THE THEOSOPHICAL SOCIETY
OUR campaign in Switzerland opened distressfully, Mary having contracted a
severe attack of erysipelas by sleeping in a damp bed at
Neuchâtel, where we rested the first night of our arrival in that
country. The malady developed itself at
the fundamental principles of humanity itself. The controversialists, moreover, were in deadly earnest; it was war to the knife between them. And, to crown all, the champion who had issued the challenge, and who stood like a youthful David against the Giant, or an Athanasius against the world, was not only a foreigner, but a woman, young, fragile, and intensely feminine of aspect, in a community inveterately given to regard woman as a negligible factor in humanity.
Besides arming herself at all points in regard to the general treatment of her subject, she was careful to obtain the local knowledge calculated to give point and application to it. To this end she bearded the lion in his den, or rather – not to do that noble animal injustice – the demon in his pit, by presenting herself at the laboratory and demanding an interview with its notorious chieftain, which was accorded. I accompanied her on the enterprise, but was careful to keep in the background, in order to allow of a more unrestrained and spontaneous discussion than could have been possible in the presence of a third person, and that one of the physiologist’s own sex. The professor gave expression to the usual fallacies, admitting that in other laboratories than his own there was deplorable cruelty, but that the subjects of his experimentations regarded him as their best friend, owing to the pleasing effects of the narcotics which – and not anaesthetics – he administered to them, – as aspect of the subject of which Mary had no difficulty in disposing, as she did dispose of it to his face, by convicting him of being like his brethren, as unscrupulous in the statements whereby he defended his practice as in that practice itself. All of which she duly recounted in her public addresses.
Failing to answer her indictment, they sought to impugn her authority to speak on the subject by questioning the genuineness of her diploma, affirming it to be of American manufacture, and void of value as a testimony to her competency; and when the falsity of this charge was demonstrated, they fabricated others injurious to her reputation as a woman, but of course only to meet with a further exposure of their own utter unscrupulousness, I had the satisfaction of making a laughingstock of one of them who had dated his diatribe from an hospital for the insane, by suggesting that the “arlequinade” he had
perpetrated bespoke the writer to be, not the
physician of that institution, but one of its patients; all of which was duly
published in the
The immediate result of this expedition was the formation of two new societies,
An interesting acquaintance made by us in
Discussing with Mary, in reference to him, the plea of utility advanced by its partisan on behalf of the practice, she was emphatic in the expression of her conviction that, even could any alleviation be procured by it for the physical sufferings of the race, it could never compensate for the mental sufferings caused by the knowledge of it, to say nothing of the degradation of humanity.
We arrived in
“ATCHAM VICARAGE, June 8 .
“I did this because there are in
“I am going to do my utmost to make our London Lodge a really influential and scientific body. (…) Besides, we do not want to pledge ourselves to Orientalism only, but to the study of all religions esoterically, and especially to that of our Western Catholic Church. Theosophy is equally applicable to such study; but Orientalism can relate only to Brahmanism and Buddhism.
“As you see, I have left
all the old false statements about the circulation of the blood, etc., to which I see added a new falsity copied from Richet anent Galvani and his dead frog. I shall notice and answer all these untruths in my article for Madame Adam’s Nouvelle Revue, which I am going to write at once. If you are writing to her in the course of the next few days, will you tell her that I am preparing this article?
“As for Brown-Sequard’s experiments with carbonic acid, it is difficult to understand why he should have injured the monkey’s throat in order to test such a medicament, or why the creature should have screamed so terribly, as it is admitted it did, if nothing painful was being done. If the object of the professor really was to discover a new anaesthetical agent, he might have tested his drug more satisfactorily at one of the veterinary colleges where injured animals are under operation, without maiming wantonly creatures in health and soundness of limb. A little extra trouble is all that is needed in nine cases out of ten to convert cruel and unjustifiable tortures into praiseworthy experiments.”
To the same: –
“June 25 .
