A TOUR ABROAD
THE time had come to relinquish our home in Chapel Street, and it was
determined to devote a space to travel, partly for the sake of the rest and
renovation only thus to be obtained; partly for the advancement of the two
causes on behalf of which, mainly, Mary had adopted the profession of medicine;
and partly, again, to test the effect of a residence in high altitudes in
promoting spiritual illumination and intercourse. For it was to
It was by no means with unmixed regret that we quitted the house which had been the scene of the production of The Perfect Way. For, great as had been the work accomplished in it, it had been accomplished only at that maximum cost, physical, mental, and other, which seemed to be the appointed condition of all our work; and, indeed, it sometimes seemed as if the two things were in inverse ratio to each other, and that the greater the cost and suffering, the greater the results to the work, and the more the sowing had been in tears, the more the reaping was in joy. Mary was wont to say that it was her Karma that made it so. She had returned to earth to work out a double redemption, for the race and for herself, and this involved a double amount of suffering.
The arduous and uncongenial labour of the packing and storing of our effects in view of a possibly prolonged absence, the finding of suitable places for the two Swiss domestics, and other indispensable matters duly accomplished, Mary repaired
I am on the brink of a new departure whereof I cannot guess the ending. I am
about to take to the Continent my daughter, in the hope that she may learn to
love my work, and to long to do it herself; and that she may forsake the
superstitions in vogue, and learn to know the Real and the True. I shall do my
best to accomplish this end. May Heaven aid and conduct me! Then indeed we shall
be truly related; for they only are truly related to us who see with our eyes,
and hear with our ears, and feel with our hearts. As said the good Jesus of
Galilee, “Who is My mother, and who are My brethren? My mother and My brethren
are they who hear the work of God and do it.” And again, “Except a man forsake
his father and his mother, he shall in no wise enter into the
“ST. LEONARDS, July 3, .
“MY DEAR LADY CAITHNESS, – I hope you will not be misled by the misinterpretations of The Perfect Way given in the June Theosophist. The most serious and incomprehensible of the reviewer’s mistakes is that in which he finds fault with the fourfold division of Human Nature, and actually pretends that he can find in that division no place allotted to the Soul! – When the whole book is nothing else than the history of the Soul and her apotheosis! The blunder is so gross and palpable that I find it hard to believe it has been committed innocently. Of course, the sevenfold division of the Theosophist is included in the four of The Perfect Way, and no more contradicts it or clashes with it than the fact that there are twelve months in the year contradicts the fact that there are four seasons in the year. For the seven are included in the four, the Jiv-atma or physical vital force belonging to the division of the body – for Jiv-atma is nothing else than nerve-force, and the Linga-Sharira, Kama Rupa, and Intelligent Mind being, of course, comprehended in the Astral spirit. The other two divisions of Soul and Spirit
(absolute) perfectly correspond with ours. Not to see so plain a fact as this surely to be wilfully blind.
“After all this reviewing and fault-finding on the part of critics having but a
third of the knowledge which has been given to us there is not a line in The
Perfect Way which I would alter were the book to be reprinted. The very
reviewer – Mr. Sinnett – who writes with so much pseudo-authority in the Theosophist has, within a year’s time, completely altered his
views on at least one important subject, – I mean, Reincarnation. When he came
to see us a year ago in
“I have no fear that the Immortals will deceive me; nor am I in the least disconcerted by adverse criticism. That others do not see, and cannot understand, proves only how greatly our work is needed in the world, and how far it surpasses all minor labours and teaching. Let no one, dear friend, shake your constant mind from the great doctrines which we have of the holy Powers themselves. For all other teaching, save that which is based on Justice, shall come to nothing. ‘The just Lord loveth justice; His countenance beholdeth the thing that is just’. Try all the doctrine of The Perfect Way by this supreme test, and see if it does not in all things satisfy and fulfil it as does no other under the sun. All are broken lights, – lights indeed, but fragmentary merely; one teaching including some stray beams, and others more. But to us the Gods have given without measure a perfect and glorious orb of complete glory, and if we be but faithful – we three – there is nothing we may not know. – Yours affectionately,
The fortnight we spent with our friend in
“That most admirable book, The Perfect Way, which embodies the latest, highest, and most import revelations given to humanity, constituting a new Gospel which thousands would thankfully receive could the work in question be brought to their notice; for thousands are at this time literally starving for want of the spiritual food adequate to the needs of their present spiritual growth. This further supply was promised by the One who could not give them more until they were prepared and able to receive it, in these words, ‘I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when He, the Spirit of Truth, is come, He will guide you into all truth’. This promise is now very beautifully fulfilled in The Perfect Way. And being further cognisant of the way in which it has been given and received, I have no hesitation whatever in pronouncing it to be the new Gospel of Interpretation of the Mysteries of God kept secret from the beginning.”
