'Exploring the Great Beyond'
Chapter 11 Spiritualism/Occultism

Geoffrey Farthing

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The relationship between Spiritualism, as normally thought of, and Occultism is by now becoming clear. Both deal with the same phenomena but they differ fundamentally in their explanations of those phenomena.

Further, to anyone who has read this far, it must appear that the occultists know what they are talking about because they are able to see clairvoyantly what is going on behind the physical scenes, and can themselves control the hidden forces and create, at their will and in full consciousness, all types of phenomena. On the other hand, spiritualistic phenomena of the same kind involve a medium in a trance state, unconscious, unable to control what is going on and even unable to decide which spirits, guides, etc., shall operate through him.

The author of this book has been present at a trance medium session which was most impressive. One aspect, which is seemingly common, was that the "spirits" came through according to program. An exception was a doctor who came through unexpectedly at the end and proceeded to do a couple of healings, to the obvious relief of the two patients. The medium however was in a deep trance all the time and did not know what was going on.

Spiritualists will say that these manifestations are wholly at the favour, discretion, and initiative of the "guides," whereas the occultist would claim that the "spirits," the elementals or elementaries that performed, did so at his bidding and did as he directed. Because of the nature of many phenomena, the spiritualist would disallow that they could be due to elementals and elementaries. The occultist would counter this by saying that the nature of the phenomena was indistinguishable from the Spiritualists' but that the range of those produced by an occultist was wider than could be performed by anyone "spirit." The occultist would also say that he could prevent or inhibit phenomena through a medium or even decide not only which "spirits" should come to the medium but


what they should do. On balance, everyone who has studied both sides must lean toward the superiority of the practicing occultist and therefore toward his knowledge and his explanations of what goes on.

Two important things must now be said. First, practicing occultists are very rare, and one who will exhibit his powers is rarer still. Second, nothing said so far precludes the possibility of highly developed men, initiates, from communicating subjectively with, and appearing objectively to, people in our physical world. This does not mean that these initiates are dead and are operating from the post-mortem realms, as spirits. They are living men who have learned how to operate outside of a physical body, to create an apparitional body and manipulate the "astral" forces. They are the master occultists. They do, however, and it is important to note this, require no medium to help them, even though for some things such as communicating by precipitated letters an "agent" at the receiving end is usual but not essential.

Beings of such attainment keep themselves to themselves, at least in these matters, and seldom come forth from their obscurity save at long intervals in human history .At their loftiest, they are the great religious teachers and reformers of history, for example, Krishna, Buddha, Jesus, and so on. Sometimes men with a certain mystery about them, such as Pythagoras, Appolonius of Tyana, Paracelsus, and others not so well-known, whose names somehow live in history but to whom modern men will often not concede any great learning, wisdom, or power or even existence, were also initiates in the mysteries. Much of what they wrought is ascribed to superstition. Generally, there is great ignorance about them. This is heightened by the fact that such men of knowledge seldom, if ever , made their occult knowledge or teachings public for fear, of course, of abuse by an unregenerate humanity. The tradition is that there are degrees of attainment and initiation. These grades pass from the unusually good and knowledgeable but ordinary man, through those of increasing psychic powers, of clairvoyance, clairaudience and healing and other abilities, up to occultists of the stamp of H. P. Blavatsky and then on further to still higher grades. One such high degree initiate was H.P.B.'s Master, and he, together with one of his illustrious Brothers, instigated the founding of the present Theosophical Society in an attempt to enlighten mankind and inculcate brotherhood among all peoples. Even such Adepts as these, however, do not claim to be full initiates.


Some quotations from H.P.B.'s literature bear on the points made above in comparing Spiritualism with Occultism, as follows:

A cutting in H.P.B.'s scrapbook from an article on "The Cabala" in The Liberal Christian of September 25, 1875, refers to a statement by a Dr. Pancoast that ancient occultists' 'could summon long departed 'spirits from the vast deep' and compel them to answer questions." To this Mme. Blavatsky added, "Not 'departed Spirits or souls', but the 'Elementals,' the beings living in the Elements."

In the hands of an experienced medium, Spiritualism becomes UNCONSCIOUS SORCERY for, by allowing himself to become the helpless tool of a variety of spirits, of whom he knows nothing save what the latter permit him to know, he opens, unknown to himself, a door of communication between the two worlds, through which emerge the blind forces of Nature lurking in the Astral Light, as well as good and bad spirits.

