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“Moments With Friends” is a Q & A feature of The Word magazine. Between 1906 and 1916, the following questions were posed by readers of The Word and answered by Mr. Percival. The dates below are links to individual PDFs where all of these original questions and answers are reproduced unabridged. To preserve historical authenticity, any typographical errors have been retained along with the punctuation usage popular during that time.

Click on the highlighted dates below to access the answers to each of the questions listed under that date.

MARCH 1906

How can we tell what we have been in our last incarnation?


Can we tell how many times we were born before?


Are we conscious between our reincarnations?


What are the theosophical views of Adam’s and Eve’s reincarnations?


What is the length of the time appointed between reincarnations, if there is any specified time?


Do we change our personality when we return to earth?

APRIL 1906

Does a Theosophist believe in superstitions?


What basis is there for the superstition that one born with a "caul" may possess some psychic faculty or occult power?


If a thought may be transmitted to the mind of another, why is this not done as accurately and with as much intelligence as ordinary conversation is carried on?


Have we anything which is analogous to the process of thought transference?


How can we converse by thought intelligently?


Is it right to read the thoughts of others whether they would that we should or not?

MAY 1906

Why is it better to have the body cremated after death instead of having it buried?


Is there any truth in the stories that we read or hear about, concerning vampires and vampirism?


What is the reason of the sudden death of people whether young or in the prime of life, when it would appear that many years of usefulness and growth, mental and physical, are before them?


If the astral arm, leg, or other member of the body is not severed when the physical member is amputated, why is the astral body not able to reproduce another physical arm or leg?

JUNE 1906

Is a Theosophist a vegetarian or a meat eater?


How can a real theosophist consider himself a theosophist and still eat meat when we know that the desires of the animal are transferred from the flesh of the animal to the body of the one who eats it?


Is it not true that the yogis of India, and men of divine attainments, live on vegetables, and if so, should not those who would develop themselves avoid meat and also live on vegetables?


What effect does the eating of vegetables have on the body of man, as compared with the eating of meat?

JULY 1906

How can vegetarianism prevent concentration of the mind when vegetarianism has been advised in order to attain concentration?

OCTOBER 1906

What is the exact meaning of the term elementals, used in so many connections by theosophists and occultists?


What is meant by the “human elemental”? Is there any difference between it and the lower mind?


Is there an elemental controlling the desires, another controlling the vital forces, another controlling the bodily functions, or does the human elemental control all these?


Does the same elemental control both the conscious acts and the unconscious functions of the body?


Are elementals in general evolving entities, and will they all or any of them in the course of evolution become men?

NOVEMBER 1906

Is it really possible for one to see into the future?


Is it not possible for one to see actual occurrences of the past and occurrences as they will be in the future as clearly and distinctly as he sees the present?


How is it possible for one to see clairvoyantly when such seeing is opposed to all our experience?


What are the organs used in clairvoyance, and how is one’s vision transferred from the objects near at hand to those at great distances, and from the known visible to the unknown invisible?


Can an occultist look into the future whenever he so wills, and does he use a clairvoyant faculty to do it?


If an occultist can pierce the veil why do not occultists, individually or collectively benefit from their knowledge of coming events?


What is the “third eye” and does the clairvoyant and the occultist use it?


Who uses the pineal gland, and what is the object of its use?


How does the third eye or pineal gland open, and what happens at such opening?

DECEMBER 1906

Does Christmas have any particular meaning to a theosophist, and if so, what?


Is it probable that Jesus was an actual person, and that he was born on Christmas Day?


If Jesus was an actual man why is it that we have no more historical record of the birth or life of such a man than the bible statement?


Why do they call this, the 25th of December, Christmas instead of Jesusmass or Jesusday, or by some other name?


Is there an esoteric way of understanding the birth and life of Jesus?


You spoke of Christ as a principle. Do you make a distinction between Jesus, and Christ?


What particular reason is there for celebrating the 25th day of December as being that of the birth of Jesus?


If it is possible for a human being to become a Christ, how is it accomplished and how is it connected with the 25th day of December?

MARCH 1907

Is it wrong to use mental instead of physical means to cure physical ills?


Is it right to attempt to cure physical ills by mental treatment?


If it is right to cure physical ills by mental means, providing the physical ills have a mental origin, why is it wrong for a mental or christian scientist to cure those ills by mental treatment?


Why is it wrong for mental scientists to receive money for the treatment of physical or mental ills while physicians charge their regular fees?


Why is it not right for a mental scientist to receive money for the treatment of disease when he devotes all his time to this work and must have money to live?