“I have finished my article for the Nouvelle Revue. Will you please send
me Madame Adam’s address as soon as possible? I am going up to town on Saturday
to preside at the Theosophical Lodge meeting on Sunday, and also to give a
lecture at a garden party upon vivisection. I have a very long and interesting
letter from Madame H. in reply to a note I sent her. She seems thoroughly in
earnest, and may very likely be able, with the help of her Republican friends,
to draw attention to the horrors which go on unchecked in beautiful
“I have a plan which I earnestly hope I shall somehow have the means of carrying
into practice next spring. It is to give lectures in
“It is very pleasant to me to have this quiet little country retreat to resort
to, to think and write. But for it I could never have done the article for
Madame Adam; for in
To the same: –
“I write to ask you to beg Madame Adam very earnestly indeed not to delay the publication of my reply to Professor Richet later than August. Miss B. writes to me that R.’s article in the Revue des Deux Mondes has done and still is doing the most terrible injury to our cause, as it is being repeated and quoted everywhere by the
newspapers; and it is all a mass of lies,
‘gross and palpable,’ as I have clearly demonstrated in my reply. As to Lady
H.’s paper, that is on a subject of no particular and burning interest,
and one time is as good as another to talk about women’s rights; but the wrongs
of animals, and of humanity in general – these are themes which can ill afford
to wait, now that a general stir is being made so vigorously on the whole
subject in Paris. Supplicate Madame A. to publish my article at the earliest
possible date; otherwise I greatly fear that my reply may be anticipated by some
unscientific and unqualified writer, incompetent to deal with the question, and
thus worse harm may be done even than by Richet’s
falsehoods. I have had six or seven letters from
“To-day is our Lodge meeting. I congratulate you heartily on your election as President of your Lodge. How can you think for a moment that I am not interested in Theosophy? Is it because my love and pity and sense of justice are stirred so strongly on behalf of the dumb and oppressed? Surely I should ill deserve the name of a student of the wisdom of God if I did not do all in my power to save the poor and the sorrowful. Are not Wisdom and Love one?”
To the same: –
“July 14 .
“I have this morning received a note from Madame Adam in which she says that she
is alarmed at the length of my reply to Richet, and
will certainly have to cut a great deal. Now, I want you to do me and the cause
a great kindness and service. I want you to write to her, and ask her not to cut
out anything, but to publish the article in two parts, half in one number and
half in the next. It will be utterly impossible to mutilate it without omitting
much that is indispensable, because there is not a word de
trop in what I have written. It is because M. Richet
wrote so much that I am compelled to write much in reply, since it is obvious
that, if any point of his argument’s left untouched in my answer, our
adversaries will at once say. ‘She did not answer such and such a statement,
because she could not’; and the cause would be almost more injured by such an
omission than it would be were the thing left untouched altogether. You have weight with Madame A., and a word from you to this
effect would doubtless influence her. All our friends in
To the same: –
“August 1 .
“I return herewith Madame Adam’s note. I suppose that when she says the article is trop developpé, she objects – as I know she does – to the basis from which I have argued the matters; to wit, the Hermetic philosophy. But all this I thoroughly considered before putting pen to paper. This vivisection question will never be really understood and rightly judged until our true relations to other beings are rightly comprehended. The commonplace ‘moral
duty’ argument is quite insufficient, and has been amply proved to be so, because the obvious answer to it is, ‘Man is of more consequence than a thousand other creatures, and the motive of the vivisector redeems his act.’ I am curious to see how Madame Adam’s critic will separate what he calls the ‘abus de la vivisection’ from legitimate torture. Such a line of argument cannot but prove a fiasco, and will injure more than help the cause.”
The paper in question was eventually printed separately, the Nouvelle Revue being too
much under the influence of the dominant school to admit it. It was a reply to
Professor Charles Richet’s article, “Le
Roi des Animaux,”
and was entitled “Roi ou Tyran?” It found much acceptance with the friends of
the cause in France, both for its scientific and its philosophic value, and
served greatly to strengthen their hands. Atcham, from which the foregoing
letters are dated, was the parish of which A. had formerly been curate, and had
become incumbent during our absence from
The arrival of Mr. Sinnett in
of the teaching received by us. And it was with no little interest that we looked forward to an examination of Esoteric Buddhism.
The proposed Epiphany of the Theosophical Society took the form of a public reception to Mr. Sinnett, in Prince’s Hall, on July 17. The audience numbered some three hundred, and – as stated in the press – “was at once fashionable and influential.” The proceedings were opened by Mary, who in her capacity of President, delivered the following address: –
“No doubt our guests will expect me to explain what is meant by the word ‘Theosophy,’ and what are the aims and objects of the Society over which I preside. I will attempt, in as few words as possible to give a reply to both these questions.
