AS may well be supposed, it was with a deeper sense, if possible, than ever of the reality of our work and the gravity of our responsibility that we settled down to the long and arduous task before us. Three things especially were made clear to us. One, that no experience was to be withheld which, by initiating us into the mysteries of man’s spiritual nature, would qualify us to speak with authority concerning it. Another, that neither principalities nor powers, nor rulers of the darkness, whether of this world or of any other, not even the “gates of hell” itself, would be suffered to prevail against us. And the third, that the work to be done by us must first be done in us, and to that end we must endure without flinching every ordeal that might be imposed, never doubting that they who had us in their keeping would bring us safely through it. Purification and intensification of consciousness and will – these were the supreme means to the end in view – the unfoldment of the understanding and the exaltation of the perceptive point of the mind to the highest level of thought. Thus pondering one day, and wondering how far the Revelators and Redeemers of old had experiences corresponding to ours, it was said to my inner hearing, “Hermes is the trainer of the Christs.” The utterance was the first intimation given directly to myself of the transcendental nature of the principle thus designated, and proved to possess a significance far beyond my appreciation at the time.
The Soul and How it Found Me had duly made its appearance, in a cover bearing appropriate symbols, towards which Mary contributed, at my desire, the drawing of a tree shaped and foliaged to represent a cross, and growing out of the sea, with a rising sun on the obverse. The reception of the book was such as to show us that, many as there might be, and undoubtedly
were, of persons ripe and eager for precisely such a record of actual experiences as it contained, it was impossible to reach them in face of a Press which, whether secular or religious, was intensely materialistic, and resolutely bent on ignoring and suppressing whatever militated against its cherished hypotheses and traditions. It served, nevertheless, one of the ends I had in view, as a record by the way of a work actually begun, of which much might be anticipated by the percipient few into whose hands it fell; and from these I received acknowledgments as warm as I could have hoped and desired, some of which are worthy of preservation, if only as showing that even in the darkest of times there is always a band of the faithful who have not bowed the knee to the Baal of materialism. The following is an extract from one esteemed far and wide for the depth and soundness of his thought and his power of spiritual insight, Charles Carleton Massey, the “C.C.M.” so well known to the real thinkers of the age. He had long preceded me in the recognition of the reality of the spiritual world, and of the experiences called spiritualistic, and had given me valuable counsel in relation thereto, urging me not to be dissuaded by any amount of fraud or failure that I might encounter in the investigation, but to keep an open mind, and wait patiently until the requisite evidences should be vouchsafed. Meanwhile he himself was absolutely assured on the subject.
“DEAR MR. MAITLAND, – I hope you will not think me intrusive if I venture to express the pleasure and admiration with which I have been perusing your late book, The Soul and How it Found Me. The admiration is personal, for only the highest quality of unselfish courage could have enabled one of your literary position and reputation to put forth to the world such avowals; and it extends to the book, which is the most explicit republication of a pure and spiritual philosophy that we have had from the Press in my time. I read with disgust and indignation, though without surprise, the A–– review of your book. The shallow materialism of the age can only justify itself in the face of such thoughts and facts as yours by insolence, suppressions, and falsifications, and by the invariable assumption that every supersensuous experience is indicative of insanity. As you say, ‘though pretending to rest upon experience, the schools have eliminated every fact in experience that cannot be reconciled with a materialistic hypothesis.’”
A review from his pen appeared in The Spiritualist, which contained the following paragraphs: –
“The facts recorded are of transcendent interest, some of them being strikingly and profoundly suggestive. (...) No description can do anything like justice to its force and impressiveness. (...) Of its force and lucidity no isolated passages can give an adequate impression. From the vulgar critics who ascribe every supersensuous experience to morbid conditions the author can expect only misrepresentation and insult. All the more cordial and prompt should be the expressed sympathy of the better informed with the accomplished scholar whose high quality of unselfish courage has given the avowals contained in this remarkable volume to a hostile public.”
This also, from a lady, is worth preserving for the reasons already stated: –
“SIR, – As a reader of your last two books, England and Islam and The Soul and How it Found Me, I trust you will not think me an intruder in writing to thank you for thus boldly recording your very interesting and marvellous spiritual baptism. Having been for sixteen years a spiritualist, by personal experience, and a student of Boehme and Swedenborg, I can in a measure enter into the enthusiasm of your books, and feel a certain sympathy with your union with Hermes or the Baptist who has rekindled you with that spirit and power of Elias, in whose might he came to prepare the way of the Highest. I, too, have known what it is to be lifted up in the spirit, and to wait and watch like Simeon for the coming of One who is to dry up earth’s dews and unchain earth’s icicles, ere the world could see the Radiant One and recognise the Beautiful, even the Divine Love and Wisdom. (...) I rejoice to find you have been selected and trained as an instrument to declare that the Almighty is a Duality in Unity, and that every individual is a microcosm in the image of the Divine Dual Nature. Many great thinkers and writers have declared this, but their glasses have become misty and otherwise unadapted for modern short sight, and hence the need that spectacles suited to modern sight should be prepared for people. May their eyes be opened to see clearly through the glasses you have made! (...) But I will add no more than to say that I send this only with the hope you may feel that there are some in the world who appreciate your acknowledgment of the Baptism that has been given you, and to thank you for declaring it.”
Although my book had not been written with a commercial intent, its utter failure in this respect – following, as it had done, upon the collapse of my fortunes already mentioned – was not unaccompanied by a sense of disappointment, if only for the sake of my dear colleague, who, out of consideration partly for her family and partly for me, had imposed on herself a scale of living which involved privations which her delicacy of constitution rendered her ill able to bear. And hence it was that I sought to mitigate the rigour of our domestic and other economies by endeavouring to finish the tale I had begun some time
previously, and which she and our “genii” were so desirous that I should complete. It proved, however, when I turned to it, that our work was now at a stage when such diversion of my faculties was deemed unadvisable. This it was at first sought to impress upon me by rendering me keenly alive to the conviction that, strive how I might, no romance that I could devise or incidents I could invent would compare in strangeness and interest with the life I was actually living; and, next, by the total withdrawal of power whenever I set myself to the task. I had not, however, fully reconciled myself to the loss of my earning power, or resolved to refrain from the attempt to write something that, while on a high level in respect both of substance and form, would not be incompatible with mundane ends, when the question was finally settled for me by the following experience: –
“I had gone to bed, but not to sleep, for thinking over the matter, when I became aware of the presence of a group of spiritual influences, one of whom, speaking for them all, said to me, in tones audible only to the inner hearing, but distinct, measured, and authoritative: ‘We whom you know as the Gods – Zeus, Phoibos, Hermes, and the rest – are actual celestial personalities, who are appointed to represent to mortals the principles and potencies called the Seven Spirits of God. We have chosen you for our instrument, and have tried you and proved you and instructed you; and you belong to us to do our work and not your own, save in so far as you make it your own. Only in such measure as you do this will you have any success. For you can do nothing without us now; and it is useless for you to attempt to do anything without our help.’”
