[On the Role of the “Astral Soul” in Phenomena]
Theosophist, September, 1881
Article Selections by N.D.K. | Note and Editor’s Note by H.P.B.
The author of “Confessions of a Thug,” “Seeta,” “Tara,” etc. (the well-known Colonel Meadows Taylor) in his memoirs entitled “The Story of My Life” relates two authentic instances of strange apparitions which are far more striking than the case of “psychic warning” mentioned by Mr. Constantine.
Colonel . . . thus writes [of the first instance]:—
“. . . In my very early life, I had been deeply and devotedly attached to one in England . . . [but I] relinquished the hope of some day winning her. . . . One evening I was at the village of Dewar Kundea, after a long afternoon and evening march . . . I lay down very weary . . . Suddenly . . . I saw the face and figure of the lady so familiar to me, but looking older with a sad and troubled expression. . . . The arms were stretched out, and a low plaintive cry of ‘Do not let me go! do not let me go!’ reached me. I sprang forward, but the figure receded . . .
“I wrote to my father in England, wishing to know whether there was any hope for me. He wrote back to me these words:—‘Too late, my dear son. On the very day of the vision you describe to me, the lady—was married.’”
The second instance is related as follows:—
“. . . There were two companies . . . at Shorapore with Colonel Hughes’s force. . . . the senior office, was sitting in his tent, writing letters for England . . . when a young man [a sergeant] of his company appeared suddenly before him in his hospital dress . . . and without saluting him said ‘I wish, sire, you will kindly have my arrears of pay sent to my mother, who lives at ——; please take down the address.’ Captain took down the address mechanically . . . and again making no salute the man went away. . . .
Captain . . . desired his orderly to send the sergeant to him directly. . . . The man [his orderly] was thunderstruck. ‘Sir,’ he exclaimed, ‘do you not remember he died yesterday in hospital and was buried this morning?’ . . .”
In the first case it seems the lady’s mind on the day of her marriage must have been powerfully excited by the remembrance of her old love, and by a sort of magnetic attraction her thought manifested itself in perfect form, far away in India before the eyes of him she had first loved; and uttered itself. But may it not be that her astral body streamed forth and made itself visible?1
1. We believe such is the case. Intense thought creates and becomes objective, and there is no appreciable distance in the Infinite Space.—Ed. Theos. [H.P.B.]
In the second instance about twenty-hour hours after his death . . . the astral form of the Highland soldier appeared in the very clothes of the dead man and gave the direction to the Captain . . . It is said by some that a short time after death the astral soul forgets all about its earthly existence, and yet there are authentic instances in which numbers of years afterwards the soul has wandered back to earth—for a short time though it be,—to give some direction to those it once loved or to solve their difficulty. It were profitable, therefore, to know what hermetic philosophy has to say about the kind of remembrance of, or connection with, our earth that the Astral Soul continues to enjoy.
Editor’s Note.—“Nature never proceeds in her work of either creation or destruction by jumps and starts,” says the late Éliphas Lévi, the greatest hermetic philosopher in Europe of the present century. The “Astral Soul” may remain with the body for days after the dissolution of the latter, but separates itself entirely from it but on its complete disintegration. Such was the belief of the ancient Egyptians in reference to their mummies, such is the general belief of the Hindus who say that the souls of their dead sit upon the roof of the house in which the body breathed its last for ten days and, therefore, the survivors offer rice-balls to them by throwing them on the roof. Our belief is that the intense thought and anxiety felt by the soldier in his dying moments for his mother could very easily create what the Hindus call a “Kama-rupa” (a form born of and generated by the powerful desire of the still living man), to achieve a certain object, and that form that of himself in his hospital dress, as the “astral soul” per se is the exact ethereal likeness of the body, but certainly not of its temporary garments. The soldier realized the necessity of being recognized by his superior who might not have done so had the astral form appeared to him disrobed, and whose attention, moreover, attracted by the unusual sight, would have been distracted from the chief purpose which was that of bringing him naturally to listen and pay due regard to the desire of the dead man. The soldier must have most certainly made several rehearsals, so to say, in his imagination, and while yet alive, of the way he would like to appear before that officer and give him his mother’s address; and very naturally saw himself in his fancy as he then was,—namely, in his hospital dress. That desire (Kama) faithfully reproduced the scene planned beforehand, and strongly impressed upon the THOUGHT before the party involved in it and with apparently an objective reality. . . .
The opinion of hermetic philosophy is unanimous in rejecting the theory of the modern Spiritualists. Whenever years after the death of a person his spirit is claimed to have “wandered back to earth” to give advice to those it loved, it is always in a subjective vision, in dream or in trance, and in that case it is the soul of the living seer that is drawn to the disembodied spirit, and not the latter which wanders back to our spheres. Nature—say the Kabalists—opens to life all its doors, and closes them as carefully behind, to prevent life from ever receding. Look at the sap in the plants, writes upon that subject Éliphas Lévi, in his “Science of Spirits”; examine the gastric juice in the crucible of human bowels, or the blood in our veins; a regular motion pushes them ever onward, and once the blood expelled, the veins, auricles and ventricles contract and will not let it flow backward. “The living souls of a superior sphere,” tells us Louis Lucas, “can no more return to ours, than a babe already born re-enter its mother’s bosom.” We think as he and the other hermetic philosophers do, and, therefore, the story of Samuel coming down once more on earth to curse Saul, though believed in by the Christian Kabalists, is explained in quite a different wise. For them the witch of Endor was an ecstatic seer who through somnambulism and other occult means placed herself in direct communication with the mournful and sur-excited soul of the Israelite king and drew forth out of it the ever present form of Samuel whose image preyed on his mind. It is from the depths of the tormented conscience of the murderer of priests and prophets, and not from the earth’s bowels, that arose the bleeding spectre of Samuel; and, when apparently his voice was vociferating anathemas and threats, it was her own lips and those of the pythoness—half medium and half magician—who, drawing down from space the ever-living vibrations and notes of the prophet’s voice, assimilated them to hers and reading clairvoyantly in the culprit’s mind, repeated but what she saw engraved by the remorse in the thoughts of Saul. “Chaos magnum firmatum est,” says Robert Fludd, the great mediæval Rosicrucian and Hermetic philosopher of England. “The great chaos consolidates and closes, and those who are above can no more come down.” In a future number we will give the translation of a chapter of Éliphas Lévi’s “Transition of Spirits or the Mystery of Death.” His views are those of all the Kabalists and adepts.