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vol. 3, p. 58
from Adyar archives of the International Theosophical Society
vol. 3 (1875-1878)


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Ghost Land; or Researches into the Mysteries of Occultism. Illustrated by a series of Autobiographical sketches. By the author of “ Art Magic,” with extracts from the records of “ Magical Séances.” Translated and edited by Emma Hardinge Britten. Boston: Sold at the Banner of Light office.

This is a singular book, in more respects than one, and has a fascinating interest for all persons who have investigated Spiritualism, and the Science of life generally, without prejudice. The story of it may be briefly stated as follows: The son of a Hungarian nobleman who was an officer in the British East Indian service, is sent to Germany to be educated. While in a University one of the professors shows a great friendship for him. This professor, called Von Marx, is a student of occultism, and belongs to a club affiliated with others in various parts of the world who practice magic arts which have come down to them from the philosophers and students of old. They are materialists, and do not believe at all in immortality, and are more or less ascetics in their lives. They seem to seek power and influence for the gratification of their own selfishness, curiosity, etc., and not for any benefit they may do to their race. They had taken up mesmerism as one of their arts and practiced it in their séances, not, however, as anything more than a species of magnetism. While they sought out sensitive subjects and used them for various purposes, calling them “ flying souls ” when sent by the influence of the magnetizer to investigate matters at a distance, they would not allow that there was a really immortal soul, or spirit, which survived the body after death, except for a short period. The young student shows himself a sensitive subject, and his friend, Professor Von Marx, takes him to his club and uses him, while in the magnetic state, for various occult practices, until his fame as a “ sensitive ” becomes known to all clubs affiliated with the “ Berlin Brotherhood,” that being the name which is given to the Society. Persons who have read some of Bulwer’s later novels will recognize such a similarity in some of the scenes he gives and those related in this work as will lead them to believe that Bulwer was a student of occultism. Professor Von Marx had parted from his wife, but the affection he bad felt for a son who died young seemed to have descended to this young " sensitive,” whom he in a measure adopts, with the consent of the father in India. After the young man has grown up he accompanies the Professor to England, where they visit a club affiliated with the Berlin Brotherhood. The various adventures of the Professor and his student, how they visit Scotland and deliver a church from the torments of evil spirits who had obsessed the majority of the congregation; live in a Gypsy camp, etc., are all told with sufficient detail to he deeply interesting and realistic. The Professor leaves his student in the Gypsy camp and visits London, where he dies, or, as it is related, gives up his own life in order that his adopted son may be strengthened,the mesmeric practices to which he bad been subjected having weakened him. About the time of these occurrences the stories of spiritual circles in America have become current in England, and a friend of Professor Von Marx, an associate in the Brotherhood, to whose care he had bequeathed the young student, finally resorts to a spiritual circle in his own family to remove the obsession which has come over his young ward after the death of Von Marx.

But we cannot find space to brief the whole of this work, and will close with some quotations showing the conclusions reached by the student and spiritual medium, as the sum of his studies under Indian magi, etc.

Quoting from page 317, we find him asserting what maybe called the foundation of Darwinism:

“ The link of connection between spirit and matter is force, and the exhibition of force is motion in all its infinite varieties. To sum up briefly the order of existence as it has been shown to me, I commence with realms of pure spiritual life, endless in number, infinite in extent, where spiritual essences dwell—beings without passions, vices, or virtues, the Adams and Eves of inconceivable paradises, whose genius is INNOCENCE. Incapable of growth or progress until they have become incarnated in matter and individualized by experience, these spiritual essences are attracted to material earths, where they become the germ-seed of human souls by running an embryotic race through the elements and all the different grades of matter.

Thus the seed of soul-existence is planted in that diffused state of matter known as gas or air; in that condition of combustion known as fire; in the fluidic state recognized as water; in the solids called generically the earth. It also assimilates to the separate parts of earth, such as rocks, stones, crystals, gems, plants, herbs, flowers, trees, and all the grades of the animal kingdom: in short, through all tonal varieties of Nature. In these successive states spirits are born through the mold of a rudimental form of matter; they grow, die, become spirits, are again attracted to earths, where they are incarnated, by virtue of a previous progress, into a higher state of being than they formerly occupied. Their bodies are composed of matter, it is true, but matter in conditions so embryotic and unparticled as to be invisible to mortal eyes, except through occasional clairvoyance; and yet they occupy space, and live in grades of being appropriate to their stage of progress.