Mary found herself similarly baffled when, having, partly from motives of economy, dismissed her governess, she once more endeavoured to teach her child herself. An insuperable barrier was raised between them, every attempt at tuition resulting in disappointment and distress to both parties – to say nothing of the onlooker, myself – utterly spoiling the rest of the day and unfitting her for her own studies. As it had been with me, so was it now with her. She was not permitted to expend herself in doing what was not absolutely indispensable to our appointed work. And an alternative course was accordingly indicated in the following nocturnal experience, which, although it is included in Dreams and Dream-Stories, where it is entitled “The Difficult Path,” I reproduce here in order to interpret its mystical allusions: –
“Having fallen asleep last night (1) while in a state of great perplexity about the care and education of my daughter, I dreamt as follows: –
“I was walking with the child along the border of a high cliff, at the foot of which was the sea. The path was exceedingly narrow, and on the inner side was flanked by a line of rocks and stones. The outer side was so close to the edge of the cliff that she was compelled to walk either before or behind me, or else on the stones. And, as it was unsafe to let go her hand, it was on the stones that she had to walk, much to her distress. I was in male attire, and carried a staff in my hand. She wore skirts and had no staff; and every moment she stumbled or her dress caught and was tom by some jutting crag or bramble. In this way our progress was being continually interrupted and rendered almost impossible, when suddenly we came upon a sharp declivity leading to a steep path which wound down the side of the precipice to the beach below. Looking down, I saw on the shore beneath the cliff a collection of fishermen’s huts, and groups of men and women on the shingle, mending nets, hauling up boats, and sorting fish of various kinds. In the midst of the little village stood a great crucifix of lead, so cast in a mould as to allow me, from the elevated position I occupied behind it, to see that, though in front it looked solid, it was in reality hollow. As I was noting this, a voice of someone close at hand suddenly addressed me; and on turning my head I found standing before me a man in the garb of a fisherman, who evidently had just scaled the steep path leading from the beach. He stretched out his hand to take the child, saying he had come to fetch her, for that in the path I was following there was room only for one. ‘Let her come to us,’ he added; ‘she will do very well as a fisherman’s daughter.’ Being reluctant to part with her, and not perceiving then the significance of his garb and vocation, I objected that the calling was a dirty and unsavoury one, and would soil her hands and her dress. Whereupon the man became severe, and seemed to insist with a kind of authority upon my acceptance of his proposition. The child, too, was taken with him, and was, moreover, anxious to leave the rough and dangerous path; and she accordingly went to him of her own will, and, placing her hand in his, left me without any sign of regret, and I went on my way alone. Then lifting my eyes to see whither my path led, I beheld it winding along the edge of the cliff to an apparently endless distance, until, as I gazed steadily on the extreme limit of my view, I saw the grey mist from the sea here and there break and roll up into great masses of slow-drifting cloud, in the intervals of which I caught the white gleam of sunlit snow. And these intervals continually closed up to open again in fresh places higher up, disclosing peak upon peak of a range of mountains of enormous altitude.”
By the hills and snowy peaks in this vision, and the difficult path which led thereto, were denoted the pure heights of spiritual attainment, variously called in Scripture the “Holy Hill of the Lord,” the “Mount of God,” “Ararat,” “Sinai,” “Sion,” the
“Mount of Regeneration,” and other names, meaning the summit of one’s own spiritual nature, the ascent to which, as involving renunciation, toil, and suffering, is called “The Way of the Cross” and “The Path in the Midst of the Wilderness.” In the description of the crucifix as solid when viewed in front and from a low level, but hollow as seen from a position elevated and in the rear, we recognised a subtle application of the utterance contained in the illumination which interprets the “Immaculate Conception,” that which declares the purely spiritual nature of religious truth and the falsehood of any physical application of Scripture and dogma. For it implied that the efficacy of the crucifixion lay, not in the suffering and death of the man crucified, but in the spiritual self-renunciation and crucifixion of the lower nature thus symbolised. Though the path to be followed by Mary was that which every soul must sooner or later follow to achieve its salvation, it was beyond the present need and capacity of her child. And here the significance of the “fisherman” incident found its interpretation. It pointed to a regime of faith, discipline, and submission, such as is provided in the Roman communion, as best adapted for the present for one of her age, temperament, and capacity. But as the idea of putting her into a convent-school had never been mentioned or even entertained, it struck us as a remarkable coincidence when, on the morning after the receipt of the vision, a friend of Mary’s, an Irish lady of strong Protestant proclivities, who knew of her dilemma, called expressly in order to recommend a certain convent-school situate in Paris, and she gave so glowing a description of it that we went to see it for ourselves, with the result of finding it, to all appearance, fully justifying her praises. But the certainty of strong disapproval at home on the part of both her father and her grandmother prevented any steps being taken in that direction, and the child was eventually sent to a day-school hard by.
Difficulties of various kinds continued to impede Mary’s progress in the pursuit of her diploma, so numerous and formidable as to appear insuperable, and to make the task of confronting them so severe a drain on her strength that we seriously thought of abandoning her studies for a season in the hope of better conditions later on. But despair had no sooner culminated than hope and courage were re-established by the following dream
received by her, which we called “The Lion in the Path.” This is her account of it: –
“I found myself on the same narrow, rugged, and precipitous path described in my last dream, and confronted by a lion. Afraid to pass him, I turned and fled. On this the beast gave chase, when, finding escape by flight hopeless, I turned and boldly faced him. Whereupon the lion at once stopped and slunk to the side of the path, and suffered me to pass unmolested, though I was so close to him that I could not avoid touching him with my garments in passing.” (1)
The prognostic was fully confirmed by the event. For we had no sooner determined, as we at once did, to persevere at all hazards than the obstacles, one after another, melted away so completely that, on reviewing the episode, we wondered how we could have taken them for real. And so to the end. Barrier after barrier arose before us which seemed absolutely impassable, whether by piercing it, by circumventing it, or by surmounting it. But on pushing resolutely on it disappeared like a mist that was dispersed, leaving the track clear and ourselves marvelling at our apprehensions. The time came when we learnt that the dates of the concluding stages in our work were fixed and nothing would be allowed to interfere with them.
The following dream received by Mary in the latter part of this month of November proved to be the precursor of some very remarkable experiences which were in store for us. It was not until nearly two and a half years later that we were enabled to identify the personages concerned: –
“I was conducted in my sleep last night into a library in which sat a charming old lady dressed in the costume of the early Georges, eating what I took to be macaroni and honey, and conversing with an old gentleman wearing a costume of the same period. She rose to receive me, and kissed my hand with an old-fashioned courtly grace. On my looking at the old gentleman he also rose, and I noticed a strong resemblance between him and Caro, so that the thought passed through my mind, ‘I believe Caro would look just like that if his features were a little thinner and he wore ruffles round his throat.’ The old lady seemed to read my thought, for she nodded and said with a smile, ‘Yes, he is one of the family.’ After this the old gentleman disappeared from the scene, and the old lady said to me, ‘You have come to see my library; there it is. Mount the steps and take down any book you like.’ I looked up and saw a great number of books ranged in a book-case which covered the
whole of the wall opposite. Mounting the steps, I took down a book at random and opened it. It was a poem entitled ‘The Nature of Christ and the Christ-like Soul.’ Turning over the pages to look at the end of it, I read several lines which I tried to fix in my memory, but with only partial success, all that I can recollect being these:
‘Epitome of all,
His birth, his death, his body’s bitter dole,
Alike the dower of the Christ-like soul.
Thus man, refined, at last shall pass away,
His spirit rising through its mould of clay.’”
Such was our first introduction to what proved to be the famous Swedish seer, Emmanuel Swedenborg, and the lady of whom he was wont to declare his conviction that she would be his “spiritual wife” in the world of the beyond – a circumstance of which we were altogether unaware at this time.
On December 10 Mary received the following experience, which – recognising it as an allegory of the soul – I entered in our journal under the heading of
Not Quite Redeemed
“Lying in bed last night and being awake, but not having my mind occupied by any definite subject, I suddenly saw before me a portion of a lake in which were growing a number of very beautiful dark-foliaged firs and pines. The water out of which they rose was agitated and turbid, and its waves broke against their stems. One of the trees differed from the rest, for it bore white blossoms in clusters, and fruit, and was, moreover, bent down into the water, so that its blossoms and fruit were saturated and soiled by the waves. And I saw that what caused it thus to bend down was a dead tree or limb which lay across it, and by its weight held it down.
