Jacolliots Account of Hindu Fakirs

"As a rule, the Brahmans," says Jacolliot, "rarely go beyond the class of grihesta [priests of the vulgar castes] and purahita [exorcisers, divines, prophets, and evocators of spirits]. And yet, we shall see . . . once that we have touched upon the question and study of manifestations and phenomena, that these initiates of the first degree (the lowest) attribute to themselves, and in appearance possess faculties developed to a degree which has never been equalled in Europe. As to the initiates of the second and especially of the third category, they pretend to be enabled to ignore time, space, and to command life and death."*

Such initiates as these M. Jacolliot did not meet; for, as he says himself, they only appear on the most solemn occasions, and when the faith of the multitudes has to be strengthened by phenomena of a superior order. "They are never seen, either in the neighborhood of, or even inside the temples, except at the grand quinquennial festival of the fire. On that occasion, they appear about the middle of the night, on a platform erected in the centre of the sacred lake, like so many phantoms, and by their conjurations they illumine the space. A fiery column of light ascends from around them, rushing from earth to heaven. Unfamiliar sounds vibrate through the air, and five or six hundred thousand Hindus, gathered from every part of India to contemplate these demi-gods, throw themselves with their faces buried in the dust, invoking the souls of their ancestors."+

Let any impartial person read the Spiritisme dans le Monde, and he cannot believe that this "implacable rationalist," as Jacolliot takes pride in terming himself, said one word more than is warranted by what he had seen. His statements support and are corroborated by those of other skeptics. As a rule, the missionaries, even after passing half a lifetime in the country of "devil-worship," as they call India, either

* "Le Spiritisme dans le Monde," p. 68. f Ibid., pp. 78, 79.

disingenuously deny altogether what they cannot help knowing to be true, or ridiculously attribute phenomena to this power of the Devil, that outrival the "miracles" of the apostolic ages. And what do we see this French author, notwithstanding his incorrigible rationalism, forced to admit, after having narrated the greatest wonders? Watch the fakirs as he would, he is compelled to bear the strongest testimony to their perfect honesty in the matter of their miraculous phenomena. "Never," he says, "have we succeeded in detecting a single one in the act of deceit." One fact should be noted by all who, without having been in india, still fancy they are clever enough to expose the fraud of pretended magicians. This skilled and cool observer, this redoubtable materialist, after his long sojourn in India, affirms, "We unhesitatingly avow that we have not met, either in india or in Ceylon, a single European, even among the oldest residents, who has been able to indicate the means employed by these devotees for the production of these phenomena!"

And how should they? Does not this zealous Orientalist confess to us that even he, who had every available means at hand to learn many of their rites and doctrines at first hand, failed in his attempts to make the Brahmans explain to him their secrets. "All that our most diligent inquiries of the Pourohitas could elicit from them respecting the acts of their superiors (the invisible initiates of the temples), amounts to very little." And again, speaking of one of the books, he confesses that, while purporting to reveal all that is desirable to know, it "falls back into mysterious formulas, in combinations of magical and occult letters, the secret of which it has been impossible for us to penetrate," etc.

The fakirs, although they can never reach beyond the first degree of initiation, are, notwithstanding, the only agents between the living world and the "silent brothers," or those initiates who never cross the thresholds of their sacred dwellings. The Fukara-Yogis belong to the temples, and who knows but these cenobites of the sanctuary have far more to do with the psychological phenomena which attend the fakirs, and have been so graphically described by Jacolliot, than the Pitris themselves? Who can tell but that the fluidic spectre of the ancient Brahman seen by Jacolliot was the Scin-lecca, the spiritual double, of one of these mysterious sannyasi?

Although the story has been translated and commented upon by Professor Perty, of Geneva, still we will venture to give it in Jacolliot's own words:

"A moment after the disappearance of the hands, the fakir continuing his evocations (mantras) more earnestly than ever, a cloud like the first, but more opalescent and more opaque, began to hover near the small brasier, which, by request of the Hindu, I had constantly fed with live coals. Little by little it assumed a form entire human, and I distinguished the spectre — for I cannot call it otherwise — of an old Brahman sacrificator, kneeling near the little brasier.

"He bore on his forehead the signs sacred to Vishnu, and around his body the triple cord, sign of the initiates of the priestly caste. He joined his hands above his head, as during the sacrifices, and his lips moved as if they were reciting prayers. At a given moment, he took a pinch of perfumed powder, and threw it upon the coals; it must have been a strong compound, for a thick smoke arose on the instant, and filled the two chambers.

