Published by Blavatsky Study Center. Online Edition copyright 2004.


The "Higher Ego" Theory

by Emma H. Britten

[Reprinted from Light (London) December 9, 1893, pp. 587-588.
Toward the end of this article, Mrs. Britten made
several comments
about Madame Blavatsky and the Theosophical Society.]

In your issue of November 25th, I find a letter signed "M. C. P.," headed "The Higher Ego," and commencing with the following sentences: -

Twice before, in the columns of "Light," I have sought an answer to a certain question, and failed; yet believing the answer to be of vital importance to many besides myself, I am bold enough to try again.

The question concerns the "Subliminal Consciousness," or "Higher Ego" theory of the source of phenomena. It is admitted by its believers that this "Higher Ego" can and does place itself en rapport with the lower personality. Why, therefore, in the name of all that’s reasonable, does it not reveal itself in its own character, instead of masquerading as "Benjamin Franklin," "John Bunyan," "Imperator," and a host of other disincarnate entities?

If "M. C. P." were the only one who had raised the questions above suggested, they might be easily settled by the results growing out of the answers to another question, namely, Which are you prepared to accept - the facts and conclusions attendant upon spirit intercourse, or the theories which certain individuals propound to divert those conclusions into other phases of belief than their procedure from excarnated spirits? But your correspondent "M. C. P." is not the only one who presses home the question of whence comes the intelligence which, some forty-five years ago, announced itself as the living spirit of one the world called "dead," and that to a concourse of plain, common-sense, intelligent persons, and through a system of telegraphy so new, so strange, and so wholly independent of every individual present, that if some of your philosophic or Theosophic theorists happened to have been there, and undertaken to tell the assembled villagers of Hydesville, on the night of March 31st, 1848, that it was the "Higher Ego" of one of the little Fox children that was making those raps on ceiling, walls, floor, and underground cellar; spelling out the names, ages, dates and professions of scores of people, all assumed to be dead, and "mouldering in the grave," the propounder of such a theory in the presence of those plain, common-sense, wideawake villagers would have been treated as a fit candidate for the nearest lunatic asylum. But the first direct spiritual telegraphy of this century has inaugurated a succession of similar facts - swelling from hundreds to thousands, and from thousands even to millions; from America to all quarters of the globe, and to every condition of intelligence and rank in life; and all the while these telegraphic messages ever claim to be given by the spirits of the dead, all still alive, and the same individualities they ever were.

To begin with America, forty-four of the forty-six States of which I have travelled through; and first, for the "Higher Ego" of the Fox children. A few months after their home had been destroyed - the planks of floors torn up, and walls torn down, by howling mobs - the children were exhibited (by the spirits stern commands, but sorely against the wish of the "Higher Ego" of the family) in the large Corinthian Hall of Rochester. Here, placed on glass one night, and feather pillows another night, the pale, frightened sisters were dragged before public audiences, whilst tar barrels and pitch were burning in the street outside, waiting to lynch them. On each night for three successive occasions the hapless Fox sisters appeared. The mystic raps were heard all over the vast hall, and committees of the bitterest opponents of the spiritual theory were selected from amongst the immense audiences commissioned to investigate with the sisters each day, and report to the audiences each night.

And each night these committees reported, in the face of hooting mobs and danger to life, that their investigations always ended in proving that the spirits of their friends had come - given tests, in names, dates, and incidents utterly unknown to anyone present, and convinced them that the dead still lived and none but they could have given the evidence that had been received. Still again, this is not all. I have travelled during many years through the States of America and found countless thousands of Spiritualists, all convinced of the ministry of their friends who once lived on earth, and all convinced by precisely the same array of facts to which I have alluded above.

The modes in which the spirit missionaries act are by rapping and tipping, and sometimes moving ponderable bodies without the medium’s contact, and all intelligently; sometimes answering queries in simple "Yes" or "No"; still more often by giving communications known only to the so-called dead. I have travelled through nearly all the countries of Europe, and, though with less abundance of demonstration, found the same witness in each land, especially amongst the highest classes of society. In Australia and New Zealand it was the same. I could count up the tests of independent spirit action by tens of thousands. In unnumbered places the mediums have spoken with new tongues (wonderful "Higher Ego" Scholasticism!). Pictures have been drawn and painted, sometimes by the spirits themselves, sometimes through their mediums. I have seen hundreds of portraits of the so-called "dead," executed by mediums under the influence of spirits, and writings, given sometimes by the spirits themselves, as well as through human mediums.

Both methods have been employed to give wonderful prophecies, warnings of danger, and high and noble thoughts of cheer and promise. (Why don’t the Royal Academicians, the writers, poets, and prophets, call upon their "Higher Egos" to help them thus?)

