Cycles of Psychism

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Cycles of Psychism

By The Theosophy Company

Psychism Today

It is quite evident to everyone who reads the newspaper and the magazine of the day and who notes the character of books being published for popular circulation, that there is a growing interest in so-called “psychic” subjects. The rigidly materialistic outlook of yesterday’s science, once regarded by most people as the final authority in all important questions, no longer prevails—a change in attitude which is as much due to the philosophical, even mystical, tendencies among leading scientists themselves as to any thing else. The vast unexplored area of supernormal psychological powers resident in man is receiving the attention of orthodox scien tific investigators, and these workers, while not without their oppon ents, are slowly gaining the approbation of thoughtful men and women. Concurrently with these developments in the scientific and academic world has come a renascence of popular interest in the “occult,” the mysterious and the supernatural. Although lacking the scholarly sanction of modern university authorities, this widespread attraction to psychic wonders, spiritualistic phenomena and the like is far more significant of the trend of human thought and activity than the erudite and guarded speculations of a few scientists. Some broad tendency of human nature is gradually emerging, finding ex pression through various channels and at difierent levels of intel ligence. So numerous are the indications of this change in attitude, and so far-reaching its efiects on modern life, that one is justified in proposing the question: Is it mere coincidence that men and women in all walks of life are turning to the psychic and occult, whether it be for purposes of religious satisfaction, scientific inquiry, or even amusement, or can there be discerned some unifying prin ciple, some broad psychological conception which will account for this almost universal trend? 

Perhaps the most telling indication of the supremacy of psychism lies in its negative aspect—the breakdown of the rational method of dealing with human problems. This we find to a startling degree in recent political events in Europe. Democracy, which is the spirit of rationalism embodied in government forms, is a thing of the past on the European continent. During the medieval period, Philos ophy, as historians have said, was the handmaiden of Theology. Now, in the modern age, Science, which was to have been the liberator of all mankind, has taken its place beside both Theology and Philosophy, and all three minister to that supremely emotional entity, the totalitarian state. The utterances of the dictator are oracular and final for many millions who have abrogated their right of independent thinking. 

In America, the religious groups which have been most success ful in gaining adherents in recent years are those which relegate reason to an unimportant -position in the scheme of moral life. There is, for example, the Oxford Movement headed by Dr. Frank Buchman. The Buchmanites “talk with God.” God tells them what to do. This, of course, makes everything very simple, once you get awire through to the supreme Deity. One need not think for himself when one has God for his personal daimon. “God has a Plan,” say the Oxford enthusiasts, untroubled by the searching investigations of philosophers who have not as yet been able to convince either themselves or anyone of intelligence that a personal, thinking and planning “being” can at the same time be omnipresent and universal-—the highest there is. The ethics of the Oxford Movement are indeed admirable—Absolute Love, Charity, Honesty, Truthfulness—but one cannot help remembering that the same Robespierre who as head of the Committee of Public Safety in the Paris Commune murdered thirty men a day, twelve years previously had retired from the judge’s bench in the city of Arras because his conscience would not permit him to pronounce the sentence of death. What ifGod’s plan should change? The crusades were one of “His” designs, and so was the Spanish Inquisition. 

What of the hundreds of oriental seers, yogis and “spiritual teachers” who have invaded the shores of America during recent years, gaining for themselves immense personal followings? Almost without exception, their prospectuses read, “Gain health, wealth, happiness by this new, easy, secret method! Develop your will, your secret powers, by learning from me!” The emotional exaltation produced in the devotees of these pseudo-spiritual teachers often ends in insanity and it cannot fail to warp the intellectual powers almost beyond repair. The native sages and prophets are not less numerous, nor less wily in their methods of exploiting the religious nature of their fellow men. Correspondence courses in spiritual development do a thriving business. The ignorant, the naive and the miserable pay an annual toll of millions of dollars to purchase the “secrets of the ages.” There is literally nothing that these mer chants of psychic glory will not promise for amodest fee. 

There is no index of modern psychism superior to the magazine news-stand. Psychic Science, Mysticism, Psychology, Spiritualism, Astrology, Mental Healing, Hypnotism-—these are but a few gen eral labels to indicate the contents of scores of national magazines with aggregate circulations running into many millions. The ap petite of the wonder-seeking psychic is insatiable. Nothing but the promise of new and more mysterious miracles will satisfy. Gar nished with terms borrowed from the vocabulary of both science and religion, often spiced with veiled sex appeal, written in the sen sational style of yellow journalism, these publications cater to the most susceptible area of human nature—the psycho-religious hunger for miracles, for personal salvation, personal power and aggrandise ment. More insidious than frank prostitution of the body, the pan derers to psychic intoxication are perverting minds and souls en masse. 