These grades of being are realms which inhere in matter, permeating its every space and particle; in fact, the life of the ELEMENTARIES, as these embryotic spirits are called, is the life-principle of matter, the cause of motion, and that FORCE which scientists affirm to be an attribute of matter. In hundreds of clairvoyant visits made by my spirit to the country of the elementaries, it was given me to perceive that their collective life-principle, that which clothes their spirits, and forms their rudimental bodies, is in the aggregate the life-principle of the earth and all that composes it, or that mysterious realm of FORCE, which, as above stated, is erroneously supposed to be a mere attribute of matter. Again and again it has been shown me how the germ of soul, through an infinite succession of births, lives, deaths, and incarnations in elementary existence, at last attains to that final spiritual state from whence it becomes for the last time attracted to matter, and is born into the climax of material existence, MANHOOD. The progress of spirit through the conditions of elementary being has been explained to me as correspondential to the subsequent embryotic periods of human gestation. As an elementary it progresses through the matrix of nature. As a human being it is subject to a much shorter but perfectly analogous progress through the matrix of human maternity. The one is necessary to the growth and individualization of an immortal spirit; the other to the growth and individualization of a mortal body, in which the spirit's final career through matter is effected. The two states are so perfectly analogous that when, after some years of clairvoyant practices amongst the Berlin Brotherhood, Prof. Von Marx subjected me to a course of study in anatomy and medicine, I was enabled to point out to him, in the different stages of growth attained by the human fœtus, the most perfect analogies with similar stages of being amongst the elementaries.”

The following are from his adventures in India, and tell how a few so-called jugglers perform their wonders; also the powers of will exerted by certain person

“My first step was to secure the services of two of the most accomplished as well as respectable members of the fakir fraternity, and having taken all the available means at command to attach them to my interest, not forgetting to separate them from each other, so as to avoid the possibility of collusion or a systematic attempt to deceive me, I had opportunity enough to observe many of the most astounding evidences of the power these men possessed, as well as to analyze at leisure their claims for its origin. In each case, as well as in numerous others, where incredible feats of preternatural wonder were exhibited, the fakirs assured me the pitris, or ancestral spirits, were the invisible wonder-workers. Again and again they protested they could do nothing without the aid of these spiritual allies. Their own agency in the work, they gave me to understand, consisted in preparing themselves for the service of the pitris. They alleged that the material body was only a vehicle for the invisible soul, the spiritual or astral clothing of which was an element evidently analogous to the ‘ spiritual body ’ of the apostle Paul, the ‘ magnetic body ’ or ‘ life principle ’ of the spiritists, the ‘ astral spirit ’ of the Rosicrucians, and the ‘ atmospheric spirit ’ of the Berlin Brotherhood. This element the Hindoo and Arabian ecstatics termed AGASA, or the life-fluid. They said, that in proportion to the quantity and potency of agasa in the system, so was the power to work marvels by the aid of spirits. Spirits, they added, used agasa as their means of coming in contact with matter, and when it was abundant and very powerful, the invisibles could draw it from the bodies of the ecstatics and perform with it feats only possible to themselves and the gods. ‘ Mutilate the body, lop off the limbs, if you will,’ said a Brahmin, whom I had also enlisted in my service as a teacher of occultism, ‘ and with a sufficient amount of agasa, you can instantaneously heal the wound. Agasa is the element which keeps the atoms of matter together; the knife or sword severs it, the fire expels it from its lodgement in those atoms; put the agasa back to the severed or burned parts before they have bad time to fester or wither, and the parts must reunite and become whole as before. ‘ It is by virtue of agasa that the seed germinates in the ground and grows up to be a tree, with leaves, fruit and flowers. Pour streams of agasa on the seed, and you quicken in a minute what would else, with less of the life-fluld, occupy a month to grow. Charges tones or other inanimate objects with agasa drawn from a human body, and spirits can make such objects move, fly, swim, or travel hither and thither at will; in short, it is through the power of agasa—by which I mean FORCE, the LIFE of things—that all the most intelligent Hindoos with whom I studied, insisted that preternatural marvels could be wrought, always adding, however, that pitris must assist in the operation first, because their spiritual bodies were all agasa, and next, because they had a knowledge of this great living force and how to apply it, which they could not communicate to mortals.

