Health and Disease: theosophical quotations

BCW H.P. Blavatsky Collected Writings, Theosophical Publishing House, 1950-91
DGDP The Dialogues of G. de Purucker, A.L. Conger (ed.), Theosophical University Press (TUP), 2nd ed., 1997
Echoes     Echoes of the Orient, W.Q. Judge, TUP, 2nd ed., 2009-11
EST Esoteric Teachings, G. de Purucker, Point Loma Publications, 1987
FSO Fountain-Source of Occultism, G. de Purucker, TUP, 1974
GPE Golden Precepts of Esotericism, G. de Purucker, TUP, 3rd ed., 1979
ML The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett, A.T. Barker (comp.), TUP, 2nd rev. ed., 2021
SD The Secret Doctrine, H.P. Blavatsky, TUP, 1977 (1888)
SOP Studies in Occult Philosophy, G. de Purucker, TUP, 1973
TLTL To Light a Thousand Lamps: A theosophic vision, Grace F. Knoche, TUP, 2001
TPM Theosophy: The path of the mystic, Katherine Tingley, TUP, 3rd ed., 1977
WoS Wind of the Spirit, G. de Purucker, TUP, 2nd ed., 1984

The cause of disease

‘[T]here is not an accident in our lives, not a misshapen day, or a misfortune, that could not be traced back to our own doings in this or in another life.’ (SD 1:643-4)

‘Both health and disease are karmically the consequences of the characters and tendencies which we ourselves have impressed upon the life-atoms composing the various sheaths in which we, the human egos, are clothed during earth life: impressed upon them by our thoughts, our feelings, our desires and our habits. ...
    ‘A man in one life may have a disease and exhaust the karmic causes which brought it about, and in the next life be perfectly free from it, or he may not be free – it all depends upon his karma. We have the same life-atoms and the same astral monad as before, both of course modified according to the karma previously engendered. ...
    ‘Just as the child grows into the adult by slow stages, so does a man pass from incarnation to incarnation, continuously the same in essential being, although in each new life undergoing a change, let us hope, for the better. We are making ourselves now very largely what we shall be ten years hence. We may have conquered a disease that we are today suffering from, or we may have a disease then that at present we do not have. In either case we ourselves are responsible. Disease, therefore, is the working out of karma, for everything that comes to a man is the consequence, the flowering, of seeds sown in the past. ...
    ‘In the case of a fine and unselfish character who has a weak physical vehicle, he has won his freedom so far as the inner man is concerned; but so far as the life-atoms are concerned which he still has to use, he has not yet cleansed them of the preceding stain which that same spirit-soul brought upon them. ...
    ‘To say that selfishness is the cause of all disease is too general a statement. To be more specific, it is the form of selfishness called passion, whether conscious or unconscious, which is the fruitful cause of disease – unconquered violent passion, such as hatred, anger, lust, etc. Any such passion, mental or physical, shakes the lower constitution of man; it escapes from the control of the guiding hand of the higher part of his being, changing the direction of flow of the pranic life-currents, condensing them here, rarefying them there. It thus interferes with the normal, easy workings of nature, which in this connection means health. In fact, selfishness is at the root not merely of most disease, but of most evil-doing, and both are originally caused not by unconquerable but by unconquered passions.
    ‘The symptoms of disease, which only too often are treated as being the disease itself, are not infrequently the efforts of the forces of health to throw the poison out of the body. A disease should be understood as a purifying process because the end will be a cleansing. It should be welcomed in the sense of a quiet understanding of the situation, and without either fear or an attempt to complicate or hinder the process. But many people have an idea that the curing of disease consists in damming it back, shutting the doors against its egress out of the system. Such damming back, however, allows the roots of the disease to take firmer hold and spread and accumulate energy, so that when it reappears – as it inevitably will for its roots have not been extirpated – its reaction upon the body is more violent than it would have been if the disease had been allowed to take its course. ...
    ‘In many instances diseases may be a heaven-sent blessing: they cure egoism, they teach patience, and bring in their train the realization of the need for living rightly. If we with our ungoverned emotions had bodies which could not be diseased, they might well be weakened and killed by excesses. Diseases actually are warnings to reform our thoughts and to live in accordance with nature’s laws.
    ‘A new cycle in medicine entered the world in the latter half of the nineteenth century: no longer were human beings dosed until they died with mighty draughts of this and mighty potions of that. Doctors were beginning to see that it is nature that cures, and that the wise physician is a guide and an eliminator rather than a doser. Nevertheless, because of the still imperfect knowledge which physicians have, diseases in their acute stages often kill. Their course is too rapid for the human system to withstand the strain. On the other hand, the medical practitioners of the distant future will understand so well what diseases are, and the methods of curing them – indeed, how to prevent them – that they will lead a disease out so gently that it will appear to vanish while actually it is manifesting itself, even as the body today very often throws off a sickness by its own unaided powers. ... They will understand the virtues of simples and how certain juices of plants and mineral extracts can be used ...
    ‘[T]here is no certain knowledge as to the meaning and cause of disease, with the result that new systems of medical practice are constantly being introduced. For example, some advocate the use of stimulants and narcotics; others, eliminative and suppressive measures, with respect merely to symptoms. I might add that there is more justification for these and other methods in vogue in certain of the regular schools of medicine, than there is for those opposed to all medical practice, such as the schools of so-called mental or faith healing. It is a very dangerous thing indeed by the use of affirmations and denials, or by methods of intense psychologic thinking, to dam back elemental forces working their way outwards through the human constitution. Consequently, however imperfect medical science may be today, it nevertheless treats the body with material means, which are the least harmful. ...
    ‘We must remember that everything that happens to a man is the working of karma, and that diseases are the result of inharmonious thoughts and emotions of this or of a past life now working themselves out through the body. More particularly, all diseases are brought about through the instrumentality of elementals. This is the ancient teaching, and was the belief of the entire world until the West, in its supreme wisdom, began to look upon this consensus of opinion of the human race as founded upon superstition.
    ‘In the New Testament, ... diseases are ascribed to the operation of devils or demons – a mistranslation which is grotesque. These daimonia, as the Greek word runs, are simply the lowest order of animate and sensate creatures – commonly called in theosophy elementals – forming the lowest step of the hierarchical ladder ... Between elemental and god there is a wide range of difference in evolutionary progress, but no difference in essence or in origin, man occupying an intermediate stage on this ladder of life.
    ‘All diseases, therefore, from epilepsy or cancer to a common cold, from tuberculosis to a toothache, from rheumatism to any other physical ailment, are brought about through elementals working as the instruments of the karmic law. And the same applies to mental diseases: an outburst of anger, a raging temper, persistent melancholia, and the manias of various kinds, all are elemental in origin. Homicidal mania is an example in point; essentially it is quite unhuman as well as being inhuman – it is elemental. In this case an elemental has control of the human temple, and has for the time being dispossessed the rightful human dweller therein. Such a state is due to weakness and self-indulgence.
    ‘Epilepsy is likewise due to an elemental, which is a nature spirit, an energy center, a consciousness center, of an unevolved kind which in this case has usurped temporarily the position normally occupied by the human soul in the body. Epileptics, in actual fact, are “moon-struck” when they suffer an attack. In this connection it may be of interest to note that one of the ancient Mesopotamian gods, spoken of in the early Christian and Jewish scriptures, is Beel-Zebub, usually translated as “Lord of the Flies.” Zebub does mean flies, but the fly is mystically symbolic of an astral animate entity, and hence was taken as representative of the character and antics of the elementals. Therefore, Lord of Flies simply means Lord of the Elementals – of the elemental forces and powers; and that lord is the moon.
    ‘In antiquity and during the Middle Ages, epilepsy was known as the “sacred illness” on account of its marked psychological element which contrasts it so strongly with other more purely physical afflictions. It was believed that elementals of a higher grade, possessing a larger psychological sphere of activity, were concerned in the “falling sickness.” ...
    ‘Epileptic seizures are in reality no worse than any other outbreak of disease, for, as indicated, every disease can be traced to the same causes: an originating series of thoughts and emotions, eventuating in the present life in a distortion and an inharmonious interaction of the pranic currents in the body. According to the character of the emotions and thoughts, so is the disease.
    ‘In regard to cancer, there is one fundamental cause branching into two: deep-seated selfishness, first; and next, acting on this general background, unregulated emotionalism, the causes of which may have been sown ages back in other lives. The combined power of these two vital-astral currents weakens or even destroys resistance, and so directs the currents of life that they leave certain portions of the body where they are naturally in check, and center on others where they run riot. However, by control of the emotions and by self-forgetfulness, it is possible to help nature modify the course and development of the disease. Many more people would suffer from cancerous growths on the body if nature did not automatically gather together its forces of resistance – intellectual, emotional, moral, physiological, and what not – and thus cause the body to react so strongly that the resistance wards off the attack.
    ‘[W]e should understand cancer better if we realized that all growths, malignant or benign, are physiological memories of the method of propagation which the early third root-race used unconsciously. Then such growths were normal and natural; now they are abnormal at best and malignant at the worst. ...
    ‘There is, however, a sure preventive of all diseases which partake of both a physiological and a psychological character, and that is the practicing of the age-old virtues, such as the paramitas.
    ‘As diseases are the karmic result of past errors of living, of working inharmoniously with nature, the way of health is to work with nature; and this is possible because we are an integral part of it. ... Heal the soul and you heal the body.’ (FSO 403-9)