This letter gave rise to a discussion which continued until December, compelling us to intervene from time in order to correct erroneous conceptions and elucidate still further our teaching, our joint-communications being signed, “The Writers of The Perfect Way,” while my separate ones bore the signature, “Cantab.”
Among the contributors to the discussion were several of the most notable of the students of spiritual science of the time, the list comprising Mrs. A.J. Penny, the expositor of Jacob Boehme, Dr. George Wyld, Madame de Steiger, Miss Arundale, C.C. Massey, Hon. Roden Noel, and “I.O.” [the Rev. J.G. Ouseley], a priest deeply devoted to things mystical, the last of whom pronounced The Perfect Way the “most wonderful of all books which have appeared since the Christian era,” and one that “no student can be without if he will know the truth on these subjects.” The last five all wrote in refutation of the strictures of the first two, who had seriously misconceived the scope and doctrine of the book. And it was chiefly in order to correct such misconception that we wrote the following. It appeared in Light, September 23 , and was followed by others: –
“Permit us space in your columns for a few words in reply to the strictures of Dr. Wyld and Mrs. Penny upon the above book.
“The Perfect Way neither is, nor purports to be, a ‘new’ Gospel in the sense implied by your correspondents. On the contrary, it is expressly declared in the preface that ‘nothing new is told, but that which is ancient – so ancient, that either it or its meaning has been lost – is restored and explained.’ Its mission is that simply of Rehabilitation
and Interpretation, undertaken with the view, not of superseding Christianity, but of saving it.
“For, as the deepest and most earnest thinkers of our day are painfully aware,
the Gospel of Christendom, as it stands in the Four Evangels, does not suffice, uninterpreted, to satisfy
the needs of the age, and to furnish a perfect system of thought and rule of
life. Christianity – historically preached and understood – has for eighteen
centuries filled the world with wars, persecutions, and miseries of all kinds;
and in these days it is rapidly filling it with agnosticism, atheism, and revolt
against the very idea of God. The Perfect Way seeks to
consolidate truth in one complete whole, and by systematising religion to
demonstrate its Catholicity. It seeks to make peace between Science and Faith;
to marry the Intellect with the Intuition; to bring together East and West, and
to unite Buddhist philosophy with Christian love, by demonstrating that the
basis of religion is not historical, but spiritual, – not physical, but psychic,
– not local and temporal, but universal and eternal. It avers that the true
‘Lord Jesus Christ’ is no mere historical character, no mere demi-god, by whose
material blood the souls of men are washed white, but ‘the hidden man of the
heart,’ continually born, crucified, ascending and glorified in the interior
Kingdom of the Christian’s own Spirit. A scientific age rightly refuses to be
any longer put off with data which are more than dubious, and logic which
morality and philosophy alike reject. A deeper, truer, more real religion is
needed for an epoch of though and for a world familiar with Biblical criticism
and revision; – a religion whose foundations no destructive agnosticism can
undermine, and in whose structure no examination, however searching, shall be
able to find flaw or blemish. It is only by rescuing the Gospel of Christ from
the externals of history, persons, and events, and by vindicating its essential
significance, that Christianity can be saved from the destruction which
inevitably overtakes all idolatrous creeds. There is not a word in The Perfect Way at
variance with the spirit of the Gospel of the ‘Lord Jesus Christ.’ If your
correspondents think otherwise, it can only be because they are themselves
dominated by idolatrous conceptions in regard to the personal and historical
Jesus, and cannot endure to see their Eidolon broken to pieces in the presence
“It is just those who have fully accepted, and who comprehend the spirit of, the old Gospel who are ready and anxious to hear what the promised Spirit of Truth has yet to reveal. But the world at large never has accepted that Gospel, and cannot accept it for need of that very interpretation which our opponents deprecate. If the Spirit of Truth be really charged to ‘show all things,’ such exposition will certainly not consist in a mere reiteration, in the same obscure, because symbolical, terms of the old formulas. But if they elect to close their minds against any elucidation of sacred mysteries other than that provided by a Boehme or a Swedenborg, they virtually quench the Spirit and fossilise its revelation.
