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Sunday, June 18, 2023

Swami on Theosophy

A Humble Response to Swami Vivekananda’s Criticism of Theosophy


  • This is an opinion piece which solely represents the views of its authors and should be considered on its own merit. The ULT does not endorse any views expressed herein.

  • In every case, we have chosen brevity over completeness. So, please write to us or comment below if further clarifications are warranted on any particular topic.

Swami Vivekananda, as a renowned religious figure of the late 19th century, naturally came in contact with the Theosophical Society (TS) of India which was itself enjoying the peak of its public popularity, albeit spiritual decline during that time. The TS was the body of expression of the Theosophical Movement started in New York by H.P. Blavatsky (HPB) and William. Q. Judge (WQJ) in 1875. The society was of-the-world with constitution, by-laws and officers while the movement, or the cause of Theosophy, was the transcendental ideal of universal brotherhood upon which rested the entire Occult Science or Wisdom Religion. The spirit of the movement needed a body to come into manifestation and that body was the TS.

It is important to understand this profound distinction between the society and the movement, corresponding as it were, to the body and the soul respectively. While HPB threw her weight behind the TS and was instrumental in its formation, she still endeavored to highlight in stark relief the contrast between the cause of theosophy on the one hand and the TS on the other, which as a representation of the cause was only as useful as it was faithful to the Cause. She wrote in Lucifer August 1889:

Therefore the degree of her [HPB’s] sympathies with the “Theosophical Society and Adyar” depends upon the degree of the loyalty of that Society to the CAUSE. Let it break away from the original lines and show disloyalty in its policy to the CAUSE and the original programme of the Society, and H.P.B., calling the T.S. disloyal, will shake it off like dust from her feet.” — A Puzzle from Adyar by HPB.

But it is clear from the History of the Movement that even during HPB’s life, and certainly following her death in 1891, the TS in general, and Adyar, specifically, fell into a steep and precipitous decline in its loyalty to the original cause. Consequently, many of the criticisms that Swami Vivekananda directed at Theosophy during this time, are really failings of the TS and some of its members. But Swami was justified in equating Theosophy with the TS, as it was the only extant body of expression of Theosophy at the time.

However, many of the same shortcomings of the TS that Swami points out, motivated one of its members by name Robert Crosbie to resign from its ranks and start a new, constitutionally faithful body of expression for the original cause of Theosophy called the United Lodge of Theosophists (ULT) in 1909. The students of ULT feel strongly that if Swami were alive during its formation, especially during its ascendence under B.P Wadia, he would have certainly endorsed it as a step in the right direction for Theosophy. With this inspiration, the current students of ULT take this opportunity to provide a humble response to Swami’s criticism from the standpoint of the overarching Theosophical Movement and its current embodiment in the declaration of the ULT.

Criticism of TS and its Members

Much of Swami’s criticism of Theosophists are to be found in two of his writings: (a) the opening part of My Plan of Campaign and (b) Stray Remarks on Theosophists. The former was delivered as part of a lecture tour following Swami’s return from the USA in 1897. While the latter was posthumously found among Swami’s unpublished papers and hence cannot be accurately dated. But going by internal evidence, it was very likely written after his return from the USA as well. In his critique of the TS and its members, the following pointwise categories can be gleaned:


Critique: “Theosophists' method can never be ours, for the very simple reason that they are an organised sect, we are not.” – Alasinga 1895.

Response: The original impulse of the Movement was diametrically opposed to sectarianism. The very first object of the TS is “to form a nucleus of a Universal Brotherhood of Humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or color.” The TS was a pioneer of this universal, egalitarian outlook, which may seem like commonplace morality today but was radical and novel in the 19th century. Additionally, the second object of the Movement is the study of all religions, philosophies and sciences without any sectarian predilections.

It is, however, to be lamented that certain personalities associated with the TS did behave in a sectarian manner such as when H.S. Olcott denied Swami any assistance unless he joined the TS. But human foibles of some of its members cannot implicate the whole movement. It is also true that personal ambition of certain of its leaders, the nefarious influences they attracted and the resulting organizational fervor, eventually led to the moral and intellectual collapse of the TS.

