Nov 11, 2019

A Case of Obsession

Some Modern Psychological
Challenges, and their Remedies

Helena P. Blavatsky


A 2019 Editorial Note:

The following article is reproduced
India, May 1880 edition, pages 207-208.

It is also published at the “Collected
Writings” of HPB, Vol. II, pp. 395-400.

Its subject relates to what Psychiatry and
Psychoanalysis call Hysteria. It has much in
common with the so-called Bipolar Disorder.
There are other articles by H.P. Blavatsky on
such complex and interrelated matters, one
of them being “Occult or Exact Science?

In order to make a contemplative
reading easier, longer paragraphs
have been divided into smaller
ones. Footnotes have been added.

(Carlos Cardoso Aveline)


The particulars of the case of “obsession”, alluded to in the April [1880] number of this magazine, are given in the following letter from a respectable English medical man who is in attendance upon the victim:

I take the liberty of addressing you in the cause of humanity, with the intention of exciting your sympathies and obtaining all the aid in your power to afford, in a case of ‘control’. You will understand that the gentleman is being made a medium against his wish, through having attended a few séances for the purpose of witnessing ‘materialization’.

Ever since he has been more or less subject to a series of persecutions by the ‘controlling’ spirit and, in spite of every effort of his to throw off the influence, he has been made to suffer most shamefully and painfully in very many ways and under most trying and aggravating circumstances, especially by his thoughts being forced into forbidden channels without external causes being present - the bodily functions overruled, even being caused to bite his tongue and cheeks severely whilst eating, etc., and subjected to every species of petty annoyances which will serve as a means for the ‘control’ (unknown) to sustain and establish the connection. The details are in their most painful features not such as I can write to you; but if there be any means known to you whereby the influence can be diverted, and it is thought necessary to be more particular in my description of this case, I will send you all the information I possess.

So little is known in India of the latest and most startling phase of Western mediumistic phenomena - “materialization” - that a few words of explanation are needed to make this case understood. Briefly, then, for several years, in the presence of certain mediums in America and Europe, there have been seen, often under good test conditions, apparitions of the dead, which in every respect seem like living human beings. They walk about, write messages to present and absent friends, speak audibly in the languages familiar to them in life, even though the medium may be unacquainted with them, and are dressed in the garb they wore when alive.

Many cases of fraudulent personation of the dead have been detected, pretended mediums have sometimes gone on for years deceiving the credulous, and real ones, whose psychical powers have been apparently proved beyond doubt, have been caught playing tricks in some evil hour when they have yielded to either the love of money or notoriety. Still, making every allowance for all these, there is a residuum of veritable cases of the materialization, or the making visible, tangible, and audible of portrait-figures of dead people.

These wonderful phenomena have been variously regarded by investigators. Most Spiritualists have looked upon them as the most precious proofs of the soul-survival; while Theosophists, acquainted with the views of the ancient Theurgists, and the still more ancient Aryan philosophers, have viewed them as at best misleading deceptions of the senses, fraught with danger to the physical and moral natures of both medium and spectator - if the latter chances to be susceptible to certain psychical influences. These students of Occultism have noticed that the mediums for materializations have too often been ruined in health by the drain upon their systems, and wrecked in morals. They have over and again warned the Spiritualistic public that mediumship was a most dangerous gift, one only to be tolerated under great precautions. And for this they have received much abuse and few thanks. Still one’s duty must be done at every cost, and the case now before us affords a valuable text for one more bit of friendly counsel.

We need not stop to discuss the question whether the so-called materialized forms above described are or are not those of the deceased they look like. That may be held in reserve until the bottom facts of Oriental psychical science are better understood. Nor need we argue as to whether there has ever been an authentic materialization. The London experiences of Mr. William Crookes, F.R.S., and the American ones of Colonel Olcott, both so widely known and of so convincing a character, give us a sufficient basis of fact to argue upon. We assume the reality of materializations, and shall take the instance cited by the English physician as a subject for diagnosis.

