In the history of psychical phenomena the records of so-called "spiritualism" in Europe, America, and elsewhere hold an important place. Advisedly I say that no term was ever more misapplied than that of "spiritualism" to the cult in Europe and America just mentioned, inasmuch as there is nothing of the spirit about it. The doctrines given in preceding chapters are those of true spiritualism; the misnamed practises of modern mediums and so-called spiritists constitute the Worship of the Dead, old-fashioned necromancy, in fact, which was always prohibited by spiritual teachers. They are a gross materializing of the spiritual idea, and deal with matter more than with its opposite. This cult is supposed by some to have originated about forty years ago in America at Rochester, N. Y., under the mediumship of the Fox sisters, but it was known in Salem during the witchcraft excitement, and in Europe one hundred years ago the same practises were pursued, similar phenomena seen, mediums developed, and seances held. For centuries it has been well known in India where it is properly designated "bhuta worship," meaning the attempt to communicate with the devil or Astral remnants of deceased persons. This should be its name here also, for by it the gross and devilish, or earthly, parts of man are excited, appealed to, and communicated with. But the facts of the long record of forty years in America demand a brief examination. These facts all studious Theosophists must admit. The theosophical explanation and deductions, however, are totally different from those of the average spiritualist. A philosophy has not been evolved in the ranks or literature of spiritualism; nothing but theosophy will give the true explanation, point out defects, reveal dangers, and suggest remedies.
As it is plain that clairvoyance, clairaudience, thought-transference, prophecy, dream and vision, levitation, apparitional appearance, are all powers that have been known for ages, the questions most pressing in respect to spiritualism are those relating to communication with the souls of those who have left this earth and are now disembodied, and with unclassified spirits who have not been embodied here but belong to other spheres. Perhaps also the question of materialization of forms at seances deserves some attention. Communication includes trance-speaking, slate and other writing, independent voices in the air, speaking through the physical vocal organs of the medium, and precipitation of written messages out of the air. Do the mediums communicate with the spirits of the dead? Do our departed friends perceive the state of life they have left, and do they sometimes return to speak to and with us?
The answers are intimated in foregoing chapters. Our departed do not see us here. They are relieved from the terrible pang such a sight would inflict. Once in a while a pure-minded, unpaid medium may ascend in trance to the state in which a deceased soul is, and may remember some bits of what was there heard; but this is rare. Now and then in the course of decades some high human spirit may for a moment return and by unmistakable means communicate with mortals. At the moment of death the soul may speak to some friend on earth before the door is finally shut. But the mass of communications alleged as made day after day through mediums are from the astral unintelligent remains of men, or in many cases entirely the production of, invention, compilation, discovery, and collocation by the loosely attached Astral body of the living medium.
Certain objections arise to the theory that the spirits of the dead communicate. Some are:
I. At no time have these spirits given the laws governing any of the phenomena, except in a few instances, not accepted by the cult, where the theosophical theory was advanced. As it would destroy such structures as those erected by A. J. Davis, these particular spirits fell into discredit.
II. The spirits disagree among themselves, one stating the after-life to be very different from the description by another. These disagreements vary with the medium and the supposed theories of the deceased during life. One spirit admits reincarnation and others deny it.
III. The spirits have discovered nothing in respect to history, anthropology, or other important matters, seeming to have less ability in that line than living men; and although they often claim to be men who lived in older civilizations, they show ignorance thereupon or merely repeat recently published discoveries.
IV. In these forty years no rationale of phenomena nor of development of mediumship has been obtained from the spirits. Great philosophers are reported as speaking through mediums, but utter only drivel and merest commonplaces.
V. The mediums come to physical and moral grief, are accused of fraud, are shown guilty of trickery, but the spirit guides and controls do not interfere to either prevent or save.
VI. It is admitted that the guides and controls deceive and incite to fraud.
VII. It is plainly to be seen through all that is reported of the spirits that their assertions and philosophy, if any, vary with the medium and the most advanced thought of living spiritualists.
From all this and much more that could be adduced, the man of materialistic science is fortified in his ridicule, but the theosophist has to conclude that the entities, if there be any communicating, are not human spirits, and that the explanations are to be found in some other theories.
Materialization of a form out of the air, independent of the medium's physical body, is a fact. But it is not a spirit. As was very well said by one of the "spirits" not favored by spiritualism, one way to produce this phenomenon is by the accretion of electrical and magnetic particles into one mass upon which matter is aggregated and an image reflected out of the Astral sphere. This is the whole of it; as much a fraud as a collection of muslin and masks. How this is accomplished is another matter. The spirits are not able to tell, but an attempt has been made to indicate the methods and instruments in former chapters. The second method is by the use of the Astral body of the living medium. In this case the Astral form exudes from the side of the medium, gradually collects upon itself particles extracted from the air and the bodies of the sitters present, until at last it becomes visible. Sometimes it will resemble the medium; at others it bears a different appearance. In almost every instance dimness of light is requisite because a high light would disturb the Astral substance in a violent manner and render the projection difficult. Some so-called materializations are hollow mockeries, as they are but flat plates of electrical and magnetic substance on which pictures from the Astral Light are reflected. These seem to be the faces of the dead, but they are simply pictured illusions.