“While I was wondering what it meant the scene disappeared, and in place of the lake and the trees was a female form, exceedingly beautiful, with long golden hair and shining skin, and nude, as of a Greek goddess. She had her arms extended towards me, and seemed to be striving to reach me, but was held back by some obstacle the nature of which I could not discern. Nor could she reach me while the vision lasted.”
Ardent as was Mary’s devotion to her studies and anxious to accomplish her student course in the briefest possible time, no additional effort was spared that might serve the purpose foremost in her heart, the rescue of the animals from their scientific tormentors. And hence the regular work of both of us – for I seconded her endeavours to the utmost – was frequently intermitted to indite memoranda, compile statistics, translate extracts, or write letters, articles, appeals, and pamphlets, English or French, having for their aim the abolition of
vivisection. But the process of rousing an apathetic public and creating a conscience under the ribs of the moral and spiritual death which has seized upon what is still called Christendom, by means of this kind, was altogether too tedious and uncertain for a nature so impetuous as hers, and she eagerly sought for some more effective and expeditious means, the heroic character of which could not fail to make a profound and lasting impression.
Such was the mood in which she was found by a renewal of the demand of the physiologists for human subjects, in the shape of the worst class of criminals, on whom to experiment. And she forthwith conceived and became fascinated by the idea of offering herself to the Faculté for experimentation, making it the condition that the practice should thereafter be for ever abandoned. She admitted the project to be the product of impulse rather than of reason, and due to an ingrained sense, the source of which she was unable to discern, of the need of making a sacrifice of herself which would be at once an expiation and a redemption. Knowing the futility of directly opposing an idea thus entertained while in the heat of its inception, I confined myself to the gentle suggestion of some of the more obvious objections, pointing out that such a proposition would be taken as implying her sanction of the whole principle of vicarious sacrifice and her belief in the utility of the method; that it could not possibly be accepted; that, even if accepted, no conditions would be binding on others than the actual parties to it; and that, so far from her being credited with sincerity in making the offer, it would inevitably be ascribed, if not to downright insanity, to an inordinate vanity and craving for notoriety, since no one would believe that she expected it to be accepted. She at length yielded to my representations, but declared that, if she could not sacrifice herself for the animals in that way, she would in some other which, if less painful, would be far more protracted. How she knew it she could not say, but she did know it, and it was her destiny to perish in saving them. The occasion was one of many in which I could not help thinking of her as of a goddess who for some fault had been banished from her proper heaven, and who only on condition of making the place of her exile itself a heaven, or perishing in the attempt, could regain her lost
estate; and who longed accordingly to achieve her rehabilitation by some sublimely heroic act. And a goddess, too, not merely in outward seeming, but also in faculty and power, as the following experience went far to prove: –
It was mid-February, when, having occasion to visit the École de Médecine, I accompanied her thither. It was afternoon. On reaching the place we found it shut up, and a notice on the gate apprised us that the school was closed for the day on account of the obsequies of Professor Claude Bernard. We had not heard even of his illness. A cry, or rather a gasp, of astonishment escaped her, and she exclaimed, “Claude Bernard dead! Claude Bernard dead! Take hold of me! Help me to a seat, or I shall fall! Claude Bernard dead! Claude Bernard dead!” The only seat available near was on the stone steps by which we were standing, and I accordingly placed her on these, seeing that emotion had deprived her of all power. Once seated she buried her face in her hands, and I stood before her awaiting the result in silence. I knew that such an event could not fail greatly to move her, but no special reason occurred to me. Presently she looked up, her face strangely altered by the intensity of her emotion, and asked me if I remembered what she had told me some weeks ago about Claude Bernard, and her having been provoked to launch a malediction at him.
I remembered perfectly. It was in the latter part of the previous December. Her professor had forced her into a controversy about vivisection, the immediate occasion being some experiments by Claude Bernard on animal heat, made by means of a stove invented by himself, so constructed as to allow of observations being made upon animals while being slowly baked to death. Her professor had agreed with her as to the unscientific character and utter uselessness for any medical purpose of such a method of research. But he was altogether insensible to its moral aspects, and in answer to her strong expressions of reprobation, had taken occasion to deliver himself of a tirade against the sentiments generally of morality and religion, and the folly of allowing anything so chimerical to stand in the way, not merely of science, but of any object whatever to which one might be inclined, and setting up a transcendental standard of right and wrong, or recognising any limits to self-gratification, saving the physical risks to oneself. Even the feeling which
makes a mother weep over her child’s suffering he sneered at as hysterical, and gloried in the prospect of the time when science and intellect should be utterly unrestrained by what people call heart and moral conscience, and the only recognised rule should be that of the bodily self.
Thus speaking, he had worked his pupil into a frenzy of righteous indignation, and the vision rose before her of a future when, through the teachings of a materialistic science, society at large had become wholly demonised, even as already were this man and his kind. And seeing in Claude Bernard the foremost living representative and instrument of the fell conspiracy, at once against the human and the divine, to destroy whom would be to rid the earth of one of its worst monsters, she no sooner found herself alone than she rose to her feet, and with passionate energy invoked the wrath of God upon him, at the same moment hurling her whole spiritual being at him with all her might, as if with intent then and there to smite him with destruction. And so completely, it seemed to her, had she gone out of herself in the effort that her physical system instantly collapsed, and she fell back powerless on her sofa, where she lay a while utterly exhausted and unable to move. It was thus that, on rejoining her, I found her, with just sufficient power to recount the experience, and to ask me my opinion as to the possibility of injuring a person at a distance by such making, as it were, a spiritual thunderbolt of oneself; for, if such a thing were possible, and had ever happened, it must, she was convinced, have happened then. The point was not one which had before been suggested to me, and to say the truth, now that it had been suggested, I found myself occupied far more with its moral than with its scientific aspect. Even if possible, was it legitimate? And besides, even if both of these, might it not be fraught with danger to the actor no less than to the subject? The suggestion to her of the former objection was at once met by an energetic repudiation of any scruple on that score. Hers was a mission of redemption first and foremost to the animals, and the act was one of rescue, for the consequences of which the oppressor himself was responsible, just the same as if he had been slain in an attempt upon human life or property. Having the power and given the opportunity, the blame would have been hers had she refrained from using them. It was no
human life that was involved in the matter; for that only is a human life which is a humane life. And if the Bible were an authority, people in it were similarly struck dead who were blessed innocents in comparison with a deliberate torturer of helpless creatures.
We had soon dropped the discussion of the subject, and it was only recalled to our recollection by the startling news of Claude Bernard’s death. When I had responded to her appeal, she continued, still seated on the steps of the École –
“It has been strongly borne in on my mind that I have been the means of this, and that he has indeed come to his death through my agency. I shall do my utmost to verify the fact by ascertaining exactly how, when, and where his illness began. It may, of course, be a mere coincidence, and most people will always believe it to be so, whatever the proof to the contrary. But we know enough to believe such things possible, and I shall not rest until I have found out; and if it prove that I really possess such a glorious power, woe be to the torturers! God willing, what a murrain there shall be among them! Oh! I will make it dangerous, nay, deadly, to be a vivisector. It is the only argument that will affect them. Meanwhile, thank God the head of the gang is dead. And if it be that I have been the instrument, thank God all the more for that! I shall not have come into this hell of a world in vain!”
The published medical reports were
too vague to serve our purpose, and nearly two years passed before the desired
opportunity was found. We then became acquainted with a certain member of the
Instead of passing off, the effect remained, and became intensified, till it manifested itself in severe internal inflammation, from which he drooped and sank for some six weeks, when he died. The doctors ascribed the complaint to the insalubrious atmosphere of the laboratory, and pronounced it to be pyèlonéphrite (Bright’s disease). It was the disease which he had chiefly endeavoured to investigate by inducing it in animals.