‘... brief mention should be made of the “germ-theory of disease” which is so widely accepted in modern medicine as explaining the causes of most, if not all, diseases; which theory is at the basis of the use of vaccines and serums in the treatment of such diseases as smallpox, typhoid, diphtheria, scarlet fever, etc. So widespread is the acceptance of this theory that, at least in one school of so-called regular medicine, “official” medicine it might be called, inoculation is made compulsory as a preventive of one or another or all of such diseases. Instead of teaching right living, clean living, unselfish living, fear is engendered, followed either by voluntary or, as is often the case, compulsory submission to inoculation.
    ‘Nevertheless, there is partial truth in the “germ-theory,” but not in the sense that germs or bacteria are the primary causes of disease. This is not so; the teaching of the Esoteric Science is that germs are secondary invaders, scavengers. It is true, however, that the so-called companions of disease are what modern science calls germs, microbes, bacteria, what not. These likewise, although the resultants or companions of a diseased condition of the body, can cause disease in another being into whom they may be transplanted, whether by coming through the air, or in the food, or by contacting dirt, or what not. But no such microbe or bacterium or germ can live in a system which is immune, in other words, can multiply in a system which is without the psychic originating seed of the same disease. When the seed is already in the body then the germ or bacterium will multiply and the disease begins. It is impossible for any human being to contract any disease unless the seed of that disease be already lying latent in him.
    ‘However, as very few human beings are sufficiently enlightened to know whether they have the seeds of this or some other disease within, ordinary prudence should of course be exercised. This means, of course, that care should be taken not to do foolish things in exposing oneself unnecessarily to infection. Some diseases work out of the system gently as time passes, without causing death; but disease may become virulent and possibly kill. Therefore common prudence demands care. On the other hand, needless fear is one of the worst possible things to carry around with you. It opens the doors to psychic infection, which weakens the system in its turn.’ (EST 8:62-3)

‘[T]he origin of every evil whether small or great is in human action, in man whose intelligence makes him the one free agent in nature. It is not nature that creates diseases, but man. The latter’s mission and destiny in the economy of nature is to die his natural death brought by old age. Save accident, neither a savage [hunter-gatherer] nor a wild (free) animal die of disease. Food, sexual relations, drink, are all natural necessities of life; yet excess in them brings on disease, misery, suffering, mental and physical ... Become a glutton, a debauchee, a tyrant, and you become the originator of diseases, of human suffering and misery.’ (ML 57)

