Psychic and Noetic Action
Lucifer, October, November, 1890
“. . . I made man just and right,
Sufficient to have stood, though free to fall,
Such I created all th’ ethereal powers
And spirits, both them who stood and them who fail’d,
Truly, they stood who stood, and fell who fell . . .”—Milton
“. . . The assumption that the mind is a real being, which can be acted upon by the brain, and which can act on the body through the brain, is the only one compatible with all the facts of experience.”—George T. Ladd, in the “Elements of Physiological Psychology.”
A new influence, a breath, a sound—“as of a rushing mighty wind”—has suddenly swept over a few Theosophical heads. An idea, vague at first, grew in time into a very definite form, and now seems to be working very busily in the minds of some of our members. It is this: if we would make converts the few ex-occult teachings, which are destined to see the light of publicity, should be made, henceforward, more subservient to, if not entirely at one with modern science. It is urged that the so-called esoteric1 (or late esoteric) cosmogony, anthropology, ethnology, geology—psychology and, foremost of all, metaphysics—having been adapted into making obeisance to modern (hence materialistic) thought, should never henceforth be allowed to contradict (not openly, at all events) “scientific philosophy.” The latter, we suppose, means the fundamental and accepted views of the great German schools, or of Mr. Herbert Spencer and some other English stars of lesser magnitude; and not only these, but also the deductions that may be drawn from them by their more or less instructed disciples.
A large undertaking this, truly; and one, moreover, in perfect conformity with the policy of the mediaeval Casuists, who distorted truth and even suppressed it, if it clashed with divine Revelation. Useless to say that we decline the compromise. It is quite possible—nay, probable and almost unavoidable—that “the mistakes made” in the rendering of such abstruse metaphysical tenets as those contained in Eastern Occultism, should be “frequent and often important.” But then all such have to be traced back to the interpreters, not to the system itself. They have to be corrected on the authority of the same Doctrine, checked by the teachings grown on the rich and steady soil of Gupta Vidya, not by the speculations that blossom forth today, to die tomorrow—on the shifting sands of modern scientific guesswork, especially in all that relates to psychology and mental phenomena. Holding to our motto, “There is no religion higher than truth,” we refuse most decidedly to pander to physical science. Yet, we may say this: If the so-called exact sciences limited their activity only to the physical realm of nature: if they concerned themselves strictly with surgery, chemistry—up to its legitimate boundaries, and with physiology—so far as the latter relates to the structure of our corporeal frame, then the Occultists would be the first to seek help in modern sciences, however many their blunders and mistakes. But once that over-stepping material Nature the physiologists of “animalistic”2 school pretend to meddle with, and deliver ex cathedra dicta on, the higher functions and phenomena of the mind, saying that a careful analysis brings them to a firm conviction that no more than the animal is man a free-agent, far less a responsible one—then the Occultist has a far greater right than the average modern “Idealist” to protest. And the Occultist asserts that no materialist—a prejudiced and one-sided witness at best—can claim any authority in the question of mental physiology, or that which is now called by him the physiology of the soul. No such noun can be applied to the word “soul,” unless, indeed, by soul only the lower, psychic mind is meant, or that which develops in man (proportionally with the perfection of his brain) into intellect, and in the animal into a higher instinct. But since the great Charles Darwin taught that “our ideas are animal motions of the organ of sense” everything becomes possible to the modern physiologist.
Thus, to the great distress of our scientifically inclined Fellows, it is once more Lucifer’s duty to show how far we are at loggerheads with exact science, or shall we say, how far the conclusions of that science are drifting away from truth and fact. By “science” we mean, of course, the majority of the men of science; the best minority, we are happy to say, is on our side, at least as far as free will in man and the immateriality of the mind are concerned. The study of the “Physiology” of the Soul, of the Will in man and of his higher Consciousness from the standpoint of genius and its manifesting faculties, can never be summarized into a system of general ideas represented by brief formulae; no more than the psychology of material nature can have its manifold mysteries solved by the mere analysis of its physical phenomena. There is no special organ of will, any more than there is a physical basis for the activities of self-consciousness.
“If the question is pressed as to the physical basis for the activities of self-consciousness, no answer can be given or suggested. . . . From its very nature, that marvellous verifying actus of mind in which it recognizes the states as its own, can have no analogous or corresponding material substratum. It is impossible to specify any physiological process representing this unifying actus; it is even impossible to imagine how the description of any such process could be brought into intelligible relation with this unique mental power.”3
Thus, the whole conclave of psycho-physiologists may be challenged to correctly define Consciousness, and they are sure to fail, because Self-consciousness belongs alone to man and proceeds from the SELF, the higher Manas. Only, whereas the psychic element (or Kama-manas)4 is common to both the animal and the human being—the far higher degree of its development in the latter resting merely on the greater perfection and sensitiveness of his cerebral cells—no physiologist, not even the cleverest, will ever be able to solve the mystery of the human mind, in its highest spiritual manifestation, or in its dual aspect of the psychic and the noëtic (or the manasic),5 or even to comprehend the intricacies of the former on the purely material plane—unless he knows something of, and is prepared to admit the presence of this dual element. This means that he would have to admit a lower (animal), and a higher (or divine) mind in man, or what is known in Occultism as the “personal” and the “impersonal” Egos. For, between the psychic and the noëtic, between the Personality and the Individuality, there exists the same abyss as between a “Jack the Ripper,” and a holy Buddha. Unless the physiologist accepts all this, we say, he will ever be led into a quagmire. We intend to prove it.
