As "The Science of Sciences" and "The last word of possible human knowledge", Theosophy ought to have something to say about both channelling and 'Ascension'.
Article for South-Eastern Federation Newsletter AQUARIUS - An unpublished article in draft form.
In the 1840's a movement began in Rochester in the U.S.A. which spread all over the United States and then to Europe. This was what we now call spiritualism, and to satisfy the curious and sometimes the more serious investigators, there was no lack of mediums to hold seances and produce phenomena. Many of these mediums were fraudulent but a solid core of them were not. A medium is a man or a woman with unusually developed faculties or principles resulting in clairaudience, clairvoyance and a degree of sensitivity to the happenings in the Astral Light (as defined by H.P. Blavatsky (H.P.B.), i.e. the region just outside the physical). The popular form of seance was for the medium either clairaudiently or clairvoyantly to contact 'spirits' on the other side. These spirits were generally held to be the souls of people who had died but their souls had remained active in the Kama Loca . Seances were often attended by the bereaved who sought comfort from making contact with their departed loved ones. Usually they were not disappointed. In some way or another messages from the other side would come to them.
In 1872 H.P.B. said that she was ordered by her Master M.  to go to the U.S. to investigate these phenomena and this she did. While doing so she met Col. Olcott at the house of the Eddy brothers in Chittenden, Vermont. A most remarkable series of phenomena was taking place there. These included materializations of whole persons who spoke to the audience, performed tricks and even weighed themselves on a heavy platform balance. Some of them weighed a few tens of pounds and were 'solid' enough to pick up and carry the balance. Apart from these materializations the Eddy brothers gave many messages from the deceased relatives of people who had travelled many miles to attend these seances. The seances were held in a in a large room with the medium in a cabinet on a platform. All this is written up fully in Col. Olcott's People from the Other World.
While H.P.B. attended the Eddy brothers seances, not only did the usual Red Indians appear but many remarkable people that H.P.B. had met in the past. It seems that the Masters used the then popular spiritualist movement as a counter to the gross materiality of the time and as a background to their giving out over a number of later years the body of teachings which we now call Theosophy. These teachings contained not only explanations of the normal spiritualistic type phenomena but of every kind of psychic happening including hypnotism, levitation, thought-transference etc. Spiritualistic phenomena are of great variety and the explanations of them depend on a knowledge of many factors. Probably the chief of these is the nature of the entities that can 'come through' a medium, who may or may not be in a trance. The factors determining the entities involved are the nature of the deceased, of the Astral Light and it denizens, the Elementals and their abilities, and the enormous range of the capabilities of the human mind, which of course operates at its two levels, the personal and the Egoic.
In an article of this kind it is not possible to investigate the various types of phenomena, but roughly there are 1) those stemming from the newly dead or earthbound souls, 2) those associated with pictures in the Astral Light, enlivened by Elementals, and 3) those stemming ultimately from the minds of either the mediums or people present at the seance, Elementals having access to thoughts. In the last case messages can evince a high quality of sentiment and demonstrate considerable learning. It is exceedingly rare and unlikely, but not impossible, for an Initiate or a Master to come through. They do not use this method of communication except through another trained Initiate who is aware of what he or she is doing.
It seems that the modern activity known as channelling is a version of mediumistic perception, probably in classes 2) and 3) above. Concerning seership of this nature (i.e. via sensitives or mediums) we should be mindful of the statements made in our theosophical literature by both the Masters and by H.P.B. For example, in the Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett, No. XL there is the following:
"Unless regularly initiated and trained - concerning the spiritual insight of things and the supposed revelations made unto man in all ages from Socrates down to Swedenborg ... - no self tutored seer or clairvoyant ever saw or heard quite correctly."
There are many other such warnings.
Channelling is spiritualism but instead of the common relatively trivial personal messages that 'come through' we now have messages of a seemingly loftier nature with 'personal' survival under very unusual circumstances i.e. 'Ascension', but with the noble object of serving humanity. The entities transmitting the teachings assume the most grandiose names and places in history. This is a reliable indication of the unreliability of their messages, in spite of their high-flown nature and pretentious claims. Precisely what entity or influence is affecting our modern channellers, it would be difficult to say without much more information, but the question is really irrelevant because the content of the messages bespeaks the quality of them. In channelling, the messages - referred to as transmissions - come from entities calling themselves Kuthumi, Mary, Kwan Yin, El Morya and Michael. They are supposed to be members of the White Brotherhood. This is a fairly miscellaneous collection with little in common between them, and the historicity of the Christian nativity including Mary is very much in question. In Occultism Mary, a synonym for Mare, the sea of matter, is the feminine cosmic principle - not a person.
