiarised, while the missing links are precisely those phrases that would have shown the passages were simply reminiscences, if not quotations -the keynote around which came grouping my own reflections on that morning. For the first time in my life I had paid a serious attention to the utterances of the poetical 'media' of the so-called , inspirational' oratory of the English-American lecturers, its quality and limitations. I was struck with all this brilliant but empty verbiage, and recognised for the first time fully its pernicious intellectual tendency. It was their gross and unsavoury materialism, hiding clumsily under its shadowy spiritual veil, that attracted my thoughts at the time. While dictating the sentences quoted -a small portion of the many I have been pondering over for some days -it was those ideas that were thrown out en relief the most, leaving out my own parenthetical remarks to disappear in the precipitation."
I need only add a few words of apology to Mr. Kiddle for my accidental neglect of his original communication on this subject addressed to me in India. When his letter above quoted appeared in Light, I had no recollection ,whatever of having received any letter from him while in India; but within the last few months going over, in London, and sorting papers brought back en masse from India, I have turned up the forgotten note. While in India, and the editor of a daily newspaper, my correspondence was such that letters requiring no immediate action on my part would inevitably sometimes be put aside after a hasty glance, and would unfortunately sometimes escape attention afterwards. And after the appearance of this book, I received letters of inquiry of various kinds from all parts of the world, which I was too often prevented by other calls on my time from answering as I should have wished. With the tone and spirit in which Mr. Kiddle made his very natural inquiry I have no fault to find whatever, and if his subsequent letter to Light betrayed some disposition on his part to construct unfavourable hypotheses on the basis of the parallel passages, even this second letter would hardly in itself have justified some of the indignant protests ultimately published on the other side. The spiritualists pur sang, eager to seize on an incident which seemed to cast discredit on the Theosophical teachings by which their views had been so seriously compromised, were responsible for handling the 'Kiddle incident' , in such a way as to provoke the vehement rejoinders of some Theosophical correspondents writing in the columns of Light and elsewhere. In consideration, however, of the explanations to which it has eventually given rise, and of the further insight thus afforded us into some interesting details connected with the methods under which an adept's correspondence may sometimes be conducted, the whole incident need not altogether be regretted.
The relations with the " Occult World " that I have been fortunate enough to establish have so greatly expanded during the few years that have elapsed since this volume was written that I must refer my readers to my second book, " Esoteric Buddhism," for an account of their later development. It may be worth while, however, as directly connected with the main purpose of this earlier narrative, to insert here some papers I wrote quite recently for submission to Theosophical audiences in London on the main question discussed in this volume, the existence and sources of knowledge at the command of the adepts. The evidence on this subject has long since overshadowed in its amplitude and completeness the preliminary testimony afforded by my own experiences in India. I summed up some of this later evidence on one of the occasions just referred to, as follows: -
All persons who become interested in any of the teachings which have found their way out into the world through the intermediation of the Theosophical Society very soon turn to the sanctions on which those teachings rest.
Now the orthodox occult reply hitherto given to inquirers as to the authenticity of any small statements of occult science that have hitherto been put forth, has simply been this: -" Ascertain for yourself." That is to say, lead the pure spiritual life, cultivate the inner faculties, and by degrees these will be awakened and developed to the extent of enabling you to probe Nature for yourself. But that advice is not of a kind which great numbers of people have ever been ready to take, and hence knowledge concerning the truths of occult science has remained in the hands of a few.
A new departure has now been taken. Certain proficients in occult science have broken through the old restrictions of their order, and have suddenly let out a flood of statements into the world, together with some information concerning the attributes and faculties they have themselves acquired, and by means of which they have learned what they now tell us.
It, is very widely recognised that the teaching is interesting and coherent and even supported by analogies, but every new inquirer in turn must ask what assurance we can have that the persons from whom this teaching emanates are in a position to ascertain so much. Most people, I think, would be ready to admit that persons invested, as the Brothers of of Theosophy are said to be invested with abnormal and extraordinary powers over Nature- even in the departments of Nature with which we are familiar- may very probably have faculties which enable them to obtain a deep insight into many of the generally hidden truths of Nature. But then come the primary question, " What assurance can you give us that there really are behind the few people who stand forward as the visible representatives of the Theosophical Society, any such persons as the Adept Brothers at all ? " This is an old question which is always recurring, and which must go on recurring as long as new comers continue to approach the threshold of the Theosophical Society. For many of us it has long been settled; for some new inquirers the existence of psychological Adepts seems so probable that the assurances of the leading representatives of the Society in India are readily accepted but for others again, the existence of the Brothers must first be established by altogether plain and unequivocal evidence before it will seem worth while to pay attention to the report some of us make as to the specific doctrine they teach.
