To the Editor of Light.
SIR, – I shall be
glad to have space for some animadversions, not on the recent interesting
letters which bore the heading, “Have Animals Souls?” but on that heading itself. For, defining soul,
as I believe it ought to be defined, to be that principle in virtue of which
organic life subsists, it follows necessarily that, as organised beings, animals have souls, and could not subsist
without them. In this view the question to be asked is, not whether animals have
souls, but whether they have souls capable of surviving their bodies. For if, as
stated in the Hermetic books (e.g. Asclepios,
This question, or rather a question which involves it, was raised coincidently in The Theosophist, for February, p. 274, by a Hindu contributor, who asked for references, other than those of The Perfect Way, in support of retrogressive incarnation (i.e. from the human back to the animal), and an answer in affirmation of the doctrine was given in the same number, consisting in a citation from Plato’s Phaedo, and some references to the earlier
Greek philosophy; according to which there is an
interchange of souls, by transmigration, between men and animals, according to
the developments and deserts of the individual. Among the further references
which might have been adduced, and of which your readers may like to be
informed, are the almost identical statements in the Divine Pymander, Book IV., and the Bhagavad-Gita, c. xvi; the rituals and symbols of ancient
Egypt, and notably the Sphinx, which unites all extremes of life in one form;
the life of Apollonius of Tyana, who is said to have recognised the soul of King Amasis
doing penance in the body of a lion; the Biblical parable of Jacob’s ladder, on
which the souls were seen ascending
and descending; and the teaching of the Kabalah. For
the Kingdoms of Edom, said in Genesis to pass away and perish, while only the
Kingdom of Israel endured, are explained in the Kabalah
as denoting the various elementary stages in the elaboration of man which
precede and lead up to the perfected humanity, and which, being provisional
only, are necessarily incapable of permanence. Meanwhile, until the
establishment of the
According to this doctrine – formerly universal, and it is to be hoped again to become so, being eminently logical and just – there is one soul of men and animals, having many modes and degrees, and passing from form to form in accomplishment of its pilgrimage, a pilgrimage of which the starting-point is the dust of the ground, and the goal the throne of the Most High.
So far, however, is this doctrine of an universal soul common to all creatures from obtaining recognition as yet even among professed initiates in spiritual mysteries, and so slender sometimes is the amount of intelligence brought to the study of those mysteries, that we find volume after volume purporting to be written by proficients in Occultism, in which the animals are confounded with “the animal,” and condemned accordingly as inherently and wholly evil, and even pronounced to be therefore lawful subjects of any cruelty which man, in his selfishness, may choose to inflict upon them. As if man were not, by the very indulgence of such selfishness, degraded below the level not only of the human but of the animal, down to that of the infernal, from which there is no redemption.
It is not, however, because animals have souls and continue after death that we are bound to be just and merciful to them, but because we ourselves have souls of which the principles of justice and mercy are the very life-blood, and which we degrade and destroy by being unjust and unmerciful. Suffer as the animals may through our ill-treatment of them, we ourselves suffer yet more thereby. So that the notion, so prevalent, that humanity – meaning men and women – can be benefited by methods involving the ill-treatment of animals is utterly absurd and false. Humanity cannot be benefited by aught that is, by its very nature, subversive of humanity. May the opening in your pages of the question of the souls of animals be the means of bringing all Spiritualists to a sense of the obligation in regard to animals imposed on them by their faith!
To the Editor of Light.
SIR, – I have been long ill and am still too great an invalid, to enter into any controversy; but I should like, apropos of the subject of Mrs. Penny’s interesting letter of March 19th on animals and their after-life, to relate a pathetic little story which I heard from a well-known Spiritualist in Paris. At a certain séance held in that city, a clairvoyante saw and described spirits whom she beheld present. Among the sitters was a stranger, an English gentleman, unknown to anyone in the room. Looking towards him the clairvoyante suddenly exclaimed: “How strange! Behind that gentleman I see the form of a large Setter dog, resting one paw affectionately on his shoulder, and looking in his face with earnest devotion.” The gentleman was moved, and pressed for a close description of the dog, which the clairvoyante gave. After a short silence he said, with tears, “It is the spirit of a dear dog which, when I was a boy, was my constant friend and attendant. I lost my parents early, and this dog was my only companion. While I played at cricket he always lay down watching me, and when I went to school he walked to the door with me. He constituted himself my protector as long as he lived, and when he died of old age I cried bitterly.” The clairvoyante said: “This dog is now your
spirit guardian. He will never leave you; he loves you with entire devotion.”
Is not that a beautiful story?