This information, and a minute comparison of dates, served to confirm her conviction. And we found by subsequent reading that the reality of experiences of the kind has always been recognised by experts in occult science. Among other confirmatory statements, we found the following in Paracelsus, the famous magian of the sixteenth century: –
“It is possible that my spirit, without the help of my body, may, through a fiery will alone and without a sword, stab and wound others. It is also possible for me to bring my adversary’s spirit into an image, then double him up and lame him at pleasure. You are to know that the will is a most potent operator in medicine. Man can hang a disease on man or beast through curses; but it does not take effect through an image of virgin wax, but by means of the strength of fixed will. Determined imagination is the beginning of all magical operations. It is a spell from which there is no escape but by reversing the operator’s intent. The imagination of another may be able to kill me or save me. No armour protects me against magic, for it injures the inward spirit of life. The human spirit is so great a thing that no man can express it. God Himself is unchangeable and almighty; so also is the mind of man. If we rightly esteemed the power of man’s mind, nothing on earth would be impossible.”
Some months after the death of
Claude Bernard – it was in August – being attracted by an advertisement which
excited Mary’s curiosity, we visited a French medium, Mdlle. H. We gave no
names, and were as completely unknown to her as she was to us. To our immense
surprise, a spirit came who gave its name as Marie Stuart, and said that it was
in connection with Mary, and would communicate with her if she wished. We asked
if It was specially related to anyone we knew, and received for answer: “Yes;
a letter from me on that very morning in reply to one that I had received from her. She had long been a spiritualist, devoted and devout; and many years before I was able to recognise spiritualism as representing an actuality, she had made great efforts to convince me of it, even to making it a matter of earnest prayer. And, to specify the reason of this interpolation, the name taken by the spirit who was her principal “guide” was Marie Stuart!
The only other incident of the séance, and a notable one it was, was the coming of a spirit who gave the name of Claude Bernard! Mary eagerly questioned him, but failed to obtain any coherent response. She was disposed to be indignant that such a malefactor should be at large, until she reflected that liberty of locomotion by no means implies blessedness of condition, in that world any more than in this; and, moreover, that his coming to her might be to him the bitterest of penances. This seemed to be indicated by his silence. Beyond the divulgence of his name no word could be extracted from him; and we took his moody silence for a token of his interior state, and as showing that, though the impulsion under which he came was irresistible, he was still too impenitent and proud to betray his feelings by any utterance. Needless to say that this incident vividly recalled to us Sir William Fergusson’s visit and remarks on the hereafter of the vivisector; also the line in Chaucer –
“Though thou here walkest, thy spirit is in hell.”
The summer brought us the first practical intimation of the power of our supervisors to enforce the secrecy required of us in respect of certain of the mysteries revealed to us. An old clerical friend of mine came to see me, and we went out together for a walk and a talk, in the course of which we entered a café, where, finding a quiet corner, I read to him some portions of our revelations, having taken the book with me in anticipation of his wish to hear about our work. The interest shown by him in what I read stimulated my eagerness to enlighten him further, as will be readily intelligible in view of the fact that, besides being an old and highly valued friend, he was a beneficed clergyman, a Greek scholar, a thinker, and a Hebraist of repute, and constituted therefore an audience such as I had not yet had; so that it is scarcely surprising that, even if I had
been mindful of the injunctions imposed on us as to secrecy, I should fail to regard them as applicable to him.
Nevertheless, such proved to be the case. Heedless of our instructions, I turned to a part of the book to which the prohibition applied. But before I had read a single line the atmosphere around me became so thick with indistinguishable presences as to shut out the page from my sight; a sensation of dizziness came over me such as I had never before known; and my heart was forced upward toward my throat, as if clutched from below and lifted up by some strong hand, with such force as entirely to arrest utterance and almost to choke me; while at the same time a death-like faintness seized on me, and a sense of my fault so overwhelming as to cause me to feel as utterly abandoned and cast off by all the divine influences which hitherto had sustained me, and plunged in the outer darkness of absolute despair. Nevertheless, trained as I had been to bear and be silent, I was to such extent able to “suffer and be strong” as to repress any outward and visible sign of my inward and spiritual state; and after a few moments, recovering speech, I closed the book, with the remark that I could not bear the atmosphere of the place any longer, but must get into the open air. Here I soon recovered my normal physical state, the last thing to return being my mental composure.
My impulse at first was to tell Mary what had happened, if only as a caution to herself, though she was less liable to commit the same trespass; but I found myself withheld by the recollection, which seemed to be reinforced for the purpose, of the previous injunctions to observe secrecy in respect of such experiences as might be in store for her. Whether or not the information would have saved her from a like experience I am unable to say; but that she was not to escape was shown by the fact that it occurred to her not very long afterwards, as will be related in its place. But this proved to be the method almost uniformly followed with us. We were to receive identical experiences, but in a manner which precluded the possibility of their being ascribable to anticipation.
Meanwhile I had received an object-lesson to the effect that they who had us in their keeping were no less competent to restrain and compel than to instruct and warn; and I found myself recalling with wonder and amusement the incredulity
with which as a youth I had regarded beliefs of the kind to which Southey gives expression when, in his ballad of the “Magician and the Devil,” he says: –
“Henceforth let all young men take heed
How in a conjurer’s books they read.”
As will duly appear, the experience was not a solitary one even with myself. For it happened to me to be more than once afterwards forcibly arrested when on the point of a similar trespass, though without the same severity of penalty.
Nearly the first half of the year passed without any special illumination being vouchsafed to either of us. My colleague meanwhile was engrossed with her work for her second Doctorat, which she was anxious to pass with as much distinction as in the previous year she had passed her first; and I was no less engrossed with the task I had set myself of elaborating out of my own consciousness a key to the interpretation especially of the initial chapters of Genesis. And on this behalf I had written enough to make a moderate volume, defining the principles on which, as it appeared to me, the Bible, in order to be a book of the soul, must be constructed, and on which therefore it must be interpreted. What I had written was not intended for publication, but as an exercise for myself, being purely tentative, and representing the feeling of my way towards the light rather than the light itself. (1) I had no books to help me, nor the knowledge of any books which could help me. I was aware that the sect of the Swedenborgians claimed for their master that he had unlocked the secret meaning of Scripture, but the little I knew of them and of him had not given me an exalted sense of their perspicuity or their judgment. My leading idea was that the story of the Creation and the Fall contained as in a monogram the whole of the doctrine which the Bible is intended to illustrate, so that to find the key to that story would be to find the key to the whole Bible, to the solution of the problem of
Christianity, and – in the event of this being true – to the solution also of the problem of existence itself. The point on which I was particularly engaged when the events about to be related occurred was that of the secret and real significance of Adam and Eve. That they did not and could not represent actual persons I was satisfied. But supposing them to represent principles, what are those principles? Could they be spirit and matter? I did not consult Mary on the subject, or in any way disclose to her the direction of my thought; a reserve for which I had two reasons. I wished to exhaust my own resources first; and I was reluctant to distract her mind from her medical work. Moreover, I knew that of herself, and unaided by illumination, she could not help me. And at this time we had received no interpretative illumination of the order in question for many months. And in the last week I had come to a complete standstill, being unable to obtain a glimmer of a fresh idea. But this may have been due to the uneasiness of my mind respecting a certain action which Mary had taken at her professor’s instance in regard to her pending examination; to which it will be necessary to recur by and by.
It was near on June 4, when, having retired to my sleeping-room, I stood by the open window gazing on the brilliantly starred sky, and the impulse came upon me to address a mental request for aid to the unseen agents of our past illuminations, whom we were wont to call the Gods. It was without any definite idea of a practical result that I did this, and rather as an expression of impatience and despair than of hope. “If I really am to carry on this work, I must have help. I have gone as far as I can go of myself, and must stop and give it up unless I receive correction, confirmation, or extension. For my own resources are exhausted.” Having thus silently formulated my needs to the rulers of the starlit expanse, I went to bed.