I propose, therefore, to go over the evidence on this main question, which certainly underlies any with which the Theosophical Society, so far as it is concerned with the Indian teaching, can be engaged. Of course, I am not going to trouble you with any repetition of particular incidents already described in published writings. What I propose to do is briefly to review the whole case as it now stand, very greatly enlarged and strengthened as it has been during the last two years. The evidence, to begin with, divides itself into two kinds. First, we have the general body of current belief, which in India goes to show that such persons as Mahatmas or Adepts are somewhere in existence; secondly, the specific evidence which shows that the leaders of the Theosophical Society are in relation with, and in the confidence of, such Adepts.
As to the general body of belief, it would hardly be too much to say that the whole mass of the sacred literature of India rests on belief in the existence of Adepts and a very widely-spread belief, covering great areas of space and time, can rarely be regarded as evolved from nothing -as having had no basis of fact. But passing over the Mahabharata and the Puranas and all they tell us concerning " Rishis or Adepts of ancient date, I may call your attention to a paper in the Theosophist of May 1882, on some relatively modern popular Indian books, recounting the lives of various " Sadhus," another word for saint, yogee, or Adept, who have lived within the last thousand years. In this article a list is given of over seventy such persons, whose memory is enshrined in a number of Marathi book", where the miracles they are said to have wrought are recorded.
The historical value of their narratives may, of course, be disputed. I
mention them merely as illustrations of the fact that belief in the persons
having the power now ascribed to the Brothers is no new thing in India. And
next we have the testimony of many modern writers concerning the very
remarkable occult feats of Indian yogees and fakirs. Such people, of course,
are immeasurably below the psychological rank of those whom we speak of as
Brothers, but the faculties they possess, sometimes, will be enough to convince
anyone who studies the evidence concerning them that living men can acquire
powers and faculties commonly regarded as superhuman.
In Jaccolliot's books about his experiences in Benares and elsewhere, this subject is fully dealt with, and some facts connected with it have even forced their way into Anglo-Indian official records. The Report of an English resident at the court of Runjeet Singh describes how he was present at the burial of a yogee who was shut up in a vault, by his own consent, for a considerable period -six weeks, I think, but I have not got the report at hand just now to quote in detail- and emerged alive, at the end of that time, which he had spent in Samadhi or trance. Such a man would, of course be an " Adept " of a very inferior type, but the record of his achievements has the advantage of being very well authenticated as far as it goes. Again, up to within a few years ago, a very highly spiritualized ascetic and gifted seer was living at Agra, where he taught a group of disciples, and by their own statement has frequently reappeared amongst them since his death. This event itself was an effort of will accomplished at an appointed time. I have heard a good deal about him from one of his principal followers, a cultivated and highly respected native Government official, now living at Allahabad. His existence, and the fact that he possessed great psychological gifts, are quite beyond question.
Thus, in India, the fact that there are such people in the world as Adepts is hardly regarded as open to dispute. Most of those, of course, concerning whom one can obtain definite information, turn out on inquiry to be yogees of the inferior type, men who have trained their inner faculties to the extent of possessing various abnormal powers, and even insight into spiritual truths.' But none the less do all inquiries after Adepts superior to them in attainments provoke the reply that certainly there are such, though they live in complete seclusion, The general vague, indefinite belief, in fact, paves the way to the inquiry with which we are more immediately concerned -whether the leaders of the Theosophical Society are really in relation with some of the higher Adepts who do not habitually live amongst the community at large, nor make known the fact of their adeptship to any but their own regularly accepted pupils.
Now the evidence n this point divides itself as follows:
First, We have the primary evidence of witnesses who have personally seen certain of these Adepts, both in the flesh and out of the flesh, who have seen their powers exercised, and who have obtained certain knowledge as to their existence and attributes.
Secondly. The evidence of those who have seen them in the astral form, identifying them in various ways with the living men others have seen.
Thirdly. The testimony of those who have acquired circumstantial evidence as to their existence.
