Third Scorpio Decanate: James M. Pryse

From The Last Eighteen Decanates:

SCORPIO—3rd Decanate. Unlike the crown of spikes that pictures the last of Virgo, CORONA AUSTRALIS—the Southern Crown—is the laurel crown of victory. Picturing among the constellations the Cancer decanate of Scorpio, it reveals the potency of sex when sublimated to carry the soul to the loftiest summit of physical and mental achievement.

Adjacent to the religious sign Sagittarius, and under the subinfluences of the sign of domestic life, Cancer, those born here have intense emotions and vivid ideas. When the spirit of chivalry is developed and they sense their value to country and home they are capable of lofty effort. But for the greatest success it seems essential that they have some person of the opposite sex to stimulate their ambitions and ideals, and for whom they strive to make a success of life. Social life, therefore, is always, an important factor contributing to or detracting from their usefulness to society.

Franz Hartman, who wrote Life of ParacelsusMagic White and Black, and achieved other success along occult lines, was born with the Sun in this decanate. Thomas Moore, whose social grace and patriotism were second only to his achievements as a poet, had his Mentality here. And the chivalrous Benjamin Disraeli, who became Prime Minister of England, was born with this part of the zodiac on his Ascendant. It is the decanate of ATTAINMENT.

From Letters to the Sage:

James M. Pryse

            James Morgan Pryse, Theosophical author and printer, was born November 14, 1859 in New London, Ohio, the son of a Welsh-born minister. His childhood and youth were spent in the Upper Midwest and his early work life included periods as a teacher, photographer, newspaper editor, and printer in various small towns. Pryse began corresponding with Johnson after having recently arrived in Los Angeles from New York where he was active as a Theosophist and closely associated with William Q. Judge and “Jasper Niemand” (Mrs. J. C. Ver Planck), editors of The Path. With his brother John he traveled to South America before being called back to New York where they started the Aryan Press in 1889. Later that year he was summoned to London by Blavatsky where he established the H.P.B. Press and lived under the same roof until her death in 1891. In the TS secession crisis of 1894-95 he sided with the Judge faction. His career as an author began in Dublin with the 1896 publication of The Sermon on the Mount. His second book in 1900 was Reincarnation in the New Testament published by Elliott Page in New York. In 1901 he married Jessie Mayer in Galesville, Wisconsin, and returned with her to Los Angeles in 1904, spending the rest of his life in southern California. There he wrote for Katherine Tingley’s Universal Brotherhood and its successor Universal Brotherhood Path. His later books were Prometheus Bound and The Adorers of Dionysos (1925). He was widowed in 1928 and died in Los Angeles on August 27, 1942.

Los Angeles

 November 20, 1887

Dear Sir:

            It is with much pleasure I learn that you have decided to continue the Platonist. Enclosed please find $3.00, for which send me the magazine at 89 East Pico St.

            As you say, we differ only in the position from which we regard truth.

            Of course I have no sympathy with the methods of the anarchists; yet this class, who have come to realize the evils of the industrial feudalism of this age, and yet, not knowing that all reform must begin with the inner man, (of whose desires the eternal world is but the expressions), have attempted reform through force, are morally in advance of their executioner, who do not even recognize industrial evils.

            In the study of magnetism, very little can be learned from the works of modern physiologists, anatomists, mesmerists, phrenologists, etc., for as a ruler they are hopelessly astray in regarding the brain as a sort of battery supplying nervous power to other portions of the system, also as the seat of the intellectual faculties and emotions; also in the supposition that the body is a stove, its activities being sustained by oxidation. For its proper comprehension the subject must be approached by a radically different method.

