C. W. LEADBEATER
THEOSOPHICAL PUBLISHING SOCIETY
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CHAPTER I. PAGE WHAT CLAIRVOYANCE IS. 5
CHAPTER II. SIMPLE CLAIRVOYANCE: FULL 29
CHAPTER III. SIMPLE CLAIRVOYANCE: PARTIAL 50
CHAPTER IV. CLAIRVOYANCE IN SPACE: INTENTIONAL 58
CHAPTER V. CLAIRVOYANCE IN SPACE: SEMI-INTENTIONAL 83
CHAPTER VI. CLAIRVOYANCE IN SPACE: UNINTENTIONAL 87
CHAPTER VII. CLAIRVOYANCE IN TIME: THE PAST 96
CHAPTER VIII. CLAIRVOYANCE IN TIME: THE FUTURE 131
CHAPTER IX. METHODS OF DEVELOPMENT 163
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WHAT CLAIRVOYANCE IS.
Clairvoyance means literally nothing more than "clear-seeing," and it is a word which has been sorely misused, and even degraded so far as to be employed to describe the trickery of a mountebank in a variety show. Even in its more restricted sense it covers a wide range of phenomena, differing so greatly in character that it is not easy to give a definition of the word which shall be at once succinct and accurate. It has been called "spiritual vision," but no rendering could well be more misleading than that, for in the vast majority of cases there is no faculty connected with it which has the slightest claim to be honoured by so lofty a name.
For the purpose of this treatise we may, perhaps, define it as the power to see what is hidden from ordinary physical sight. It will be as well to premise that it is very frequently (though by no means always) accompanied by what is called clairaudience, or the power to hear what would be inaudible to the ordinary physical ear; and we will for the nonce take our title as covering this faculty also, in order to avoid the clumsiness of perpetually using two long words where one will suffice.
Let me make two points clear before I begin. First, I am not writing for those who do not believe that there is such a thing as clairvoyance, nor am I seeking to convince those who are in doubt about the matter. In so small a work as this I have no space for that; such people must study the many books containing lists of cases, or make experiments for themselves along mesmeric lines. I am addressing myself to the better-instructed class who know that clairvoyance exists, and are sufficiently interested in the subject to be glad of information as to its methods and possibilities; and I would assure them that what I write is the result of much careful study and experiment, and that though some of the powers which I shall have to describe may seem new and wonderful to them, I mention no single one of which I have not myself seen examples.
Secondly, though I shall endeavour to avoid technicalities as far as possible, yet as I am writing in the main for students of Theosophy, I shall feel myself at liberty sometimes to use, for brevity's sake and without detailed explanation, the ordinary Theosophical terms with which I may safely assume them to be familiar.
Should this little book fall into the hands of any to whom the occasional use of such terms constitutes a difficulty, I can only apologize to them and refer them for these preliminary explanations to any elementary Theosophical work, such as Mrs. Besant's Ancient Wisdom or Man and His Bodies. The truth is that the whole Theosophical system hangs together so closely, and its various parts are so interdependent, that to give a full explanation of every term used would necessitate an exhaustive treatise on Theosophy as a preface even to this short account of clairvoyance.
Before a detailed explanation of clairvoyance can usefully be attempted, however, it will be necessary for us to devote a little time to some preliminary considerations, in order that we may have clearly in mind a few broad facts as to the different planes on which clairvoyant vision may be exercised, and the conditions which render its exercise possible.
We are constantly assured in Theosophical literature that all these higher faculties are presently to be the heritage of mankind in general—that the capacity of clairvoyance, for example, lies latent in every one, and that those in whom it already manifests itself are simply in that one particular a little in advance of the rest of us. Now this statement is a true one, and yet it seems quite vague and unreal to the majority of people, simply because they regard such a faculty as something absolutely different from anything they have yet experienced, and feel fairly confident that they themselves, at any rate, are not within measurable distance of its development.
It may help to dispel this sense of unreality if we try to understand that clairvoyance, like so many other things in nature, is mainly a question of vibrations, and is in fact nothing but an extension of powers which we are all using every day of our lives. We are living all the while surrounded by a vast sea of mingled air and ether, the latter inter-penetrating the former, as it does all physical matter; and it is chiefly by means of vibrations in that vast sea of matter that impressions reach us from the outside. This much we all know, but it may perhaps never have occurred to many of us that the number of these vibrations to which we are capable of responding is in reality quite infinitesimal.
Up among the exceedingly rapid vibrations which affect the ether there is a certain small section—a very small section—to which the retina of the human eye is capable of responding, and these particular vibrations produce in us the sensation which we call light. That is to say, we are capable of seeing only those objects from which light of that particular kind can either issue or be reflected.
In exactly the same way the tympanum of the human ear is capable of responding to a certain very small range of comparatively slow vibrations—slow enough to affect the air which surrounds us; and so the only sounds which we can hear are those made by objects which are able to vibrate at some rate within that particular range.
In both cases it is a matter perfectly well known to science that there are large numbers of vibrations both above and below these two sections, and that consequently there is much light that we cannot see, and there are many sounds to which our ears are deaf. In the case of light the action of these higher and lower vibrations is easily perceptible in the effects produced by the actinic rays at one end of the spectrum and the heat rays at the other.
As a matter of fact there exist vibrations of every conceivable degree of rapidity, filling the whole vast space intervening between the slow sound waves and the swift light waves; nor is even that all, for there are undoubtedly vibrations slower than those of sound, and a whole infinity of them which are swifter than those known to us as light. So we begin to understand that the vibrations by which we see and hear are only like two tiny groups of a few strings selected from an enormous harp of practically infinite extent, and when we think how much we have been able to learn and infer from the use of those minute fragments, we see vaguely what possibilities might lie before us if we were enabled to utilize the vast and wonderful whole.