A powerful mesmerizer, profoundly learned in his science, such as Baron Du Potet, Regazzoni, Pietro d' Amicis of Bologna, are magicians, for they have become the adepts, the initiated ones, into the great mystery of our Mother Nature. Such men. ..control the spirits instead of allowing their subjects or themselves to be controlled by them; and Spiritualism is safe in their hands. In the absence of experienced Adepts though, it is always safer for a naturally clairvoyant medium to trust to good luck and chance, and try to judge of the tree by its fruits. Bad spirits will seldom communicate through a pure, naturally good and virtuous person; and it is still more seldom that pure spirits will choose impure channels. Like attracts like. (C. W., I, pp. 173/8).

Reverting to the part played by elementals and elementaries in phenomena, Mme. Blavatsky adds the following, with further quotations from Eliphas Levi:

Of a third class, out of hundreds that the Eastern philosophers and Kabalists are acquainted with, Eliphas Levi, discussing spiritualistic phenomena, says: "They


are neither the souls of the damned or guilty; the elementary spirits [elementals] are like children curious and harmless, and torment people in proportion as attention is paid to them." These he regards as the sole agents in all the meaningless and useless physical phenomena at séances. Such phenomena will be produced unless they be dominated "by wills more powerful than their own." Such a will may be that of a living adept, or, as there are none such at Western spiritual séances, these ready agents are at the disposal of every strong, vicious, earth-bound, human elementary who has been attracted to the place. By such they can be used in combination with the astral emanations of the circle and medium, as stuff out of which to make materialised spirits.

So little does Levi concede the possibility of spirit return in objective form that he says: "The good deceased come back in our dreams; the state of mediumism is an extension of dream, it is somnambulism in all its variety and ecstasies ... the Spirit despoils itself in order to ascend, and thus would have to reclothe itself to descend. There is but one way for a spirit already liberated to manifest itself again on earth-it must get back into its body and resurrect ... That is why necromancy is horrible. It constitutes a crime against Nature ... We have admitted in our former works the possibility of vampirism, and even tried to explain it. The phenomena now, actually occurring in America and Europe unquestionably belong to this fearful malady ... The mediums do not, it is true, eat the flesh of corpses [like one Sergeant Bertrand], but they breathe in throughout their whole nervous organism the phosphoric emanations of putrefied corpses, or spectral light. They are not vampires but they evoke vampires. For this reason, they are nearly all debilitated and sick."

Do those in Europe and America, who have heretofore described the cadaverous odour that, in some cases, they have noticed, as attending materialised spirits, appreciate the revolting significance of the above explanation? (C. W., I, pp.285/6)

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Some further extracts enlarge on a number of points we have looked at such as the after-death states, the divine nature of the Ego and its relations with us as ephemeral personalities, the nature and activity of the elementals and elementaries. They also give explanations of spiritualistic and other psychic phenomena. We can now begin fairly readily to deduce from the technical data just given some explanations of these from the Occult viewpoint.

There are, however, many other interesting and explanatory passages in the other writings of H. P. Blavatsky. In a letter to the New York Daily Graphic. October 30, 1874, she gave her version of the happenings at the Eddy homestead on the night she arrived. She did this to refute accusations by a Dr. Beard that the manifestations were fraudulent. She offered him $500 if he could reproduce them, in public, under the same conditions. He did not accept the challenge. Later, of these apparitions, she says, "They may be the portraits of the dead people then re-pro[duced] (they certainly are not Spirits or Souls) yet a real [phe]nomenon produced by the Elementaries. H.P.B." (C. W.. I, p. 34) (Parts of words in square brackets added.)

In his Incidents in the Life of H. P. Blavatsky. p. 131, (see also C. W. I, p. 35), Mr. A. P. Sinnett says that H.P.B.

... has tried with the most famous mediums to evoke and communicate with those dearest to her, and whose loss she had deplored, but could never succeed. "Communications and messages" she certainly did receive, and got their signatures, and on two occasions their materialised forms. but the communications were couched in a vague and gushing language quite unlike the style she knew so well. Their signatures, as she has ascertained, were obtained from her own brain; and on no occasion, when the presence of a relation was announced and the form described by the medium, who was ignorant of the fact that Mme. Blavatsky could see as well a~ any of them, has she recognised the "spirit" of the alleged relative in the host of spooks and elementaries that surrounded them (when the medium was a genuine one, of course). Quite the reverse, for she often saw, to her disgust, how her own recollections and brain-images were drawn from her memory and

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disfigured in the confused amalgamation that took place between their reflection in the medium's brain which instantly sent them out, and the shell's which sucked them in like a sponge and objectivised them - "a hideous shape with a mask on in my sight." she tells us.

From the Key to Theosophy we have:

Question: But do you not believe in Spiritualism?

