According to the newest edition of the Imperial Dictionary, by John Ogilvie, L.L.D. "A medium is a person through whom the action of another being is said to be manifested and transmitted by animal magnetism, or a person through whom spiritual manifestations are claimed to be made; especially one who is said to be capable of holding intercourse with the spirits of the deceased."
As Occultists do not believe in any communication with the "spirits of the deceased" in the ordinary acceptation of the term, for the simple reason that they know that the spirits of "the deceased" cannot and do not come down and communicate with us; and as the above expression "by animal magnetism" would probably have been modified, if the editor of the Imperial Dictionary bad been an Occultist, we therefore are only concerned with the first part of the definition of the word "Medium," which says: "A Medium is a person, through whom the action of another being is said to be manifested and transmitted"; and we should like to be permitted to add: "By the either consciously or unconsciously active will of that other being."
It would be extremely difficult to find on earth a human being, who could not be more or less influenced by the "Animal Magnetism" or by the active Will (which sends out that "Magnetism") of another. If the beloved General rides along the front, the soldiers become all "Mediums." They become filled with enthusiasm, they follow him without fear, and storm the death-dealing battery. One common impulse pervades them all; each one becomes the "Medium" of another, the coward becomes filled with heroism, and only he, who is no medium at all and therefore insensible to epidemic or endemic moral influences, will make an exception, assert his independence and run away.
The "revival preacher" will get up in his pulpit, and although what he says is the most incongruous nonsense, still his actions and the lamenting tone of his voice are sufficiently impressive to produce "a change of heart" amongst, at least, the female part of his congregation, and if he is a powerful man, even sceptics "that come to scoff, remain to pray." People go to the theatre and shed tears or "split their sides" with laughter according to the character of the performance, whether it be a pantomime, a tragedy or a farce. There is no man, except a genuine block-head, whose emotions and consequently whose actions cannot be influenced in some way or other, and thereby the action of another be manifested or transmitted through him. All men and all women and children are therefore Mediums, and a person who is not a Medium is a monster, an abortion of nature; because he stands without the pale of humanity.
The above definition can therefore hardly be considered sufficient to express the meaning of the word "Medium" in the popular acceptation of the term, unless we add a few words, and say: "A medium is a person through whom the action of another being is said to be manifested and transmitted to an abnormal extent by the consciously or unconsciously active will of that other being." This reduces the number of "Mediums" in the world to an extent proportionate to the space around which we draw the line between the normal and abnormal, and it will be just as difficult to determine who is a medium and who is not a medium, as it is to say where sanity ends and where insanity begins. Every man has his little "weaknesses," and every man has his little "mediumship"; that is to say, some vulnerable point by which he may be taken unawares. The one may therefore not be considered really insane; neither can the other be called a "medium." Opinions often differ, whether a man is insane or not, and so they may differ as to his mediumship. Now in practical life a man may be very eccentric, but he is not considered insane, until his insanity reaches such a degree that he does not know any more what he is doing, and is therefore unable to take care of himself or his business.
We may extend the same line of reasoning to Mediums, and say that only such persons shall be considered mediums, who allow other beings to influence them in the above described manner to such an extent that they lose their self-control and have no more power or will of their own to regulate their own actions. Now such a relinquishing of self-control may be either active or passive, conscious or unconscious, voluntary or involuntary, and differs according to the nature of the beings, who exercise the said active influence over the medium.
A person may consciously and voluntarily submit his will to another being and become his slave. This other being may be a human being, and the medium will then be his obedient servant and may be used by him for good or for bad purposes. This other "being" may be an idea, such as love, greediness, hate, jealousy, avarice, or some other passion, and the effect on the medium will be proportionate to the strength of the idea and the amount of self-control left in the medium. This "other being" may be an elementary or an elemental, and the poor medium become a epileptic, a maniac or a criminal. This "other being" may be the man's own higher principle, either alone or put into rapport with another ray of the collective universal spiritual principle, and the "medium" will then be a great genius, a writer, a poet, an artist, a musician, an inventor, and so on. This "other being" may be one of those exalted beings, called Mahatmas, and the conscious and voluntary medium will then be called their "Chela."
Again, a person may never in his life have heard the word "Medium" and still be a strong Medium, although entirely unconscious of the fact. His actions may be more or less influenced unconsciously by his visible or invisible surroundings. He may become a prey to Elementaries or Elementals, even without knowing the meaning of these words, and he may consequently become a thief, a murderer, a ravisher, a drunkard or a cut-throat, and it has often enough been proved that crimes frequently become epidemic; or again he may by certain invisible influences be made to accomplish acts which are not at all consistent with his character such as previously known. He may be a great liar and for once by some unseen influence be induced to speak the truth; he may be ordinarily very much afraid and yet on some great occasion and on the spur of the moment commit an act of heroism; he may be a street-robber and vagabond and suddenly do an act of generosity, etc.
Furthermore, a medium may know the sources from which the influence comes, or in more explicit terms, "the nature of the being, whose action is transmitted through him," or he may not know it. He may be under the influence of his own seventh principle and imagine to be in communication with a personal Jesus Christ, or a saint; he may be in rapport with the "intellectual" ray of Shakespeare and write Shakespearean poetry, and at the same time imagine that the personal spirit of Shakespeare is writing through him, and the simple fact of his believing this or that, would make his poetry neither better nor worse. He may be influenced by some Adept to write a great scientific work and be entirely ignorant of the source of his inspiration, or perhaps imagine that it was the "spirit" of Faraday or Lord Bacon that is writing through him, while all the while he would be acting as a "Chela," although ignorant of the fact.
From all this it follows that the exercise of mediumship consists in the more or less complete giving up of self-control, and whether this exercise is good or bad, depends entirely on the use that is made of it and the purpose for which it is done. This again depends on the degree of knowledge which the mediumistic person possesses, in regard to the nature of the being to whose care he either voluntarily or involuntarily relinquishes for a time the guardianship of his physical or intellectual powers. A person who entrusts indiscriminately those faculties to the influence of every unknown power, is undoubtedly a "crank," and cannot be considered less insane than the one who would entrust his money and valuables to the first stranger or vagabond that would ask him for the same. We meet occasionally such people, although they are comparatively rare, and they are usually known by their idiotic stare and by the fanaticism with which they cling to their ignorance. Such people ought to be pitied instead of blamed, and if it were possible, they should be enlightened in regard to the danger which they incur; but whether a Chela, who consciously and willingly lends for a time his mental faculties to a superior being, whom he knows, and in whose purity of motives, honesty of purpose, intelligence, wisdom and power he has full confidence, can be considered a "Medium" in the vulgar acceptation of the term, is a question which had better be left to the reader – after a due consideration of the above – to decide for himself.
The Theosophist, June, 1884
H. P. Blavatsky