Was it their own "Higher Egos" that convinced William Howitt and S. C. Hall that they had never lost a friend, and instructed them whither they themselves were bound?

Was it his "Higher Ego" that made Judge Edmonds renounce his vast income of Judge of the Supreme Courts of one quarter of the globe, in order that he might profess the facts of the knowledge he had obtained, and proved by thousands of tests, that the dead were all alive again, and did come back and communicate? Was it his own "Higher Ego" that so baffled Professor Hare - one of the greatest scientists of the age - so that, after making dials to catch the "Egos" of the medium, he was caught himself, and declared that "Spirit communion was the grandest fact of the world’s history"?

Was it Mr. A. R. Wallace’s "Higher Ego" that projected his dead mother’s image on a photographic plate, and made him write the plainest, most conclusive, and unanswerable paper that was presented amidst all the mystic vapouring that was read at the late World’s Spiritual Congress at Chicago? "Higher Egos"! Pshaw! prove it, Theorists! prove it by facts as strong as the Spiritualists’ facts, before you attempt to force such mysticisms upon us as no one can understand, and you yourselves cannot demonstrate. Finally, where does this unfounded "Higher Ego" theory come from? Let us inquire.

In the year 1876 a society was founded, some of the earliest meetings of which took place in the house of the present writer in New York City. The first projectors of that society were Madame Blavatsky and Mr. Henry Olcott, and after a few preliminary meetings they were called "The Theosophical Society." Its alleged aims were to study the literature and experiences of the Ancients, investigate the nature of Elemental Spirits, and promote "modern Spiritualism." For one year I saw, conversed, and was intimate with the founders of that Society every day.

Mr. Olcott managed some of the New York Spiritual meetings at which I was engaged, and Madame Blavatsky purchased and kept, in her capacity of librarian of the Society, many rare volumes, many of the contents of which now appear in "Isis Unveiled." The society was neither popular nor well supported. During its continuance Madame Blavatsky repeatedly wrote to the papers defending Spiritualism (as I teach it), and to the New York "Graphic" sent a letter, which I re-published in the "Two Worlds," when I was its editor, offering five hundred dollars to anyone who could disprove the fact of a human spiritual origin for certain phenomena of which she had been a witness through the Eddy mediums. My husband and I were about to leave New York for Boston, and when taking leave of Madame Blavatsky she spoke with exceeding bitterness of the lack of support she had found from "the shrewd Americans."

She then declared that she would go to India with Colonel Olcott and afterwards to England, where she knew she should make a success, as - she then quoted Carlyle’s opinion of the English, their numbers and character - and that in language that I, as an English woman myself, do not now care to repeat. Some years elapsed before I heard of Madame Blavatsky again. When I did, she had been to India, seen the necessity of picking up some new doctrines to gratify her English supporters, and, having realised the truth of Carlyle’s opinion of his countrymen, lived here, founded a society of Theosophical worshippers, and died in the odour of sanctity, adored by those to whom she had taught belief in the creatures of her vivid imagination, in the shape of "Mahatmas," "Higher and Lower Egos," "Devachans," &c., &c. I have no blame to attach to Madame Blavatsky. I liked her, because she amused me. The results of her policy to herself I leave to her present surroundings in the higher life. To her worshippers the effect of that policy has been to establish a perfectly baseless and utterly unproven set of theories, without one demonstrable fact to rest upon. Amongst these are (as before named) Lower and Higher "Egos"; the cutting up the one human soul at death into seven parts, each drifting off on its own account to unprovable places; and the doctrines of Re-incarnation, invisible "Mahatmas," &c., &c. I have in the room in which I now write a photograph portrait of Madame Blavatsky, together with an autograph inscription in her well-known handwriting, in which she announces herself as my "unworthy follower." Any of her worshippers are at liberty to call and see this, if they will. Meantime, I strongly suspect that she at the present time rather inclines to attribute her successes in England to Carlyle’s opinions than to any design on her part to do wrong. I must close by offering to the Editor of "Light" (the pages of which paper do honour to any cause wherein philosophy, science, truth, and educational form are to be found) a few extracts from the many hundreds of biographical records I have collected, carefully sifted, and proved. In their unvarnished facts they demonstrate beyond all doubt and rational denial - first, that when the living Ego or spirit temporarily leaves the body, it leaves the life force behind, but no "Higher Ego," as I have testified to in scores of personal experiences; and next, that the souls of humanity survive the shock of death, and that they can and do communicate, the good, the bad, and the indifferent alike, with mortals on earth, through the modern spiritual telegraphic system known as Spiritualism.

Emma H. Britten.

The Lindens,
Humphrey-street, Cheetham Hill, Manchester.