Foremost among the witnesses of the first group stand Madame Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott themselves. For those who see reason to trust Madame Blavatsky , her testimony is, of course ample and precise, and altogether satisfactory. She has lived among the Adepts for many years. She has been in almost daily communication with them ever since. She has returned to them, and they have visited her in their natural bodies on several occasions since she emerged from Tibet after her own initiation. There is an intermediate alternative between the conclusion that her statements concerning the Brothers are broadly true, and the conclusion that she is what some American enemies have called her, " the champion impostor of the age." I am aware of the theory which some Spiritualists entertain to the effect that she may be a medium controlled by spirits whom she mistakes for living men, but this theory can only be held by people who are quite inattentive to nine-tenths of the statements she makes, not to speak yet of the testimony of others.
How can she have lived under the roof of certain persons in Tibet for seven years and more, seeing them and their friends and relation" going about the business of their daily lives, instructing her by slow degrees in the vast science to which she is devoted, and be in any doubt as to whether they are living men or spirits. The conjecture is absurd. She is either speaking falsely when she tells us that she has so lived among them, or the Adepts who taught her are living men. The Spiritualists hypothesis about her supposed "controls " is built upon the statement she makes, that the Adepts appear to her in the astral form when she is at a distance from them. If they had never appeared to her in any other form there would be room to argue the matter from the Spiritualists' point of view, or there might be, but for other circumstances again. But her astral visitors are identical in all respects with the men she has lived and studied amongst, At intervals, as I have said, she has been enabled to go back again and see them in the flesh. Her astral communication with them merely fills up the gap of her personal intercourse with them, which has extended over a long series of years. Her veracity may of course be challenged, though
I think it can be shown that it is most unreasonable to challenge this, but we might as reasonably doubt the living reality of our nearest relations, of the people we live amongst most intimately, as suppose that Madame Blavatsky can be herself mistaken in describing the Brothers as living men. Either she must be right, or has consciously been weaving an enormous network of falsehood in all her writings, acts, and conversations for the last eight or nine years And the plea that she may be a loose talker and given to exaggeration will no more meet the difficulty than the Spiritualists' hypothesis. Pare away as much as you like from the details of Madame Blavatsky's statement on account of possible exaggeration, and that which remains is a great solid block of residual statement which must be either true, or a structure of conscious falsehood. And even if Madame Blavatsky's testimony stood alone, we should have the wonderful fact of her self-sacrifice in the cause of Theosophy to make the hypothesis of her being a conscious impostor one of the most extravagant that could be entertained.
At first, when we in India who specially became her friends pointed this out, people said, "But how do you know that she had anything to sacrifice? she may have been an adventurer from the beginning." We proved this conjecture as I have fully explained in my preface to the second edition of the "Occult World", and from some of the foremost people in Russia, her relations and affectionate friends, came abundant assurances of her personal identity. If she had not given up her life to Occultism she might have spent it in luxury among her own people, and in fact as a member of the aristocratic class.
Difficult as the hypothesis of her imposture thus becomes, we next find it in flagrant incompatibility with all the facts of Colonel Olcott's life. As undeniably as in the case of Madame Blavatsky, he has forsaken a life of worldly prosperity to lead the theosophical life, under circumstances of great physical self-denial, in India. And he also tells us that he has seen the Brothers, both in the flesh and in the astral form.
By a long series of the most astounding thaumaturgic displays when he
was first introduced to the subject in America, he was made acquainted with
their powers. He has been visited at Bombay by the living man, his own special master,
with whom he had first become acquainted by seeing him in the astral form in
America. His life, for years, has been surrounded with the abnormal occurrences
which Spiritualists again will sometimes conjecture - so wildly - to be
Spiritualism, but which all hinge on to that continuous chain of relationship
with the Brothers, which for Colonel Olcott has been partly a matter of occult
phenomena, and partly a matter of waking intercourse between man and man.
