William Eglinton

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William Eglinton

William Eglinton (1857-1933) was a young English medium who went to India with the avowed purpose of investigating Theosophy. After he had studied a few years, Mahatma K.H. visited him in his Māyāvi-Rūpa (or thought-body) on board a ship, and they had a long conversation. According to Readers Guide to The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett:

Apparently he was an excellent medium but had a number of personal weaknesses. There are indications that KH [Koot Hoomi] intended to bring him to Simla for a period of training so that he could be used in their work, but that after his arrival in Calcutta, KH decided against this and left him there. After a while, Eglinton became disappointed and returned to England in mid-March of 1882 aboard the ship Vega. While he was at sea, KH appeared to him in what is generally referred to as the "Vega Incident." The Mahatmas did not let him join the TS. ML index; D, pp. 185, 199-200; OW, pp. 192-95; LBS, pp 3, 21, 24.[1]

Early life

Eglinton was born on July 10, 1875 , in Islington, North London, England. His mother was from a family of London merchants, while his father was of Scottish descent.

William's education was quite sketchy... as his father evidently had decided to have him pursue a business career. from school he passed into a well-known publishing house of a relative, where he did not stay long, as his psychic gifts were soon to be discovered.

As a boy, he was extremely imaginative, as well as dreamy and sensitive, but, unlike so many other great mediums, he showed no indications of the outstanding power which afterwards became the hallmark of the young man.

He father in early life had renounced Christianity, becoming an Agnostic. His mother, on the other hand, was distinguished by a sweet, gentle piety, and "between the two" he writes, "I was puzzled both ways, and was practically left to solve the problems of life and religious teaching for myself, the result being the acceptance of materialistic notions, and the doctrine of total annihilation."[2]

Eglinton as spiritualist

After the death of his dear mother in 1873,

William entered the family "circle" by means of which his father was investigating the phenomena of Spiritualism. Up to that time the circle had obtained no results, but when the boy joined it the table rose steadily from the floor, until the sitters had to stand to keep their hands on it. Questions were answered to the satisfaction of those present. The following evening another sitting was held, during which the young lad passed into a trance for the first time. Communications were received which allegedly came from his dead mother. His mediumship now began to develop very rapidly and he reluctantly decided to become a professional medium. Finally, he had to adopt this course in 1875.

Eglinton with Abdullah

Eglinton soon became one of the most respected mediums of the day and apparently never resorted to trickery to produce phenomenal occurrences, which so any mediums found it expedient to do.

Early in 1881 Eglinton sailed for Calcutta, where he had some friends among whom was a wealthy merchant, J. G. Meugens, who received him as his guest. Eglinton soon became the center of the Spiritualists in that city, and a magazine called Psychic Notes was published for a short time, describing his séances and other psychic manifestations[3]

Eglinton worked as a secretary at Simla for a while, and then in a London publishing company. After that firm dissolved in 1883:

He turned once again to mediumship for a living, and began a career which spread his fame throughout the world. He gave séances at the home of Mr. Sam Ward, the uncle of the well-known writer of occult novels, F. Marion Crawford, whose book, Mr. Isaacs, dealt with the subject of the existence of the Mahâtmans. It was at Mr. Ward's home that he met A. P. Sinnett for the first time.

Many prominent members of the Society for Psychical Research attended his séances, among whom were E. Dawson Rogers, the Hon. Percy Wyndham, C. C. Massey, who had been one of the seventeen Founders of the Theosophical Society and the famous homeopath Dr. George Wyld, who figured in the early history of the T.S. [4]

C. W. Leadbeater on Eglinton

In the course of my inquiries into Spiritualism I had come into contact with most of the prominent mediums of that day, and had seen every one of the ordinary phenomena about which one reads in books upon that subject. One medium with whom I had much to do was Mr. Eglinton; and although I have heard stories told against him, I must bear witness that in all my own dealings with him I found him most straightforward, reasonable and courteous. He had various so-called controls - one a Red Indian girl who called herself Daisy, and chattered volubly on all occasions, appropriate or inappropriate. Another was a tall Arab, named Abdallah, considerably over six feet, who never said anything, but produced remarkable phenomema, and often exhibited feats showing great strength. I have seen him simultaneously lift two heavy men, one in each hand. A third control who frequently put in an appearance was Ernest; he comparatively rarely materialized, but frequently spoke with direct voice, and wrote a characteristic and well-educated hand.[5]

