Ancient and Modern Spiritualism Contrasted

By G. de Purucker

Mediumship is not a gift; it is a fatal misfortune. There is nothing known so destructive of spiritual advancement. It dislocates the principles of the inner constitution, increasingly separating the refining influences of the higher self from the lower; so that the mediums' course of destiny is usually from bad to worse; and they are very fortunate indeed if they do not end in black magic. The medium is a helpless instrument under the sway of psychic forces, and is usually unconscious of what he or she does and of what takes place -- a subject of any passing elemental or stream of psychic energy in the astral light, as well as passively subject to any well-directed and concentrated human will.

The mediator, on the other hand, is a fully self-conscious, highly developed intermediary between a spiritual-intellectual power and men. The post is self-chosen, one of high honor yet filled with dangers of its own, and almost always involves self-sacrifice. Furthermore, the mediator is a copy in human life of what certain ones of the higher gods are in the divine realms. They give themselves, that others toiling behind them may be helped. There is the same spiritual and ethical parallel between a mediator and a medium as there is between a white magician and a black one -- between a son of the sun and a child of the moon.

In this connection, we should remember that H.P.B. came to the Western world with instructions to work in and among the particular body of men which would be most likely to respond to the teachings which she was directed to give. These were then the spiritists, who were in some respects among the brightest-minded people of the time, more or less awakened to the possibility of there being in the boundless universe something besides dead, soulless, material existences. She went into their ranks, championed in the public press such truth as she found there. She tried to lead them on to understanding that there was indeed a spiritual world, but that it was far above the astral world; that their summerland was a vague and distorted intuition of the devachan; and that the supposed 'returning spirits' were but the astral simulacra of human beings -- decaying psycho-astral entities utterly unfit to commerce with.

They would not listen to her. Phenomenalism was then rampant. A tipping table, a rapping on the wall or on the table, were to them evidences of the immortality of those who had passed on. The philosophy that she brought they would not accept. So she founded the Theosophical Society as the vehicle to carry into the minds and hearts of men the message of the ancient wisdom-religion. For years the bitterest foes that H.P.B. had were the spiritists. They never could forgive her for leaving their ranks and going about her work. They called it treachery, not understanding the motives and reason for her action.

The attitude of genuine occultism towards the subject of so-called spiritism and the alleged intercourse with excarnate entities is unequivocally stated in certain Tibetan letters and manuscripts quoted by H.P.B. in her article "Tibetan Teachings" (Lucifer, September and October 1894, pp. 15, 98-101).

According to her, the views expressed in the following extracts are those of the Venerable Chohan-Lama, who was "the chief of the Archive-registrars" of the libraries which contain manuscripts on esoteric teachings belonging to the Dalai and Tashi Lamas:

