Kabalistic Views on “Spirits” as Propagated by The Theosophical Society
Religio-Philosophical Journal, January 26, 1878
Dear Sir:—I must beg you to again allow me a little space for the further elucidation of a very important question—that of the “Elementals” and the “Elementaries.” It is a misfortune that our European languages do not contain a nomenclature expressive of the various grades and conditions of spiritual beings. But surely I cannot be blamed for either the above linguistic deficiency, or because some people do not choose or are unable to understand my meaning! I cannot too often repeat that in this matter I claim no originality. My teachings are but the substance of what many kabalists have said before me, which, today, I mean to prove with your kind permission.
I am accused (1) of “turning somersaults” and jumping from one idea to another. The defendant pleads not guilty. (2) Of coining not only words, but philosophies out of the depths of my consciousness: defendant enters the same plea. (3) Of having repeatedly asserted that “intelligent spirits other than those who have passed through an earth experience in a human body were concerned in the manifestations known as the phenomena of Spiritualism:” true, and defendant repeats the assertion. (4) Of having advanced, in my bold and unwarranted theories, “beyond the great Eliphas Lévi himself.” Indeed? Were I to go even as far as he (see his Science des Esprits), I would deny that a single so-called spiritual manifestation is more than hallucination, produced by soulless Elementals, whom he calls “Elementary.” (See Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie.)
I am asked, “What proof is there of the existence of the elementals?” In my turn, I will inquire, what proof is there of “diakkas,” “guides,” “bands,” and “controls”? And yet these terms are all current among Spiritualists. The unanimous testimony of innumerable observers and competent experimenters furnishes the proof. If Spiritualists cannot or will not go to those countries where they are living, and these proofs are accessible, they, at least, have no right to give the lie direct to those who have seen both the adepts and the proofs. My witnesses are living men, teaching and exemplifying the philosophy of hoary ages; theirs, these very “guides” and “controls” who, up to the present time, are at best hypothetical, and whose assertions have been repeatedly found, by Spiritualists themselves, contradictory and false.
If my present critics insist that since the discussion of this matter began a disembodied soul has never been described as an “elementary,” I merely point to the number of the London Spiritualist for February 18th, 1876 [p.74], published nearly two years ago, in which a correspondent, who has certainly studied occult sciences, says:
“Is it not probable that some of the elementary spirits of an evil type are those spirit bodies which, only recently disembodied, are on the eve of an eternal dissolution, and which continue their temporary existence only by vampirizing those still in the flesh? They had existence; they never attained to being.”
Note two things: that human elementaries are recognized as existing, apart from the gnomes, sylphs, undines and salamanders—beings purely elemental; and that annihilation of the soul is regarded as potential.
Says Paracelsus, in his Philosophia Sagax:
“The current of astral light with its peculiar inhabitants, gnomes, sylphs, etc., is transformed into human light at the moment of the conception, and it becomes the first envelope of the soul—its grosser portion; combined with the most subtle fluids, it forms the sidereal (astral, or ethereal) phantom—the inner man.”
And Éliphas Lévi:
“The astral light is saturated with elementary souls which it discharges in the incessant generation of beings . . . At the birth of a child, they influence the four temperaments of the latter—the element of the gnomes, predominates in melancholy persons; of the salamanders in the sanguine; of the undines, in the phlegmatic; of the sylphs, in the giddy and bilious. . . . These are the spirits which we designate under the term of occult elements.” (Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie, Vol. II, chapter on the conjuration of the four classes of elementaries.)
“Yes, yes,” he remarks (in Vol. I, op. cit., p. 164), “these spirits of the elements do exist. Some wandering in their spheres, others trying to incarnate themselves, others, again, already incarnated and living on earth. These are vicious and imperfect men.”
Note that we have here described to us more or less “intelligent spirits other than those who have passed through an earth experience in a human body.” If not intelligent, they would not know how to make the attempt to incarnate themselves. Vicious elementals, or elementaries, are attracted to vicious parents; they bask in their atmosphere, and are thus afforded the chance by the vices of the parents to perpetuate in the child the paternal wickedness. The unintellectual “elementals” are draw in unconsciously to themselves; and in the order of nature, as component parts of the grosser astral body or soul, determine the temperament. They can as little resist as the animalcules can avoid entering into our bodies in the water we swallow. Of a third class, out of hundreds that the Eastern philosophers and kabalists are acquainted with, Éliphas Lévi, discussing spiritistic phenomena, says:
“They are neither the souls of the damned nor guilty; the elementary spirits are like children curious and harmless, and torment people in proportion as attention is paid to them.”
These he regards as the sole agents in all the meaningless and useless physical phenomena at séances. Such phenomena will be produced unless they be dominated “by wills more powerful than their own.” Such a will may be that of a living adept, or as there are none such at Western spiritual séances, these ready agents are at the disposal of every strong, vicious, earth-bound, human elementary who has been attracted to the place. By such they can be used in combination with the astral emanations of the circle and medium, as stuff out of which to make materialized spirits.
So little does Lévi concede the possibility of spirit return in objective form, that he says:
“The good deceased come back in our dreams; the state of mediumism is an extension of dream, it is somnambulism in all its variety, and ecstasies. Fathom the phenomenon of sleep and you will understand the phenomena of the spirits”;
“According to one of the great dogmas of the kabala, the soul despoils itself in order to ascend, and thus would have to re-clothe itself in matter to descend. There is but one way, for a spirit already liberated to manifest himself objectively on earth—he must get back into his body and resurrect. This is quite another thing from hiding under a table or a hat. Necromancy, or the evocation of materialized spirits is horrible. It constitutes a crime against nature. We have admitted in our former works the possibility of vampirism, and even tried to explain it. The phenomena now actually occurring in America and Europe unquestionably belong to this fearful malady. The mediums do not, it is true, eat the flesh of corpses (like one Sergeant Bertrand), but they breathe in throughout their whole nervous organism the phosphoric emanations of putrefied corpses, or spectral light. They are not vampires, but they evoke vampires. For this reason, they are nearly all debilitated and sick.” (Science des Espirits, 258)
Do those in Europe and America, who have heretofore described the cadaverous odor, that, in some cases, they have noticed as attending materialized spirits, appreciate the revolting significance of the above explanation?