“Theosophy is the science of the Divine. In this age the word science is readily understood; not so the word Divine. We Theosophists understand by the word Divine the hidden, interior, and primal quality of existence; the noumenal as opposed to the phenomenal. Our relations to the Divine we hold to be relations, not to the exterior, but to the within; not to that which is afar off, but to that which is at the heart of all Being, the very core and vital point of our own true self. To know ourselves is, we hold, to know the Divine. And, renouncing utterly the vulgar exoteric, anthropomorphic conception of Deity, we renounce also the exoteric acceptation of all myths and legends associated therewith, replacing the shadow by the substance, the symbol by the significance, the quasi-historical by the true ideal. We hold that the science of the Divine is necessarily a science of such subtle meanings and transcendent verities that common language too poorly conveys them, and they have thus, by universal consent throughout the world, found their only possible expression by the medium of types and metaphors. For metaphor is the language of the poet, or seer, and to him alone is it given to know and to understand the Divine. In the picture-world in which he lives and moves all interior and primal verities are formulated in visions rather than in words. But the multitude for whom he records his visions takes the metaphor for the reality, and exalts the eidolon in the place of the God.
“The object of the Theosophical Society is therefore to remove this
misapprehension; to unveil
and to satisfy themselves that the fullest claims of science are compatible with, and its latest revelations necessary to, the true comprehension of esoteric religion.
“I have used the word religion. It is a word which has, unhappily, become divorced from its true meaning, and associated with much that is inherently repugnant thereto. One of the efforts of this Society will be to restore to sacred things sacred meanings. Religion is the science of interpretation, the science of binding together earth and Heaven, the science of correspondences, of Sacraments, or, as they were called in all old times, the Mysteries. And the religious man is he who is bound together, in whom heart and head have equal sway, in whom Intellect and Conscience work together and in harmony, who is at unity with himself and at one with the whole world of Being. In this sense we are a religious society, for one of our avowed aims is the promotion of universal brotherhood. We proffer an Eirenicon to all Churches, claiming that, once the veil of symbolism is lifted from the divine face of Truth, all Churches are akin, and the basic doctrine of all is identical. The guest of the evening, who sits beside me, is a Buddhist. I, the President of the English Lodge, am a Catholic Christian. Yet we are one at heart, for he has been taught by his Oriental Gurus the same esoteric doctrines which I have found under the adopted pagan symbols of the Roman Church, and which esoteric Christianity you will find embodied in The Perfect Way. Greek, Hermetic, Buddhist, Vedantist, Christian – all these Lodges of the Mysteries are fundamentally one and identical in doctrine. And that doctrine is the interpretation of Nature’s hieroglyphs, written for us in sky and sea and land, pictured for us in the glorious pageantry of night and day, of sunset and dawn, and woven into the many-coloured warp and woof of flower and seed and rock, of vegetable and animal cells, of crystal and dewdrops, and of all the mighty phenomena of planetary cycles, solar systems, and starry revolutions.
“We hold that no single ecclesiastical creed is comprehensible by itself alone, uninterpreted by its predecessors and its contemporaries. Students, for example, of Christian theology will only learn to understand and to appreciate the true value and significance of the symbols familiar to them by the study of Eastern philosophy and pagan idealism. For Christianity is the heir of these, and she draws her best blood from their veins. And forasmuch as all her great ancestors hid beneath their exoteric formulas and rites – themselves mere husks and shells to amuse the simple-minded – the esoteric or concealed verities reserved for the initiate, so also she reserves for earnest seekers and deep thinkers the true interior Mysteries which are one and eternal in all creeds and Churches from the foundation of the world. This true, interior, transcendental meaning is the Real Presence veiled in the Elements of the Divine Sacrament: the mystical substance and the truth figured beneath the bread and the wine of the ancient Bacchic orgies, and now of ours own Catholic Church. To the unwise, the unthinking, the superstitious, the gross elements are the objects of the rite; to the initiate, the seer, the son of Hermes, they are but the outward and visible signs of that which is ever, and of necessity, inward, spiritual, and occult.
“But not only is it necessary to the Theosophist to study the myths and symbology of former times and contemporary cults; it is also necessary that he should be a student of nature. The science of the Mysteries can be understood only by one who is acquainted, in some measure at least, with the physical sciences; because Theosophy represents the climax and essential motive-meaning of all these, and must be learned in and by and through them. For unless the physical sciences be understood, it will be impossible to comprehend the doctrine of Vehicles, which is the basic doctrine of occult science. ‘If you understand not earthly things,’ said the Hierarch of the Christian Mysteries, ‘how shall you understand heavenly things?’ Theosophy is the royal science. To the unlearned no truth can be demonstrated, for they have no faculty whereby to cognise truth, or to test the soundness of theorems. Ours may be indeed the religion of the poor, but it cannot be that of the ignorant. For we disclaim alike authority and dogma; we appeal to the reason of humanity, and to educated and cultivated thought. Our system of doctrine does not rest upon a remote past; it is built upon no series of historical events assailable by modern criticism; it deals not with extraneous personalities or with arbitrary statements of dates, facts, and evidence; but it relates, instead, to the living to-day, and to the ever-present testimony of nature, of science, of thought, and of intuition. That which is exoteric and extraneous is the evanescent type, the historical ideal, the symbol, the form; and these are all in all to the unlearned. But that which is esoteric and interior is the permanent verity, the essential meaning, the thing signified; and to apprehend this, the mind must be reasonable and philosophic, and its method must be scientific and eclectic.