There are aflinities between these psychic periodicals and the numerous picture magazines which have recently flooded the coun try. The latter are essentially “psychic” in character, holding the attention of the reader through a vivid sense impression instead of intellectual content. The reading matter is succinct, definitive, and impresses the mind of the reader with conclusions which he rarely questions. No thought is required of the picture-magazine fan; he sees, is entertained, and he believes. Actually, the picture maga zines have appropriated a technique carefully developed through many years of experience by advertising experts. Picture magazines use the same principles of attention-getting, fascination, and con version to the “message” of the advertiser that have made fortunes for so many of these exploiters of the foibles and weaknesses of human nature—the psychic nature. The methods of the radio ad vertiser are similar, the only difference lying in the fact that the impression is auditory instead of visual. The oily, patronizing tones of the announcers—little better than confidence men who have been naturalized into respectability by the “bigness” of the business en terprises they represent, and by the degrading standards of com mercial honesty which we accept unthinkingly—lull the listeners into passive acquiescence. It is all so easy, so effortless! Moving pic tures combine both auditory and visual impressions to make wish fulfillment dreams for the masses. This is Hollywood's contribu tion to the stultification of independent thought in America and else where. Why should—h0w can—men think, be rational, or survive as a democratic society, when practically all of their leisure time is spent in absorbing, like so many psychic sponges, the persuasive and sensation-producing sights and sounds readily provided by the “practical” psychologists of this psychic dispensation?

A catalogue of the various brands of psychic intoxicants could be continued indefinitely. The gamut of emotionalism in modern life includes the familiar exhortations of the revivalist and the respond ing ecstasy of his listeners; the uninhibited abandon of youthful swing enthusiasts in their dervish frenzy; the tense appeals of politi cal partisans arousing the dogs of class hatred, the clamor of unsatis fied greed, and all the springs of outraged selfishness on which the demagogue depends for his success. Wherever there is human action based on the instinctive drives of the animal man, on the hunger for sensations, on the satisfaction of desires without regard for the con sequences, there is psychism unleashed and enthroned. When the psychic nature reigns, reason never serves as a check, being called upon only to justify, to rationalize the fiats of the emotions. 

What are the consequences of an unregulated emotional life? Of imagination or fantasy run wild? Of dabbling in “magic,” in spir itualism and the “occult arts”? Ask a psychiatrist this -question, and, ignorant as he may be of the realities which these labels conceal, he will relate horrors that would make the tales of Poe sound like bedtime stories. A writer in Harper’: recently described our time as “The Age of Schizophrenia,” of split-personality, so named be cause of the splitting apart of the emotional from the intellectual life which characterizes the mental state of literally millions of people. We learn that “schizophrenic patients occupy one-fifth of all the hospital beds in the United States, reckoning in general hospital as well as in mental hospital beds.” Turn to the literature of psychiatry on the subject of “Obsession,” a term retained from the theories of obsessing demons believed in in the Dark Ages, and see what -propor tion of the victims of this kind of insanity are or have been spiritual ists or mediumistically inclined. Find, if you can, the line between religious fanaticism and actual madness. In the wake of the visiting yogis and psychic seers are to be found human beings with emotion ally shattered lives. They were told that a certain kind of breathing would bring them knowledge—they would “see things.” They did the breathing exercises, and now they can't stop seeing things, are going crazy, or have gone. Others, who thought Hatha Yoga was “spiritual,” find that their organisms break down under the insidious discipline. In many such cases, insanity may be a blessing in disguise, deferring until a later incarnation the moral trial which may then come at a time when the character of the victim has grown stronger and more able to withstand psychic temptations. 