As all know, the great majority of our learned “Didymi” reject the idea of free will. Now this question is a problem that has occupied the minds of thinkers for ages; every school of thought having taken it up in turn and left it as far from solution as ever. And yet, placed as it is in the foremost ranks of philosophical quandaries, the modern “psycho-physiologists” claim in the coolest and most bumptious way to have cut the Gordian knot for ever. For them the feeling of personal free agency is an error, an illusion, “the collective hallucination of mankind.” This conviction starts from the principle that no mental activity is possible without a brain, and that there can be no brain without a body. As the latter is, moreover, subject to the general laws of a material world where all is based on necessity, and where there is no spontaneity, our modern psycho-physiologist has nolens volens to repudiate any self-spontaneity in human action. Here we have, for instance, a Lausanne professor of physiology, A. A. Herzen, to whom the claim of free will in man appears as the most unscientific absurdity. Says this oracle:
“In the boundless physical and chemical laboratory that surrounds man, organic life represents quite an unimportant group of phenomena; and amongst the latter, the place occupied by life having reached to the stage of consciousness, is so minute that it is absurd to exclude man from the sphere of action of a general law, in order to allow in him the existence of a subjective spontaneity or a free will standing outside of that law.”—Psychophysiologie Générale
For the Occultist who knows the difference between the psychic and the noëtic elements in man, this is pure trash, notwithstanding its sound scientific basis. For when the author puts the question—if psychic phenomena do not represent the results of an action of a molecular character whither then does motion disappear after reaching the sensory centres?—we answer that we never denied the fact. But what has this to do with a free will? That every phenomenon in the visible Universe has its genesis in motion, is an old axiom in Occultism; nor do we doubt that the psycho-physiologist would place himself at loggerheads with the whole conclave of exact scientists were he to allow the idea that at a given moment a whole series of physical phenomena may disappear in the vacuum. Therefore, when the author of the work cited maintains that the said force does not disappear upon reaching the highest nervous centres, but that it is forthwith transformed into another series, viz., that of psychic manifestations, into thought, feeling, and consciousness, just as this same psychic force when applied to produce some work of a physical (e.g., muscular) character gets transformed into the latter—Occultism supports him, for it is the first to say that all psychic activity, from its lowest to its highest manifestations, is “nothing but—motion.”
Yes; it is MOTION; but not all “molecular” motion, as the writer means us to infer. Motion as the GREAT BREATH (vide Secret Doctrine, vol. I, sub voce)—ergo “sound” at the same time—is the substratum of Kosmic-Motion. It is beginningless and endless, the one eternal life, the basis and genesis of the subjective and the objective universe; for LIFE (or Be-ness) is the fons et origo of existence or being. But molecular motion is the lowest and most material of its finite manifestations. And if the general law of the conservation of energy leads modern science to the conclusion that psychic activity only represents a special form of motion, this same law, guiding the Occultists, leads them also to the same conviction—and to something else besides, which psycho-physiology leaves entirely out of all consideration. If the latter has discovered only in this century that psychic (we say even spiritual) action is subject to the same general and immutable laws of motion as any other phenomenon manifested in the objective realm of Kosmos, and that in both the organic and the inorganic (?) worlds every manifestation, whether conscious or unconscious, represents but the result of a collectivity of causes, then in Occult philosophy this represents merely the A, B, C, of its science. “All the world is the Svara; Svara is the Spirit itself”—the ONE LIFE or motion, say the old books of Hindu Occult philosophy. “The proper translation of the word Svara is the current of the life wave,” says the author of “Nature’s Finer Forces,”6 and he goes on to explain:
“It is that wavy motion which is the cause of the evolution of cosmic undifferentiated matter into the differentiated universe. . . . From whence does this motion come? This motion is the spirit itself. The word atma (universal soul) used in the book (vide infra), itself carries the idea of eternal motion, coming as it does from the root, AT, or eternal motion; and it may be significantly remarked, that the root AT is connected with, is in fact simply another form of, the roots AH, breath, and AS, being. All these roots have for their origin the sound produced by the breath of animals (living beings). . . . The primeval current of the life-wave is then the same which assumes in man the form of inspiratory and expiratory motion of the lungs, and this is the all-pervading source of the evolution and involution of the universe. . . .”
So much about motion and the “conservation of energy” from old books on magic written and taught ages before the birth of inductive and exact modern science. For what does the latter say more then these books in speaking, for instance, about animal mechanism, when it says:
“From the visible atom to the celestial body lost in space, everything is subject to motion . . . kept at a definite distance one from the other, in proportion to the motion which animates them, the molecules present constant relations, which they lose only by the addition or the subtraction of a certain quantity of motion.”7
But Occultism says more than this. While making of motion on the material plane and of the conservation of energy, two fundamental laws, or rather two aspects of the same omnipresent law—Svara, it denies point blank that these have anything to do with the free-will of man which belongs to quite a different plane. The author of “Psychophysiologie Générale,” treating of his discovery that psychic action is but motion, and the result of a collectivity of causes—remarks that as it is so, there cannot be any further discussion upon spontaneity—in the sense of any native internal proneness created by the human organism; and adds that the above puts an end to all claim for free-will! The Occultist denies the conclusion. The actual fact of man’s psychic (we say manasic or noëtic) individuality is a sufficient warrant against the assumption; for in the case of this conclusion being correct, or being indeed, as the author expresses it, the collective hallucination of the whole mankind throughout the ages, there would be an end also to psychic individuality.