"When it was dissipated, I perceived the spectre, which, two steps from me, was extending to me its fleshless hand; I took it in mine, making a salutation, and I was astonished to find it, although bony and hard, warm and living.

" 'Art thou, indeed,' said I at this moment, in a loud voice, 'an ancient inhabitant of the earth?'

"I had not finished the question, when the word AM, (yes) appeared and then disappeared in letters of fire, on the breast of the old Brahman, with an effect much like that which the word would produce if written in the dark with a stick of phosphorus.

" 'Will you leave me nothing in token of your visit?' I continued.

"The spirit broke the triple cord, composed of three strands of cotton, which begirt his loins, gave it to me, and vanished at my feet."*

"Oh Brahma! what is this mystery which takes place every night? . . . When lying on the matting, with eyes closed, the body is lost sight of, and the soul escapes to

* Louis Jacolliot, "Phenomenes et Manifestations."

enter into conversation with the Pitris. . . . Watch over it, O Brahma, when, forsaking the resting body, it goes away to hover over the waters, to wander in the immensity of heaven, and penetrate into the dark and mysterious nooks of the valleys and grand forests of the Hymavat! " (Agroushada Parikshai.)

The fakirs, when belonging to some particular temple, never act but under orders. Not one of them, unless he has reached a degree of extraordinary sanctity, is freed from the influence and guidance of his guru, his teacher, who first initiated and instructed him in the mysteries of the occult sciences. Like the subject of the European mesmerizer, the average fakir can never rid himself entirely of the psychological influence exercised on him by his guru. Having passed two or three hours in the silence and solitude of the inner temple in prayer and meditation, the fakir, when he emerges thence, is mesmerically strengthened and prepared; he produces wonders far more varied and powerful than before he entered. The "master" has laid his hands upon him, and the fakir feels strong.

It may be shown, on the authority of many Brahmanical and Buddhist sacred books, that there has ever existed a great difference between adepts of the higher order, and purely psychological subjects — like many of these fakirs, who are mediums in a certain qualified sense. True, the fakir is ever talking of Pitris, and this is natural; for they are his protecting deities. But are the Pitris disembodied human beings of our race? This is the question, and we will discuss it in a moment.

We say that the fakir may be regarded in a degree as a medium; for he is — what is not generally known — under the direct mesmeric influence of a living adept, his sannyási or guru. When the latter dies, the power of the former, unless he has received the last transfer of spiritual forces, wanes and often even disappears. Why, if it were otherwise, should the fakirs have been excluded from the right of advancing to the second and third degree? The lives of many of them exemplify a degree of self-sacrifice and sanctity unknown and utterly incomprehensible to Europeans, who shudder at the bare thought of such self-inflicted tortures. But however shielded from control by vulgar and earth-bound spirits, however wide the chasm between a debasing influence and their self-controlled souls; and however well protected by the seven-knotted magical bamboo rod which he receives from the guru, still the fakir lives in the outer world of sin and matter, and it is possible that his soul may be tainted, perchance, by the magnetic emanations from profane objects and persons, and thereby open an access to strange spirits and gods. To admit one so situated, one not under any and all circumstances sure of the mastery over himself, to a knowledge of the awful mysteries and priceless secrets of initiation, would be impracticable. It would not only imperil the security of that which must, at all hazards, be guarded from profanation, but it would be consenting to admit behind the veil a fellow being, whose mediumistic irresponsibility might at any moment cause him to lose his life through an involuntary indiscretion. The same law which prevailed in the Eleusinian Mysteries before our era, holds good now in India.

Not only must the adept have mastery over himself, but he must be able to control the inferior grades of spiritual beings, nature-spirits, and earthbound souls, in short the very ones by whom, if by any, the fakir is liable to be affected.

For the objector to affirm that the Brahman-adepts and the fakirs admit that of themselves they are powerless, and can only act with the help of disembodied human spirits, is to state that these Hindus are unacquainted with the laws of their sacred books and even the meaning of the word Pitris. The Laws of Manu, the Atharva-Veda, and other books, prove what we now say. "All that exists," says the Atharva-Veda, "is in the power of the gods. The gods are under the power of magical conjurations. The magical conjurations are under the control of the Brahmans. Hence the gods are in the power of the Brahmans." This is logical, albeit seemingly paradoxical, and it is the fact. And this fact will explain to those who have not hitherto had the clew (among whom Jacolliot must be numbered, as will appear on reading his works), why the fakir should be confined to the first, or lowest degree of that course of initiation whose highest adepts, or hierophants, are the sannyasis, or members of the ancient Supreme Council of Seventy.