Another fact which needs to be considered in this connection is that different human beings vary considerably, though within relatively narrow limits, in their capacity of response even to the very few vibrations which are within reach of our physical senses. I am not referring to the keenness of sight or of hearing that enables one man to see a fainter object or hear a slighter sound than another; it is not in the least a question of strength of vision, but of extent of susceptibility.
For example, if anyone will take a good bisulphide of carbon prism, and by its means throw a clear spectrum on a sheet of white paper, and then get a number of people to mark upon the paper the extreme limits of the spectrum as it appears to them, he is fairly certain to find that their powers of vision differ appreciably. Some will see the violet extending much farther than the majority do; others will perhaps see rather less violet than most, while gaining a corresponding extension of vision at the red end. Some few there will perhaps be who can see farther than ordinary at both ends, and these will almost certainly be what we call sensitive people—susceptible in fact to a greater range of vibrations than are most men of the present day.
In hearing, the same difference can be tested by taking some sound which is just not too high to be audible—on the very verge of audibility as it were—and discovering how many among a given number of people are able to hear it. The squeak of a bat is a familiar instance of such a sound, and experiment will show that on a summer evening, when the whole air is full of the shrill, needle-like cries of these little animals, quite a large number of men will be absolutely unconscious of them, and unable to hear anything at all.
Now these examples clearly show that there is no hard-and-fast limit to man's power of response to either etheric or aerial vibrations, but that some among us already have that power to a wider extent than others; and it will even be found that the same man's capacity varies on different occasions. It is therefore not difficult for us to imagine that it might be possible for a man to develop this power, and thus in time to learn to see much that is invisible to his fellow-men, and hear much that is inaudible to them, since we know perfectly well that enormous numbers of these additional vibrations do exist, and are simply, as it were, awaiting recognition.
The experiments with the Roentgen rays give us an example of the startling results which are produced when even a very few of these additional vibrations are brought within human ken, and the transparency to these rays of many substances hitherto considered opaque at once shows us one way at least in which we may explain such elementary clairvoyance as is involved in reading a letter inside a closed box, or describing those present in an adjoining apartment. To learn to see by means of the Roentgen rays in addition to those ordinarily employed would be quite sufficient to enable anyone to perform a feat of magic of this order.
So far we have thought only of an extension of the purely physical senses of man; and when we remember that a man's etheric body is in reality merely the finer part of his physical frame, and that therefore all his sense organs contain a large amount of etheric matter of various degrees of density, the capacities of which are still practically latent in most of us, we shall see that even if we confine ourselves to this line of development alone there are enormous possibilities of all kinds already opening out before us.
But besides and beyond all this we know that man possesses an astral and a mental body, each of which can in process of time be aroused into activity, and will respond in turn to the vibrations of the matter of its own plane, thus opening up before the Ego, as he learns to function through these vehicles, two entirely new and far wider worlds of knowledge and power. Now these new worlds, though they are all around us and freely inter-penetrate one another, are not to be thought of as distinct and entirely unconnected in substance, but rather as melting the one into the other, the lowest astral forming a direct series with the highest physical, just as the lowest mental in its turn forms a direct series with the highest astral. We are not called upon in thinking of them to imagine some new and strange kind of matter, but simply to think of the ordinary physical kind as subdivided so very much more finely and vibrating so very much more rapidly as to introduce us to what are practically entirely new conditions and qualities.
It is not then difficult for us to grasp the possibility of a steady and progressive extension of our senses, so that both by sight and by hearing we may be able to appreciate vibrations far higher and far lower than those which are ordinarily recognised. A large section of these additional vibrations will still belong to the physical plane, and will merely enable us to obtain impressions from the etheric part of that plane, which is at present as a closed book to us. Such impressions will still be received through the retina of the eye; of course they will affect its etheric rather than its solid matter, but we may nevertheless regard them as still appealing only to an organ specialized to receive them, and not to the whole surface of the etheric body.
There are some abnormal cases, however, in which other parts of the etheric body respond to these additional vibrations as readily as, or even more readily than, the eye. Such vagaries are explicable in various ways, but principally as effects of some partial astral development, for it will be found that the sensitive parts of the body almost invariably correspond with one or other of the chakrams, or centres of vitality in the astral body. And though, if astral consciousness be not yet developed, these centres may not be available on their own plane, they are still strong enough to stimulate into keener activity the etheric matter which they inter-penetrate.
When we come to deal with the astral senses themselves the methods of working are very different. The astral body has no specialized sense-organs—a fact which perhaps needs some explanation, since many students who are trying to comprehend its physiology seem to find it difficult to reconcile with the statements that have been made as to the perfect inter-penetration of the physical body by astral matter, the exact correspondence between the two vehicles, and the fact that every physical object has necessarily its astral counterpart.
Now all these statements are true, and yet it is quite possible for people who do not normally see astrally to misunderstand them. Every order of physical matter has its corresponding order of astral matter in constant association with it—not to be separated from it except by a very considerable exertion of occult force, and even then only to be held apart from it as long as force is being definitely exerted to that end. But for all that the relation of the astral particles one to another is far looser than is the case with their physical correspondences.