“Despite the eulogy of Dr. Wyld, Mrs. Penny’s letter is altogether inadequate to its intention. Like the utterances of conventional pulpiteers, it is profuse of praise and meagre of explanation. Terms such as ‘the water of life’ and ‘the painful mysteries of our own
nature’ are used wholly without indication as to their meaning; and the sense in which it speaks of ‘the Lord Jesus Christ’ is left entirely to the reader’s imagination. Surely she must be aware that these oft-repeated expressions have failed of their proper practical spiritual issue, precisely because they have lacked the interpretation necessary to render them intelligible, and that until they are so explained the world’s conversion is not to be hoped for. But, as it seems to us, Mrs. Penny is one of those who, contemning knowledge, postulate as the condition of salvation a faith which is divorced from understanding, and which, therefore, is no true faith, indefeasible and constant, but a blind, mechanical assent, born of mere wilfulness, and liable at any instant to fail and fall away.
“The secret, however, of the opposition made in certain circles to the doctrine set forth in The Perfect Way is not far to seek. It is to be found in the fact that the book is, throughout, strenuously opposed to idolatry in all its forms, including that of the popular ‘Spiritualism’ of the day, which is, in effect, a revival under a new guise and with new sanctions of the ancient cultus known as Ancestor-Worship. The Perfect Way, on the contrary, insists that Truth is accessible only through the illumination, by the Divine Spirit, of man’s own soul; and that precisely in proportion as the individual declines such interior illumination, and seeks to extraneous influences, does he impoverish his own soul and diminish his possibilities of knowledge. It teaches that ‘Spirits’, or ‘Angels’, as their devotees are fond of styling them, are untrustworthy guides, possessed of no positive or divine element, and reflecting, therefore, rather than instructing, their interrogators; and that the condition of mind, namely, passivity, insisted on by these ‘angels’ is one to be strenuously avoided, the true attitude for obtaining divine illumination being that of ardent active aspiration, impelled by a resolute determination to know nothing but the Highest. Precisely such a state of passivity, voluntarily induced, and such veneration of and reliance upon ‘guides’ or ‘controls,’ are referred to by the Apostle when he says: ‘But let no man beguile you by a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels.’ And precisely such exaltation of the personal Jesus as The Perfect Way repudiates and its opponents demand is by the same Apostle condemned in the words: ‘Henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more.’
“This, then, is the conclusion of the whole matter. God, with ‘Christ,’ is in the man who, purifying his spirit after the secret of the Christ, aspires prayerfully and fervently. And it is to this interior spirit that he must look for illumination and salvation, and not to any outside ‘angel’ or fleshly Saviour. Attaining such illumination for themselves, our critics will be able both to recognise the sources and to verify the teachings of our book for themselves. For, thus invoked, the Divine Spirit will ‘bring all things to remembrance’ for us. Opinions will be merged in knowledges. And, instead of limiting the Spirit by the form in which its past revelations have been couched, they will be able to discern, in all its plenitude, the Spirit through the form. Your correspondents referred to have, clearly, not yet recognised the source of the teaching to which they take exception. They will
find it fully described in Part I of Appendix III. (1) If the divinity of this utterance is beyond their power of recognition, argument in their case is hopeless, and no avenue exists through which Divine truth can reach them. God grant it may not be so.
