Published by Blavatsky Study Center. Online Edition copyright 2004.

Spiritualism and Theosophy

by William Eglinton

[Reprinted from Light (London), June 24, 1882, pp. 301-302.]

Having had repeated inquiries made of me since my return from India as to my "conversion" to Theosophy, and as to its effect upon my belief in Spiritualism, I must ask you to be kind enough to insert this communication as an answer to the many correspondents who have addressed themselves to me on the subject.

I confess I am unable to understand what is meant by "Theosophy" other than the mere technical meaning - seeking after the wisdom of God. I find, however, that Madame Blavatsky’s Theosophy is totally opposed to this interpretation, because both in her public and private utterances, she has never made any secret of her utter scepticism of a belief in God. I also confess my total ignorance of the abstruse subjects generally set forward by those calling themselves Theosophists, and have confined myself to practical reasoning. We understand from the written Theosophy of Madame Blavatsky that certain "spooks" and "elementals" produce in, say ninety-five per cent of instances, all the manifestations commonly believed by Spiritualists to be the work of departed human Spirits. If this is so - and in not more than a few scattered instances, such as the case related recently by "J. P. T.," do the Theosophists show their theory to have any real ground for acceptance - then we must at once understand that, as we gain in our investigations nothing but what is utterly untrustworthy and bad, a seeking after conditions liable to the visitation of such beings is at once and for ever to be discountenanced. But I contend that if a "spook" is able to take on the form, figure, and speech, say, of my deceased mother, and gives me nothing but the holiest, kindest, and best counsels, then I am very willing to go on accepting that generous "spook" as my mentor and guide, since nothing but good results from my connection with it. The other five per cent of high-class manifestations is claimed, I believe, by the Theosophists (or let us say by Madame Blavatsky) to be produced through the agency of certain adepts, who have the power of projecting their astral body to any required distance at will. But has it never struck Spiritualists that if such is the case - and it is nowise proved - the astral body, which is, I presume, the soul, and consequently the nobler and better part of man, must be infinitely lower and more debased than man himself, since those appearances represent themselves as being people whom they are not! These are, however, some of the puzzles which a slight investigation into Theosophy leads one to. And having pointed out what appear to me to be salient points for believing in the easy explanations of the Spiritualists rather than those given by the Theosophists, I shall here state what I know of practical Theosophy; I mean that portion which is demonstrated by facts. Putting aside as opposed to proof the various theories so plentifully bestowed upon the world by the leaders in Theosophy, I made up my mind to wait until something tangible presented itself to me for belief; and it was not until the last week of my stay in India that I began to receive evidence of the existence of the beings designated the "Himalayan Brothers." One night I was sitting with Colonel and Mrs. Gordon at their house in Howrah when my guide, "Ernest," came and informed us that he had been in communication with certain of the Brotherhood. This aroused my curiosity, because I knew I could depend upon a statement so made, but nothing more happened to convince me until I was homeward bound on board the s.s. Vega.

Shortly after leaving Colombo, about 10 or 10:30 in the evening, I was in my cabin which was on deck forward, preparing to turn in for the night, when what I thought to be a Hindoo servant appeared at the door. Speaking in Hindustani, I told him to go away, but to my surprise he replied to me in perfect English, and stepping forward, gave me the grip of a Master Mason. This astounded me, and I asked his name, when he replied that he was one of the Himalayan Brothers and had come from Thibet to prove that such beings really existed. I entered into a long talk with him, much of which I cannot detail for obvious reasons. He was a well-formed, distinct, living, human being, and I knew of no such person on board. He gave me such evidence as satisfied me he must be the much-talked-of Koot Hoomi lal Singh, and that there was no longer room for doubt. Two days after this I wrote a letter to Mrs. Gordon detailing these experiences, and it was carried to Bombay the same evening into the presence of several witnesses, and from thence to Howrah, in Bengal, to the residence of Colonel Gordon. A Mr. O’C------, a Civil servant, also sent Madame Blavatsky a letter by the same means, although I have not yet heard as to its arrival. Other phenomena in connection with the Brothers have taken place, which I need not detail here. This is my experience of Theosophy, or more strictly speaking, of its phenomena. But it has not converted me to Theosophy, still less has it interfered with my belief in Spiritualism, because I consider that I have an explanation for the appearance and manifestation of Koot Hoomi other than that given by Madame Blavatsky. For years past Spiritualists have understood that there exists a human double, as has been proved in the case of Mr. Gledstanes, his portrait appearing in a photograph taken in London, while at the same hour his body was asleep in Paris. I also personally know of two instances of the double. One occurred to me in India when in a seance with Mr. Meugens. I distinctly saw that I had left my body sitting at the table. I went to London to the prison-cell of Mrs. Fletcher, who recognised me. She wrote a letter which was taken to Calcutta immediately after; and I saw myself enter my own body, having retained a double consciousness throughout. The other instance was when Mrs. Fletcher appeared to Dr. and Mrs. Nichols and others last year in her prison dress, and she was, as we afterwards learnt, perfectly conscious of the fact. Now assuming it to be possible that these phenomena of the double have been established by proof, why am I to believe that the being I saw in my cabin was other than the double of Koot Hoomi, then no doubt reposing in his Thibetan home? Only it appears to me that he and his brotherhood may have developed their powers to the extent of projecting their doubles or astral bodies to any distance at will, which is at present beyond us in the West.

My belief in the existence of these Brothers - whom I have now learned to respect as clever, intelligent men, possessing a certain knowledge of occult science - in no wise affects my belief in Spiritualism; because if we were inclined to think the manifestations commonly known in seances to be the work of the astral body, or the double, of certain living men, the one insuperable difficulty of the spiritual body of man being more depraved than his corporeal or material body remains to be accounted for, and until it is I prefer to believe that the Spirits I know are, with the exception of those undeveloped controls who sometimes mislead us, actually the persons they represent themselves to be.

Perhaps this question of the double may be further borne out by the experience and evidence of some of your readers.