“In the Mahâ-Paranibbâna-Sutta, one of the Buddhist theosophical books, is a passage recording certain words of Gautama Buddha which express to some extent the idea I wish to bring before you. It is this: –
“‘And whosoever, either now or after I am dead, shall be a lamp unto himself, and a refuge unto himself, betaking himself to no external refuge, but holding fast to the truth as his lamp, and to the truth as his refuge, looking not to any one besides himself as a refuge, even he among my disciples shall reach the very topmost height. But he must be anxious to learn.’
“It may, at the outset, appear strange that there should of late have set in
among us of the West so strong a current of Buddhism, and many, doubtless,
wonder how it comes about that the literary and thinking world of this country
has recently begun by common consent to write and talk and hear so much of the
sacred books of the East, and of its religious teachers. The Theosophical
Society itself has its origin in
“In all this is the finger of Law, inevitably and orderly fulfilling the planetary cycle of human evolution with the self-same precision and certitude which regulates the rotation of the globe in the inverse direction, or the apparent course of the solar light.
“Human evolution has always followed the course of the sun, from the East to the West, in opposition to the direction of the planet’s
motion around its axis. If at times this
evolution has appeared to return upon its steps, it has been only the better to
gather power for some new effort. It has never deviated from its course in the
main, save to the right or left, south or north, in its orderly march westward.
And slowly, but surely, this great wave of human progress has covered the earth
in the wake of the light, rising eastward with the dawn, and culminating in
mid-heaven with the Catholic Church. In
“There are indications that our epoch has seen the termination of such a planetary cycle as that described, and that a new dawn, the dawn of a better and a clearer day, is about once more to rise in the sacred East. Already those who stand on the hills have caught the first grey rays reflected from the breaking sky. Who can say what splendours will burst from among the mists of the valley west-ward when once the sun shall rise again?
“Some of us have dreamed that our English Branch of the Theosophical Society is destined to become the ford across the stream which so long has separated the East from the West, religion from science, heart from mind, and love from learning. We have dreamed that this little Lodge of the Mysteries, set here in the core of matter-of-fact, agnostic London, may become an oasis in the wilderness for thirsty souls, – a ladder between earth and heaven, on which, as once long since in earlier and purer days, the Gods again may ‘come and go’ twixt mortal men and high Olympus.’
“Such a dream as this has been mine. May Pallas Athenas grant me, the humblest of her votaries, length of days enough to see it, in some measure at least fulfilled!”
As this is not a history of the Theosophical Society, but only of our connection with it, it is necessary to say only of Mr. Sinnett’s address on this occasion, that, admirable as it was for its purpose, it struck some notes which we recognised as scarcely harmonising with the conceptions formed by us, and which therefore might not impossibly develop into an irresolvable discord.
The rest of the month was spent in cultivating relations with our new
associates, and in the beginning of August Mary visited her mother at Hastings,
I remaining in
The most notable features of this tour were, first the indescribable enthusiasm everywhere evinced for Mary on account of the eloquence and luminousness of her expositions and the charm of her personality; and, secondly, the intensity of her physical sufferings, and the manner in which her spirit rose superior to them and carried her triumphantly through. She had left home ill, the climatic conditions of the place having proved in the highest degree deleterious to her, and each day’s journey had completely prostrated her, sometimes inducing total loss of consciousness while in the train, and always culminating in agonising neuralgic headache on arrival, rendering her to all appearance utterly incapable for the appointed task of the evening. (2) Her one remedy was the immersion of the
lower limbs in water as hot as she could bear it; and thus would she occupy herself until the last moment before starting for the lecture hall. Arrived there, she was a new person, and for the hour, or hour and a half, of her address would stand firm, confident, and self-possessed, and pour forth unfalteringly that which she had to say, with a natural spontaneous eloquence which kept her audience spell-bound, to be greeted at the close with an outburst of applause, electrical for its vehemence, and seeming as if with difficulty repressed until then.
