The Deccan Star (Poona), March 30, 1879
In The Indian Tribune of March 15th appears a letter upon the relations of the Theosophical Society with the Ârya Samâj. The writer seems neither an enemy of our cause, nor hostile to the Society; therefore I will try in a gentle spirit to correct certain misapprehensions under which he labours. As he signs himself “A Member,” he must, therefore, be regarded by us as a Brother. And yet he seems moved by an unwarranted fear to a hasty repudiation of too close a connection between our Society and his Samâj, lest the fair name of the latter be compromised before the public by some strange notions of ours! He says:
“I have been surprised to hear that the Society embraces people who believe in magic . . . Should this, however, be the belief of the Theosophical Society, I could only assure your readers that the Ârya Samâj is not in common with them in this respect. . . . Only as far as Vedic learning and Vedic philosophy is concerned, their objects may be said to be similar.”
It is these very points I now mean to answer. The gist of the whole question is as to the correct definition of the word “magic,” and understanding of what Vedic “learning and philosophy” are. If by magic is meant the popular superstitious belief in sorcery, witchcraft and ghosts in general; if it involves the admission that supernatural feats may be performed; if it requires faith in miracles, that is to say, phenomena outside natural law; then, on behalf of every Theosophist, whether a skeptic yet unconverted, a believer in, and student of phenomena pure and simple, or even a modern Spiritualist so-called—i.e., one who believes mediumistic phenomena to be necessarily caused by returning human spirits—we emphatically repudiate the accusation.
We did not see The Civil and Military Gazette, which seems so well acquainted with our doctrines; but if it meant to accuse any Theosophists of any such belief, then like many other Gazettes and Reviews it talked of that which it knew nothing about.
Our Society believes in no miracle, divine, diabolical or human, nor in anything which eludes the grasp of either philosophical and logical induction, or the syllogistic method of deduction. But if the corrupted and comparatively modern term of “magic” is understood to mean the higher study and knowledge of nature and deep research into her hidden powers—those occult and mysterious laws which constitute the ultimate essence of every element, whether with the ancients we recognize but four or five, or with the moderns over sixty; or, again, if by magic is meant that ancient study within the sanctuaries known as the “worship of the Light,” or divine and spiritual wisdom as distinct from the worship of darkness or ignorance, which led the initiated High-priests of antiquity among the Âryans, Chaldaeans, Medes and Egyptians to be called Maha, Magi or Maginsi, and by the Zoroastrians Meghistom (from the root Meh’al, great, learned, wise)—then, we Theosophists “plead guilty.”
We do study that “Science of Sciences,” extolled by the Eclectics and Platonists of the Alexandrian Schools, and practised by the theurgists and the mystics of every age. If, magic gradually fell into disrepute, it was not because of its intrinsic worthlessness, but through misconception and ignorance of its primitive meaning, and especially the cunning policy of Christian theologians, who feared lest many of the phenomena produced by and through natural (though occult) law should give the direct lie to, and thus cheapen “Divine biblical miracle,” and so forced the people to attribute every manifestation that they could not comprehend, or explain—to the direct agency of a personal devil. As well accuse the renowned Magi of old, of having had no better knowledge of divine truth and the hidden powers and possibilities of physical law than their successors, the uneducated Pârsî Mobeds, or the Hindu Mahârâjas of that shameless sect known as the Vallabhâchâryas, both of whom yet derive their appellation from the Persian word Mog or Mag, and the Sanskrit Mahâ. More than one glorious truth has thus tumbled down through human ignorance from the sublime into the ridiculous.