The patient then is described as having been “controlled” since attending “circles” where there were materializations, and as having become the bond-slave of some evil powers which force him to say and do painful and even disgusting things, despite his resistance. Why is this? How can a man be compelled to so act against his will? What is Obsession? Three brief questions these are, but most difficult to explain to an uninitiated public. The laws of Obsession can only be well understood by him who has sounded the depths of Indian philosophy. The only clue to the secret, which the West possesses, is contained in that most beneficent science, Magnetism or Mesmerism. That does teach the existence of a vital fluid within and about the human being; the fact of different human polarities; and the possibility of one person projecting this fluid or force at will, to and upon another person differently polarized. Baron Reichenbach’s theory of Odyle or Odic force shows us the existence of this same fluid in the mineral and vegetable as well as the animal kingdoms.

To complete the chain of evidence, Buchanan’s discovery of the psychometrical faculty in man enables us to prove, by the help of this faculty, that a subtle influence is exerted by people upon the houses and even the localities they live in, the paper they write upon, the clothing they wear, the portion of the Universal Ether (the Aryan Akasha) they exist in - and that this is a permanent influence, perceptible even at the most distant epochs from the time when the individual lived and exerted this influence.[1] In one word, we may say that the discoveries of Western science corroborate most fully the hints thrown out by Greek sages and the more defined theories of certain Indian philosophers.

Indians and Buddhists believe alike that thought and deed are both material, that they survive, that the evil desires and the good ones of a man environ him in a world of his own making, that these desires and thoughts take on shapes that become real to him after death, and that Moksha, in the one case, and Nirvana, in the other, cannot be attained until the disembodied soul has passed quite through this shadow-world of the haunting thoughts, and become divested of the last spot of its earthly taint.

The progress of Western discovery in this direction has been and must ever be very gradual. From the phenomena of gross to those of more sublimated matter, and thence on towards the mysteries of spirit is the hard road made necessary by the precepts of Aristotle. Western Science first ascertained that our outcoming breath is charged with carbonic acid and, in excess, becomes fatal to human life; then, that certain dangerous diseases are passed from person to person in the sporules thrown off into the air from the sick body; then, that man projects upon everybody and everything he encounters a magnetic aura, peculiar to himself; and finally, the physical disturbance set up in the Ether in the process of thought-evolution is now postulated. Another step in advance will be to realize the magical creative power of the human mind, and the fact that moral taint is just as transmissible as physical.

The “influence” of bad companions will then be understood to imply a degrading personal magnetism, more subtle than the impressions conveyed to the eye or the ear by the sights and sounds of a vicious company. The latter may be repelled by resolutely avoiding to see or hear what is bad; but the former enwraps the sensitive and penetrates his very being if he but stop where the moral poison is floating in the air. Gregory’s Animal Magnetism, Reichenbach’s Researches, and Denton’s The Soul of Things will make much of this plain to the Western inquirer, though neither of those authors traces the connection of his favourite branch of science with the parent-stock - Indian Psychology.

Keeping the present case in view, we see a man highly susceptible to magnetic impressions, ignorant of the nature of the “materializations” and, therefore, unable to protect himself against bad influences, brought in contact with promiscuous circles where the impressionable medium has long been the unwitting nucleus of evil magnetisms, his system saturated with the emanations of the surviving thoughts and desires of those who are living and those who are dead.

The reader is referred to an interesting paper by  Judge  Gadgil of  Baroda (see our December  number)[2] on “Hindu Ideas about Communion with the Dead”, for a plain exposition of this question of earth-tied souls, or Pisachas. “It is considered”, says that writer, “that in this state the soul being deprived of the means of enjoyment [of sensual pleasures] through its own physical body, is perpetually tormented by hunger, appetite and other bodily desires [3], and can have only vicarious enjoyment by entering into the living physical bodies of others, or by absorbing the subtlest essences of libations and oblations offered for their own sake.” What is there to surprise us in the fact that a negatively polarized man, a man of a susceptible temperament, being suddenly brought into a current of foul emanations from some vicious person, perhaps still living or perhaps dead, absorbs the insidious poison as rapidly as quicklime does moisture, until he is saturated with it? Thus, a susceptible body will absorb the virus of smallpox, or cholera, or typhus, and we need only recall this to draw the analogy which Occult Science affirms to be warranted.