This is precisely why the very first line of the declaration of the ULT avows: “The policy of this Lodge is independent devotion to the cause of Theosophy, without professing attachment to any Theosophical organization.” It further stresses that "The true Theosophist belongs to no cult or sect, yet belongs to each and all." ULT is constitutionally non-sectarian and non-organizational.

Critique: “Theosophists were advised not to come and hear my lectures, for thereby they would lose all sympathy of the Society, because the laws of the esoteric section declare that any man who joins that esoteric section should receive instruction from Kuthumi and Moria, of course through their visible representatives — Mr. Judge and Mrs. Besant — so that, to join the esoteric section means to surrender one's independence.” – My Plan of Campaign.

Response: The TS was open to everyone with no distinction of race, creed, sex, caste, or color. However, the Esoteric Section was only for those committed to treading a certain spiritual path rather than just studying it. As such there were specific rules that its members were obligated to follow. But to the best of our knowledge, none of them prevented its members from attending public lectures. To draw a parallel to the Ramakrishna Order that the Swami himself founded, all are welcome to attend lectures in Ramakrishna Math and study its philosophy but once ordained as a monk of the order, adherence to certain rules are obviously expected.


Critique: “A coterie of young Hindus has been found to welcome even this graft of American Spiritualism, with its panoply of taps and raps and hitting back and forth with Mahâtmic pellets.” – Stray Remarks on Theosophists.

This Indian grafting of American Spiritualism — with only a few Sanskrit words taking the place of spiritualistic jargon — Mahâtmâ missiles taking the place of ghostly raps and taps, and Mahatmic inspiration that of obsession by ghosts.” – Stray Remarks on Theosophists.

[...] one of the Swami's brother-disciples spoke of the spirit-world and read an extract from a theosophical book. Swamiji at once came down upon him and extinguished him completely. I saw that the Swami was a hater of spookism. He clearly said that all this was weakening and debilitating and had nothing to do with true religion.” – Reminiscences Of Swami Vivekananda.

Response: HPB began her mission among the Spiritualists in America as it was the one irrepressible phenomenon of her time that spread like an epidemic all over the western world, which both Science and Religion were at a loss to explain. Theosophy being the a priori synthesis of both Science and Religion provided the only reasonable explanation, due to which, many former Spiritualists became early members of the TS. But Theosophy is unequivocally not Spiritualism and is in fact antithetical to such practices. However, it is true that some of those early members of the TS who were former Spiritualists relapsed into Spiritualism, much to their own individual detriment. As for Theosophy, it is one with Swami in denouncing Spiritualism as nothing more than Necromancy.


Critique: “Indian thought, charlatanry, and mango-growing fakirism had all become identified in the minds of educated people in the West, and this was all the help rendered to Hindu religion by the Theosophists.” – Stray Remarks on Theosophists.

Response: If one dispassionately considers the historical context within which HPB was placed, it becomes clear that the iron fortress of 19th century materialism had to be penetrated before the teachings of Theosophy could be placed before the western mind for consideration. It was a time when Science had entirely dismantled the prevailing religious order and Darwinism was proclaimed to have solved the very mystery of life. Hence, the first phase of HPB’s mission was to show through iconoclastic arguments that the chink in the 19th century Scientific armor was in fact a gaping hole. This was akin to tilling the soil before sowing and this phase of work culminated in her first Magnum Opus, the Isis Unveiled. It was only for this reason that HPB employed and quoted phenomena that were unexplainable by Science of the day. And once this phase of work was complete, HPB abandoned all phenomena, dissuaded against it and only gave pure philosophical teaching which culminated in her second Magnum Opus, the Secret Doctrine.

Mango-growing fakirism refers to an article HPB wrote in the Religo-Philosophical Journal in 1877 where HPB is quoting Dr. Carpenter who witnessed and documented the phenomenon. This was part of the first phase of her work and has to be considered in that context.