The tributes rendered to her gift were many and striking. Even persons of slender culture and ordinarily unimpressible would declare that, whatever the subject might be, they would to any distance to hear her. Speaking of her one day, a notable
publicist and philanthropist, himself an admirable speaker, declared of himself and his compeers that they always felt when listening to her as if they were beings of an inferior order hearkening to the utterances of some superior being who had come down to teach them. She herself and her teaching seemed alike to be to her hearers as a new revelation of human possibilities.
After a few days’ rest at Atcham we visited
The following extract from a letter to me from Lady Caithness, received at this time, is of interest, as showing her satisfaction with the evidences already received of Mary’s identity with two characters named: –
“We went from
In relation to this subject it will be interesting to insert here the following account
of a dream received by Mary a few weeks later, (1) which referred to three of the historical characters she remembered having been, two of them being those named in the above letter, and the other the character her identification with which in Paris had so greatly shocked her, namely, Faustine, the Empress of Marcus Aurelius. It was only after a good deal of consideration that we found it to be a parable of Karma, founded on the facts of her own history in her previous lives. For the lesson intended by the cards was evidently that of the necessity of bringing thought and skill to the conduct of life
if man would work out his own salvation. Thus the Ace of Diamonds represented the divine Particle within herself, which needed but to be duly applied to enable her finally to overcome all limitations and realise her destined perfection; while her partner was Hermes, in his usual character as the Understanding, all the details about him according with her previous manifold experiences of him: –
“I dreamed I was playing at cards with three persons, the two opposed to me being a man and a woman with hoods pulled over their heads, and cloaks covering their persons. I did not particularly observe them. My partner was an old man without hood or cloak, and there was about him this peculiarity, that he did not from one minute to another appear to remain the same. Sometimes he looked like a very young man, the features not appearing to change in order to produce this effect, but an aspect of youth, and even of mirth, coming into the face, as though the features were lighted up from within. Behind me stood a personage whom I could not see, for his hand and arm only appeared, handing me a pack of cards. So far as I discerned, it was a man’s figure, habited in black. Shortly after the dream began my partner addressed me, saying –
“‘Do you play by luck or skill?’
“I answered, ‘I play by luck chiefly; I don’t know how to play by skill, but I have generally been lucky.’
“In fact, I had already lying by me several ‘tricks’ I had taken. He answered me –
“‘To play by luck is to trust to without; to play by skill is to trust to within. In this game within goes farther than without.’
“‘What are trumps?’ I asked.
“‘Diamonds are trumps,’ he answered.
“I looked at the cards in my hand, and said to him, ‘I have more clubs than anything else.’
“At this he laughed, and seemed all at once quite a youth. ‘Clubs are strong cards after all,’ he said. ‘Don’t despise the black suits. I have known some of the best games ever played won by players holding more clubs than you have.’
“I examined the cards, and found something very odd about them. There were the four suits, diamonds, hearts, clubs, and spades; but the picture-cards in my hand seemed different altogether from any I had ever seen before. One was Queen of Clubs, and her face altered as I looked at it. First it was dark, almost dusky, with the imperial crown on the head; then it seemed quite fair, the crown changing to a smaller one of English aspect, and the dress also transforming itself. There was a Queen of Hearts, too, in an antique peasant’s gown, with brown hair; and presently this melted into a suit of armour, which shone as if reflecting firelight in its burnished scales. The other cards seemed alive likewise, even the ordinary ones, just like the court-cards. There seemed to be pictures moving inside the emblems on their faces. The clubs in my hand ran into higher figures than the spades; these came next in number, and diamonds next. I had no picture-cards of diamonds,
but I had the Ace, and this was so bright I could
not look at it. Except the two
“‘It is difficult to play at all, whether by luck or by skill, for I get such a bad hand dealt me each time.’
“‘That is your fault,’ he said. ‘Play your best with what you have, and next time you will get better cards.’
“‘How can that be?’ I asked.
“‘Because after each game the ‘tricks’ you take are added to the bottom of the pack, which the dealer holds, and you get the ‘honours’ you have taken up from the table. Play well and take all you can. But you must put more head into it; you trust too much to fortune. Don’t blame the dealer; he can’t see.’
“‘I shall lose this game,’ I said presently, for the two persons playing against us seemed to be taking up all the cards quickly, and the ‘lead’ never came to my turn.
“‘It is because you don’t’ count your points before putting down a card,’ my partner said. ‘If they play high numbers you must play higher.’
“‘But they have all the trumps, ‘I said.
“‘No’, he answered; ‘you have the highest trump of all in your own hand. It is the first and the last. You may take every card they have with that, for it is the chief of the whole series. But you have spades too, and high ones.’ (He seemed to know what I had.)