‘As for those who were “knocked over [killed] by cholera, or plague, or jungle fever” they could not have succumbed had they not the germs for the development of such diseases in them from birth.’ (ML 133; see 124)

Pranas or vital essences

‘The function and the character of the pranas in the human body are reckoned as ten and even twelve in esotericism, yet they also are spoken of as being seven ... However, we use the term prana as a generalizing word to signify the aggregate of psycho-vital-astral fluids which the pranas really are. We may otherwise call them the vital essences.
    ‘Even in mediaeval Europe – which of course drew its ideas from ancient Greek and Roman writings – pretty much the same conception of the human body, as being an entity infilled with vital spirits and with humors, prevailed until a relatively recent time, when these were rejected by medical science, which laughed at the superstitions of our forefathers. Nevertheless, these vital spirits and humors corresponded, however imperfectly, to the pranic fluids of ancient Hindu teaching – considered to be both ethereal essences and physical humors. From early mediaeval times up to the recent present, medicine consistently taught that normal physical health in the human body was maintained when these vital spirits and humors were operating in equilibrium, and that disease and even death were products of their malfunctioning. The archaic ages were unanimous in their agreement on these points. ...
    ‘All the different pranas of the akashic vital stream really make up the completely imbodied man, because they are the vital fields, or what are sometimes spoken of as the nervous fluids, in and through which the finer spiritual, intellectual, and psychical essences work and manifest themselves. When all the pranas are properly balanced, and no one or more of them is either over-stimulated or sub-active, then the man is healthy throughout his entire constitution. This is why any attempt to meddle with these pranic currents – by yoga or psychic practice – brings about a change in the human constitution, which practice when conducted through ignorant experimentation, as is almost always the case, will invariably result in disease and very likely in subsequent death, or else in psychical and mental disturbance.
    ‘The various pranas are not merely vital winds, as the term is commonly translated, but are streams or flows of psycho-astral substance which work in the body as substantial energies. They are all formed of excessively minute particles or atomic units or entities, which indeed are the same as the life-atoms.
    ‘In the last analysis, a man’s body is built out of these pranic streams of atomic particles. Furthermore, all the pranas which manifest themselves in the human body are the psycho-astral-physical expression of corresponding and causative currents of vitality in the auric egg. Indeed, they are the vital energic form which the auric egg takes on the physical plane; and the auras, which these pranas exude, producing something like a vapor or mist around the body, are their psychomagnetic atmosphere. In other words, the pranas are the vehicle of expression for all the higher attributes and qualities of the human constitution.
    ‘The pranas find their respective fields of action in the auric egg, from which they manifest in the physical body, which is the most material concretion of the grosser aspects of the auric egg. Corresponding to the various physical organs, including the different nervous ganglia or plexuses, there are equivalently active centers or foci or ganglia in the auric egg; and indeed, these latter are the originants or auric causes which produce their effects as corresponding centers or organs in the physical body.
    ‘Thus it is that the physical body receives the seven or ten pranas from the auric egg which, in its turn, receives them from the monadic centers in the human constitution – ranging from the atman down to the physical body. Due to the unceasing activity of the forces or energies at work in man, these forces flow forth from the different monadic foci of his constitution as streams of vitality, i.e. currents of life-atoms, into the various layers of the auric egg. These streams of vital force actually compose the auric egg, with its compounded vital fluids and their characteristic auric qualities or swabhavas; and thence from the various layers of the auric egg these pranic auras are reflected into the different organs or centers or chakras of the physical body.
    ‘Thus, then, the complete man during incarnation, when viewed as an objective entity, presents a most marvelous picture of interacting and continuously coruscating streams of pranic vitality, which in the higher ranges are like currents of flowing light, and in their lower ranges are like streams of quasi-material vitality. ...
    ‘[M]an during incarnation is like a pillar of dazzling light, of which the top portion seems to vanish into the colorless glory of infinity, while the intermediate and lower parts grow progressively more concrete and more pronounced in color until, when the body is reached, the pranas become gross and heavy and furnish the combined swabhava of the imbodied animal monad. ...
    ‘[E]ven the loftiest activities of the human being, such as consciousness, intellection, intuition, etc., are merely different ways of describing the swabhavas of the divine and spiritual pranic forces pouring forth from the monads in the human constitution which are on its higher planes. ... It is the highest which produce the lower; so that the vital flows or fluids on the manifested planes, and therefore in and through the physical body, are but the expression of the higher vitality manifesting itself on the lower and lowest planes.’ (FSO 555-9)

