RE: Theosophical miracle stories: a suggestion for categorization
- Nov 24th 2002
Re: A catalog of "Phenomenal" events.
I think this suggestion is a good one.
The 7 categories seem appropriate, and if this is prepared and
available, then we can refer to it if and when repeat "attacks" arise.
In the meantime we can be adding to the list.
Personally I object to the use of the word "MIRACLES." In a universe
of LAW there are none.
However, there may be actions and events, on the physical plane which
are not explained by any laws of physical nature that we know of yet,
or can yet examine.
Reading through ISIS UNVEILED, the MAHATMA LETTERS, H P B's LETTERS TO
A. P. Sinnett, CAVES AND JUNGLES OF HINDOSTAN, and other sources, as
well as the older Theosophical journals ( such as THEOSOPHIST, PATH,
LUCIFER, VAHAN, the THEOSOPHICAL FORUM, and more modern ones such as
THEOSOPHY, the THEOSOPHICAL MOVEMENT, etc...) a fairly large list can
Mr. Michael Gomes helps us with many more instances in his
bibliographical compilation of the documents relating to Theosophy for
the last quarter of the 19th Century:
THEOSOPHY IN THE NINETEENTH CENTURY (An Annotated Bibliography)
Garland Publishing co., 1991
Again I have been far more interested in seeking to understand the
laws and reasons for "phenomena" than merely compiling (without
explanation) the data of events.
Here is a sample of what I consider to be valuable information on
these matters for all of us to remember
PSYCHIC LAWS, FORCES, AND PHENOMENA
The field of psychic forces, phenomena, and dynamics is a vast one.
Such phenomena are seen and the forces exhibited every day in all
lands, but until a few years ago very little attention was given to
them by scientific persons, while a great deal of ridicule was heaped
upon those who related the occurrences or averred belief in the
Are there psychic forces, laws, and powers? If there are, then there
must be the phenomena. And if all that is true, then in man are the
same powers and forces which are to be found anywhere in Nature.
He is held by the Masters of Wisdom to be the highest product of the
whole system of evolution, and mirrors in himself every power, however
wonderful or terrible, of Nature; by the very fact of being such a
mirror he is man.
The genuine psychic -- or, as they are often called, magical --
phenomena done by the Eastern faquir or yogee are all performed by the
use of natural forces and processes not even dreamed of as yet by the
LEVITATION of the body in apparent defiance of gravitation is a thing
to be done with ease when the process is completely mastered. It
contravenes no law. Gravitation is only half of a law. The Oriental
sage admits gravity, if one wishes to adopt the term; but the real
term is attraction, the other half of the law being expressed by the
word repulsion, and both being governed by the great laws of
electrical force. Weight and stability depend on polarity, and when
the polarity of an object is altered in respect to the earth
immediately underneath it, then the object may rise. But as mere
objects are devoid of the consciousness found in man, they cannot rise
without certain other aids. The human body, however, will rise in the
air unsupported, like a bird, when its polarity is thus changed. This
change is brought about consciously by a certain system of breathing
known to the Oriental; it may be induced also by aid from certain
natural forces spoken of later, in the cases of those who without
knowing the law perform the phenomena, as with the saints of the Roman
A third great law which enters into many of the phenomena of the East
and West is that of COHESION. The power of Cohesion is a distinct
power of itself, and not a result as is supposed. This law and its
action must be known if certain phenomena are to be brought about, as,
for instance, what the writer has seen, the passing of one solid iron
ring through another, or a stone through a solid wall. Hence another
force is used which can only be called Dispersion. Cohesion is the
determinating force, for, the moment the dispersing force is
withdrawn, the cohesive force restores the particles to their original
Following this out the Adept in such great dynamics is able to
DISPERSE the atoms of an object -- excluding always the human body --
to such a distance from each other as to render the object invisible,
and then can send them along a current formed in the ether to any
distance on the earth. At the desired point the dispersing force is
withdrawn, when immediately cohesion reasserts itself and the object
reappears intact. This may sound like fiction, but being known to the
Lodge and its disciples as an actual fact, it is equally certain that
Science will sooner or later admit the proposition.