Again, in reference to Colonel Olcott, as in reference to Madame Blavatsky, I
assert, fearlessly, that there is no compromises possible between the
extravagant assumption that he is consciously lying in all he says about the
Brothers, and the assumption that what he says establishes the existence of the
Brothers as a broad fact, for remember that Colonel Olcott has now been a
co-worker of Madame Blavatsky's and in constant intimate association with her
for eight years. The notion the she has been able to deceive him all this while
by fraudulent tricks, apart from its monstrosity in other ways, is too
unreasonable to be entertained. Colonel Olcott, at all events, knows whether
Madame Blavatsky is fraudulent or genuine, and he has given up his whole life
to the service of the cause she represents in testimony of his conviction that
she is genuine. Again the spiritualistic hypothesis comes into play. Madame
Blavatsky may be a medium whose presence surrounds Colonel Olcott with
phenomena ; but then she is herself deceived by astral influences as to the true
nature of the Brothers who are the head and front of the whole phenomenal
display, and we have a!ready seen reason, I think, to reject that hypothesis as
absurd. There is logical escape from the conclusion that things are broadly as
she and Colonel Olcott say, or they are both conscious impostors, rival
champions of the age in this respect, both sacrificing everything that
worldly-minded people live for, to revel in this lifelong imposture which
brings them nothing but hard living and hard words.
But the case for the authenticity of their statement, far from ending here, may in one sense be said to begin here. Our native Indian witnesses now come to the front. First, Damodar of whom the well known writer of " Hints on Esoteric Theosophy speaks as follows in that pamphlet:-
" You specially in a former letter referred to Damodar, and you asked how it could be believed that the Brothers would waste time with a half-educated slip of a boy like him, and yet absolutely refuse to visit and convince men like------ and ------, Europeans of the highest education and marked abilities. But do you know that this slip of a boy has deliberately given up high caste, family and friends, and an ample fortune, all in pursuit of the truth. That be has for years lived that pure, unworldly self-denying life which we are told is essential to direct intercourse with the Brothers? 'Oh, a monomaniac,' you say ; 'of course he sees anything and everything. But do not you see whither this leads you ? Men who do not lead the life do not obtain direct proof of the existence of the Brothers. A man does lead the life and avers that he has obtained such proof, and you straightaway call him a monomaniac, and refuse his testimony,.... quite a " heads I win, tails you lose,' sort of position."
Damodar has seen some of the Brothers visit the headquarters of the Society in the flesh. He has repeatedly been visited by them in the astral shape. He has himself gone through certain initiations; he has acquired very considerable powers, for he has been rapidly developed as regards these, expressly that he might be an additional link of connection, independently of Madame Blavatsky, between the Brothers, his masters, and the Theosophical Society. The whole life be leads is impressive testimony to the fact that he also knows the reality of the Brothers. On another hypothesis we must include Damodar in the conscious imposture supposed to be carried on by Madame Blavatsky, for he has been her intimate associate and devoted assistant, sharing her meals, doing her work, living under her roof at Bombay for several years.
Shall we, then, rather than believe in the Brothers accept the hypothesis that Madame Blavatsky, Colonel Olcott, and Damodar are a band of conscious impostors? In that case Ramaswamy has to he accounted for. Ramaswamy is a very respectable, educated, English-speaking native of Southern India, in government service as a registrar of a court in Tinnevelly, I believe. I have met him several times. First, to indicate the course of his experience in a few words, -he sees the astral form of Madame Blavatsky's Guru, at Bombay; then he gets clairaudient communication with him,while many hundred miles away from all the Theosophists, at his own home in the South of India. Then he travels in obedience to that voice to Darjeeling; then be plunges wildly into the Sikkim jungles in search of the Guru, whom he has reason to believe in that neighbourhood, and after various adventures meets him, -the same man be has seen before in astral shape, the same man whose portrait Colonel Olcott has, and whom be has seen, the living speaker of the voice that has been leading him on from Southern India- He has a long interview with him, a waking, open-air, daylight interview,with a living man, and returns his devoted chela, as he is at this moment, and assuredly ever will be. Yet his master, who called him from Tinnevelly and received him in Sikkim, is of those who on the spiritualistic hypothesis are Madame Blavatsky's spirit controls.
Two more witnesses who personally know the Brothers next come to me at Simla, in the persons of two regular chelas who have been sent across the mountains on some business, and are ordered en passant to visit me and tell me about their master, my Adept correspondent. These men had just come, when I first saw them, from living with the Adepts. One of them, Dhabagiri Nath, visited me several days running, talked to me for hours about Koot Hoomi- with whom he had been living for ten years, and impressed me and one or two others who saw him as a very earnest, devoted, and trustworthy person. Later on, during his visit to India, he was associated with many striking occult phenomena directed to the satisfaction of native inquirers. He, of course, must be a false witness, invented to prop up Madame Blavatsky's vast imposture, if he is anything else than the chela of Koot Hoomi that he declares himself to be.