Plato, and even the skeptical Lucian, both recognized the high wisdom and profound learning of the Magi; and Cicero, speaking of those who inhabited Persia of his times, calls them “sapientium et doctorum genus majorum.” And if so, we must evidently believe that these Magi or “Magicians” stood somewhat higher than the modern Maskelyns and Cooks—the style of magicians that were not such as London sees at a shilling a seat—or yet certain fraudulent Spiritual mediums. The science of such theurgists and philosophers as Pythagoras, Plotinus, Porphyry, Proclus, Bruno, Paracelsus and a host of other great men, has now fallen into disrepute. But, had our Brother Theosophist—Thomas Alva Edison, the inventor of the telephone and the phonograph, lived in the days of Galileo, he would have surely expiated on the rack or at the stake his sin of having found the means to fix on a soft surface of metal, and preserve for long years the sounds of human voice; for his talent would have been pronounced the gift of Hell. And yet, such an abuse of brute power to suppress truth would not have changed a scientific discovery into a foolish and disreputable superstition.
But our friend “A member,” consenting to descend to our level in one point at least admits himself that in “Vedic learning and philosophy” the Ârya Samâj and the Theosophical Society are upon a common ground. Then, I have something to appeal to as an authority which will be better still than the so-much-derided Magic, Theurgy and Alchemy. It is the Vedas themselves: for “Magic” is brought in every line of the sacred books of the Âryans. Magic is indispensable for the comprehension of either of the six great schools of Âryan philosophy. And, it is precisely to understand them and thus enable ourselves to bring to light the hidden summum bonum of that mother of all Eastern philosophies known as the Vedas, and the later Brâhmanical literature, that we study it. Neglect this study, and we, in common with all Europe, would have to set Max Müller’s interpretations of the Vedas far above those of Svami Dayânanda Sarasvatî, as given in his Veda-Bhâshya. And we would have to let the Anglo-German Sanskritist go uncontradicted, when he says that with the exception of the Rig, none other of the four sacred books is deserving of the name of Veda, especially Atharva Veda which is absurd magical nonsense, composed of sacrificial formulas, charms and incantations (see his “Lecture on the Vedas”). This is, therefore, why, disregarding every misconception, we humbly beg to be allowed to follow the analytical method of such students and practitioners of “magic” as Kapila mentioned in the Śvetâśvatara Upanishad [5:2] as “the Rishi nourished with knowledge by the God himself”; Patañjali, the great authority of the Yogis, Śankarâchârya of theurgic memory, and—even Zoroaster who certainly learned his wisdom from the initiated Brâhmans of Âryavarta. And we do not see why, for that, we should be held up to the world’s scorn, as either superstitious fools or hallucinated enthusiasts, by our own brother of the Ârya Samâj. I will say more: while the latter is, perhaps, in common with other “members” of the same Samâj, unable and perfectly helpless to defend Svami Dayânanda against the sophistry of such partial scoffers as a certain Pandit Mahesa Chandra Nyayaratna, of Calcutta, who would have us believe the Veda-Bhâshya a futile attempt at interpretation, we Theosophists do not shrink from assuming the burden. When the Svami affirms that Agni and Îśvara are identical, the Calcutta Pandit calls it “stuff.” To him Agni means the coarse, visible fire, with which one melts his ghee and cooks his rice cakes. Apparently he does not know, as he might, if he had studied “magic,” that is to say, had familiarized himself with the views about the divine fire or light, “whose external body is flame,” held by the mediæval Rosicrucians (the fire-philosophers) and all their initiated predecessors, and successors, that the Vedic Agni is in fact Îśvara and nothing else. The Svami makes no mistake when he says:
“For Agni is all the deities and Vishnu is all the deities. For these two (divine) bodies, Agni and Vishnu, are the two ends of the sacrifice.”
At one end of the ladder which stretches from heaven to earth is Îśvara—Spirit, Supreme Being, subjective, invisible and incomprehensible; at the other his visible manifestation, “sacrificial fire.”