Now by “psychic” individuality we mean that self-determining power which enables man to override circumstances. Place half a dozen animals of the same species under the same circumstances, and their actions while not identical, will be closely similar; place half a dozen men under the same circumstances and their actions will be as different as their characters, i.e., their psychic individuality.
But if instead of “psychic” we call it the higher Self-conscious Will, then having been shown by the science of psycho-physiology itself that will has no special organ, how will the materialists connect it with “molecular” motion at all? As Professor George T. Ladd says:
“The phenomena of human consciousness must be regarded as activities of some other form of Real Being than the moving molecules of the brain. They require a subject or ground which is in its nature unlike the phosphorized fats of the central masses, the aggregated nerve-fibres of nerve-cells of the cerebral cortex. This Real Being thus manifested immediately to itself in the phenomena of consciousness, and indirectly to others through the bodily changes, is the Mind [manas]. To it the mental phenomena are to be attributed as showing what it is by what it does. The so-called mental ‘faculties’ are only the modes of the behaviour in consciousness of this real being. We actually find, by the only method available, that this real being called Mind believes in certain perpetually recurring modes: therefore, we attribute to it certain faculties. . . . Mental faculties are not entities that have an existence of themselves. . . . They are the modes of the behaviour in consciousness of the mind. And the very nature of the classifying acts which lead to their being distinguished, is explicable only upon the assumption that a Real being called Mind exists, and is to be distinguished from the real being known as the physical molecules of the brain’s nervous mass.”8
And having shown that we have to regard consciousness as a unit (another occult proposition) the author adds:
“We conclude, then, from the previous considerations: the subject of all the states of consciousness is a real unit-being, called Mind; which is of non-material nature, and acts and develops according to laws of its own, but is specially correlated with certain material molecules and masses forming the substance of the Brain.”9
This “Mind” is manas, or rather its lower reflection, which whenever it disconnects itself, for the time being, with kama, becomes the guide of the highest mental faculties, and is the organ of the free-will in physical man. Therefore, this assumption of the newest psycho-physiology is uncalled for, and the apparent impossibility of reconciling the existence of free-will with the law of the conservation of energy is—a pure fallacy. This was well shown in the “Scientific Letters” of “Elpay” in a criticism of the work. But to prove it finally and set the whole question definitely at rest, does not even require so high an interference (high for us, at any rate) as the Occult laws, but simply a little common sense. Let us analyze the question dispassionately.
It is postulated by one man, presumably a scientist, that because “psychic action is found subject to the general and immutable laws of motion, there is, therefore, no free will in man.” The “analytical method of exact sciences” has demonstrated it, and materialistic scientists have decreed to “pass the resolution” that the fact should be so accepted by their followers. But there are other and far greater scientists who thought differently. For instance, Sir William Lawrence, the eminent surgeon, declared in his lectures10 that:
“The philosophical doctrine of the soul, and its separate existence, has nothing to do with this physiological question, but rests on a species of proof altogether different. These sublime dogmas could never have been brought to light by the labours of the anatomist and physiologist. An immaterial and spiritual being could not have been discovered amid the blood and filth of the dissecting room.”
Now, let us examine on the testimony of the materialist how this universal solvent called the “analytical method” is applied in this special case. The author of the Psychophysiologie decomposes psychic activity into its compound elements, traces them back to motion, and, failing to find in them the slightest trace of free will or spontaneity, jumps at the conclusion that the latter have no existence in general; nor are they to be found in that psychic activity which he has just decomposed. “Are not the fallacy and error of such an unscientific proceeding self-evident?” asks his critic; and then argues very correctly that:
“At this rate, and starting from the standpoint of this analytical method, one would have an equal right to deny every phenomenon in nature from first to last. For, do not sound and light, heat and electricity, like all other chemical processes, once decomposed into their respective elements, lead the experimenter back to the same motion, wherein all the peculiarities of the given elements disappear leaving behind them only ‘the vibrations of molecules’? But does it necessarily follow that for all that, heat, light, electricity—are but illusions instead of the actual manifestations of the peculiarities of our real world? Such peculiarities are not, of course, to be found in compound elements, simply because we cannot expect that a part should contain, from first to last, the properties of the whole. What should we say of a chemist, who, having decomposed water into its compounds, hydrogen and oxygen, without finding in them the special characteristics of water would maintain that such did not exist at all nor could they be found in water? What of an antiquary who upon examining distributed type and finding no sense in every separate letter, should assert that there was no such thing as sense to be found in any printed document? And does not the author of ‘Psychophysiology’ act just in this way when he denies the existence of free will or self-spontaneity in man, on the grounds that this distinctive faculty of the highest psychic activity is absent from those compound elements which he has analyzed?”
