Magicians and Mediums
Sir, —The following extract, from an account of Paracelsus in Hallam’s Literary History (vol. iii. p. 398, edit. 1855), appears worth copying into your paper, as bearing upon the connection between magical and medial powers. Although unable to concur in your expressed opinion that the records of magic are resolvable into cases of misunderstood mediumship, I have always suspected that magical powers, so far as the science of the adept is dependent for its application upon the power of his will, are referable to the same abnormal development of the psychic force or body which distinguishes mediums from other persons. Given this material to work with, and the magician simply differs from the medium as having the power, scientific and volitional, of dealing with it himself, instead of yielding it to the manipulations of others (spirits). Like every other natural agent, this astral or psychic body can only be dealt with effectively by one who is acquainted with its properties and powers; but there seems no reason why this knowledge should be unattainable by mediums, if they would only recognize the force as their own, and cease to regard it as merely instrumental to a foreign control. How far the higher precepts of the occultist, if faithfully followed, would avail to develope this abnormal flow of the psychic force in others, not exceptionally gifted with it by nature, is another question; but it is evident that Paracelsus distinctly recognised a peculiarity of constitution as favourable, if not indispensible, to the professors of magic. And, by-the-by, allow me to commend this passage to the notice of the gentleman who, as appears by your leading article of the 7th January, made a fruitless search through the occult writers for anything bearing upon modem Spiritualism: — “Man has a sidereal as well as material body, an astral element, which all do not partake in equal degrees, and therefore the power of magic, which is in fact the power of astral properties, or of producing those effects which the stars naturally produce, is not equally attainable by all."
Speculations about Elementary Spirits, Spiritual Evolution, Reincarnations, Magicians, and Mediums
Sir, —The letter of “M.A. (Cantab)” upon the above topics in your number of the 28th January, has just brought me a communication from a very learned Occultist*, containing what appears to me a more than usually clear and definite statement of the doctrine of spiritual evolution. My correspondent deals also with the question of reincarnation and with the suggestion of “M.A. (Cantab),” that the magician’s will must be associated with medial power. The letters which have appeared in The Spiritualist, testifying to a wide-spread interest in, and curiosity about, these subjects, I make no apology for sending you a long extract from this communication, although I am not at liberty to give the name of the writer. 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.
“He (M.A., Cantab) is right in holding that the elementary represents one of the phases of human beings. No one can understand the Hermetic philosophy without beginning ab initio. The astral light (universal ether) is our starting point. 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 emanations. 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 represent the successive stages of nature’s journey-work in her attempt to produce the most 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. When this double evolution has reached a certain point, it is possible for the third principle to come into the union, that is, the immortal spirit [soul], which makes of man the Triad. As these emanations were given off, so at the proper time they are drawn back again into the vortex of evolution, and the elementary, dying in the astral light, goes to make the human being—the foetus—the grosser portions furnishing the germ of its body, and its finer ones its astral body, the perisprit of Kardec, or the spirit. Then, after the body of the foetus is prepared to receive it, at the fourth hour (read the Nuetemeron of El. Levi) comes in the influx of the Divine breath. You will doubtless observe the analogy between this giving off of astral emanations, their concentration into elementaries, and return to physical nature, and the evaporation of watery vapour, its condensation into clouds, and return to the earth as rain or snow. Modern scientific research demonstrates this ebb and flow of influences and matter to be going on throughout the whole cosmos, and, therefore, unless we were to admit the absurd theory of special creation and miracle, we must see that this philosophy of the evolution of species by flux and reflux from matter to spirit and back again is the only true one; . . . the whole trouble of Kardec, and other reincarnationists, lies in their misunderstanding the hermetic philosophy upon this point. While it is true that there is a reincarnation in one sense, in the other it is untrue. Nay, more, it is absurd and unphilosophical, doing violence to the law of evolution, which is constantly carrying matter and spirit upward towards perfection. When the elementary dies out of one state of existence he is born into a higher one, and when man dies out of the world of gross matter, he is born into one more etherial; so on from sphere to sphere, man never losing his trinity, for at each birth a new and more perfect astral body is evolved out of elementaries of a correspondingly higher order, while his previous astral body takes the place of the antecedent, external earthly body. Man’s soul (or Divine spirit, for you must not confound the Divine with the astral spirit) constantly entering into new astral bodies, there is an actual reincarnation; but that when it has once passed through any sphere into a higher one, it should re-enter the lower sphere and pass through other bodies similar to the one it has just quitted, is as unphilosophical as to fancy that the human foetus could go back into the elementary condition, or the child after birth re-enter its mother’s womb. The eastern Kabbalah embraces the Pythagorean philosophy; the western, or Rosicrucian, did not. But the metempsychosis of Pythagoras was an exoteric expression to cover the esoteric meaning, and his commentators, who had not the key, have misunderstood him as grossly as they have misunderstood everything else written by those of the Neo-Platonics, who, like Porphyry, Iamblicus, and Plotinus, have been adopting and elaborating his precepts. The spirits upon whose communications the reincarnationist school base their theory, have simply given back the opinions which they found in the heads or brains of their mediums and the circle about them. Reincarnationist spirits never insist upon their doctrines to any but reincarnationist mediums, and the troops of soldiers seen about Prince Wittgenstein are simply pretty pictures made in the astral light, for the delectation of those who are ready to gobble them. ‘Cantab’ suggests that the controlling power of the magician cannot produce phenomena unless conjoined with medial power, and this is perhaps the view of Professor Perty. Now, the magician, when he evokes human spirits, furnishes them with such a condition in his own pure atmosphere— a spiritual atmosphere, untainted with gross matter—that they can approach and manifest themselves. The sorcerer, as well as the impure medium, are but necromancers. They are surrounded by such a fetid atmosphere, that only elementary and gross human spirits of their own class—whose very grossness keeps them closely attracted to the earth—can either approach them or be evoked to help them in their wicked designs. Both magician and sorcerer can produce phenomena by the power of their own will and their own spirit, unaided by any other either elementary or human; but the impure medium, who is but the football tossed from one influence to another, can do nothing but passively obey. Pure and sincere-minded people, who accept mediumship for the sake of instruction from superior spirits, keep the elementary at bay by virtue of their own purity, and the pure atmosphere of the spirits surrounding them. And still they cannot call them at will, until they have become adepts of the divine science, and learned to combine the Ineffable Name.”
I am far from laying these views before your readers as free from difficulty. But unless Spiritualists are prepared to deny or disregard the whole philosophy of evolution—in its development the greatest achievement of modern thought—it behoves us to establish relations with it, and to lend a willing ear to any exposition of the correspondence between the physical and spiritual kingdoms in the historical department.
London, 2nd March.
* Poor H.P.B.
- Magicians and Mediums by Massey, C. C. (signed as C. C. M.), London Spiritualist, v. 4, No. 202, July 7, 1876, p. 324
- March 10, here by mistake (Rus.)
- Speculations about Elementary Spirits, Spiritual Evolution, Reincarnations, Magicians, and Mediums by Massey, C. C., London Spiritualist, v. 4, No. 185, March 10, 1876, p. 117
- image by unknown author. photograph of Baron Henry de Palm