How can nature provide for one who really desires to benefit others, but who has no means of supporting himself?


Are the christian and mental scientists not doing good if they effect cures where physicians fail?


What criterion have we as to what mental requirements a mental scientist should have?


In what way does the ability to follow one’s own or another’s mental operations, and to truly see causes, disprove the claims of mental and christian scientists?


What are the results of the acceptance and practice of the teachings of the christian or mental scientists?


Why are so many mental healers prosperous if they do not effect cures, and if they are not what they represented themselves to be, would their patients not discover the fact?


Did not Jesus and many of the saints cure physical ills by mental means and if so was it wrong?


If it is wrong to receive money for curing physical ills by mental processes, or for giving “science teaching,” is it not also wrong for a school teacher to receive money for instructing pupils in any of the branches of learning?

OCTOBER 1907

(In a letter to the editor, the March 1907 “Moments with Friends” is critiqued, followed by a response from Mr. Percival.—Ed.)

NOVEMBER 1907

The Christian says that Man has a Body, Soul and Spirit. The Theosophist says that Man has Seven Principles. In a few words what are these Seven Principles?


In a few words can you tell me what takes place at death?


Most spiritualists claim that at their seances the souls of the departed appear and converse with friends. Theosophists say that this is not the case; that what is seen is not the soul but the shell, spook or desire body which the soul has discarded. Who is correct?


If the soul of man may be held a prisoner after death by its desire body, why may not this soul appear at seances and why is it wrong to say that it does not appear and converse with the sitters?


If the appearances at seances are only the shells, spooks or desire bodies, which have been discarnated by the human souls after death, why is it that they are able to communicate with the sitters on a subject known only to the person concerned, and why is it that the same subject will be brought up over and over again?


The fact cannot be denied that spirits do sometimes tell the truth and also give advice which if followed will result to the benefit of all concerned. How can the theosophist, or any other opposed to spiritualism, deny or explain away these facts?

MARCH 1908

If it is true that none but shells, spooks and entities devoid of manas appear, according to theosophical teachings, at seances, whence comes the information and teachings of a philosophical and often theosophical nature, which some mediums have undoubtedly received?


Do the dead work individually or collectively to attain a certain end?


How do the dead eat, if at all? What sustains their life?


Do the dead wear clothes?


Do the dead live in houses?


Do the dead sleep?

MAY 1908

Do the dead live in families, in communities, and if so is there a government?


Is there a punishment or reward for the deeds done by the dead, either while in life or after death?


Do the dead acquire knowledge?


Do the dead know what is going on in this world?


How do you explain cases where the dead have appeared either in dreams, or to people who were awake, and have announced that death of certain persons, generally other members of the family, was near?


Are the dead attracted to members of what was their family while on earth, and do they watch over them; say a departed mother over her young children?


In the world of the dead is there the same sun and moon and stars as in our world?


Is it possible for the dead to influence the living without the knowledge of the living, by suggesting thoughts or deeds?

JUNE 1908

Does anyone know where the centre is around which our sun and its planets seem to be revolving? I have read that it might be Alcyone or Sirius.


What makes one’s heart beat; is it the vibration of waves from the sun, also what about breathing?


What is the relation between the heart and the sex functions—also the breathing?


How much does the moon have to do with man and other life on the earth?


Does the sun or the moon regulate or govern the catamenial period? If not, what does?

JULY 1908

Can you tell me anything about the nature of fire or flame? It has always seemed a most mysterious thing. I can get no satisfactory information from scientific books.


What is the cause of great conflagrations, such as prairie fires and fires that seem to spring simultaneously from different parts of a city, and what is spontaneous combustion?


How are such metals as gold, copper and silver formed?

AUGUST 1908

Do you believe in astrology as a science? If so, how far is it to be considered as relating to human life and interests?


Why does the moment of birth into the physical world influence the destiny of the ego for that incarnation?


How does the moment of birth determine one’s destiny in the world?


How do the influences at birth, or one’s destiny, cooperate with the karma of the ego?


Are the planetary influences employed to administer human karma, or fate? If so, where does free will come in?

DECEMBER 1908

Why is it sometimes said that Jesus was one of the saviours of mankind and that the peoples of antiquity had also their saviours, instead of saying he was The Saviour of the world, as is held by all Christendom?


Can you tell us if there are any people who celebrate the birth of their saviours on or around the twenty-fifth day of December (at the time that the sun is said to enter the sign Capricorn?


