[Notes on Bhutas or Ghosts]
Theosophist, January, 1882
Article Selections by Piarai Lall Chachondia | Notes by H.P.B.
(The Authentic Story of a Bhut)1
1. A ghost, an earth-bound soul. We give room to this interesting story, in order to show the Western Spiritualists, once more and again, that, while believing in the possibility of returning “spirits,” the Hindus fear and detest them, giving them the epithet of “devils” instead of “departed angels,” and considering such a return in each case as a curse to be avoided and removed as soon as possible.—Ed. Theos. [H.P.B.]
I believe that the following story of a ghost . . . will be welcome to students of Spiritualism. . . . Let those who can throw light upon it come out and explain. . . .
“I had a paternal aunt named Lakshibai, who . . . was suddenly taken sick. . . . On the day before her death she told my mother that feeling sure she would not live more than a day or two, she desired to be removed before her death to some other place, as every one, she said, who had died in the room she occupied had become a bhut2 (भूत) and that she wanted to avoid such a terrible fate. . . .
2. A ghost, an earth-bound spirit or “Elementary.”—Ed. Theos. [H.P.B.]
“That day passed and another dawned . . . all of a sudden she collapsed . . . About 11 o’clock she suddenly arose from her bed, and begged my mother to prepare for her a bath . . . Having bathed . . . [she] expired towards noon, and in the same sick-room, she had so desired to be removed from. None of us seemed to have remembered the wish expressed by her on the preceding day.
“Half a year had passed after the sad event, when, one morning, my elder brother’s wife told me that she had seen my aunt that night in a dream; and, that the deceased had promised her to return again on that morning. Scarcely had an hour passed, after what she had told me when there came an extraordinary change over my sister-in-law’s featured and general appearance. She was seized with violent trembling, her eyes flashed and glowed like fire, and her body became burning hot. I was so taken aback by the unusual sight, that, unable to account for the phenomena, I at once hurried to call witnesses. On seeing her in such a state, my mother conjectured at once that an evil spirit had taken possession of her daughter-in-law, she proceeded to question her to ascertain who that particular devil was. After a minute or so the ghost spoke3 and introduced itself as Lakshmibai, my aunt, who had just died!
3. Through the sister-in-law’s mouth, of course, she being a medium.—Ed. Theos. [H.P.B.]
“At first we doubted the evil spirit’s statement. Till then, we could not have believed that a person like her, whose whole life had been so virtuous and pure, and who at the time of her death had drunk of the sacred Ganges water, and uttered thrice the holy name of Rama, had been refused salvation.4
4. The italics are ours. We underline the sentence to show in what light the orthodox Hindus and especially the Brahmans—view those manifestations—“Salvation” means with the Hindus “absorption in Brahm,” Moksha—a state from which no Spirit can return.—Ed. Theos. [H.P.B.]
We, therefore, put some more questions to the ghost, such as would, we thought, prove or disprove the truth of its statements; but when we found that every one of them was satisfactorily answered we had but to accept the sad assertion. It was the ghost of the late Lakshmibai, my aunt, as before stated.5
5. The ghost’s assertions through her medium, prove nothing in this case. The lady so possessed knew as much of the deceased as the rest of the family. It might have been any spook for all the narrator knows—who personated Lakshmibai, and the correct answers were no test at all.—Ed. Theos. [H.P.B.]
“On ebing asked what sin of hers had doomed her to such a fate, the ghost replied that she had to suffer in consequence of the idea, of her not being removed from the sick-room, forcibly striking her and preying on her mind at the time of death. How far the explanation given is true, I cannot say but leave it to the criticism of learned readers.6 . . .
6. This again, may lead one to suspect (and we now speak from the standpoint of Eastern Occultism) that it was the dying woman’s last thought, the idée fixe (the intensity of which makes of living people monomaniacs, and spreads for an indefinite time its magnetic unhealthy influence after the brain which generated it had long time ceased to exist)—that idea that had so long worried her dying mind, namely that she was going to become a bhût unless removed—that infected also the mind of her relative. A man dies of a contagious disease; months after his death, aye, years—a bit of clothing, an object touched by him during his sickness, may communicate the disease to a person more physiologically sensitive than the persons around him, and while having no effect upon the latter. And why should not an idea, a thought, exercise the same influence? Thought is no less material nor objective than the imponderable and mysterious germs of various infectious diseases the causes of which are such a puzzle for science. Since the mind of a living person can so influence another mind, that the former can force the latter to think and believe whatever it will—in short, to psychologize another mind, so can the thought of a person already dead. Once generated and sent out, that thought will live upon its own energy. It has become independent of the brain and mind which gave it birth. So long as its concentrated energy remains undissipated, it can act as a potential influence when brought into contact with the living brain and nervous system of a person susceptibly predisposed. The unhealthy action thus provoked may lead the sensitive into a temporary insanity of self-delusion that quite clouds the sense of his own individuality. The morbid action thus once set up, the whole floating group of the dead man’s thoughts rushes into the sensitive’s brain, and he can give what seems test after test of the presence of the deceased and convince the predisposed investigator that the individuality of the control, “guide,” or communicating intelligence is thoroughly established.—Ed. Theos. [H.P.B.]