To whatsoever cause it may be due matters little, but the word fetich is given in the dictionaries the restricted sense of "an object selected temporarily for worship," "a small idol used by the African savages," etc., etc.
In his "Des Cultes Anterieurs à l'Idolatrie," Dulaure defines Fetichism as "the adoration of an object considered by the ignorant and the weak-minded as the receptacle or the habitation of a god or genius."
Now all this is extremely erudite and profound, no doubt, but it lacks the merit of being either true or correct. Fetich may be an idol among the negroes of Africa, according to Webster, and there are weak-minded and ignorant people certainly who are fetich worshippers. Yet the theory that certain objects – statues, images, and amulets for example – serve as a temporary or even constant habitation to a "god," "genius" or spirit simply, has been shared by some of the most intellectual men known to history. It was not originated by the ignorant and weak-minded, since the majority of the world's sages and philosophers, from credulous Pythagoras down to sceptical Lucian, believed in such a thing in antiquity; as in our highly civilized, cultured and learned century several hundred millions of Christians still believe in it, whether the above definitions be correct or the one we shall now give. The administration of the Sacrament, the mystery of Transubstantiation "in the supposed conversion of the bread and wine of the Eucharist into the body and blood of Christ," would render the bread and wine and the communion cup along with them fetiches – no less than the tree or rag or stone of the savage African. Every miracle-working image, tomb and statue of a Saint, Virgin or Christ, in the Roman Catholic and Greek Churches, have thus to be regarded as fetiches; because, whether the miracle is supposed to be wrought by God or an angel, by Christ or a saint, those images or statues do become – if the miracle be claimed as genuine – "the receptacle or dwelling" for a longer or shorter time of God or an "angel of God."
It is only in the "Dictionnaire des Religions" (article on Fetichsme) that a pretty correct definition may be found: "The word fetich was derived from the Portuguese word fetisso, "enchanted," "bewitched" or "charmed"; whence fatum, "destiny," fatua, "fairy," etc.
Fetich, moreover, was and still ought to be identical with "idol", and as the author of "The Teraphim of Idolatry" says, "Fetichism is the adoration of any object, whether inorganic or living, large or of minute proportions, in which, or, in connection with which any 'spirit' – good or bad, in short, an invisible intelligent power – has manifested its presence."
Having collected for my "Secret Doctrine" a number of notes upon this subject, I may now give some of them apropos of the latest theosophical novel "A Fallen Idol," and thus show that work of fiction based on some very occult truths of Esoteric Philosophy.
The images of all the gods of antiquity, from the earliest Aryans down to the latest Semites – the Jews – were all idols and fetiches, whether called Teraphim, Urim and Thummim, Kabeiri, or cherubs, or the gods, Lares. If, speaking of the teraphim – a word that Grotius translates as "angels," an etymology authorized by Cornelius, who says that they "were the symbols of angelic presence" – the Christians are allowed to call them "the mediums through which divine presence was manifested," why not apply the same to the idols of the "heathen"?
I am perfectly alive to the fact that the modern man of science, like the average sceptic, believes no more in an "animated" image of the Roman Church than he does in the "animated" fetich of a savage. But there is no question, at present, of belief or disbelief. It is simply the evidence of antiquity embracing a period of several thousands of years, as against the denial of the XIXth century – the century of Spiritualism and Spiritism, of Theosophy and Occultism, of Charcot and his hypnotism, of psychic "suggestion," and of unrecognized BLACK MAGIC all round.
Let us Europeans honour the religion of our forefathers, by questioning it on its beliefs and their origin, before placing on its defence pagan antiquity and its grand philosophy; where do we find in Western sacred literature, so-called, the first mention of idols and fetiches? In chapter xxxi (et seq) of Genesis, in Ur of the Chaldees in Mesopotamia, wherein the ancestors of Abraham, Serug and Terah, worshipped little idols in clay which they called their gods; and where also, in Haran, Rachel stole the images (teraphim) of her father Laban. Jacob may have forbidden worship of those gods, yet one finds 325 years after that prohibition, the Mosaic Jews adoring "the gods of the Amorites" the same (Joshua xxiv. 14, 15). The teraphim-gods of Laban exist to this day among certain tribes of Mussulmans on Persian territory. They are small statuettes of tutelary genii, or gods, which are consulted on every occasion. The Rabbis explain that Rachel had no other motive for stealing her father's gods than that of preventing his learning from them the direction she and her husband Jacob had taken, lest he should prevent them from leaving home once more. Thus, it was not piety, or the fear of the Lord God of Israel, but simply a dread of the indiscretion of the gods that made her secure them. Moreover, her mandrakes were only another kind of sortilegious and magical implements.