“‘Diamonds are better than spades,’ I answered, ‘and nearly all my cards are black ones. Besides, I can’t count; it wants so much thinking. Can’t you come over here and play for me?’
“He shook his head, and I thought that again he laughed. ‘No’, he replied; ‘that is against the law of the game. You must play for yourself. Think it out.’
“He uttered these words very emphatically, and with so strange an intonation that they dissipated the rest of the dream, and I remember no more of it.”
“Play your best with what you have, and next time you will get better cards.” Here was karma and reincarnation. It reminded us of the question put to Jesus by His disciples, “Did this man sin, or his parents, that he was born blind?” and of the saying of the writer of the Book of Wisdom, “Being good, I came into a body undefiled.” A subsequent reading of the dream suggested to me a correspondence between it and Rev., XII. For what but the soul is the woman persecuted of the dragon of matter in the wilderness of the world? And what but the “man-child,” the good deeds she performs during the term of her probation? She, indeed, remains below for her allotted period. But the “man-child” – so called because representing action, which is the result of force, and is masculine, and not mere wish, which is feminine –
which the dragon would fain devour, is caught up to
God and placed to her credit in the bank of heaven. And so, “after each game” of
life, “the tricks we take are added to the bottom of the pack which the Almighty
Dealer holds, and we get the ‘honours’ we have taken up from the table.” But to
work out our salvation we must not trust to fortune, but must put our head into
it and work with understanding. The dealer is not at fault. The divine Justice
is blind, and deals without partiality the cards we have earned. However low and
black these may be, we still have the possibility of the “Ace of Diamonds,” the
divine spark in us, which is capable of winning the game at last, against all
odds, if we but let it. The three female forms were obviously the characters she
had been led to regard as among her former selves. Nor had we any difficulty in
recognising Hermes as her partner and adviser, and in seeing in the dream a
correspondence with the fable of Io, to whom Mary had been wont to liken
herself. Io was the soul; the gadfly whereby she was tormented and driven from
place to place, until, at length, under advice of Hermes, she took refuge in
“There is corn in
“For in the kingdom of the body, thou shalt eat the bread of thine initiation.
“But beware lest thou become subject to the flesh, and a bond-slave in the land of thy sojourn.
“Serve not the idols of
“And Hermes, the Redeemer, shall go before three: for he is thy cloud of darkness by day, and thy pillar of fire by night.”
It had been told us on a former occasion that “a soul may have as many former selves in the astral light as a man may have
changes of raiment,” The utterance found illustration as follows in an experience received at this time. She beheld in vision a crowd of persons, chiefly men, of many different peoples and races, ranks and avocations, all of whom she felt herself as in some way identified with, and was told by her Genius that she had been. She was, however, only able to recognise positively the characters with whom she had previously been identified, one of which was Joan of Arc. And concerning her she was told that, “as the least unworthy of her past incarnations, Joan had been permitted to act as a guardian angel to her in her present life.”
I made no remark at the time on the expression “least unworthy,” greatly as it jarred on me. But, having occasion some time later to refer to the experience, I purposely corrected for it “the most worthy,” but only to be instantly corrected by her exclaiming with decisive emphasis, “No! The least unworthy.” She had not made any record of the incident, but contented herself with relating it to me. I obviously implied the consciousness of some defect of character even in the apparently blameless French heroine. And the inference was subsequently confirmed by a further revelation of Mary to herself in that incarnation, when it was shown her that, with all her deep piety, her heroism, and her wonderful gifts, Joan of Arc had not been free from a strong vein of personal ambition, which detracted from her merits as seen from the spiritual point of view. And though on some accounts Mary was indignant at her being denied canonisation she admitted that on others the Church was in the right to decline. It was not the possession of psychic gifts, however extraordinary, that constituted saintship, but the unfoldment of the moral and spiritual nature.
