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The Connection of Spiritualists to Psychological Issues

H.P. Blavatsky found in the growing adversaries of Spiritualist proponents to Theosophy sufficient need to declare it would have nothing to do with it. She goes on with the enquirer, noting a pattern in the fates of mediums concerning their mental state and bodies.

The letter which follows after in the latter part of August, 1884 to Laura C. Holloway, an American newspaper journalist, is complementary. The author wish they knew these things, before their initial studies in the very beginnings, and although superstition to those who do not believe, could serve as a lesson to those conductors, still involved in concern with the dead.

The letter:

  • Rejects intercourse with spirits, mediumship, or necromancy;
  • Affirms belief in after-death states and conditions of life, the astral shells of the dead and semi-intelligences;
  • Admits the difficulty in controlling the senses, therefore warning of hasty judgement. Every Jane and Joe can give wonderful accounts of their astral flights or claim to be a god and it makes
  • States the masters do not communicate by means of mediumship

Key to Theosophy Section 10

“ENQUIRER. You seem very bitter against Spirits. As you have given me your views and your reasons for disbelieving in the materialization of, and direct communication in seances, with the disembodied spirits — or the “spirits of the dead” — would you mind enlightening me as to one more fact? Why are some Theosophists never tired of saying how dangerous is intercourse with spirits, and mediumship? Have they any particular reason for this? (…)

THEOSOPHIST. “It is because I believe in them with too good reason, and (save some cases of deliberate fraud) know them to be as true as that you and I live, that all my being revolts against them. Once more I speak only of physical, not mental or even psychic phenomena. Like attracts like. There are several high-minded, pure, good men and women, known to me personally, who have passed years of their lives under the direct guidance and even protection of high “Spirits,” whether disembodied or planetary. But these Intelligences are not of the type of the John Kings and the Ernests who figure in seance rooms. These Intelligences guide and control mortals only in rare and exceptional cases to which they are attracted and magnetically drawn by the Karmic past of the individual. It is not enough to sit “for development” in order to attract them. That only opens the door to a swarm of “spooks,” good, bad and indifferent, to which the medium becomes a slave for life. It is against such promiscuous mediumship and intercourse with goblins that I raise my voice, not against spiritual mysticism. The latter is ennobling and holy; the former is of just the same nature as the phenomena of two centuries ago, for which so many witches and wizards have been made to suffer. Read Glanvil and other authors on the subject of witchcraft, and you will find recorded there the parallels of most, if not all, of the physical phenomena of nineteenth century “Spiritualism.”

Spiritistic seance, from ‘Fotografie di Fantasmi’ by E. Imoda, 1912 by French Photographer, (20th century); black and white photograph; Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris, France.

ENQUIRER. Do you mean to suggest that it is all witchcraft and nothing more?

THEOSOPHIST. What I mean is that, whether conscious or unconscious, all this dealing with the dead is necromancy, and a most dangerous practice. For ages before Moses such raising of the dead was regarded by all the intelligent nations as sinful and cruel, inasmuch as it disturbs the rest of the souls and interferes with their evolutionary development into higher states. The collective wisdom of all past centuries has ever been loud in denouncing such practices. Finally, I say, what I have never ceased repeating orally and in print for fifteen years: While some of the so-called “spirits” do not know what they are talking about, repeating merely — like poll-parrots — what they find in the mediums’ and other people’s brains, others are most dangerous, and can only lead one to evil. These are two self-evident facts. Go into spiritualistic circles of the Allan Kardec school, and you find “spirits” asserting re-incarnation and speaking like Roman Catholics born. Turn to the “dear departed ones” in England and America, and you will hear them denying re-incarnation through thick and thin, denouncing those who teach it, and holding to Protestant views. Your best, your most powerful mediums, have all suffered in health of body and mind. Think of the sad end of Charles Foster, who died in an asylum, a raving lunatic; of Slade, an epileptic; of Eglinton — the best medium now in England — subject to the same. Look back over the life of D.D. Home, a man whose mind was steeped in gall and bitterness, who never had a good word to say of anyone whom he suspected of possessing psychic powers, and who slandered every other medium to the bitter end. This Calvin of Spiritualism suffered for years from a terrible spinal disease, brought on by his intercourse with the “spirits,” and died a perfect wreck. Think again of the sad fate of poor Washington Irving Bishop. I knew him in New York, when he was fourteen, and he was undeniably a medium. It is true that the poor man stole a march on his “spirits,” and baptised them “unconscious muscular action,” to the great gaudium of all the corporations of highly learned and scientific fools, and to the replenishment of his own pocket. But de mortuis nit nisi bonum; his end was a sad one. He had strenuously concealed his epileptic fits — the first and strongest symptom of genuine mediumship — and who knows whether he was dead or in a trance when the post-mortem examination was performed? His relatives insist that he was alive, if we are to believe Reuter’s telegrams. Finally, behold the veteran mediums, the founders and prime movers of modern spiritualism — the Fox sisters. After more than forty years of intercourse with the “Angels,” the latter have led them to become incurable sots, who are now denouncing, in public lectures, their own life-long work and philosophy as a fraud. What kind of spirits must they be who prompted them, I ask you?