            About the first things seen in the astral light are points of flame; they vary from mere dots of light to great globes of fire. These are centers of energy in the world-soul—“elementals.” By its vibration a thought creates these little whirlwinds in the astral light. Being semi-intelligent, they are also shaped in conformity with the thoughts of the seer. Thus in the macrocosm, the akasa, set in vibration by the Logos, forms the great centers of energy called suns. Just such a center of magnetic forces is the human soul, or fifth principle. It is a sphere in action. Considering the individual as a radiant astral sphere, centering at the heart, it is easy to trace the action of the magnetic forces in their work of building the body and the brain; for evidently in the first astral stages of his existence man was but a glowing sphere with no foundational organs, and having no faculty but motion. The manas, or human soul, is the bright central spot of the magnetic globes, and is the seat of will, memory, intellection, volition, reason, etc. In producing the special organs of her body, naturally those whose functions are most essential would be formed first; their formation therefore commences with the solar plexus, the ganglia of the dorsal region, and the heart and blood vessels. The heart pumps the astral fluid through the nerves, and the blood (which is the astral fluid materialized) through the blood vessels. The ganglionic system resolves itself into consecutive magnetic poles regulating the alternate attractions and repulsions by which the bodily functions are carried and on the blue-white matter of the nerves and ganglia being positive and the red-white negative. (In the astral consciousness I see blue sparks issuing from the right eye and golden ones from the left.) The brain serves to reflect the higher faculties, as the moon reflects the light of the sun. A clue to the matter of the brain may be found by tracing it through the lower forms of animal life up to man. First the spinal cord is evolved, whose first expansion constitutes that part of the brain devoted to the animal propensities, then follow the moral sentiments, and finally the intellectual faculties. Continuing this incomplete cycle, we find the higher faculties manifested in front of the face, clairvoyance being near the nose. The yogee, taking conscious control of the forces of evolution, is said in the Gita to have “his eyes fixed in contemplation between his brows,” and again having “his eyes fixed on the point of his nose,” thus artificially completing the cycles. In the brain is a central pole, with four minor poles, alternately positive and negative, ranged about it like satellites, their axes crossing at the center.

            Placing the finger-tip in the ear, one can hear the blood coursing through the arteries, also one can, of course, easily hear the “beating” of the heart. Similarly, astral senses hear the astral light singing along the nerves and in the brain, and the musical tones of the heart.

            The soul, being a magnetic force, that has created the body, possesses complete knowledge of magnetism, though obscured by its contact with “matter;” as the occultist progresses, the soul regains its knowledge, and the developed will can free the fluidic (or astral) body from the gross body. The astral body in such a case is self-conscious. When the will is undeveloped the necessary force is lacking, and if the fluidic body is set free, the result is the same as ordinary sleep. The astral body may be liberated by creating a current in the akasa and precipitating it upon ones self, or by restraining the breaths so as to produce self-mesmeriation.

            The body may be left under any one of the three gunas; of course it should not be left except under the influence of satvas.

            Of course on this plane one must face the elementals created by his thoughts and deeds during his past, and in the resultant hades of horrors purer motive is essential. In fact, occult study must be mainly the study of motive. No motive that refers to self, on any plane, can rise above black magic and personal annihilation; for the will for nature is for unity, and the personal will that opposes it cannot endure. So the only true motive for the occultist is the desire to aid all creatures. “Near to renunciation is salvation”—the state of jivanmukta. Since illumination comes only to one who has freed himself from the fluidic body, it would seem impossible to gain the truer goal without passing through this intervening sphere. Yet here, as all through life, no two persons have precisely the same experiences, and since astral sights, sounds, etc., vary so greatly with different persons, little is written of them in mystic works.

            Doubtless much, if not all of this is stale to you: but perhaps you may find something useful in it.

            With all good wishes, I am,

            Yours respectfully,

            Jas. M. Pryse

Los Angeles

April 27, 1888


Dear Friend:

            Answering yours of the 17th, I would say that Mr. Colville[1] is a gentleman of about 28 years of age who has been for the past ten or eleven years an “inspirational speaker.” He has the reputation of being personally pure and of strict integrity. He is a spiritualist, and lectures upon the “mind-cures”, calling it “theosophy.” The plans for the institution to which you refer are as yet nebulous. It is proposed to start a “mind-cure” sanitarium, and the thousand-dollar contribution of which you speak is for that purpose; four acres at Inglewood and five at Clearwater have been offered.

            In addition to this “mind-cure” institute, Mr. Colville proposes to inaugurate a school for the study of “mind-cure”—variously termed “Christian science,” “spiritual science” and “metaphysics”—and incidentally of such branches as spiritualism and what projectors of the institution imagine to be “philosophy” and “theosophy.” No definite action has been taken in the matter; but Mr. Colville (who is now at San Diego) is to return to this city by the 7th of next month to organize a class in “Theosophy” at a private residence, when the subject of the “mind-cure” college will be further discussed.