The purpose of suffering

‘If we conceive that justice and harmony are inherent in the universal order and that nature ever works to restore disturbed equilibrium, we must conclude that everyone, barring none, is reaping the quality of experience that belongs to him. When we are beset with trials beyond our control, perhaps our higher self is rejoicing at the opportunity offered us to learn valued lessons, nurture compassion and, possibly, in these particular circumstances to be of quiet help to those around us in greater need than we. Have we not all discovered, usually after many years, that the harshest passages of our life yielded lasting gifts? “Blessings in disguise” is the common phrase, suggesting an intuitive recognition that pain and sorrow hold hidden beauties, not least in our deepened love and understanding for those in travail.
    ‘Having suffered the illness and death of many close friends, I have thought often, “If only I had the power to heal; if only I could bring surcease of pain.” As I have grown older I have come to realize that this may not be the wisest and most compassionate way to help. I have come to understand that the kindest and most effective way to sustain another is to help him find the courage and the love and the confidence to meet his karma creatively. Of course we should use the medical aids that are normally available, but let us allow our friend the honor and the dignity of recognizing that he has the capacity to handle his karma with understanding. Maybe his body will die earlier than the norm, but in meeting the karma that is his, he is accepting consciously the privilege of working through a heavy karmic experience for a beneficent purpose. There is solace and strength for both the dying and the living in being able to take this attitude. ...
    ‘How do we know what the soul must undergo to be truly free? How do we know that the terrible suffering, which may in a sense be worse for the bystander than for the one going through it, is not the very karma that the soul has been yearning for? But to shrug off another’s pain is diabolic and leads to hardness of heart. Such an attitude is to miss the whole purpose of life. We must relieve suffering as far as we can; in every possible way we must share our sympathy and understanding – not by lifting the burden from another’s shoulders, but by helping him to meet and carry his life’s challenges with greater confidence in himself and in the larger perspective.
    ‘When we reflect on the meaning of disabling affliction, be it physical, psychological, or mental – often calling for infinite resources of patience and love – we are bound to ask why? ... Millions of people today are carrying a burden of private sorrow and asking themselves where is the justice and mercy in a universe supposedly administered by an all-loving God? It is cold comfort indeed to anguished parents to be told it is God’s will, the decree of Allah, or the working out of old karma. ...
    ‘Certainly no one can say categorically that a child born with a congenital malformation is paying for some misdeed in a previous life or lives. It may well be the case; but equally it may not be so at all. Is it not conceivable, for example, that a returning entity – for we are primarily spirit-souls, not bodies – could be far enough advanced interiorly to “choose” the karma of severe deprivation in order to gain a profound empathy with all who suffer? Is it not also possible that a reincarnating ego, in need of temporary respite from certain mental and emotional pressures, selects a “retarded” vehicle for an incarnation? Again, it could be that cruelty or selfishness had been so ingrained in the character that the surest means of removing the warp is to take birth in an impaired body so that empathy and compassion might be burned deep into the soul and the nature gentled.
    ‘ “Judge not that ye be not judged” – only one able to read the spiritual history of an individual would be able to determine just what lines of karma had been traced in lives long gone that culminated in the precise conditions which the reincarnating ego now finds itself handling – or not handling – in this life. All of us have been weaving grandeur and baseness into the tapestry of our soul; but when we intuit, as many do, that we are linked with our divine parent and that whatever we experience of joy or pain is an intrinsic part of our destiny that we have been building for cycles beyond number, we know that there is a fitness and a beauty in even the most heartrending of circumstances. ...
    ‘Even when someone’s life is heavy with trial, to feel that he or she has a very “bad” karma this time round is to hold a totally mistaken view from the standpoint of the human soul or reincarnating ego. Purucker said it well: “we are our own karma,” meaning by this that everything that comes to us, in character or in circumstance, is an outflowing of ourselves – our past. If we or those we love have trying and painful circumstances to go through, ill health, personal reverses, or the like, this is not “bad” karma. Admittedly, it may be an extremely difficult karma to meet, but if in the long run it furthers the progress of the soul, it must be counted beneficent.
    ‘This is one of the most helpful ideas because many today are feeling crushed under the weight of life’s burdens. When we realize that we are our karma, then we know that whatever is unrolling before us is really ourselves having the opportunity to learn and to grow and to deepen our perceptions and our understanding. As our sympathies expand beyond the periphery of our personal problems and we observe the humor and dignity with which others, seemingly less favored than ourselves, face their life situation, we may discover that those of us who have the most difficulty in handling our character failings are the more disadvantaged. A bit of self-examination is therapeutic, reminding us that we are all fellow climbers, and that those who appear to be making little progress may well be clearing the way of obstacles for themselves and for others behind them that otherwise might have proved insurmountable.
    ‘Of course, it is easy to philosophize when one has reasonably sound health and comfortable circumstances. But what of the poverty-stricken, and those doomed to die of disease or starvation? Shall we say it is their karma and they will have to work through it, with better luck, hopefully, next life? Such an attitude would be reprehensible. Obviously, it is their karma or they wouldn’t have to meet those conditions; but how can we isolate their karma from our own? We are one family, and all of us have had a share in creating the present difficult circumstances. Besides, is it not also our karma to be profoundly concerned, and if at all possible to help alleviate the awful misery that exists in so many parts of our globe? There is some consolation in the fact that the world conscience is awakening and becoming more sensitive and acute, so that an increasing number of self-sacrificing and knowledgeable men and women are already dedicating their lives to practical humanitarian service.’ (TLTL 64-70)

Magnetic healing and hypnotism

‘A person in health is charged with positive vitality – prana, od, aura, electro-magnetism, or whatever else you prefer to call it: one in ill-health is negatively charged: the positive vitality, or health element, may be discharged by an effort of the healer’s will into the receptive nervous system of the patient: they touch each other, the fluid passes, equilibrium is restored in the sick man’s system, the miracle of healing is wrought, and the lame walk, the blind see, deaf hear, dumb speak, and humours of long standing vanish in a moment! Now, if besides health, power of will, knowledge of science, and benevolent compassion on the healer’s part, there be also faith, passivity, and the requisite attractive polarity, on that of the patient, the effect is the more rapid and amazing. Or, if faith be lacking and still there be the necessary polaric receptivity, the cure is still possible. And again, if there be in the patient alone a faith supreme and unshakable in the power of a healer, of a holy relic, of the touch of a shrine, of the waters of a well, of a pilgrimage to a certain place and a bath in some sacred river, of any given ceremonies, or repetition of charms or an amulet worn about the neck – in either of these or many more agencies that might be named, then the patient will cure himself by the sole power of his predisposed faith. And this rallying power of Nature’s forces goes in the medical books under the name of Vis Medicatrix Naturae – the Healing Power of Nature.
    ‘It is of supreme importance that the one who attempts to heal disease should have an absolute and implicit faith (a) in his science; (b) in himself. To project from himself the healing aura he must concentrate all his thought for the moment upon his patient, and WILL with iron determination that the disease shall depart and a healthy nervous circulation be re-established in the sufferer’s system. It matters nothing what may be his religious belief, nor whether he invoke the name of Jesus, Rama, Mohammed, or Buddha; he must believe in his own power and science, and the invocation of the name of the founder of his particular sect only helps to give him the confidence requisite to ensure success. Last year in Ceylon, Colonel Olcott healed more than fifty paralyptics, in each case using the name of Lord Buddha. But if he had not had the knowledge he has of mesmeric science, and full confidence in his psychic power and the revered Guru whose pupil he is, he might have vainly spoken his simple religious formula to his patients. He was treating Buddhists, and therefore the invocation of Sakya Muni’s name was in their cases as necessary as was the use of the name of Jesus to Père Gassner and the other many healers of the Romish Church who have cured the sick from time to time. And a further reason for his using it was that the cunning Jesuits of Colombo were preparing to convince the simple-minded Singhalese that their new spring near Kelanie had been endowed with exceptionally miraculous healing powers by the Virgin Mary.
    ‘Those who may, after reading our remarks, feel a call to heal the sick, should bear in mind the fact that all the curative magnetism that is forced by their will into the bodies of their patients, comes out of their own systems. What they have, they can give; no more. And as the maintenance of one’s own health is a prime duty, they should never attempt healing unless they have a surplus of vitality to spare, over and above what may be needed to carry themselves through their round of duties and keep their systems well up to tone. Otherwise they would soon break down and become themselves invalids. Only the other day a benevolent healer of London died from his imprudent waste of his vital forces. For the same reason, healing should not be attempted to any extent after one has passed middle life: the constitution has not then the same recuperative capacity as in youth.’ (BCW 4:383-6)

