Another Distinguished Fellow
Theosophist, February, 1881
A short time since we had the pleasure of announcing that the aged Baron du Potet de Sennevoy had accepted the diploma of Honorary Fellow of our Society, and we published his most encouraging and complimentary letter. There is one more name attached to the splendid career of Magnetic Science in France during the last half century, which the historian of Modern Psychology will not permit to be forgotten. It is that of Alphonse Cahagnet, who charmed the public in 1848 with his Celestial Telegraph, a record of his experiences with certain singularly lucid clairvoyants, and who is now living, a septuagenarian philosopher, honoured and beloved by all who know him, especially by students of magnetism. He too now gives us the right to inscribe his name on our list. In all, he has published eleven works, in twenty-one volumes, his latest, Cosmogonie et Anthropologie, having accompanied his letter accepting the Honorary Fellowship diploma of our Society, of which a translation is appended. It is our ardent desire that a close and intimate relationship should be developed between the Theosophical Society and the French school of Magnetists, for their work runs in parallel lines. If the Western psychologists can throw light upon our Asiatic Yoga Vidya, so can the latter send its brilliant rays into every corner of the modern field of exploration, to make the shadows disappear and enlighten the path towards the Hidden Truth. Some of our eminent new confréres have promised to come to India one day, in which case they would do good and receive good in return. With a close union between all classes of students of Occult Science––spiritists, spiritualists, magnetists, Indian mystics, and the theosophists—a great advantage would inevitably result to the cause of truth, and the mocking laugh of the skeptic, the ignoramus and the fool would be answered by irrefutable facts.
Our Society for the first time in history offers a broad and easy bridge by which to cross the chasm.
M. CAHAGNET’S LETTER
Argenteuil, October 25, 1880.
To the Secretary of the Theosophical Society.
Esteemed Madame and Fellow-Student,
I beg you to be so kind as to thank for me the General Council of the Theosophical Society for the honour it has done me in admitting me as an Honorary Fellow, upon the nomination of Monsieur Leymarie, of the Psychological Society of Paris.
Deign, dear Madame, to say to the Council—of which you are not one of the least active members—that the foundation of such a society has been the dream of my whole life. To bring together all men without subjecting them to any other burden than that they should group together to offer their homage, in full personal liberty of conscience, to the Universal Parent; to form but one family linked together by fraternal love; to know but devotion and especially justice for each and all: that is an aim, indeed, to strive after, that is worthy of every heart free from egoism and pride! Alas, is not this aim placed at the very extreme end of our individual education, at the last stage of our painful journey, and perhaps even at that of our successive existences? No matter, it is always good to raise our thoughts towards it, and never to lose sight of it by the way. Roman Catholicism attempts something of this sort; but it does not seem willing to leave each man to take the path of his choice. It offers but a single gate of entrance to the sanctuary that hides the secrets of life; and of it, it claims to hold the only key. Those who would enter must profess but one creed, one faith, and blindly accept its teaching—a teaching which leaves too much to desire to be regarded as unique.
Coquerel the Younger, a Protestant divine, better grasped the religious question when he would have avoided making it obligatory upon the aspirant for a seat at the fraternal board of their churches to believe any more in the divinity of Christ than in that of any other. He regarded the temple as a holy place, which each man entered to pray to the Deity of his own studies and choice. The clergy, assembled to decide upon this modification in dogmatic belief taught by them, remained uncompromising pastors; and poor Coquerel has now gone to submit his proposition in the spheres of thinkers released from the sad necessity of always maintaining their point. Will the theosophists of our time be wiser and more fortunate? Assuredly yes, if their teachings, religious and social, are kept within the following limits. Let us love one another, protect one another, and instruct each other, by example as well as precept. Let us not demand in religion only that which we ourselves believe. Let the same rule apply in questions of politics and social aspirations. Let us not play the tyrant. Let us not dispute, nor quarrel, nor, above all, speculate upon each other. Love, much love; and Justice, to which one and all, without a single exception, shall be subordinated. Help, assistance, without counting which is most needy, him who gives or him who receives; since he who gives with the one hand receives by the other. Who, then, can possess without its having been given to him? Let us desire that the Hottentot and the Parisian may be two men who will take each other by the hand without noticing whether either lacks or has the conventional education or the fashionable dress.
Therein is the law of life, its administration, its preservation, and, let us add, its immortality.
Accept, good Madame and Sister in Theosophy, my fraternal greetings.
P. S.—Kindly salute for me our brothers of the Society, Col. Olcott especially. This letter is accompanied with a copy of the latest work I have published, under the title of Cosmogony and Anthropology: or God, the Earth, and Man, studied by Analogy. I beg your acceptance of it as a mark of my great personal esteem.