A. O. Hume on Eglinton

Allan Octavian Hume wrote about Eglinton and the Vega incident:

Mr. Eglinton, as every one will testify who had anything to do with him, is in every sense of the word a gentleman – rather sensitive and touchy no doubt, and rather too much impressed perhaps with a sense of the importance of his gift, but in all essentials as good a young fellow, I believe as is to be met with.[6]

Encounter with Mahatma K. H.

Eglinton received the visit of Mahatma K. H. when on board of the S. S. Vega, in what is known as "The Vega Incident". The Mahatma foretold A. P. Sinnett about this in a letter he wrote in March 1882:

For reasons that you will appreciate, though at first you will be inclined to consider (in regard to yourself) unjust, I am determined to do that, for once, which hitherto I have never done; namely, to personate myself under another form, and, perhaps — character. Therefore, you need not grudge Eglington [sic] the pleasure of seeing me personally, to talk with me, and — be "dumbfounded" by me, and with the results of my visit to him, on board, "The Vega." This will be done between the 21st and the 22nd of this month. . .[7]
It is important to notice in the above that the Master did not intend to appear in his real form. He explains this further by saying: "He will see somebody quite different from the real K.H., though it will still be K.H."[8] As to one of the reasons why Mahatma K. H. decided to this this, he explains in the same letter: "Theosophy and its adherents have to be vindicated at last."

When on board of the "S. S. Vega", Eglinton did receive the visit of the Master, and wrote the following account:

Shortly after leaving Colombo, about 10 or 10:30 in the evening, I was in my cabin which was on deck forward, preparing to turn in for the night, when what I thought to be a Hindoo servant appeared at the door. Speaking in Hindustani, I told him to go away, but to my surprise he replied to me in perfect English, and stepping forward, gave me the grip of a Master Mason. This astounded me, and I asked his name, when he replied that he was one of the Himalayan Brothers and had come from Thibet to prove that such beings really existed. I entered into a long talk with him, much of which I cannot detail for obvious reasons. He was a well-formed, distinct, living, human being, and I knew of no such person on board. He gave me such evidence as satisfied me he must be the much-talked-of Koot Hoomi lal Singh, and that there was no longer room for doubt.[9]

Notwithstanding this visit, Eglinton refused to accept the Theosophical theory that most spiritualistic manifestations are not due to the spirits of the departed. Eventually, he would reinterpret his experience in terms of his spiritualistic beliefs, as can be seen in an article published on January 30, 1886, where he recounts the Master's visit:

My more matured conclusions, arrived at, by the way, long before (as many of my friends are perfectly aware) the "Collapse of Koot Hoomi," regarding the "appearance" and the transmission of the letter, are: (1) That the figure I saw may have been a spontaneous materialisation of an unusual character, although it was unaccompanied by any sensation of fatigue on my part, there being no reason why it should not have been an "intelligence" or "spirit" of someone who dubbed himself "Koot Hoomi" (we know vanity is not entirely eliminated from those who have reached the higher life, as witness the large number of communications purporting to come from Shakespeare and others!); and (2) that the letter may, with every reason, have been taken by spiritual agency to India without the intervention of the "astral" aid of the Himalayan Adept, since at least thirty or forty letters had been similarly carried between England and India and vice versa during my residence in the latter country.[10]

Spirit guide "Ernest"

The first spirit guide William Eglinton had when he started his mediumistic practice was a spirit calling himself "Joey Sandy," who was able to materialize his white-robed form. Eighteen months later another guide, "Ernest," appeared, with the ability to materialize and also to transport objects.