“THE WRITERS OF The
We passed the greater part of August at
But with every increase of altitude the
oppression lessened, at length to disappear altogether, when her keen sense of
relief from physical pain and weakness combined with her intense appreciation of
the scenery to induce a state of ecstatic delight such as is known only to
highly strung artistic temperaments. And at such moments she would almost cry
with desire to be all the beauty she beheld, and seemed to herself in some way
to belong to it and it to her, as if she and Nature had but one consciousness
between them. Such was the feeling which was destined before the year was out to
find expression, such as it had never before found, in her wondrous utterance on
the poet as the type of the Heavenly Personality. Conceived on the mountains of
From a letter addressed to me, which reached us when on the point of quitting
“The Theosophical Society in
This was the first suggestion to us of a conjunction with the Theosophical Society, and the idea had not occurred to us before;
nor, now that it was suggested, and this by those whom we held in high esteem, did we feel drawn to it. On the contrary, we already knew enough the origin, motives, and methods of the Theosophical Society to distrust it. Its original prospectus committed the glaring inconsistency of declaring the absolute tolerance of the Society of all forms of religion, and then of stating that a main object was the destruction of Christianity. Its founders had committed it also to the rejection of the idea of a God, personal or impersonal, and this while calling it Theosophical. And it claimed for its doctrine a derivation from sources which, even if they had any existence – a matter on which we had no proof – were not to be compared with those from whom ours was derived, while the doctrine itself was palpably inferior so far as yet disclosed, and this both in substance and form.
On sending the letter to Lady Caithness, together with some remarks to the above purport, she replied as follows: –
“I am surprised at what is said about the T.S. in
The matter went no further at this time; but we were struck
by learning that Mary had been recognised by the mysterious chiefs of the Theosophical Society as “the greatest natural mystic of the present day, and countless ages in advance of the great majority of mankind, the foremost of whom belong to the last race of the fourth round, while she belongs to the first race of the fifth round.” Without attaching any value to this doctrine of rounds and races, we could not but recognise the singular coincidence between this assertion of her antiquity and the intimation given to us some years before while at Paris, that she was a “soul of vast experience, and many thousands of years older than” I was, of which intimation we had never uttered a word to any person, but had kept it strictly to ourselves.
The following is from Mary’s Diary: –
September 17, 1882. At Montreux. I did not think I should bring my Diary so far, and yet leave it so long without an entry. And now the entry I shall make is inspired, not by the outer world, but by interior reflections. I have employed a dull day in reading an ill-written novel, – Lord Lytton’s Coming Race; and yet that novel, despite its irritating defects of style and construction, has suggested to me some considerations which I feel constrained to write here. Lytton speaks disparagingly of the Drama, and seems to believe that its one use – that of depicting Emotion – would have no application in a perfected community, from which Emotion would – according to him – be necessarily banished. For my part I have long looked on Drama – or perhaps I should say Spectacular Pantomime – as one of the probable future instruments of education. The crowd which refuses to read Books or hear Lectures would eagerly gather to witness theatrical representations. Why – with sufficient funds to supply the needful accessories – might we not revive the ancient Thespian Art, the Art which in early ages was applied to the Initiation of Neophytes into the Mysteries of the Gods, and in later times to the representation of those same Mysteries under the guise of the Christian Myth? I would like to reproduce, if possible with the aid of Song and Opera, those solemn and sacred plays in which was depicted the Progress of the Pilgrim Soul from Stage to Stage and from Form to Form. I would like to represent the career of a Hero, whether as Perseus, as Heracles, or as Jesus, His Mission, His Acts, His final Apotheosis. I would reproduce the calm ascetic life of holy Buddha-Gautama; I would reiterate to a Western audience his divine precepts, and give, in character, a verbal sketch of his philosophic system. Or, as Pythagoras, I would give utterance to the doctrine of the Metempsychosis, and define the moral duties which man owes to his fellow-beings in other forms of matter.