So well has this been comprehended by every religious philosophy of antiquity that the enlightened Pârsî worships not gross flame but the divine Spirit within, of which it is the visible type; and even in the Jewish Bible there is the unapproachable Jehovah and his down-rushing fire which consumes the wood upon the altar and licks up the water in the trench about it (I Kings, xviii, 38). There also is the visible manifestation of God in the burning bush of Moses, and the Holy Ghost in the Gospels of Christians, descending like tongues of flame upon the heads of the assembled disciples on the day of Pentecost. There is not an esoteric philosophy or rather theosophy, which did not apprehend this deep spiritual idea, and each and all are traceable to the Vedic sacred books. Says the author of The Rosicrucians in his chapter on “The Nature of Fire,” and quoting R. Fludd, the mediæval Theosophist and Alchemist:
“Wonder no longer then, if (in the religions of the Aryans, Medes and Zoroastrians), rejected so long as an idolatry, the ancient Persians and their masters the Magi—concluding that they saw ‘All’ in this supernaturally magnificent element (fire)—fell down and worshipped it; making of it the visible representation of the very truest, but yet, in man’s speculation, and in his philosophies—nay, in his commonest reason—impossible God; God being everywhere, and in us, and, indeed, us, in the God-lighted man; and impossible to be contemplated or known outside—being All!”
This is the teaching of the mediæval Fire-Philosophers known as the Brothers of the Rosie-Cross, such as Paracelsus, Khunrath, Van Helmont, and that of all the Illuminati and Alchemists who succeeded these, and who claimed to have discovered the eternal Fire, or to have “found out God in the Immortal Light”—that Light whose radiance shone through the Yogis. The same author remarks of them:
“Already, in their determined climbing unto the heights of thought, had these Titans of mind achieved, past the cosmical, through the shadowy borders of Real and Unreal, into Magic. For, is Magic wholly false?”
—he goes on to ask. No; certainly not, when by magic is understood the higher study of divine, and yet not supernatural law, though the latter be, as yet, undiscovered by exact and materialistic science.
No more are the so-called Spiritualistic phenomena which are believed in by nearly twenty millions of well-educated, often highly enlightened and learned persons in Europe and America, but mere hallucinations of a diseased brain. They are as real, and as well authenticated by the testimony of thousands of unimpeached witnesses, and as scientifically and mathematically proved as the latest discoveries of our Brother T. A. Edison. If the term “fool” is applicable to such men of science and giants of intellect of the two hemispheres, as W. Crookes, F.R.S., and Alfred Russel Wallace, F.R.S., the greatest naturalist of Europe and a successful rival of Darwin, and as Flammarion, the French Astronomer, Member of the Academy of Sciences of France, and Professor Zöllner, the celebrated Leipzig Astronomer and Physicist, and Professor Hare, the great chemist of America and many another no less eminent scientist, unquestioned authorities upon any other question but the so-called spiritual phenomena, and all firm spiritualists themselves, often converted only after years of careful investigation, then, indeed, we Theosophists would not find ourselves in bad company, and would deem it an honour to be called “fools” were we even firm orthodox spiritualists ourselves—i.e., believers in perambulating ghosts and materialized bhûts—which we are not. But we are believers in the phenomena of the Spiritualists (even if we do doubt their “spirits”), for we happen to know them to be actual facts. It is one thing to reject unproved theory and quite another to battle against well-established facts. Everyone has a right to doubt until further and stronger evidence whether these modern phenomena which are inundating the Western countries, are all produced by disembodied “spirits,” for it happens to be hitherto a mere speculative doctrine raised up by enthusiasts; but no one is authorized—unless he can bring to contradict the fact, something better and weightier than the mere negations of skeptics, to deny that such phenomena do occur. If we, Theosophists (and a very small minority of us), disclaim the agency of “spirits” in such manifestations, it is because we can prove in most instances to the spiritualists, that many of their phenomena whether of physical or psychological nature, can be reproduced by some of our adepts at will, and without any aid of “spirits” or resort to either divine or diabolical miracle, but simply by developing the occult powers of the man’s Inner Self and studying the mysteries of nature. That European and American skeptics should deny such interference by spirits, and, as a consequence discredit the phenomena themselves, is no cause for wonder. Scarcely liberated from the clutches of the