In a bar of iron, for example, we have a mass of physical molecules in the solid condition—that is to say, capable of comparatively little change in their relative positions, though each vibrating with immense rapidity in its own sphere. The astral counterpart of this consists of what we often call solid astral matter—that is, matter of the lowest and densest sub-plane of the astral; but nevertheless its particles are constantly and rapidly changing their relative position, moving among one another as easily as those of a liquid on the physical plane might do. So that there is no permanent association between any one physical particle and that amount of astral matter which happens at any given moment to be acting as its counterpart.
This is equally true with respect to the astral body of man, which for our purpose at the moment we may regard as consisting of two parts—the denser aggregation which occupies the exact position of the physical body, and the cloud of rarer astral matter which surrounds that aggregation. In both these parts, and between them both, there is going on at every moment of time the rapid inter-circulation of the particles which has been described, so that as one watches the movement of the molecules in the astral body one is reminded of the appearance of those in fiercely boiling water.
This being so, it will be readily understood that though any given organ of the physical body must always have as its counterpart a certain amount of astral matter, it does not retain the same particles for more than a few seconds at a time, and consequently there is nothing corresponding to the specialization of physical nerve-matter into optic or auditory nerves, and so on. So that though the physical eye or ear has undoubtedly always its counterpart of astral matter, that particular fragment of astral matter is no more (and no less) capable of responding to the vibrations which produce astral sight or astral hearing than any other part of the vehicle.
It must never be forgotten that though we constantly have to speak of "astral sight" or "astral hearing" in order to make ourselves intelligible, all that we mean by those expressions is the faculty of responding to such vibrations as convey to the man's consciousness, when he is functioning in his astral body, information of the same character as that conveyed to him by his eyes and ears while he is in the physical body. But in the entirely different astral conditions, specialized organs are not necessary for the attainment of this result; there is matter in every part of the astral body which is capable of such response, and consequently the man functioning in that vehicle sees equally well objects behind him, beneath him, above him, without needing to turn his head.
There is, however, another point which it would hardly be fair to leave entirely out of account, and that is the question of the chakrams referred to above. Theosophical students are familiar with the idea of the existence in both the astral and the etheric bodies of man of certain centres of force which have to be vivified in turn by the sacred serpent-fire as the man advances in evolution. Though these cannot be described as organs in the ordinary sense of the word, since it is not through them that the man sees or hears, as he does in physical life through eyes and ears, yet it is apparently very largely upon their vivification that the power of exercising these astral senses depends, each of them as it is developed giving to the whole astral body the power of response to a new set of vibrations.
Neither have these centres, however, any permanent collection of astral matter connected with them. They are simply vortices in the matter of the body—vortices through which all the particles pass in turn—points, perhaps, at which the higher force from planes above impinges upon the astral body. Even this description gives but a very partial idea of their appearance, for they are in reality four-dimensional vortices, so that the force which comes through them and is the cause of their existence seems to well up from nowhere. But at any rate, since all particles in turn pass through each of them, it will be clear that it is thus possible for each in turn to evoke in all the particles of the body the power of receptivity to a certain set of vibrations, so that all the astral senses are equally active in all parts of the body.
The vision of the mental plane is again totally different, for in this case we can no longer speak of separate senses such as sight and hearing, but rather have to postulate one general sense which responds so fully to the vibrations reaching it that when any object comes within its cognition it at once comprehends it fully, and as it were sees it, hears it, feels it, and knows all there is to know about it by the one instantaneous operation. Yet even this wonderful faculty differs in degree only and not in kind from those which are at our command at the present time; on the mental plane, just as on the physical, impressions are still conveyed by means of vibrations travelling from the object seen to the seer.
On the buddhic plane we meet for the first time with a quite new faculty having nothing in common with those of which we have spoken, for there a man cognizes any object by an entirely different method, in which external vibrations play no part. The object becomes part of himself, and he studies it from the inside instead of from the outside. But with this power ordinary clairvoyance has nothing to do.
The development, either entire or partial, of any one of these faculties would come under our definition of clairvoyance—the power to see what is hidden from ordinary physical sight. But these faculties may be developed in various ways, and it will be well to say a few words as to these different lines.
We may presume that if it were possible for a man to be isolated during his evolution from all but the gentlest outside influences, and to unfold from the beginning in perfectly regular and normal fashion, he would probably develop his senses in regular order also. He would find his physical senses gradually extending their scope until they responded to all the physical vibrations, of etheric as well as of denser matter; then in orderly sequence would come sensibility to the coarser part of the astral plane, and presently the finer part also would be included, until in due course the faculty of the mental plane dawned in its turn.
In real life, however, development so regular as this is hardly ever known, and many a man has occasional flashes of astral consciousness without any awakening of etheric vision at all. And this irregularity of development is one of the principal causes of man's extraordinary liability to error in matters of clairvoyance—a liability from which there is no escape except by a long course of careful training under a qualified teacher.
Students of Theosophical literature are well aware that there are such teachers to be found—that even in this materialistic nineteenth century the old saying is still true, that "when the pupil is ready, the Master is ready also," and that "in the hall of learning, when he is capable of entering there, the disciple will always find his Master." They are well aware also that only under such guidance can a man develop his latent powers in safety and with certainty, since they know how fatally easy it is for the untrained clairvoyant to deceive himself as to the meaning and value of what he sees, or even absolutely to distort his vision completely in bringing it down into his physical consciousness.
It does not follow that even the pupil who is receiving regular instruction in the use of occult powers will find them unfolding themselves exactly in the regular order which was suggested above as probably ideal. His previous progress may not have been such as to make this for him the easiest or most desirable road; but at any rate he is in the hands of one who is perfectly competent to be his guide in spiritual development, and he rests in perfect contentment that the way along which he is taken will be that which is the best way for him.