Most undeniably no separate piece of brick, of wood, or iron, each of which has once been a part of a building now in ruins, can be expected to preserve the smallest trace of the architecture of that building—in the hands of the chemist, at any rate; though it would in those of a psychometer, a faculty by the bye, which demonstrates far more powerfully the law of the conservation of energy than any physical science does, and shows it acting as much in the subjective or psychic worlds as an the objective and material planes. The genesis of sound, on this plane, has to be traced back to the same motion, and the same correlation of forces is at play during the phenomenon as in the case of every other manifestation. Shall the physicist, then, who decomposes sound into its compound element of vibrations and fails to find in them any harmony or special melody, deny the existence of the latter, And does not this prove that the analytical method having to deal exclusively with the elements, and nothing to do with their combinations, leads the physicist to talk very glibly about motion, vibration, and what not, and to make him entirely lose sight of the harmony produced by certain combinations of that motion or the “harmony of vibrations”? Criticism, then, is right in accusing Materialistic psycho-physiology of neglecting these all-important distinctions; in maintaining that if a careful observation of facts is a duty in the simplest physical phenomena, how much more should it be so when applied to such complex and important questions as psychic force and faculties? And yet in most cases all such essential differences are overlooked, and the analytical method is applied in a most arbitrary and prejudiced way. What wonder, then, if, in carrying back psychic action to its basic elements of motion, the psycho-physiologist depriving it during the process of all its essential characteristics, should destroy it, and having destroyed it, it only stands to reason that he is unable to find that which exists in it no longer. He forgets, in short, or rather purposely ignores the fact, that though, like all other phenomena on the material plane, psychic manifestations must be related in their final analysis to the world of vibration (“sound” being the substratum of universal Akasa), yet, in their origin, they belong to a different and a higher World of HARMONY. Elpay has a few severe sentences against the assumptions of those he calls “physico-biologists” which are worthy of note.
“Unconscious of their error, the psycho-physiologists identify the compound elements of psychic activity with that activity itself: hence the conclusion from the standpoint of the analytical method, that the highest, distinctive speciality of the human soul—free will, spontaneity—is an illusion, and no psychic reality. But as we have just shown, such identification not only has nothing in common with exact science, but is simply impermissible, as it clashes with all the fundamental laws of logic, in consequence of which all these so-called physico-biological deductions emanating from the said identification vanish into thin air. Thus to trace psychic action primarily to motion, means in no way to prove the ‘illusion of free will.’ And, as in the case of water, whose specific qualities cannot be deprived of their reality although they are not to be found in its compound gases, so with regard to the specific property of psychic action: its spontaneity cannot be refused to psychic reality, though this property is not contained in those finite elements into which the psycho-physiologist dismembers the activity in question under his mental scalpel.”
This method is “a distinctive feature of modern science in its endeavor to satisfy inquiry into the nature of the objects of its investigation by a detailed description of their development,” says G. T. Ladd. And the author of The Elements of Physiological Psychology adds:
“The universal process of ‘Becoming’ has been almost personified and deified so as to make it the true ground of all finite and concrete existence. . . . The attempt is made to refer all the so-called development of the mind to the evolution of the substance of the brain, under purely physical and mechanical causes. This attempt, then, denies that any real unit-being called the Mind needs to be assumed as undergoing a process of development according to laws of its own. . . . On the other hand, all attempts to account for the orderly increase in complexity and comprehensiveness of the mental phenomena by tracing the physical evolution of the brain are wholly unsatisfactory to many minds. We have no hesitation in classing ourselves among this number. Those facts of experience which show a correspondence in the order of the development of the body and the mind, and even a certain necessary dependence of the latter upon the former, are, of course, to be admitted; but they are equally compatible with another view of the mind’s development. This other view has the additional advantage that it makes room for many other facts of experience which are very difficult of reconciliation with any materialistic theory. On the whole, the history of each individual’s experiences is such as requires the assumption that a real unit-being (a Mind) is undergoing a process of development, in relation to the changing condition or evolution of the brain, and yet in accordance with a nature and laws of its own.” (p. 616)
How closely this last “assumption” of science approaches the teachings of the Occult philosophy will be shown in Part II of this article. Meanwhile, we may close with an answer to the latest materialistic fallacy, which may be summarized in a few words. As every psychic action has for its substratum the nervous elements whose existence it postulates, and outside which it cannot act; as the activity of the nervous elements is only molecular motion, there is therefore no need to invent a special and psychic Force for the explanation of our brain work. Free Will would force Science to postulate an invisible Free-Willer, a creator of that special Force.
We agree: “not the slightest need,” of a creator of “that special” or any other Force. Nor has anyone ever claimed such an absurdity. But between creating and guiding, there is a difference and the latter implies in no way any creation of the energy of motion, or, indeed, of any special energy. Psychic mind (in contradistinction to manasic or noetic mind) only transforms this energy of the “unit-being” according to “a nature and laws of its own”—to use Ladd’s felicitous expression. The “unit-being” creates nothing but only causes a natural correlation in accordance with both the psychical laws and laws of its own; having to use the Force, it guides its direction, choosing the paths along which it will proceed, and stimulating it to action. And, as its activity is sui generis, and independent, it carries this energy from this world of disharmony into its own sphere of harmony. Were it not independent it could not do so. As it is, the freedom of man’s will is beyond doubt or cavil. Therefore, as already observed, there is no question of creation, but simply of guidance. Because the sailor at the wheel does not create the steam in the engine, shall we say that he does not direct the vessel?
And, because we refuse to accept the fallacies of some psycho-physiologists as the last word of science, do we furnish thereby a new proof that free will is an hallucination? We deride the animalistic idea. How far more scientific and logical, besides being as poetical as it is grand, is the teaching in the Katha Upanishad, which, in a beautiful and descriptive metaphor, says that: “The senses are the horses, body is the chariot, mind (kama-manas) is the reins, and intellect (or free-will) the charioteer.” Verily, there is more exact science in the less important of the Upanishads, composed thousands of years ago, than in all the materialistic ravings of modern “physico-biology” and “psychophysiology” put together!
“The knowledge of the past, present, and future, is embodied in Kshetrajna (the ‘Self’).”—Occult Axioms
Having explained in what particulars, and why, as Occultists, we disagree with materialistic physiological psychology, we may now proceed to point out the difference between psychic and noëtic mental functions, the noëtic not being recognized by official science.