Now what is the opinion of various classical and even sacred writers on these idols, which Hermes Trismegistus calls "statues foreseeing futurity" (Asclepias)?
Philo of Biblos shows that the Jews consulted demons like the Amorites, especially through small statues made of gold, shaped as nymphs which, questioned at any hour, would instruct them what the querists had to do and what to avoid. ("Antiquities.") In "More Nevochim" (I, iii) it is said that nothing resembled more those portative and preserving gods of the pagans (dii portatiles vel Averrunci) than those tutelary gods of the Jews. They were "veritable phylacteries or animated talismans, the spirantia simulacra of Apuleius (Book xi), whose answers, given in the temple of the goddess of Syria, were heard by Lucian personally, and repeated by him. Kircher (the Jesuit Father) shows also that the teraphim looked, in quite an extraordinary way, like the pagan Serapises of Egypt; and Cedrenus seems to corroborate that statement of Kircher (in his Vol. iii, p. 494 "Œdipus," etc.) by showing that the t and the s (like the Sanskrit s and the Zend h) were convertible letters, the Seraphim (or Serapis) and the teraphim, being absolute synonyms.
As to the use of these idols, Maimonides tells us ("More Nevochim," p. 41) that these gods or images passed for being endowed with the prophetic gift, and as being able to tell the people in whose possession they were "all that was useful and salutary to them."
All these images, we are told, had the form of a baby or small child, others were only occasionally much larger. They were statues or regular idols in the human shape. The Chaldeans exposed them to the beams of certain planets for the latter to imbue them with their virtues and potency. These were for purposes of astromagic; the regular teraphim for those of necromancy and sorcery, in most cases. The spirits of the dead (elementaries) were attached to them by magic art, and they were used for various sinful purposes.
Ugolino 1 puts in the mouth of the sage Gamaliel, St. Paul's master (or guru), the following words, which he quotes, he says, from his "Capito," chap. xxxvi: "They (the possessors of such necromantic teraphim) killed a new-born baby, cut off its head, and placed under its tongue, salted and oiled, a little gold lamina in which the name of an evil spirit was perforated; then, after suspending that head on the wall of their chamber, they lighted lamps before it, and prostrate on the ground they conversed with it."
The learned Marquis de Mirville believes that it was just such ex-human fetiches that were meant by Philostratus, who gives a number of instances of the same. "There was the head of Orpheus" – he says – "which spoke to Cyrus, and the head of a priest-sacrificer from the temple of Jupiter Hoplosmius which, when severed from its body, revealed, as Aristotle narrates, the name of its murderer, one called Cencidas; and the head of one Publius Capitanus, which, according to Trallianus, at the moment of the victory won by Acilius the Roman Consul, over Antiochus, King of Asia, predicted to the Romans the great misfortunes that would soon befall them, &c." ("Pn. des Esprits," Vol. iii, 29, Memoir to the Academy, p. 252.)
Diodorus tells the world how such idols were fabricated for magical purposes in days of old. "Semele, the daughter of Cadmus, having, in consequence of a fright given premature birth to a child of seven months, Cadmus, in order to follow the custom of his country and to give it (the babe) a supermundane origin which would make it live after death, enclosed its body within a gold statue, and made of it an idol for which a special cult and rites were established." (Diodorus, lib. i. p. 48.)
As Freret, in his article in the "Memoires de l'Academie des Inscriptions," Vol. xxiii, p. 247 pointedly remarks, when commenting upon the above passage: "A singular thing, deserving still more attention, is that the said consecration of Semele's baby, which the Orphics show as having been the custom of Cadmus' ancestors, is precisely the ceremony described by the Rabbis, as cited by Seldenus, with regard to the teraphim or household gods of the Syrians and the Phœnicians. There is little probability, however, that the Jews should have been acquainted with the Orphics."
Thus, there is every reason to believe that the numerous drawings in Father Kircher's Œdipus, little figures and heads with metallic laminæ protruding from under their tongues, which hang entirely out of the heads' mouths, are real and genuine teraphims – as shown by de Mirville. Then again in Le Blanc's "Religions," (Vol. iii, p. 277), speaking of the Phoenician teraphim, the author compares them to the Greco-Phrygian palladium, which contained human relics. "All the mysteries of the apotheosis, of orgies, sacrifices and magic, were applied to such heads. A child young enough to have his innocent soul still united with the Anima Mundi – the Mundane Soul – was killed," he says; "his head was embalmed and its soul was fixed in it, as it is averred, by the power of magic and enchantments." After which followed the usual process, the gold lamina, etc., etc.