Near the Earth’s surface there hangs over us - to use a convenient simile - a steamy moral fog, composed of the undispersed exhalations of human vice and passion. This fog penetrates the sensitive to the very soul’s core; his psychic self absorbs it as the sponge does water or as fresh milk effluvia. It benumbs his moral sense, spurs his baser instincts into activity, overpowers his good resolutions. As the fumes of a wine-vault make the brain reel, or as the choke-damp stifles one’s breath in a mine, so this heavy cloud of immoral influences carries away the sensitive beyond the limits of self-control, and he becomes “obsessed”, like our English patient.

What remedy is there to suggest? Does not our very diagnosis indicate that? The sensitive must have his sensitiveness destroyed; the negative polarity must be changed to a positive; he must become active instead of passive. He can be helped by a magnetiser who understands the nature of obsession, and who is morally pure and physically healthy; it must be a powerful magnetiser, a man of commanding will-force. But the fight for freedom will, after all, have to be fought by the patient himself. His will-power must be aroused. He must expel the poison from his system. Inch by inch he must win back the lost ground. He must realize that it is a question of life or death, salvation or ruin, and strive for victory, like one who makes a last and heroic effort to save his life.

His diet must be of the simplest, he must neither eat animal food, nor touch any stimulant, nor put himself in any company where there is the smallest chance for unclean thoughts to be provoked. He should be alone as little as possible, but his companions should be carefully chosen. He should take exercise and be much in the open air; use wood-fire, instead of coals. Every indication that the bad influence was still working within him should be taken as a challenge to control his thoughts and compel them to dwell upon pure, elevating, spiritual things, at every hazard and with a determination to suffer anything rather than give way. If this man can have such a spirit infused into him, and his physician can secure the benevolent help of a strong, healthy magnetiser, of pure character, he may be saved. A case almost exactly like this one, except that the patient was a lady, came under our notice in America; the same advice as the above was given and followed, and the obsessing “devil” was driven out and has been kept out ever since.


[1] The book “Manual of Psychometry”, by Joseph R. Buchanan, is available at the associated websites. (CCA)

[2] See the December 1879 edition of “The Theosophist, 1879-1880”, pages 68-69. (CCA)

[3] The “Fire of Hell”. (CCA)


See the article “The Politics of Hysteria”.

Consider examining the articles “The Process of Concentration”, by Sri Kshirod Sarma, and “Resistance to Change in Theosophy”.


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Nov 10, 2019

The Politics of Hysteria

A Psychoanalysis of Human History

Carlos Cardoso Aveline

Sigmund Freud, and the front cover of McGrath’s book

Forgotten by many, the 1986 book “Freud’s Discovery of Psychoanalysis: The Politics of Hysteria”, by William J. McGrath, is a valuable tool if you want to avoid a planetary war and prevent unnecessary destruction. 

Rather rare by now, the book makes it easier to understand many a political crisis and the disease of contempt for democratic decisions and institutions.  

The chronic sickness is present in many a formally democratic country, side by side with an epidemics of repetitive personal attacks against leaders.  

Describing the origin of Psychoanalysis during the years of Sigmund Freud’s study and research in Hysteria, the book by McGrath examines the evolution of the medical and psychological approaches to hysteria and the relation between this disorder and human history, including political and institutional life.

The sickness seems to have existed for ages.

Collective hysteria makes public opinion substitute slogans and mere propaganda for actual reasoning. Soon after that the process of organized hate emerges. Political or religious scapegoats are necessary for the collective feeling of discontent to be projected into some external object, which will produce a false relief.