Moreover, we, Theosophists, understand the terms “psychic” and “psychism” somewhat differently from the average public, science, and even theology, the latter giving it a significance which both science and Theosophy reject, and the public in general remaining with a very hazy conception of what is really meant by the terms. For many, there is little, if any, difference between “psychic” and “psychological,” both words relating in some way to the human soul. Some modern metaphysicians have wisely agreed to disconnect the word Mind (pneuma) from Soul (psyche), the one being the rational, spiritual part, the other—psyche—the living principle in man, the breath that animates him (from anima, soul). Yet, if this is so, how in this case refuse a soul to animals? These are, no less than man, informed with the same principle of sentient life, the nephesh of the 2nd chapter of Genesis. The Soul is by no means the Mind, nor can an idiot, bereft of the latter, be called a “soul-less” being. To describe, as the physiologists do, the human Soul in its relations to senses and appetites, desires and passions, common to man and the brute, and then endow it with God-like intellect, with spiritual and rational faculties which can take their source but in a supersensible world—is to throw for ever the veil of an impenetrable mystery over the subject. Yet in modern science, “psychology” and “psychism” relate only to conditions of the nervous system, mental phenomena being traced solely to molecular action. The higher noëtic character of the Mind-Principle is entirely ignored, and even rejected, as a “superstition” by both physiologists and psychologists. Psychology, in fact, has become a synonym in many cases for the science of psychiatry. Therefore, students of Theosophy being compelled to differ from all these, have adopted the doctrine that underlies the time-honoured philosophies of the East. What it is, may be found further on.
To better understand the foregoing arguments and those which follow, the reader is asked to turn to the editorial in the September Lucifer (“The Dual Aspect of Wisdom,” p. 3), and acquaint himself with the double aspect of that which is termed by St. James in his Third Epistle at once—the devilish, terrestrial wisdom and the “wisdom from above.” In another editorial, “Kosmic Mind” (April, 1890), it is also stated, that the ancient Hindus endowed every cell in the human body with consciousness, giving each the name of a God or Goddess. Speaking of atoms in the name of science and philosophy, Professor Ladd calls them in his work “supersensible beings.” Occultism regards every atom11 as an “independent entity” and every cell as a “conscious unit.” It explains that no sooner do such atoms group to form cells, than the latter become endowed with consciousness, each of its own kind, and with free-will to act within the limits of law. Nor are we entirely deprived of scientific evidence for such statements as the two above named editorials well prove. More than one learned physiologist of the golden minority, in our own day, moreover, is rapidly coming to the conviction, that memory has no seat, no special organ of its own in the human brain, but that it has seats in every organ of the body.
“No good ground exists for speaking of any special organ, or seat of memory,” writes Professor G. T. Ladd.12 “Every organ, indeed, every area, and every limit of the nervous system has its own memory” (Elements of Physiological Psychology, p. 553).
The seat of memory, then, is assuredly neither here nor there, but everywhere throughout the human body. To locate its organ in the brain is to limit and dwarf the Universal Mind and its countless Rays (the Manasaputra) which inform every rational mortal. As we write for Theosophists, first of all, we care little for the psychophobian prejudices of the Materialists who may read this and sniff contemptuously at the mention of “Universal Mind” and the Higher noëtic souls of men. But, what is memory, we ask. “Both presentation of sense and image of memory, are transitory phases of consciousness,” we are answered. But what is Consciousness itself?—we ask again. “We cannot define Consciousness,” Professor Ladd tells us.13 Thus, that which we are asked to do by physiological psychology is, to content ourselves with controverting the various states of Consciousness by other people’s private and unverifiable hypotheses; and this, on “questions of cerebral physiology where experts and novices are alike ignorant,” to use the pointed remark of the said author. Hypothesis for hypothesis, then, we may as well hold to the teachings of our Seers, as to the conjectures of those who deny both such Seers and their wisdom. The more so, as we are told by the same honest man of science, that
“if metaphysics and ethics cannot properly dictate their facts and conclusions to the science of physiological psychology . . . in turn this science cannot properly dictate to metaphysics and ethics the conclusions which they shall draw from facts of Consciousness, by giving out its myths and fables in the garb of well ascertained history of the cerebral processes” (p.544).
Now, since the metaphysics of Occult physiology and psychology postulate within mortal man an immortal entity, “divine Mind,” or Nous, whose pale and too often distorted reflection is that which we call “Mind” and intellect in men—virtually an entity apart from the former during the period of incarnation—we say that the two sources of “memory” are in these two “principles.” These two we distinguish as the Higher Manas (Mind or Ego), and the Kama-Manas, i.e., the rational, but earthly or physical intellect of man, incased in, and bound by, matter, therefore subject to the influence of the latter: the all-conscious SELF, that which reincarnates periodically—verily the WORD made flesh!—and which is always the same, while its reflected “Double,” changing with every new incarnation and personality, is, therefore, conscious but for a life-period. The latter “principle” is the Lower Self, or that, which manifesting through our organic system, acting on this plane of illusion, imagines itself the Ego Sum, and thus falls into what Buddhist philosophy brands as the “heresy of separateness.” The former, we term INDIVIDUALITY, the latter Personality. From the first proceeds all the noëtic element, from the second, the psychic, i.e., “terrestrial wisdom” at best, as it is influenced by all the chaotic stimuli of the human or rather animal passions of the living body.