I don’t think, however, that I should have been moved to give it here but that,
while I was at Nice a few days ago, someone sent Lady
a new journal just issued by an “occult” society, or lodge, in which there was a
passage which deeply grieved both of us. It was a protest against belief in the
survival of the souls of animals. Such a passage occurring in any paper put
forth by persons claiming to have the least knowledge of things occult is
shocking, and makes one cry, “How long, O Lord, how long?” The great need of the
popular form of the Christian religion is precisely a belief in the solidarity
of all living things. It is in this that Buddha surpassed Jesus – in this divine
recognition of the universal right to charity. Who can doubt it who visits
To the Editor of Light.
SIR, – No doubt the Spiritual Reformer is the paper to which I alluded. I did not know its title when I wrote my last letter to Light, because I never had the publication in question in my own hands. The passage which called forth my comments was read to me by Lady Caithness.
In reply to Mr. Read, (2) I will briefly state what my belief on the subject is, a belief spontaneously and logically arrived at by my own interior mental processes, aided by the “inner light,” of which our good friends the “Quakers” make so much, and rightly; and also emphatically taught and maintained by the schools of Brahman, Buddhist, Platonic, and Hermetic initiates, whose humble disciple I am. I understand that the Theosophists also hold the same doctrine; indeed I know of no “Occultist” really worthy of the name who repudiates it. The teaching of Hermetic science is in accordance with the tenets of evolution. It maintains that the “soul” is elaborated, individualised, and made permanent by means of successive and progressive incarnations. Beginning in the realm of the elemental and inorganic, it gradually makes its way upward and onward, perpetually enduring and striving, through the organic world – plant-life and animal-life – into the human. At every “death” an astral relict of persona is shed, and this is, progressively, less and less evanescent as the selfhood ascends in the scale. Thus the ghosts of horses, dogs, and domesticated, intelligent animals have almost as much “personality” as those of average human beings. But the real “Soul” or Ego, is not resident in the ghost. It may remain connected with it under certain conditions for a
longer or shorter period – as, no doubt, it
was enchained by affection to the ghost of the good dog whose history I
recounted in Light. This association of Soul and Astral may be the result of meritorious
affection, or it may be, on the contrary, the enforced penalty of materiality.
Other conditions, such as premature or violent death, may cause it, or special
circumstances, peculiar to individual souls. But, sooner or later, the soul
disentangles itself from this intermediary state, and passes on to other births,
shedding its lower personality, and going on to animate other and higher
natures. Thus all animals are potential men, – men in the making – and must
inevitably, in process of evolution, develop human conditions. No animals are
immortal or “glorified” as animals; but, also, no animal perishes, – no, not
even the lowest. It is embarrassing, however, that Mr. Read should have chosen
“flies” to illustrate his remark, because flies and a whole class of creatures
psychically connected with them belong to the kingdom of “Beelzebub,” “god of
flies,” in order to explain whose position and function I should be compelled to
enter into a long dissertation, chiefly Kabalistic. Suffice it to say here, that
these creatures are by Hermetists regarded as “débris” and that they are included in the kingdoms of
universe is One, and that One Life (Atman) pervades and maintains it. Because all are eternal, we are eternal, and not otherwise. All things press towards the human, all evolution hastens to develop into man. – Faithfully yours,
SIR, – In denying continuity to the souls of animals, Mr. Read destroys the lower rounds of the ladder of evolution by which man himself ascends, thus rendering man impossible, since we cannot have the upper without the lower part of the ladder. Can it be that in Mr. Read we have an Occultist who holds that man becomes man by some mode other than that of development from lower forms? It would be interesting in such case to know whence Mr. Read derives his doctrine. I, at least, know of no authority for it.
(236:1) Light, 1887, p. 117.
(238:1) Light, 1887. pp. 161-162.
(240:1) Light. 1887, p. 219.
(240:2) In a subsequent letter (Light, 1887, p. 255) Anna Kingsford says: “Mr. Read has kindly sent me a copy of the Spiritual Reformer, which arrived here this morning. I lose no time in recognising Mr. Read’s explanation and my own misconception. I see that the person with whom I am really at issue is not Mr. Read at all, but another writer, from whose suggestions Mr. Read distinctly dissents. While I hope he will forgive me for my mistake, perhaps I may be allowed to add that as it is evident from the article in question that some Spiritualists do not draw the hard-and-fast line I wrongly attributed to him between the ultimate destinies of men and other animals, it may not be altogether regrettable that I was led to write as I did on the subject in these columns. I am extremely glad to have the Spiritual Reformer thus brought to my notice, and to find it a journal of a quality much needed in the present day.” – S.H.H.