‘If a person is a natural born “magnetiser” as Colonel Olcott was in a small way, or as Mesmer in a fairly large way, then such a person can cure by magnetic or so-called “mesmeric” passes by stroking the afflicted organ or part of the body, sometimes without any motion, but an intense mental concentration to that end.
    ‘If the “healer” or practitioner is not such a born or innately endowed “magnetiser,” his success is either nil or poor. The whole explanation lies in the successful conveying of prana or vitality from his own healthy body to the diseased body or diseased organ or part, which healthy vitality or life-force “expels” or changes the inharmonious vibrations from the afflicted part, and restores harmony therein, thus bringing about health. Such cures can be permanent; usually they are temporary ...
    ‘[I]f the magnetiser is physically healthy, mentally well-balanced, and most important of all, morally and intellectually clean, there is no harm whatsoever in these healings by mesmeric magnetism, but not by hypnotism ...; if the practitioner is unclean morally, intellectually unsound, even in his view of right and wrong, or again if the practitioner himself is not properly physically healthy, diseases can even be transplanted, or transferred, in germ, and even death can be brought about, by evil magic thus worked, which last case is plain murder, and very difficult to trace. But there is nothing wrong in healing sick and ailing people, whether by regular surgical and medical practice, or by a highminded, healthy, and compassionate “vital healer,” even if the latter acts in ignorance of the philosophical rationale. This last case is not “damming back karma,” because karma already is exhausting itself in the diseased person, and the healing is merely helping nature to bring restoration of health, to re-establish normal conditions in the sufferer.
    ‘But karma is dammed back, and therefore the healing of any kind becomes positively pernicious and wrong, in cases where the healer attempts to act upon the will, the conscience, or the moral integrity, of the sick person, the patient, the sufferer, by hypnotizing the mind and will power and conscience of the sufferer into the belief that sickness does not exist, or that the sufferer is a victim of fate, instead of being the sufferer from his own evil past. ... If the mind, especially the will power, or moral integrity, of the patient is touched by the practitioner, this at once becomes black magic, tends to reproduce wrong ideas in the patient, thus damming back the disease, although this practice likewise can temporarily heal because of the hypnotic condition of the will power and mind induced in the patient under an illusory, quasi-philosophical, wrong teaching. Thus in this last case karma working itself out is dammed at its source, the disease is forced back into the constitution, the body may be benefitted; but the disease lies latent, for ultimately all disease originates in wrong thoughts bringing about wrong feelings and wrong actions ... But the merely vital magnetiser does not do this. He treats the suffering body alone, as the ordinary physician and surgeon does, helps to restore harmony in the pranic currents of the sufferer’s body, but does not touch the will power or moral nature of the sufferer; and consequently his work is not evil – I mean in the case of an upright good man who practises or heals ...
    ‘And finally, the best way of all these drugless healing methods or processes, commonly called “vital healing” or by some similar term, or healing by passes, etc., is the case where the sufferer himself is brought into a state of mind of hope, self-confidence, the higher kind of resignation bringing peace and inner quiet in its train, all of which helps the body back to a condition of harmony, thus aiding the natural healing processes in the sufferer’s body itself. This is why some kinds of faith-healing are the best because they do not touch the will or the mind except to bring about inner peace, resignation to the inevitable, and the instilling into the sufferer’s mind of a condition of hope, of vital energy, and a happier outlook, all of which tends to help the sufferer’s body. ...
    ‘The whole situation is extremely complicated. ... Even a black magician can heal a body if it is to the black magician’s profit to do so; but in this case the body is healed at the expense of the soul, so to speak, and possibly even new diseases are planted in the sufferer’s body in seed or in germ, because the mind and will are distorted, bringing about mental currents from within the sufferer poisoning the sufferer’s own pranas.
    ‘Thus the secret lies, as you see, in arousing the sufferer’s own innate powers of resistance, of vitality, etc., and thus making these dominant, thus making the body heal itself; and not in overpowering the sufferer’s will, or imagination, or moral instincts, resulting in making these recessive, numb, or asleep. The former is good and white, the latter is bad and black. ...
    ‘Some healings are good, some healings are bad, some healers are good, some are bad, some are frauds.’ (SOP 622-5)

‘Hypnotic practice is almost always bad ... because it weakens the will of the subject instead of evoking the will from within outwards into action thus building up a structure of inner life and power. ...
    ‘[I]n some local things, like stroking with the hand on an affected part of the body to relieve pain such as a headache, this is really not so much hypnotic sleep in minor degree as a kind of mesmerism or animal magnetization, soothing the nerves but not weakening the will, the healthy body quieting, soothing the tangled and angry nerves of the invalid. And this is not bad if no attempt is made ... to affect the will of the subject or his body as a whole ... [I]n the first place it is not hypnotism purely speaking, as this word is popularly understood, and in the second place it is purely local and the benefits are derived from the clean, strong magnetism of the operator. [I]f the animal magnetism is healthy and clean, probably no harm is done and the patient can receive temporary relief, although it is not permanent because the cause is not eliminated.’ (SOP 652-3)