New forms of psychism are evidenced by bizarre new arrivals in the field of religious cults. The newspapers teem with advertise ments of swamis, yogis and “paramahamsas” who claim to be in touch with all manner of celestial beings and teachers, whose wisdom is now for sale, generally on the easy payment basis. Psychic apos tles vie with one another in their claims of knowing the unknowable, doing the impossible, and revealing every last secret of the universe. The more fantastic the claim, the more are attracted as followers, it appears. We have lately been favored with incarnations of Saint Germain, Jesus, and George VVashington. From Tibet comes a “white lama,” formerly of Arizona, who promises to relieve the sophisticated of their ennui by instruction in Asiatic Mysteries never before made public. Others join religious with political appeals, and allege that a corps of statisticians and researchers are now perfect ing the blueprints for a new “planned” (magic word!) society. Who can wonder that, a few years ago, when Orson Welles pro duced a Martian invasion on his radio program, listeners from Florida to Oregon rushed distractedly about, wondering how to protect themselves from these horrid visitors out of the sky, and even a college professor or two went out to look for them some where in the Jersey meadows! 

In I939, Walter Lip-pmann, with a wisdom he could hardly have himself understood, named the tragic victims of modern psychism “the spiritual proletariat of the modern age.” They “hear all the latest news and all the latest opinions, but have no philosophy by which they can distinguish the true from the false, the credible from the incredible, the good from the bad.” And, he adds, “the eruption of their volcanic and hysterical energy is the revolution that is shaking the world.” 

II Here, in America, a great psychic mutation is under way, the full developments of which may not disclose themselves for scores of years. Now, at its outset, little more is visible than the paroxysms of the decline of an old order, the backwash and carnage of a world that has lost its sense of legitimate purpose. Modern writers have habituated themselves to think of this transition in political terms, founding their judgments of what the future holds on theories of society which had their beginning in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. But the change which the human race is entering upon is more profound by far than any mere political alteration. When it is complete, new concepts of reality will have emerged and won ac ceptance, and tomorrow’s social order will have adapted itself to laws of human relations as yet only guessed at by the few.

The biological analogy of “mutation” is a good one, for this change, according to the Theosophical view, will mark a fundamental alteration in the inter-relation of the principles of man’s psychic organism. One of its results will be general recognition that man is not merely a physical being, but is more essentially an embodied mind, embodied feelings, hopes, aspirations and desires. These principles, in the cycle to come, will be acknowledged as the primary attributes of human beings, and the orbits of scientific and religious investigation will thus attain new orientation. But, as with every re alignment of the evolutionary forces, an epoch of confusion, of false starts and misguided attempts to anticipate the course of natural development, will inevitably precede the final adjustment of the race to this new period of human growth and self-expression. 

Destruction and failure will seem to be predominant characteristics of the cycle, and despair the watchword of the many. For those whose horizons are circumscribed to the past, whose philosophies are rigidly committed to the old assumptions of western civilization, the change will seem to mark the “end of the world,” and indeed it will, for them. Like the dreamer too suddenly awakened from his slumber, like the miser impoverished by a single miscalculation, like the child called upon to be and act as a man when he has neither the knowledge, nor the courage nor the strength, the opening of this new vista in human afiairs will drive many into the current of efilux, where they will cling to the shattered fragments of the past as the only symbol they know of the life that was. 

But for others, the epoch will be recognized as a mighty challenge to their moral resources and their self-reliance. The ascending torch of human intelligence will meet the intenser flame of egoic divinity in its descent to a more complete participation in the life on earth. An age of builders will dawn, of educators and healers, without pre cedent or comparison in the history of present humanity. This is the message and the prophecy of Theosophy, brought to the world to lighten the way to the “new order of ages,” and to ease the travail of its birth. 

Hence the warnings, the strict injunctions of the Teacher, H. P. Blavatsky. She took no morbid delight in spreading a Jeremiad doctrine of fear and retribution. She but repeated what she knew of the eternal law of cycles, upraised and proclaimed out of the lore of the perfected men of the race, whose wisdom and practical knowledge of cyclic evolution alone can bring humanity through the terrible dangers of the transition age. Speaking to American theoso phists of the last century, she told of these dangers, and of the opportunities for service that are unfolding in the present: 

As the preparation for the new cycle proceeds, as the fore-runners of the new sub-race make their appearance on the American con tinent, the latent psychic and occult powers in man are beginning to germinate and grow. . . . Your position as the fore-runners has its own special perils as well as its special advantages. Psychism, with all its allurements and all its dangers, is necessarily developing among you, and you must beware lest the Psychic outrun the Manasic and Spiritual development. Psychic capacities held perfectly under con trol, checked and directed by the Manasic principle, are valuable aids in development. But these capacities running riot, controlling instead of controlled, using instead of being used, lead the Student into the most dangerous delusions and certainty of moral destruction. Watch therefore carefully this development, inevitable in your race and evolution-period so that it may finally work for good and not for evil; and receive, in advance, the sincere and potent blessings of Those whose good-will will never fail you, if you do not fail your selves. . . . Theosophy alone can save the Western world from that selfish and unbrotherly feeling that now divides race from race, one nation from the other; and from that hatred of class and social considera tions that are the curse and disgrace of so-called Christian peoples. Theosophy alone can save it from sinking entirely into that mere luxurious materialism in which it will decay and putrefy as civiliza tions have done. In your hands, brothers, is placed in trust the wel fare of the coming century; and great as is the trust, so great is also the responsibility. 