Another native, Mohini, soon after this, begins to get direct communication from Koot Hoomi independently altogether of Madame Blavatsky, and when hundreds of miles away from her. He also becomes a devoted adherent to the Theosophical cause; but Mohini must, as far as I am aware, be ranked in the second group of our witnesses, those who have had personal astral communication with the Brothers, but have not yet seen them in the flesh.
Bhavani Rao, a young native candidate for chelaship, who came once in company with Colonel Olcott, but at a time when Madame Blavatsky was in another part of India, to see me at Allahabad, and spent two nights under our roof there, is another witness who has had independent communication with Koot Hoomi, and more than that, who is able himself to act as a link of communication between Koot Hoomi and the outer world, For during the visit I speak of, he was enabled to pass a letter of mine to the master, to receive back his reply, to get off a second note of mine, and to receive back a little note of a few words in reply again. I do not mean that he did all this of his own power, but that his magnetism was such as to enable Koot Hoomi to do it through him.
The experience is valuable because it affords a striking illustration of
the fact that Madame Blavatsky is not an essential intermediary in the
correspondence between myself and my revered friend. Other illustrations are
afforded by the frequent passage of letters between Koot Hoomi and myself
through the mediation of Damodar at Bombay, at a time when both Madame
Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott were away at Madras, travelling about on a
Theosophical tour, in the course of which their presence at various places was
constantly mentioned in the local papers, I was at AIlahabad, and I used,
during that time, to send my letters for Koot Hoomi to Damodar at Bombay, and occasionally
receive replies so promptly that it would have been impossible for these to
have been furnished by Madame Blavatsky, then four or more days further from me
in the course of post than Bombay.
In this way, my very voluminous correspondence is, demonstrably as regards portions of it, and therefore by irresistible inference as regards the whole, not the work of Madame Blavatsky, or Colonel Olcott, which, if the Brothers are not a reality, it must be, The correspondence is visible on paper, a considerable mass of it, How has it come into existence; reaching me at different places and times, and in different countries, and through different people? I do not quite understand what hypotheses can be framed by a nonbeliever in the Brothers about my correspondence. I can think of none which are not at once negatived by some of the facts about It.
It would be useless to copy out from statements that from time to time have been published in the Theosophist the names of native witnesses who have seen the astral forms of the Brothers -spectral shapes which they were informed were such- about the headquarters of the Society at Bombay. Quite a cloud of witnesses would testify to such experiences, and I myself, I may add, saw such an appearance on one occasion at the Society's present headquarters in Madras. But, of course, it might be suggested of such appearances that they were spiritualistic. On the other hand, in that case the argument travels back to the considerations already pointed out, which show that the occult phenomena surrounding Madame Blavatsky cannot be Spiritualism. They can be, in fact, nothing but what we who know her intimately and are now closely identified with the Society believe them to be with all conviction- viz., manifestations of the abnormal psychological powers of those whom we speak of as the Brothers.
As I write, Colonel Olcott and Mr. Mohini Mohun Chatterjee, mentioned
above, are in London on a short visit, and many people have heard from their
own lips the verification of what I have here stated- as far as it concerns
them-and a great deal more besides. For during his recent tour in Northern
India, Colonel Olcott had an opportunity of meeting the Mahatma Koot Hoomi
personally in the flesh, and thus identifying his previous "astral "
visitor. At the same time that this meeting took place, Mr. W. T. Brown, a
young Scotchman who has recently become a devoted adherent to the Theosophical
cause, also saw the Mahatma, and Mr. Lane Fox, who has gone out to India to
follow up the clue afforded by the Theosophical Society, has been in receipt in
India, by abnormal methods, of correspondence from Koot Hoomi, while Madame
Blavatsky and Colonel Olcott have been in Europe. Taking into account, in fact,
over and above the evidence collected in these pages, the abundant information
connected with the adepts which has latterly been poured out through the pages
of the Theosophist, the magazine of the Theosophical Society now
published at Madras, the argument in the form in which it is here presented is
really out of date. Anyone who may still think with Mr. Kiddle, if he remains
of the opinion expressed in his letter to Light, that the allegations of
my book concerning the existence of the adepts and the facts of adeptship still
remain to be proved, must be inaccessible to the force of reason, or still
unacquainted with the literature of the subject.