ENQUIRER. But is your inference a correct one?

THEOSOPHIST. What would you infer if the best pupils of a particular school of singing broke down from overstrained sore throats? That the method followed was a bad one. So I think the inference is equally fair with regard to Spiritualism when we see their best mediums fall a prey to such a fate. We can only say: — Let those who are interested in the question judge the tree of Spiritualism by its fruits, and ponder over the lesson. We Theosophists have always regarded the Spiritualists as brothers having the same mystic tendency as ourselves, but they have always regarded us as enemies. We, being in possession of an older philosophy, have tried to help and warn them; but they have repaid us by reviling and traducing us and our motives in every possible way. Nevertheless, the best English Spiritualists say just as we do, wherever they treat of their belief seriously. Hear “M. A. Oxon.” confessing this truth: “Spiritualists are too much inclined to dwell exclusively on the intervention of external spirits in this world of ours, and to ignore the powers of the incarnate Spirit.” (Second Sight, “Introduction.”) Why vilify and abuse us, then, for saying precisely the same? Henceforward, we will have nothing more to do with Spiritualism.”


“The fact is as explained. You cannot acquire psychic power until the causes of psychic debility are removed. Your trouble is, that you “cannot take in” the doctrine of shells. You have scarcely learned the elements of self-control in psychism; your vivid creative imagination evokes illusive creatures, coined the instant before in the mint of your mind; unknown to yourself. As yet you have not acquired the exact method of detecting the false from the true, since you have not yet comprehended the doctrine of shells. Nevertheless it is not unreasonable emotionalism that can remove a fact from Nature. Your ex-friend is a shell, and one more dangerous for you than ten other shells—for his feeling for you was intense and earthly. The little of the spirituality in it is now in Devachan—and there remains in Kama-Loka [a realm of desires] but the dross he tried so vainly to repress. And now listen and remember:

Whether you sit for friends in America or London, or elsewhere as medium—though you now hate the word—or seeress, or revelator, since you have scarcely learned the elements of self-control, in psychism, you must suffer bad consequences. You draw to yourself the nearest and strongest influences—often evil—and absorb them, and are psychically stifled or narcotised by them. The airs become peopled with resuscitated phantoms.

They give you false tokens, misleading revelations, deceptive images. Your vivid creative fancy evokes illusive Gurus and chelas, and puts into their mouths words coined the instant before in the mint of your mind, unknown to yourself. The false appears as real, as the true, and you have no exact method of detection, since you are yet prone to force your communications to agree with your preconceptions. (…)

How can you know the real from the unreal, the true from the false? Only by self-development. How get that? By first carefully guarding yourself against the causes of self-deception, and chief among them, the holding of intercourse with elementaries as before, whether to please friends (?), or gratify your own curiosity. And then by spending a certain fixed hour or hours each day, all alone in self-contemplation, writing, reading, the purification of your motives, the study and correction of your faults, the planning of your work in the external life. These hours should be sacredly reserved for this purpose, and no one, not even your most intimate friend or friends, should be with you then. Little by little your sight will clear, you will find the mists pass away, your interior faculties strengthen, your attraction toward us gain force, and certainty replace doubts. But beware of seeking or leaning too much upon direct authority. Our ways are not your ways. We rarely show any outward signs by which to be recognized or sensed.”

“One has heard of many Westerners blaming their contact with “oriental mysticism” for landing them in psychological trouble of one sort or another, an attitude which is no more intelligent than that of some psychologists in India who trace their patients’ troubles to their practice of yogic exercises, instead of seeing that the sort of man who is liable to neurosis often seeks relief from his tensions through so-called yoga. Any traveler of the spiritual path ought to know that this road will lead him away from the well-trodden ways of gregarious men and into the deep and unfrequented jungles of the mind. It makes not the slightest difference where one’s teaching comes from; one cannot blame the teaching for the beasts that lurk in one’s private jungle.”


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