Spiritualism Old And New
The Path, September, October, 1892
I am a spirit myself, but in some respects different from those spoken of at modern seances. I have a body and a brain to work with, while they have not; I can prove and feel my identity as son of my father, while they are not able to do so; and, more important than all, I have my due proportion of experience in the trinity of body, soul, and spirit-or in material, intellectual, and universal nature-while they, being deprived of material nerves, sensory organs, brain, blood, and flesh, are confined to a plane of consciousness where they are devoid of those organs of action and sensation which are necessary if one is to come in contact with matter and nature, with human personal experience, or with the great resounding heart-strings of the man who is made in the image of the gods.
The Chinese books called King, the Fireworshippers’ Zend Avesta, the Egyptian mysterious monuments and papyri, the grandly-moving Aryan books of India, the Greek religions, the Roman records, and the Christian scriptures new and old, speak of spiritualism, write of it, explain it, symbolize it. As we see it in the olden times it is grand and philosophical, scientific and religious; but today, in Europe and America, spiritualism is deadly commonplace, bent upon nothing, without a philosophy as confessed by its leaders, piled all round with facts of many years’ collection, but wholly undigested, marred with fraud and a daily pouring forth of platitudes for wonder-seekers. It is a revolt from Christianity, and yet with nothing to replace an unjust heaven but an illogical and materialistic summer-land. In the olden times its seers and vestals neither touched money nor engaged in the vulgar strife of competition for private advancement and personal pleasure; in these modern times the mediums, left unprotected by their leaders, offer to sell the spirits and the spirit-land for a dollar or two to any customer. It is a trade for a living, and not the pursuit of the things of the spirit. Such are the differences. Is the case improperly stated?
The sort of spiritualism which now prevails in the West was well known in the older days, but it was called necromancy and existed under prohibition. The history of the Jewish King Saul, specially the 28th chapter of 1st Samuel, shows this to be so. Saul was a medium of the obsessed kind. His particular variety of devil required music to still him, music furnished by David even then he broke out sometimes, on one occasion flinging a javelin at the player, who barely missed instant Death that mediums flourished is proven in the chapter of Samuel I mentioned: “And Saul had put away those who had familiar spirits, and the witches, out of the land,” but he retained the higher spiritualism of the Urim and Thummim, of the High Priest, and of the inspired utterances of prophets who were men of austerity working without pay. Saul fell upon evil times and needed ghostly counsel. He consulted Urim and the prophets in vain. “And when Saul enquired of the Lord, the Lord answered him not, neither by dreams, nor by Urim, nor by the prophets.” So he asked his servants to seek him a woman who had a familiar spirit, and they mentioned one who was not called a witch—living at Endor. It is to be noted few verses above an account of Samuel’s death and burial at Ramah is given; hence Samuel had not been long buried, as Theosophists know, his astral remains were not disintegrated. Saul, medium as he was, added fasting to his practise that day, and sought out the woman at Endor for the purpose of calling up the shade of Samuel. When materialized astral form of the recently-deceased prophet arose, the woman was frightened and discovered the identity of Saul. Her clairvoyance was aroused, and, as she said, she “saw gods ascending ascending from the earth.” Here were two powerful one Saul and the other the woman. Hence the man of the spook was very strong. Saul had come full of the wish to see Samuel, and the strong combination brought no a necromantic evocation of the Shade, by which—reflecting through the clairvoyance of both mediums and drawing upon Saul’s mind and recent history—the king was informed of his easily prognosticated defeat and death. Quite properly Moses had interdicted such seances. This one, repeating Saul’s fears indecision, weakened further his judgment, his conscience, his resolution, precipitated his defeat, finished his reign. That the shade was merely Samuel’s astral remains is very plain from its petulant inquiry as to why Saul had disquieted it to bring it up. The whole story is an ancient description of happens every month in America among our modern necromancers and worshippers of the dead. When Moses wrote codes, the “voice of Bath-Col”—modern, independent voice, as well as many other mediumistic practices, prevailed, those who could evoke the shades of the dead or give any advice from familiars were so well known to the people that law-giver framed his oft-followed “thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” which his religious descendants obeyed to the letter in Salem, Mass., in England, in Scotland, many centuries . In the temple erected in the wilderness, as also in the permanent structure attributed to Solomon at Jerusalem, there the Holy of Holies where the chief medium—the High Priest ringing the bells around his robe—communed with the rolling spirit who spoke from between the wings of the Cherubim. And in the Talmudic stories the Jews relate how Jesus obtained and kept the incommunicable name, although he was roared at by the animated statues that guarded the portal. All through the Old Testament the various prophets appear as inspirational mediums. One falls down in the night the Lord, or spirit, speaks to him; another fasts for forty days, and then his controlling angel touches his lips with fire from the altar; Ezekiel himself hears the rushing of waters and roaring of wheels while his inspired ideas are coming into his amazed brain. All these duplicate our modern styles, except the ancient inspirations have some sense and loftiness. But none of these old mediums and seers and inspired speakers except the necromancers—took money for what they saw said. That constituted the difference between a prophet, or one with a god, and a contemned necromancer. Could it possible that the ancients made these distinctions, permitting the one and condemning the other, without any knowledge or good reason for such a course?