Now this is terrible BLACK MAGIC, we say; and none but the dugpas of old, the villainous sorcerers of antiquity, used it. In the Middle Ages only several Roman Catholic priests are known to have resorted to it; among others the apostate Jacobin priest in the service of Queen Catherine of Medici, that faithful daughter of the Church of Rome and the author of the "St. Bartholomew Massacre." The story is given by Bodin, in his famous work on Sorcery "Le Demonomanie, ou Traité des Sorciers" (Paris, 1587); and it is quoted in "Isis Unveiled" (Vol. ii, p. 56). Pope Sylvester II was publicly accused by Cardinal Benno of sorcery, on account of his "Brazen Oracular Head." These heads and other talking statues, trophies of the magical skill of monks and bishops? were fac-similes of the animated gods of the ancient temples. Benedict IX, John XX, and the VIth and VIIth Popes Gregory are all known in history as sorcerers and magicians. Notwithstanding such an array of facts to show that the Latin Church has despoiled the ancient Jews of all – aye, even to their knowledge of black art inclusively – one of their advocates of modern times, namely, the Marquis de Mirville, is not ashamed to publish against the modern Jews, the most terrible and foul of accusations!
In his violent polemics with the French symbologists, who try to find a philosophical explanation for ancient Bible customs and rites, he says: "We pass over the symbolic significations that are sought for to explain all such customs of the idolatrous Jews (their human teraphim and severed baby-heads), because we do not believe in them (such explanations) at all. But we do believe, for one, that "the head" consulted by the Scandinavian Odin in every difficult affair was a teraphim of the same (magic) class. And that in which we believe still more, is, that all those mysterious disappearances and abductions of small (Christian) children, practised at all times and even in our own day by the Jews – are the direct consequences of those ancient and barbarous necromantic practices . . . Let the reader remember the incident of Damas and Father Thomas." ("Pneum des Esprits," Vol. iii, p. 254.)
Quite clear and unmistakeable this. The unfortunate, despoiled Israelites are plainly charged with abducting Christian children to behead and make oracular heads with them, for purposes of sorcery! Where will bigotry and intolerance with their odium theologicum land next, I wonder?
On the contrary, it seems quite evident that it is just in consequence of such terrible malpractices of Occultism that Moses and the early ancestors of the Jews were so strict in carrying out the severe prohibition against graven images, statues and likenesses in any shape, of either "gods" or living men. This same reason was at the bottom of the like prohibition by Mohammed and enforced by all the Mussulman prophets. For the likeness of any person, in whatever form and mode, of whatever material, may be turned into a deadly weapon against the original by a really learned practitioner of the black art. Legal authorities during the Middle Ages, and even some of 200 years ago, were not wrong in putting to death those in whose possession small wax figures of their enemies were found, for it was murder contemplated, pure and simple. "Thou shalt not draw the vital spirits of thy enemy, or of any person into his simulacrum," for "this is a heinous crime against nature." And again: "Any object into which the fiat of a spirit has been drawn is dangerous, and must not be left in the hands of the ignorant. . . . An expert (in magic) has to be called to purify it." ("Pract. Laws of Occult Science," Book v, Coptic copy.)
In a kind of "Manual" of Elementary Occultism, it is said: "To make a bewitched object (fetich) harmless, its parts have to be reduced to atoms (broken), and the whole buried in damp soil" – (follow instructions, unnecessary in a publication). 2
That which is called "vital spirits" is the astral body. "Souls, whether united or separated from their bodies, have a corporeal substance inherent to their nature," says St. Hilarion. ("Comm. in Matth." C. v. No. 8.) Now the astral body of a living person, of one unlearned in occult sciences, may be forced (by an expert in magic) to animate, or be drawn to,and then fixed withinany object, especially into anything made in his likeness, a portrait, a statue, a little figure in wax, &c. And as whatever hits or affects the astral reacts by repercussion on the physical body, it becomes logical and stands to reason that, by stabbing the likeness in its vital parts – the heart, for instance – the original may be sympathetically killed, without any one being able to detect the cause of it. The Egyptians, who separated man (exoterically)into three divisions or groups: "mind body" (pure spirit, our 7th and 6th prin.), the spectral soul (the 5th, 4th, and 3rd principles), and the gross body (prana and sthula sarira), called forth in their theurgies and evocations (for divine white magical purposes, as well as for those of the black art) the "spectral soul," or astral body, as we call it.