Another great advantage which he gains is that whatever faculties he may acquire are definitely under his command and can be used fully and constantly when he needs them for his Theosophical work; whereas in the case of the untrained man such powers often manifest themselves only very partially and spasmodically, and appear to come and go, as it were, at their own sweet will.
It may reasonably be objected that if clairvoyant faculty is, as stated, a part of the occult development of man, and so a sign of a certain amount of progress along that line, it seems strange that it should often be possessed by primitive peoples, or by the ignorant and uncultured among our own race—persons who are obviously quite undeveloped, from whatever point of view one regards them. No doubt this does appear remarkable at first sight but the fact is that the sensitiveness of the savage or of the coarse and vulgar European ignoramus is not really at all the same thing as the faculty of his properly trained brother, nor is it arrived at in the same way.
An exact and detailed explanation of the difference would lead us into rather recondite technicalities, but perhaps the general idea of the distinction between the two may be caught from an example taken from the very lowest plane of clairvoyance, in close contact with the denser physical. The etheric double in man is in exceedingly close relation to his nervous system, and any kind of action upon one of them speedily reacts on the other. Now in the sporadic appearance of etheric sight in the savage, whether of Central Africa or of Western Europe, it has been observed that the corresponding nervous disturbance is almost entirely in the sympathetic system, and that the whole affair is practically beyond the man's control—is in fact a sort of massive sensation vaguely belonging to the whole etheric body, rather than an exact and definite sense-perception communicated through a specialized organ.
As in later races and amid higher development the strength of the man is more and more thrown into the evolution of the mental faculties, this vague sensitiveness usually disappears; but still later, when the spiritual man begins to unfold, he regains his clairvoyant power. This time, however, the faculty is a precise and exact one, under the control of the man's will, and exercised through a definite sense-organ; and it is noteworthy that any nervous action set up in sympathy with it is now almost exclusively in the cerebro-spinal system.
On this subject Mrs. Besant writes:—"The lower forms of psychism are more frequent in animals and in very unintelligent human beings than in men and women in whom the intellectual powers are well developed. They appear to be connected with the sympathetic system, not with the cerebro-spinal. The large nucleated ganglionic cells in this system contain a very large proportion of etheric matter, and are hence more easily affected by the coarser astral vibrations than are the cells in which the proportion is less. As the cerebro-spinal system develops, and the brain becomes more highly evolved, the sympathetic system subsides into a subordinate position, and the sensitiveness to psychic vibrations is dominated by the stronger and more active vibrations of the higher nervous system. It is true that at a later stage of evolution psychic sensitiveness reappears, but it is then developed in connection with the cerebro-spinal centres, and is brought under the control of the will. But the hysterical and ill-regulated psychism of which we see so many lamentable examples is due to the small development of the brain and the dominance of the sympathetic system."
Occasional flashes of clairvoyance do, however, sometimes come to the highly cultured and spiritual-minded man, even though he may never have heard of the possibility of training such a faculty. In his case such glimpses usually signify that he is approaching that stage in his evolution when these powers will naturally begin to manifest themselves, and their appearance should serve as an additional stimulus to him to strive to maintain that high standard of moral purity and mental balance without which clairvoyance is a curse and not a blessing to its possessor.
Between those who are entirely unimpressible and those who are in full possession of clairvoyant power there are many intermediate stages. One to which it will be worth while to give a passing glance is the stage in which a man, though he has no clairvoyant faculty in ordinary life, yet exhibits it more or less fully under the influence of mesmerism. This is a case in which the psychic nature is already sensitive, but the consciousness is not yet capable of functioning in it amidst the manifold distractions of physical life. It needs to be set free by the temporary suspension of the outer senses in the mesmeric trance before it can use the diviner faculties which are but just beginning to dawn within it. But of course even in the mesmeric trance there are innumerable degrees of lucidity, from the ordinary patient who is blankly unintelligent to the man whose power of sight is fully under the control of the operator, and can be directed whithersoever he wills, or to the more advanced stage in which, when the consciousness is once set free, it escapes altogether from the grasp of the magnetizer, and soars into fields of exalted vision where it is entirely beyond his reach.
Another step along the same path is that upon which such perfect suppression of the physical as that which occurs in the hypnotic trance is not necessary, but the power of supernormal sight, though still out of reach during waking life, becomes available when the body is held in the bonds of ordinary sleep. At this stage of development stood many of the prophets and seers of whom we read, who were "warned of God in a dream," or communed with beings far higher than themselves in the silent watches of the night.
Most cultured people of the higher races of the world have this development to some extent: that is to say, the senses of their astral bodies are in full working order, and perfectly capable of receiving impressions from objects and entities of their own plane. But to make that fact of any use to them down here in the physical body, two changes are usually necessary; first, that the Ego shall be awakened to the realities of the astral plane, and induced to emerge from the chrysalis formed by his own waking thoughts, and look round him to observe and to learn; and secondly, that the consciousness shall be so far retained during the return of the Ego into his physical body as to enable him to impress upon his physical brain the recollection of what he has seen or learnt.
If the first of these changes has taken place, the second is of little importance, since the Ego, the true man, will be able to profit by the information to be obtained upon that plane, even though he may not have the satisfaction of bringing through any remembrance of it into his waking life down here.
Students often ask how this clairvoyant faculty will first be manifested in themselves—how they may know when they have reached the stage at which its first faint foreshadowings are beginning to be visible. Cases differ so widely that it is impossible to give to this question any answer that will be universally applicable.
