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vol. 1, p. 130
from Adyar archives of the International Theosophical Society
vol. 1 (1874-1876)


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< The Evidence in Favor of Future Existence Examined (continued from page 1-129) >

You say, “Intelligence, apart from the animal organism, is manifested, and this is what we call ‘spirit’, and this is what the intelligence itself asserts it to be.” But hold, Mr. Editor. Have you proved that the intelligence thus manifested is “apart from the animal organism”? I claim that you have fallen very far short of this; that the whole grand effort of Spiritualism, ancient as well as modern, to prove the truth of this simple claim, has been ever and only an utter and an entire failure. Farther than this, I claim that whenever you admit the necessity of a human medium for the manifestation of these phenomena, you yourselves adduce the evidence and the strongest possible evidence short of absolute proof, that the intelligence manifested is not thus “apart from the animal organism,” but is wholly dependent upon it, and more or less intimately associated with it.

What, then, will the intelligent utterences by that material form thus improvised, and speaking from either of those platforms, prove? Simply and only this — that there are forces of mind or matter, or both, combined or separate, with which we have never as yet become acquainted. Of the origin and nature of these forces, and the significance of the phenomena, we have yet to learn.

I know there are Spiritualists, as there are Christians, good and noble and true, to whom the above statements will appear profane. But I regard them as true, nevertheless.

Yours for the right,

Elizabeth M. F. Denton.

Wellesley, Mass., March 15th, 1876.

The Mysteries in Spiritual Phenomena

To the Editor of Tic Spiritual Scientist:

Dear Sir: Reading the communication in Spiritual Scientist No. 2, entitled “Mrs. Denton's Tactics,” I am inclined to think that she is correct in her assertion that “materialization is no proof of the presence of some particular spirit friend,” as my investigations—not theories—have forced me to the conclusion that the invisible intelligence or intelligences can and do at will produce forms, visions, and apparitions simulating our departed relatives or friends, which, without the application of rigid tests are liable to deceive us, and even then, we cannot always feel positively certain; for if the invisible power can come in rapport with the investigator so as to read the inmost thoughts of the mind, such answers will be given, in accordance with tests expected, as to almost compel conviction of the reality and truthfulness of the materialization and communication. More especially will this be the case if the investigators are highly imaginative, and giving free rein to their subjective fancies and theories, threw down the safeguards leading to the “interior castle of their souls,” so that stray “spirits” may enter in, take possession, and give back to us only the echo of our own thoughts and ideas. Hence, the just criticism made by skeptics, that at the larger number of seances, we simply get a rehash of our own present knowledge—of that we already know.

Of course, this does not apply universally; for we have abundant evidence on record of communications entirely beyond the comprehension or knowledge of the parties to whom they came. Yet, it is undeniably true that probably a large proportion of the phenomena or communications are simply the reflection of the minds of the audience, or the occult manifestation of this mysterious power and intelligence, without the actual presence of the supposed spirit.

This can be best illustrated by relating an occurrence at our private circle. Here it may be proper to state that our circle was originated for the purpose of investigating these spiritual phenomena—to prove, if possible, the truth of Spiritualism, or follow and accept the result of our investigations whichever way truth should decide. We endeavor to divest ourselves of bias and prejudice for or against the cause, and accept nothing on faith, determined to prove fully every manifestation given. Our circle is composed of seven persons, four ladies and three gentlemen.

A young man, a traveling salesman, resided at the home of some of the lady members, going out on trips through the country, extending usually through two or three weeks. During his spare time in the city he became interested in the spiritualistic manifestations, but stoutly declared that some day they would all be explained as the mysterious workings of our own unfolding wills, and spiritual faculties and powers. On New Year's day he started on a three weeks’ trip, in perfectly good health and spirits. The week after his departure, while we were quietly seated in our circle, our lady clairvoyant suddenly exclaimed, much to our surprise and consternation, “Why, here comes Mr. — (the young man). Now, he stands in the centre of the table, and says he is dead, and gives bis name correctly Mr. —, and says he died the first week out from home, of pneumonia.”

We said it was impossible, as he left home perfectly well, but he again declared it was true, and reaffirmed his statements by communicating to us through the table independent of the clairvoyant vision. We asked the medium if she saw him distinctly; she replied, “As distinctly as ever in life.” We then asked for some tests of his personal identity, which he declined to give, and seemed angry that we doubted his word and appearance. We told him that he was skeptical when on this side, and that he should not blame us for demanding tests to satisfy us of the vision and communication.

