[Notes on “The Philosophy of Spirit” 2]
Theosophist, September, 1882
Article Selections by William Oxley | Introduction and Notes by H.P.B.
We give room in this number to an interminably long paper—entitled “The Philosophy of Spirit: Hierosophy, Theosophy, and Psychosophy,” from the pen of Mr. W. Oxley—solely out of personal regard for the author. Highly instructive and interesting though it may prove to many we feel nevertheless compelled to seriously ask our correspondents—if they would see their contributions in print—to be more brief in future. Indeed, it is simply impossible for us at least as regards those articles that will not yield either to abridgment or division—to make room for such endless discussions. We are ever ready to allow our opponents the chance of being heard, and to present their side of the question before the impartial public in our magazine, but we have neither space nor means to insert voluminous articles. The more so, as in the present case, it is quite evident that Mr. Oxley has entirely misconceived not only Mr. Subba Row’s real position, but also based himself upon as mistaken a view of what he is pleased to term the “doctrines” and “teaching of the Theosophical Society.” He addresses his “Reviewer,” as though he were an “orthodox Brahmin,” an intolerant bigot quite unacquainted with his forefathers’ esoteric views. Whereas, the truth, is that our Brother, Mr. Subba Row, although undeniably a Brahmin, is a Vedantin Adwaitee, of the esoteric Aryan school—one of the least favoured by orthodox bigoted Brahminism, a highly advanced Chela and one, whose thorough knowledge of the real esoteric significance of the sacred books of his country—especially of the Bhagavad Gita—no one who knows him, or of him, can ever doubt. But we will leave Mr. Subba Row to answer for himself in our next number.
[Note: for some background, “[Notes on “The Philosophy of Spirit”]” and Subba Row’s complete review in The Theosophist, May, 1882, p. 192. Subba Row’s reply can be found in The Theosophist, October, 1882, p. 18 and February, 1883, p. 121.]
. . . When I dedicated my little volume “Philosophy of Spirit,” to the resurgent intellectual life of India, it was to show my appreciation of the efforts which are being made by influential native reformers and others to stem the tide of materialism . . . and I expected it would have been received as an ally. Most probably it would but for the introduction of “Busiris,” who, controlling the organism of a sensitive in London, made the announcement that he was the author of Mahabharata. This has called forth a strong disclaimer from my first Reviewer, and again from Mr. T. Subba Row . . . who, for reasons doubtless satisfactory to himself, not only calls the claim of Busiris into question, but further states that my “theories and speculations” are not only unphilosophical, but opposed to the system of philosophy as propounded in the Bhagavad Gita, and Vedas; and at variance with the truths taught by the ancient Indian Rishis.
However this may be, as judged from the modern orthodox Brahminical standpoint, I venture to think that “enlightened” Buddhists would hardly express so severe a judgment.1 . . .
1. As already stated in our editorial, Mr. Subba Row is not an “orthodox” Brahmin in the sense Mr. Oxley uses the word as with him it means bigotry. And we are moreover obliged to declare that “enlightened Buddhists” will hardly ever disagree with such an enlightened Brahmin as Mr. Subba Row.—Ed. [H.P.B.]
. . . I would remind my Reviewer that Krishna Dwypayana, the alleged twenty-eighth Vyasa, is only the supposed author; for the real authors of the Vedas, Mahabharata, and Bhagavad Gita, are enshrouded in as great a mystery as the authors of the Hebraic and Christian records; and I am not going beyond the truth in saying, no man living knows who were the authors of these Records, or writings, or when and where they were written, and first published.2 The same applies to ancient Sanskrit works. According to Professor Monier Williams . . .
2. We believe Mr. Oxley is again mistaken in his denial. It does not at all stand to reason, that because Professor Monier Williams says so, no one in India should know anything on the subject. Many of the initiated Brahmans claim to, and we firmly believe, they do know, when the Vedas, the Mahabharata, and especially the Bhagavad-Gita, were written, and by whom.—Ed. [H.P.B.]
Theosophy . . . declares that what simple-minded “spiritualists” believe to be “communion with the spirits of departed ones from this mundane plane of existence,” is not so, but such communion with, and appearance of, such (whatever they are,) “eidolous,”—mere shells,—or spooks and elementaries, destitute or real spirit, or life, and which are in process of dissolution and (sooner or later) annihilation. Morever, they teach that the “emancipated spirit proper,” cannot return to earth and communicate with mortals. In any case they teach, that in the instance of wicked and depraved people, the spirit proper, at death, takes its final departure, and the “residuum” may try to maintain a living form by any means in its power, but in spite of any and all efforts, it is destined to be extinguished for ever, as the flame of a candle when blown out, so that to all intents and purposes to plain John Brown, “life eternal” is out of the question; and if poor Brown happens to be a pariah, or a vagabond, or even one of the immense majority whose earthly life is one continual fight for sustenance and existence, surely one may commiserate his lot, and not unnaturally think it is “hard life” for him. Rajas and Maharajas, Plutocrats and Aristocrats, are not the rule, but the exception; and even in the Brahminical order of caste, the lowest and lower orders are predominant in numbers; and the “prizes of life” seem to be tenaciously grasped by the higher and highest castes. If, therefore, there is no compensation, or re-adjustment, in another life, or mode of existence, then “the great Lord of life” is, indeed, “a hard master.”3 Another, and, perhaps, the most important of all theosophical doctrines is, that occult poers and esoteric wisdom can only be attained by the severest asceticism, and total abstention from the use of the sensual degrees of nature in their physical aspect. . . . [etc. etc] . . .
