Reviewed by ANON
SENSE ! What is “sense ” ? A word meaning either little or much; simple and clear to the understanding, or various and carrying with it many connotations. It is one or other according as we measure the depth, the thoroughness, or the reality of the knowledge acquired. From a purely physical “sensation” we may trace the word through endless shades of signification; through “good” sense,“ sound” sense, through the artistic and finer sensibilities, the “moral” sense, till it loses itself in the vague hint of a dim, unformed consciousness, pointing the way to the new world of the “inner senses”.
All these meanings and more are connoted by the phrase “Nineteenth Century Sense”; for, by a daring metaphor, the tools which modern science places at our disposal are considered as “senses”, and even the faculty and power of analysis is sometimes included under the word.
Beginning with the simplest, the reader is led on to the most astounding phenomena of modern spiritualism in the first thirty-seven pages of this strange work. The author depicts in vivid language his own experiences, and the triumphs of phenomena produced by one of his personal friends, in a style which is often quaint and striking, though at times the writer’s disregard of many of the accepted rules of composition becomes — to say the least — irritating. But the matter of his book earns forgiveness for the manner in which it is formulated.
After carrying his reader to a pitch of interest and expectation as to the phenomena he describes, Mr. Darby suddenly plunges him into the frozen sea of scepticism by stating that all the phenomena produced under what seemed the strictest test conditions, were produced by conjuring and legerdemain, and by explaining the physical causes of some .of the visions he has so graphically described. It will suffice to cite a single instance in illustration. “The President of the American Branch of the Indian Society of Theosophists (Professor Coues) . . . spent an evening with me some time back in conversation on the subject of psychical phenomena. We parted at midnight. [Page 237] At seven o’clock the next morning I suddenly awoke, beholding the astral of the professor standing at my bed-side”.
This vision Mr. Darby explains by reference to the fact of the persistence of retinal images and the super-excitability of the nerves and brain. “Astral projections”, he concludes, “ are of precisely similar significance”. We would feel obliged to the eminent American professor of physiology referred to if he would give his written opinion on the question thus raised. For Theosophists have heard of persons whose brains were in complete repose and fully occupied otherwise who have also seen the astral form of Professor Coues. How’s this?
He concludes, nevertheless, that materialistic agnosticism is the only “creed”? Far from it. This .portion of the book is purely introductory; it forms the five door-steps leading to the Spiritus Sanctus — the laboratory of the Divine Spirit.
From this black depth of doubt and confusion, the reader is lifted suddenly into the clear ether, and his feet are placed on the “Rosicrucian Way”.
Whether called “Rosicrucian”, or by whatever other name, the “Way” is the “Way of Life”, the path which leads to freedom, to wisdom, to true living. Whole pages might well be quoted; a few aphorisms must suffice.
“A thing is to the sense that uses it what to the sense
It seems to be; it is never anything else”.
Many passages recall “Light on the Path”, though Mr. Darby probably never saw that book; but life is one, and true occultism is one.
Speaking of mankind as divided into two classes, men in whom is the Holy Ghost, the Divine Spirit or the Logos, he says:
“With people self-wise or over-sufficient, with the proud and the uncharitable, with all who are without understanding as to the common good being the only good, with him who fails to see that gifts are in men as almoners only — with all these the Holy Ghost is absent, otherwise so lacking in measure as to be incapable of making itself felt”.
The italicised passages give the key-note of the true science and art of living. To quote again:
” Settled into tranquillity by entirely satisfactory recognition of noumenon through phenomenon an end is reached where instrument is prepared and ready for use. Analysis has shown the Rosicrucian what he is; more than this —what he can become as to his Ego. If out of his understanding, he puts office [ the service of others. — Editor.] before self, he learns directly of the God, as the God comes to live in and to make use of him”.
“Proving to one’s self that one’s self is God ”; and again, “God . . . the One is in all; the All is in one”.
The next chapter contrasts strangely with the one just quoted from — strangely, that is, to the outer sense. The one full of deep philosophy, of questionings of God, the Self, the World, clothed in the profound and significant paradoxes in which wisdom finds expression; the other an idyll, a sketch of nature, deeply coloured by the influence of Walt Whitman, whose style, perhaps, has had too great an influence on Mr. Darby, who has caught its jerky and unpleasant strings of detached sentences. [Page 238]
This is Chapter V; Chapter VI. deals with Matter in its relation to the Ego, the spirit of the treatment being indicated by the following conclusion:
“That there shows itself, out of a process of exclusion, conducted even only so far as the analysis of matter, a something which is not matter. The analysis demonstrates the something to be of individual signification; further, that it is to it what a flute or other instrument is to harmony”.
The final words express a purely occult doctrine, which is worked out at length in the succeeding chapter on the Ego.
This is the fundamental thought of the book, the last fifty pages of which describe the author’s individual experiences in nascent psychic development.
They are not of a very striking character, but exhibit with sufficient clearness the early forms of this new growth. Unfortunately, the author seems to have lacked the desire to pursue the road thus opened to him, and the final pages of his work are but a lame and halting conclusion to a remarkable production.
The book is well adapted for those who stand halting on the verge of mysticism, while for the student who has advanced further, its pages may serve as a means for helping others.