‘Psychologization and suggestion and hypnotism and any other of these efforts are really mental-psychological drugs; they are not even palliatives; they are stupefactions. Their use stupefies and deadens for a time; but nothing is permanently cured, nothing is permanently healed; for the reason that moral disease, such as drunkenness, bestiality, sensuality, drug-taking, whatever it may be – all these things that it has been proposed to hypnotize or psychologize people for or against – ... originate and always will originate, in weakness, in desires, in thoughts, in feelings, leading one and all to corresponding acts.’ (SOP 412)

‘Autosuggestion ... is always right ... if it means merely suggesting to oneself night and day and all the time pictures of spiritual and moral and intellectual strength, self-control, and improvement – things of beauty, of glory, of holiness, of purity, of charity, of kindliness; in short, all the great and noble virtues.’ (SOP 406)


‘Even Russia abolished the law forbidding the homeopathic physicians to prepare their own medicines, so far back as in 1843. In nearly every large town, the world over, there are homeopathic societies. In Europe alone in 1850 there were already over 3,000 practicing homeopathists, two-thirds of whom belonged to Germany, France and Great Britain; and there are numerous dispensaries, hospitals and wealthy curative establishments appropriated to this method of treatment in every large town ... At this very day, a revolution is taking place in science, owing to the proofs given by the famous Professor Jaeger of Stuttgart of the marvellous efficacy of the infinitesimal homeopathic doses. Homeopathy is on the eve of being demonstrated as the most potent of curative agents. ...
    ‘At the incipient stage of every useful innovation, its success only increases the enmity of the opponents. In 1813, when after the withdrawal of the allied armies the typhus patients became so numerous in Leipzig that it was found necessary to divide them among the physicians of that city, of the 73 allotted to Dr. Hahnemann, the founder of the homeopathic system of medicine, and by him treated on that method, all recovered except one, a very old man; while the patients under the cure of the allopaths died in the proportion of 8 men in 10. To show their appreciation of the services rendered, the authorities, at the instigation of the apothecaries, who conspired to make the former revive against Dr. Hahnemann an old law – exiled the doctor ... [A]fter having been the object of ceaseless attacks for over thirty years from those whose pecuniary interests were opposed to the beneficent innovation – as those of our modern allopaths are opposed now to mesmerism in addition to homeopathy – he lived to see Leipzig atoning for its sins and repairing the injury done to his reputation by erecting a statue to him in one of the city squares.’ (BCW 4:75-6)

‘If in each of our branches we were able to establish a homeopathic dispensary with the addition of mesmeric healing, such as has already been done with great success in Bombay, we might contribute towards putting the science of medicine in this country on a sounder basis, and be the means of incalculable benefit to the people at large.’ (BCW 6:336)


‘[N]obody will contract any disease whatsoever unless the germs of that disease are already in the system, their being there because of a proclivity towards that disease, this proclivity itself being due to karmic causes. Thus inoculating an otherwise healthy man of this type with the antitoxin-virus of some loathsome disease not only weakens the body of this otherwise healthy man, but because of this weakness predisposes his system towards reception of the latent disease, despite the efforts of the body to react protectively against it; and, furthermore, because of weakening the body it predisposes it likewise, on account of this ensuing weakness, to other possible invasions of still other diseases. ...
    ‘The proper way ... is to take all natural, cleanly, sane, and normal preventive measures, both in the individual and in the collective fields, especially sanitary and hygienic measures, paying due and proper attention to exercise, diet, and personal cleanliness of all kinds. Then, if one contracts a disease, it becomes a duty to try to recover health in every cleanly and sane manner possible, and it is perfectly right so to do. It is extremely doubtful in my opinion if it is either right or wise in any case whatsoever to inoculate human beings with the disgusting virus drawn from the diseased bodies of either man or beast for this purpose. I am convinced such inoculation brings along with it ten devils worse than the disease itself.’ (SOP 550-1)

‘In regard to vaccines and serums it is claimed that by their use many diseases have been virtually wiped out, or at least brought under control. However, statistics show that new and strange diseases have appeared, and that these act virulently. Any method of treatment which has to do with injecting into the blood stream the secretions coming from some other diseased body is unwholesome: probably in the long run producing a larger number of mysterious diseases than the cases which the practice might possibly benefit. ...
    ‘The physicians of the distant future will heal in a very different way. They will understand the virtues of simples and how certain juices of plants and mineral extracts can be used; and these will be much less harmful when injected than are those extracts taken from the bodies of unfortunate beasts. We hear a great deal about the successes of this latter method, but very little about the failures.’ (FSO 659)

‘Karma ... will visit all those who develop the most awful results in the future, generated at those public exhibitions [of mesmerism/hypnotism] for the amusement of the profane. Let them only think of dangers bred, of new forms of diseases, mental and physical, begotten by such insane handling of psychic will! This is as bad on the moral plane as the artificial introduction of animal matter into the human blood, by the infamous Brown-Sequard method, is on the physical.’ (BCW 12:226-7) [Brown-Séquard advocated the hypodermic injection of a fluid prepared from the testicles of sheep as a means of prolonging human life. It was known derisively as the Brown-Séquard elixir.] ‘We theosophists call this elixir blasphemy against nature and bestiality, if not black magic.’ (BCW 11:459fn)


‘What ... is the true theosophic diet? It is that which best agrees with you, taken in moderation, neither too much nor too little. If your constitution and temperament will permit vegetarianism, then that will give less heat to the blood; and, if it is practiced from the sincere conviction that it is not true brotherhood to destroy living creatures so highly organized as animals, then so much the better. But if you refrain from meat in order to develop your psychic powers and senses, and continue the same sort of thoughts you have always had, neither cultivating nor practicing the highest altruism, the vegetarianism is in vain.
    ‘The inner nature has a diet out of our thoughts and motives. If those are low or gross or selfish, it is equivalent to feeding that nature upon gross food. True theosophic diet is therefore not of either meat or wine; it is unselfish thoughts and deeds, untiring devotion to the welfare of “the gredat orphan Humanity,” absolute abnegation of self, unutterable aspiration to the Divine ...’ (Echoes 1:102)