If one is to understand the psychic phenomena found in the history of "spiritualism" it is necessary to know and admit the following:
I. The complete heredity of man astrally, spiritually, and psychically, as a being who knows, reasons, feels, and acts through the body, the Astral body, and the soul.
II. The nature of the mind, its operation, its powers; the nature and power of imagination; the duration and effect of impressions. Most important in this is the persistence of the slightest impression as well as the deepest; that every impression produces a picture in the individual aura; and that by means of this a connection is established between the auras of friends and relatives old, new, near, distant, and remote in degree: this would give a wide range of possible sight to a clairvoyant.
III. The nature, extent, function, and power of man's inner Astral organs and faculties included in the terms Astral body and Kama. That these are not hindered from action by trance or sleep, but are increased in the medium when entranced; at the same time their action is not free, but governed by the mass chord of thought among the sitters, or by a predominating will, or by the presiding devil behind the scenes; if a sceptical scientific investigator be present, his mental attitude may totally inhibit the action of the medium's powers by what we might call a freezing process which no English terms will adequately describe.
IV. The fate of the real man after death, his state, power, activity there, and his relation, if any, to those left behind him here.
V. That the intermediary between mind and body -- the Astral body -- is thrown off at death and left in the Astral light to fade away; and that the real man goes to Devachan.
VI. The existence, nature, power, and function of the Astral light and its place as a register in Nature. That it contains, retains, and reflects pictures of each and every thing that happened to anyone, and also every thought; that it permeates the globe and the atmosphere around it; that the transmission of vibration through it is practically instantaneous, since the rate is much quicker than that of electricity as now known.
VII. The existence in the Astral light of beings not using bodies like ours, but not human in their nature, having powers, faculties, and a sort of consciousness of their own; these include the elemental forces or nature sprites divided into many degrees, and which have to do with every operation of Nature and every motion of the mind of man. That these elementals act at seances automatically in their various departments, one class presenting pictures, another producing sounds, and others depolarizing objects for the purposes of apportation. Acting with them in this Astral sphere are the soulless men who live in it. To these are to be ascribed the phenomenon, among others, of the "independent voice," always sounding like a voice in a barrel just because it is made in a vacuum which is absolutely necessary for an entity so far removed from spirit. The peculiar timbre of this sort of voice has not been noticed by the spiritualists as important, but it is extremely significant in the view of occultism.
VIII. The existence and operation of occult laws and forces in nature which may be used to produce phenomenal results on this plane; that these laws and forces may be put into operation by the subconscious man and by the elementals either consciously or unconsciously, and that many of these occult operations are automatic in the same way as is the freezing of water under intense cold or the melting of ice under heat.
IX. That the Astral body of the medium, partaking of the nature of the Astral substance, may be extended from the physical body, may act outside of the latter, and may also extrude at times any portion of itself such as hand, arm, or leg and thereby move objects, indite letters, produce touches on the body, and so on ad infinitum. And that the Astral body of any person may be made to feel sensation, which, being transmitted to the brain, causes the person to think he is touched on the outside or has heard a sound.
Mediumship is full of dangers because the Astral part of the man is now only normal in action when joined to the body; in distant years it will normally act without a body as it has in the far past. To become a medium means that you have to become disorganized physiologically and in the nervous system, because through the latter is the connection between the two worlds. The moment the door is opened all the unknown forces rush in, and as the grosser part of nature is nearest to us it is that part which affects us most; the lower nature is also first affected and inflamed because the forces used are from that part of us. We are then at the mercy of the vile thoughts of all men, and subject to the influence of the shells in Kama Loka. If to this be added the taking of money for the practice of mediumship, an additional danger is at hand, for the things of the spirit and those relating to the Astral world must not be sold. This is the great disease of American spiritualism which has debased and degraded its whole history; until it is eliminated no good will come from the practice; those who wish to hear truth from the other world must devote themselves to truth and leave all considerations of money out of sight.
To attempt to acquire the use of the psychic powers for mere curiosity or for selfish ends is also dangerous for the same reasons as in the case of mediumship. As the civilization of the present day is selfish to the last degree and built on the personal element, the rules for the development of these powers in the right way have not been given out, but the Masters of Wisdom have said that philosophy and ethics must first be learned and practiced before any development of the other department is to be indulged in; and their condemnation of the wholesale development of mediums is supported by the history of spiritualism, which is one long story of the ruin of mediums in every direction.
Equally improper is the manner of the scientific schools which without a thought for the true nature of man indulge in experiments in hypnotism in which the subjects are injured for life, put into disgraceful attitudes, and made to do things for the satisfaction of the investigators which would never be done by men and women in their normal state. The Lodge of the Masters does not care for Science unless it aims to better man's state morally as well as physically, and no aid will be given to Science until she looks at man and life from the moral and spiritual side. For this reason those who know all about the psychical world, its denizens and laws, are proceeding with a reform in morals and philosophy before any great attention will be accorded to the strange and seductive phenomena possible for the inner powers of man.
And at the present time the cycle has almost run its course for this century. Now, as a century ago, the forces are slackening; for that reason the phenomena of spiritualism are lessening in number and volume; the Lodge hopes by the time the next tide begins to rise that the West will have gained some right knowledge of the true philosophy of Man and Nature, and be then ready to bear the lifting of the veil a little more.