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vol. 1, p. 137
from Adyar archives of the International Theosophical Society
vol. 1 (1874-1876)


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< Soul and Spirit (continued from page 1-136) >

It must be remembered that the most gifted of seers, prophets, and mediums, reveal only the things of the spirit. The soul is not to be unveiled nor expressed, save in those deep, yet simple impulses of loving God with all our heart, and our neighbour as ourself. And my divergence from M. A. Oxon is only on his words that the soul is given at incarnation. I rather think it is the object of passing through material existence that the hitherto elementary spirit by alliance with a body of inherited powers of intelligence—should, while without body, generate and develope the higher principle—the immortal soul — so as to attain to what it never before possessed—a death-surviving immortality.


“M.A. Oxon,” writes upon the above subject: — “The short letter in which I attempted to put into precise words the views on this subject which are embodied in Spirit Teachings has called forth several replies. Some of my correspondents discuss elaborately the nature of soul and spirit, even of the Great Spirit Himself; but as they do not define their terms, the result on my mind is to render confusion worse confounded. The letter printed by Mr. Fitz-Gerald suggests the use of ‘spirit’ for what is in my letter called ‘soul.’ There can be no objection, so far as I see, to the use of either word, provided only that care is taken to use it always in the same sense. This is by no means the case in all writers on ‘Scriptural psychology.’ As might be expected from men who had received no exact mental training, they use language more or less loosely. If we had to invent our terminology, it would be well to use some such expressions as ‘physical body,’ ‘spiritual body,’ and ‘soul.’ As most men (I think) understand by soul the immortal principle in man, it seems to be convenient to keep to 'S body,’ ‘spirit,’ ‘ soul,’ remembering that we can only observe the operations of the two former, and that we take the existence of the latter on faith alone.


“Most of my correspondents raise points which either can be settled only by a dogmatic ex cathedra decision, such as no man should venture to give, or are such as transcend human knowledge. Speculation is usually fruitless; but in theology it is positively futile. That which, in the nature of things, is unknowable, and beyond the reach of our faculties in their present stage of development, should surely be left untouched as one of ‘the secret things which belong to the Lord our God,’ which eternity may unravel. Yet such are made the subject of frequent questions to communicating spirits. No matter of what degree of intelligence and progression in the spirit, he is apparently assumed to know all mysteries. The most abstruse questions are propounded, and of course the most foolish and contradictory answers are received.

“Perhaps the spirit has but lately left a bodily life of ignorance and vice, yet he must discourse on philosophies and religious systems, on the nature of God and the mystery of evil. Or he has been cramped all his life within the iron bonds of some form of dogmatic sectarianism, yet he is expected to have thrown aside the character that he has been building up all his life, and to be an impartial revealer of the Eternal Verities. Simply, it cannot be: and to ask such questions is to foster delusion and invite contradiction. As well ask the first farm labourer you meet about the Baconian philosophy, or question a child about metaphysics.

“Among many fruitful causes of error and contradiction in messages that come from the spirit-world to us, I believe this is among the most prolific. I wish I could see any hope of its being diminished.


“A minor error, ending in waste of time and much fruitless ink shed, is to debate such questions as the origin of the soul and its final destiny, at length and with minuteness of detail. Few can put with sufficient precision the ideas which, in dealing with such matters, must almost necessarily be vague. The letter of ‘G. T. C. M.’ is an exception, and deals very precisely with a subject on which few have thought very deeply. Coming from the pen of an old and experienced Spiritualist, who has given much time and thought to the deeper questions which underlie the subject, it is deserving of all attention. If I do not enter on an elaborate discussion of the minute points of difference between the writer and myself, it is only because, not being responsible for the opinions stated in Spirit Teachings, I prefer to seek a reply from the source whence the teaching came. The statements of the Occultists, while in my judgment of great importance, I do not feel competent to defend at length. I know too little as yet, though increasing knowledge shows me much that throws on some problems of Spiritualism a much-needed light. That that light is unwelcome to many is unfortunately true. Exclusive attention to phenomena, and disregard of the philosophy of Spiritualism have produced precisely the effect that might be expected. Men have not learned to “discern spirits.” They see (or think they see) fraud, and they do not hesitate to put it down to the most obvious source—the medium. Doubt and distrust creep in, and the very atmosphere, surcharged with suspicion, invites the presence of suspicious agencies. I believe that we shall never eliminate this source of danger until we learn that much of the fraud comes from the other side, and is directly chargeable on the spirits who communicate. I believe further that one of the most important points to which our attention can be given is to acquire knowledge of the intelligences who do communicate, and of the conditions under which we may secure trustworthy messages from spirits not deceptive and unprogressed. No student of the subject can fail to see that much which now passes under the name of spiritual communication must, if it be indeed spirit message at all, come from a source which is undesirable, or else is distorted in transmission until its value is lost.


“Do all messages come from the ascended spirits of humanity, or are there others who can mock us, play with our vanity, trifle with our curiosity, delude and ‘fool us to the top of our bent?’ Surely this is a question worth asking: and I agree with Mrs. Hardinge-Britten, in the last of her valuable papers on Spiritual Philosophy, quoted from the Banner of Light in the last number of this journal, that it is better to guard against fanaticism and possible delusion than ‘to raise danger signals, and warn off the searching soul from any shore where the results of patient and faithful investigation might enlarge the borders of our spiritual perceptions, and teach us more of what we are, and by whom and what surrounded.’ Those are noble words, worthy of the hand that wrote them.

“The same correspondent whose letter heads this article writes me this: —

Since writing the letter yesterday (on the spur of the moment) reflection has shown me that my little point of difference from you on the soul being given at incarnation, is beside the question now at issue in The Spiritualist, which is on elementary spirits, so that I do not expect you will think of printing my lueubrations. My sister wishes me to tell you that we have had more than one “communication” alluding to these creatures, who are harmless and pleasant as a pet dog or cat, if kept in their proper place, and as troublesome and domineering as a pet animal, if not kept in order. I am greatly interested in the question, and hope it will be carried on in The Spiritualist. Don’t you think this atomic principle as recognised in our physical bodies, is applicable to the now growing psychic body? That both bodies are fluctuating aggregations of atoms, the one of material atoms, the other of thought atoms, the latter forming the spiritual world?

Do look at “The Gnostics,” in The Spectator, for 5th Feb. 1876...

“The Demiurgus was a merely natural (psychic) being, his creature man was a spiritual being....The psychical man is his creature entirely, but that in man which is spiritual belongs to a higher being, and lies in that natural creation awaiting the full development which is to fit it for a higher sphere....Thus man is threefold—an earthly body from the realm of blind matter; a psychic or natural soul (the sole produce of the Demiurgus) and the spiritual principle.”

So the Gnosties made the same distinction that you so clearly made in your letter in the last Spiritualist. To me it seems that in the eternal evolution of “life or spirit,” it progresses through all matter, gaining in its last stage (before it can become human) a certain degree of individuality, so that a personal “Poltergeist,” or individual imp may make itself recognisable to us; it may, and probably does, possess some one human quality—of an inferior type—such as vanity or acquisitiveness. But most of us get on the wrong tack from thinking that we and every other embodiment of life are permanent individualities; whereas we are aggregations of matter and spirit, perpetually fluctuating; soul being the only real individuality, and memory is no proof of individuality, for it is induration on the psychic brain of impressions.

You doubtless have experienced that the soul has no memory; it is knowledge, it is perception. Just as the higher spirits do not talk of feeling happy, they “are a joy.” “I am music now,” said a music-

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