The question that immediately arises is: are Kuthumi and El Morya the same two Masters who corresponded with Sinnett? If they are, why is what they are purported to teach now not consistent with what they taught when they were alive? Incidentally, it is said by the Ascensionists that these high beings are 'Ascended Masters' but according to the Masters' own accounts of what happens to 'Masters' after death, they do not 'ascend'. Moreover, transmitted or channelled messages are often garbled versions of 'theosophical' teachings, but they are plausible and a number of clever people have been attracted to them. They are based on very insecure foundations of fact.
Ascensions appear to mean that, before one dies in the ordinary way, one can, by some process which involves some preparation by way of purification etc., so raise the vibration rate of the atoms in the body that it passes from the physical realm to the next higher non-physical realm: in theosophical parlance the Astral of H.P.B. One is left asking the question, why should it be necessary for the physical body to ascend? Another part of the teaching of Ascension is that those who are able or fit to ascend have made intimate connection between their personal minds and their Higher Selves. This is indeed a high evolutionary state and not normally achieved except by Initiates, and they are very rare. The idea of 'ascension' seems to be taken from the story of the ascension of Jesus put out by the Christian church. This, however, was a relatively late idea put out after Jesus had been 'deified', and there is no corroborated evidence of the happening.
Personal existence is relative to our three dimensional state of being, to our physical body and its normal circumstances. In Ascension literature, however, there are other 'dimensions', including the 5th, and a fifth state of the earth. Dimension, however, relates inherently to something that is measurable. Whether or not the term '5th dimension' is used figuratively we do not know, but it is very clearly stated in our classical literature that all the states of being apart from the physical are dimensionless. This includes specifically the subjective space from which everything there is in the physical universe is projected.
Then the 'ascension' channellers seem never to have heard of the seven Globes of a Chain. They evince no knowledge whatever of their character and relationship to the earth, nor their evolutionary status. They also seem to be totally ignorant of the evolutionary processes associated with the development of the kingdoms of Nature on earth, and of the lives composing them. This is a very long slow process to which also man's development is subject. Where he is on the evolutionary ladder depends on his (theosophical) Race, his Round and his Globe. No amount of 'Grace' can affect these things.
All the phases of activity of the grand cosmic process are geared precisely together, such that, for example, when a species modifies itself or even comes into existence, it has precisely the right environment and place in the food chain, to ensure its survival, at least until it is able to fulfil its destiny during the lifetime of the individual or collectively the species. The 'ascensionists' also seem to be ignorant of this universal evolutionary plan. At each stage not only the physical but the psychic, the mental and the spiritual, evolutions are involved at every stage. Man is at the centre of this process. All sub-human evolution tends towards the human and all post-human evolution tends away from the human. All post-humans beings, however, must at some time or another have been human. The processes by which a man qualifies for super-humanity is laid down and dependent entirely upon himself. It is true that there are tattvic 'tides' when opportunities for those who can respond to them by way of specially favourable periods, do arise. They do not arise at the will of any individual. They are all part of the workings of the grand Law. Each individual has to expand his field of consciousness by himself; again 'Grace' from outside can have no part in this.
The two Masters Moria (M) and Koot Houmi (KH), when they were alive, gave us very detailed accounts of the after-death states and processes. They said that, whereas by knowing the secrets of Nature, Initiates of their degree could prolong their earthly existences almost indefinitely, there came a time when they had to submit to Nature's laws and then the processes of after-death, which they describe in detail, are inescapable. 'Ascension' as it is described could not possibly fit into this scheme of things. The Masters also made it quite clear that consciousness exists only in a suitable upadhi, but such a one may be quite distinct from the physical vehicle. The latter with its physical brain is so unimportant in Hindu philosophy as not to be regarded as a human principle at all. So why 'disintegrate' the physical body for us 'in heaven'?
Channellers seem to think that it is possible to seek the assistance of Masters and universal Grace in their ascension efforts. If this were possible it would be entirely against universal Law. No Master and no amount of Grace can do for a man what he has to do for himself; that is the inexorable Law. True, he can take advantage of opportunities and favourable times, but he has to do the taking and no Master, and this they themselves say quite clearly, would interfere with a man's Karma. So much then for such phrases as 'powerful acceleration of transmutation and integration'. That is mere verbiage.
There are other statements in 'ascension' literature which make no sense in terms of Theosophy: for example, 'countless millions of beings from many other dimensions, some associated with earth, and others not, are drawn by their love for us to assist in this time of expansion'. How many questions does such a statement raise? First, who are these beings? In Theosophy we are told of the infinite number of hierarchies that make up the life of say a solar system, and what their functions are. They operate in the planes of being - in fact they constitute them - but what are these 'many other dimensions'? If the 'beings' referred to are not associated with earth, how can they, considering its ring-pass-not, ever get here? To understand what this ring-pass-not means, we have to study the nature and capabilities of the Lipika in The Secret Doctrine.