‘Practically every disease that human flesh is afflicted with arises originally out of wrong feeding ... – and wrong feeding usually means overfeeding.’ (DGDP 2:72)

‘[W]icked or gross thoughts are more hurtful than the eating of a ton of flesh.’ (Echoes 1:468)

‘Alcohol is pernicious at all times and in all circumstances and never should be used except in certain very rare cases of illness, and then only in strict moderation. ... Even the fumes of alcohol are bad ... [T]o take alcohol even in moderate doses has a deleterious effect on certain centers of the nervous system. It dulls and stupefies these centers and the faculties that function through them which it is the aim of all esoteric training to awaken.’ (EST 1:104-5fn)

‘Wine and spirits are supposed to contain and preserve the bad magnetism of all the men who helped in their fabrication; the meat of each animal, to preserve the psychic characteristics of its kind.’ (BCW 9:160)

‘The use of wine, spirits, liquors of any kind, or any narcotic or intoxicating drug, is strictly prohibited [in the Esoteric Section]. ... All such substances have a directly pernicious action upon the brain, and especially upon the “third eye,” or pineal gland ... They prevent absolutely the development of the third eye, called in the East “the Eye of Siva.”
    ‘The moderate use of tobacco is not prohibited, for it is not an intoxicant; but its abuse, like that of everything else – even pure water or bread – is prejudicial.
    ‘As to diet: The eating of meat is not prohibited, but if the student can maintain health on vegetables or fish, such diet is recommended. The eating of meat strengthens the passional nature, and the desire to acquire possessions, and therefore increases the difficulty of the struggle with the lower nature.’ (BCW 12:496)

Psychophysical practices

‘Today in the West there are many practitioners of yoga whose goal is to restore physical health and alleviate, where possible, some of the unusually stressful conditions people are experiencing in these crucial times. We would be well advised, however, to stop short before undertaking sophisticated breathing and other techniques that could, if unwisely pursued, interfere with the proper functioning of the pranas. Prana is a Sanskrit term for the five or seven “life-breaths” that circulate through and maintain the body in health.
    ‘The Chinese for centuries have taught that sound physical and psychic health depends upon the balance of yin and yang. If one, however unknowingly, upsets the natural rhythmic flow of the ch’i – their term for prana – through the twelve primary meridians or energy channels of the body, imbalance of the yin/yang may result. In other words, when there is interference with the natural lines of force, a misalignment of pranic balance may occur, often with serious consequences. Rather than concentrate on the psychic and physical aspects of the constitution, far better to focus attention on the spiritual and higher mental and moral faculties. When inner balance is achieved and normal health measures are observed, the physical will in time follow suit (unless, as may happen, stronger karmic impediments must be worked through).
    ‘Much emphasis also is placed on finding one’s inner center, and rightly so. This centering of oneself is a private individual process of “self-naughting,” self-stripping, as the mystics call it, emptying the nature of externals and becoming one with our essential self. It may take a lifetime, or several lifetimes, to achieve in fullness – no outer circumstances will be as effective as “losing the self that we may find the self.”
    ‘Since the 1960s groups have sprung up all over the world sponsoring self-transcendence courses that offer various methods of achieving alternative states of consciousness: how to rouse the kundalini or “serpent fire” seated near the base of the spine; how to activate the chakras, how to meditate by focusing on a triangle, candle flame, crystal, lighted bulb, or by repetition of a mantra. These and other psychophysical practices are carried out in the hope of attaining nirvanic consciousness. I would not advocate any of these methods, not because they are essentially faulty, but because they can prove deleterious on account of our ingrained selfish proclivities.
    ‘Today the hunger for new and better ways to live is very strong. People long to find meaning in a seemingly meaningless succession of crises and are experimenting with alternative routes, anything that is different from what they grew up with. This is part of the spiritual and psychic awakening going on worldwide, but to adopt without careful screening any method of self-development, especially those that promise instant results, is a high-risk venture. Where there is instability in the character (and who of us is perfectly pure in heart and in motive?), the invasion of our psyche by baneful influences from the lowest levels of the astral light could be detrimental both to physical and mental health. Besides, concentration of mental and psychic energy on the transient elements of the nature has the drawback of diverting attention away from essentials to externals. This cannot have the beneficial effect that the altruistic and nonself-centered approach of raja yoga has on the aspirant. All of this is old wisdom which many today are beginning to intuit and apply to their lives.
    ‘In the Bhagavad-Gita there is a phrase: atmanam atmana pasya – “see the self by means of the self.” This may be interpreted in two ways: see the limited self, the personality, by means of the glowing self or atman within; or, see the atman within, the light of the true self, by means of the awakening personal self. The ideal is to have an unimpeded flow of energy, of consciousness, between our atmic source and the personality. When we seek first to offer ourselves to the noblest within, we quicken the fires of our highest chakra, the atmic center, which in turn will radiate its influence on all the other chakras.
    ‘Viewing the seven principles of the human constitution as a pillar of light, each principle being sevenfold, supposing we try to reach to atman, we may fairly soon reach the subatman of our psychic center. But if we have concentrated too pointedly on that level there is every possibility with certain natures, not only of becoming deflected from our goal but, unhappily, of getting our principles out of alignment.
    ‘If without strain or any sense of pride we offer ourself deeply and sincerely in the service of our inmost self, then the light from the highest atman – the atmic subprinciple of our atman – will illumine our whole being from above downwards. We will remain in alignment because our psychic and intellectual and other centers will be irradiated with the supreme atmic light, and there will be a transforming influence on our lives.
    ‘The popularization of meditation practices in the West has had certain positive results and helped many to handle their deep-seated anxieties. Stilling the mind and calming the emotions for a few moments every day is therapeutic: by deliberately dropping our worries, we become free inwardly and can refocus ourselves for our life’s task. On the other hand, high-powered promotion of meditation may be self-defeating. For example, one is put off at the start when money is charged for a mantra that purports to raise one to cosmic awareness. No one needs a mantra in order to lift his consciousness unto the hills of the spirit and receive the benediction of momentary communion with the highest within.
    ‘There are ways and ways to meditate, and ways and ways to attain a higher awareness. When we become inwardly still, our inner voice may be heard in those quiet yet clear intimations that move the soul. Every night upon retiring we can open the way for the intuition by stripping the nature of all resentments and irritations, ridding the heart of all arrogant and unkind thoughts and feelings about others. If we have slipped a little during the day, let us acknowledge it with the will to do better. We then enter into harmony with our real self, and the consciousness is freed to go where it will. This is a mystery which we do not really understand, but the wonder is that in the morning we wake up refreshed in spirit, with a new and warmer feeling for others, and often with answers to perplexing questions.
    ‘To follow this simple practice is restorative on all planes, and we will be adding to rather than detracting from the harmony of our surroundings. Whatever course of self-betterment one pursues, sacrifice is required: we cannot hope to gain access to the higher realms of being if we have not earned the right of entry. Only those who come clean of anger, resentment, and selfish desire are fit recipients of the keys to nature’s wisdom. To expect otherwise is to run the risk of opening the door to elemental forces of a low kind that may be difficult to eject from the consciousness. Prayer, aspiration, meditation are effective in that they set up a vibratory response throughout all nature; the more ardent the aspirant, the greater power do they have to activate noble (or ignoble) energies both within the individual and in the auric envelope surrounding earth. ...
    ‘The finest type of meditation is a turning of the soul toward the light within in aspiration to be of greater service, without exaggerated longing for some special revelation. Any method of meditation that helps us to lessen our self-centeredness is beneficial; if it increases egocentricity, it is harmful. ...
    ‘The most fruitful meditation, therefore, is an absorption of thought and aspiration in the noblest ideal we can envision. We will not need to worry about specific postures, techniques, or gurus; there will be a natural inflow of light into the nature, for our inner master, our real guru, is our Self.’ (TLTL 106-12)

