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vol. 3, p. 131
from Adyar archives of the International Theosophical Society
vol. 3 (1875-1878)


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the doctrines attributed to Christ are those of the Essenes, based on the Platonism which entered Judea by Greek influence with the Romans. Like the therapeuta, or later Hermetists, the great principle of his teaching was the subservience of self to the philosophy and science of Esoteric Theosophy.

According to the principles of that system, the apparently miraculous effect attributed to Christ are simply caused by natural laws, unknown to the generality of mankind, but conserved by the Illuminati through ancient days to the present in the mysteries.

Many of these so called miracles narrated by the Evange list, you will doubtless agree did occur, and from his profes sion, Lute, an intelligent physician, would necessarily have been additionally impressed with such as healing the leprous and palsied, and raising the dead by bringing back the spirit before decay had set in,—all of which Theurgists claim are not impossible to adepts.

That the first four books of the New Testament are full of Spiritism, it is needless to add, or bring before you such cases as the casting out of elementary spirits, or Christ's theory of Spirit and the Supreme, which carries out the idea of Tiedemann.

“For if we are candid we must admit that the teachings concerning spirits—demons—and Satan, by Christ, the apostle of the New Testament, even of the whole of the early Chris tians, was no other than the then universally accepted belief of the East, as it had been received in Judea, but modified according to the new belief of the world, and by the magical knowledge of the age.”

Everything connected with Christ being doubtless only too well engraved on your hearts, I shall simply content myself with quoting a few lines on him from Ernest Renan.

“Shall originality be born anew, or shall the world henceforth be content to follow the paths opened by the bold orators of the ancient ages? We know not. But whatever may be the surprises of the future, Jesus will never be surpassed. His worship will grow without ceasing; his legend will call forth tears without end; his sufferings will melt the noblest hearts; all ages will proclaim that among the sons of men there is none born greater than Jesus.”

After Christ’s death, his followers continued in his belief concerning Spiritism; and in the Acts of the Apostles we trace out two nosed occultists, Clymas and Simon Magus, of whom two fathers of the church, Clemens Romanus and Anastatius Sinaita, narrate particulars not generally known.

Other fathers of the church believed in spirital emanation, and that those possessed by elementaries lived in deserts. They also acknowledged their potency; for that exemplary Christian, Constantine, ordered all who invoked spirits to be burnt alive, as an introduction to the more delightful and lasting heat prepared for them in the sulphur and brimstone arrangements.

The absurd stories which the Christian Fathers give us of matters connected with the Unseen Universe, are nearer the ridiculous than the sublime. Tertulliaa says that the 'world is lull of evil spirits, and gives a somewhat risible account of the daughters of men, who married angels, having been taught by them “to dye wool, and to commit the still more fearful offence of painting their faces—for which they had been justly condemned to eternal suffering.”

St. Augustine, in a lengthy and most learned essay, suggests that the angels who had taught them the dreadful crime of using rouge and white lead were possibly Incubi. St. Gregory the Great, in his dialogue, tells us most seriously of a nun in the sixth century, who, having hurriedly eaten some fruit in a garden without making the sign of the cross, had the felicity of swallowing a devil in a lettuce for her pains.

Ancient Theosophy; or Spiritism in the Past

The great difficulty with investigators is in the discrimination of false and true, for superstitious credulity is ready to attribute everything to the impossible and supernatural. Many dreams take place under spirit influence; as, for instance, in the case of Simonides, who, when sleeping, was warned and his life saved by seeing the corpse of a dead per son under peculiar circumstances; and there are hundreds of other cases, of genuine trance visions.

In the face of many media having been caught imposing on the public, the sophistic juggleries of charlatans, and the artfully concocted tales of impecunious adventurers, those who accept Spiritualism to the fullest, which I do not, being simply a Spiritist, or believer in Spirit, it is desirable something should be done, to decide the difference between physical phenomena and those from spirital influence. Simple planchette manifestations, or the taking of plaster casts, may be probably caused by psychometric power, or the secret knowledge of unknown natural principles; at present, if a table has the notion to dance a Highland fling, or an arm-chair an Irish jig, the cry is immediately made, “The Spirital” Study Brewster's “Natural Magic,” and you will find that, by the aid of concave mirrors, “chemical appliances,” pyrotechnic “saturated vapors filtered through funnels, and other apparatus, it is easy to produce forms like that of Pepper’s Ghost, or “dreadful shapes of beings” It is, therefore, absolutely necessary to use the utmost care in testing the conditions, and thoroughly analyzing the pretensions of an experimentizer.