The Great oracles of Greece and other places had their vestals. These were mediums through whom the “controls,” as Spiritualists would say, made answer to the questions put. It is true that money and gifts were poured into the establishments, officiating vestals were not in the world; they received no money and could not fix a fee; they accumulated no property unfettered by ambitions and petty daily strifes; but their lives were given up to the highest spiritual thought the times permitted, and they were selected for their purity. And still more, the Oracle could not be compelled by either money or gifts. If it spoke, well and good; if it remained silent, the questioner went sorrowfully and humbly away. There was no expressed or hidden demand for the worth of the money. In fact, very often, after the Oracle had spoken and a large gift had been made, another utterance directed the entire gift to be given back.
This is another difference between the old and new spiritualism, as shown in the attitude of the attendant upon mediums of the latter and you will find how strong is the demand for a compensating return for the money paid beforehand for the privilege of a sitting. It presses on the unfortunate creature who offers to be a channel between this plane and the next one. If no results are obtained, as must often be the case, is dissatisfied and the medium hastens to offer another sitting, somewhat on the principle of the quacks who return the fee if there is no cure of the disease.
Turning to India, living yet although once, without doubt, try with the Egyptians from whom the Jews obtained their magic, necromancy, and spiritualism, we have the advantage of studying a living record. The Hindus always had Spiritualism among them. They have it yet, so that there it is both old and new. They made and still make the same distinction between the higher sort and the modern necromantic perversion. Through ages of experience their people have discovered the facts and the dangers, the value of the higher and the injury flowing from the lower. It is very true that we have not much to learn from the simple lower classes who with oriental passivity cling to the customs and the ideas taught by their forefathers. But that very passivity brings up before us as in a gigantic camera the picture of a past that lives and breathes when the philosophy which is the foundation of the present beliefs is studied.
Women there, just as here, often become obsessed. “Controlled” would be the word with our spiritualistic friends. But they do not hail with joy this post-mortem appearance of immediate or remote ancestor. They abhor it. They run to the priest, or pursue a prescription physical or psychical, for exorcising the obsessor. They call it a bhuta, which with the vulgar “devil,” but among the educated class means “elemental remains.” They neither fail to admit the fact and the connection of the obsession with the deceased, nor fall into other error of supposing it to be the conscious, intelligent, immortal centre of the one who had died. Just as the ancient philosophy universally taught, so they assert that this spook is a portion of the psychic clothing the departed soul once wore, and the thing is as much to be respected as any old suit of clothes a man had discarded. But as it belongs to the psychic realm and has a capability of waking up the lower elements in man’s being as well as mere mechanical hidden forces of nature, and is devoid of soul and conscience, it is hence called a devil, or rather, the word elementary has acquired with them the significance of devil from the harm which follows in the wake of its appearance.
