[Note on “The Theosophists”]
The Theosophist, December, 1881
Article by Gerald Massey | Reply by H.P. Blavatsky
I see from quotations made my “M. A. (Oxon)” in Light for September 17 that the THEOSOPHIST assigns such phenomena as the alleged stone-throwing by invisible agency, 1 to the action of a “blind, though living force” belonging to the “invisible body of those we call blind Elementals or forces of nature,” the “active forces and correlations of fire, water, earth and air,” whose shape is “like the hues of the chameleon which has no permanent colour of its own,” and “it is only the trained eye of the proficient in Eastern occultism that can fix the fleeting shadows, and give them a shape and a name.” A “shape and a name” is exactly what they and we want.
Do these living forces manifest what we term Mind? Or is Mind latent, incipient, among them? Science at present knows nothing whatever about the correlation of mental and elemental forces. Do these suggest a living link? What forms do they take? Because force, so-called, does not seem to cast even those fleeting shadows which can be fixed in form, and these must manifest in form for the adept to get them fixed. The remarks quoted by “M.A. (Oxon)” are full of suggestion, but at present the vision is all visionary.
Elements are but elements, and cannot consciously direct anything. If there be mind, howsoever less than human, engaged in these matters, we want the profound seer to fix the shadows and describe the shape. The language and traditions of the Kabala or Gnosis, no matter in what land, will not help us much, and are always supisciously confused, the four Spirits of the Four Elements of Egypt are from out of the Seven Great Spirits of the Great Bear. From the four corner stars of the Bear (the Coffin of Osisir which they guard) they can be traced to the four corners of the Mount (Meru or others) and the four quarters of the later Zodiac. These were four of a group (Great Bear and Dog-Star), who appear in the Ritual, both as the Seventh and the Eighth Elementaries or gods of the earliest time before the firmament of Râ was lifted.
They originated in verifiable physical phenomena and not in Spiritualism, yet they have passed into the Kabala, like the seven Princes or Angels of the Chariot, just as if they were Spirits in the modern sense. The whole body of lore or wisdom, in which the Oriental occult is trained, originated in the celestial phenomena and not in what is called Spiritualism, althought that is mixed up with the early teachings. The Spirits of the Four Elements belong to mythology, not to Spiritualism. To this great gulf, fixed at starting, may be mainly traced the difference between Eastern occultism and Western Spiritualism. This I hope to make definite and help to bridge over ultimately. Seers have often described to me (I should say, a seer, with whom I dwelt for seventeen years) many fleeting forms of the chameleon kind, passing in currents and flowing in rivers of force, but they did not take forms in such wise that the Kabalist lingo of the Four Elements might be employed in describing them. Unfortunately at that time I was not an evolutionist. We want the seer that is trained, but for one thing he should know all that Western science has established, as well as the traditions of the East. “M.A. (Oxen)” says he had seen phenomena which might fairly represent the gambols of a monkey, and “What for no?”
I write on behalf of the Asamanuk pa. Perhaps the reader never heard of the Asamanuk pa. The word means “Head-Ghost” or “Spectre-Elder.” The name is given to a chimpanzee or baboon that inhabits the islands of the Yolta river, where the Sisai (the souls or shades of the departed) have their Hades or Dead-world, called Gbohiadse. These apes are literally “devils to throw stones.” “Nobody vies with the Asamanuk pa in stone-throwing.” Now as an evolutionist, I hold that the Asamanuk pa has a good a right to his soul as I may claim for mine. And if his consciousness continues, so may his earthly tendency, and this may be his only mode of sending a message to demonstrate his continuity.
It would not be of equal interest to the evolutionist to know that the spirit of a monkey persisted (habits and all) as if it had been the Spirit of a man, and it would give me just as much pleasure to learn that our “poor relations” do continue, as if I received a message from some far more highly-developed being; even though they had to smash all my front windows to let in that much light.
If the Theosophist were also an evolutionist, perhaps he would be able to fix the “fleeting forms” of his vision, and perceive some of the Spirits of man’s predecessors on the earth, and his Spirits of the earth, or in Kabalistic lingo “earth Spirits.”—Light.
Editors’ Note.—Summed up in a few words, this article asks for further information about “elementals”; suggests that they may be what Spiritualists would call “the spirits” of deceased animals; offers this as a new idea for the consideration of Eastern philosophers; and points out that if the adepts of occult science had been privileged to read Darwin they might, with their peculiar powers of clairvoyance, have been able to detect in the elementals, shapes which would identify these as reliquiae of Man’s imperfectly developed ancestors.
The comprehension of what occult science really is, has spread in Europe so very imperfectly as yet, that we must not be impatient even with this curiously entangled view of the subject. European mystics, when further advanced in the tedious study of unintelligible books, will often be hardest to persuade that they must go back some distance on the paths they have travelled, before they can strike into those which lead to the fully illuminated regions of Eastern knowledge. They are naturally loth to confess that much time has been wasted; they try to make the fragments of esoteric Eastern philosophy they may pick up here and there, fit into the vacant places in the scheme of things they have painfully constructed for themselves, and when the fragments will not fit, they are apt to think the corners want paring down here and there, and the hollows filling up. The situation which the European mystic does not realize is this: The Eastern occult philosophy is the great block of solid truth from which the quaint, exoteric mysticism of the outer world has been casually thrown off from time to time, in veiled and symbolical shapes. These hints and suggestions of mystic philosophy may be likened to the grains of gold in rivers, which early explorers used to think betokened somewhere in the mountains from which the rivers sprang, vast beds of the precious metal. The occult philosophy with which some people in India are privileged to be in contact, may be likened to the parent deposits. Students will be altogether on a wrong track as long as they check the statements of Eastern philosophy by reference to the teachings and conceptions of any other systems. In saying this we are not imitating the various religionists who claim that salvation can only be had within the pale of their own small church. We are not saying that Eastern philosophy is right and everybody else is wrong, but that Eastern philosophy is the main stream of knowledge concerning things spiritual and eternal, which has come down in an unbroken flood through all the life of the world. That is the demonstrable position which we, occultists of the Theosophical Society, have firmly taken up, and all archaeological and literary research in matters connected with the earliest religions and philosophies of historical ages helps to fortify it. The casual growths of mystic knowledge in this or that country and period, may or may not be faithful reflections of the actual, central doctrines; but, whenever they seem to bear some resemblance to these, it may be safely conjectured that at least they are reflections, which owe what merit they possess to the original light from which they derive their own.