That all this, and much more, could be achieved on the Stage has again and again recurred to my thoughts while witnessing such modern plays as Pygmalion and Galatea, Babil and Bijou, or even
the commonplace and degraded Pantomime. And the
marvellously glowing and dramatic visions which from time to time have unveiled
themselves to my own sight, have often been of a character such a to make me
long to reproduce them on the Stage. Such a sense as that I once beheld on the
far-off summit of radiant Olympus, where the Gods reclined at their Feast; or
that again, in which I beheld the Mosque-like
Lytton prognosticates an age in which all Passion, whether physical or psychic, shall be no more. His “coming Race” is to be like the Egyptian Gods – stern, emotionless, placid, serene. Hence, of course, all the Arts – which we owe chiefly to the Greeks, whose Gods were far removed from the Egyptian type – must gradually languish and cease. Poetry will be no more. Music, Painting, Romance – all those various channels of the imagination in which Emotion rolls its many-coloured waters – will be broken down and destroyed. Not only so; but with the attainment of “Perfection” must perish the vocation of the Seer and of the Reformer. At this thought I cannot but stop and ask myself what I should do in such a world. If I labour to bring about Perfection in its manifold aspects – spiritual, moral, physical – what is the far-off consummation of my toil? A condition of undisturbed harmony and serenity in which shall be heard no discordant note, which no sound of pain or sorrow shall ever trouble. Where, without Suffering, Poverty, and Tyranny, could be the virtues of Charity, of Compassion, of Courage? (...) Yet a divine Impulse compels the highest of our race to labour and to sacrifice themselves perpetually in order to attain the estimation alike of Virtue and of Vice. I can but suppose this end is not destined to be achieved upon this Planet, nor are the conditions of life which surround us here such as to make such a consummation possible. The achievement of Perfection – a word which is in fact identical with Serenity, Calm, and Repose – must be reserved for Nirvâna. It will never, it can never, be realised on this Plane. What we do then, in our continual efforts towards Reform, is but to attune and fit our own Souls and the Souls of a few elect for removal from this sphere; we cannot permanently ameliorate the condition of the Planet on which we now are. We render the conditions of mundane existence intolerable and impossible to ourselves and to those whom we are able to influence, and thus we effect our own and their transmutation to other planes, where the conditions of Being will accord with our transformed state. Were it otherwise, we should, I think, ultimately arrive at the utter extinction of all Qualities which, under present circumstances, owe their manifestation to their Opposites, and at the annihilation of all Faculties which are cultivated and perfected by the existence of Obstacles. There is here an Idea, or rather a relation of Ideas to each other, which needs some careful thinking out.
By this it will be seen that she got upon the track of thought of which the doctrine of “Progression by Antagonism” was the outcome.
On September 19 we repaired to
For my share in this reluctance I had reasons known only to myself such that it was with astonishment and almost dismay that I found myself bound on the journey. Those reasons were in this wise. When packing up my effects on giving up the house in Chapel Street, I came upon a small parcel, so closed up as to be almost hermetically sealed, which had so long been unopened that I had forgotten the contents; and on opening it to ascertain these I found that they were a number of the marking-cards, calculations, and other appliances of the gaming-tables at some of the German kursaals, which I had preserved as relics of a systematic attempt I had made several years previously, in conjunction with some friends, to get the better of the Banque.
As may be supposed, the attempt had been not only vain, but costly, and I had entirely renounced the idea of ever renewing it. Not, however, for those reasons alone, also because I found that the fascination of the pursuit promised to become so absorbing as to withdraw me from all other interests. It was not the excitement of the game that so affected me, or even the prospect of winning – though I had ambition, such as that of entering Parliament, for which larger means than I already possessed were requisite. It was the idea of the conquest of the Banque by means of a system so contrived as to make such Banques thenceforth impossible that took possession of me, and
threatened to become a fixed idea, to the exclusion, as already said of all other ideas; and it was only the counter-assertion of itself by my other and proper fixed idea – namely, the innate idea that I had a special work to do in life, which was not that of breaking banks – that enable me to dispel this idea. I was helped, too, by the remark of one, a veteran of the Casinos, who had bought his wisdom at the expense of his whole fortune, and who said to me, speaking very impressively, “Maitland, take my word for it – the word of a man who knows – you will never be allowed to win at play. The Gods have other works for you. You are too good a man to be a successful gamester.” Not to prolong the story unduly, the result was my possession by another idea in force such as entirely to supplant and displace its predecessor. This was the resolve never again to put myself in the way of playing, and never to be the means of putting anyone else in the way.