"It was not the soul itself that was evoked, but its simulacrum that the Greeks called Eidôlon, and which was the middle principles between soul and body. That doctrine came from the East, the cradle of all learning. The Magi of Chaldea as well as all other followers of Zoroaster, believed that it was not the divine soul alone (spirit) which would participate in the glory of celestial light, but also the sensitive soul." ("Psellus, in Scholiis, in Orac.")
Translated into our Theosophical phraseology, the above refers to Atma and Buddhi – the vehicle of spirit. The Neo-Platonics, and even Origen, "call the astral body Augoeides and Astroeides, i.e., one having the brilliancy of the stars." ("Sciences Occultes," by Cte. de Resie, Vol. ii, p. 598-9.)
Generally speaking, the world's ignorance on the nature of the human phantom and vital principle, as on the functions of all man's principles, is deplorable. Whereas science denies them all – an easy way of cutting the gordian knot of the difficulty – the churches have evolved the fanciful dogma of one solitary principle, the Soul, and neither of the two will stir from its respective preconceptions, notwithstanding the evidence of all antiquity and its most intellectual writers. Therefore, before the question can be argued with any hope of lucidity, the following points have to be settled and studied by our Theosophists – those, at any rate, who are interested in the subject:
1. The difference between a physiological hallucination and a psychic or spiritual clairvoyance and clairaudience.
2. Spirits, or the entities of certain invisible beings – whether ghosts of once living men, angels, spirits, or elementals, – have they, or have they not, a natural though an ethereal and to us invisible body? Are they united to, or can they assimilate some fluidic substance that would help them to become visible to men?
3. Have they, or have they not, the power of so becoming infused among the atoms of any object, whether it be a statue (idol), a picture, or an amulet, as to impart to it their potency and virtue, and even to animate it?
4. Is it in the power of any Adept, Yogi or Initiate, to fix such entities, whether by White or Black magic, in certain objects?
5. What are the various conditions (save Nirvana and Avitchi) of good and bad men after death? etc., etc.
All this may be studied in the literature of the ancient classics, and especially in Aryan literature. Meanwhile, I have tried to explain and have given the collective and individual opinions thereon of all the great philosophers of antiquity in my "Secret Doctrine." I hope the book will now very soon appear. Only, in order to counteract the effects of such humoristical works as "A Fallen Idol" on weak-minded people, who see in it only a satire upon our beliefs, I thought best to give here the testimony of the ages to the effect that such post-mortem pranks as played by Mr. Anstey's sham ascetic, who died a sudden death, are of no rare occurrence in nature.
To conclude, the reader may be reminded that if the astral body of man is no superstition founded on mere hallucinations, but a reality in nature, then it becomes only logical that such an eidôlon, whose individuality is all centered after death in his personal EGO – should be attracted to the remains of the body that was his, during life; 3 and in case the latter was burnt and the ashes buried, that it should seek to prolong its existence vicariously by either possessing itself of some living body (a medium's), or, by attaching itself to his own statue, picture, or some familiar object in the house or locality that it inhabited. The "vampire" theory, can hardly be a superstition altogether. Throughout all Europe, in Germany, Styria, Moldavia, Servia, France and Russia, those bodies of the deceased who are believed to have become vampires, have special exorcismal rites established for them by their respective Churches. Both the Greek and Latin religions think it beneficent to have such bodies dug out and transfixed to the earth by a pole of aspen-tree wood.
However it may be, whether truth or superstition, ancient philosophers and poets, classics and lay writers, have believed as we do now, and that for several thousand years in history, that man had within him his astral counterpart, which would appear by separating itself or oozing out of the gross body, during life as well as after the death of the latter. Till that moment the "spectral soul" was the vehicle of the divine soul and the pure spirit. But, as soon as the flames had devoured the physical envelope, the spiritual soul, separating itself from the simulacrum of man, ascended to its new home of unalloyed bliss (Devachan or Swarga), while the spectral eidôlon descended into the regions of Hades (limbus, purgatory, or Kama loka). "I have terminated my earthly career," exclaims Dido, "my glorious spectre (astral body), the IMAGE of my person, will now descend into the womb of the earth. 4
"Et nunc magna mei sub terras ibit imago" ("Eneid," lib. iv, 654).