Moreover, in Book I., of the Hindu Genesis, or Book of Creation of Manu, the Pitris are called the lunar ancestors of the human race. They belong to a race of beings different from ourselves, and cannot properly be called "human spirits" in the sense in which the spiritualists use this term. This is what is said of them:

"Then they (the gods) created the Jackshas, the Rakshasas, the Pisatshas,* the Gandarbast and the Apsaras, and the Asuras, the Nagas, the Sarpas and the Suparnas,} and the Pitris — lunar ancestors of the human race" (See Institutes of Manu, Book I., sloka 37, where the Pitris are termed "progenitors of mankind").

The Pitris are a distinct race of spirits belonging to the mythological hierarchy or rather to the kabalistical nomenclature, and must be included with the good genii, the demons of the Greeks, or the inferior gods of the invisible world; and when a fakir attributes his phenomena to the Pitris, he means only what the ancient philosophers and theurgists meant when they maintained that all the "miracles" were obtained through the intervention of the gods, or the good and bad demons, who control the powers of nature, the elementals, who are subordinate to the power of him "who knows." A ghost or human phantom would be termed by a fakir palit, or chutna, as that of a female human spirit pichhalpai, not pitris. True, pitara means (plural) fathers, ancestors; and pitra-i is a kinsman; but these words are used in quite a different sense from that of the Pitris invoked in the

* Pisatshas, demons of the race of the gnomes, the giants and the vampires.

f Gandarbas, good d^mon, celestial seraphs, singers. J Asuras and Nagas are the Titanic spirits and the dragon or serpent-headed spirits.


To maintain before a devout Brahman or a fakir that any one can converse with the spirits of the dead, would be to shock him with what would appear to him blasphemy. Does not the concluding verse of the Bagavat state that this supreme felicity is alone reserved to the holy sannyasis, the gurus, and yogis?

"Long before they finally rid themselves of their mortal envelopes, the souls who have practiced only good, such as those of the sannyasis and the vanaprasthas, acquire the faculty of conversing with the souls which preceded them to the swarga."

In this case the Pitris instead of genii are the spirits, or rather souls, of the departed ones. But they will freely communicate only with those whose atmosphere is as pure as their own, and to whose prayerful kalassa (invocation) they can respond without the risk of defiling their own celestial purity. When the soul of the invocator has reached the Sayadyam, or perfect identity of essence with the Universal Soul, when matter is utterly conquered, then the adept can freely enter into daily and hourly communion with those who, though unburdened with their corporeal forms, are still themselves progressing through the endless series of transformations included in the gradual approach to the Paramatma, or the grand Universal Soul.

Bearing in mind that the Christian fathers have always claimed for themselves and their saints the name of "friends of God," and knowing that they borrowed this expression, with many others, from the technology of the Pagan temples, it is but natural to expect them to show an evil temper whenever alluding to these rites. Ignorant, as a rule, and having had biographers as ignorant as themselves, we could not well expect them to find in the accounts of their beatific visions a descriptive beauty such as we find in the Pagan classics. Whether the visions and objective phenomena claimed by both the fathers of the desert and the hierophants of the sanctuary are to be discredited, or accepted as facts, the splendid imagery employed by Proclus and Apuleius in narrating the small portion of the final initiation that they dared reveal, throws completely into the shade the plagiaristic tales of the Christian ascetics, faithful copies though they were intended to be. The story of the temptation of St. Anthony in the desert by the female demon, is a parody upon the preliminary trials of the neophyte during the Mikra, or minor Mysteries of Agr^— those rites at the thought of which Clemens railed so bitterly, and which represented the bereaved Demeter in search of her child, and her good-natured hostess Baubo *

Without entering again into a demonstration that in Christian, and especially Irish Roman Catholic, churches+ the same apparently indecent customs as the above prevailed until the end of the last century, we will recur to the untiring labors of that honest and brave defender of the ancient faith,

f See Inman's "Ancient Pagan and Modern Christian Symbolism."

Thomas Taylor, and his works. However much dogmatic Greek scholarship may have found to say against his "mistranslations," his memory must be dear to every true Platonist, who seeks rather to learn the inner thought of the great philosopher than enjoy the mere external mechanism of his writings. Better classical translators may have rendered us, in more correct phraseology, Plato's words, but Taylor shows us Plato's meaning, and this is more than can be said of Zeller, Jowett, and their predecessors. Yet, as writes Professor A. Wilder, "Taylor's works have met with favor at the hands of men capable of profound and recondite thinking; and it must be conceded that he was endowed with a superior qualification — that of an intuitive perception of the interior meaning of the subjects which he considered. Others may have known more Greek, but he knew more Plato."}

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