            Mr. C., it seems, is not a classical scholar; and it is claimed that his knowledge of “spiritual science,” “theosophy,” “philosophy,” K.T. λ[2] has come to him through his being a “medium” and “inspirational speaker,” he being rather unintellectual and having no command of language when not “inspired.” At the close of his “inspirational” lectures he improvises poems upon any subject suggested by his audience. Dr. Henry Abbot, the well-known “mesmeric healer”, a really fine mesmerist but bogus “medium”, once confessed to me that his “mediumship” was all trickery, and in explaining some of the tricks of the trade implicated Mr. Colville, claiming that the latter had been carefully educated by his mother as a public speaker and also trained to appear stupid off the rostrum. That the penitent doctor spoke truly concerning himself I am quite certain, and I incline to the belief that his statements relative to Mr. C. were equally reliable.

            To speak frankly of the whole matter, I do not think that a “school of philosophy and occultism” composed of the advocates of that spiritualism which is but spookism, and that “Christian science”, which is the product of dogmatic theology and fallacious psychology, would be in any way a success. I do not know Mr. C. personally, but am well acquainted with many of his adherents here. Professor Roehrig[3] (formerly of the oriental chair at Cornell) has had to leave the city, to work in a real-estate office in a neighboring town, not being able to earn a living here as a philologist. If the three or four members of the Theosophical Society who began the study of Sanskrit with him all became discouraged and abandoned their inchoate pursuit of “oriental literature and philosophy” before mastering the Devanagari alphabet, save Miss Off, who came to grief amid the samadhi rules. Such a school of philosophy could be successfully organized by an association of competent classical scholars, but the true mystic and philosopher is usually as impecunious as Sokrates. Doubtless, as number of scholars will spring up in the next generation or so; and in time the mysteries be taught as in ancient Greece; but that will hardly come in one day. Personally I know of but one place where the mysteries are indeed taught, and that is an ancient, half-ruined temple amid the inaccessible mountains of a “heathen” land. That I may some day be esteemed worthy to enter there is the hope of my life. Meantime, the childish antics of these people, playing blind-man’s-buff with shadows, make me sad at heart.

            If Dr. Wagner is interested in the advancement of mind-cure and Spiritualism,[4] this movement might call for his support. If he desires to aid in founding an institution for the sober study of greek and Oriental philosophy and the occult sciences, this project would not interest him.

            Yours very Truly,

            Jas. M Pryse.

Los Angeles

 May 17, 1888

Dear Friend:

             Enclosed please find the conclusion of the articles on Welsh Druidism.[5] The few lines from Taliesin’s prophetic ode are printed, to avoid the liability of typographical errors. Have the printer set it in pica, with the interlined translation in nonpareil, in the style of Silver’s classics.

            Relative to seeing fairies, etc., it is quite easy to awaken the clairvoyant faculty and attain practical knowledge of magnetic forces, but it is extremely dangerous to do so—Of this I can speak from experience. Motive, the polarity of the soul, is the one important study for occultists. And in purifying our motives there seems to be no more “sweetness and light” than may be encountered in clearing underground sewers. Thus at times when the would-be occultist is expecting words of commendation for his good qualities he is liable instead to be flayed alive for his faults. Ah! The agony and heart-ache we must endure before the brute within us is slain! And so vile has humanity become that one sees more demons than fairies in the psychic world in these degenerate days. Have you ever had the night-marish experience of meeting one of these things? The abject terror they inspire is more awful than the tortures of the inquisition. I have had this experience but a half-dozen or so times since childhood.

            I have an invitation to work for and with certain occultists in England,[6] which poverty and duties toward relatives preclude my accepting, but I hope to make arrangements to visit England and Wales for a short time during the latter part of this year.

            Yours very truly,

            Jas. M. Pryse

[1]W.J. Colville (1862-1917) was a spiritualist and mind curer who authored nine books, including three novels, on spiritualist and occult themes, but never created the mind cure sanitarium in California to which Pryse refers.

[2] It is unclear if this is the letter Pryse was writing.

[3] Frederick Louis Roehrig (1857-1948), an orientalist scholar who was also an acquaintance of Louise Off.

[4] This is the only reference in our letters to Henry Wagner’s interest in mind cure and spiritualism.

[5] This was published in several issues of the Platonist in 1888 under the title “Druidism and Popular Welsh Occultism.”

[6] Whom these “certain occultists in England” were exactly is unclear, but it was around this time that the occult organization called the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn—which had many of England’s prominent occultists as members—was formed. It is also possible, in light of Pryse’s invitation from Blavatsky, which led him to relocate to England in 1889 to form the H.P.B. Press, that this possibly refers to earlier overtures from Theosophists in London.