Isis unveiled, vol. I
Chapter XV –INDIA THE CRADLE OF CIVILIZATION
Pages 606 – 611
The previous blog no. 3 ended with a note :
In the next blog, number 4, the so-called superstitions of native peoples so unceremoniously dismissed by materialistic sceptics and agnostics will be discussed. It will be shown that open-minded and unbiased investigation and understanding of these out-of-the-ordinary phenomena on the principles of ancient psychology will greatly extend the horizon of modern science.
Shark and wild beast charmers of India and Ceylon
Marcopolo has recorded in his travelogue the enterprise of pearl fishery of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). He describes how pearl merchants engaged certain communities living on the coast to bring up pearls by diving into the sea infested with sharks with the help of shark and wild beast charmers, who, by exercising their psychic powers, prevented the sharks from harming the divers. He called fish charmers Abraiman, probably meaning Brahmans. He said that the charmers exercised the power over the sharks to be effective only for the day, and that at the expiry of the period the sharks, freed from the spell, roamed freely in their habitat. These charmers, he said, had the powers to charm from a distance, beasts, birds and every living thing.
While sceptical readers of Marco Polo received his accounts with incredulity, charging him with concocting fictitious tales, Colonel Yule, in his work, Ser Marcopolo, reports that his investigations showed that narrations of Marco Polo were substantially correct. He reported that certain Brahmins were employed in the diamond mines of northern Circars to propitiate tutelary genii. Shark charmers were called Hai Bandi, or “shark binders.” The chief operator was paid by the government, besides receiving ten oysters from each boat during the fishery. The remarkable feature of the power of charms these natives exercised was that not more than one authenticated accident from sharks had taken place during the whole period of the British occupation. It is well known that that off the coast of Sri Lanka the sea is inhabited by sharks of the most voracious kind that it is dangerous to bathe in the sea, let alone to dive for oysters. Col. Yule was even prepared to give the names of the British Officers of highest rank in the Indian service, who resorted to native “magicians” and “sorcerers” to assist them in recovering things lost, or in unravelling vexatious mysteries of one kind or another, and after obtaining the object of their search, expressed privately to the native charmers their gratitude, but, out of fear of being ridiculed and laughed at by their peers, denied truth of magic and led the jest against Hindu “superstition.”
Image of the murdered man imprinted on the retina of the murderer
Scientists at one time believed that the retina of the murdered person retains the image of the murderer, and that the likeness could be made still more striking by subjecting the murdered man to certain fumigations, etc. An American News Paper of March 26, 1877 reported that the theory then held was that the last effort of vision materialized itself and remained as an object imprinted on the retina of the eye after death, and that this had been proved as a fact by an experiment tried in the presence of Dr. Gamgee, F.R.S., of Birmingham, England and Prof. Bunsen, the subject being a rabbit. The eyes, it was reported, were placed near an opening in a shutter, and retaining the shape of the same after the animal had been deprived of life.
An account of a semi-magical séance in Paris
India is tirelessly projected by the Christian missionaries in the West as a country inhabited by people given to idolatry and superstition. In Paris, a centre of civilization, a semi-magical soiree was held. It had all the features of occult practices which the civilized West would look upon as superstition.
A detail report of the phenomena was furnished to HPB by John L. Sullivan, Ex-Minister Plenipotentiary of the U.S.A. to Portugal, who attended the semi-magical séance.
It was in Paris, in the house of a highly respectable physician, whose name he did not divulge as he had no authority to do so. He is referred to in the narration as Dr. X. Mr. Sullivan was introduced there by an English friend of his, a well known Spiritualist, by name Gledstanes. There were about ten observers who witnessed of the phenomenon.
Dr, X had investigated occult mysteries for some twenty five years, which he exhibited to the assembled people. His object in exhibiting the phenomenon was to provoke scientific community to take up the investigation of the mysterious powers and faculties latent in man, which would extend the horizon of scientific knowledge into the domain of the hidden forces of Nature and of man. He intended to write a book on his discoveries and experiments.
The players in the exhibition of the phenomenon were two ladies, one was his wife, Madam X, and the other was whom O’ Sullivan called Madam Y. Madam Y was a sensitive, or, a Medium, who had worked closely with Dr. X in his experiments. The following performances were exhibited :
1. Both the ladies had their eyes closed, and apparently in trance. He had them stand at the opposite end of a grand piano, which was shut. He asked them to place their hands upon the piano. Sounds began to issue from its chords which were sounds of marching, galloping, drums, trumpets, rolling musketry, cannon, cries and groans. It lasted for five to ten minutes.
2. Before the two mediums were brought in, Mr. Sullivan had written in pencil on a small piece of paper the names of three objects—known only to himself : the name of the great composer, Beethoven (deceased), name of a flower, daisy, and a French cake, plombieres. He rolled the paper into a pellet and kept in his hand. None knew what he had written other than himself.
He was asked to hand in the rolled paper to madam Y. She held it unopened in between her fingers, placing her hand on her lap. The room was brilliantly lit from chandeliers from two sides of the room. After a while she dropped the paper on the floor, and Mr. Sullivan picked it up.
Dr. X directed her to make an “evocation of the dead.” He placed in her hand a steel rod of some four or five feet in length, the top of which was crowned with a short cross-piece—the Egyptian Tau. With it, the Tau at the free end, she drew a circle round her of about six feet in diameter and handed it back to Dr, X. She stood there for some time. Her lips began to move, muttered some sounds, which after a while became distinct in articulation, sounding like a litany. It sounded like some Oriental language, then loudly cried out “Beethoven !” and fell backwards, prostrate on the floor.
