A Storm in a Teacup
Theosophist, July, 1882
We print elsewhere letters from two estimable ladies—members of the British Theosophical Society—protesting against a short article—“A Sad Lookout”—printed in our April number. We make room for them most willingly to prove that we are ever ready to give a fair hearing to both sides of a question. As the testimony of two witnesses outweighs that of one, we might perhaps hang our harp on the willow, and say no more of it, only that the few lines of private opinion, quoted from a private letter (and this is the only indiscretion we plead guilty to) has raised such a pother as to necessitate a reply. A storm in a teacup we should have called it, but for the grave interference of no less a personage than our kind and esteemed friend, the President of the British Theosophical Society in his proper person and official capacity, and the indignant protests of several other prominent Theosophists and Spiritualists. And, now, what is the magnitude of our offence?
Indeed, Dr. Wyld, while condemning the opinion of the Fellow who expressed it, as a “gross exaggeration” and an “indiscriminate libel,” repeats in substance the very allegation in our short editorial remark, not one word of which do we feel ready to retract. If we are quite prepared to regard the denunciation of our Brother Theosophist as a “gross exaggeration,” we are not at all sure that it is a “libel.” What he says is that “in many cases” Spiritualism has degenerated “into the grossest and most immoral forms of Black Magic.” Now, many cases are not “all” cases, and the educated and pure-minded Spiritualists, who have “out-grown” the crude incipient stage of phenomena-craving, can hardly be prepared to answer for what takes place in the homes and private circles of the masses of less advanced Spiriutalists. Having been personally acquainted in America with a number of non-professional mediums of all classes and stations in life, who have sought our advice and help to escape from obsession by “materialized Spirit-husbands and wives,” and others who were delighted with, and felt quite proud of such an intercourse, as regards America we speak—to our regret—avec connaissance de cause. Thus, while we may concede that, so far as the use of the word “majority” may be taken exception to as an exaggeration when applied to those who favour or tolerate immorality, yet it is nevertheless true that until the actual majority of recognized Spiritualists unite to drive out and show up those who are given over to the highly dangerous practices—positively identical with those of “Black Magic”—denounced by our British member, the taint must cover even the innocent. Pure minds such as those of the late Epes Sargent, of Dr. Wyld, and others, have felt this for years. So bad were things once in America—and our editorial remark, in its first sentence applied but to the American Spiritualists (please see April number of the Theosophist, p. 174, col. 1)—that some of the best Spiritualists shrank from openly admitting their adherence to the movement, especially when the now happily dying out foul heresy of “Free Love” was in vogue. Our friends may pick and choose their circles as carefully as may be, yet except when a few trustworthy and highly pure and moral mediums are employed, they will never be safe from the invasion of “Western Pisachas.”1 Nor can they protect themselves from the hearing of monstrous sentiments from or through the mediums, until a closer study has been made of intermundane intercourse.
Therefore, we refuse to plead guilty for saying, in the Theosophist, that which is repeated with very little variation by Dr. Wyld in Light. We ask any unprejudiced reader to decide whether we have said, or even implied, in our dozen of editorial lines, any more than what Dr. Wyld admits and confesses in the following:
“I have always held that mediumship, and especially physical mediumship,—[and who ever spoke of subjective mediumship in the article that gave offence?—ED.]—was beset by such dangers to health and morals, that none except the most unselfish could practise it without injury to themselves and others.”
“I have also held that not only has much falsehood been spoken by mediums, but that no high spiritual truths have been for the first time revealed to us by modern mediums . . .”
“That many abominations have infected the selfish practitioners of Spiritualism is quite well known, but . . . very many modern Spiritualists in London are and always have been examples of all which is good and true.”
And who ever said to the contrary? Among other Spiritualists who have protested, M.A. (Oxon) hopes that “the Theosophist will disavow the stupid libel on honourable, reputable, and able persons, whose sole care is the search of truth.” We are sorry to be unable to “disavow” that to which we do not plead guilty. The Theosophist is ever ready to honestly disavow any false accusation imprudently published in its pages either with conscious intent or unconsciously. But, then, we must be shown that a libel has been uttered, and that is what in the present case we emphatically deny. Though no Spiritualist organ has ever yet retracted a single one of the many gratuitous and dishonouring calumnies, nor one of the vile and real libels so repeatedly published by their correspondents against the editor of the Theosophist—(not even Light, since in the lame excuse, called forth from its Editor by “C. C. M.’s” gentle reproof in its issue of May 13th, we certainly see no retraction whatever), the organ of the Theosophists would most assuredly have made every amende honorable, had it by intent or otherwise ever “libelled” any of the “honourable, reputable, and able persons” in London. And, since the words of our editorial article, viz.: “Of course, it is needless to say, that highly educated and refined Spiritualists will ever avoid such séance rooms,” etc.—cover entirely the ground, and thus disavow in anticipation any such implication as is made against us, it is useless to say any more. In remarking as we did that “the majority of Spiritualists will do everything in their power to attract the Western Pisachas,” i.e., the “John Kings” and the “Peters,” we have accused them of no immorality, but only of that, which no Spiritualist will ever deny, since their papers are full of tales of the prowess of these illustrious personages, whose generic names are but masks concealing some unmistakable Pisachas. To attract these it is sufficient to frequent the circles which the creatures grace with their presence.
Meanwhile, let those who would learn something about the doings of the Incubus and Succubus forms of “Pisacha” obsession, consult some of our Hindu Theosophists, and read the highly interesting works of the Chevalier Gougenot des Mousseaux (Mœurs et Pratiques des Demons; La Magie au Diæ-neuvieme Siecle, etc., etc.). Though a bigoted Catholic whose sole aim is to bolster up the devil theory of his Church, this author’s facts are none the less valuable to Spiritualists and others.
If “the search of truth” is the sole or main care of “honourable, reputable and able” Spiritualists, there are quite as honourable, reputable and able Theosophists who claim the same privilege. And, having found out that portion of it which identifies some (not all of course) of the Western “guides” and materialized “angels” with the “unclean spirits,” known for many centuries in India as the Pisacha, they fearlessly proclaim it and utter the word of warning, as in duty bound.
1. What are the lying “Spirits” described by J. P. T. in Light in “Uncertainties of Spirit Identity” but full blown Pisachas?