That genuine phenomenal manifestations and materializations have occurred and do occur in our days, none can doubt, after reading the honest and straightforward account of the numberless well-attested cases by persons of responsibility, who have no interested motives to serve.

In the present hostile attitude of Materialist and Spiritualist, misunderstandings appear to multiply. If an eclectic course were taken by both, and an harmonious integraiization arranged by the aid of some broad, co-operative platform, the present bitterness would close, and we should not have theories of re-incarnation and other absurdities vamped up from the writings of ancient authors who only enunciated such ideas speculatively, rather than dogmatically. Will-o’-the wisp ideas, perhaps correct though not proven, fasten like the excrescences grafted on the simple teachings of Christ.

Those who object to Esotericism, or the conservation of the knowledge of occult or hidden forces acting upon the visible and invisible universes, have apparently good grounds of demur. But I do not despair at the objection; for all must agree if the powers attributed to the Theurgists were placed in the hands of the incompetent or criminal, the earth would soon be devastated, and the same picture would be exhibited as that seen in the French Revolution. Here men, acting on stem and grand principles, founded on primitive truths about to have been more or less revealed to those competent, allowed their belief, in an idea like the “Vox Dei, vox Populi,” of Robespierre, to carry riot and bloodshed in its train. Suppose this knowledge were freely handed over to the inhabitants of the Five Points, of Seven Dials in London, of the Quartier du Temple of Paris, or to the unkempt, unclothed multitudes who teem in the lower quarters of European cities, where I have seen law-defying crime stalking unmolested in broad daylight, and imagine the fearful results. Esotericism is necessary, and proves by example the Darwinian law of the Survival of the Fittest.

When I listen to scoffers charging advanced Spiritistic students with endeavoring to retrograde society into the dark ages, I wonder whether such Utopian ideas ever entered their heads. I am confident no such task will be attempted. It would be equally absurd as that of a Swiss peasant stopping an avalanche with a handspike, or of the famed Mrs. Partington bailing out the ocean with a sieve.

It is stated the Esoteric philosophers kept the vulgar utterly ignorant, and in a debased condition. In the face of the discoveries constantly turning up of the remains of olden peoples, of the Greek and Roman law codes, the astronomical erudition, the high cultivation in every department, and, above all, the libraries like that of Alexandria, which displayed the energetic and public spirit of the ancients, we can discern how untruthful is the statement which comes from the mouths of a handful of irreconcilable Comtists, who are unable to show a solitary lyceum, school, or hall on the whole face of the globe. These men talk largely of our getting out of the metaphysical age into the scientific age, as if there had never been a scientific age, as in Egyptian or Hindoo early periods. Verily, it is a scientific age, and only inculcates, apparently, the science by which Whiskey Tammany Rings manipulate the hard-earned money of the people into their own pockets. Yes, it is a scientific age, and words of mine are unable to express the truth so admirably as that of a well-known public man at the recent opening of the Cincinnati Industrial Exhibition, who says:—

“We have at last reached a stage in the experiment of the modern republic when it is necessary to ‘provide things honest in the sight of all men,’ or this great nation about to celebrate its majority in the civic solemnities of the Centennial year—a nation which has Daunted its flag for a hundred years upon every shore and sea where discovery and enterprise have held out their lures; a nation which thus far has had an almost unprecedented history in the triumphs which embellish the annals of life and progress—this American people is now at a juncture which demands the demonstration of virtue in personal character and honesty in business dealing, or it will sink by the dead weight of its own corruption. And there is corruption almost everywhere. People seem to forget that there are such things as principle and honor and confidence. The veil is, month after month, being lifted from before what we supposed were the shrines of integrity to <... continues on page 3-133 >

Editor's notes

  1. Ancient Theosophy; or Spiritism in the Past by Sotheran, Charles, Spiritual Scientist, v. 4, No. 13, June 1, 1876, pp. 148-9