Answer: If by "spiritualism" you mean the explanation which Spiritualists give of some abnormal phenomena, then decidedly we do not. They maintain that these manifestations are all produced by the "Spirits" of departed mortals, generally their relatives, who return to earth, they say, to communicate with those they have loved or to whom they are attached. We deny this point blank. We assert that the spirits of the dead cannot return to earth-save in rare and exceptional cases; ... nor do they communicate with men except by entirely subjective means. That which appears objectively. is only the phantom of the ex-physical man. ...

Question: Do you reject the phenomena also?

Answer: Assuredly not-save cases of conscious fraud.

Question: How do you account for them, then?

Answer: In many ways. The causes of such manifestations are by no means so simple as the Spiritualists would like to believe. Foremost of all, the deus ex machina of the so-called "materializations" is usually the astral body or "double" of the medium or of someone present ... This astral body is also the producer or operative force in the manifestation of slate writing. ...

Question: You say usually: then what is it that produces the rest?

Answer: That depends on the nature of the manifestations. Sometimes the astral remains, the kama lokic "shells" of the vanished personalities that were; at other times, elementals ... The Conscious Individuality of the disembodied cannot materialise. nor can it return from its own mental devachanic sphere to the plane of terrestrial objectivity.

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Question: But many of the communications received from the "spirits" show not only intelligence but a knowledge of facts not known to the medium, and sometimes even not consciously present to the mind of the investigator, or any of those who compose the audience.

Answer: This does not necessarily prove that the intelligence and knowledge you speak of belong to spirits, or emanate from disembodied souls. Somnambulists have been known to compose music and poetry and to solve mathematical problems while in their trance state, without having ever learned music or mathematics. Others answered intelligently questions put to them and even, in several cases, spoke languages, such as Hebrew and Latin, of which they were entirely ignorant when awake, all this in a state of profound sleep. Will you, then, maintain that this was caused by "spirits"?

Question: But how would you explain it? Answer: We assert that the divine spark in man being one and identical in its essence with the Universal Spirit, our "Spiritual Self" is practically omniscient, but that it cannot manifest its knowledge, owing to the impediments of matter. Now the more these impediments are removed, in other words, the more the physical body is paralysed, as to its own independent activity and consciousness, as in deep sleep or deep trance, or again, in illness, the more fully can the inner Self manifest on this plane. This is our explanation of those truly wonderful phenomena of a higher order, in which undeniable intelligence and knowledge are exhibited. As to the lower order of manifestations, such as physical phenomena and the platitudes and common talk of the general "spirit," to explain even the most important of the teachings we hold upon the subject would take up more space and "time than can be allotted to it at present. (Key. p. 21)

In answer to another question the answer was:

Our beliefs are all founded on that immortal Individuality. But then, like so many others, you confuse


personality with individuality. Yet it is precisely that difference which gives the keynote to the understanding of Eastern philosophy, and which lies at the root of the divergence between the Theosophical and Spiritualistic teachings.

Question: Please explain your idea more clearly.

Answer: What I mean is that though our teachings insist upon the identity of spirit and matter, and though we say that spirit is potential matter, and matter simply crystallised spirit just as ice is solidified steam, yet since the original and eternal condition of the All is not spirit but "super-spirit," so to speak-visible and solid matter being simply its periodical manifestation, we maintain that the term spirit can only be applied to the true Individuality.

Question: But what is the distinction between this "true Individuality" and the "I" or "Ego" of which we are all conscious?

Answer: Before I can answer you, we must argue upon what you mean by "I" or "Ego." [Note, the word Ego as used here should not be confused with the use of the term in modern psychology. Its use there appears to apply more properly to the personal ego, the kamamanasic psyche as defined in these teachings.] We distinguish between the simple fact of self-consciousness, the simple feeling that "I am I," and the complex thought that "I am Mr. Smith or Mrs. Brown." Believing as we do in a series of births for the same Ego, or reincarnation, this distinction is the fundamental pivot of the whole idea. You see 'Mr. Smith" really means a long series of daily experiences strung together by the thread of memory and forming what "Mr. Smith" calls himself. But none of these "experiences" is really the "I" or the "Ego," nor do they give "Mr. Smith" the feeling that he is himself for he forgets the greater part of his daily experiences, and they produce the feeling of egoity in him only while they last. We, ... therefore, distinguish between this bundle of "experiences," which we call the false (because so finite and evanescent) personality. and that element in man to which the feeling of "I am I" is due. It is this "I am I" which we call


the true individuality; and we say that this Ego or Individuality plays, like an actor, many parts on the stage of life. Let us call every new life on earth of the same Ego a night on the stage of the theatre. One night the actor, or Ego, appears as Macbeth, the next as Shylock, the third as Romeo, the fourth as Hamlet or King Lear , and so on, until he has run through the whole cycle of incarnations. The Ego begins his life-pilgrimage as a sprite, an Ariel or a Puck; he plays the part of a "super", is a soldier, a servant, one of the chorus; rises then to "speaking parts," plays leading roles, interspersed with insignificant parts, till he finally retires from the stage as Prospero, the magician.