In the following papers I will carry the enquiry into present spiritualistic phenomena, their dangers, their use and abuse, as well as reviewing the ancient higher spiritualism and the possibility of its revival.
Some of the commands of Moses—speaking for Jehovah— given to the Jews on the subject of spiritualism are not without interest. As they enter into no description of the various phases included in the regulations, it is certain that the whole subject was then so familiar it could be understood as soon as referred to without any explanation. And if Moses and his people ever were really in Egypt in bondage or as inhabitants of the land of Goshen, they could not have been there without learning many of the spiritualistic and necromantic practices of the Egyptians. In Exodus ch. 22, v. 18, he directs “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.” The witch spoken of was a different person from the others who had familiars and the like; they were not destroyed. But a witch must have been a malevolent practitioner of occult arts either for money or for mere malice. In Deuteronomy the lawgiver, referring to the land the people were soon to occupy, said: “There shall not be found among you anyone a consulter with familiar spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer.” Hence these varieties of occult practices are mentioned and prohibited. There is not much doubt that the very powerful spirit calling himself “Jehovah” issued these directions not only to protect the people in general, but also the possibility of any other equally powerful tribal God setting up communication with the Jews and perhaps creating confusion in the plans of Jehovah.
The “consulters with familiar spirits” were those who had in one way or another—either by training or by accident of birth—opened up intercourse with some powerful nature spirits of either the fire or air element, from which information matters was obtainable. These elementals are difficult to reach, they are sometimes friendly at others unfriendly to man. But they have a knowledge peculiar to themselves, and can use the inner senses of man for the purpose of getting him answers, beyond his power to acquire in the ordinary manner. This is done somewhat in the way the modern hypnotiser awakens the inner person, to some degree disengaged from the outer one, and shows that the hidden memory and perceptive powers have a much wider range than the healthy person usually exhibits. These familiar spirits were well known to the ancients, and Moses speaks of them so simply that it is very evident it was a matter of history at that period and not a new development. The same kind of “familiar” is also mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles.[Acts ch. 16] Paul and his companions came to Macedonia—if the confused statements as to places to be relied on—and there “It came to pass as we went to prayer a certain damsel possessed with a spirit of divination met us, which brought her Masters much gain by soothsaying.” Paul drove the possessing spirit out of the woman, thus depriving her masters of gain and probably herself of support. This was not a mere case of ordinary mediumship where the astral garments of some departed soul had possession of the but was a genuine elemental of the divining kind which Paul could drive out because of the power of his human will.
The “familiar” is not our higher nature giving us useful information, but is always an entity existing outside of and not belonging to the human plane. They are known of today in the East, and communication with them is regarded there dangerous. This danger arises from the fact that “familiar spirits” are devoid of conscience, being of a kingdom in nature which is yet below the human stage and therefore not having Manas and the spiritual principle. They act automatically, yet by the uniting to them of the reason and other powers of the person whom they afflict there is a semblance reason, judgment, and intelligence. But this appearance of those qualities is equally present in the modern phonograph, which is certainly devoid of them in fact. Being of such a nature, it is natural that the influence exerted by them upon human being is directed only to our lower nature to the exclusion of the higher, and thus in time the moral qualities paralyzed. Other results ensue in certain cases where what might be styled “astral dynamite” is liberated through the disturbance in the human being’s nature as well as in the other plane, and then destruction arrives for others as well as for the person who has engaged in this intercourse. For these reasons the wise all through the past have discouraged dealing with a familiar spirit.
The next class mentioned by Moses is the wizard, who was on a grade higher than the first and corresponding to the witch. The failure to mention wizards in the verse directing the death of a witch may mean that witches were more common than wizards, just as today the “voudoo women” are far more plentiful than “voodoo men.”