The “Higher EGO” cannot act directly on the body, as its consciousness belongs to quite another plane and planes of ideation: the “lower” Self does: and its action and behavior depend on its free will and choice as to whether it will gravitate more towards its parent (“the Father in Heaven”) or the “animal” which it informs, the man of flesh. The “Higher Ego,” as part of the essence of the UNIVERSAL MIND, is unconditionally omniscient on its own plane, and only potentially so in our terrestrial sphere, as it has to act solely through its alter ego—the Personal Self. Now, although the former is the vehicle of all knowledge of the past, the present, and the future, and although it is from this fountain-head that its “double” catches occasional glimpses of that which is beyond the senses of man, and transmits them to certain brain cells (unknown to science in their function), thus making of man a Seer, a soothsayer, and a prophet; yet the memory of bygone events—especially of the earth earthy—has its seat in the Personal Ego alone. No memory of a purely daily-life function, of a physical, egotistical, or of a lower mental nature—such as, e.g., eating and drinking, enjoying personal sensual pleasures, transacting business to the detriment of one’s neighbour, etc., etc., has aught to do with the “Higher” Mind or EGO. Nor has it any direct dealings on this physical plane with either our brain or our heart—for these two are the organs of a power higher than the Personality—but only with our passional organs, such as the liver, the stomach, the spleen, etc. Thus it only stands to reason that the memory of such-like events must be first awakened in that organ which was the first to induce the action remembered afterwards, and conveyed it to our “sense-thought,” which is entirely distinct from the “supersensuous” thought. It is only the higher forms of the latter, the superconscious mental experience, that can correlate with the cerebral and cardiac centers. The memories of physical and selfish (or personal) deeds, on the other hand, together with the mental experiences of a terrestrial nature, and of earthly biological functions, can, of necessity, only be correlated with the molecular constitution of various Kamic organs, and the “dynamical associations” of the elements of the nervous system in each particular organ.
Therefore, when Professor Ladd, after showing that every element of the nervous system has a memory of its own, adds:
“This view belongs to the very essence of every theory which considers conscious mental reproduction as only one form or phase of the biological fact of organic memory”
he must include among such theories the Occult teaching. For no Occultist could express such teaching more correctly than the Professor, who says, in winding up his argument:
“We might properly speak, then, of the memory of the end-organ of vision or of hearing, of the memory of the spinal cord and of the different so-called ‘centers’ of reflex action belonging to the chords of the memory of the medulla oblongata, the cerebellum, etc.”
This is the essence of Occult teaching—even in the Tantra works. Indeed, every organ in our body has its own memory. For if it is endowed with a consciousness “of its own kind,” every cell must of necessity have also a memory of its own kind, as likewise its own psychic and noëtic action. Responding to the touch of both a physical and a metaphysical Force,14 the impulse given by the psychic (or psycho-molecular) Force will act from without within; while that of the noëtic (shall we call it Spiritual-dynamical?) Force works from within without. For, as our body is the covering of the inner “principles,” soul, mind, life, etc., so the molecule or the cell is the body in which dwell its “principles,” the (to our sense and comprehension) immaterial atoms which compose that cell. The cell’s activity and behaviour are determined by its being propelled either inwardly or outwardly, by the noëtic or the psychic Force, the former having no relation to the physical cells proper. Therefore, while the latter act under the unavoidable law of the conservation and correlation of physical energy, the atoms—being psycho-spiritual, not physical units—act under laws of their own, just as Professor Ladd’s “Unit-Being,” which is our “Mind-Ego,” does, in his very philosophical and scientific hypothesis. Every human organ and each cell in the latter has a key-board of its own, like that of a piano, only that it registers and emits sensations instead of sounds. Every key contains the potentiality of good or bad, of producing harmony or disharmony. This depends on the impulse given and the combinations produced; an the force of the touch of the artist at work, a “double-faced Unity,” indeed. And it is the action of this or the other “Face” of the Unity that determines the nature and the dynamical character of the manifested phenomena as a resulting action, and this whether they be physical or mental. For the whole life of man is guided by this double-faced Entity. If the impulse comes from the “Wisdom above,” the Force applied being noëtic or spiritual, the results will be actions worthy of the divine propeller; if from the “terrestrial, devilish wisdom” (psychic power), man’s activities will be selfish, based solely on the exigencies of his physical, hence animal, nature. The above may sound to the average reader as pure nonsense; but every Theosophist must understand when told that there are Manasic as well as Kamic organs in him, although the cells of his body answer to both physical and spiritual impulses.
Verily that body, so desecrated by Materialism and man himself, is the temple of the Holy Grail, the Adytum of the grandest, nay, of all, the mysteries of nature in our solar universe. That body is an Æolian harp, chorded with two sets of strings, one made of pure silver, the other of catgut. When the breath from the divine Fiat brushes softly over the former, man becomes like unto his God—but the other set feels it not. It needs the breeze of a strong terrestrial wind, impregnated with animal effluvia, to set its animal chords vibrating. It is the function of the physical, lower mind to act upon the physical organs and their cells; but, it is the higher mind alone which can influence the atoms interacting in these cells, which interaction is alone capable of exciting the brain, via the spinal “centre” cord, to a mental representation of spiritual ideas far beyond any objects on this material plane. The phenomena of divine consciousness have to be regarded as activities of our mind on another and a higher plane, working through something less substantial than the moving molecules of the brain. They cannot be explained as the simple resultant of the cerebral physiological processes, as indeed the latter only condition them or give them a final form for purposes of concrete manifestation. Occultism teaches that the liver and the spleen-cells are the most subservient to the action of our “personal” mind, the heart being the organ par excellence through which the “Higher” Ego acts—through the Lower Self.