Church, whose terrible policy, barely a century ago, was to torture and put to death, every person who either doubted biblical, “divine” miracle, or endorsed one which theology declared diabolical, it is but the natural force of reaction which makes them revel in their new-found liberty of thought and action. One who denies the Supreme and the existence of his own soul is not likely to believe in either spirits or phenomena without abundant proof. But that Eastern people, Hindus especially of any sect, should disbelieve, is indeed an anomaly, considering that they all are taught the transmigration of souls, and spiritual as well as physical evolution. The sixteenth chapter of the Mahâbhârata, Harivanśa Parva, is full of spiritual phenomena and the raising of spirits. And if, ashamed of the now termed “superstitions” of their forefathers, young India turns, sunflower-like, but to the great Luminaries of the West, this is what one of the most renowned men of Science of England, A. R. Wallace—a Fellow of the Royal as well as a member of the Theosophical Society—says of the phenomena in his Contributions to the Theory of Natural Selection, and On Miracles and Modern Spiritualism, thus confirming the belief of old India:
“Up to the time when I first became acquainted with the facts of Spiritualism, I was a confirmed philosophical sceptic . . . I was so thorough and confirmed a materialist, that I could not at that time find a place in my mind for the conception of spiritual existence, or for any other agencies in the universe than matter and force. Facts, however, are stubborn things.”
Having explained how he came to become a Spiritualist, he considers the spiritual theory and shows its compatibility with natural selection. Having, he says:
“. . . been led, by a strict induction from facts, to a belief—firstly, in the existence of a number of preter-human intelligences of various grades; and secondly, that some of these intelligences, although usually invisible and intangible to us, can and do act on matter, and do influence our minds—I am surely following a strictly logical and scientific course, in seeing how far this doctrine will enable us to account for some of those residual phenomena which Natural Selection alone will not explain. In the tenth chapter of my Contributions to the Theory of Natural Selection I have pointed out what I consider to be some of these residual phenomena; and I have suggested that they may be due to the action of some of the various intelligences above referred to. I maintained, and still maintain, that this view is one which is logically tenable, and is in no way inconsistent with a thorough acceptance of the grand doctrine of evolution through Natural Selection.”
Would not one think he hears in the above the voices of Manu, Kapila and many other philosophers of old India, in their teachings about the creation, evolution and growth of our planet and its living world of animal as well as human species? Does the great modern scientist speak less of “spirits” and spiritual beings than Manu, the antediluvian scientist and prehistoric legislator? Let young and skeptical India read and compare the old Âryan ideas with those of modern mystics, theosophists, spiritualists, and a few great scientists, and then laugh at the superstitious theories of both.
For four years we have been fighting out our great battle against tremendous odds. We have been abused and called traitors by the spiritualists, for believing in other beings in the invisible world besides their departed spirits; we were cursed and sentenced to eternal damnation, with free passports to hell, by the Christians and their clergy; ridiculed by septics, looked upon as audacious lunatics by society, and tabooed by the conservative Press. We thought we had drunk to the dregs the bitter cup of gall. We had hoped that at least in India, the country par excellence of psychological and metaphysical science, we would find firm ground for our weary feet. But lo! here comes a brother of ours who, without even taking the trouble to ascertain whether or not the rumours about us were true, makes haste to repudiate us in case we do believe in either Magic or Spiritualism! Well. We impose ourselves upon no one. For more than four years we lived and waxed in power if not in wisdom—which latter our humble deputation of Theosophists was sent to search for here, so that we might impart “Vedic learning and philosophy” to the millions of famished souls in the West, who are familiar with phenomena, but wrongly suffer themselves to be misled through their mistaken notions about Ghosts and Bhûts. But if we are to be repulsed at the outset by any considerable party of Ârya Samâjists, who share the views of “A Member,” then will the Theosophical Society, with its 45,000 or so of Western Spiritualists, have to become again a distinct and independent body, and do as well as it can without a single “member” to enlighten it on the absurdity of Spiritualism and Magic.
H. P. Blavatsky.
Bombay, March, 1879.