In the course of the following morning – no word respecting my over-night invocation having been said to her – Mary remarked that she found herself in an extraordinary state of mental exaltation, having all her faculties at their best and all her subjects at her finger-ends. And so eager was she to test her condition that she went all the way to the schools, when having no call to go, in order to listen to the examination then
going on – the subjects being those of her next ordeal – and to compare the answers given with those that she herself was prepared to give, the examination being vivâ voce. Her delight on returning was unbounded. She could have answered every question put far better than any of the students, she declared, and would have distanced them all had she been one of the class. It occurred to me that some new experience might be in store, as a consequence of her abnormal lucidity, but I failed to connect the state with my appeal of the previous night. And, so far from my being reminded of that circumstance, any expectation I might have entertained of a revelation to be made was altogether effaced by an attack of sickness with which she was seized during the evening, of so violent a character as to alarm me for her life, lest she break a blood-vessel in the spasms induced. The reaction, moreover, brought on a collapse of the heart, from which I had the greatest difficulty in restoring her. And it was past before I felt it safe to leave her alone. We could account for the seizure only by ascribing it to the deleterious influences, atmospheric or other, of the schools.
It was yet so early in the following morning that I had not left my room, when – instead of keeping her bed to a late hour, as I had anticipated she would – she brought to my door and handed in to me a manuscript written in pencil, saying it was something she had seen in her sleep, and written down on waking, so far as she could recollect it. (1) And was it anything I wanted? For she hardly knew what it was about, having written it down so rapidly, and had not had time to read it over and think about it.
Eagerly perusing it, I found it to be a direct answer to my appeal, which for fullness and lucidity surpassed the most sanguine expectations I could have formed, and affording at once precisely the correction, the confirmation, and the amplification I had asked for; correction, that is, as to particulars, and confirmation as to method and principles. And while it was wholly beyond the ability of either or both of us to have formulated it, it bore for us both all the force of truth so self-evident and necessary as to appear as if we had already known it, but had forgotten it. It contained some eight hundred words,
every one of which was exactly the right word and in the right place, the diction, which was archaic, and belonged to the best period of English literature, and was better than the best of that period, being in the highest degree simple, luminous, and dignified. And so precise was its response to my need that, while it disposed of my tentative hypothesis about the first man and woman, asking “Why will you have Adam to be spirit and Eve matter, since the mystic books deal only with spiritual entities?” it confirmed my conclusion respecting the initial chapters of Genesis, by giving the key which related them to the whole Bible, even to the Apocalypse, and gave a solution of the problem of Christianity, such as to show that it is founded in the nature of existence. And it pointed also to the meaning of the present age, and to our own work as representing the fulfilment of the prophecies in respect to it. Mary’s amazement and delight as we read and re-read this wonderful message together were no less than mine, and they were further enhanced on learning that it had been given in prompt response to an appeal from me, and in supply of needs of which she was unaware. Her account of its reception by her was in this wise.
Her sickness and exhaustion of the previous evening had been followed by a profound sleep of several hours, towards the close of which she dreamt that she was engaged in making a drawing of Pallas Athena from a luminous apparition of that goddess on the wall. While drawing, she had been greatly perplexed by the constant changes in the position of the head and the expression of the face. For, after drawing the divinity as she at first appeared, with a bandage over the eyes, the head turned, and presented the face on the other side without the bandage. Upon this she drew it again, and on comparing the result with the original, was amazed at the fidelity of the portrait, and at her own skill. Meanwhile she was aware that, lurking near her and enjoying her perplexity, was her instructor, Hermes. There then came another change in the aspect of her sitter, the goddess, at which her vexation was so great that it woke her.
After wondering a while what this visitation from the representatives of the Divine Wisdom and Understanding might imply or portend, she slept again, and dreamt that she was in
the same old-fashioned library she had once before (1) similarly visited, and in it sat the same old-fashioned elderly couple, with the refined and courteous style and formal punctilious manners which had so greatly struck her before. And, as before, she mounted the ladder at their invitation and took down a book, the appearance of which attracted her. On opening it she found that the leaves consisted of plates of silver, thick and massive, and [every page] reflected herself. And that which she wrote down on waking was what she read in this book. At the point where the exposition broke off, the writing had disappeared from the book and its pages became mirrors in which she beheld only her own image – a detail which we at once took as intended to denote the intuitional nature of the teaching, as indeed it did. But it proved subsequently to have a yet more recondite meaning, by and by to be disclosed to the reader as it was to us. The teaching itself we recognised as fully justifying the high sanction implied by the presence of the Gods in the preliminary vision. And when, on the next night but one, this experience was followed by another of corresponding import and value, we felt that we had indeed been permitted to tap – so to speak – a reservoir of boundless wisdom and knowledge, and were filled with joy and thankfulness accordingly; for we saw that we had obtained access to a sphere where all memories of the world’s past were indelibly preserved and stored up, so that no part of its history, however remote and lost so far as men are concerned, is beyond recovery, and where also are the solutions of all problems. While, as for the interpretation of sacred mysteries, we were evidently under the guidance of those who had originally imparted them to the world, and were bent on restoring the knowledge of them, and had selected us as their instruments for the accomplishment of that high purpose. And that purpose was no other than that which from early youth it had been my dominant passion to achieve, while yet having no conception of the process. Such is the genesis of the chapter entitled “Concerning the Interpretation of the Mystical Scriptures,” which forms No. V, of Part I, of Clothed with the Sun. The first division of it was received as above related. The second was received, also in sleep, on the next night but one,
being delivered as a lecture by a man in priestly garb to a numerous class of neophytes, of whom Mary was one, and who took notes of it as they sat in an amphitheatre of white stone. Her notes, of course, disappeared with her dream, and she had to reproduce it from memory. But this was abnormally enhanced, for she said that the words presented themselves again to her as she wrote, and stood out luminously to view.
The definition thus given us of idolatry had a peculiar interest for me; for in my college days I had projected a poem of magnitude to be called “The Idolater,” but had soon found myself compelled to give it up for want of knowledge as to what idolatry is. I could find no definition of the term; for, even allowing that there may be many different degrees of grossness in the various objects worshipped, there was no difference in kind or in principle. Whether mental or physical, the thing worshipped is an image and the worship of it is idolatry. But in presence of the definition now vouchsafed all difficulties vanished. Those readers of this narrative who may be unacquainted with the New Interpretation will be glad to have that definition cited here. It is as follows: –
“To make an idol is to materialise
spiritual mysteries. The priests, then, were idolaters who, coming after Moses,
and committing to writing those things which he by word of mouth had delivered
“They also are idolaters who understand the things of sense where the things of the Spirit are alone implied, and who conceal the true features of the Gods with material and spurious presentations. Idolatry is materialism, the common and original sin of men, which replaces spirit by appearance, substance by illusion, and leads both the moral and intellectual being into error, so that they substitute the nether for the upper and the depth for the height. It is that false fruit which attracts the outer senses, the bait of the serpent in the beginning of the world. Until the mystic man and woman had eaten of this fruit they knew only the things of the Spirit, and found them suffice. But after their fall they began to apprehend matter also, and gave it the preference, making themselves idolaters. And their sin, and the taint begotten of that false fruit, have corrupted the blood of the whole race of men; from which corruption the sons of God would have redeemed them.”
The expression “beginning of the world,” we subsequently learned, meant the beginning of the world in the Church, – of worldliness or materiality, that is, in the interpretation of things spiritual.
To come to the explanation of the allusion to the uneasiness caused me by Mary’s action in respect to her examination.