There is nothing “evil” or “wicked” in the psychic nature itself. The evil results from lack of control, from the free indulgence of desire which, when unleashed and increasingly gratified, becomes insatiable in its demands. The more the powers of mind are de veloped, the more extensive become the responsibilities of man, and the greater the crimes of which he is capable. Misuse of mental powers, and here misuse means selfish use, is incalculably more far reaching in its destructive effects than the abuse of physical powers. 

Uncontrol, which is the veritable root of psychism, leads to progres sive stages of irresponsible exercise of powers, ending in brutal lack of concern for the welfare of others, if for no other reason than that the existence of those others has been forgotten during the ever more engrossing pursuit for satisfaction. The selfishness and narrow partisanships of a civilization founded on material and physical -powers are as the petty sins of children when compared with the possible applications of psychic powers for selfish ends during the cycle to come. A point is reached in the union of desire with intel lect and the subtler forms of psychic perception, when rationalization of selfishness becomes absolute. This is the death of all morality, and the beginning of a deliberate career in evil for evil’s sake. The only protection against such a fate for the human race is the practice of moral discipline, and the study of Theosophy, the philosophy which will convince mankind that such discipline is both necessary, just and desirable. Comprehensive grasp of the hidden laws of nature, even intellectually, is not possible without thorough investi gation of the Theosophical teachings as a whole. 

For example, the cyclic character of psychic manifestations is de pendent on the Theosophical teaching of the three lines of evolution, and the successive emphasis which the course of human development places upon the principles involved in these divisions. A passage from the Ocean of Theosophy will illustrate: 

We find Theosophy teaching that at the present point of man's evolution he is a fully developed quaternary with the higher principles partly developed. Hence it is taught that to-day man shows himself to be moved by passion and desire. This is proved by a glance at the civilizations of the earth, for they are all moved by this principle, and in countries like France, England, and America a glorification of it is exhibited in the attention to display, to sensuous art, to struggle for power and place, and in all the habits and modes of living where gratification of the senses is sometimes esteemed the highest good. But as Mind is being evolved more and more as we proceed in our course along the line of race development, there can be perceived in all countries the beginning of the transition from the animal pos sessed of the germ of real mind to the man of mind complete. This day is therefore known as the “transition period,” when every system of thought, science, religion, government, and society is changing, and men’s minds are only preparing for an alteration. Man is not yet fully conscious, and reincarnations are needed to at last complete the incarnation of the whole trinity (the higher, spiritual man) in the body. When that has been accomplished the race will have become as gods. 

The mysteries of psychic phenomena are to be accounted for by the as yet imperfect incarnation of mind, which is a progressive de scent, and which re-quires a corresponding aspiration and striving on the part of mankind. It is because the full powers of mind are not yet active in the race that the scientist is wandering in the dark, con founded and confused by all that hypnotism and other strange things bring before him. Because these powers are withheld until the appro priate evolutionary cycle, the learned are compelled to speak of the “subconscious mind,” the “unconscious,” and the like. Hence, also, the bewilderment of both scientists and theologians, when, in the last century, the flood tide of psychism broke loose over the American continent. But, as in each cycle more and more of the higher powers of man will become accessible, greater knowledge, and power, too, will become possible. Finally, with full power and responsibility, with minds fully illuminated, all men will be compelled to choose between good and evil ways, the one leading to heights of spiritual achievement in the common brotherhood of man, the other path, dark with selfishness, to moral ruin. 

Writing in 1893, William Q. Judge expressed the hope that “by the time the next tide begins to rise, the West will have gained some right knowledge of the true philosophy of Man and Nature, and be then ready to bear the lifting of the veil a little more.” That tide is now upon us, and to help on the progress of the race to a better knowledge of psychic evolution—its extraordinary promise, if un derstood, for the good of mankind, and its terrible dangers, if al lowed to proceed in ignorant selfishness—is the object of this pamphlet.



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