The methods of initiation into these wonder-working powers were, I was assured, asceticism, chastity, frequent ablutions, long fasts, seasons of profound abstraction, a spirit exalted to the contemplation of Deity, heaven and heavenly things, and a mind wholly sublimated from earth and earthly things. By these processes, it was claimed, the body would become subdued, and the quantity of agasa communicated through the elements and by favor of the gods, would be immensely increased. It would also be more readily liberated, and under the control of spiritual agencies. ‘ Behold me !’ cried one of my instructors on a certain occasion. ‘ I am all agasa. This thin film of matter wherewith I am covered, these meshes of bone that form my framework of life, are they not fined away to the tenuity of the elements? They hinder not my flight through space, neither can they bind me to the earth I am casting off. ’ He proved the truth of his boast by springing upwards from the ground which he spurned with his feat, when lo ! he ascended into mid-air, and whilst his, e..tanced eyes were rolled upwards; and his lean, rigid arms and thin hands were clapsed in ecstasy above his head, he continued to soar away nearly to the roof of the vast temple in which we were.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

The rationale of magic is WILL or psychology; the success of psychology or the operation of WILL depends upon the entire absence of intervening obstacles. Thus, if you will a thought to reach another at any distance, long or short, your thought will surely reach its object, provided it encounters no psychological obstacle more potent than itself. Man possesses inherently the power to effect any phenomenon in or upon matter that spirits can do, provided h..itual forces encounter no cross currents of magnetism, no opposing lines of force. The potencies of will have been exalted, known, felt, and practiced by the mystics, magians, seers, and prophets of all ages. Why WILL ever fails to accomplish its ends, arises from the tact that thousands, perhaps millions, of other wills are traversing space in opposing lines and contrary currents, and so the force of one will, which might else prove irresistible if directed under carefully arranged conditions and suffered to operate unhindered upon its object, becomes thwarted, and a single failure of this kind will be immediately quoted as an illustration of the hollow pretensions which psychologists make for the sovereign potency of WILL.”

In consequence of his marriage, which took place on a sudden, to protect and save a young daughter of one of his mystic brothers from the machinations of a wicked woman, he was compelled to give up his most powerful societies and studies requiring the most perfect chastity and asceticism, and content himself with his knowledge previously gained.—Saratoga, N. Y., Sentinel;

Sunday Morning, June 17, 1877.

Among the Trees

[From the National Repository for July.]

Oh ye who love to overhang the springs,
And stand by running waters: ye, whose boughs
Make beautiful the rocks o'er which they play;
Who pile with foliage the great hills, and rear
A paradise upon the lonely plain—
Trees of the forest and the open field!
Have ye no sense of being?
Does the air,
The pure air, which I breathe with gladness, pass
In gushes o'er your delicate lungs, your leaves,
All unenjoyed? When on your winter-sleep
The sun shines warm, have you no dreams of spring?
And, when the glorious Spring-time comes at last,
Have ye no joy of all your bursting buds,
And fragrant blooms, and melody of birds
To which your young leaves shiver?
Do ye strive
And wrestle with the wind, yet know it not?
Feel ye no glory in your strength when he,
The exhausted Blusterer, flies beyond the hills,
And leaves you stronger yet? Or have ye not
A sense of loss when he has stripped your leaves,
Yet tender, and has splintered your fair boughs?
Does the loud bolt that smites you from the cloud,
And rends you, fall unfelt?
Do there not run
Strange shudderings through your fibres when the axe
Is raised against you, and the shining blade
Deals blow on blow, until, with all their boughs,
Your summits waver, and ye fall to earth?
Know ye no sadness when the hurricane
Has swept the wood, and snapped its sturdy stems
Asunder, or has wrenched from out the soil
The mightiest with their circles of strong roots
And piled the ruin all along his path?

Nay, doubt we not that under the rough rind,
In the green veins of these fair growths of earth,
There dwells a nature that receives delight
From all the gentle processes of life,
And shrinks from loss of being. Dim and faint
May be the sense of pleasure and of pain,
As in our dreams; but, haply, real still.