The second of the papers I wish to insert here, read like the first to a meeting of the Theosophists in London, dealt with the considerations which, after the existence of the Brothers is established, lead us to put confidence in the teaching they convey to us in regard to the origin and destinies of man and the whole problem of Nature. It is as follows: -
Many people who approach the consideration of occult philosophy are inclined to lay great emphasis on the difference between believing in the existence of those whom we call "the Brothers," and believing in the vast and complicated body of teaching which has now been accumulated by their recent pupils. I think it can really be shown that there is no halting place at which a man who sets out on this enquiry can rationally pause and say, '" Thus far will I go, and no farther". The chain of considerations which will lead anyone who has once realised the existence of the Adepts to feel sure that there can be no great error in a conception of nature obtained with their help, consists of many links, but is really unbroken in its continuity, and equally capable of bearing a strain at any point.
It consists of many links, partly because no one at present among those who are in our position as students- who are living, that is to say, an ordinary worldly life all the while that they are intellectually studying Occultism -can ever obtain in his own person a complete knowledge of the Adepts. He cannot, that is to say, come to know of his own personal knowledge all about even any one Adept.
The full elucidation of this difficulty leads to a proper comprehension of the principle on which the Adepts shroud themselves in a partial seclusion, a seclusion which has only become partial within a very recent period, and was so complete until then that the world at large was hardly aware of the existence of any esoteric knowledge from which it could be shut out. This is a matter that is all the more important because experience has shown how the world at large has been quick to take offence at the hesitating and imperfect manner in which the Adepts have hitherto dealt with those who have sought spiritual instruction at their hands. Judging the occult policy pursued by comparison with inquiries on the plane of physical knowledge, the impatience of inquirers is very natural, but none the less does even a limited acquaintance with the conditions of mystic research show the occult policy to be reasonable likewise.
Of course, everyone will admit that Adepts are justified in exercising great caution in regard to communicating any peculiar scientific knowledge which would put what are commonly called magical powers within the reach of persons not morally qualified for their exercise. But the considerations that prescribe this caution do not seem to operate also in reference to the communication of knowledge concerning the spiritual progress of man or the grander processes of evolution. And in truth the Adepts have come to that very conclusion; they have undertaken the communication to the general public of their safe theoretical knowledge, and the effort they are making merely hangs fire, or may seem to do so to some observers, by reason of the magnitude of the task in hand, and the novel aspect it wears, as well for the teachers as for the students. For remember, if there has been that change of policy on the part of the Adepts to which I have just referred, it has been a change of such recent origin that it may almost be described as only just coming on. And if the question be then asked, Why has this safe theoretical knowledge not been communicated sooner, it seems reasonable to find a reply to that question in the actual state of the intellectual world around us at this moment.
The freedom of thought of which English writers often boast is not very widely diffused over the world as yet; and hardly, at all events, in any generation before this, could the free promulgation of quite revolutionary tenets in religious matters have been safely undertaken in any country. Communities in which such an undertaking would still be fraught with peril are even now more numerous than those in which it could be set on foot with any practical advantage. One can thus readily understand how in the occult world the question has been one of debate up to our own time, whether it was desirable as yet to promote the dissemination of esoteric philosophy in the world at large at the risk of provoking the acrimonious controversies, and even more serious disturbances, liable to arise from the premature disclosure of truths which only a small minority would really be ready to accept.
Keeping this in view, the mystery of the Adepts' reserve, up till recently, can hardly be thought so astounding as to drive us on violent alternative hypotheses at variance with all the plain evidence concerning their present action. There is manifest reason why they should be careful in launching a body of newly-won disciples on to their general stream of human progress; and added to this, the force of their own training is such as to make them habitually cautious to a far greater extent than the utmost prudence of ordinary life would render ordinary men. "But," it will be argued, " granting all this, but assuming, that at last some of the Adepts, at all events, have come to the conclusion that some of their knowledge is ripe for presentation to the world, why do they not present as much as they do present, under guarantees of a more striking, irresistible, and conclusive kind than those which have actually been furnished ? " I think the answer may be easily drawn from the consideration of the way in which it would be natural to expect that a change of policy amongst the Adepts in a matter of this kind would gradually be introduced. By the hypothesis we conceive them but just coming to the conclusion that it is desirable to teach mankind at large some portions of that spiritual science hitherto conveyed exclusively to those who give tremendous pledges in justification of their claim to acquire it. They will naturally advance, in dealing with the world at large, along the same lines they have learned to trust in dealing with aspirants for regular initiation.