Conflicting Claims to Mahatmas

Critique: “I have no right to criticise the dispute between him [Judge] and Mrs. Besant when each claims that his or her Mahâtmâ is right. And the strange part of it is that the same Mahatma is claimed by both.” – My Plan of Campaign.

Response: By the time Swami wrote about Theosophy, the TS had deviated completely from the original spirit of the Movement and had devolved into a personality cult. This is corroborated in Swami’s own writing when he says, “Modern Theosophy is Mrs. Besant.” Personal ambition combined with nefarious influences precipitated Annie Besant, though well intentioned, to lead TS to utter moral and intellectual ruin. On the other hand, WQJ upheld and sustained the original lines of the Movement and hence Annie Besant came in conflict with him. All associates of ULT, strictly adhering to the original lines and teachings, naturally stand in solidarity with WQJ, as it seems Swami himself did when he wrote “Now tell the Hindu Theosophists to support Judge.


Critique: “The great immediate visible good effect of Theosophy in every country, so far as we can see, is to separate, like Prof. Koch's injections into the lungs of consumptives, the healthy, spiritual, active, and patriotic from the charlatans, the morbids, and the degenerates posing as spiritual beings.” – Stray Remarks on Theosophists.

Response: The above criticism is right on point when one considers what went in the name of Theosophy during the time that Swami wrote this. Annie Besant along with C.W Leadbeater, a person of questionable moral character, entitled themselves “Arhats” and declared some thirty volumes as “straight” Theosophy, of which all but one were the product of their own psychic maunderings. They anointed people around them as “Arhats”, “World Mother”, “Messiah” and “World Savior”. The last being Jiddu Krishnamurti, who found himself unable to participate in this farce, dissolved his own office and entirely withdrew from the TS. The associates of ULT agree with the Swami in criticizing and denouncing this so-called “Neo-Theosophy” as fraudulent. But at the sametime, we emphatically assert that Theosophy is NOT Neo-Theosophy.

Col. H.S Olcott

Critique: The allegation against HSO is that he refused to help Swami Vivekananda unless he joined the TS. Additionally, one of the members of TS wrote disparagingly about swami Vivekananda when he was in dire straits in Chicago, going as far as to allegedly write "Now the devil is going to die; God bless us all." And that despite this, HSO and other theosophists claimed that TS had paved the way for Swami Vivekananda’s success in America.

Response: HSO was a co-founder of the TS (the body) but not of the Movement (the Soul), of which only HPB and WQJ were the rightful co-founders. HSO’s organizational predilection continued throughout his life wherein he invariably chose the TS over the Movement every time their respective interests came under tension. It is therefore not surprising that he may have acted as alleged and if so, we stand with Swami in his condemnation. In fact, to protect against this exact human failing of valuing worthless tangibles over the soulful intangible, ULT was constituted to be non-organizational from its very Declaration.

Criticism of Teachings

In his criticism, Swami mostly targeted Theosophists and their organizations rather than the original teachings of HPB and WQJ. However, the following two points could be interpreted as critiquing the teachings themselves, to which we respond in this section.


Critique: “The Theosophists claim to possess the original divine knowledge of the universe. We are glad to learn of it, and gladder still that they mean to keep it rigorously a secret.” – Stray Remarks on Theosophists.

And one heaves a sigh of relief that this wonderful wisdom is kept a secret.” – Stray Remarks on Theosophists.

Response: Every religion has its esoteric and exoteric sections. Buddha taught the Eye Doctrine for the masses but the Heart Doctrine only to the elect. Jesus said, “Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables” (Mark 4:11). Krishna calls his teachings गुह्याद्गुह्यतरं (18.63) or more secret than secrecy itself and in the 4th chapter says that he is only revealing this mystery to Arjuna because of his devoutness. Similarly, Judaism has its exoteric Pentatush and its esoteric Kabbalah. To this, one may rejoin with the fact that the esoteric texts in all these cases are now in the public domain. To which we answer, but who really understands them? The Vedas for example, are supposed to contain the last word on the mysteries of life and yet only the ritualistic interpretation is currently known.

