G. T. Fechner

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Gustav Theodor Fechner (April 19, 1801 – November 18, 1887), was a German experimental psychologist interested in Spiritualism.

Mahatama Letters reference

Gustav Theodor Fechner may have been the "G. H. Fechner" mentioned by Master K.H. in one of his letters:

I may answer you, what I said to G. H. Fechner one day, when he wanted to know the Hindu view on what he had written — "You are right; . . . 'every diamond, every crystal, every plant and star has its own individual soul, besides man and animal . . .' and, 'there is a hierarchy of souls from the lowest forms of matter up to the World Soul' . . ."[1]

The ideas quoted in this Letter had been reported in the The N. Y. Nation, as follows:

He endeavors to make out that every diamond, every crystal, every plant, planet, and star has its own individual soul, besides man and animals; that there is a hierarchy of souls from the lowest forms of matter up to the world-soul--a sort of eclectic, semi-pantheistic nondescript; and that the spirits of the departed hold psychic communication with souls that are still connected with a human frame.[2]

When Prof. Fechner was asked about having met a Hindu at Leipzig, he said he did, although clarified that the name of the Hindu concerned was Nisi Kanta Chattopadhyaya, not Koot Hoomi. Some Theosophists thought this was a pseudonym used by Master K.H. However, this was not the case, according to Charles J. Ryan in an article published in The Canadian Theosophist[3]

See also Koot Hoomi: Education in Europe for more about Fechner.

Review by William James

William James wrote an insightful article about the philosophy of G. T. Fechner, entitled "The Doctrine of the Earth-Soul and of Beings Intermediate Between Man and God." This review of the article appeared in The Theosophic Messenger in 1909:

An account of the philosophy of G. T. Fechner... outlines Fechner's standing as a scientist, and introduces him also in his lesser-known role of a transcendental philosopher. Fechner reckoned our habit of regarding the spiritual not as a rule but as an exception in the midst of Nature, the original sin of both popular and scientific thought. He himself consistently maintained the opposite view, supporting it by a wonderful number and variety of analogies, with the fundamental conclusion that the constitution of the world is the same throughout, and that as we conceive the consciousness of the individual, so we must conceive a consciousness of a higher and higher order in an indefinite series. The supposition of an earth consciousness he seeks to maintain by reviewing the characteristic marks of superiority which we have been in the habit of associating with the consciousness of man, and by pointing out, through analogy, the entire propriety of assuming these in still more perfect degree as part of the earth-soul: independent of other external beings is no less characteristic of the earth than of the human individual; complexity in unity, in the case of the earth, exceeds that of any other organism; development from within is no less its characteristic mode than that of man himself; while in individuality of type and indifference from other beings of its type, the earth is extraordinarily distinct. Fechner continues a most brilliant handling of this subject through several different volumes, from all of which Professor James has taken the most illuminating extracts, all making, however, for this one conclusion, namely, the criticism that ordinary transcendentalism of the more modern type leaves everything intermediary out. Where Fechner saw unlimited gradations in consciousness, "it recognizes only the extremes, as if after the first rude face of the phenomenal world in all its particularity, nothing but the supreme in all its perfection could be found. First, you and I, just as we are in our places; and the moment we get below that surface, the unutterable Absolute itself! Doesn't this show a singularly indigent imagination? Isn't this brave universe made on a richer pattern, with room in it for a long hierarchy of beings? Materialistic science makes it infinitely richer in terms, with its molecules and aether, and electrons, and what not. Absolute idealism, thinking of reality only under intellectual forms, know not what to do with bodies of any grade, and can make no use of any psychophysical analogy or correspondence The resultant thinness is startling when compared with the thickness and articulation of such a universe as Fechner paints. * * * [sic] One of my reasons for printing this article has been to make the thinness of current trancendentalism appear more evident by an effect of contrast. Scholasticism ran thick; Hegel himself ran thick; but English and American transcendentalism run thin. If philosophy is more a matter of passionate vision than of logic - and I believe it is, logic only finding reasons for the vision afterwards - must not such thinness come, either from the vision being defective in the disciples, or from their passion, matched with Fechner's or with Hegel's own passion, being as moonlight unto sunlight or as water unto wine?"[4]

Writings

On Life After Death. Chicago: The Open Court Publishing Company, 1917. 3rd edition.

Additional resources

  • James, William. "The Doctrine of the Earth-Soul and of Beings Intermediate Between Man and God." Hibbert Journal VII (January, 1909), 278.
  1. Theosophy Wiki Mahatma Letter No. 18, pages 13-14.
  2. The N. Y. Nation, Oct. 2, 1879, p. 229.
  3. Charles J. Ryan, "An Important Correction" The Canadian Theosophist (December 15, 1936), 326-329. See also Cox's work, Who Wrote the March-Hare Attack on the Mahatma Letters? Victoria, British Columbia, Canada: H.P.B. Library, 1936, reprinted here at the Blavatsky Archives website.
  4. "Current Literature" The Theosophic Messenger 10.6 (March, 1909), 259-260. Review of article by William James, "The Doctrine of the Earth-Soul and of Beings Intermediate Between Man and God" Hibbert Journal VII (January, 1909), 278. See Internet Archive for Hibbert Journal VII.