Healing the soul

‘Every sage and seer has taught the same thing: cleanse the temple of the holy spirit, drive out the demons of the lower nature. ...
    ‘Inharmonious thoughts not only poison the air, but they also poison your very bloodstream, poison your body; and disease is the resultant. What are inharmonious thoughts? They are selfish thoughts, evil thoughts, mean thoughts, thoughts out of tune; and they arise in a heart which lacks love. Perfect love in the human heart tends to build up a strong body, psychologically clean, because the inside of you is psychologically and morally clean, harmonious in its workings, for in this case, the mind, the soul, the spirit – the true man – are harmonious in their workings. ...
    ‘The greatest preventive of disease is a selfless soul working through a selfless mind – a self-forgetful heart. Nothing brings disease upon a human being so quickly as selfishness with its concomitant temptations, and the succumbing to those temptations. ...
    ‘Do not be the slave of the vagrant mental tramps that run through your mind. ... When the thoughts chase through the mind as unruly steeds do not struggle and waste your force. Picture to yourself the things opposite to those you hate. Picture the things that you really inwardly love, really love in your heart, and which you know are helpful. ... The secret is inner visualization ...
    ‘If you find yourself gloomy, if you are ashamed of thoughts that are in your mind, do not struggle with them, do not fight them, forget them. ... If you are obsessed by ... uglinesses, picture to yourself scenes of beauty. ... See things of a high and noble character and visualize them forcefully. Visualize to yourself a success in fine things. Visualize things of beauty, of inward splendor.’ (GPE 42-6)

‘Visualize! You touch a mystic law when you create in imagination the picture of mighty things, for you open a door to new powers within yourself. Something in the way of potent energies is awakened and called into life and strength both without you and within. If you aspire, visualize your aspirations. Make a mind-picture of your spiritual ideals, a picture of the spiritual life as you know it to be, and carry that picture with you day by day. Cherish it as a companion. ... Before you know it the ideal has become the real and you have taken your place as a creator, truly, in the great, divine scheme of life.’ (TPM 46-7)

‘[B]eing whole and in health ... mean the same thing; the two words, health and wholeness, come from the same root. ...
    ‘When a man is whole, he is well, he is healed; and this more than anything else is the work of the Theosophical Society, spiritually, morally, and intellectually speaking: to make men whole, to make every one of the seven principles in the constitution of the normal human being active, so that there shall be a divine fire running through the man, through the spiritual and intellectual and psychical and astral and physical – and best of all for us humans, the moral, the child of the spiritual. Then we are whole, we are in health, for our whole being is in harmony.
    ‘Thus, then, the work of the Theosophical Society is so to change the hearts and minds of men that their lives shall be changed, and therefore the lives of the peoples of the earth. What is this but healing at its roots instead of healing the symptoms? The god-wisdom goes to the very root of the disease, and cuts it; and the successful theosophist is not he who can preach the most and say the most in the most fascinating way, but he who lives his theosophy. “Theosophist is who Theosophy does.” ’ (WoS 240)

‘[T]he term “healer” was commonly used among the ancients of one who brought the supreme blessing of peace of mind and harmony of soul to his fellow human beings. When these exist in the life, and throughout the lifetime, they bring in their train physical well-being. Therefore, follow the example of the Buddha, and of Jesus called the Christ. Be kindly, be charitable in thought, judge not your fellows, learn to forgive, learn to love, for love is harmony. ... We should send out currents of good-will, of kindly feeling, of helpfulness, and if we keep these up through a number of years, if we watch carefully we will see that our character grows more kindly, richer, mellower, more lovable; and our own health will be much better.’ (DGDP 2:13-4)

Compiled by David Pratt. May 2006. Last revised: Sept. 2021.


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