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The Difference between Theosophy and Spiritualism

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The second major Section in Chapter II of The Key to Theosophy is about spiritism or spiritualism – the pursuits of mediums and manifestations in a séance room or elsewhere. There are many forms of spiritism, and all of them have in common that they are of a lower nature – and that it would be better for the living as well as for the dead if spiritism would not exist. However this does not apply to mediamism itself. Mediamism is a psychic property of being sensitive or receptive for astral worlds. But spiritism plays only in the lowest astral worlds.

To explain.

A human being consists of: 1) a physical body. If this dies its: 2) astral model, called liṅga śarīra, remains for some time and may linger around the dead body (on a graveyard for example, for some time.) It is made of astral matter of a coarse type, and can sometimes be seen as a ‘ghost’. It will fade away soon.

What remains of a man after he or she is separated from the physical body and the astral liṅga śarīra is 3) the kāma rūpa – the astral form or body of lower desires. It is this kāma-rūpa, also called the ‘Elementary’, the spook or bhūt, which can be reached by a spiritistic medium in trance. It contains all mundane physical and personal emotional memories of the past life. For example if grandpa who just passed away loved chocolate cake, the kāma-rūpa may still have that desire and express it through the passive medium. It can be true information, but only of a lower nature. But in no case has a spiritualist access to what is beyond the kāma-rūpa. After some time – weeks, months, may be years, rarely longer, the kāma-rūpa fades away and no more contact is possible for the spiritualist and its public in the flesh.

I should also mention that the kāma-rūpa, the Elementary, the desire-filled dead man or woman cooperates with elementals. And though these two words elementary and elemental differ only in two letters, these are entirely different things. Elementals are the conscious and active beings who inhabit the elements – earth, water, air, fire, etc. on the astral plane. They have never been humans and have no physical bodies, they have no self-conscious mind and, most important, no spiritual distinction or conscience. They do what they can or are ordered to according to their own nature. One of their characteristics is the power to deceive, and even the power to enjoy that. They have senses and feelings, but no ‘heart’. With their help ‘phenomena’ like dancing tables can be brought about. They can ‘state truly’ through the medium, that they are Jesus or Napoleon of King Ashoka. These phenomena are full lies.

What remains after the mortal kāma-rūpa has lost its force and motivation, and dies, is that part of a human being which is immortal in every human being, and returns in tact lifetime after lifetime, unhampered by birth and dying is : 4) the reincarnating Ego, that is the higher manas or mind which carries within it the higher thoughts of the man or woman who was on earth, recently as well in the further past, and it can still think. It makes mental, higher emotional and spiritual progress after death, while it consciously loves what the better mind loved on Earth, such as science, music, art, etc., people for which one had genuine respect or brotherly feelings, and even the love a mother felt for her child when she was still alive in the world, while all the time one remains self-conscious. In this state only the mind’s joy and no suffering is possible because the instrument for suffering has been left behind for now – until the next incarnation. Only a short time before reincarnation the memory of the past gets lost for one’s consciousness, (by Plato referred to as ‘drinking of the water of the river Lethe’ before new incarnation) and thus it can be said that the ‘real’ death in the sense of forgetfulness takes place only before rebirth. This original knowledge, though usually greatly deformed, is the basis for the belief in often long lasting, but never truly eternal heavens of heaven between death and rebirth in all cultures. Hell or hells or suffering do not exist for the reincarnating ego; only for the personalities with their lower minds – according to the intensity and quality of their evil, but are always temporary. The reincarnating Ego, connected with our monad or jīva, or ātman or true Self, is immortal for the duration of a Day of Brahman – several billions of years – until its essence is absorbed in still higher consciousness. This real Ego or immortal center of consciousness and experience is where Theosophists are interested in. A true occultist or esotericist is not directed towards the lower realms – but he has to learn to know them, descend to hell as it were, and use them, later. When in the world such a person may be helpful for the benefit of others, according to his capacity. These are then the remarkable people among humanity, ethically elevated and with great skills in their work. Theosophists are not really interested in and certainly not attracted towards spiritualism; they strive to become skillful altruists and are guided by forces no lower than compassion – an aspect which belongs to buddhi or spiritual intuition.

Blavatsky mentions that in some cases mediums and other sensitive people in this field may indeed produce beautiful results (like composing classical music) or give scientifically or ‘occultly’ sound messages. This, then, is not spiritism in the common sense of the word. It is the utter passiveness of a deep trance or samādhi of a exceptionally pure medium or yogi who becomes completely unaware of his body and personality, but which may in these cases work as a channel for the true higher, relatively omniscient reincarnating Ego of the medium or yogi him or herself. Perhaps the true oracles, such as the one at the ancient Greek Delphi, or the oracles consulted by the Dalai Lama, belong to this class.

To summarize:

Spiritualists have access only to the low and often rather filthy remnants of the dead – and the dead should compassionately be left alone to continue their upward journey. True occultists learn to rise up and communicate with the Egos in devachan (devaloka, ‘heaven’) or other higher beings or divinities, because the reincarnating Ego’s in devachan live in their own world of utter bliss, reaping the rewards of the good until they reincarnate, and can not ‘come down’ or be conscious of any world or any entity of lower purity.

So for a Theosophist, spiritism must be understood mentally, but he should never indulge in it.