Now the idea of survival after death is a very cherished one for many reasons. It lessens the pain of parting; it removes the fear of annihilation; and to some it promises an opportunity of fulfillment of some enterprise or experience for which there was perhaps never the time or the chance in this life. Apart from the actual evidence of messages and materializations, there is the strong desire on the part of many people to believe that these manifestations are of the spirits of the dead. Further, occasionally, there are occurrences the nature and circumstances of which make it very hard indeed to accede that any other explanation is satisfactory. The "ghost" or whatever knows too much, and that not necessarily in the mind of any living person; sometimes the identity of the "ghost" is not known to those seeing it. Sometimes the "ghost" does something, leaving visible and tangible evidence of its action; and further what it does is particularly, and significantly, relevant to a situation existing at the time. In other words, seemingly, in spite of all that Occultists or Theosophists say to the contrary (except on rare occasions) the deceased seemingly do know what is going on on earth and what is happening to their loved ones in particular . Our first story is an example (C. W. VI, p. 127):
Mrs. A__ , then a girl of fifteen, had come home on vacation. Opposite her parents' house was the home of her mother's relatives. In it lived two unmarried brothers, cousins of Mrs. A__ . The elder was past forty, and the younger about twenty years of age. For some time the elder brother had noticed that considerable sums of money disappeared from his cashbox. Several servants were dismissed on suspicion but the conditions did not improve. The younger brother led a dissipated life. His senior furnished him with all the money he requested and there was no reason to suspect
him. No one else knew of the losses that were taking place. During Mrs. A__’s stay at home, the younger brother was killed in a duel and was laid out in the family state room. Mrs. A__ went to bid farewell to her deceased cousin and, while her mother attended to some business, was left alone in the mortuary chamber, standing at the head of the dead man.
She suddenly saw the drapery over the door leading to the private room of the deceased, part and an old gentleman whom she did not know emerge with a book under his arm. He went straight to the catalogue and stood at the foot of the coffin. He gazed earnestly at the dead man for a while and then said in a calm and loud voice: "May thy offence be forgiven thee for the sake of thy mother." He then bent over and kissed the forehead of the deceased. Without paying the slightest attention to the young girl, he brushed past her, crossed to the opposite wall, pressed a knob hidden among the carved wood-work, and uncovered a recess full of books and documents. Taking a pencil, he wrote for some time on a page torn from the book he had brought with him. He then placed both book and paper in the recess and closed it by pressing the knob again. Then he went out as firmly as he had entered, parting and closing the drapery.
The story goes on to relate how on the basis of her description, her parents recognised the old man as the brothers' father. The knob was found in the recess. There was the penciled note. It said the young man had stolen the missing money and had given letters . of exchange to a man in another town. The address of the man, the amount owing and the time when it was due were given. The note ended with an injunction that the surviving brother should pay the bill and thus save the honour of the family.
The book under the arm of the old gentleman proved to be the private account book of the young man killed and contained proofs of the statements made in his note by the apparition. All other data were verified ... The elder brother married some time later. The posthumous letter in the old gentleman's handwriting is in the possession of his daughter who is married to a man of
very high social standing. Gustav Zorn (who contributed these facts) concludes by saying that "the name of the lady who told me the above facts as well as those of the two brothers, and the married name of the daughter of the elder, are given to the respected editor of this journal."
The journal was The Theosophist (Dec.- Jan. 1883-4) and the editor, H. P. Blavatsky, appended the following note:
We have the pleasure of personal correspondence with the husband of the "young lady's" daughter, a gentleman of Odessa, personally known to, and highly respected by, the writer's friends and near relatives. The facts, as above given, and. coming as they do from a thoroughly trustworthy source, would seem to checkmate the king on the Theosophical side, and put the doctrines of the Theosophists in an awkward predicament. Nothing of the kind, however, need be confessed to by one capable of looking beneath the surface, although the facts disclosed in the above narrative are not quite sufficient to allow us to come to a definite conclusion. This plea of insufficient data may appear rather strange at first sight but the strangeness on closer examination will disappear entirely. No information is given above as to the age of the younger brother at the time of the father's death; nor as to the latter's feelings and anxieties at the time of the death with regard to his motherless boy. We are, in consequence, obliged to make some assumptions, which all the surrounding circumstances most clearly suggest; if, however, they are unwarranted by facts we beg further particulars will be forwarded to us. It is but natural that the father should have felt unusually strong solicitude for the future of his young son, deprived at a tender age of both his parents; and the more so if his apprehensions for the continued honour of the family, of which, like all German aristocrats, he must have been extremely jealous, were aroused, by early indications of the vicious habits which subsequently developed in his son so strongly. After this, the explanation becomes easy enough. The dying thought of the father, worked up to its highest pitch,
under the circumstances described, established a magnetic link between the son and the astral shell of the father in Kamaloka. It is a well-known fact that fear or great anxiety for everything left behind on earth is capable of retaining a shell, which must have otherwise dissolved, for a longer period in the earth's atmosphere than it would in the event of a quiet death. Although the shell when left to itself is incapable of acquiring any fresh impressions, yet, when galvanised, so to say, by rapport with a medium, it is quite capable of living for years a vicarious life and receiving all the impressions of the medium. Another fact must always be borne in mind in seeking for an explanation of the phenomenon of mediumship - namely, that the average stay of shells in Kamaloka before final disintegration is sometimes of very long duration, 25 to 30 years would not be too long, with a medium to preserve its vitality. With these preliminary observations, the present problem becomes easy of solution. The young man who met with such a tragic end was probably a medium to his father's shell and thereby gave it a knowledge of all the incidents of his wild and sinful career. The mute witness of the shell's materialisation in the mortuary chamber must also have been a medium herself, and thus helped that phenomenon to take place. The dying young man's contrition for his vicious life and anxiety to save the honour of the family were reflected upon the father's astral shell with all the intensity of dying energy and gave rise to all that followed.