She received during her sojourn at home this summer [namely, on August 19, 1883] the second part of the revelation “Concerning the Christian Mysteries” (Clothed with the Sun, I, XLVIII) in which an explanation purely reasonable and entirely satisfactory is given of the cultus of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The following extracts from her Diary at this period represent the processes purely intellectual in which she was wont to exercise her mind in the intervals of special illumination: –
May (1) 15 . – There is, I find, much evidence to show
that the primitive Christian Church understood her faith esoterically, and that
her great dogmas were symbols only, or at least chiefly. The monuments,
frescoes, and writings of the early years of the Church are evidence of this
fact. Within the first century, allusions, both pictured and written, to Christ
in the character of Apollo, of Orpheus, of Bacchus, and other Pagan gods, are
constant; and it is, moreover, remarkable that at this early date recognition of
Him as a historical character never occurs. Wherever He is depicted, it is as a
young God – a youth, lovely and blooming, surrounded with vines, doves, lambs,
fishes, and naked genii. He is never seen in His historical aspect, is never the
“Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” of the later times. The Stations of
the Cross, the “Gospel history,” as it is called, the crucifix, the agony, –
these find no representation in early Christian art. The first idea of Christ
was, strangely enough, purely esoteric and mystic. The Christians appear to have
devoted themselves in the primitive age of the Church to an attempt to purity
and reform the culture of the Gods, adopting their symbols and images, and
giving to them an interior and esoteric meaning. Such, indeed, they had in their
first intention, but this had long been lost to the
August 19 . – The fact seems to be, that in order to have Religion, or Love, one must have knowledge, and this positive, and not merely intuitive, knowledge. I mean that, in order not to mistrust the justice of universal Law, one must have scientific knowledge of Nature. Knowledge is therefore the prime minister of Faith. How wonderfully the Church helps one in matters of Theosophy! Where I am doubtful about Divine Order or about Function in the human kingdom, I appeal instinctively to the Catholic doctrine, and am at once set in the right path. I think I should never have clearly understood the Order and Function of the Soul but for the Catholic teaching concerning the Mother of God; nor should I have comprehended the method of salvation by the merits of our Divine Principle save for the doctrine of the Incarnation and the Atonement.
Here follows the illumination (XLVIII, Part 2) above referred to, by which it will be seen that the esoteric and spiritual sense in which she accepted these doctrines is utterly destructive of the exoteric and idolatrous sense in which alone they have been given to the world, inasmuch as they denote processes interior to the individual man, and not actual persons.
August 23 . – De Lanessan (1) seeks to prove the non-existence of the soul by the following argument: –
(a) The idea of the soul supposes a vital principle, or Unity, one and indivisible.
(b) Physiology shows that the body of a living creature may be divided into many conscient portions, like a tree; e.g. that a fish’s heart will continue to beat after you have cooked and eaten the fish; that a rat’s paw will grow and live engrafted on another rat; that the tail of a tadpole, separated from the tadpole’s body, will increase and develop independently; that a dog’s head cut off, and reanimated by the injection of blood from another dog, will show signs of intelligence; that a man’s head after decapitation will continue to manifest emotion, etc.
(c) He argues, thence, that these facts contradict the hypothesis of a Unity, or single Force, because such a force could not manifest itself simultaneously in different separate parts of the same body, and could not be restored in any one part by the injection of blood from another body.
(d) He adds: That which lives in a pluri-cellular being is not the being himself; it is each of the cells which compose him.
Now I think De Lanessan confuses the Jiv-atma (or animal vitality) with the Psyche (or Soul). Every portion of living matter lives, and contains – as I suppose – its Four Principles, potentially, if not actually. And that which continues to live in the amputated paw, tail, or head, and in the abstracted hearts, is the local consciousness of the organ or member concerned. It is exactly the difficulty of the “Shell” over again. Living matter behaves like living matter, and cannot do otherwise until its forces are disintegrated. And even then they will continue to function as disintegrated corpuscles, because all matter is impregnated with spirit. It is no more destructive to a man’s identity that his hand should continue to live engrafted on another man’s body, than his blood, transfused into another man’s veins, should nourish and become part of that other man. And even supposing it possible that the decapitated head of a man could be reanimated by adaptation to the trunk of another decapitated man, and continue to live so engrafted, – this would only be an artificial reproduction of the “monsters” Nature sometimes produces; e.g. the Siamese twins and the two-headed child, in whose bodies a double consciousness makes itself felt. It appears to me that in all such cases we have to deal with two kinds of consciousness, the lower and the higher. In some entities the
lower is the stronger and more apparent, as in trees, insects, etc. In the higher animals, it is the higher consciousness which dominates, but the lower is still there. The lower consciousness in diffusive, because all consciousness is diffusive, from one radiant point, which is the higher Ego.
At this point thought culminated in vision, and she wrote under illumination Chapter XLIX, of Clothed with the Sun, “Concerning Dying.”
“MY DEAR SIR, – On returning here, after an absence of nearly three months, I had the pleasure of finding two numbers of Lumière et Liberté and Sinnett’s Esoteric Buddhism, which you have done me the honour of inscribing to me.