Our sorrows touch you not. We watch beside
The beds of those who languish or who die,
And minister in sadness, while our hearts
Offer perpetual prayer for life and ease
And health to the beloved sufferers.
But yet, while anxious fear and fainting hope
Are in our chambers, ye rejoice without.
The funeral goes forth; a silent train
Moves slowly from the desolate home; our hearts
Are breaking as we lay away the loved,
Whom we shall see no more, in their last rest—
Their little cells within the burial place.

Ye have no part in this distress; for still
The February sunshine steeps your boughs
And tints the buds and swells the leaves within
While the song-sparrow warbling from her perch.
Tells you that spring is near.
The wind of May
Is sweet with breath of orchards, in whose boughs
The bees and every insect of the air
Make a perpetual murmur of delight,
And by whose flowers the humming-bird hangs poised
In air, and draws their sweets and darts away,
The linden, in the fervors of July,
Hums with a louder concert.
When the wind
Sweeps the broad forest in its summer prime,
As when some master-hand exulting sweeps
The keys of some great organ, ye give forth
The music of the woodland depths, a hymn
Of gladness and of thanks.

The hermit thrush
Pipes his sweet note to make your arches ring;
The faithful robin, from the way-side elm,
Carols all day to cheer his sitting mate,
And when the autumn comes, the kings of earth,
In all their majesty, are not arrayed
As ye are, clothing the broad mountain side
And spotting the smooth vales with red and gold.
While, swaying to the sudden breeze, ye fling
Your nuts to earth, and the brisk squirrel comes
To gather them, and barks with childish glee,
And scampers with them to his hollow oak.

Thus, as the seasons pass, ye keep alive
The cheerfulness of Nature, till in time
The constant misery which wrings the heart
Relents, and we rejoice with you again,
And glory in your beauty; till once more
We look with pleasure on your varnished leaves,
That gaily glance in sunshine, and can hear,
Delighted, the soft answer which your boughs
Utter in whispers to the babbling brook.

Ye have no history. I cannot know
Who, when the hill-side trees were hewn away,
Haply two centuries since, bade spare this oak,
Leaning to shade, with his irregular arms,
Low-bent and long, the fount that from his roots
Slips through a bed of cresses toward the bay,
I know not who, but thank him that he left
The tree to flourish where the acorn fell,
And join these later days to that far time
While yet the Indian hunter drew the bow
In the dim woods, and the white woodman first
Opened these fields to sunshine, turned the soil
And strewed the wheat. An unremembered past
Broods, like a presence, mid the long gray boughs
Of this old tree, which has outlived so long
The flitting generations of mankind.

Ye have no history. I ask in vain
Who planted on the slope this lofty group
Of ancient pear-trees that with spring-time burst
Into such breadth of bloom. One bears a scar
Where the quick lightning scored its trunk, yet still
It feels the breath of Spring, and every May
Is white with blossoms. Who it was that laid
Their infant roots in earth, and tenderly
Cherished the delicate sprays, I ask in vain,
Yet bless the unknown hand to which I owe
This annual festival of bees, these songs
Of birds within their leafy screen, these shouts
Of joy from children gathering up the fruit
Shaken in August from the willing boughs.

Ye that my hands have planted or have spared,
Beside the way, or in the orchard-ground,
Or in the open meadow ; ye whose boughs
With every Summer spread a wider shade,
Whose herd in coming years shall lie at rest
Beneath your noontide shelter,—who shall pluck
Your ripened fruit? Who, grave, as was the wont
Of simple pastoral ages, on the rind
Of my smooth beeches some beloved name?

Idly I ask ; yet may the eyes that look
Upon you in your later, nobler growth
Look also on a nobler age than ours—
An age when, in the eternal strife between
Evil and good, the Power of Good shall win
A grander mastery ; when kings no more
Shall summon millions from the plough to learn
The trade of slaughter, and of populous realms
Make camps of war ; when in our younger land
The hand of ruffian Violence, that now
Is insolently raised to smite, shall fall
Unnerved before the calm rebuke of law,
And Fraud, his sly confederate, shrink in shame
Back to his covert, and forego his prey.


Editor's notes

  1. Literary by unknown author (signed as Saratoga, N. Y., Sentinel)
  2. Among the Trees by Bryant, W. C. (signed as William Cullen Bryant), Buffalo Courier, Sunday Morning. From the National Repository for July
  3. image by unknown author. Child