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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 57.djvu/462

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POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

come as an open book, doubt and despair be replaced by the serenity of perfect wisdom. As our ordinary senses and faculties are obviously insufficient to accomplish such ends, supernatural powers must be appealed to, a transcendental sphere of spiritual activity must be cultivated capable of perceiving through the hidden symbolism of apparent phenomena, the underlying relations of cosmic structure and final purposes. Long periods of training and devotion, seclusion from the world, contemplation of inner mysteries, lead the initiate through the various stages of adeptship up to the final plane of communion with the infinite and the comprehension of truth in all things. This form of occultism reaches its fullest and purest expression in Oriental wisdom-religions. These vie in interest to the historian with the mythology and philosophy of Greece and Rome; and we of the Occident feel free to profit by their ethical and philosophical content, and to cherish the impulses which gave them life. But when such views are forcibly transplanted to our age and clime, when they are decked in garments so unlike their original vestments, particularly when they are associated with dubious practices and come into violent conflict with the truth that has accumulated since they first had birth, their aspect is profoundly altered and they come within the circle of the modern occult.

Of this character is Theosophy, an occult movement brought into recent prominence by the works and personality of Mme. Blavatsky. The story of the checkered career of that remarkable woman is fairly accessible. Born in Russia in 1831 as Helen Petrovna, daughter of Colonel Hahn, of the Russian army, she was married at the age of seventeen to an elderly gentleman, M. Blavatsky. She is described in girlhood as a person of passionate temper and wilful and erratic disposition. She separated or escaped from her husband after a few months of married life and entered upon an extended period of travel and adventure, in which 'psychic' experiences and the search for unusual persons and beliefs were prominent. She absorbed Hindu wisdom from the adepts of India; she sat at the feet of a thaumaturgist at Cairo; she journeyed to Canada to meet the medicine man of the Red Indians, and to New Orleans to observe the practices of Voodoo among the negroes. It is difficult to know what to believe in the accounts prepared by her enthusiastic followers. Violations of physical laws were constantly occurring in her presence, and "sporadic outbreaks of rappings and feats of impulsive pots, pans, beds and chairs insisted on making themselves notorious." In 1873 she came to New York and sat in 'spiritualistic' circles, assuming an assent to their theories, but claiming to see through and beyond the manifestations the operations of her theosophic guides in astral projection. At one of these seances she met Colonel Olcott and assisted him in the foundation of the Theosophical Society