The instruments are in the body and brain of man. In the view of the
Lodge "the human brain is an exhaustless generator of force," and a
complete knowledge of the inner chemical and dynamic laws of Nature,
together with a trained mind, give the possessor the power to operate
the laws to which I have referred. This will be man's possession in
the future, and would be his today were it not for blind dogmatism,
selfishness, and materialistic unbelief.
Using the same powers, the trained Adept can produce before the eye,
OBJECTIVE TO THE TOUCH, material which was not visible before, and in
any desired shape. This would be called creation by the vulgar, but it
is simply evolution in your very presence. Matter is held suspended in
the air about us. Every particle of matter, visible or still
unprecipitated, has been through all possible forms, and what the
Adept does is to select any desired form, existing, as they all do, in
the Astral Light and then by effort of the Will and Imagination to
clothe the form with the matter by precipitation.
The distinct -- photographically and sharply definite -- image of
every line of every letter or picture is formed in the mind, and then
out of the air is drawn the pigment to fall within the limits laid
down by the brain, "the exhaustless generator of force and form."
This, then, naturally leads to the proposition that the human Will is
all powerful and the Imagination is a most useful faculty with a
dynamic force. The Imagination is the picture-making power of the
human mind. In the ordinary average human person it has not enough
training or force to be more than a sort of dream, but it may be
trained. When trained it is the Constructor in the Human Workshop.
Arrived at that stage it makes a matrix in the Astral substance
through which effects objectively will flow. It is the greatest power,
after Will, in the human assemblage of complicated instruments. The
modern Western definition of Imagination is incomplete and wide of the
mark. It is chiefly used to designate fancy or misconception and at
all times stands for unreality. It is impossible to get another term
as good because one of the powers of the trained Imagination is that
of making an image. The word is derived from those signifying the
formation or reflection of an image. This faculty used, or rather
suffered to act, in an unregulated mode has given the West no other
idea than that covered by "fancy."
So far as that goes it is right but it may be pushed to a greater
limit, which, when reached causes the Imagination to evolve in the
Astral substance an actual image or form which may be then used in the
same way as an iron molder uses a mold of sand for the molten iron. It
is therefore the King faculty, inasmuch as the Will cannot do its work
if the Imagination be at all weak or untrained. For instance, if the
person desiring to precipitate from the air wavers in the least with
the image made in the Astral substance, the pigment will fall upon the
paper in a correspondingly wavering and diffused manner.
To COMMUNICATE WITH ANOTHER MIND at any distance the Adept attunes all
the molecules of the brain and all the thoughts of the mind so as to
vibrate in unison with the mind to be affected, and that other mind
and brain have also to be either voluntarily thrown into the same
unison or fall into it voluntarily. So though the Adept be at Bombay
and his friend in New York, the distance is no obstacle, as the inner
senses are not dependent on an ear, but may feel and see the thoughts
and images in the mind of the other person.
And when it is desired to look into the mind and catch the thoughts of
another and the pictures all around him of all he has thought and
looked at, the Adept's inner sight and hearing are directed to the
mind to be seen, when at once all is visible. But, as said before,
only a rogue would do this, and the Adepts do not do it except in
strictly authorized cases. The modern man sees no misdemeanor in
looking into the secrets of another by means of this power, but the
Adepts say it is an invasion of the rights of the other person.
No man has the right, even when he has the power in his hand, to enter
into the mind of another and pick out its secrets. This is the law of
the Lodge to all who seek, and if one sees that he is about to
discover the secrets of another he must at once withdraw and proceed
no further. If he proceeds his power is taken from him in the case of
a disciple; in the case of any other person he must take the
consequence of this sort of burglary. For Nature has her laws and her
policemen, and if we commit felonies in the Astral world the great Law
and the guardians of it, for which no bribery is possible, will
execute the penalty, no matter how long we wait, even if it be for ten
thousand years. Here is another safeguard for ethics and morals. But
until men admit this system of philosophy, they will not deem it wrong
to commit felonies in fields where their weak human law has no effect,
but at the same time by thus refusing the philosophy they will put off
the day when all may have these great powers for the use of all.