Our hopes of a continuous flow from the source thus opened were dashed by a terrible calamity, and for a long time were in ashes. The date originally fixed for Mary’s second Doctorat examen was the 5th, the day on which she had gone to the schools while under the enhancement of faculty above described; but her professor, distrusting the examiners appointed for the occasion, partly because of the known hostility of some of them to women students, and partly because he had prepared her from books other than those written by the examiners themselves – a circumstance likely to be resented by them – had persuaded her to get the date of her examination postponed for a few days, when another set of examiners would officiate. This had been done without my cognisance, and I was greatly disturbed on learning it, as it seemed to me to indicate a want of faith in the Influences who were supervising us. And Mary herself regretted it when, on going to the schools, as mentioned above, she found both herself at her best and the obnoxious examiners replaced by others who were wholly unobjectionable.
The day finally appointed was ushered in by a violent thunderstorm, which cleared off but just in time to render her going possible; for while it lasted the streets were flooded, and no vehicle was procurable. The storm, moreover, had produced the usual distressing effect upon her nervous system – for she was exceedingly sensitive to electric disturbances (1) – so that I begged her to give up the intention of going in for her examen on that day. But she was bent on it. She had worked long and hard, and shrank from the strain of further delay; and, moreover, was confident of being thoroughly up in her subjects. And she had never yet failed to pass well. It was not her mental but her physical state that led me to distrust her fitness, and perhaps an unconscious foreboding of what was to happen, though of this I said nothing, lest I might actually induce in her the weakness I feared, and so minister to disaster. So we set off for the schools.
The examen was to occupy two days. Her report to me of the first day augured ill for the chances of success. Of the three examiners, two had been all that could be desired; but the third, a Dr. N., who had been substituted at the last moment, was known to her as one of a clique in the Faculté who violently objected to the admission of women to diplomas, and were determined to make the examinations impossible for them. His hostility to her was evinced from the moment that she presented herself, his manner, which to the male students had been kind and considerate, at once becoming stern and forbidding in the highest degree. And when he found that she returned perfect answers in all the subjects properly comprised in the examination, he questioned her on others, referring to the most abstruse and recondite diseases, some of them of such rare occurrence that their very existence is denied by many doctors. And, finding no cause of complaint against her in respect of these, he endeavoured to break down her self-possession by committing the outrage of putting to her the most embarrassing questions which could possibly be put to a young woman in the presence of men, going far outside the usual range of subjects for the purpose. This exhibition of his enmity put a terrible strain on her nerves, but she bore it without flinching, knowing that he was technically within his right, and resolved not to afford him the pretext which he was seeking for refusing to pass her. It was only when it came to l’épreuve pratique, which involved manual dexterity, that the effect showed itself. She had controlled her mind, but she could not control her muscles. And the consequence was that her hands trembled over the piece of dissection appointed her, and the work was done somewhat less artistically than otherwise would have been the case, and than she had been wont to do it. This gave the professor the desired opportunity; and though the comparative failure was obviously due partly to the nervousness induced by himself, and partly to the clumsiness of the student told off to hold the subject for her, he refused to sign her note of approval.
From her other two examiners she had obtained the warmest commendations. “Madame,” said one of them, with a deferential bow, “you know your subjects perfectly.” “Madame,” said the other, “I have absolutely nothing to reproach you with.” They felt deeply the injustice and hardship shown to one whom
they recognised as exceptionally gifted and industrious, and the discredit done to their university and their order in thus treating a woman for being a woman after opening their doors to women. But he remained inexorable, declaring that under no circumstances would he and his party suffer a woman to pass. And so deeply did his colleagues feel the matter that they met expressly to discuss it, with the result that an offer was made to give her a fresh and merely formal examination in the following month with an unprejudiced professor in his place.
The offer came too late. The disappointment
and indignation felt by her were too much for a system always highly-strung and
fragile, but now sorely overwrought. A condition set in of intense commotion
cérébrale, under which she refused to return home, as she could not
bear the sight, she said, of the books and study which had brought her to such
an end; and there was nothing for it but to tell the driver of our fiacre
to go round the Bois. After driving for an hour or two she said she would go
home and put some things together and go to the seaside.
with me that recovery would depend far more on nursing than on medicine, and that it must be sympathetic nursing. To aid me in rendering this I proposed to summon A. forthwith. But she forbade me to do so until she was sufficiently recovered to travel, and then he should come and help me to take her to the seaside. Meanwhile she would rely solely on the nursing and decline all medical aid. French diagnosis, she declared, might be good, but not so French therapeutics. Her experience of the hospital practice terrified her by its severe and experimental character; and, besides, as a sensitive of sensitives and an abstainer from flesh-food, her system falsified all the usual calculations of the effect of drugs. And as it was, the form taken by her malady was in defiance of all precedent. For, while the stroke was on the left side of the brain, the paralysis also was on that side, instead of following the course of the nerves and crossing over to the right. And, besides, the French doctors were all vivisectors, and as they could not take a fee from a medical student, they would have no interest in trying to cure her.
Some of the manifestations were peculiarly distressing. Her “walls were down” again, and “the enemy came in like a flood.” At times her sense of spiritual desertion and abandonment was overwhelming, and she doubted of everything. At such moments the most effective mental tonic was the suggestion that the severity of the assault was a compliment paid to her work and powers, by showing the importance attached to them by the enemy. A spiritual warfare such as we were waging against the powers of darkness in the high places of man’s mind and soul was bound to be accompanied by hard blows and serious reverses. The human agent of the disaster was but another instrument of “Apollyon,” and though we might be unable at present to comprehend why a reverse so grievous had been permitted, the time would doubtless come when the mystery would be cleared up.
Her physical condition improved faster than her mental, and when at length A. was summoned, we took her to Fécamp. Here the selection, either of the place or of the hotel – most probably the latter – proved unfortunate. The sleeping-rooms abutted on a hayloft filled with freshly-gathered hay, with the emanations of which the atmosphere was pervaded, the result being an attack of asthma so violent and persistent that the entire night was
passed in vain
attempts to alleviate it; and her terror of the place was so great as to compel
us to quit it by the first train, which we accordingly took for
As we were thus gazing and feeling,
a shot was fired from a boat containing some men and women, which, unperceived
by us, had glided out from behind the opposite pier; and immediately one of the
birds fell into the sea, where it lay fluttering in agony with a broken wing,
while its companions fled away with harsh, discordant cries; and in one instant
the whole bright scene was changed for us from one of innocence and joy into
one of the darkest gloom and misery. It was a murder done in
twenty-four hours her state was one of raving mania. She had positively forbidden me to call in a doctor whatever might happen to her, and I feared that to disobey her would do more harm than he could do good. The sight of the falling bird haunted her. It was burnt into her brain. Then she thought it was A. who had been shot, for he had passed unperceived by her just after the occurrence, and she could not recall the fact of his departure. Then she fancied that she herself had been shot too, and that the bird’s spirit came to beg her to go and warn its fellows from that treacherous shore. And then she beheld a beautiful female form holding the bird’s spirit on her wrist, as if to comfort her by letting her see that it was not now suffering but happy. This calmed her somewhat; but presently there came a discharge of crackers in the street, every report of which sent a spasm through her brain, renewing her distress. I would have had a nurse, but she declared that she could bear no one about her but myself, now A. was gone; and when forced, on one occasion, to leave her for a moment, I returned to find her leaning far out of the window, looking for the bird, and waving her arms as to fly; and on being drawn in she said that she thought it had come for her, and that she had only to trust herself to the air to be able to fly too, for she was sure that she also was a spirit now.