Henry Khunrath was a most learned kabalist, and the greatest authority among mediæval occultists. He gives, in one of the clavicles of his Amphitheatrum Sapientiæ Æternæ, illustrative engravings of the four great classes of elementary spirits, as they presented themselves during an evocation of ceremonial magic, before the eyes of the magus, when, after passing the threshold, he lifts the “Veil of Isis.” In describing them, Khunrath corroborates Éliphas Lévi. He tells us they are disembodied, vicious men, who have parted with their divine spirits and become elementary. They are so termed, “because attracted by the earthly atmosphere, and are surrounded by the earth’s elements.” Here Khunrath applies the term “elementary” to human doomed souls, while Lévi uses it, as we have seen, to designate another class of the same great family—gnomes, sylphs, undines, etc.—sub-human entities.
I have before me a manuscript, intended originally for publication but withheld for various reasons. The author signs himself “Zeus,” and is a kabalist of more than twenty-five years’ standing. This experienced occultist, a zealous devotee of Khunrath, expounding the doctrine of the latter, also says that the kabalists divided the spirits of the elements into four classes corresponding to the four temperaments in man.
It is charged against me as a heinous offense that I aver that some men lose their souls and are annihilated. But this last-named authority, “Zeus,” is equally culpable, for he says,
“They (the kabalists) taught that man’s spirit descended from the great ocean of spirit, and is therefore, per se, pure and divine; but its soul or capsule, through the (allegorical) fall of Adam, became contaminated with the world of darkness, or the world of Satan (evil), of which it must be purified, before it could ascend again to celestial happiness. Suppose a drop of water enclosed within a capsule of gelatine and thrown in the ocean; so long as the capsule remains whole, the drop of water remains isolated: break the envelope, and the drop becomes a part of the ocean, its individual existence has ceased. So it is with the spirit, so long as its ray is enclosed in its plastic mediator or soul, it has an individual existence. Destroy this capsule (the astral man, who then becomes an elementary), which destruction may occur from the consequences of sin, in the most depraved and vicious, and the spirit returns back to its original abode—the individualization of man has ceased.”
“This militates,” he adds, “With the idea of progression, that Spiritualists generally entertain. If they understood the law of harmony, they would see their error. It is only by this law that individual life can be sustained; and, the farther we deviate from harmony the more difficult it is to regain it.”
To return to Lévi, he remarks (Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magic, Vol. I, p. 319),
“When we die, our interior light (the soul) ascends, agreeably to the attraction of its star (the spirit), but it must first of all get rid of the coils of the serpent (earthly evil—sin); that is to say, of the unpurified astral light, which surrounds and holds it captive, unless, by the force of will, it frees and elevates itself. This immersion of the living soul in the dead light (the emanations of everything that is evil, which pollute the earth’s magnetic atmosphere, as the exhalation of a swamp does the air) is a dreadful torture; the soul freezes and burns therein, at the same time.”
The kabalists represent Adam as the Tree of Life, of which the trunk is humanity; the various races, the branches; and individual men, the leaves. Every leaf has its individual life, and is fed by the one sap; but it can live through the branch, as the branch itself draws its life through the trunk. “The wicked,” says the kabala, “are the dead leaves and the dead bark of the tree. They fall, die, are corrupted, and changed into manure, which returns to the tree through the root.”
My friend, Miss Emily Kislingbury, of London, Secretary of the British National Association of Spiritualists, who is honored, trusted and beloved by all who know her, sends me a spirit-communication obtained, in April, 1877, through a young lady, who is one of the purest and most truthful of her sex. The following extracts are singularly à propos to the subject under discussion:
“Friend, you are right. Keep our Spiritualism pure and high, for there are those who would abase its uses. But it is because they know not the power of Spiritualism. It is true, in a sense, that the spirit can overcome the flesh, but there are those to whom the fleshly life is dearer than the life of the spirit; they tread on dangerous ground. For the flesh may so outgrow the spirit, as to withdraw from it all spirituality, and man become as a beast of the field, with no saving power left. These are they whom the church has termed ‘reprobate,’ eternally lost, but they suffer not, as the church has taught—in conscious hells. They merely die, and are not; their light goes out, and has no conscious being.”
(Question): “But is this not annihilation?”
(Answer): “It amounts to annihilation; they lose their individual entities, and return to the great reservoir of spirit—unconscious spirit.”
Finally, I am asked: “Who are the trained seers?” They are those, I answer, who have been trained from their childhood in the pagodas, to use their spiritual sight; those whose accumulated testimony has not varied for thousands of years as to the fundamental facts of Eastern philosophy; the testimony of each generation corroborating that of each preceding one. Are these to be trusted more, or less, than the communications of “bands,” each of whom contradicts the other as completely as the various religious sects, which are ready to cut each other’s throats, and of mediums, even the best of whom are ignorant of their own nature, and unsubjected to the wise direction and restraint of an adept in psychological science?
No comprehensive idea of nature can be obtained except by applying the law of harmony and analogy in the spiritual as well as in the physical world. “As above, so below,” is the old Hermetic axiom. If Spiritualists would apply this to the subject of their own researches, they would see the philosophical necessity of there being in the world of spirit as well as in the world of matter, a law of the survival of the fittest.
H. P. Blavatsky.