Dr. X leaned over her, made magnetic passes about her face and neck, propped her shoulders and neck with cushions. She laid there as a sick person for about half an hour during which she seemed to pass through phases of gradual death. Her pulse ceased, heart beat stopped, her hands, arms and arms pit, feet and legs became cold. Dr. X invited the assembled to examine these details. Her gasping for breath came at longer intervals and grew more and more feeble. At last her end came, head falling sideways. She was dead.
Dr. X hastened to revive her. He produced two snakes (from where O Sullivan said he did not notice), huddled them about her neck and down to her bosom, and made eager transverse passes about her neck and head. She slowly revived, and servants carried her off into a private apartment. After a while she returned in good shape. The doctor said she was critical and that but for the exercise in reviving her she would not have survived. It was not any trickery as it was witnessed by eminent people, among whom were respectable physicians, and under the glaring light in a drawing room.
3. Madam Y returned. Mr. O sullivan still held the unopened pellet of paper containing the three words privately written by him. Name Beethovan was the first word. She sat for some time, began to move restlessly, and cried, “Ah, it burns, it burns,” her face showing signs of pain. She raised one of her hands, and it contained the daisy flower. Mr. O Sullivan received it from her. The assembled examined the flower. How the flower happened to come into her hands remained an unsolved puzzle for the observers—whether it was produced under her arms or was an apport, as happens in spiritualistic phenomena.
4. The third word Mr. Sullivan had written was the name of the cake—plombieres. She went through the motion of eating though no cake was visible, and asked Mr. Sullivan whether he would go with her to Plombiere. Mr. Sullivan thought this could be a simple case of mind-reading.
5. This was followed by another scene in which Madam X seemed to be possessed by the spirit of Beethoven. Mr. Sullivan called out the name Beethoven but she did not hear him, until he called it out loudly in her ears. She responded with a slight bow. He remembered that Beethoven was deaf. He begged her to play on the piano. She sat at the piano and performed magnificently which was recognized by the company as in Beethoven’s style, though Madam Y was known to be only a very ordinary amateur performer. She played and conversed for half an hour in the character of Beethoven. Her facial expression and tumbled hair strangely resembled Beethoven’s.
Mr. Sullivan placed in her hands a sheet of paper and a cryon and asked her to sketch the face of the person she saw before her. She rapidly sketched a head and face resembling Beethoven’s bust, as a young man, and dashed off a signature under it, which resembled the signature of the Composer.
The performance came to end. Mr. Sullivan conversed with his spiritualist friend, Mr Gledstanes about the phenomena they witnessed. Mr Gledstanes admitted action of spirits, as he was an experienced spiritualist, and besides, having studied occult mysteries of the Orient, was of the opinion that it was something more than spiritualistic phenomena. He said that Madam Y was possessed by priestess of one of the ancient Egyptian temples. The origin of it was : Madam Y had received from a friend, who had come into possession of an Egyptian mummy, some of the linen swathing with which the muumified was enveloped. From the contact of this cloth of 2000 to 3000 years old, devotion of her whole existence to this occult relation, and twenty years of seclusion from the world, had developed mediumistic powers. The language she spoke was the sacred language of the temples in which she had been instructed. He said the French Orientalist, Jacolliot, had heard her in a similar scene and recognized the ancient language she spoke in temples of India. Mr. Gledstanes is reported by Mr. Sullivan to have remarked that the snake Dr. X had used in restoring Madam Y to life from near death condition had a strange relation to the phenomenon of life and death.
Mr. Sullivan learned from Mr. Gledstanes that Dr. X had given up further exhibitions of the occult phenomena and powers having been disgusted with the prejudice and scepticism of the scientific community and their refusal to impartially investigate the same.
This is an interesting case spiritualism transcending its limits and stepping into the domain of magic. In the phenomena features of mediumship are present, in the double life lived by Madam Y, in the subordination of her will to a foreign will, in the way priestess of Egyptian temples did, in the cataleptic condition into which she fell. Elements of magic is seen in the will-power exhibited by Dr. X upon his sensitive, in tracing the mystic circle, evocations, materialization of the flower, seclusion and education of Madam Y, use of wand, creation and use of serpents and evident control of Astral forces.
Such experiments are of value to science but liable to abuse in the hands of the less conscientious practitioners. A true Oriental Kabalists would not recommend their duplication.
What is it that bars scientific community to take up investigation of psychic phenomena ?
It is scepticism and agnostic denial of everything other than the material world and corporeal frame of man-animal. Yet science, in her explorations, meets at every step, with mysteries, which her methods are powerless to resolve. Science is honeycombed with metaphysics which stare her in the face at every turn as her investigations lead her on to the borders of the Occult World which she shrinks from daring to cross over into the vistas of the unknown. Scientists fool themselves in explaining away the occult mysteries by mechanical theories or denying them altogether.
In the next blog, number 5, this peculiar conceited and hypocritical traits of modern western scientists will be commented upon from theosophical perspective. This will be followed by an exposition of some of the astounding occult phenomena which ancient Theurgists produced, which are denied by modern science and denounced by Christian Church as diabolical. It will be shown that fanaticism of Christian Church and of modern scientist are a formidable barrier to advancement of true knowledge and enlightenment.