Sabinus and Servius Honoratus (a learned commentator of Virgil of the VIth cent.) have taught, as shown by Delris, the demonlogian (lib. ii, ch. xx and xxv, p. 116), that man was composed, besides his soul, of a shadow (umbra) and a body. The soul ascends to heaven, the body is pulverized, and the shadow is plunged in Hades. . . . This phantom – umbra seu simulacrum – is not a real body, they say: it is the appearance of one, that no hand can touch, as it avoids contact like a breath. Homer shows this same shadow in the phantom of Patroclus, who perished, killed by Hector, and yet "Here he is – it is his face, his voice, his blood still flowing from his wounds!" (See "Iliad," xxiii, and also "Odyssey," i, xi.) The ancient Greeks and Latins had two souls – anima bruta and anima divina, the first of which is in Homer the animal soul, the image and the life of the body, and the second, the immortal and the divine.
As to our Kama loka, Ennius, says Lucrecius – "has traced the picture of the sacred regions in Acherusia, where dwell neither our bodies nor our souls, but only our simulacres, whose pallidity is dreadful to behold!" It is amongst those shades that divine Homer appeared to him, shedding bitter tears as though the gods had created that honest man for eternal sorrow only. It is from the midst of that world (Kama loka), which seeks with avidity communication with our own, that this third (part) of the poet, his phantom – explained to him the mysteries of nature. . . . 5
Pythagoras and Plato both divided soul into two representative parts, independent of each other – the one, the rational soul, or logon, the other, irrational, alogon – the latter being again subdivided into two parts or aspects, the thumixon, and the epithumixon, which, with the divine soul and its spirit and the body, make the seven principles of Theosophy. What Virgil calls imago, "image," Lucretius names – simulacrum, "similitude" (See "De Nat. rerum" I), but they are all names for one and the same thing, the astral body.
We gather thus two points from the ancients entirely corroborative of our esoteric philosophy: (a) the astral or materialized figure of the dead is neither the soul, nor the spirit, nor the body of the deceased personage, but simply the shadow thereof, which justifies our calling it a "shell"; and (b) unless it be an immortal God (an angel) who animates an object, it can never be a spirit, to wit, the SOUL, or real, spiritual ego of a once living man; for these ascend, and an astral shadow (unless it be of a living person) can never be higher than a terrestrial, earth-bound ego, or an irrational shell. Homer was therefore right in making Telemachus exclaim, on seeing Ulysses, who reveals himself to his son: "No, thou art not my father, thou art a demon, a spirit who flatters and deludes me!"
It is such illusive shadows, belonging to neither Earth nor Heaven, that are used by sorcerers and other adepts of the Black Art, to help them in persecutions of victims; to hallucinate the minds of very honest and well meaning persons occasionally, who fall victims to the mental epidemics aroused by them for a purpose; and to oppose in every way the beneficent work of the guardians of mankind, whether divine or – human.
For the present, enough has been said to show that the Theosophists have the evidence of the whole of antiquity in support of the correctness of their doctrines.
Note. – As a corroboration of the theory that a great volume of psychic force may be concentrated in an object of worship, we may add the following biblical narrative of the overthrow of the image of the idol Dagon, in its own temple, by the superior power of the Hebraic ark. It runs thus:
When the Philistines took the ark of God, they brought it into the house of Dagon, and set it by Dagon. And when they of Ashdod arose early on the morrow, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the earth before the ark of the Lord. And they took Dagon, and set him in his place again. And when they arose early on the morrow morning, behold, Dagon was fallen upon his face to the ground before the ark of the Lord, and the head of Dagon, and both the palms of his hands were cut off upon the threshold; only the stump of Dagon was left to him. (I Sam. v. 3 and 4.)
The Theosophist, November, 1886
H. P. Blavatsky
1 Ugolino – "Thesaur" – Vol. xxiii, p. 475.
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2 The author of "A Fallen Idol," – whether through natural intuition or study of occult laws it is for him to say – shows knowledge of this fact by making Nebelsen say that the spirit of the tirthankar was paralyzed and torpid during the time his idol had been buried in India. That Eidôlon or Elementary could do nothing. See p. 295.
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3 Even burning does not affect its interference or prevent it entirely – since it can avail itself of the ashes. Earth alone will make it powerless.
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4 Which is not the interior of the earth, or hell, as taught by the anti-geological-theologians, but the cosmic matrix of its region – the astral light of our atmosphere.
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5 . . . . Esse Acherusia templa
Quo neque permanent animæ, neque corpora nostra,
Sed quædam simulacra, modis pallentia miris,
Unde sibi exortam semper florentis Homeri
Commemorat speciem lacrymas et fundere salsas
Cœpisse, et rerum naturam, expandere dictis.
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