Some people begin by a plunge, as it were, and under some unusual stimulus become able just for once to see some striking vision; and very often in such a case, because the experience does not repeat itself, the seer comes in time to believe that on that occasion he must have been the victim of hallucination. Others begin by becoming intermittently conscious of the brilliant colours and vibrations of the human aura; yet others find themselves with increasing frequency seeing and hearing something to which those around them are blind and deaf; others, again, see faces, landscapes, or coloured clouds floating before their eyes in the dark before they sink to rest; while perhaps the commonest experience of all is that of those who begin to recollect with greater and greater clearness what they have seen and heard on the other planes during sleep.
Having now to some extent cleared our ground, we may proceed to consider the various phenomena of clairvoyance.
They differ so widely both in character and in degree that it is not very easy to decide how they can most satisfactorily be classified. We might, for example, arrange them according to the kind of sight employed—whether it were mental, astral, or merely etheric. We might divide them according to the capacity of the clairvoyant, taking into consideration whether he was trained or untrained; whether his vision was regular and under his command, or spasmodic and independent of his volition; whether he could exercise it only when under mesmeric influence, or whether that assistance was unnecessary for him; whether he was able to use his faculty when awake in the physical body, or whether it was available only when he was temporarily away from that body in sleep or trance.
All these distinctions are of importance, and we shall have to take them all into consideration as we go on, but perhaps on the whole the most useful classification will be one something on the lines of that adopted by Mr. Sinnett in his Rationale of Mesmerism—a book, by the way, which all students of clairvoyance ought to read. In dealing with the phenomena, then, we will arrange them rather according to the capacity of the sight employed than to the plane upon which it is exercised, so that we may group instances of clairvoyance under some such headings as these:
1. Simple clairvoyance—that is to say, a mere opening of sight, enabling its possessor to see whatever astral or etheric entities happen to be present around him, but not including the power of observing either distant places or scenes belonging to any other time than the present.
2. Clairvoyance in space—the capacity to see scenes or events removed from the seer in space, and either too far distant for ordinary observation or concealed by intermediate objects.
3. Clairvoyance in time—that is to say, the capacity to see objects or events which are removed from the seer in time, or, in other words, the power of looking into the past or the future.
SIMPLE CLAIRVOYANCE: FULL.
We have defined this as a mere opening of etheric or astral sight, which enables the possessor to see whatever may be present around him on corresponding levels, but is not usually accompanied by the power of seeing anything at a great distance or of reading either the past or the future. It is hardly possible altogether to exclude these latter faculties, for astral sight necessarily has considerably greater extension than physical, and fragmentary pictures of both past and future are often casually visible even to clairvoyants who do not know how to seek specially for them; but there is nevertheless a very real distinction between such incidental glimpses and the definite power of projection of the sight either in space or time.
We find among sensitive people all degrees of this kind of clairvoyance, from that of the man who gets a vague impression which hardly deserves the name of sight at all, up to the full possession of etheric and astral vision respectively. Perhaps the simplest method will be for us to begin by describing what would be visible in the case of this fuller development of the power, as the cases of its partial possession will then be seen to fall naturally into their places.
Let us take the etheric vision first. This consists simply, as has already been said, in susceptibility to a far larger series of physical vibrations than ordinary, but nevertheless its possession brings into view a good deal to which the majority of the human race still remains blind. Let us consider what changes its acquisition produces in the aspect of familiar objects, animate and inanimate, and then see to what entirely new factors it introduces us. But it must be remembered that what I am about to describe is the result of the full and perfectly-controlled possession of the faculty only, and that most of the instances met with in real life will be likely to fall far short of it in one direction or another.
The most striking change produced in the appearance of inanimate objects by the acquisition of this faculty is that most of them become almost transparent, owing to the difference in wave-length of some of the vibrations to which the man has now become susceptible. He finds himself capable of performing with the utmost ease the proverbial feat of "seeing through a brick wall," for to his newly-acquired vision the brick wall seems to have a consistency no greater than that of a light mist. He therefore sees what is going on in an adjoining room almost as though no intervening wall existed; he can describe with accuracy the contents of a locked box, or read a sealed letter; with a little practice he can find a given passage in a closed book. This last feat, though perfectly easy to astral vision, presents considerable difficulty to one using etheric sight, because of the fact that each page has to be looked at through all those which happen to be superimposed upon it.
It is often asked whether under these circumstances a man sees always with this abnormal sight, or only when he wishes to do so. The answer is that if the faculty is perfectly developed it will be entirely under his control, and he can use that or his more ordinary vision at will. He changes from one to the other as readily and naturally as we now change the focus of our eyes when we look up from our book to follow the motions of some object a mile away. It is, as it were, a focussing of consciousness on the one or the other aspect of what is seen; and though the man would have quite clearly in his view the aspect upon which his attention was for the moment fixed, he would always be vaguely conscious of the other aspect too, just as when we focus our sight upon any object held in our hands we yet vaguely see the opposite wall of the room as a background.
Another curious change, which comes from the possession of this sight, is that the solid ground upon which the man walks becomes to a certain extent transparent to him, so that he is able to see down into it to a considerable depth, much as we can now see into fairly clear water. This enables him to watch a creature burrowing underground, to distinguish a vein of coal or of metal if not too far below the surface, and so on.
The limit of etheric sight when looking through solid matter appears to be analogous to that imposed upon us when looking through water or mist. We cannot see beyond a certain distance, because the medium through which we are looking is not perfectly transparent.
The appearance of animate objects is also considerably altered for the man who has increased his visual powers to this extent. The bodies of men and animals are for him in the main transparent, so that he can watch the action of the various internal organs, and to some extent diagnose some of their diseases.