On these symptoms abating, as they
did in a few days, she had conceived an intense antipathy to the place, and
refused absolutely to look at the sea, lest the sight of it bring back the
scene when she would not answer for the consequences. We accordingly returned
“August 11. – M. has improved somewhat, both mentally and physically, but her memory is exceedingly weak, and she suffers much from asthma, which, by depriving her of rest at night, keeps her very low in condition. It seems as if an attempt were being made to restore, or at least to test, her faculty. For a vision was given to her last night in which a paper on the subject nearest her heart – vivisection – was given to her to read as she was travelling by railway to Oxford, where she was to deliver it as a public lecture. She dreamt that she read it over in the train, and intended to read it again to fix it in her memory; but she found on waking that it had entirely vanished from recollection. This was a great grief to her, for it had struck her as a most powerful utterance, and she spoke with tears of the loss of it, as also of her faculty of recollecting on waking what she had received in sleep. As it was the first time since her seizure that she had received anything coherent, I was able to
comfort her by suggesting that it might be the beginning of the recovery of her faculty.”
How far it was prophecy or
coincidence I cannot say; but she did actually, some seven years later, deliver
a public lecture at
“August 12. – Another trial was made of M.’s memory last night. Being asleep, she was shown her lungs – always a weak point in her system, and probably the cause of her asthma – and was told to observe them particularly, and to remember what she saw. But she was able to obey only the former part of the injunction. For she remembered the fact of the experience, and that her vision had been perfectly lucid, enabling her to make a careful examination of the organ named; but she was unable on waking to recall the results.
“August 18. – Another trial was made of M.’s faculty last night, which took the form of a vision in which she found herself making a sort of professional visit to a madhouse. Here she was taken down a long narrow passage between two rows o f dens, in each of which was a maniac, who was secured by a chain round the waist, and accompanied by one or more wild animals. These animals, the keeper said in reply to her inquiries, represented the particular evil spirit by which the patient was infested. The forms of the animals themselves, he added, were determined by the nature of the spirits which animated them, being an expression of their qualities, and he said much that struck her as most interesting and important respecting the significance of the animals and their spiritual relation to man. But this she was unable to retain. One patient was a girl who was subject to most terrible paroxysms, and was fastened between two black bears. On her expressing her pity for the bears in having such a companion, the keeper told her that if she saw the bears during the paroxysms she would pity the girl, as it was from the action of these spirits within her that the paroxysms proceeded. The case which struck her as the most horrible was that of a man at whose feet a tiger crouched, having an expression and aspect the most terrible to behold; and the man’s exactly resembled them.
“She is certainly better able to recall what she sees in sleep, but hardly what she hears.
“August 21. – M. seems to be
recovering her faculty of pictorial dreaming. Last night she dreamt that we
witnessed from a balcony the public reception of the Count de Chambord as Henry
V on his accession to the throne of
Our subsequent conclusion, when further instructed in the
nature of such experiences, was that this dream was a reflection in the astral light of the aspirations and hopes of the Legitimists, who were very active and sanguine at that time. And it was thus that their ideas, seen by her in an access of clairvoyance, took a pictorial form in accordance with her artistic temperament.
“Sept. 1. – M. tells me that two books were shown her in sleep last night, containing passages of such great beauty and value that she read them over and over again to fix them in her memory and write them down on rising. But, to her great sorrow, they have entirely escaped her. The very attempt, however, is a sign that her illuminators do not despair of her recovering her faculty.”
The next few days witnessed an
almost complete restoration of faculty, and this under circumstances of
peculiar interest, inasmuch as they related to the well-known Laurence
Oliphant. I must say, by way of preface to the incident, that, having some
acquaintance with Oliphant, I had invited him, about two years before this
time, to my rooms in London, to meet Mary’s eldest brother, Dr. John Bonus, and
expound to us the system which he held in common with Thomas Lake Harris, of
whom I then knew only that he was a poet of singular mellifluousness and
sensuousness, with claims to certain psychic gifts. Oliphant’s exposition of
the tenets and practice of this sect was such as to excite in us grave
misgivings about his and their sanity. They were based upon a purely
materialistic and highly fantastic conception of the Fall, and consequently
also of the Redemption. For the Fall had come, he assured us, through the
normal use of sex. Redemption, therefore, must come through its abnormal use –
that is, as we read it, through its abuse; and he had consequently married his
wife, not to be her husband, but to make her a disciple of his master. He had
subsequently returned to
We were true seers, he said, and he was drawn towards us. His fear was that our work, which had evidently been begun from within, was afterwards from without, and consequently evil. He left us saying that if he received any light in regard to us he would come again.
This was on Monday. On Thursday he
returned. His “counterpart” had been with him, he said, and had instructed him
about us. The instruction was to this effect. We had been deceived by evil
influences. The very excellence of our intentions, and of the teaching we had
received, even of our lives and work, – all these things were snares to entrap
and deceive us. We were dabbling in spiritualism, and should find it a very
dangerous thing. The sufferings we had already undergone proved that, and the
future would bring us far worse. There was but one way of safety.
He then explained the counterpartal doctrine, and read to us some verses dictated to him that morning by his own counterpart, whom he had lately discovered. The verses enjoined on us the duty of dissolving our collaboration, separating entirely from each other, renouncing all earthly ties – regardless alike of duty and affection – and submitting ourselves, and all we possessed, unreservedly to Harris. Doing which we should find our true counterparts, who are beings, not of earth, but of heaven, and of the order to which those of Harris and himself belong. The doctrine he defined in this wise. Man has fallen from a state of perfection once belonging to him, not, as we had been taught, by inclining to matter and preferring it to spirit, to the loss of spiritual perception, which is by the intuition, but by a specific act, namely, separation from his spiritual other half in favour of a physical one; in consequence of which all physical unions are adulterous and sinful, and the only way of salvation is by the renunciation of these, and by reunion with the true counterpart. To effect this, every tie must be broken, all work renounced, however good and sorely needed by the world, until salvation for self is secured by such means. Our counterparts, meanwhile, are
pining for us, and longing to reward us with sensuous delights of the most exquisite kind. Reunited with them, we should fulfil the doctrine of the Divine Duality, and become made wholly in the Divine Image, and so achieve the perfection which Jesus, by His fanatical obstinacy in getting Himself crucified, had missed. As the returned Christ, and the king, therefore, of the New Dispensation, Harris is the appointed medium between the earth and the world of counterpartal angels, reunion with whom can be accomplished only through him. His sufferings proved him to be the genuine Coming Man. (Ours had only proved us to be in the wrong.) He, Oliphant, had himself trampled on and renounced all human affections, and was now without any interests or aspirations to attach him to his kind. The worst of sins is to bring a child into the world. His counterpart, whom he had lately found, had made him a poet, which he was not in the least before, and enabled him to write the verses, which he read to us, against the indulgence of the natural affections, and against human institutions generally. All that we had done in the way of self-purification to fit us for our spiritual work; all the marvellous lights we had obtained on the problems which perplex and divide mankind; all our efforts to abolish cruelty and other forms of selfishness, and make the world once more a garden instead of the wilderness it has become, were vain, and worse than useless, because they indicate that our affections are still fixed on things below, instead of on our counterparts above. Everything is reprehensible that withholds us from them. He said, further, that he hated having to make appeal to the intellect; and that, for himself, having found in Harris a man infinitely superior to all other men in knowledge and power, he trusted implicitly to him, and wanted no confirmation by intellectual processes. And as for the objection that the greater part of man’s physical system is expressly constructed for physical reproduction, that is no argument against his doctrine, as it was not so originally, but is due to the Fall.