Even so, the teachings given out through Theosophy lifts the esoteric veil as much as humanity in its current condition is able to assimilate. Hence, every sincere student of Theosophy will bear witness to the fact that the study of Theosophy has helped them better understand and appreciate all religions, including the religion into which they happen to be born.


Critique: “Again, whatever be the predilection of the writer in question, the Hindus have enough of religious teaching and teachers amidst themselves even in this Kali Yuga and they do not stand in need of dead ghosts of Russians and Americans.” – Stray Remarks on Theosophists.

We Hindus — let the writer, like that of the articles referred to, know once for all — have no need nor desire to import religion from the West. Sufficient has been the degradation of importing almost everything else.” – Stray Remarks on Theosophists.

Response: We are unable to locate the article that Swami references here from the Advocate of Lucknow and hence cannot make conclusive remarks as to the nature of its contents. However, taking Swami’s criticism at face-value, we can provide the following clarifications. 

Theosophy is NOT a western import into India. In one sense, it is in fact an export. The true Source of Theosophy is the common heritage of all world-religions and hence of humanity as a whole. But this knowledge being lost over time with other civilizations of the world, elevated India to be the storehouse of this ancient wisdom. At the confluence of certain important cycles, it was deemed expedient to place once again before the world as much of this ancient wisdom as could be assimilated. And given that western thought was to sweep over the world in coming years, it was presented so as to best appeal to the western mind. Today, most educated Indians possess a western outlook and a western mindset. So, Theosophy in India is really the retelling of its own ancient wisdom in modern garb. 

Favorable Comments

Even though Swami lived contemporaneously with HPB, he unfortunately never had the chance to meet her. Most of Swami’s exposure on the subject was to the nonsensical doctrines of what was to later be denominated “Neo-Theosophy” and the so-called leaders of the TS who espoused it. Hence, we posit that his criticism was directed towards Neo-Theosophy and its proponents which we agree is entirely justified. As further evidence of this point, we find that Swami spoke very highly of the only co-founder of the original Theosophical Movement who he actually met, namely WQJ. So, with the following favorable quotes from Swami, we rest our case.

No use quarrelling with the Theosophists. Do not go and tell them all I write to you... Theosophists are our pioneers, do you know? Now Judge is a Hindu and Col. a Buddhist, and Judge is the ablest man here. Now tell the Hindu Theosophists to support Judge. Even if you can write Judge a letter, thanking him as a co-religionist and for his labours in presenting Hinduism before Americans; that will do his heart much good. We must not join any sect, but we must sympathise and work with each... Work, work — conquer all by your love!...” – Alasinga 1894.

I had a great respect for Mr. Judge. He was a worthy man, open, fair, simple, and he was the best representative the Theosophists ever had.” – My Plan of Campaign.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Isis Study – October-December 2013 - Part 5: Summary and discussions

Isis unveiled, vol. I


Pages 612 - 617

The previous blog no. 4 ended with a note :

It will be shown that fanaticism of Christian Church and of modern scientist are a formidable barrier to advancement of true knowledge and enlightenment. 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.

Conceit and hypocrisy bar the sceptical scientists from exploring the realms of the unseen universe.

Says the great Teacher, the author of Isis Unveiled :

“Spheres unknown below our feet; spheres still more unknown and still more unexplored above us; between the two a handful of moles, blind to God’s great light, and deaf to the whispers of the invisible world, boasting that they lead mankind. Where? Onward, they claim; but we have a right to doubt it. The greatest of our physiologists, when placed side by side with a Hindu Fakir, who knows neither how to read nor write, will very soon find himself feeling as foolish as a school-boy who has neglected to learn his lesson.”