Among phenomena useful to notice are those consisting of the MOVING OF
OBJECTS without physical contact. This may be done, and in more than
one way. The first is to extrude from the physical body the Astral
hand and arm, and with those grasp the object to be moved. This may be
accomplished at a distance of as much as ten feet from the person. I
only refer to the properties of the Astral substance and members. This
will serve to some extent to explain several of the phenomena of
The second method is to use the ELEMENTALS. They have the power when
directed by the inner man to carry objects by changing the polarity,
and then we see, as with the fakirs of India and some mediums in
America, small objects moving apparently unsupported. These elemental
entities are used when things are brought from longer distances than
the length to which the Astral members may be stretched. It is no
argument against this that mediums do not know they do so.
Clairvoyance, clairaudience, and second-sight are all related very
closely. Every exercise of any one of them draws in at the same time
both of the others. They are but variations of one power. Sound is one
of the distinguishing characteristics of the Astral sphere, and as
light goes with sound, sight obtains simultaneously with hearing. To
see an image with the Astral senses means that at the same time there
is a sound, and to hear the latter infers the presence of a related
image in Astral substance.
It is perfectly well known to the true student of occultism that
every sound produces instantaneously an image, and this, so long known
in the Orient, has lately been demonstrated in the West in the
production to the eye of sound pictures on a stretched tympanum.
In the Astral Light are pictures of all things whatsoever that
happened to any person, and as well also pictures of those events to
come the causes for which are sufficiently well marked and made. If
the causes are yet indefinite, so will be the images of the future.
But for the mass of events for several years to come all the producing
and efficient causes are always laid down with enough definiteness to
permit the seer to see them in advance as if present. By means of
these pictures, seen with the inner senses, all clairvoyants exercise
their strange faculty. Yet it is a faculty common to all men, though
in the majority but slightly developed; but occultism asserts that
were it not for the germ of this power slightly active in every one no
man could convey to another any idea whatsoever.
In clairvoyance the pictures in the Astral Light pass before the inner
vision and are reflected into the physical eye from within. They then
appear objectively to the seer. If they are of past events or those to
come, the picture only is seen; if of events actually then occurring,
the scene is perceived through the Astral Light by the inner sense.
The distinguishing difference between ordinary and clairvoyant vision
is, then, that in clairvoyance with waking sight the vibration is
communicated to the brain first, from which it is transmitted to the
physical eye, where it sets up an image upon the retina, just as the
revolving cylinder of the phonograph causes the mouthpiece to vibrate
exactly as the voice had vibrated when thrown into the receiver. In
ordinary eye vision the vibrations are given to the eye first and then
transmitted to the brain. Images and sounds are both caused by
vibrations, and hence any sound once made is preserved in the Astral
Light from whence the inner sense can take it and from within transmit
it to the brain, from which it reaches the physical ear. So in
clairaudience at a distance the hearer does not hear with the ear, but
with the center of hearing in the Astral body. Second-sight is a
combination of clairaudience and clairvoyance or not, just as the
particular case is, and the frequency with which future events are
seen by the second-sight seer adds an element of prophecy.
The highest order of clairvoyance -- that of spiritual vision -- is
very rare. The usual clairvoyant deals only with the ordinary aspects
and strata of the Astral matter. Spiritual sight comes only to those
who are pure, devoted, and firm. It may be attained by special
development of the particular organ in the body through which alone
such sight is possible, and only after discipline, long training, and
the highest altruism.