The extended sight also enables him to perceive, more or less clearly, various classes of creatures, elemental and otherwise, whose bodies are not capable of reflecting any of the rays within the limit of the spectrum as ordinarily seen. Among the entities so seen will be some of the lower orders of nature-spirits—those whose bodies are composed of the denser etheric matter. To this class belong nearly all the fairies, gnomes, and brownies, about whom there are still so many stories remaining among Scotch and Irish mountains and in remote country places all over the world.
The vast kingdom of nature-spirits is in the main an astral kingdom, but still there is a large section of it which appertains to the etheric part of the physical plane, and this section, of course, is much more likely to come within the ken of ordinary people than the others. Indeed, in reading the common fairy stories one frequently comes across distinct indications that it is with this class that we are dealing. Any student of fairy lore will remember how often mention is made of some mysterious ointment or drug, which when applied to a man's eyes enables him to see the members of the fairy commonwealth whenever he happens to meet them.
The story of such an application and its results occurs so constantly and comes from so many different parts of the world that there must certainly be some truth behind it, as there always is behind really universal popular tradition. Now no such anointing of the eyes alone could by any possibility open a man's astral vision, though certain ointments rubbed over the whole body will very greatly assist the astral body to leave the physical in full consciousness—a fact the knowledge of which seems to have survived even to mediaeval times, as will be seen from the evidence given at some of the trials for witchcraft. But the application to the physical eye might very easily so stimulate its sensitiveness as to make it susceptible to some of the etheric vibrations.
The story frequently goes on to relate how when the human being who has used this mystical ointment betrays his extended vision in some way to a fairy, the latter strikes or stabs him in the eye, thus depriving him not only of the etheric sight, but of that of the denser physical plane as well. (See The Science of Fairy Tales, by E. S. Hartland, in the "Contemporary Science" series—or indeed almost any extensive collection of fairy stories.) If the sight acquired had been astral, such a proceeding would have been entirely unavailing, for no injury to the physical apparatus would affect an astral faculty; but if the vision produced by the ointment were etheric, the destruction of the physical eye would in most cases at once extinguish it, since that is the mechanism by means of which it works.
Anyone possessing this sight of which we are speaking would also be able to perceive the etheric double of man; but since this is so nearly identical in size with the physical, it would hardly be likely to attract his attention unless it were partially projected in trance or under the influence of anaesthetics. After death, when it withdraws entirely from the dense body, it would be clearly visible to him, and he would frequently see it hovering over newly made graves as he passed through a churchyard or cemetery. If he were to attend a spiritualistic seance he would see the etheric matter oozing out from the side of the medium, and could observe the various ways in which the communicating entities make use of it.
Another fact which could hardly fail soon to thrust itself upon his notice would be the extension of his perception of colour. He would find himself able to see several entirely new colours, not in the least resembling any of those included in the spectrum as we at present know it, and therefore of course quite indescribable in any terms at our command. And not only would he see new objects that were wholly of these new colours, but he would also discover that modifications had been introduced into the colour of many objects with which he was quite familiar, according to whether they had or had not some tinge of these new hues intermingled with the old. So that two surfaces of colour which to ordinary eyes appeared to match perfectly would often present distinctly different shades to his keener sight.
We have now touched upon some of the principal changes which would be introduced into a man's world when he gained etheric sight; and it must always be remembered that in most cases a corresponding change would at the same time be brought about in his other senses also, so that he would be capable of hearing, and perhaps even of feeling, more than most of those around him. Now supposing that in addition to this he obtained the sight of the astral plane, what further changes would be observable?
Well, the changes would be many and great; in fact, a whole new world would open before his eyes. Let us consider its wonders briefly in the same order as before, and see first what difference there would be in the appearance of inanimate objects. On this point I may begin by quoting a recent quaint answer given in The Vahan.
"There is a distinct difference between etheric sight and astral sight, and it is the latter which seems to correspond to the fourth dimension.
"The easiest way to understand the difference is to take an example. If you looked at a man with both the sights in turn, you would see the buttons at the back of his coat in both cases; only if you used etheric sight you would see them through him, and would see the shank-side as nearest to you, but if you looked astrally, you would see it not only like that, but just as if you were standing behind the man as well.
"Or if you were looking etherically at a wooden cube with writing on all its sides, it would be as though the cube were glass, so that you could see through it, and you would see the writing on the opposite side all backwards, while that on the right and left sides would not be clear to you at all unless you moved, because you would see it edgewise. But if you looked at it astrally you would see all the sides at once, and all the right way up, as though the whole cube had been flattened out before you, and you would see every particle of the inside as well—not through the others, but all flattened out. You would be looking at it from another direction, at right angles to all the directions that we know.
"If you look at the back of a watch etherically you see all the wheels through it, and the face through them, but backwards; if you look at it astrally, you see the face right way up and all the wheels lying separately, but nothing on the top of anything else."
Here we have at once the keynote, the principal factor of the change; the man is looking at everything from an absolutely new point of view, entirely outside of anything that he has ever imagined before. He has no longer the slightest difficulty in reading any page in a closed book, because he is not now looking at it through all the other pages before it or behind it, but is looking straight down upon it as though it were the only page to be seen. The depth at which a vein of metal or of coal may lie is no longer a barrier to his sight of it, because he is not now looking through the intervening depth of earth at all. The thickness of a wall, or the number of walls intervening between the observer and the object, would make a great deal of difference to the clearness of the etheric sight; they would make no difference whatever to the astral sight, because on the astral plane they would not intervene between the observer and the object. Of course that sounds paradoxical and impossible, and it is quite inexplicable to a mind not specially trained to grasp the idea; yet it is none the less absolutely true.