Now the tone of such articles as that we have reprinted above is quite out of harmony with this general estimate of the position. Mr. Massey’s mental attitude is that of a power in treaty with a collateral power:—“Give us this and this bit of information which you perhaps possess; we offer you in return some valuable hints derived from Western science. Weld them into your own inquiries, and you will, perhaps, bring out some fresh conclusions.” Such an attitude as this is absolutely ludicrous to any one who has had the means of realizing, even in a small degree, what the range and depth of Eastern occult philosophy really are. To say that offering knowledge or discoveries of any sort to the Masters of Occult Philosophy is carrying coals to Newcastle, is to say nothing. There may be some small details of modern science which occult philosophy has not anticipated (centuries ago), but if so, that can only be because the genius of occult philosophy leads it to deal with the main lines of principle and to care as a rule very little for details—as little as for the material advantage or comfort they may be designed to subserve. Such broad conceptions as the theory of evolution, for example, have not only been long ago known to Eastern occultists, but as developed in Europe, are now recognized by them as the first faltering step of modern science in the direction of certain grand principles with which they have been familiar—we will not venture to say since when . . .
“If the Theosophist were also an evolutionist,” says Mr. Massey, “perhaps he would be able to fix the fleeting forms of his vision, and perceive some of the Spirits of man’s predecessors on the earth.” If the European scientists whose fancy has for the first time been caught, within these last few years, by the crude outlines of an evolutionary theory, were less blankly ignorant of all that appertains to the mysteries of life, they would not be misled by some bits of knowledge concerning the evolution of the body, into entirely absurd conclusions concerning the other principles which enter into the constitution of Man.
But we are on the threshold of a far mightier subject than any reader in Europe who has not made considerable progress in real occult study, is likely to estimate in all its appalling magnitude. Will any one who has perused with only some of the attention it really deserves the article we published but two months ago under the title “Fragments of Occult Truth,” make an effort to account, in his own mind, even in the most shadowy and indistinct way, for the history of the six higher principles in any human creature, during the time when his body was being gradually perfected, so to speak, in the matrix of evolution. Where, and what were his higher spiritual principles when the body had worked into no more dignified shape than that of a baboon? Of course, the question is put with a full recognition of the collateral errors implied in the treatment of a single human being as the apex of a series of forms, but, even supposing that physical evolution were as simple a matter as that, how to account for the final presence in the perfected human body of a spiritual soul?—or, to go a step back in the process, how to account for the presence of the animal soul in the first creature with independent volition that emerges from the half vegetable condition of the earlier forms? Is it not obvious, if the blind materialist is not to be accepted as a sufficient guide to the mysteries of the universe—if there really are these higher principles in Man of which we speak, that there must be some vast process of spiritual evolution going on in the universe pari passu with the physical evolution?
For the present we merely throw out hints and endeavour to provoke thought and enquiry; to attempt in this casual manner a complete exposition of the conclusions of Eastern philosophy in this direction would be like starting on a journey to the South Pole apropos to a passing enquiry whether one thought there was land there or not.
But we have, perhaps, said enough to meet the somewhat imperfect suggestion in Mr. Gerald Massey’s article to the effect that elementals may perhaps be the spirits of animals or of “missing links” belonging to a former epoch of the world’s history. The notion that in some immaterial shape,—one may use an absurd expression to set forth an absurd conjecture,—the spirits of any living creature can lead a perpetual existence as the stereotyped duplicates of the transitory material forms they inhabited while passing through the earthly stage of their pilgrimage, is to reckon entirely without the very doctrine which Mr. Massey so kindly offers for the consideration of Eastern philosophers. No more than any given material form is destined to infinite perpetuation, can the finer organisms which constitute the higher principles of living creatures be doomed to unchangeability. What has become of the particles of matter which composed the physical bodies of “man’s predecessors on the earth”? They have long ago been ground over in the laboratory of Nature, and have entered into the composition of other forms. And the idea or design of the earlier forms has risen into superior idea or design which has impressed itself on later forms. So also, though the analogy may give us no more than a cloudy conception of the course of events, it is manifest that the higher principles, once united with the earlier forms must have developed in their turn also. Along what infinite spirals of gradual ascent the spiritual evolution has been accomplished, we will not stop now to consider. Enough to point out the direction in which thought should proceed, and some few considerations which may operate to check European thinkers from too readily regarding the realms of spirit as a mere phantasmagorial cemetery, where the shades of the Earth’s buried inhabitants doze for ever in an aimless trance.
1. See “Stone-Showers”, Theosophist, August, 1881, pp. 231-233. [ED.]