Our second story should make us very careful of accepting spiritualistic phenomena at their face value. Not only is the story an interesting one in its own right but it is made more so by reason of the explanation of her experience given to Mme. Blavatsky by a Master. She is talking of a remarkable mediumistic experience she had when she was a young girl.
For over six years, from the time I was eight or nine years old until I grew up to the age of fifteen, I had an old spirit (Mrs. Tekla Lebendorf she called herself) who came every night to write through me, in the presence of my father, aunts and many other people, residents of
Tiflis and Saratoff. She gave a detailed account of her life, stated where she was born (at Revel, Baltic Provinces), how she married, and gave the history of all her children, including a long and thrilling romance about her eldest daughter Z__ and the suicide of her son, F__ , who also came at times and indulged in long rhapsodies about his sufferings as a suicide.
The old lady mentioned that she saw God and the Virgin Mary , and a host of angels, two of which bodiless creatures she introduced to our family, to the great joy of the latter, and who promised (all this through my hand-writing) that they would watch over, etc., etc., tout comme il faut. She even described her own death and gave the name and address of the Lutheran pastor who administered to her the last sacrament.
She gave me a detailed account of a petition she had presented to the Emperor Nicholas, and wrote it out verbatim in her own handwriting through my child's hand.
Well, this lasted, as I said nearly six years-my writings-in her clear , old-fashioned, peculiar handwriting and grammar, in German (a language I had never learned to write and could not even speak well) and in Russian-accumulating in these six years to a heap of mss. that would have filled ten volumes.
In those days this was not called Spiritualism, but possession. But as our family priest was interested in the phenomenon he usually came and sat during our evening séance with holy water near him, and a goupillon (how do you call it in English?) [Aspergill] and so we were all safe.
Meanwhile, one of my uncles had gone to Revel and had there ascertained that there had really been such an old lady, the rich Mrs. T__ L__ who, in consequence of her son's dissolute life had been ruined and had gone away to some relations in Norway, where she had died. My uncle also heard that her son was said to have committed suicide at a small village on the Norway coast (all correct as given by "the Spirit").
In short, all that could be verified, every detail and circumstance, was verified and found to be in
accordance with my, or rather "the Spirit's" account; her age, number and names of children, chronological details, in fact everything stated.
When my uncle returned to St. Petersburg he desired to ascertain, as the last and crucial test, whether a petition, such as I had written, had ever been sent to the Emperor. Owing to his friendship with influential people at the Ministere de l'Intfieur , he obtained access to the archives; and there, as he had the correct date of the petition, and even the number under which it had been filed, he soon found it and, comparing it with my version sent up to him by my aunt, he found the two to be facsimiles. even to a remark in pencil written by the late Emperor on the margin, which I had reproduced as exactlyas any engraver or photographer could have done.
Well, was it the genuine spirit of Mrs. L__ who had guided my medium hand? Was it really the spirit of her son F__ who had produced through me in his handwriting all those posthumous lamentations and wailings and gushing expressions of repentance? Of course, any Spiritualist would feel certain of the fact. What better identification, or proof of spirit identity; what better demonstration of the survival of man after death, and of his power to revisit the earth and communicate with the living, could be hoped for or even conceived?
But it was nothing of the kind; and this experience of my own, which hundreds of persons in Russia can confirm-all my own relations to begin with-constitutes, as you will see, a most perfect answer to the Spiritualists.
About one year after my uncle's visit to St. Petersburg, and when the excitement following the perfect verification had barely subsided, D__ , an officer who had served in my father's regiment, came to Tiflis. He had known me as a child of hardly five years old and had played with me, shown me his family portraits, had allowed me to ransack his drawers, scatter his letters, etc., and, amongst other things, had often shown me a miniature upon ivory of an old lady in cap and white curls and green shawl, saying it was his old aunty, and
teasing me, when I said she was old and ugly, by declaring that one day I should be just as old and ugly.