This carries us straight into the middle of the much-vexed question of the fourth dimension—a question of the deepest interest, though one that we cannot pretend to discuss in the space at our disposal. Those who wish to study it as it deserves are recommended to begin with Mr. C. H. Hinton's Scientific Romances or Dr. A. T. Schofield's Another World, and then follow on with the former author's larger work, A New Era of Thought. Mr. Hinton not only claims to be able himself to grasp mentally some of the simpler fourth-dimensional figures, but also states that anyone who will take the trouble to follow out his directions may with perseverance acquire that mental grasp likewise. I am not certain that the power to do this is within the reach of everyone, as he thinks, for it appears to me to require considerable mathematical ability; but I can at any rate bear witness that the tesseract or fourth-dimensional cube which he describes is a reality, for it is quite a familiar figure upon the astral plane. He has now perfected a new method of representing the several dimensions by colours instead of by arbitrary written symbols. He states that this will very much simplify the study, as the reader will be able to distinguish instantly by sight any part or feature of the tesseract. A full description of this new method, with plates, is said to be ready for the press, and is expected to appear within a year, so that intending students of this fascinating subject might do well to await its publication.
I know that Madame Blavatsky, in alluding to the theory of the fourth dimension, has expressed an opinion that it is only a clumsy way of stating the idea of the entire permeability of matter, and that Mr. W. T. Stead has followed along the same lines, presenting the conception to his readers under the name of throughth. Careful, oft-repeated and detailed investigation does, however, seem to show quite conclusively that this explanation does not cover all the facts. It is a perfect description of etheric vision, but the further and quite different idea of the fourth dimension as expounded by Mr. Hinton is the only one which gives any kind of explanation down here of the constantly-observed facts of astral vision. I would therefore venture deferentially to suggest that when Madame Blavatsky wrote as she did, she had in mind etheric vision and not astral, and that the extreme applicability of the phrase to this other and higher faculty, of which she was not at the moment thinking, did not occur to her.
The possession of this extraordinary and scarcely expressible power, then, must always be borne in mind through all that follows. It lays every point in the interior of every solid body absolutely open to the gaze of the seer, just as every point in the interior of a circle lies open to the gaze of a man looking down upon it.
But even this is by no means all that it gives to its possessor. He sees not only the inside as well as the outside of every object, but also its astral counterpart. Every atom and molecule of physical matter has its corresponding astral atoms and molecules, and the mass which is built up out of these is clearly visible to our clairvoyant. Usually the astral of any object projects somewhat beyond the physical part of it, and thus metals, stones and other things are seen surrounded by an astral aura.
It will be seen at once that even in the study of inorganic matter a man gains immensely by the acquisition of this vision. Not only does he see the astral part of the object at which he looks, which before was wholly hidden from him; not only does he see much more of its physical constitution than he did before, but even what was visible to him before is now seen much more clearly and truly. A moment's consideration will show that his new vision approximates much more closely to true perception than does physical sight. For example, if he looks astrally at a glass cube, its sides will all appear equal, as we know they really are, whereas on the physical plane he sees the further side in perspective—that is, it appears smaller than the nearer side, which is, of course, a mere allusion due to his physical limitations.
When we come to consider the additional facilities which it offers in the observation of animate objects we see still more clearly the advantages of the astral vision. It exhibits to the clairvoyant the aura of plants and animals, and thus in the case of the latter their desires and emotions, and whatever thoughts they may have, are all plainly shown before his eyes.
But it is in dealing with human beings that he will most appreciate the value of this faculty, for he will often be able to help them far more effectually when he guides himself by the information which it gives him.
He will be able to see the aura as far up as the astral body, and though that leaves all the higher part of a man still hidden from his gaze, he will nevertheless find it possible by careful observation to learn a good deal about the higher part from what is within his reach. His capacity of examining the etheric double will give him considerable advantage in locating and classifying any defects or diseases of the nervous system, while from the appearance of the astral body he will be at once aware of all the emotions, passions, desires and tendencies of the man before him, and even of very many of his thoughts also.
As he looks at a person he will see him surrounded by the luminous mist of the astral aura, flashing with all sorts of brilliant colours, and constantly changing in hue and brilliancy with every variation of the person's thoughts and feelings. He will see this aura flooded with the beautiful rose-colour of pure affection, the rich blue of devotional feeling, the hard, dull brown of selfishness, the deep scarlet of anger, the horrible lurid red of sensuality, the livid grey of fear, the black clouds of hatred and malice, or any of the other hundredfold indications so easily to be read in it by a practised eye; and thus it will be impossible for any persons to conceal from him the real state of their feelings on any subject.
These varied indications of the aura are of themselves a study of very deep interest, but I have no space to deal with them in detail here. A much fuller account of them, together with a large number of coloured illustrations, will be found in my work on the subject Man Visible and Invisible.
Not only does the astral aura show him the temporary result of the emotion passing through it at the moment, but it also gives him, by the arrangement and proportion of its colours when in a condition of comparative rest, a clue to the general disposition and character of its owner. For the astral body is the expression of as much of the man as can be manifested on that plane, so that from what is seen in it much more which belongs to higher planes may be inferred with considerable certainty.
In this judgment of character our clairvoyant will be much helped by so much of the person's thought as expresses itself on the astral plane, and consequently comes within his purview. The true home of thought is on the mental plane, and all thought first manifests itself there as a vibration of the mind-body. But if it be in any way a selfish thought, or if it be connected in any way with an emotion or a desire, it immediately descends into the astral plane, and takes to itself a visible form of astral matter.