". . . we maintain that there is no possibility of an entirely pure 'self' remaining in the terrestrial atmosphere after his liberation from the physical body, in his own personality, in which he moved upon earth. Only three exceptions are made to this rule:
"The holy motive prompting a Bodhisatwa, a Sravaka, or Rahat to help to the same bliss those who remain behind him, the living; in which case he will stop to instruct them either from within or without; or, secondly, those who, however pure, harmless and comparatively free from sin during their lives, have been so engrossed with some particular idea in connection with one of the human mayas as to pass away amidst that all-absorbing thought; and, thirdly, persons in whom an intense and holy love, such as that of a mother for her orphaned children, creates or generates an indomitable will fed by that boundless love to tarry with and among the living in their inner selves.
"The periods allotted for these exceptional cases vary. In the first case, owing to the knowledge acquired in his condition of Anuttara Samyak Sambodhi -- the most holy and enlightened heart -- the Bodhisatwa has no fixed limit. Accustomed to remain for hours and days in his astral form during life, he has power after death to create around him his own conditions, calculated to check the natural tendency of the other principles to rejoin their respective elements, and can descend or even remain on earth for centuries and millenniums. In the second case, the period will last until the all-powerful magnetic attraction of the subject of the thought -- intensely concentrated at the moment of death -- becomes weakened and gradually fades out. In the third, the attraction is broken either by the death or the moral unworthiness of the loved ones. It cannot in either case last more than a lifetime.
"In all other cases of apparitions or communications by whatever mode, the 'spirit' will prove a wicked 'bhuta' or 'ro-lang' at best -- the soulless shell of an 'elementary.'. . .
"For we deprecate unqualifiedly and absolutely all ignorant intercourse with the Ro-lang. For what are they who return? What kind of creatures are they who can communicate at will objectively or by physical manifestation? They are impure, grossly sinful souls, 'a-tsa-ras'; suicides; and such as have come to premature deaths by accident and must linger in the earth's atmosphere until the full expiration of their natural term of life. . . .
"Now the beings included in the second and third classes -- suicides and victims of accident -- have not completed their natural term of life; and, as a consequence, though not of necessity mischievous, are earth-bound. The prematurely expelled soul is in an unnatural state; the original impulse under which the being was evolved and cast into the earth-life has not expended itself -- the necessary cycle has not been completed, but must nevertheless be fulfilled.
"Yet, though earth-bound, these unfortunate beings, victims whether voluntary or involuntary, are only suspended, as it were, in the earth's magnetic attraction. They are not, like the first class, attracted to the living from a savage thirst to feed on their vitality. Their only impulse -- and a blind one, since they are generally in a dazed or stunned condition -- is, to get into the whirl of rebirth as soon as possible. Their state is that we call a false Bar-do -- the period between two incarnations. According to the karma of the being -- which is affected by his age and merits in the last birth -- this interval will be longer or shorter.
"Nothing but some overpoweringly intense attraction, such as a holy love for some dear one in great peril, can draw them with their consent to the living; but by the mesmeric power of a Ba-po, a necromancer -- the word is used advisedly, since the necromantic spell is Dzu-tul, or what you term a mesmeric attraction -- can force them into our presence. This evocation, however, is totally condemned by those who hold to the Good Doctrine; for the soul thus evoked is made to suffer exceedingly, even though it is not itself but only its image that has been torn or stripped from itself to become the apparition; owing to its premature separation by violence from the body, the 'jang-khog' -- animal soul -- is yet heavily loaded with material particles -- there has not been a natural disintegration of the coarser from the finer molecules -- and the necromancer, in compelling this separation artificially, makes it, we might almost say, to suffer as one of us might if he were flayed alive.
"Thus, to evoke the first class -- the grossly sinful souls -- is dangerous for the living; to compel the apparition of the second and third classes is cruel beyond expression to the dead.
"In the case of one who died a natural death totally different conditions exist; the soul is almost, and in the case of great purity, entirely beyond the necrormancer's reach; hence beyond that of a circle of evokers, or spiritualists, who, unconsciously to themselves, practise a veritable necromancer's Sang-nyag, or magnetic incantation. . . .
"At all events it has neither will nor power at that time to give any thought to the living. But after its period of latency is over, and the new self enters in full consciousness the blessed region of Devachan -- when all earthly mists have been dispersed, and the scenes and relations of the past life come clearly before its spiritual sight -- then it may, and does occasionally, when espying all it loved, and that loved it upon earth, draw up to it for communion and by the sole attraction of love, the spirits of the living, who, when returned to their normal condition, imagine that it has descended to them.
"Therefore we differ radically from the western Ro-lang-pa -- spiritualists -- as to what they see or communicate with in their circles and through their unconscious necromancy. We say it is but the physical dregs, or spiritless remains of the late being; that which has been exuded, cast off and left behind when its finer particles passed onward into the great Beyond.
"In it linger some fragments of memory and intellect. It certainly was once a part of the being, and so possesses that modicum of interest; but it is not the being in reality and truth. Formed of matter, however etherealized, it must sooner or later be drawn away into vortices where the conditions for its atomic disintegration exist. . . .
"Such is the teaching. None can overshadow mortals but the elect, the 'Accomplished,' the 'Byang-tsiub,' or the 'Bodhisatwas' alone -- they who have penetrated the great secret of life and death -- as they are able to prolong, at will, their stay on earth after 'dying.' Rendered into the vulgar phraseology, such overshadowing is to 'be born again and again' for the benefit of mankind."

One sees from all this the folly of believing that the excarnate being can communicate with those he left behind, either through mediums or otherwise. Nevertheless, connection is possible in the case of 'earthbound' entities, such as elementaries, when conditions are appropriate for this very dangerous and spiritually and mentally unwholesome procedure.

Spiritism has been known by mankind for millions of years. Ever since the middle point of the fourth root-race, commerce with departed shades and its connection with so-called psychical powers in man, have always attracted certain types. But throughout all ancient times and in the Orient today, communication with the bhutas has invariably been considered unclean, wrong, morally infectious. This very word bhuta, meaning 'has been,' is a curiously descriptive and apt term. On the other hand, the 'spiritualism' that H.P.B. taught was the doctrine of the cosmic spirit: spiritualism as contrasted with materialism.

True spiritualism has naught to do with necromancy, for the spiritualism of antiquity was the teaching that the world is one vast living organic entity, composed of cosmic spirits, and that every human being is in his inmost such a cosmic spirit, and has the duty and ineffable privilege of entering into communion with the spiritual realms through his own inner god. It was held also that every human being should become a mediator -- one standing as the link between the divine and the lower kingdoms; and further, that every self-conscious entity is great precisely in proportion as he becomes a mediator between the divine sun and human beings.

That, in brief, was the spiritualism of H. P. Blavatsky, the spiritualism of the ancients, the wisdom-religion of mankind, taught by the theodidaktoi -- the 'god-taught' -- of the countries around the Mediterranean Sea about the time of the birth of Jesus the Avatara, and also in the temples of Egypt and Persia and Babylonia. In India it was called the brahma-vidya or, in a more esoteric sense, the gupta-vidya, the theosophy taught also by the Druids, by the ancient Americans and Scandinavians -- taught the world over.

  • (From Fountain-Source of Occultism by G. de Purucker. Copyright © 1974 by Theosophical University Press)

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