To go through the whole story would be tedious; to make matters short, let me say at once that D__ was Mrs. L__ 's nephew, her sister's son.
Well, he came to see us often (1 was fourteen then) and one day asked for us children to be allowed to visit him in the camp. We went with our governess and, when there I saw upon his writing-table the old miniature of his aunt, my spirit! I had quite forgotten that I had ever seen it in my childhood. I only recognised her as the spirit who for nearly six years had almost nightly visited me and written through me, and I almost fainted. "It is the spirit," I screamed; "It is Mrs. T__ L__ .”
"Of course, it is my old aunt; but you don't mean to say that you have remembered all about your old plaything all these years?" that D** who knew nothing of my spirit writing.
"1 mean to say I see and have seen your dead aunt, if she is your aunt, every night for years; she comes and writes through me."
"Dead?", he laughed. "But she is not dead. I have just received a letter from her from Norway," and he proceeded to give full details as to where she was living, and all about her.
That same day D__ was let into the secret by my aunts, and told of all that had transpired through my mediumship. Never was a man more astounded than was D__ , and never were people more taken aback than were my venerable aunts, Spiritualists, sans le savoir.
It then came out that not only was his aunt not dead, but that her son F__ , the repentant suicide, l'espirit souffrant , had only attempted suicide, had been cured of his wound, and was at the time (and may be to this day) employed in a counting-house in Berlin.
Well then, who or what was the 'intelligence' writing through my hand, giving such accurate details, dictating correctly every word of her petition etc., and yet romancing so readily about her death, his sufferings after
death, etc. etc.? Clearly, despite the full proofs of identity, not the spirits of the worthy Mrs. T__ L__ , or her scapegrace son F__ , since both these were still in the land of the living.
"The evil one," said my pious aunts; "the Devil, of course," bluntly said the priest. Elementaries, some would suppose; but according to what … [one of the Brothers] has told me, it was all the work of my own mind. I was a delicate child. I had hereditary tendencies to extra-normal exercise of mental faculties though, of course, perfectly unconscious then of anything of the kind.
Whilst I was playing with the miniature, the old lady's letters and other things, my fifth principle (call it animal soul, physical intelligence, mind, or what you will) was reading and seeing all about them in the astral light, just as does the mind of a clairvoyant when in sleep. What it so saw and read, was faithfully recorded in my dormant memory although, a mere babe as I was, I had no consciousness of this.
Years after, some chance circumstance, some trifling association of ideas again put my mind in connexion with these long forgotten or rather I should say, never hitherto consciously recognised pictures; and it began one day to reproduce them. Little by little the mind, following these pictures into the astral light, was dragged as it were into the current of Mrs. L__ 's personal and individual associations and emanations; and then, the mediumistic impulse given, there was nothing to arrest it, and I became a medium, not for the transmission of messages from the dead, not for the amusement of elementaries, but for the objective reproduction of what my own mind read and saw in the astral light.
It will be remembered that I was weak and sickly, and that 1 inherited capacities for such abnormal exercise of mind-capacities which subsequent training might develop, but which at that age would have been of no avail, had not feebleness of physique, a looseness of attachment, if I may so phrase it, between the matter and spirit of which we are all composed, abnormally for the time developed them. As it was, as I grew up, and gained
health and strength, my mind became as closely prisoned in my physical frame as that of any other person, and all the phenomena ceased.
How, while so accurate as to so many points, my mind should have led me into killing both mother and son, and producing such orthodox lamentations by the latter over his wicked act of self-destruction, may be more difficult to explain.
But from the first, all around me were impressed with the belief that the spirit possessing me must be that of a dead person, and from this probably my mind took the impression. Who the Lutheran pastor was who had performed the last sad rite, I never knew-probably some name I had heard or seen in some book, in connexion with some death-bed scene, picked out of memory by the mind to fill a gap in what it knew.
Of the son's attempt at suicide, I must have heard in some of the mentally read letters, or have come across it or mention of it in the astral light, and must have concluded that death followed; and since, young as I was, I knew well how sinful suicide was deemed, it is not difficult to understand how the mind worked out the apparently inevitable corollary. Of course, in a devout house like ours, God, the Virgin Mary and Angels were sure to playa part, as these had been ground into my mind from my cradle.
Of all this perception and deception, however, I was utterly unconscious. The fifth principle worked as it listed; my sixth principle, or spiritual soul or consciousness, was still dormant and therefore for me the seventh principle at that time may be said not to have existed. (Neff, pp. 18-22)
This story is important not only as a demonstration of the abilities of a mediumistic person but it shows in a remarkable way how spiritualistic type phenomena can be produced by faculties of the mind, latent and seldom exercised in normal healthy people. It indicates the extraordinary capacities of mind in registering and reproducing facts quite unconsciously. We must wonder how many otherwise remarkable and wonderful psychic happenings are explicable in this way.
Exploring the Great Beyond > Next Page Chapter 13 Psychism and Occultism