THE philosophical part of our work is now ended. In a subject so vast there are many points, no doubt, that might have been more fully developed, but our main purpose has been to give a comprehensive idea of the metaphysical speculations of the Hindu initiates, and to show that their belief in spirits was only a consequence of their system relating to God and his attributes, and to the existence of the universe. In the comparison of this doctrine, which is based upon the Vedas themselves, with those of other ancient people, we devoted most of the space at our command to the Jewish Cabala, because, though not so well known as Magism, the philosophy of Plato, or the Alexandrian school, it also believed in the manifestations of spirits, the power of evocation, and its external phenomena, precisely in the same manner as the philosophy of the Pitris, their traditional ancestor on the banks of the Ganges.
We might also have called attention to the fact that primitive Christianity, with its Thautnaturgists suddenly appearing through closed doors, raising the dead, floating in the air, and receiving the gift of tongues, with its initiation in the Catacombs, its superior spirits, its demons, and its exorcists, was intimately related to the Cabala and the doctrine of the Pitris. We confined ourselves, however, to the statement that that religious revolution in the earlier ages of our era was only a synthesis of the old beliefs of Asia. An exhaustive study of the subject would have required a book by itself, which we might not have the leisure to complete.
The special scope of the present work forbids any extended excursion into this field. The mere fact of our undertaking it would have necessarily led us to devote the same space to the mysterious initiations of , Chaldea, and Persia, and, as the reader will readily see, it would have compelled us to write a general history of the ancient civilizations of the East, such as forms a part of the ethnographical studies published by us elsewhere.
Before giving an account of the exterior phenomena and manifestations by which the Hindus claim to show that they are in possession of occult power, which is a logical consequence of their religious belief in the part played by spirits in the universe, we desire to disavow any personal responsibility whatever.
We assert nothing positively with regard to most of the facts which we are about to relate. The skill derived from long experience, charlatanism, and even hallucination itself, may assist to explain them. We are bound to say, however, as impartial and faithful observers, that though we applied the severest tests, to which the Fakirs and other initiates interposed no objection whatever, we never succeeded in detecting a single case of fraud or trickery, which, we admit, is far from being a conclusive proof of their honesty.
Hue, the missionary, who also gives an account of similar phenomena, witnessed by him in Thibet, was equally at a loss to account for them.
We are perfectly ready to admit, also, that we never knew a European, either in India or Ceylon, even among the oldest residents, who was able to indicate what means the votaries of the Pitris used in the production of these phenomena.
Is this tantamount to saying that we believe in the intervention of invisible spirits?
We do not believe in spiritualism, but while we believe that scepticism or doubt in all cases, in spite of any amount
of proof, is something that man, in his weakness, has no right to indulge in, we may add, on the other hand, that no one has a right to assert a thing positively or scientifically, except upon careful investigation, based upon proof upon either side.
We occupy the position which we assumed in our preface, viz.: That of a simple recorder of facts which some regard as occult manifestations and others as skilful jugglery.
There are, however, some phenomena, which, without going too far, we are inclined to attribute to natural forces, the laws of which have not yet been ascertained.
What are these forces? Or rather, what is the force which the Hindus attribute to the pure Agasa fluid, under the direction of the spirits?
We are not an authority upon this point, and when we see the illustrious scientist and member of the Royal Society of London, William Crookes, treated with ridicule and contempt on account of the inquiries he is now making with a view to the discovery of the laws of this force, we are involuntarily reminded of the words of Galvani, to whom the western world is indebted for the earliest experiments in electricity, as follows:
"I am attacked by two classes of persons, the learned and the ignorant. Both of them treat me with ridicule, and say that I am only fit to be a dancing-master for frogs, [*1] and yet I think that I have discovered one of the grandest forces in nature."
In short, with regard to certain physical facts, which have nothing in common with supernatural evocations, apparitions, or manifestations, and which are not in direct opposition to the laws of nature, which are not more wonderful than the results produced by electricity, we think that a denial or affirmation following a thorough
and scientific investigation, is better than a denial or affirmation a priori.
We know what a denial a priori is worth. It once rejected steam and electricity. The phenomena which we shall describe are all included within the three following categories:
First, facts and phenomena of exterior manifestations, obtained by spiritual force, and generally with the aid of material objects.
Second, facts of a magnetic or somnambulistic character.
Third, the phenomena of evocation and apparition, and the production of material objects by the spirits.
Phenomena of the first class are apparently easily tested. We shall tell what we have done and what our experience has been, without, however, expressing any opinion of our own as to their causes.
As to the last class of cases, we should have omitted them altogether from the present work, as shunning a scientific investigation, if--remembering that in ancient times the belief in evocations and apparitions was universal; that all religions, with Christianity at their head, included such phenomena in their mysteries and miracles--we had not deemed that it would be at least a matter of historical curiosity to set forth the nature of these singular practices--in common use in India at the present day--which are so well adapted to influence the popular mind, and which formed the basis of all the ancient superstitions.
^201:1 Alluding to his experiments on frogs.
Occult Science in India, by Louis Jacoilliot, , at sacred-texts.com
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