The pure-minded and the brave can deal with the future and the present
far better than any clairvoyant. But as the existence of these two
powers proves the presence in us of the inner senses and of the
necessary medium -- the Astral Light
Dreams are sometimes the result of brain action automatically
proceeding, and are also produced by the transmission into the brain
by the real inner person of those scenes or ideas high or low which
that real person has seen while the body slept. They are then strained
into the brain as if floating on the soul as it sinks into the body.
These dreams may be of use, but generally the resumption of bodily
activity destroys the meaning, perverts the image, and reduces all to
But the great fact of all dreaming is that some one perceives and
feels therein, and this is one of the arguments for the inner person's
existence. In sleep the inner man communes with higher intelligences,
and sometimes succeeds in impressing the brain with what is gained,
either a high idea or a prophetic vision, or else fails in consequence
of the resistance of brain fiber.
Apparitions and doubles are of two general classes. The one, astral
shells or images from the astral world, either actually visible to the
eye or the result of vibration within thrown out to the eye and thus
making the person think he sees an objective form without. The other,
the astral body of living persons and carrying full consciousness or
only partially so endowed.
Laborious attempts by Psychical Research Societies to prove
apparitions without knowing these laws really prove nothing, for out
of twenty admitted cases nineteen may be the objectivization of the
image impressed on the brain. But that apparitions have been seen
there is no doubt. Apparitions of those just dead may be either
pictures made objective as described, or the Astral Body -- called
Kama Rupa at this stage -- of the deceased. And as the dying thoughts
and forces released from the body are very strong, we have more
accounts of such apparitions than of any other class.
The Adept may send out his apparition, which, however, consists of his
conscious and trained astral body endowed with all his intelligence
and not wholly detached from his physical frame.
Theosophy does not deny nor ignore the physical laws discovered by
science. It admits all such as are proven, but it asserts the
existence of others which modify the action of those we ordinarily
Behind all the visible phenomena is the occult cosmos with its ideal
machinery; that occult cosmos can only be fully understood by means of
the inner senses which pertain to it; those senses will not be easily
developed if their existence is denied. Brain and mind acting together
have the power to evolve forms, first as astral ones in astral
substance, and later as visible ones by accretions of the matter on
Objectivity depends largely on perception, and perception may be
affected by inner stimuli. Hence a witness may either see an object
which actually exists as such without, or may be made to see one by
internal stimulus. This gives us three modes of sight: (a) with the
eye by means of light from an object, (b) with the inner senses by
means of the Astral Light, and (c) by stimulus from within which
causes the eye to report to the brain, thus throwing the inner image
without. The phenomena of the other senses may be tabulated in the
The Astral substance being the register of all thoughts, sounds,
pictures, and other vibrations, and the inner man being a complete
person able to act with or without co-ordination with the physical,
all the phenomena of hypnotism, clairvoyance, clairaudience,
mediumship, and the rest of those which are not consciously performed
may be explained. In the Astral substance are all sounds and pictures,
and in the Astral man remain impressions of every event, however
remote or insignificant; these acting together produce the phenomena
which seem so strange to those who deny or are unaware of the
postulates of occultism.
Our departed do not see us here. They are relieved from the terrible
pang such a sight would inflict. Once in a while a pure-minded, unpaid
medium may ascend in trance to the state in which a deceased soul is,
and may remember some of what was there heard; but this is rare. At
the moment of death the soul may speak to some friend on earth before
the door is finally shut.
From all this and much more that could be adduced, the man of
materialistic science is fortified in his ridicule, but the
theosophist has to conclude that the entities, if there be any
communicating, are not human spirits, and that the explanations are to
be found in some other theories.
Materialization of a form out of the air, independent of the medium's
physical body, is a fact. But it is not a spirit. As was very well
said by one of the "spirits", one way to produce this phenomenon is by
the accretion of electrical and magnetic particles into one mass upon
which matter is aggregated and an image reflected out of the Astral
sphere. This is the whole of it.