It is in vain that scientists try to prove that there is no soul or spirit in man and nature. It is not by vivisection of living animals that the physiologist assure himself of the existence of man’s soul. Sergeant Cox, then President of the London Psychological Society, questioned : which sane man, who knows nothing of magnetism or physiology, who had never witnessed an experiment nor learned its principles, would proclaim himself a fool by denying its facts and denouncing its theories. Yet two-thirds of our modern day scientists do precisely that. Few indeed are there among the scientific fraternity who are brave and honest to utter wholesome truths, however disagreeable. It would be impertinence on the part of one who would venture to pronounce judgment on a discipline in which he has no proficiency. Physical scientists do exactly that on questions of psychology and all that pertains to it without having witnessed any of its phenomena, and in entire ignorance of its principles and practices.

Universal beliefs rise from foundation of truth and fact.

Ancient magic is occult psychology, and belief in magic is universal. For a belief to have become universal it must have been founded on an immense accumulation of facts. Porphyry and Proclus asserted that even inanimate objects, such as statues of gods, could be made to move and exhibit factitious life for a few moments. Can those who have testified that they have seen tables and chairs move and walk, and pencils write, without contact deny the claims of Porphry and Proclus ?

Yet, modern progress rests on great achievements of ancients, whose ideas, even the very names, such as, ‘senate,’ ‘consuls,’ ‘perfects,’ etc. have been borrowed by moderns. It is admitted that Napolean the Great conquered three-fourths of Europe by applying the principles of war taught by Caesars and Alexanders, and yet they assume they know better than his preceptor, and they would commit believers in animated tables to lunatic asylum.

“I will pout my spirit upon all flesh,” writes Prophet Joel; “Verily I say unto you......greater works than these shall you do,” promises Jesus. These are no idle words. They are prophetic—of the fact that the world will return to the grand religion of the past : knowledge of those majestic systems which preceded by far, Brahmanism, and even the primitive monotheism of the ancient Chaldeans.

The religion of the ancients is the religion of the future.

A few centuries more, and there will linger no sectarian beliefs in either of the great religions of humanity, Brahmanism and Buddhism, Christianity and Mahometanism will all disappear before the mighty rush of facts.

Animated statues

The means by which the wise priests of old could impress upon the grosser senses of the multitude the idea of Omnipotence of the Creative Will, or FIRST CAUSE, was to practically demonstrate to them, by exercise of their own sovereign irresistible Will, animation of inert matter by infusing soul into it, and transport ponderous objects through space and material objects without physical contact; and thus show that all this could be done because Man is the microcosmic image of the great Architect of the Universe.

Phenomenon of liquefaction of blood

The coagulated blood of the Catholic saint at San Gearro, in Naples, is made to boil and fume in its crystal bottle, and from its jewelled shrine the martyr’s idol beams radian smiles and blessings at the Christian congregations. The Hindu priest plunges an arrow into the god’s breast, and produces his ‘miracles,’ for the blood gushes forth in streams, and water in changed into blood.  Devotees of followers of both fall in raptures at the sight of the phenomena. Yet, Christian clergy denounce and dismiss the pagan phenomena the work of the devil.

Hermes on Theopoea : talking and walking statues of gods and saints

Hermes Trismegistus propounded a universal axiom when he said as the Highest One is the father of the celestial gods, so is man the artisan of the gods who reside in the temples, and who delight in the society of mortals. Man can imitate the divine powers of the Deity. Father Creator has made in His image the eternal gods ; so mankind in its turn makes its gods in its own image. Here Hermes spoke of the statues of gods mankind make, that these statues are endowed with reason, that they are animated with a soul, and that they can operate greatest prodigies, such as, predicting the future when forced to do so by magical spells. Thus man invented and created gods. Goes on Hermes :

“Powerless to create soul and spirit, they evoke the souls of angels and demons in order to introduce them into the consecrated statues; and so make them preside at their Mysteries, by communicating to idols their own faculty to do good as well as evil.”