While the blame game of present politics is ridiculous if seen from a rational point of view, it corresponds to an ancient practice, whose popularity is great in medieval, modern and “postmodern” times. It stimulates the perverted pursuit of sadomasochistic pleasure; the satisfaction derived from one’s own suffering and from making others suffer. The persecution against Jews and heretics in the Middle Ages was hysterical, and so are the various forms of political and social hatred in the 21st century - “progressive” or otherwise.

The dynamics of hysteria must be understood before it is abandoned. Common sense and the love of truth are enough to eliminate it. However, McGrath’s book invites us to the building of an intercultural view that is respectful of differences. The task belongs to theosophy, psychology, philosophy and other fields of knowledge.

By unmasking the mindless character of hysteria in family, in politics and every aspect of life, human karma or fate will be improved. It is useless to wait for “something to happen” that cures it from the outside. Each individual has the power and the means to become a healer of himself and the world. The peace of the soul will be restored according to the needs of evolution, and we all can help it take place. Big and small events are united and small seeds become large trees. A butterfly flaps its wings in Taiwan and a tornado occurs in London. The impact of the ocean waves in one part of the globe can be felt by the islands of other continents, as Victor Hugo writes in “The Toilers of the Sea”. [1]

Whenever hysteria spreads in society, sincere dialogue and moderation become the object of contempt. One must observe, then, the emotional process that flows behind unstable, nervous and automatic forms of intolerance.

Psychosis and Hysteria

Perhaps the main difference between psychosis and neurosis is that a neurotic sacrifices his basic instincts for the sake of preserving a realistic view of the facts. In social life, this is central to the democratic process. Such renunciation is also necessary in any balanced relationship among humans, or between human beings and the natural environment.

We sacrifice our personal wishes to preserve social harmony. We practice self-restraint in order to benefit others whom we love, for the sake of nature preservation, or out of respect for the reality of democracy and mutual help in our community and nation.  

In the psychotic attitude, however, the individual sacrifices his feeling of respect for reality, in order to automatically follow his own instincts and desires. Truth, then, is left aside and moderation forgotten.

Psychoanalysis says that in neurosis we see “a loss of oneself”, or a self-sacrifice. In psychosis, one loses one’s relation to the objective reality. In neurosis, one painfully learns from his inner conflicts.  In psychosis, the conflicts are projected into the outside world and the individual pretends he has no need to obey limits.

Freud writes:

“…One of the features which differentiate a neurosis from a psychosis [is] the fact that in a neurosis the ego, in its dependence on reality, suppresses a piece of the id (of instinctual life), whereas in a psychosis, this same ego, in the service of the id, withdraws from a piece of reality. Thus for a neurosis the decisive factor would be the predominance of the influence of reality, whereas for a psychosis it would be the predominance of the id. In a psychosis, a loss of reality would necessarily be present, whereas in a neurosis, it would seem, this loss would be avoided.” [2]

In a neurosis, the view of facts is distorted, while in psychosis the view of reality is simply suppressed, and no degree of frustration will be accepted. Fantasy takes the place of actual facts: hence the process of hysteria. In any psychosis, dissociation dominates and reason has scarce chances.

In social events like anti-Semitism, racism, terrorism and religious intolerance, psychotic attitudes are present and influential. Every form of systematic hatred in politics tends to place instincts above reason and is under the influence of hysteria. One must remember that hysteria means a childish condition of the soul. Small children did not have a chance yet to recognize the proper limits to their actions, which Life and Necessity inevitably impose. [3]

The complex relation between instinct and reason in human souls is a major factor in determining the future of civilization.

Since the last decades of 20th century, the widespread use of psychoactive drugs has been consistently stimulating the epidemic of psychotic attitudes and the loss of balance in the perception of reality.

The alternative, according to classic esoteric philosophy, consists in restoring the ability to be in harmony with the soul.  He who listens to his conscience can listen to his fellow-citizens. On the other hand, he who can’t really pay attention to others is not able to learn the lessons taught by his own spirit.

An awakening soul enables the individual to see the law of equilibrium in operation and perceive the cosmic unity linking all parts of the universe. The soul teaches us harmony, and as soon as we have inner peace we see union and positive interaction unfolding among all living beings.