Then there is the question of the possibility of Love and Grace flowing freely, etc. There is no such a thing as love or grace in the atmosphere, whether it be spiritual or physical, but that some being must radiate it and respond to it. It is only individuals who can love. Love in itself is an abstract, non-existent apart from a lover. To profit by love we need natures attuned to it and every man has an aspect of his nature capable of that. This can be by reason of the higher levels of the kamic principle or of his buddhic nature, whichever is activated and functioning. Those who can radiate love by reason of these quickened faculties do so all the time. But just as clouds may pass over the face of the sun, so there are times when the influence of this love or any other divine quality may be obscured. These are the tattvic tides referred to earlier.
The 'ascensionists' use such words as 'Starseeds' and 'Light-Workers' and 'Ashtar Command' who may do the most unlikely things to and for us. How nice it would be to virtually pass through the gates of death and into the spiritual realms without dying! This seems to be the implication of 'Ascension', and how attractive is the idea that somehow, with their help, we can achieve the 'Ascension' state of entering into a higher state of consciousness, without having to go through the tedious processes normally requiring many lifetimes of effort so to develop our vehicles of consciousness that we can pass through the death processes without loss of consciousness. We must ask seriously, can that be possible whatever channellers say? We have to bear in mind the suspect nature of the channelled transmissions.
Somewhere the Masters gave us a sign which, they said, would be included in any genuine message received from them. This became necessary because, even during H.P.B.'s life, many spurious messages from Masters were broadcast. Could we not reasonably ask that the channellers give us this sign if they are really in touch with these Masters who must know it as they gave it specifically to prevent spurious messages in their name?
Those members of the Theosophical Society who have taken the trouble to read the grand original literature wherein the teachings of Theosophy were first promulgated, have a background knowledge which is validated by reason of the fact that it not only fits all the facts of their experience but also gives a yardstick by which to measure the truth or otherwise of other teachings. Theosophy is like the Kabala, of which it is said that if a statement or teaching does not fit onto the "Tree of Life" it cannot be true. Should not others who have not yet made the study of what was given us do that first before accepting what is now described as exciting new ideas? Why not do some honest work to discover the feasibility of those ideas before being hopelessly entangled in them?
Amongst the massive literature given us at the start of the theosophical movement at the end of the last century was that great tome of monumental learning Isis Unveiled wherein 1,330 other prime sources are referred and in the writing of which, according to Col. Olcott, six or more Masters of the Wisdom then living had a hand. And we have The Secret Doctrine, in which the two Masters K.H. and M. claimed a large part of the authorship, and in which some 1,100 other works are quoted from. This is magnificent literature by any standard. That is the quality of the literature that we in the Theosophical Society are heir to if we would only take notice of it. Why disregard it?
Without entering into the vast fields of knowledge opened up in these books, the earnest (and honest?) enquirer could at least read what preliminary literature there is available. There is H.P.B.'s The Key to Theosophy, a work with so much content it can never be exhausted in a lifetime. I have written a few introductory works - viz. the Blavatsky Trust booklets, Theosophy, what's it all about?, Exploring the Great Beyond, dealing with spiritualism and psychic phenomena, and When We Die - describing the after-death states and processes as given us by the Masters.
^1 Kamaloka, sometimes written Kama Loka and Kama-Loca.
Literally, the place, world, or sphere of desire, from Kama(desire), and loka (place, world, or sphere). That place where the body of passions and desires holds sway after the death of the physical body. It is the same as the Greek Hades and Egyptian Amenti, where the astral shades of the dead remain until they disintegrate or fade out. As the earthly plane is where the material body disintegrates, so Kamaloka is that one wherein the astral body in its turn dies and fades away. Kamaloka is much the same as the purgatory of the Christians, and in it remain the bodies of the dead infused with the desires and passions, for which reason is the term Kamarupa. The disincarnated Ego sheds its astral body in Kamaloka, and from that state passes to Devachan; hence the state is intermediate between earth-life and the joys of the Devachanic state. glossaries
^2 See also 'Mahatmas versus Ascended Masters' Pablo D. Sender. Originally printed in Quest magazine 99. 3 (Summer 2011): 107 - 111. link
This document has been reproduced from Geoffrey Farthing's digital copy created in 2002,
and currently in the archive material of The Blavatsky Trust. The Blavatsky Trust 2011