Such was my fixed resolution when I lighted on the packet in question. But although the sight of its contents was powerless to alter my resolve, there escaped from it a palpable influence which smote me with such force as to cause me to exclaim, “Why, it is like the story of the bottled imp in the Arabian Nights!” A story in which now for the first time I saw a possible truth. It was a distinct smite, the effect of which was to set up in the outer part of myself a craving to do that from which my inner self entirely revolted, and this without in the least weakening, but rather intensifying, the resolve I had formed. The conflict thus set up between the two spheres of my being, the spiritual and the physiological, or perhaps rather the astral, was such as to enable me to realise, with a distinctness never before experienced, the duality of the human system and the independence of each part from the other of its two moieties; and thus to constitute a psychological phenomenon well worth the study I found myself constrained to bestow on it. And it was with no little satisfaction that I observed that, potent as was the assailing influence, it was utterly powerless to affect the real me in such wise as to dispose me to heed it. My impulse was to destroy the contents of the bewitched packet; and had there been a fire in the room, I should at once have burnt them. But it was summer-time; and so I reclosed the packet and replaced it in the chest, to go to the warehouse, thinking that its so-long
retention of the “spirits of the cards” might be due to the impermeable nature of the enclosing substance.
Meanwhile I renewed my resolve against visiting or taking anyone else to visit
what was now the only place of the kind accessible, which was
Being aware of the superstitions which gamblers have about a maiden’s luck, I
was yet more struck by the intelligence which thus seemed to be behind the
influence to which I ascribed the dream. And very soon I had reason to be struck
also by its persistency; for both mother and daughter were visited by similar
dreams several times in the next few weeks, with the result of making me more
firmly resolved than ever to keep our distance from any place of the kind. And
now, by a destiny which seemed to be irresistible, we were about to start for a
place which was but a few minutes’ distance by rail from
Our first halt on leaving
the latter place to allow Mary to rest. On the
6th we proceeded to Mentone, arriving there as it was getting dark. On reaching
the hotel on which we had fixed – one close to and fronting the sea – we found
that we were the first arrivals, the season not having yet begun, as the rainy
season was not quite over. Of this most fatal drawback our
The event proved the wisdom of this precaution. The distresses of that night
were beyond description. None of us went to bed. The close, damp, heavy
atmosphere early brought on for Mary an access of asthma, so violent and
persistent as to compel her to sit up all night, while we burnt stramonium and
other medicaments, and strove to protect the sufferer from the mosquitoes, which
literally swarmed. But all in vain. The morning found her exhausted with pain
and fatigue and want of sleep disfigured almost beyond recognition and nearly
blinded with mosquito-bites, and bent on quitting the place by the earliest
possible train. But whither to betake ourselves? Summoning the proprietor before
it was yet full day, and informing him of the nature of the emergency, we were
told that the whole
This however, I recollected, was impossible. The treble fare for such a journey exceeded the cash in my possession, and I must first change a circular note, and for this must wait
until the bank opened. Mary reconciled herself
to the inevitable delay, and soon after ten we were in the train, provided with
My satisfaction proved short-lived. On reaching Nice the doors of the carriages
were thrown open and the passengers one and all were ordered to descend. The
rains had caused a flood, which had carried away a bridge on the line, and the
train could go no farther. We were thus detained perforce within an easy
Indeed, she was so eager to see the place so noted at once for its physical beauty and its moral ugliness, that she had no sooner recovered somewhat than nothing would do but to make an excursion thither. This we accordingly did, breakfasting there, strolling about the gardens, and watching the play and the players, and even adventuring a few silver pieces, more out of curiosity as to their fate than from any desire to play. My satisfaction in the experiment resulted from the proof it afforded me that we both were indifferent, and the trial was no real temptation. The atmosphere of the rooms was indescribably noxious, physically and spiritually; and, moreover, we had been compelled to leave the child outside, the high moral sense of the administration having led them to exclude minors. Hence our stay was very brief, and the relief on emerging into the pure air great.