Nor can the visions or memory of purely terrestrial events be transmitted directly through the mental perceptions in the brain—the direct recipient of the impressions of the heart. All such recollections have to be first stimulated by and awakened in the organs which were the originators, as already stated, of the various causes that led to the results, or, the direct recipients and participators of the latter. In other words, if what is called “association of ideas” has much to do with the awakening of memory, the mutual interaction and consistent inter-relation between the personal “Mind-Entity” and the organ of the human body have far more so. A hungry stomach evokes the vision of a past banquet, because its action is reflected and repeated in the personal mind. But even before the memory of the personal Self radiates the vision from the tablets wherein are stored the experiences of one’s daily life—even to the minutest details—the memory of the stomach has already evoked the same. And so with all the organs of the body. It is they which originate according to their animal needs and desires the electro-vital sparks that illuminate the field of consciousness in the Lower Ego; and it is these sparks which in their turn awaken to function the reminiscences in it. The whole human body is, as said, a vast sounding board, in which each cell bears a long record of impressions connected with its parent organ, and each cell has a memory and a consciousness of its kind, or call it instinct if you will. These impressions are, according to the nature of the organ, physical, psychic, or mental, as they relate to this or another plane. They may be called “states of consciousness” only for the want of a better expression—as there are states of instinctual, mental, and purely abstract, or spiritual consciousness. If we trace all such “psychic” actions to brain-work, it is only because in that mansion called the human body the brain is the front-door, and the only one which opens out into Space. All the others are inner doors, openings in the private building, through which travel incessantly the transmitting agents of memory and sensation. The clearness, the vividness, and intensity of these depend on the state of health and the organic soundness of the transmitters. But their reality, in the sense of trueness or correctness, is due to the “principle” they originate from, and the preponderance in the Lower Manas of the noëtic or the phrenic (“Kamic,” terrestrial) element.
For, as Occultism teaches, if the Higher Mind-Entity—the permanent and the immortal—is of the divine homogeneous essence of “Alaya-Akasa,”15 or Mahat,—its reflection, the Personal Mind, is, as a temporary “Principle,” of the Substance of the Astral Light. As a pure ray of the “Son of the Universal Mind,” it could perform no functions in the body, and would remain powerless over the turbulent organs of Matter. Thus, while its inner constitution is Manasic, its “body,” or rather functioning essence, is heterogeneous, and leavened with the Astral Light, the lowest element of Ether. It is a part of the mission of the Manasic Ray, to get gradually rid of the blind, deceptive element which though it makes of it an active spiritual entity on this plane, still brings it into so close contact with matter as to entirely becloud its divine nature and stultify its intuitions.
This leads us to see the difference between the pure noëtic and the terrestrial psychic visions of seership and mediumship. The former can be obtained by one of two means: (a) on the condition of paralyzing at will the memory and the instinctual, independent action of all the material organs and even cells in the body of flesh, an act which, once that the light of the Higher Ego has consumed and subjected for ever the passional nature of the personal, lower Ego, is easy, but requires an adept; and (b) of being a reincarnation of one, who, in a previous birth, had attained through extreme purity of life and efforts in the right direction almost to a Yogi-state of holiness and saintship. There is also a third possibility of reaching in mystic visions the plane of the higher Manas; but it is only occasional and does not depend on the will of the Seer, but on the extreme weakness and exhaustion of the material body through illness and suffering. The Seeress of Prevorst was an instance of the latter case; and Jacob Boëhme of our second category. In all other cases of abnormal seership, of so-called clairaudience, clairvoyance and trances, it is simply—mediumship.
Now what is a medium? The term medium, when not applied simply to things and objects, is supposed to be a person through whom the action of another person or being is either manifested or transmitted. Spiritualists believing in communications with disembodied spirits, and that these can manifest through, or impress sensitives to transmit “messages” from them, regard mediumship as a blessing and a great privilege. We Theosophists, on the other hand, who do not believe in the “communion of spirits” as Spiritualists do, regard the gift as one of the most dangerous of abnormal nervous diseases. A medium is simply one in whose personal Ego, or terrestrial mind (psyche), the percentage of “astral” light so preponderates as to impregnate with it their whole physical constitution. Every organ and cell thereby is attuned, so to speak, and subjected to an enormous and abnormal tension. The mind is ever on the plane of, and quite immersed in, that deceptive light whose soul is divine, but whose body—the light waves on the lower planes, infernal; for they are but the black and disfigured reflections of the earth’s memories. The untrained eye of the poor sensitive cannot pierce the dark mist, the dense fog of the terrestrial emanations, to see beyond in the radiant field of the eternal truths. His vision is out of focus. His senses, accustomed from his birth, like those of a native of the London slums, to stench and filth, to the unnatural distortions of sights and images tossed on the kaleidoscopic waves of the astral plane—are unable to discern the true from the false. And thus, the pale soulless corpses moving in the trackless fields of “Kama loka,” appear to him the living images of the “dear departed” ones; the broken echoes of once human voices, passing through his mind, suggest to him well coordinated phrases, which he repeats, in ignorance that their final form and polish were received in the innermost depths of his own brain-factory. And hence the sight and the hearing of that which if seen in its true nature would have struck the medium’s heart cold with horror, now fills him with a sense of beatitude and confidence. He really believes that the immeasurable vistas displayed before him are the real spiritual world, the abode of the blessed disembodied angels.