3. We must confess that Mr. Oxley misinterprets and misconceives our doctrines the the most extraordinary manner!—Ed. [H.P.B.]
. . . Speaking of Occultism and Spiritualism; Theosophy seems anxious to impress upon Spiritualists, that the phenomena they witness are due to the “intervention of enlightened living men and not disembodied spirits”;4 and they put forward their phenomena as the practical demonstration of this. But a careful analysis of the modus operandi seems to be precisely the same in both cases; the only difference being that the Theosophic Occultists claim to know who is, or are the authors of originators of their phenomena. . . .
4. We deny most emphatically to have ever said any such absurdity. Who are the “enlightened living men” masquerading in the guise of spirits, is really more than we can ever imagine!—Ed. [H.P.B.]
I acknowledge the knowledge of self is the highest form of knowledge; but the knowledge attainable by the human spirit is certainly not the highest knowledge of “self.” We hold that consciousness is self-knowledge, in whatever degree of life’s manifestation it is active; . . . and . . . that the “astral form” (to use an esoteric phrase) has a consciousness of its own; but it does not follow that when the astral form is dissociated from its outer envelope in a living physical organism that it can, or does, maintain its concurrent consciousness with the residuum called the physical body. For instance, I have had three visits by the astral form of the venerable Koot Hoomi through a sensitive, whose linguistic organism was used by the astral form to speak to me, first in Bengali, and afterwards in my own language. On the last occassion I enquired “Are you conscious of your connection with your physical organism which, I presume, is now in India, because in your last visit, you said that if you could succeed in maintaining the consciousness all the way back, then certain results should follow. My reason for asking this question is this, an account is recorded of the visit you made to Mr. Englinton, and that this was in accordance with pre-arrangement, and the evidence seems to point to the conclusion that you were conscious at both ends of the line.” The reply given was, “In my first visit I was not successful; in my second hardly more so; and in the present one it is still doubtful.” “How so!” I enquired again, “is it more difficult, in a subjective astral form to me, to maintain a continued consciousness, than it was to project your astral form and solidify the same for the time being, when you appeared to Mr. Eglinton on board the Vega?” The significant answer came, “The two cases are different. In the one case, it was a matter of efflux, and in the present it is a question of influx!” And then followes an exposition which I need not repeat.5
The statement may come that “this was the work of some vagrant spook or elemental”; and even Koot Hoomi himself may, or may not, give a denial, but I do not look on the occurrence as an ignis fatuus [i.e. something deceptive or deluding]. . . .
5. We feel extremely sorry to acknowledge that Mr. Oxley was right in his foreboding. Far from pretending to be informed of all the doings and actions of our venerated Brother Koot-Hoomi, and notwithstanding our surprise,—since the language given is certainly not that of the Koot-Hoomi we all know—we were preparing to allow the above extraordinary statement to be published without comment, when we received the following from our Brother’s favorite Chela:—
“I am commanded by my beloved Master, known in India and in the Western lands as Koot-Hoomi Lal Singh, to make in his name the following declaration, in answer to a certain statement made by Mr. W. Oxley, and sent by him for publication. It is claimed by the said gentleman that my Master Koot-Hoomi (a) has thrice visited him ‘by the astral form’; and (b) that he had a conversation with Mr. Oxley when, as alleged, he gave the latter certain explanations in reference to astral bodies in general, and the incompetency of his own Mayavi-rupa to preserve its consciousness simultaneously with the body ‘at both ends of the line.’ Therefore, my Master declares:
“1. Whomsoever Mr. Oxley may have seen and conversed with at the time described, it was not with Koot-Hoomi, the writer of the letters published in the Occult World.
“2. Notwithstanding that my master knows the gentleman in question who once honoured him with an autograph letter, thereby giving him the means of making his (Mr. Oxley’s) acquaintance, and of sincerely admiring his intuitional powers and Western learning—yet he has never approached him whether astrally or otherwise; nor has he ever had any conversation with Mr. Oxley; nor could he under any circumstances, even had there been any such conversation, have expressed himself in the terms now imputed to him.
“To guard against all possible misapprehension of this kind in the future, my Master will undertake to hold no communication henceforward with any medium or seer without authenticating that communication by means of three passwords which shall be made known to Messrs. A. O. Hume, President, and A. P. Sinnett, Vice-President, of the Simla “Eclectic Theosophical Society,” so that they may be enabled to declare explicitly that my Master cannot be the author of any statement attributed to him in which they do not find these words.”
Gjual-Khool M. * * *