He then replied that he died on Tuesday in the country, but would not tell us whereabouts in the country. We used every means to get him to answer our questions, yet there he stood in the centre of the table, constantly reiterating that he was dead, but refusing to give jury particulars. Finally, as he was so stubborn and angry at our refusal to accept his statement, we asked him to give way that other “spirits” might come to the table and manifest. This he refused to do, and stoutly held his position against all our entreaties. We invoked our “spirit friends” to aid us in getting control of the power, but unavailingly—and, finally were compelled to adjourn as we could not dispel the Influence.

These ladies held private sittings at their houses, only to be haunted by the same apparition and similar communications.

The following week he came again to our circle, and substantially repeated the performance of the week previous. From the persistency of the vision or spirit form, we began to think that possibly the story might be true, more especially as nothing had been heard from him.

Time rolled on; five or six weeks elapsed, and no news from the young man, so that we concluded that it must be true, and wrote letters to different points to enquire about him. More mysterious still, we could get no clue as to his prolonged absence. Mr. Charles Foster, the celebrated medium, coming to the city, the ladies visited him to settle their doubts. Sure enough, the apparition came again, and reiterated the former story. The ladies then told Mr. Foster the history of the case, when he assured them that he was certainly dead, or he could not have appeared there. This seemed to settle the case.

But, lo, and behold, one morning a letter was received from him in the far West, stating that business had taken him further out than usual, besides which he had been snow bound and unable to send any word to explain his prolonged stay. Still more singular, he has not yet returned, or given any satisfactory explanation of his continued silence beyond the general explanation of snow-bound and business.

The letter is unquestionably from him. His employers have likewise had business letters, showing conclusively that he is still living. Yet an exact double of himself has twioe visited our circle, repeatedly other private sittings, and finally Mr. Charles Foster, in each case affirming and reaffirming his former statements. Yet the young man is still in the flesh!

Our Spiritualistic friends will say this was the work of; Diakkas or evil spirits. Possibly; yet the fact remains that the young man was perfectly simulated by the invisible intelligences, almost, if not quite, defying our closest scrutiny. The image was perfect, sufficient, if appearances could decide, to settle the vexed question that he was really dead, — but, lo, he liveth still, to prove “that things are not what they seem,” and that we are surrounded by invisible intelligences, and powers other than human, and that full oft lead the unreflecting and ignorant astray; landing them in the wilderness of doubt, darkness and despair. Practical experiments and close, patient, thorough investigation, will alone clear the way and lift the clouds veiling a beautiful truth. Fine-spun theories may be beautiful, out amount to nothing as proof. “Prove all things, hold fast to that which is good.”

B. E. H.

Cincinnati, O.

A Theory of Spiritual Evolution


No one can understand the Hermetic philosophy without beginning at initio. The astral light (universal ether) is our starting point. If the reader, unlearned in the terminology of the occult writers, will interpret the “astral light,” to which allusion is more than once made, into the “universal ether” postulated by modern science, I think there is little else that requires explanation to be, at all events, intelligible. It is not to the purpose to go behind the operative activity of the law of evolution for its cause; that is a separate branch of metaphysics. Let us take the principle of cosmogony admitted by science, viz., that the visible universe is the result of aggregations of molecules caused by evolution’ Every molecule has its inherent energy, and is thereby forced into each successive relationship as it passes through the mineral, vegetable and animal kingdoms. The Hermetist, who sees with both eyes instead of with one only, observes that each atom, no matter where found, is Imbued with that vital principle called spirit. Thus each grain of sand, equally with each minutest atom of the human body, has its inherent latent spark of the Divine light; and as one law of evolution applies to the whole universe, so each of these grains of sand will assuredly one day go to make up the body of man.

In the progress of these atoms, from the primitive rock to the human being, there is a constant giving off of astral ema nations. These go into the common store-house of nature, the astral atmosphere of our planet. The same law following them here, these emanations have a tendency to assume concrete forms. Exactly as the fishes of different species rep resent the successive stages of nature's journey work in her attempt to produce the moss perfect piscatorial form, so the multifarious forms of the elementary mark her attempts to produce the perfect and concrete physical man. This implies an evolution of spirit keeping pace with the evolution of matter, and a constant tendency of the spirit to gain ascendency over, or rather to escape from, the bondage of its encompassing matter.

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Editor's notes

  1. The Mysteries in Spiritual Phenomena by unknown author (signed as B.E.H.), Spiritual Scientist, v. 4, No. 5, April 6, 1876, p. 56
  2. A Theory of Spiritual Evolution by Massey, C. C., Spiritual Scientist, v. 4, No. 5, April 6, 1876, pp. 56-7