The second method is by the use of the Astral body of the living
medium. In this case the Astral form exudes from the side of the
medium, gradually collects upon itself particles extracted from the
air and the bodies of the sitters present, until at last it becomes
visible. Sometimes it will resemble the medium; at others it bears a
different appearance. In almost every instance dimness of light is
requisite because a high light would disturb the Astral substance in a
violent manner and render the projection difficult. Some so-called
materializations are hollow mockeries, as they are but flat plates of
electrical and magnetic substance on which pictures from the Astral
Light are reflected. These seem to be the faces of the dead, but they
are simply pictured illusions.
To understand the psychic phenomena found in the history of
"spiritualism" it is necessary to know and admit the following:
I. The complete heredity of man astrally, spiritually, and
psychically, as a being who knows, reasons, feels, and acts through
the body, the Astral body, and the soul.
II. The nature of the mind, its operation, its powers; the nature and
power of imagination; the duration and effect of impressions. Most
important in this is the persistence of the slightest impression as
well as the deepest; that every impression produces a picture in the
individual aura; and that by means of this a connection is established
between the auras of friends and relatives old, new, near, distant,
and remote in degree: this would give a wide range of possible sight
to a clairvoyant.
III. The nature, extent, function, and power of man's inner Astral
organs and faculties included in the terms Astral body and Kama. That
these are not hindered from action by trance or sleep, but are
increased in the medium when entranced; at the same time their action
is not free, but governed by the mass chord of thought among the
sitters, or by a predominating will, or by the presiding devil behind
the scenes; if a sceptical scientific investigator be present, his
mental attitude may totally inhibit the action of the medium's powers
by what we might call a freezing process which no English terms will
IV. The fate of the real man after death, his state, power, activity
there, and his relation, if any, to those left behind him here.
V. That the intermediary between mind and body -- the Astral body --
is thrown off at death and left in the Astral light to fade away; and
that the real man goes to Devachan.
VI. The existence, nature, power, and function of the Astral light and
its place as a register in Nature. That it contains, retains, and
reflects pictures of each and every thing that happened to anyone, and
also every thought; that it permeates the globe and the atmosphere
around it; that the transmission of vibration through it is
practically instantaneous, since the rate is much quicker than that of
electricity as now known.
VII. The existence in the Astral light of beings not using bodies like
ours, but not human in their nature, having powers, faculties, and a
sort of consciousness of their own; these include the elemental forces
or nature sprites divided into many degrees, and which have to do with
every operation of Nature and every motion of the mind of man. That
these elementals act at seances automatically in their various
departments, one class presenting pictures, another producing sounds,
and others depolarizing objects for the purposes of apportation.
Acting with them in this Astral sphere are the soulless men who live
in it. To these are to be ascribed the phenomenon, among others, of
the "independent voice," always sounding like a voice in a barrel just
because it is made in a vacuum which is absolutely necessary for an
entity so far removed from spirit. The peculiar timbre of this sort of
voice has not been noticed by the spiritualists as important, but it
is extremely significant in the view of occultism.
VIII. The existence and operation of occult laws and forces in nature
which may be used to produce phenomenal results on this plane; that
these laws and forces may be put into operation by the subconscious
man and by the elementals either consciously or unconsciously, and
that many of these occult operations are automatic in the same way as
is the freezing of water under intense cold or the melting of ice
IX. That the Astral body of the medium, partaking of the nature of the
Astral substance, may be extended from the physical body, may act
outside of the latter, and may also extrude at times any portion of
itself such as hand, arm, or leg and thereby move objects, indite
letters, produce touches on the body, and so on ad infinitum. And that
the Astral body of any person may be made to feel sensation, which,
being transmitted to the brain, causes the person to think he is
touched on the outside or has heard a sound.