Question: I understand. You say, then, that this true Ego cannot return to earth after death. But surely the actor is at liberty, if he has preserved the sense of his individuality, to return if he likes to the scene of his former actions1

Answer: We say not, simply because such a return to earth would be incompatible with any state of unalloyed bliss after death. ... (Key, p. 24)

Referring back to the Eddy phenomena, H.P.B. explains:

Even the materialised form of my uncle at the Eddy's was the picture; it was I who sent it out from my own mind, as I had come out to make experiments without telling it to anyone. It was like an empty outer envelope of my uncle that I seemed to throw on the medium's astral body. I saw and followed the process. I knew Will Eddy was a genuine medium and the phenomenon as real as it could be. In short, for all the years of experience in America I never succeeded in identifying, in one single instance, those I wanted to see. It is only in my dreams and personal visions that I was brought in direct contact with my own blood relatives and friends, those between whom and myself there had been a strong mutual spiritual love ... For certain psycho magnetic reasons, too long to be explained here, the shells of those spirits who loved us best will not, with very few exceptions, approach us. They have no need of it since, unless they were irretrievably wicked, they have us with


them in Devachan, that state of bliss in which the monads are surrounded with all those, and that, which they have loved-objects of spiritual aspirations as well as human entities. "Shells" once separated from their higher principles have nought in common with the latter. They are not drawn to their relatives and friends, but rather to those with whom their terrestrial, sensuous affinities are the strongest. Thus the shell of a drunkard will be drawn to one who is either a drunkard already or has a germ of this passion in him, in which case it will develop it by using his organs to satisfy the craving; one who died full of sexual passion for a still living partner will have its shell drawn to him or her, etc. We Theosophists, and especially occultists, must never lose sight of the profound axiom of the Esoteric Doctrine which teaches us that it is we, the living, who are drawn towards the spirits-but that the latter can never, even though they would, descend to us, or rather into our sphere. (C. W. I, p. 35/6)

In an article by a Benjamin Coleman in The Spiritualist (1st Jan. 1875) appears, "The Countess's (H. P. Blavatsky) presence at several of the Eddy séances led to the most surprising manifestations, including the appearance of several spirits of persons known to her in foreign countries." Under a cutting of this in her scrapbook she writes, "Yes; for I have called them out MYSELF. H.P.B." Under another cutting from the same article which reads "These American facts, coupled with our own, should have an important bearing in correcting the errors of both science and theology." Mme. Blavatsky adds: " – and - Spiritualism please add. Belief in the agency of "spirits" or disembodied souls in these phenomena is as foolish and irrational as belief in the agency of the Holy Ghost in the fabrication of Jesus - if the latter ever lived." (C. W. I, p. 53)

It is interesting to note Mme. Blavatsky's relationship to spiritualistic mediums. She says:

My faith being firm I am, therefore, ever ready to support and protect any honest medium - aye, and even occasionally one who appears dishonest; for I know but too well what helpless tools and victims such mediums are in the hands of unprogressed, invisible beings. I am


furthermore aware of the malice and wickedness of the elementary, and how far they can inspire not only a sensitive medium, but any other person as well ... I am quick enough to detect whenever a medium is cheating under control, or cheating consciously. (C. W., I, p. 141)

Talking of the kama-manasic soul during life, Mme. Blavatsky says (C. W., I, p. 293):

By its complex nature, the soul may descend and ally itself so closely to the corporeal nature as to exclude a higher life from exerting any moral influence upon it. On the other hand, it can so closely attach to the nous or spirit, as to share its potency, in which case its vehicle, physical man, will appear as a God even during his terrestrial life. Unless such union of soul and spirit does occur, either during this life or after physical death, the individual man is not immortal as an entity. The psyche is sooner or later disintegrated. Though the man may have gained "the whole world", he has lost his "soul". Paul, when teaching the anastasis, or continuation of individual spiritual life after death, set forth that there was a physical body which was raised in incorruptible substance. The spiritual body is most assuredly not one of the bodies, or visible or tangible larvae, which form in circle-rooms, and are so improperly termed "materialised spirits."