An apology is due to Mr. Cahagnet for the non-appearance of this benevolent communication in an earlier issue. In fact it was translated and posted at Benares in time before reaching Bombay.
And now, that we have attentively read his recent work he so kindly sent us, we must add a few words as much respecting the author as his intensely interesting little volume. Cosmogony and Anthropology: or God, the Earth, and Man, studied by Analogy is, as above stated, the title of the latest of his long series of works upon the most transcendental subjects. Our respected Brother, Mr. Alphonse Cahagnet, is now in his 73rd year, and one of the earliest, as at present most widely known, spiritists of France. From his youth he has been known as a seer and philosopher. In fact, he is the modern Jacob Boehme of France. Humble and unknown at the beginning of his career, like the theosophist of Silesia, his early education was as deficient if we may judge from his own confessions. And as he went on with his writings, self-taught and self-inspired, more than once perhaps, his friends the Reincarnationists might have had good reasons to suspect that the soul of the German mystic had descended once more upon earth, and accepted a new trial under the very same circumstances as before. As in Boehme, so in him the highly contemplative mind, the same rare powers of intuition, and an identical and most exuberant fertility of imagination; while his deep-rooted love of the mysterious workings of nature is the counterpart of that of the poor shoemaker of Goerlitz. The only substantial difference between the two—a decided improvement, though, in the modern mystic—is a total absence in Mr. Cahagnet of anything like a pretension of being divinely inspired. While Boehme ended his too short career (he died hardly forty) by seriously imagining himself in direct communication and conversation with the Divinity, the French seer claims for himself but the faculty of perceiving things spiritually. Instead of grovelling in the formalistic path of modern science, which leaves no margin for the intuitional perceptions, and yet forces upon the world hypotheses which can hardly claim any firmer footing than like hypothetical speculations based upon pure intuition, he prefers to learn as much truth as he can find about all things in the domain of metaphysical philosophy. Yet both Boehme and Cahagnet have sought “to light a torch for all who are longing for truth.” But while the works of the former, such as Aurora, or the Rising of the Sun, are full of ideas largely speculated upon by thinkers, such as Hegel, whose fundamental doctrines of speculative philosophy bear a striking resemblance to those of Boehme, the works of Mr. Cahagnet, from the Celestial Telegraph to the work under notice, are absolutely original. They have nothing of the crude, enthusiastic and figurative language of the German theosophist, but startling and bold as are the flights of his imagination into the hazy regions of speculative science, his language is always sober, clear, and intelligible. In short, our venerable brother is as much the child of, and the outgrowth of, his century, as Boehme was of the mediæval ages. Both rebelled against the dead letter of scholasticism and dogmatism, and both view the Divinity not as a personal being, but as an eternal unit, the Universal Substance undefined by any human qualification, the unfathomable, as incomprehensible to human understanding as the “absolute nothing.”
The last work of Mr. Cahagnet as a diametrical deviation from the general hypotheses of Modern Science is so original, and so full of novel ideas––which the author is far from claiming to be infallible—that to take only a short notice of it would be to give adequate space for a proper presentation of the views of one of our most eminent French theosophists in this “Journal of the Theosophists.” Some of his ideas, moreover, so strangely coincide with those taught in the occult, or esoteric schools of the East, that we will try to point out, as we proceed, all such similarities of thought, as well as those which clash with the said philosophy. As the mystic speculations of Boehme—“abstruse and chaotic lucubrations,” a they may appear to many—have been seriously studied and analysed by the greatest thinkers of every century since his days, so the profoundly original teachings of Mr. Cahagnet have already attracted attention and found many an admirer and disciple among the wisest philosophers and mystics of France. Shunning dogmatism, true and sincere as truth itself, instead of imposing his own views upon the reader, he always modestly acknowledges his ignorance, and liability to err in his “analytical impressions.” He begs that the reader will not allow himself to be influenced by his propositions.
“Study, and either accept or reject them”
—are his first words; for
“these propositions emanate neither from Hermes Trismegistus, nor Zoroaster, nor from Mount Sinai, nor yet from Confucius, nor Socrates, nor Jesus, nor least of all from Ignatius Loyola. . . . They are no more the result of conscious revelations than that of vast and profound meditations, though they do descend on me from the Unknown. Accept them as they are, and think of them what you will, but I would advise you before rejecting them to try and grasp them by analogy, by more closely studying chemistry and physics. . . . I dare not ask you to withdraw within your own self, in order that, acquiring a better knowledge of your ego you might, perchance, discover in yourself such superior faculties as would enable you to become the most skillful of philosophical locksmiths by furnishing you with keys which alone such faculties can give you.”
So honest a guide as this, one feels he may safely follow through the devious paths that lead through the mistland of speculation up to the light of truth. We will begin our selection from his work next month.
[Note: see [Notes on Cahanet’s Conceptions of God] for said selections.]