The State of the Nation and One’s Own State

Sigmund Freud documented the direct relation between one’s state of mind and the state of one’s nation.[4]

There is a double dynamics.

On one hand, the social and political landscape of the community is a central factor in determining the geography of one’s soul. On the other hand, the content of one’s mind gets naturally projected to the outside world, since our emotions and subconscious thoughts are the lens through which we look at the outside world.

Just like in our friends and adversaries, we see in our country that which is inside ourselves. The fantasy of dissociation is a disease, and at this point seven conclusions seem to be largely inevitable:

1) We must be happy with ourselves in order to transmit peace to others. Superficial harmony depends on the unstable winds of appearance and is therefore short-lived.

2) The politics of hatred leads nowhere, and so does the transformation of adversaries in permanent scapegoats. These are but mechanisms of hysterical escape from reality. No need to dwell on the famous examples of hysteria given by Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini.

3) It is no use for social movements to act like grown-up children who cry and yell while refusing to be responsible for their own actions, and keep ascribing to others - the “adults” - the power to decide on their own lives.

4) Conservative groups ought to avoid defeating themselves by behaving like immoral parents who don’t care for their own family and cheat those who are nearest to them. He who cheat others or take advantage of poor people is but deluding himself in the long run.

5) In a parliament as in a family, if honest dialogue is impossible and words fail to produce a common understanding of shared goals, it is the time to calmly unmask the presence of hysteria and nonsense. A firm serenity is necessary in order not to add fuel to the flames. Disaster will be avoided if the unmasking is promoted soon enough, with the adequate amount of strength and determination.

6) Effective leaders stimulate mutual respect. They set the example of voluntary simplicity, constructive attitude, good will and cooperation. It is the duty of all to be honest with their adversaries. These principles prevent the causes of corruption and avoid the source of social injustice, war and terrorism.

7) Since time immemorial, humanity’s growth in wisdom has been the central factor in History. Yet the learning of the soul takes place in spiral. Often painful, sometimes joyful, the process of learning dies and is born again in cycles - big and small. The most basic principles of life are forgotten from time to time and must be taught and learned once more in a thousand occasions. Therefore a theosophist would say: ‘he who does not have the courage to improve himself should not lose time pretending he wants to correct others. For the two things are inseparable. One must try to stop his own mistakes before furiously fighting the mistakes he thinks he sees in others. We have to know ourselves before we can really know other people. Self-control is better than controlling the external world.’

The well-written book by William J. McGrath gives us valuable elements to understand that hysterical attitudes tend to disappear in families, as well as local communities and nations, whenever real knowledge is attained and inner balance becomes firm enough to be transmitted to others by example.

My Mind to Me a Kingdom Is

Peace and paranoia, lucidity and hysteria, confidence, fear and fury are all both collective and individual states of mind. Yet the source and fountain of every civilization is in the individual consciousness of the citizen. Family life plays a key role in the connection between the vertical perception of individual life and the horizontal view of larger communities. [5]

From the inner world, social life emerges. Our personal feelings sustain our countries’ happiness or unhappiness.  This teaching is present in the philosophical works of classical Taoism. The correspondence between individual life and politics is direct. Centuries before Sigmund Freud, Sir Edward Dyer (1543-1607) wrote:

“My mind to me a kingdom is;
Such perfect joy therein I find
That it excels all other bliss.” [6]

Freud shows in “The Unconscious” (1915), that a human soul has its own sort of topography. The geography of the mind is analogous to physical geography. Many different intelligences inhabit the landscapes of each citizen’s inner being. Every individual has dozens of voices and impulses in his soul, and they live as more or less educated “citizens” in the realm of consciousness. 

In the parliament of self-perception, thoughts and feelings represent contrasting possibilities, impulses, points of view and levels of consciousness. There has to be a common feeling and a central government, too.

A superego is necessary that makes decisions in the name of the whole. The governmental superego is supposed to have balance and moderation. It must listen to the silent voice of conscience: it has to express a sense of justice in its decisions.