It is said by some that the birth of Christ is a spiritual birth. If this is so, why is it that Christmas is celebrated for the physical body by the eating and drinking, in a material way, which is the very opposite of our conceptions of spirituality?


In “Moments with Friends,” of Vol. 4, page 189, it is said Christmas means “The birth of the invisible sun of light, the Christ Principle,” which, as it continues, “Should be born within man.” If this is so, does it follow that the physical birth of Jesus was also on the twenty-fifth of December?


If Jesus or Christ did not live and teach as he is supposed to have done, how is it that such an error could have prevailed for so many centuries and should prevail today?


Do you mean to say that the history of Christianity is nothing but a fable, that the life of Christ is a myth, and that for nearly 2,000 years the world has been believing in a myth?

MARCH 1909

If astral intelligences are capable of seeing through matter, why is it that no spirit control of a medium is able to meet the now famous orange counting test?


What explanation can Theosophy offer for the terrific earthquakes which so frequently occur, and which may destroy thousands of people?

JUNE 1909

What is a divine incarnation or incarnation of the Supreme Being?


What is the use or function of the pituitary body?


What is the use or function of the pineal gland?


What is the use or function of the spleen?


What is the use or function of the thyroid gland?

JULY 1909

Have animals minds and do they think?


Will any evil influence be brought to human beings by the presence of domestic animals?

AUGUST 1909

Is there any ground for the claim of those who say that the souls of departed men incarnate in birds or animals?


Can you explain more fully how the different thoughts of man act on the matter of the physical world so as to produce different kinds of animals such as the lion, bear, peacock, rattlesnake?

(This question refers to Percival’s editorial Thought.—Ed.)

SEPTEMBER 1909

Can one look inside his body and see the workings of the different organs, and if so how can this be done?

OCTOBER 1909

In what essential points does the astral world differ from the spiritual? These terms are often used interchangeably in books and magazines dealing with these subjects, and this use is apt to confuse the mind of the reader.


Is each organ of the body an intelligent entity or does it do its work automatically?


If each organ or part of the physical body is represented in the mind, then why does an insane person not lose the use of his body when he loses the use of his mind?

NOVEMBER 1909

It does not seem reasonable that two or more contradictory opinions can be right concerning any truth. Why are there so many opinions concerning some problems or things? How then shall we be able to tell which opinion is right and what the truth is?

DECEMBER 1909

Why are precious stones assigned to certain months of the year? Is this caused by anything else than the fancy of people?


Has a diamond or other precious stone a value other than that which is represented by the standard of money? and, if so, on what does the value of a diamond or other such stone depend?

JANUARY 1910

Does the spirit act with man and what are spiritual beings?

FEBRUARY 1910

Is there not a belief that the Atlanteans could fly? If so, where is such belief stated?


Are the individuals who are trying to solve the problem of aerial navigation, reincarnated Atlanteans?


If the Atlanteans had solved the problem of aerial navigation, and if those who are now concerned with the same problem were Atlanteans, then why have these individuals not reincarnated since the sinking of Atlantis and before the present time, and if they have reincarnated before the present age, why have they not been able to master the air or to fly before the present time?

MARCH 1910

Are we or are we not in union with atma-buddhi?


Is it not true that all that we can become is already in us and that all we have to do is to become conscious of it?

APRIL 1910

Is darkness the absence of light, or is it something separate in itself and which takes the place of light? If they are distinct and separate, what is darkness and what is light?


What is radium and how is it possible for it to throw off continuously a great energy without any apparent waste and loss of its own power and body, and what is the source of its great radioactivity?

MAY 1910

Is it possible to develop a new species of vegetable, fruit or plant, totally different and distinct from any other known species? If so, how is it done?

JUNE 1910

Is it possible and is it right to look into the future and predict future events?

JULY 1910

Is it possible to put a thought out of the mind? If so, how is this done; how can one prevent its recurrence and keep it out of the mind?

AUGUST 1910

Does the belonging to Secret Societies have the effect of retarding or advancing the mind in its evolution?


Is it possible to get something for nothing? Why do people try to get something for nothing? How do people who appear to get something for nothing, have to pay for what they get?

SEPTEMBER 1910

What are the essential differences between Theosophy and New Thought?


What is the cause of cancer? Is there any known cure for it or will some method of treatment have to be discovered before its cure can be effected?

OCTOBER 1910

Why is a snake regarded so differently by different people? Sometimes a snake is spoken of as the representative of evil, at other times as the symbol of wisdom. Why does man possess such an inherent fear of snakes?