The utter repulsion we felt for his doctrine extended with Mary to the man himself, or rather to the influences about him. And after his departure she was completely prostrated, as if her force had been exhausted in combating evil beings. An idea of their nature was given her in the night after his first visit. She was shown a wild, desolate region, tenanted by phantasmal
appearances, consisting, she was told, of the débris of the lower principles of souls passed on, the magnetic emanations of human beings, elementaries and others of the kind called Sirens and Lorelies, which she was given to understand have in them no divine element in virtue of which they can endure and progress, and are bent, therefore, on prolonging their existence by attaching themselves to human beings, to whom they serve as vampires by preying on them. And among the signs by which they may be known are their flatteries, their sensuous allurements, and their mellifluous versification. Of the lines written for our benefit at the dictation of his “counterpart,” Mary remarked that it was proof enough for her of his utter lack of perception that he should take such doggerel for “poetry.” These are the lines: –
“Our friends have counterparts on high,
Who watch their efforts vain,
Whose souls cannot to them draw nigh
While they as now remain.
That this is true they soon can prove
By sacrifice complete;
And they will rise to highest love
Apart and in retreat.
There they will feel the tender sphere.
As yet to them unknown,
Of those whose love flows pure and clear,
From the great Two-in-One.
There they will have experience
Of a, far deeper kind,
And evidences most intense
Of truth they fain would find.
But knowledge which is thus inspired
By counterpart and king,
Cannot in selfhood be acquired;
Their homage they must bring.
And recognise the right divine
Of Him who comes to reign,
Through whom alone the love-rays shine
Of the great One-in-Twain.
And they must lay aside all claim
As prophet or as seer;
No one can dare assume that name
Whose title is not clear.
This message from their counterparts
Through you has now been sent,
That you in each may link twin hearts
By one great sacrament.
’Tis through this love that they will rise,
As Priestess and as Priest,
Their charter written in the skies,
And all their power increased.
If they this warning will not heed,
But in each other trust,
No good will from their lives proceed,
Their frames will soon be dust.
Therefore the tender ones above
Now seek to guard their life;
Meantime they languish for the love
Of husband and of wife.
Recognising all that he said as a mere travesty of the truth, we needed no special illumination to enable us to detect its fallacies. Nevertheless, after his second visit I mentally besought the Gods to give us an instruction which might be of service both to us and to Oliphant. And great was my joy and thankfulness when, on the following morning, Mary gave me the chapter entitled “An Exhortation of Hermes to his Neophytes,” which forms one of the sections in the Second Part of Clothed with the Sun. For it showed that she had recovered her glorious faculty, of which she had been so cruelly deprived. And it contained the first direct positive avowal by Hermes of himself as our illuminator. Each of the four chief errors in the doctrine propounded by Oliphant finds in it condign condemnation. Out of consideration for her still remaining weakness of memory, it was projected into her mind verse by verse to be written down at once, no second verse being given her until she had written down the last received. The communication commenced shortly before she rose, and was continued at intervals during the whole time she was dressing: –
“He whose adversaries fight with weapons of steel must himself be armed in like manner, if he would not be ignominiously slain or save himself by flight.
“And not only so, but forasmuch as his adversaries may be many, while he is only one, it is even necessary that the steel he carries be of purer temper and of more subtle point and contrivance than theirs.
“I, Hermes, would arm you with such, that, bearing a blade with a double edge, ye may be able to withstand in the evil hour.
“For it is written that the tree of life is guarded by a sword which turneth every way.
“Therefore I would have you armed both with a perfect philosophy and with the power of the divine life.
“And first the knowledge, that you and they who hear you may know the reason of the faith which is in you.
“But knowledge cannot prevail alone, and ye are not yet perfected.
“When the fullness of the time shall come, I will add unto you the power of the divine life.
“It is the life of contemplation, of fasting, of obedience, and of resistance.
“And afterwards the chrism, the power, and the glory. But these are not yet.
“Meanwhile remain together and perfect your philosophy.
“Boast not, and be not lifted up; for all things are God’s, and ye are in God, and God in you.
“But when the word shall come to you, be ready to obey.
“There is but one way to power, and it is the way of obedience.
“Call no man your master or king upon the earth, lest ye forsake the spirit for the form and become idolaters.
“He who is indeed spiritual, and transformed into the divine image, desires a spiritual king.
“Purify your bodies, and eat no dead thing that has looked with living eyes upon the light of Heaven.
“For the eye is the symbol of brotherhood among you. Sight is the mystical sense.
“Let no man take the life of his brother to feed withal his own.
“But slay only such as are evil; in the name of the Lord.
“They are miserably deceived who expect eternal life, and restrain not their hands from blood and death.
“They are miserably deceived who look for wives from on high, and have not yet attained their manhood.
“Despise not the gift of knowledge; and make not spiritual eunuchs of yourselves.
“For Adam was first formed, then Eve.
“Ye are twain, the man with the woman, and she with him, neither man nor woman, but one creature.
At verse 16 she was shown a garland of fig-leaves, making the third time that Hermes had presented her with this symbol, so significant of her faculty and mission. (1)
I sent a copy of this utterance to Oliphant, together with a letter pointing out the absurdity of supposing man to be divisible in the sense insisted on by him, and as attaining perfection by addition from without instead of by unfoldment from within. And in order to ensure his receipt of the letter and message, I left
them myself at his hotel. But I received no acknowledgment, nor did he ever again approach us, although convenient opportunities were not wanting. Further reference to himself therefore is not called for. But his subsequent work and our attitude towards it will claim some notice hereinafter.
The following letter from one of the ripest thinkers and most advanced souls of the time expresses what we ourselves came to believe to be the truth concerning Oliphant’s master: –
“MY DEAR SIR, – I have no influence with the editor of the journal in question, and my testimony, moreover, would not be accepted in orthodox scientific circles as of any weight in such a case. The world to which it belongs is going to spare no effort to adjudge to insanity all who have spiritual phenomena happening to themselves, unless it can succeed in having them convicted of imposture. With criminal law and lunacy law for its weapons, scientific materialism, which is mad with rage against the spiritual world, hopes to crush down every voice and fact which speaks of a higher life.
“For myself, I reject T.L.H. as now a colossal delusion. He is a typical case of the danger of influx to a man unless he is divinely needed for it, and prepared and guarded. It came to him first, and to his rare poetic and eloquent genius, influencing his power and love of beauty and melody, until they burnt and shone as with supernal brightness. But his love of ruling by these qualities was in the background. Gradually the splendour has burnt itself out, and the grim selfhood remains, in ugly ruins, and uttering and suggesting fearful doctrines, and covering itself with delusions. His last pamphlet, which I read, is obscene and profane to an extent which words seldom dare to convey to print. – With fraternal regard, yours,
“J.J. GARTH WILKINSON.”
This judgment proved to be no whit too severe. Lady Caithness one day put into Mary’s hands one of his recent publications, which she had just received, asking her to read it aloud. She struggled through a few sentences which were simply loathsome; and then our hostess put her hands over her ears and exclaimed vehemently, “Shut it up! Shut it up! It makes me sick!”
(245:1) In Dreams and Dream-Stories this dream is dated
(247:1) In Dreams and Dream-Stories this dream is dated
(256:1) In an article in Light (March 17, 1888) Edward Maitland, writing of this time and on this subject, says that the title of the work on which he was then engaged was to be The Finding of Christ; or, The Completion of the Intuition. This identifies it with the work referred to on pp. 96 ante and 344 post. He says that what he had written “was still very inchoate, there being several points on which [he] had failed to reach the central idea, though [he] had consciously been assisted in it by light from interior sources” (p. 127). – S.H.H.
(258:1) While writing, the words showed themselves again to her (see E.M.’s
article in Light,
(260:1) In November 1877. See pp. 247-8 ante. – S.H.H.
(262:1) Edward Maitland says: “Speaking of thunderstorms, I may mention that while entirely free from any mental apprehension of them, their effect on her [Anna Kingsford’s] physical system was of a most distressing kind, paralysing both thought and action sometimes for days, and rendering her irresponsible for anything she might say or do.” – S.H.H.