Delivery of letters

Claims were made that Ernest was able to deliver objects between London and Calcutta:

According to the narrative of a Mr. Meugens, privately marked sheets of paper were whisked by the spirits to London and returned shortly after to Calcutta with the handwriting of a close friend describing how his room had been suddenly filled with light and how the spirit "Ernest" stood by and waited for the letter to carry it back. It was claimed that this happened on several occasions. Indeed, once Meugens asked that the ring of a Mrs. Fletcher, who was then in Tothill Fields Prison (in Meugens's belief unjustly convicted), be brought to him. The spirits complied. The ring could not be identified, but a few days later the spirits brought a letter in Fletcher's own handwriting telling Meugens that she had sent the ring.[11]

Ernest and C. W. Leadbeater

At a time when C. W. Leadbeater was investigating spiritualistic phenomena, he came across Mr. Sinnett's writings, and became interested in Theosophy and the Mahatmas. Below, is his report of a conversation with Ernest during a séance:

One day in conversation with him something was said in reference to the Masters of the Wisdom; Ernest spoke of Them with the most profound reverence, and said that he on various occasions had the privilege of seeing Them. I at once enquired whether he was prepared to take charge of any message or letter for Them, and he said that he would willingly do so, and would deliver it when opportunity offered, but he could not say exactly when that would be.

When Mr. Eglinton came out of his trance, I asked him how I could send a letter to Ernest, and he said at once that if I would let him have the letter he would put it in a certain box which hung against the wall, from which Ernest would take it when he wished.[12]

The letter was written, put in the box Mr. Eglinton kept for communications with the spirit guides, and after a few days the letter disappeared from the box. When asked about this, Ernest stated that it had been duly delivered. For over six months C. W. Leadbeater did not hear back from any of the Masters, until finally he received an answer from Mahatma K.H., who said:

Last spring – March the 3rd – you wrote a letter to me and entrusted it to “Ernest”. Tho' the paper itself never reached me – nor was it ever likely to, considering the nature of the messenger – its contents have.[13]

Regarding the nature of Ernest, C. W. Leadbeater remarked:

I may mention here that in connection with this I had later a good example of the unreliability of all such communications. Some considerable time afterwards some spiritualist wrote to Light explaining that there could not possibly be such persons as the Masters, because Ernest had positively told him that there were not. I wrote to the same newspaper to say that I had it on precisely the same valueless authority that there were Masters, and that Ernest knew Them well. In each case Ernest had evidently reflected the thought of the questioner, as such entities so often do.[14]

Later years

In the 1930s, Eglinton was editor of The New Age, and director of a firm of British exporters. He died on March 10, 1933.[15]

Additional resources


  1. George E. Linton and Virginia Hanson, eds., Readers Guide to The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett (Adyar, Chennai, India: Theosophical Publishing House, 1972), 219.
  2. Boris de Zirkoff, "Bibliography: Eglinton, William," H. P. Blavatsky Collected Writings 1881-1882 Volume III. (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1968), 503-504.
  3. Boris de Zirkoff, 504.
  4. Boris de Zirkoff, 504-505.
  5. Charles Webster Leadbeater, How Theosophy Came to Me (Adyar, Madras, India: Theosophical Publishing House, 1930), ???.
  6. A. O. Hume, Hints on Esoteric Philosophy No. 1 (Calcutta: Calcutta Central Press Co., 1882), 109.
  7. Vicente Hao Chin, Jr., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in chronological sequence No. 55 (Quezon City: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 151.
  8. Vicente Hao Chin, Jr., The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett in chronological sequence No. 55 (Quezon City: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 151.
  9. William Eglinton, Light (London: ????, June 24, 1882), 301-302.
  10. William Eglinton, Light (London: ????, January 30, 1886), 50-51.
  11. William Eglinton at Gale Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology
  12. Charles Webster Leadbeater, How Theosophy came unto me (???), ???
  13. Curuppumullage Jinarajadasa, Letters from the Masters of the Wisdom vol. 1, No. 6 (Adyar, Madras: Theosophical Publishing House, ???), ???.
  14. Charles Webster Leadbeater, How Theosophy came unto me (???), ???
  15. Boris de Zirkoff, 505.