[1] “The Toilers of the Sea” (1866), look at Part II, Book III, final lines of Chapter III.

[2] From the 1924 essay “The Loss of Reality in Neurosis and Psychosis”, by S. Freud, see the book “The Essentials of Psychoanalysis”, Sigmund Freud, Vintage Classics, selected by Anna Freud, Vintage Books, London, 2005, 597 pp., see p. 568.

[3] On childishness in psychosis, see for instance “The Essentials of Psychoanalysis”, Sigmund Freud, Vintage Books, London, 2005, p. 562.

[4] Read the first pages of chapter six in the book “Freud’s Discovery of Psychoanalysis: The Politics of Hysteria”, by William J. McGrath, Cornell University Press, 1986.

[5] Chapter six in McGrath’s book examines the parallel made by Freud between the “politics in the soul” and the outward politics of a country. The same pages examine Freud’s personal opposition to Theodor Herzl and the Zionist project. Freud died in 1939 and did not see the Holocaust in the 1940s. In part for this reason, the father of psychoanalysis found it difficult to understand the need for Israel, and did not think that the Jewish State should be built as a safe place for Jews to live. Freud may also have felt a bit of envy regarding the strong sense of a healthy future provided by Herzl. The topic should be examined in some other article. Freud and Herzl are two great friends of mankind and both changed human history for the better.

[6] Click to see the poem “My Mind to Me a Kingdom Is”.


The Politics of Hysteria” was published as an independent article in our associated websites on 10 November 2019.  It is also available at our blog in “The Times of Israel”.

Related articles:

* “The Process of Concentration”, the last lone written by Sri Kshirod Sarma.


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Nov 7, 2019

The Aquarian Theosophist, November 2019

On page one of the November issue of the Aquarian, Geoffrey Farthing writes: 

The first, and probably the most important, aspect of Theosophical living is long-term character development through many lives.

On page seven we have a poem by Henry Longfellow, to which we added the title “The Law of Cycles”. On page eight, Helena P. Blavatsky writes “On Hercules and the Pleiades”.

Other topics in this issue:  

* Helena Blavatsky’s Home at 17, Lansdowne Road, London;

* The Mystery of Vega;

* Marjorie Reeves writes about the Future;

* The Writings of an Eastern Master - 32, a Letter to E. W. Fern; and

* Thoughts Along the Road - If You Are a Friend of the Void, You Can See the Plenitude.

With 18 pages, the edition includes the List of New Items at the associated websites.  


The entire collection of The Aquarian is available at our associated websites.

If you want to help spread theosophy and ethics in today’s world, send the Aquarian to your friends; invite them to write to the editors making a free subscription of the journal.  


E-Theosophy e-group offers a regular study of the classic, intercultural theosophy taught by Helena P. Blavatsky (photo).

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Nov 3, 2019

The Awakening of the Third Eye

On Talking to God and
Developing Occult Powers

Carlos Cardoso Aveline

A friend and reader wrote to us and said that, as he talks to God in meditation, he feels an involuntary contraction of muscles in the area of the so-called “third eye”.

He asked for commentaries.

The topic deserves careful examination, and its importance is great if we want to get rid of pseudo-esotericism.

In classical theosophy, there is no belief in “God”. The Masters of the Wisdom were kind enough to clarify the issue in several texts, two of which can be easily found in our associated websites:

As to the development of the second, third and other levels of sight, an article might be useful:

Illusion is to be avoided.

In our century, safe contact with divine realms takes place above physical symptoms. It occurs beyond words and outside the noisy world of the five senses or personal sensations. External symptoms should be rejected as lower-self level astral tricks, apt to delude good-willing yet ill-informed people. Independence and self-responsibility are essential factors: no uncontrolled “occult” process can be accepted in legitimate theosophy.


The above article was published in the associated websites on 3 November 2019.  An initial version of it was included - with no indication as to the name of the author - in the August 2017 edition of “The Aquarian Theosophist”, p. 3.



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