“I feel greatly obliged to you for this valuable gift, and hasten to thank you for it before I have had time to examine its contents. I have skimmed the last chapter only, which contains a summary of the doctrine, and I was glad to see that the solution of the great riddles (such as the origin of evil and the incompatibility of predestination and freewill) is sought in hypothesis of a plurality of existences, which has always appeared to me to be the only key to those locked mysteries. Of course, there is another point of view from which these ‘mysteries’ appear as a mere illusion of pure reason, which like the squinter and the drunkard, has the misfortune of seeing everything double, and of dividing every oneness into two incongruous and apparently incompatible opposites. This frailty (or defect) of rationalism can only be compensated by some mystic premises or cured by dialectics. Mr. Sinnett’s book furnishes the former, and (as far as I can judge) with complete success. But should there be minds incapable of accepting such premises, let them try the dialectic method, which, like pure reason, splits every notion into its constituent opposites, but which ends by reuniting these opposites into a tertium aliquid which is no longer the original notion. This process – for such it is – this alternation of dissension and reconciliation, is a marvellous solvent of all so-called riddles. In fact, I cannot help comparing this method with an achromatic lens whose layers induce an alternation of compensating refractions. Pure (or poor!) prismatic reason can see naught but broken rays, but armed with that metaphysical lens it sees the white united ray of light, as though it had never split into pluralities and incompatibilities. However, this is a mere matter of method. The result is the same in both cases. I anticipate great pleasure from the careful perusal of Mr. Sinnett’s work, and we may have occasion to discuss its contents hereafter.
“You polemical correspondences with M. Fillion and Dr. Borel are highly satisfactory. Your reply to the latter seems to me particularly good. M. Fillion, I think, would have deserved a little less condescension on your part. He calls himself ‘architecte,’ and I am far from blaming him on the ground of incompetency. On the contrary, I hold that everybody is competent to be a juryman in this great trial. But there is something indecorous in a layman’s defending vivisection. If a physiologist defends it (and in doing so
loses his temper or his good manners), we may see an extenuating circumstance in his pleading pro domo. Such men talk as if they felt that, deprived of their laboratory, they would have no raison d’être, and we must make allowances for that. Borel’s impertinences, intolerable though they are, seem to me less unpardonable than the architect’s amateur defence. On him your teachings are wasted, but then the reader is perhaps the most important person on such occasions, and for him you may not have written in vain. Mrs. Kingsford’s Geneva Discourse is excellent. May she have strength and patience to continue her good work. With cordial thanks for your great kindness, I remain, yours very truly,
(127:1) On October 4, 1883, when at Edinburgh, Anna Kingsford gave, under the auspices of the Scottish Society for the Total Suppression of Vivisection, the important lecture, Unscientific Science, which was afterwards published as a pamphlet, and which will be included in her and Edward Maitland’s collected Addresses and Essays on Vivisection, shortly to be published. – S.H.H.
(127:2) Owing to her liability to loss of consciousness, Anna Kingsford occasionally suffered from falls. Edward Maitland says: –
“Some of her falls, which occurred out of doors and when walking by herself, resulted in permanent injuries. Railway journeys
were a frequent occasion of them, being induce apparently sometimes by the
fatigue of packing – a thing she would suffer no one to do for her – and
sometimes by the effect of the vibration on the spine. She was thus affected at
least five or six times during our journeys together, when she would sink
unconscious on the floor of the carriage, the only warning being a sudden sharp
spasm of pain in the head. They were invariably followed by intense headache.
But distressing as they were, their effects were transient, and the closest
scrutiny failed to detect any mental deterioration as resulting from them. Over
and over again she would emerge from a condition of complete prostration, and a
few minutes later take her stand on the platform, looking radiant, as if
suffering and weakness were unknown to her, and for an hour or longer hold her
audience spell-bound by her eloquence, and never for a moment falter or seem
distressed or at a loss. Whether on occasions of this kind, or any others, such
as her examinations, when exact punctuality was indispensable, it rarely
happened but it was up to the last moment a grave question whether it would be
possible for her to be up to time. (…) On one occasion she was travelling from
“The explanation of the seizures which most commended itself to her was that of the eminent physiologist Dr. H. Jackson, who likened them to an electric discharge, such as that which constitutes a thunderstorm, but occurring in the system of the individual. (…)
“Such were the conditions [of health] under which her work was performed, and rarely did a week pass without some acute and prolonged access either of pain, of prostration, or of insensibility. So that when besides the shortness of her career is considered also the numerous and extended periods of complete disablement, the quantity of the work accomplished by her – to say nothing of its quality – appears little short of miraculous.” – S.H.H.