There are many people, besides the Spiritualists themselves, who have experienced some spiritualistic phenomena and who have, perhaps uncritically, accepted them as evidence of survival after death. This survival is most commonly related to human beings, but there have been instances of the apparition at séances of animals, particularly pets, even including birds such as the robin referred to in Chapter 3. This appearance of animals at materialisation séances, or to clairvoyant sensitives, is, as in the case of humans, taken to mean that animals have "souls" which survive death, and many would wish to believe that this is so. In the sense that everything has its "privation" in the non-physical realms (i.e., second and, to an extent, fourth Principles) they do have souls but, as we have said, animals do not have an individual reincarnating


spiritual Ego. The apparitions are more or less dense manifestations of persisting Astral Light pictures or of mental images in the aura of someone present. There are no animal elementaries.

Some have said that the teachings of Occultism concerning both the after-death states and spiritualistic phenomena are unfeeling and deprive the bereaved of the comfort which their belief in .'spirit" messages could otherwise give them. In all charity it must be conceded that such messages, in many cases, must do much to relieve the sense of loss, even the desolation occasioned by the bereavement. Occultists must be "spiritualists," in their sense of the word, because the whole basis of creation, and the essence of individual man, is Spirit. What an Occultist does is to reserve the meaning of the word spirit for a level of being much higher than that of the psychic world of phenomena. Surely, however, an Occultist cannot necessarily be said to be heartless for so doing.

The following paragraph is the end one of a letter written by H.P.B. to a man who had recently lost his daughter. It surely indicates heartfelt sympathy. For a student of Occultism, it does much more. It clearly indicates the possibility of a living person communicating, under certain conditions, with the real spiritual entity of a deceased loved one.

How willingly would I devote all my life, nay sacrifice it even, if I could only impart to some bereaved fathers and mothers, sons, and often daughters, the grandest truth that ever was, a truth so easily learned and practiced for whomever is endowed with a powerful will and faith. I have said too little or too much, I know not which. By the fruit shall we judge of the seed. Amen. (From a letter to Profs. W. Corson, Cornell University, U.S.A.)

This extract reinforces an impression that Mme. Blavatsky knew what she was talking about and could herself so communicate. As mentioned before, she says she did contact her deceased relatives in personal visions and dreams.

We also sense not only a deep sympathy with all bereaved people but a tremendous will to help them, coupled with an obvious realization of their helplessness. We must qualify ourselves to become Spiritualists in her terms, if we would know the reality of the spiritual realms for ourselves and be able to elevate our consciousness so as to contact our dear departed ones for ourselves.


H.P.B. also adds the following words of comfort which must appeal to all those who have felt the strongest bonds of love for those who have departed this life and who cannot believe they are separated from them forever.

We are with those whom we have lost in material form, and far, far nearer to them now, than when they were alive. And it is not only in the fancy of the Devachani, as some may imagine, but in reality. For pure divine love is not merely the blossom of a human heart, but has its roots in eternity. Spiritual holy love is immortal, and Karma sooner or later brings all those who loved each other with such a spiritual affection to incarnate once more in the same family group. Again we say that love beyond the grave, illusion though you may call it, has a magic and divine potency which reacts on the living. A mother's Ego filled with love for the imaginary children it sees near itself, living a life of happiness, as real to it as when on earth, will ever cause that love to be felt by the children in flesh. It will manifest in their dreams, and often in various events-in "providential" protections and escapes, for love is a strong shield, and is not limited by space or time. As with this devachanic "mother", so with the rest of human relationships and attachments, save the purely selfish or material. Analogy will suggest to you the rest. (Key. p.1OI-2.)

In addition to giving us the rationale of the production of phenomena, Occultism also gives us advice concerning the practice of mediumship. It tells us that man is intended to live his life self determinedly, to control his body, his emotions, and his mind, by subjecting them to his own will. This is to live positively. The normal process of development for mediums hip is to do the reverse of this. It is to make oneself passive to incoming influences, mentally, psychically, and physically. This leaves the vehicles of thought, feeling, and action, i.e., the personality, of the developed medium open to use by the astral entities. There is danger here. A medium whose life was high-intentioned and pure would to that extent be protected, but one less so would be open to the less desirable entities on the other side. In some cases mediums, even unconscious ones, and particularly those of weak character, can become "possessed."


Occultism teaches that having established himself as a self controlled being a man can, nay will in the natural course of right development, acquire psychic powers, but they, like his other faculties of perception and action, will then be under his control, and everything he does will be done in full consciousness. This applies even if he should lend his body to a high initiate to operate through in the physical world. Even out of his physical body such a developed man would retain consciousness and know what was going on, and this even in the case of his relinquishing his body for use by another, and there are cases of this happening.


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