Never in the history of the world have they sought out such aspirants, courted them or advertised for them in any way whatever. It has been found an invariable law of human progress that some small percentage of mankind will always come into the world invested by Nature with some of the attributes proper to adeptship, and with minds so constituted as to catch conviction as to the possibilities of the occult life, from the least little sparks of evidence on the subject that may be floating about. Of persons so constituted some have always been found to press forward into the ranks of chelaship, to resort, that is to say, to any devices or opportunities that circumstances may afford them for fathoming occult knowledge. When thus besieged by the aspirant the Adept has always, sooner or later, disclosed himself.
The change of policy now introduced prescribes that the Adept shall make one step towards the disclosure of himself in advance of the aspirant's demand upon him, but we can easily understand how the Adept, in first making this change, would argue that if many chelas have hitherto come forward in the absence of any spontaneous action from his side, it might be that an almost dangerous rush of ill qualified aspirants would be invited by any manifestation from him that should be more than a very slight one. At any rate, the Adept would say it would be premature to begin by too sensational a display of faculties inherent in advanced spiritual knowledge with which the world at large is as yet unfamiliar.
It will be better at first to make such an offer as will only be
calculated to inflame the imagination of persons only one step removed beyond
those whose natural instincts would lead them into the occult life. This
appears actually to have been the reasoning on which the Adepts have proceeded
so far, and this may help us to understand how it is that, as I began by
saying, no one person amongst those outer students, who have been called lay-chelas,
has yet been enabled to say that of his own personal knowledge he knows all
about any of the Adepts.
On the other hand, putting together the various scattered revelations concerning the Brothers which have been distributed amongst various people in India belonging to the Theosophical Society, so much can be learned about the Adepts as to put us in a very strong position in regard to estimating their qualifications for speaking with confidence as they do about the actual facts of Nature on the superphysical plane. These scattered revelations -if my reasoning in what has gone before may be accepted -have been broken up and thrown about in fragments designedly, in order that as yet it should only be possible to arrive at a full conviction concerning Adeptship after a certain amount of trouble spent in piecing together the disjointed proofs. But when this process is accomplished we are provided with a certain block of knowledge concerning the Adepts, out of which large inferences must necessarily grow. We find, to begin with, that they do unequivocally possess the power of cognizing event and facts on the physical plane of knowledge with which we are familiar, by other means than those connected with the five senses.
We find also that they unequivocally possess the power of emerging from their proper bodies and appearing at distant places in more or less ethereal counterparts thereof which are not only agencies for producing impressions on others but habitations for the time being of the Adepts' own thinking principles, and thus in themselves, if the proof went no further, demonstration of the fact that a human soul is something quite independent of brain matter and nerve centres. I do not stop now to enumerate instances. The record of evidence must be dissociated from its manipulation in arguments like the present, but the records are abundant and accessible for all who will take the trouble of examining them. Now, if we know that the Adept's soul can pass at his own discretion into that state in which its perceptive faculties are independent of corporeal machinery, it is not surprising that he should be enabled to make, of his own knowledge, a great many statements concerning processes of Nature, reaching far beyond any knowledge that can be obtained by mere physical observation. Take for example, the Adepts' statement that certain other planets besides this earth, are concerned with the growth of the great crop of humanity of which we form a part. This is not advanced as a conjecture or inference. The Adepts tell us that once out of the body they find they can cognize events on some other planets as well as in distant parts of our own.
This is not the exceptional belief of an exceptional!y organised individual, who may be regarded by doubters as hallucinated; there is no room for doubting the fact that it is the concurrent testimony' of a considerable body of men engaged in the constant experimental exercise of similar faculties. In this way the fact becomes as much a fact of true science, as the fact that the great nebula Orion, for instance, exhibits a gaseous spectrum, and is therefore a true nebula. All of us who have star spectroscope can ascertain that fact for ourselves, if we make use of a clear night when the conditions of observation are possible. To doubt it, would not be to show greater caution than is exercised by those who believe it, but merely an imperfect appreciation of the evidence. It is true that in regard to the condition of the other planets our acceptance of the Adepts' statement must be governed by our impressions concerning the bona fides of their intention in telling us that they have made such and such observations.