The last spoken of, and called an abomination, is the necromancer. This one corresponds exactly to any modern who calls upon the dead through a medium, thus galvanizing the astral corpse which ought to be left in quietness to dissipate altogether. Moses received his education in Egypt and Midian as a priest of the highest order. In those days that meant a great deal. It meant that he was fully acquainted with the true psychology of man and could see where any danger lurked for the dabbler in these matters. It is not of the slightest consequence whether there ever existed such a man as Moses; he may be a mere name, an imaginary person to whom these books are ascribed; but the regulations and prohibitions and occult lore included in what he did and said make up an ancient record of great value. When he prohibited necromancy he only followed the time-honored rules which vast experience of many nations before he was born had proved to be right. An ancient instance of necromancy was given in the first article from the history of King Saul.
I propose therefore to call what is now miscalled spiritualism by another name, and that is necromancy. This is the worship of the dead. It has put itself in the position of being so designated, and the title is neither an invention nor a perversion. The journals supported by those who practice it and books written by some of its best advocates have declared year after year that the dead were present—as spirits—at seances; the mediums have said they were under the control of dead white men and women, long dead red Indians, or babies, as the case might be; and at the time when materializing seances were common the ancient dead or the newly dead have been made to appear, as in the case of Samuel to Saul, before the eyes of the sitters, and then, as the latter looked on in astonishment, the apparition has faded from sight. Nor has this been confined to the ordinary unscientific masses. Men of science have practiced it. Prof. Crookes certified that in his presence the “Katie King spook” materialized so strongly as to give as much evidence of density of flesh and weight of body as any living person. It is therefore necromancy pure and simple, and the next question to be determined is whether, as by Moses, it is an abomination. If it leads to nought but good; if it proves itself to be communication with spirit—the word being used in its highest sense; if it gives no evidence of debasing effect; if it brings from the world of spirit where the spiritualist declares all knowledge exists, that which is for enlargement of human knowledge and advancement of civilization; if it has added to our information about the complex nature of man as a psychological being; if it has given either a new code of ethics or a substantial, logical, and scientific basis for the ethics declared by Buddha and Jesus, then not an abomination although still necromancy.
For forty years or more in Europe and America there has been a distinct cultivation of this necromancy, a time long enough to show good intellectual results by any two men in other departments. What does the history of these years give us? It presents only a morbid sort of wonder-seeking and a barren waste of undigested phenomena, the latter as unexplained today by “spirits” or spiritualists as they were when they took place. Such is the general statement of the outcome those forty years. Before going further into the subject as outlined above, I will close this paper by referring to a first prime defect of the modern necromancy, the defect and taint of money-getting on the part of mediums and those who consult with them.
There was formed not ten years ago in Chicago and New York a syndicate to work some silver mines under the advice of the “spirits.” A medium in each city was consulted and a pittance for the sittings. The controlling spook directed investments and many of the operations. Shares were issued, sold, and bought. The familiar result of the enterprise coming to nought but loss for the investors has here no great bearing, though under another head it is important. But before the concluding crash there was a certain amount made by sales and purchases. Very little was paid to the poor medium, and it is to be doubted if any more than the regular day would have been paid even had the golden promises of the “spirits” been fully realized. All this has been repeated dozens of times in other instances.
There have been a few isolated cases of a so-called medium’s giving in relation to business a long course of directions which came to successful conclusion. One of these related to operations in the stock market in New York. But they were all cases of “consulting a familiar,” and not at all the same as the work ordinary medium. If they were the same as the latter, then we should expect to find such successes common, whereas the opposite is the fact in the history of mediums. The extent to which even at this day mediumship is devoted to giving assumed rise and fall of railroad stocks and the grain market in New York and Chicago at the request of brokers in those cities would surprise those who think they are well acquainted with these gentlemen.
This is the great curse of the American cult called spiritualistic and until it is wholly removed, no matter at what individual cost, we shall not see the advent of the true spiritualism. St. Paul was right when he dispossessed the girl in Macedonia of her familiar, even if thereby she lost her employment her masters their gains. If spiritualists will not eliminate the money element from their investigations, it would be well if some St. Paul should arise and with one wave of his hand deprive all public mediums in the land of the power to see visions, hear from dead or living, or otherwise their practices. The small amount of individual suffering which might ensue would be more than compensated for by the immediate as well as future benefit.
AN EMBODIED SPIRIT