Mediumship is full of dangers because the Astral part of the man is
now only normal in action when joined to the body. To become a medium
means that you have to become disorganized physiologically and in the
nervous system, because through the latter is the connection between
the two worlds. The moment the door is opened all the unknown forces
rush in, and as the grosser part of nature is nearest to us it is that
part which affects us most; the lower nature is also first affected
and inflamed because the forces used are from that part of us. We are
then at the mercy of the vile thoughts of all men, and subject to the
influence of the shells in Kama Loka. If to this be added the taking
of money for the practice of mediumship, an additional danger is at
hand, for the things of the spirit and those relating to the Astral
world must not be sold. This is the great disease of American
spiritualism which has debased and degraded its whole history.
To attempt to acquire the use of the psychic powers for mere curiosity
or for selfish ends is also dangerous for the same reasons as in the
case of mediumship. As the civilization of the present day is selfish
to the last degree and built on the personal element, the rules for
the development of these powers in the right way have not been given
out, but the Masters of Wisdom have said that philosophy and ethics
must first be learned and practiced before any development of the
other department is to be indulged in; and their condemnation of the
wholesale development of mediums is supported by the history of
spiritualism, which is one long story of the ruin of mediums in every
Equally improper is the manner of the scientific schools which without
a thought for the true nature of man indulge in experiments in
hypnotism in which the subjects are injured for life, put into
disgraceful attitudes, and made to do things for the satisfaction of
the investigators which would never be done by men and women in their
The Lodge of the Masters does not care for Science unless it aims to
better man's state morally as well as physically, and no aid will be
given to Science until she looks at man and life from the moral and
spiritual side. For this reason those who know all about the psychical
world, its denizens and laws, are proceeding with a reform in morals
and philosophy before any great attention will be accorded to the
strange and seductive phenomena possible for the inner powers of man.
[Extracted and condensed from: Judge -- the OCEAN OF THEOSOPHY ]
Sent: Sunday, November 24, 2002 9:51 AM
Subject: Theosophical miracle stories: a suggestion for categorization
After all the discussion there seems to remain considerable confusion
about the matter of evaluating the Theosophical miracle stories. I
have thought about this at some length and would like to propose the
following categorization system. Notice that of seven categories,
two are probably evidence of unusual phenomena, one is ambiguous and
non evidential, and four can be reasonably discounted. Interestingly
from a Theosophical point of view, it turns out there are SEVEN
Category I: This would include stories such as the Ootan Liatto story
in which internal evidence makes it clear the "miracle" was actually
a drug experience. Olcott's experience of walking into a cloud of
smoke and seeing Blavatsky hold up multiple pencils when he knew
there was only one there falls into this category, as do several
Category II: Instances in which a hostile witness claims to have
actually caught Blavatsky in the act of imposture or to have been
recruited for an act of imposture, The testimonies of Emma Coulomb
and others fall into this category.
Category III: Stories in which the witness is known to have been a
pathological liar. Every account by "W.C." Leadbeater falls into
this category as Dr. Tillett has shown.
Category IV: Stories in which the Theosophists themselves admit the
phenomenon was a leg pull at best. Thus when Judge visited Adyar
Hartmann came up behind him and threw a mahatma letter over his
shoulder to show how letters could be "precipitated." The letters
themselves admit most of them were delivered by non phenomenal means.
Category V: Stories in which there is no testimony weakening the
miraculous claim and which may in fact be miraculous, but which could
easily have been done by any ten year old with a magic set. In these
cases one can only judge the miraculous or non miraculous nature of
the story based on prejudice. Unbiased observers would have to
consider the question open. Most of the Theosophical miracle stories
fall into this category.
Category VI: Stories which, if accurately reported, can hardly be
explained except by occult agency. The Shannon letter, the Gerhard
letter, the buried teacups, and a few other phenomena fall into this
category. These and the next category are the only ones worthy of
serious consideration as candidates for proof of "occult" power.
Category VII: Miracles which consisted of subjective phenomena. Thus
Blavatsky claimed to have read newspapers that had not yet arrived,
she and others claimed to have experienced "astral projection," etc.
These stories are credible because the performers claimed no more
than has been claimed by others before and since. However we explain
it, people do have unusual experiences.