We had been unfortunate at Nice in our selection of an hotel no less than in the
weather, the former being in a too low-lying situation for our asthmatic
subject. Mary therefore continued to suffer greatly; and as the railway was not
yet open to the westwards, we determined to seek some other locality. On asking
advice from persons likely to be well informed, the testimony was unanimous in
The weather was perfect to look at, and the evening so fine as to tempt us to take a walk on the hillside, which Mary enjoyed greatly for the beauty of the scene, with the starry sky overhead, and the purity of the air. In her exhilaration she felt as if new inspirations of the highest order must be in store for her. Alas for our hopes! The very atmosphere of her room seemed to stifle her as she entered it. The asthma returned in redoubled force, and the terrible experience of Mentone was repeated in an aggravated degree. The whole night was passed in an endeavour to mitigate her sufferings; and when morning came her condition was such as to make it impossible either to stay or to go. The dilemma seemed invincible, and I was in despair accordingly. The solution proved as strange as it was unexpected. While I was standing by her as she sat in the chair in which she had passed the night, there came from within the folds of the gauze netting with which it had been found necessary to envelop her a voice, speaking in a tone loud, strong, firm, and peremptory as that of a man accustomed to command, which said, “Procure some chloroform at once – as much as you can get. It will enable me to return to Nice.”
On looking at her surprise, she appeared unconscious of having spoken; but I lost no time in acting on the suggestion, and hastened to the nearest pharmacy. Here I had great difficulty in getting supplied. It was forbidden to sell the drug without a medical prescription, and that could be obtained only by calling in a doctor, – a course which, besides involving delay and expense, was one to which Mary would by no means consent. At length, moved by my pleadings, the chemist let me have half-an-ounce. This was soon expended, and with but little apparent effect in allaying the spasms of her malady. On presenting myself again with the empty bottle, the chemist gave me another half-ounce; and this, following the other, proved sufficient; and by keeping her slightly under its influence, we succeeded in getting her into a carriage to drive to the station, then into the train, and finally to an hotel in Nice to which we had been commented in a letter just received from Lady Caithness, who, with unremitting kindness, had written to us every other day through our trouble. Mary was able to converse a little during the journey, and was surprised to learn, in answer to her question about the chloroform, that she had ordered it herself, having no recollection of the occurrence. Nor had it occurred to me that the utterance might have come through, and not from, her, stranger as her tone had been.
Out destination was the Hôtel Millet; and Mary was no sooner seated in her apartment, which was a very large one, being still, but only slightly, under the influence of the anaesthetic – the supply of which was nearly exhausted – than she spoke again in the same voice as before, saying in a rapid but a distinct, measured, and emphatic tone, without pausing or faltering: –
“Use chloroform, only chloroform; no stimulants; not tea, coffee, nor brandy. It
will make her sick, but that will not injure her. The left lung is hopelessly
diseased. There is in it a very large cavity, too deeply seated for detection by
auscultation. She has tubercle in the lungs, in the stomach, in the intestine,
and in the kidneys. The left lung adheres at the apex to the pleura, and is
totally useless. It is the condition of the lung that affects the bronchial
tubes and causes the asthma. This cannot be cured. It can only be kept under
control by living always in a large city.
journey, take her to
Here the voice ceased, its strength having remained unabated to the end, causing E. to exclaim, “Why, mamma has quite forgotten her asthma!” I had been watching with dismay the exhaustion of the chloroform. It was now almost gone, and how to procure more I knew not. No chemist would supply the amount wanted without a medical order, and no medical man would give such an order even were we to summon one. Besides which, he would in all probability have disapproved of such a use for it. Suddenly an idea struck me; and, acting on it, I placed before her a table with pen and paper, and bade
her write a prescription for three ounces of chloroform. She was still comatose from the drug. Nevertheless she took the pen, and in a slow, mechanical manner wrote, without a mistake, and in her ordinary hand, in French, an order, which, sent by the hand of the concierge, was at once complied with, and the desired supply was brought me. It was then between six and seven o’clock, and from that hour till near midnight she was kept under its influence to a degree just sufficient to suppress consciousness and prevent the recurrence of her spasms, I meanwhile carefully observing her pulse and general state. By midnight the oppression had so greatly diminished as to render the breathing free; finding which, I discontinued the chloroform; and soon after, to my intense satisfaction, she sank into a profound exception of the sickness, which followed as predicted, and continued for two days, she was well enough to be told of what had occurred, and to discuss its many strange features. Having no knowledge of the prescription for the chloroform, she was greatly surprised to learn that she had herself written it while under its influence.