We describe the broad main features and facts of mediumship, there being no room in such an article for exceptional cases. We maintain—having unfortunately passed at one period of life personally through such experiences—that on the whole, mediumship is most dangerous; and psychic experiences when accepted indiscriminately lead only to honestly deceiving others, because the medium is the first self-deceived victim. Moreover, a too close association with the “Old Terrestrial Serpent” is infectious. The odic and magnetic currents of the Astral Light often incite to murder, drunkenness, immorality, and, as Eliphas Lévi expresses it, the not altogether pure natures “can be driven headlong by the blind forces set in motion in the Light”—by the errors and sins imposed on its waves.
And this is how the great Mage of the XIXth century corroborates the foregoing when speaking of the Astral Light:
“We have said that to acquire magical power, two things are necessary: to disengage the will from all servitude, and to exercise it in control.
“The sovereign will [of the adept] is represented in our symbols by the woman who crushes the serpent’s head, and by the resplendent angel who represses the dragon, and holds him under his foot and spear; the great magical agent, the dual current of light, the living and astral fire of the earth, has been represented in the ancient theogonies by the serpent with the head of a bull, a ram, or a dog. It is the double serpent of the caduceus, it is the Old Serpent of Genesis, but it is also the brazen serpent of Moses entwined around the tau, that is to say, the generative lingha. It is also the goat of the witch-sabbath, and the Baphomet of the Templars; it is the Hylé of the Gnostics; it is the double-tailed serpent which forms the legs of the solar cock of die Abraxas; finally, it is the Devil of M. Eudes de Mirville. But in very fact it is the blind force which souls [i.e., the lower Manas or Nephesh] have to conquer to liberate themselves from the bonds of the earth; for if their will does not free ‘them from this fatal attraction, they will be absorbed in the current by the force which has produced them, and will return to the central and eternal fire.”16
The “central and eternal fire” is that disintegrating Force, that gradually consumes and burns out the Kama-rupa, or “personality,” in the Kama-loka, whither it goes after death. And verily, the Mediums are attracted by the astral light, it is the direct cause of their personal “souls” being absorbed “by the force which has produced” their terrestrial elements. And, therefore, as the same Occultist tells us:
“All the magical operations consist in freeing one’s self from the coils of the Ancient Serpent; then to place the foot on its head, and lead it according to the operator’s will. ‘I will give unto thee,’ says the Serpent, in the Gospel myth, ‘all the kingdoms of the earth, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.’ The initiated should reply to him, ‘I will not fall down, but thou shalt crouch at my feet; thou wilt give me nothing, but I will make use of thee and take whatever I wish. For I am thy Lord and Master!’”
And as such, the Personal Ego, becoming at one with its divine parent, shares in the immortality of the latter. Otherwise . . . .
Enough, however. Blessed is he who has acquainted himself with the dual powers at work in the ASTRAL Light; thrice blessed he who has learned to discern the Noëtic from the Psychic action of the “Double-Faced” God in him, and who knows the potency of his own Spirit—or “Soul Dynamics.”
1. We say “so-called,” because nothing of what has been given out publicly or in print can any longer be termed esoteric.
2. “Animalism” is quite an appropriate word to use (whoever invented it) as a contrast to Mr. Tylor’s term “animism,” which he applied to all the “Lower Races” of mankind who believe the soul a distinct entity. He finds that the words psyche, pneuma, animus, spiritus, etc., all belong to the same cycle of superstition in “the lower stages of culture,” Professor A. Bain dubbing all these distinctions, moreover, as a “plurality of souls” and a “double materialism.” This is the more curious as the learned author of Mind and Body speaks as disparagingly of Darwin’s “materialism” in Zoonomia, wherein the founder of modern Evolution defines the word idea as “contracting a motion, or configuration of the fibers which constitute the immediate organ of Sense” (Mind and Body, p. 190, Note).
3. Physiological Psychology, etc., p. 545, by George T. Ladd, Professor of Philosophy in Yale University.
4. Or what the Kabalists call Nephesh, the “breath of life.”
5. The Sanskrit word Manas (Mind) is used by us in preference to the Greek Nous (noetic) because the latter word having been so imperfectly understood in philosophy, suggests no definite meaning.
6. The Theosophist, Feb. 1888, p. 275, by Rama Prasad, President of the Meerut Theosophical Society. As the Occult book cited by him says: “It is the Svara that has given form to the first accumulations of the divisions of the universe; the Svara causes evolution and involution; the Svara is God, or more properly the Great Power itself (Mahesvara). The Svara is the manifestation of the impression on matter of that power which in man is known to us as the power which knows itself [mental and psychic consciousness]. It is to be understood that the action of this power never ceases. . . . It is unchangeable existence”—and this is the “Motion” of the Scientists and the universal Breath of Life of the Occultists.
7. “Animal Mechanism,” a treatise on terrestrial and aerial locomotion. By E. J. Marvey, Professor at the College of France, and Member of the Academy of Medicine.
8. “The higher manas” or “Ego” (Kshetrajna) is the “Silent Spectator,” and the voluntary “sacrificial victim”: the lower manas, its representative—a tyrannical despot, truly.
9. Elements of Physiological Psychology. A treatise of the activities and nature of the mind, from the Physical and Experimental Point of View, pp. 606 and 613.
10. W. Lawrence, Lectures on Comparative Anatomy, Physiology, Zoology, and the Natural History of Man. 8vo. London, 1848, p.6.
11. One of the names of Brahma is anu or “atom.”
12. Professor of Philosophy at Yale University.
13. “Elements of Physiological Psychology.”
14. We fondly trust this very unscientific term will throw no “Animalist” into hysterics beyond recovery.
15. Another name for the universal mind.
16. Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie, quoted in Isis Unveiled, I:138