SPIRITUALISM AND THE VEDANTA PHILOSOPHY

(New Discoveries, Vol. 4, pp. 229-30.)

[Light, July 4, 1896]

When first we heard that the Swami Vivekananda was coming to London to expound the Vedanta Philosophy, we were hopeful that his teaching would not only confirm the faith of Spiritualists, but might also add to their number. We hoped this, because the very essence of the Hindu Philosophy is that man is a spirit, and has a body, and not that man is a body, and may have a spirit also; which is as far as many a Western mind can reach. . . .

It has been the glorious privilege of our modern Spiritualism to prove by actual demonstration the existence of spirit apart from flesh, and it would, therefore, seem reasonable to look for co-operation on the part of the exponents of the Vedanta Philosophy and the supporters of Spiritualism. We are not quite certain, however, that this desirable consummation can be attained, for observations made very recently by the Swami are calculated only to divide the two sects.1 The Vedanta Philosophy sets before the student an ideal aim! Nothing less, in fact, than the unfolding of the God within him, and nothing could well be more impressive and inspiring than the presentation of this idea by a speaker of the force and eloquence of the Swami. We could only respect and admire, until modern Spiritualism was alluded to, and that in a manner which left upon us the impression that the Swami condemned without reservation all sitting for phenomena. He admitted having sat for observation with professional mediums, and held that one and all had practised fraud. "Spirit voices," according to the Swami, are never heard to clash! As the "sepulchral dies away the small child's voice rises up," intimating thus that ventriloquism was invariably responsible for the sounds. "Spirit messages," he remarked,


were quite worthless, for they never rose above the level of "I am well and happy," or "Give John a piece of cake."

This assertion could, of course, only be made in ignorance of the contents of "Spirit Teachings," a book which, we think, can well stand comparison even with the exalted teaching of the Swami Vivekananda. The process of making up sham materialisations and working the figure on the end of a wire was also described in detail.

We were present again the following evening,2 when a paper of questions bearing upon the adverse criticism of the Swami was read out to the meeting. Some thirty minutes were then passed in qualifying and explaining his remarks of the night before, and, to our deep satisfaction, the Swami not only confessed his belief in the possibility of spirits communicating with mortals, but even expressed his conviction that at times spirits of a high grade visited earth in order to assist mankind. It is, however, we conceive, no part of the Vedanta Philosophy to recommend the seeking of such intercourse, on account of its possible "dangers." It is commonly held that the undeveloped spirit can most easily communicate with man, consequently the Swami uttered his word of warning and withheld any word of encouragement. . . .

  1. ^A Thursday evening class delivered in the summer of 1896, at St. George's Road, of which there is no verbatim transcript available.
  2. ^A Friday evening class delivered in the summer of 1896, at St. George's Road, of which there is no verbatim transcript available.