Is there any truth in the stories that the Rosicrucians had ever burning lamps? If so, how were they made, what purpose did they serve, and can they be made and used now?

MAY 1912

Why is the eagle used as an emblem of various nations?


Does the double headed eagle now used as the national emblem of some countries, and which is found on the monuments of the ancient Hittites of Biblical times, allude to the androgynous condition of man?

JUNE 1912

At the four quarters and half quarters of the circle on the Masonic Keystone of the Royal Arch Chapter are the letters H. T. W. S. S. T. K. S. Have they any relation of the Zodiac, and what do their positions around the circle indicate?

JULY 1912

What Is Taste In Food?


Has taste in food any value as nourishment apart from the food?

OCTOBER 1912

How can one protect himself against the lies or slander of others?

NOVEMBER 1912

How do the hibernating animals live without food and apparently without air during their long periods of hibernation?


Can an animal with lungs live without breathing? If so, how does it live?


Does science recognize any law by which man can live without food and air; if so, have men so lived, and what is the law?

DECEMBER 1912

Why is time divided as it is?

JANUARY 1913

Has time in its divisions into years, months, weeks, days, hours, minutes and seconds any correspondence with the physiological or other processes in the human body? If so, what are the correspondences?

FEBRUARY 1913

Can a man live through, finish the tasks of, and die to more than one life during his allotted span of years on this earth?

MARCH 1913

Can elementary matter, by magical processes, be brought into concrete form by means of the hands; if so, what particular form can be produced and how is it done?


How should the hands be used in the healing of one’s own physical body or any part of the body?

APRIL 1913

What is necessary for growth in devotion?


What is the nature of incense, and how long has it been in use?


Are any benefits derived from the burning of incense, during meditation?


Are the effects of incense burning observable on any of the planes?

MAY 1913

What colors, metals and stones are attributed to the seven planets?


Should the wearing of colors, metals and stones be determined by the aspect of that planet under which the wearer was born?


Have the colors, metals and stones any special virtues, and how can they be worn without regard to the planets?


What letters or numbers are attached or ascribed to the planets?

JUNE 1913

Is man a microcosm of the macrocosm, the universe in miniature? If so, the planets and the visible stars must be represented within him. Where are they located?


What is meant by health in general? If it is the equilibrium of man’s physical, mental and spiritual strength, then how is the balance maintained?

JULY 1913

Is it best for a man to leave his physical body unconsciously, that the soul may enter its dream state?


What height do souls reach who leave their physical bodies consciously and who remain conscious after death?

AUGUST 1913

Please give a definition of immortality and state briefly how immortality can be attained?


Are man’s likes and dislikes reflections of his own soul? If so, how are they reflected? If not, whence come these likes and dislikes?

SEPTEMBER 1913

Is it best that a man should suppress his sexual desires, and should he strive to live a life of celibacy?

OCTOBER 1913

What is the rationale of the doctrine of the atonement, and how can it be reconciled with the law of karma?

NOVEMBER 1913

What is laughter, and why do people laugh?

APRIL 1915

What is the relation between magnetism and gravitation, and how do they differ, if at all? And what is the relation between magnetism and animal magnetism, and how do they differ, if at all?


How are cures effected by animal magnetism?

MAY 1915

Are animal magnetism, mesmerism, and hypnotism related, and if so, how are they related?


How can animal magnetism be activated, and to what use can it be put?

JUNE 1915

What is the sense of smell; how does it act; do physical particles engage in the production of the sensation, and what part does smelling play in living?


What is the imagination? How can it be cultivated and used?

JULY 1915

What is disease and what connection have bacteria with it?


What is cancer and can it be cured, and if it can be cured, what is the cure?

AUGUST 1915

What is a good way to connect the states of waking and dreaming so that there is no interval during which the sleeper is unconscious?

SEPTEMBER 1915

What urges us to proselytize for our opinions? To what extent are we allowed to oppose our opinions to those of others?

OCTOBER 1915

How is it that problems which have baffled all efforts and seem impossible of solution during waking hours should be solved during sleep or immediately on waking?

NOVEMBER 1915

What is memory?

DECEMBER 1915

What causes loss of memory?


What causes one to forget his own name or where he lives, though his memory may not be impaired in other respects?

JANUARY 1916

What is usually meant by the term "Soul" and how should the term Soul be used?

JUNE 1916

Is not the Theosophical doctrine of our suffering on earth as karmic retribution, on a par with the Theological statement of our suffering as a retribution in hell, in that both assertions have to be accepted on faith merely; and, further, one is about as good as the other to produce moral goodness?