So far it is a matter of inference with us whether the Adepts are saying
what they believe to be true-when they speak of the septenary chain of
planets to which the earth belongs -or consciously deluding us with a rigmarole
of statements which they know to be false. I think it can be shown in a variety
of ways, that the latter supposition is absurd. But an exhaustive examination
of its absurdity would be a considerable task in itself. For the moment the position
I am endeavouring to establish is one which does not depend upon the question
whether the Adepts are telling us, in reference to the planets, what they know
to be true, or something which they know to be untrue. My present position is
that at all events the Adepts themselves know what is true In the matter, and
that position, it will be observed, is not vitiated by the fact that, as yet,
we, their most recent pupils, are unable to follow In their footsteps and
repeat the experiments on which their teaching rests.
The same train of reasoning may be applied to the whole body of teaching which the Theosophical Society is now concerned in endeavouring to assimilate. As offered now to the uninitiated world, it can only take the form of a set of statement on authority. And that sort of statement is not one which is most agreeable to our methods or to the Adepts' habitual methods of teaching. For there is no chemical laboratory in England where the system of teaching Is more rigidly confined to the direction of the learner's own experiments, than that same system is adopted with occult chelas following the regular course of initiation. Step by step, as the regular chela is told that such and such is the fact in regard to the inner mysteries of Nature, he is shown how to apply his own developing faculties to the direct observation of such facts, But those developing faculties carry with them, as pointed out a while ago, fresh powers over Nature which can only be entrusted to those from whom the Adepts take the recognised pledges. In teaching outsiders as they are trying to do now, the Adepts must depart from their own habitual methods,- we must depart, if we wish to understand what they are willing to teach, from our habitual methods of inquiry.
We must suspend our usual demand for proof of each statement made, in turn as it is advanced. We must rest our provisional trust in each statement on our broad general conviction which can be satisfied along familiar lines of demonstration, -that such men as the Adepts certainly exist, even though we cannot visit them at pleasure, that they must understand an enormous block of Nature's laws outside the range of those which the physical senses cognize, that in any statement they make to us they must be in a position to know absolutely whether that statement is or is not true.
This much fully realised-, the truth is that each inquirer in turn becomes satisfied, pari passu with his realisation of the case so far, that reason revolts against the notion that the Adepts can be engaged in their present attempt to convey some of their own knowledge to the world at large in any other than the purest good faith. It may be concluded that we who have come to the conclusion that their teaching is altogether to be accepted, are rearing a large inverted pyramid upon a small base. But the logical strength of our position is not impaired by this objection. In every branch of human knowledge, inferences far transcend the observed facts out of which they grow. And even in the most exact science of all, a theorem is held to be proved if any alternative hypothesis is found, on examination to be irrational.
Moreover, the doctrine even of legal testimony recognises the value of secondary evidence where in the nature of the case It is impossible that primary evidence can be forthcoming. That is exactly the state of the case in regard to the present attempt to bridge the gulf that separates the school of physical research from the from the school of spiritual knowledge.
As long as we of this side were justified in doubting whether there was anywhere on earth such a thing as a school of spiritual knowledge, it may have been hardly worth while to worry ourselves with the stray fragments of its teaching which now and then broke loose in barely intelligible shapes. But to doubt the existence of such a school now is equivalent, really to doubting the statement about the nebula in Orion, according to the illustration I adduced just now. It can only arise from inattention to the facts of the whole case as these now stand, -from reluctance to take that trouble to examine these thoroughly, which still, as a sort of hedge, separates the Theosophical Society from the general community in the midst of which it is planted. Regarded in the light of an occult barrier, -as an obstacle which corresponds, in the case of the lay-chela to the really serious ordeals which have to be crossed by the regular chela, - the necessity of taking this trouble can hardly be regarded as a hedge that it is difficult to traverse. And on the other side there lies a wealth of information concerning the mysteries of Nature which clearly lights up vast regions of the past and future hitherto shrouded in total darkness for critical intelligences, and the prey for others of untrustworthy conjecture.
For those who once thoroughly go into the matter, and obtain a complete mastery over all the considerations I have put forward, -who thus obtain full conviction the Brothers certainly exist, that they must be acquainted with the actual facts about Nature behind and beyond this life, that they are now ready to convey a considerable block of their knowledge to us, and that it is ridiculous to distrust their bona fides in doing this, -for all such true Theosophists of the Theosophical Society, nothing, at present, connected with spiritual success is comparable in importance with the study of the vast doctrine now in process of delivery Into our hands.
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