Our chief perplexity, of course, was as to the personality of the speakers, for
they always used the plural. The experience was a new one to us. We readily
recognised the knowledge and wisdom of all that they said so far as mundane
things were concerned. But when they contemplated a work such as ours being
promoted by means of money, won at the gaming-table, we could hardly refer them
to the category of the divine. As for the statement that there was another woman
in the world by association with whom our work could be completed in the event
of Mary’s death, I kept that to myself, knowing the distress such a suggestion
would cause her. But I did not for a moment entertain it. The very idea of such
a replacement of her was intolerable to sacrilegiousness, and it seemed only to
strengthen the suspicion excited by their other proposal. Mary was by no means
disposed to follow the injunctions respecting her Will. And it was not until
over four years later, and she had again been driven by illness to the
mental effort to restrain her. So that it was a satisfaction to me, when questioning her afterwards as to what had been said, to find that she had entirely mistaken its import, and thought that her mamma was to give up her own will, and not the legal document thus designated.
Another curious point was that of the ability of the influences in question to realise their claim to be able to make Mary win at the tables, and the precise modus of the process, supposing it possible. And we were disposed to think it might be in this way. To win at the cards, all that was necessary to know was how they were packed after being shuffled and cut. The game being trente et quarante, it was open to a clairvoyant to read the order of the cards and know what would win; but this only of course, after the event had been practically decided by the position of the cards in the pack prior to their being dealt out.
To win at the roulette-tables would involve a different process; for no elements existed on which to found a calculation. Here, then, there must be an application of physical force, which would consist in the ball being so controlled by the invisible influences as to fall into any number they might choose, while they inspired the player with the impulse to stake upon that number.
The problem was so singularly interesting from so many points of view that I was hardly surprised that Mary, ill as she was, should be fascinated by it, and – with her usual eagerness for experiences – desire to put it to the test. But even though allowing the possibility of the achievement implied, I doubted the suitability of the conditions under which the experiment would have to be made, and this partly as regarded both environment and agencies. For, while the latter could hardly be of a grade to merit the designation heavenly, the former involved conditions which both morally and spiritually were distinctly infernal, namely, the atmosphere and associations of the Casino; and I did not believe that her gift could be exercised while in contact with it. Rather was I apprehensive of harm to herself from the conjunction.
I offered no positive opposition to the attempt, but confined myself to putting these considerations before her. Regarding the question as for us an intellectual and not a moral one
believing that the right and wrong of any act not involving a breach of principle depends upon the spirit in which it is done. Mary’s clinching argument for making the experiment found expression in the exclamation: –
“But only think what a crushing proof it would be to the materialists of the reality of man’s spiritual nature if I were to guess right every time and win every coup! And it would not be gambling, for I should know positively.”
As no sufficient reply to this aspect of the matter was forthcoming, the experiment was resolved on, a trifling sum only being devoted to it. For, while success would of itself supply the means, a very few losses would suffice to prove failure.
The result was as I had at first surmised. The spiritual atmosphere of the place blinded and stifled her. Instead of seeing clearly she guessed at random, and with the usual results, and after a few vain attempts, begged to be taken away, saying she felt as if she was being poisoned. There were no tokens of the presence of the influences which had spoken through her when under the chloroform. How it might have been had she again been similarly rendered accessible to them we could not say. We had gone early, in order to be able to return home before the fatal Mistral should set in, so that we were able to spend some hours in the open air, enjoying the scenery and dissipating whatever might have clung to us of the unwholesome influences to which we had been exposed. The evening showed us that in this we had not been altogether successful, for it brought Mary a severe nervous crisis, which we had no difficulty in tracing to such origin. The “outer walls” of her system were not yet fully built.
Throughout this season of trouble we were in constant communication with our
friend at Paris, whose letters of sympathy and counsel were most helpful. Nice
was her winter residence, and she would very shortly be coming thither, and
hoped we would stay to see her. But we were bound to escape northwards as soon
as the railway was passable. Accordingly, on the 19th, we took our departure,
and breaking our journey on Mary’s account at
Ladies with whom she had formerly lived in
(78:1) See note 2, p. 33 ante. The illumination here referred to is the one “Concerning Inspiration and Prophesying,” being Nº. II in Part I of Clothed with the Sun.
(79:1) See pp. 101-2 post.
(94:1) See Vol. I, p. 60.