A historical account of walking and talking statue at Lourdes and Rome

Exhibition of intelligence and locomotive powers of man made gods—idols—is not a part of prehistoric legends  but have their witnesses in modern  Christian  western world also. The statue of the Madonna of Lourdes runs away several times to the woods adjoining her usual residence, the parish church. The official in charge of the church had to hunt after the runaway and bring her home more than once. News papers of the place in the summer and autumn of 1876 reported the incidents. Then began a series of “miracles”—healing, prophesying, letter dropping from on high, and so on. These “miracles” are accepted by millions of Roman Catholics, a number of whom belonging to the intelligent and educated classes. Why then discredit and doubt historical accounts of the phenomena of the same character by accredited and esteemed historians, such as, Titus Livy ? He reports that upon a Roman soldier, after the conquest of that city,  requesting the statue of goddess of Rome, Juno, to leave the abode of Veii, and change this abode to for that of Rome, Juno nods her head in acquiescence, saying, “I will.” Upon receiving the consent of the goddess, when her statue of immense weight was lifted to transport it, it seemed to instantly lose its weight¸ and that the statue seemed to follow them than otherwise. (Tite.Livy, v. Dec, i—val. Max., cap. Vii)

De Mousseaux lists numerous instances of Christian and pagan phenomena

He recorded instances of walking statues of saints and Madonnas, who lose their weight and move about like living men and women. He also presents unimpeachable evidences of similar phenomena narrated by classical authors who describe their “miracles.” True to his Christian calling de Mousseaux, after giving facts, supporting the same with his arguments and reflections, makes bare his motive in his conclusions. According to him the Christian “miracle” is produced by God, and the pagan one by the Devil. Why did he do so, as Christian missionaries to this day ? He himself answers:

“The Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolical Church declares the miracles wrought by her faithful sons produced by the will of God; and all others the work of the spirits of Hell.” He shows an endless list of holy writers :
“Your idols, your consecrated statues, are the abode of demons,” exclaims St. Cyprian. “Yes, it is these spirits who inspire your divines, who animate the bowels of your victims, who govern the flight of birds, and who, mixing incessantly falsehood with truth, render oracles, and ....operate prodigies, their object being to bring you invincibly to their worship.” (De Idol., lib. i. P. 452)

Animation of inert matter with life and intelligence by the potent Will of the Hierophant

From remotest ages there has existed an awful and mysterious science under the denomination, Theopoea. It is the art of endowing various symbols of gods with temporary life and intelligence under the potential Will of the Hierophant.  Left to itself, the life-principle will blindly follow the laws of nature, producing health or causing death and dissolution. But, guided by the Will of the Adept, its currents  obediently restores the equilibrium in organic bodies, fill waste, and produce physiological and psychological prodigies, miscalled miracles, well known to mesmerizers. Infused in inert matter they create an appearance of life and motion. The operator may even infuse his Astral Spirit into it and endow it with intelligence and a personality. Alternately, he may force one of the nature spirits by the power of his Will into the marble, wood or metal; he may even be helped by the human spirits. Of the class of human spirits, only the earth-bound vicious ones infuse their essence into the objects, not the higher, holy ones. The Holy human spirits will leave the lower class to infuse similitude of life and animation, and send a ray of the divine light from their supernal spheres through the intervening spheres, for the purposes of public good. Such phenomena of truly spiritual kind is possible under the condition of purity of motive,  purity of surrounding magnetic atmosphere, and personal purity of the operator. Thus the pagan “miracle” may be far holier than a Christian one, and this is Magic of the ancients.

Fanaticism in science and religion

Fanaticism blinds our senses. It is futile to argue with a fanatic. Sergeant Cox spoke words of wisdom on this question in a lecture. He said that it is a fatal policy to expect that the truth will prevail by its own force, that it has to be seen to be  embraced ; that desire for truth exists in very few minds; when men say they are seeking the truth, they actually mean that they are looking for evidence to support some prejudice or prepossession; that their beliefs are moulded to their wishes; that they are blind as bats to whatever tells against them; and that scientists are no more exempt from this common failing than others.

In the next blog, 6th, achievements of ancient India will be recounted and shown that every modern discovery is found anticipated in Indian history. All the world religions and philosophies are traceable to that Mother of civilizations.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Isis Study – July-September 2013 – Part 4 : Summary and discussions

Isis unveiled, vol. I


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.