In the case of the majority of men almost all thought would fall under one or other of these heads, so that practically the whole of their personality would lie clearly before our friend's astral vision, since their astral bodies and the thought-forms constantly radiating from them would be to him as an open book in which their characteristics were writ so largely that he who ran might read. Anyone wishing to gain some idea as to how the thought-forms present themselves to clairvoyant vision may satisfy themselves to some extent by examining the illustrations accompanying Mrs. Besant's valuable article on the subject in Lucifer for September 1896.
We have seen something of the alteration in the appearance of both animate and inanimate objects when viewed by one possessed of full clairvoyant sight as far as the astral plane is concerned; let us now consider what entirely new objects he will see. He will be conscious of a far greater fulness in nature in many directions, but chiefly his attention will be attracted by the living denizens of this new world. No detailed account of them can be attempted within the space at our disposal; for that the reader is referred to No. V. of the Theosophical Manuals. Here we can do no more than barely enumerate a few classes only of the vast hosts of astral inhabitants.
He will be impressed by the protean forms of the ceaseless tide of elemental essence, ever swirling around him, menacing often, yet always retiring before a determined effort of the will; he will marvel at the enormous army of entities temporarily called out of this ocean into separate existence by the thoughts and wishes of man, whether good or evil. He will watch the manifold tribes of the nature-spirits at their work or at their play; he will sometimes be able to study with ever-increasing delight the magnificent evolution of some of the lower orders of the glorious kingdom of the devas, which corresponds approximately to the angelic host of Christian terminology.
But perhaps of even keener interest to him than any of these will be the human denizens of the astral world, and he will find them divisible into two great classes—those whom we call the living, and those others, most of them infinitely more alive, whom we so foolishly misname the dead. Among the former he will find here and there one wide awake and fully conscious, perhaps sent to bring him some message, or examining him keenly to see what progress he is making; while the majority of his neighbours, when away from their physical bodies during sleep, will drift idly by, so wrapped up in their own cogitations as to be practically unconscious of what is going on around them.
Among the great host of the recently dead he will find all degrees of consciousness and intelligence, and all shades of character—for death, which seems to our limited vision so absolute a change, in reality alters nothing of the man himself. On the day after his death he is precisely the same man as he was the day before it, with the same disposition, the same qualities, the same virtues and vices, save only that he has cast aside his physical body; but the loss of that no more makes him in any way a different man than would the removal of an overcoat. So among the dead our student will find men intelligent and stupid, kind-hearted and morose, serious and frivolous, spiritually-minded and sensually-minded, just as among the living.
Since he can not only see the dead, but speak with them, he can often be of very great use to them, and give them information and guidance which is of the utmost value to them. Many of them are in a condition of great surprise and perplexity, and sometimes even of acute distress, because they find the facts of the next world so unlike the childish legends which are all that popular religion in the West has to offer with reference to this transcendently important subject; and therefore a man who understands this new world and can explain matters is distinctly a friend in need.
In many other ways a man who fully possesses this faculty may be of use to the living as well as to the dead; but of this side of the subject I have already written in my little book on Invisible Helpers. In addition to astral entities he will see astral corpses—shades and shells in all stages of decay; but these need only be just mentioned here, as the reader desiring a further account of them will find it in our third and fifth manuals.
Another wonderful result which the full enjoyment of astral clairvoyance brings to a man is that he has no longer any break in consciousness. When he lies down at night he leaves his physical body to the rest which it requires, while he goes about his business in the far more comfortable astral vehicle. In the morning he returns to and re-enters his physical body, but without any loss of consciousness or memory between the two states, and thus he is able to live, as it were, a double life which yet is one, and to be usefully employed during the whole of it, instead of losing one-third of his existence in blank unconsciousness.
Another strange power of which he may find himself in possession (though its full control belongs rather to the still higher devachanic faculty), is that of magnifying at will the minutest physical or astral particle to any desired size, as though by a microscope—though no microscope ever made or ever likely to be made possesses even a thousandth part of this psychic magnifying power. By its means the hypothetical molecule and atom postulated by science become visible and living realities to the occult student, and on this closer examination he finds them to be much more complex in their structure than the scientific man has yet realised them to be. It also enables him to follow with the closest attention and the most lively interest all kinds of electrical, magnetic, and other etheric action; and when some of the specialists in these branches of science are able to develop the power to see those things whereof they write so facilely, some very wonderful and beautiful revelations may be expected.
This is one of the siddhis or powers described in Oriental books as accruing to the man who devotes himself to spiritual development, though the name under which it is there mentioned might not be immediately recognizable. It is referred to as "the power of making oneself large or small at will," and the reason of a description which appears so oddly to reverse the fact is that in reality the method by which this feat is performed is precisely that indicated in these ancient books. It is by the use of temporary visual machinery of inconceivable minuteness that the world of the infinitely little is so clearly seen; and in the same way (or rather in the opposite way) it is by temporarily enormously increasing the size of the machinery used that it becomes possible to increase the breadth of one's view—in the physical sense as well as, let us hope, in the moral—far beyond anything that science has ever dreamt of as possible for man. So that the alteration in size is really in the vehicle of the student's consciousness, and not in anything outside of himself; and the old Oriental book has, after all, put the case more accurately than we.
Psychometry and second-sight in excelsis would also be among the faculties which our friend would find at his command; but those will be more fitly dealt with under a later heading, since in almost all their manifestations they involve clairvoyance either in space or in time.
I have now indicated, though only in the roughest outlines, what a trained student, possessed of full astral vision, would see in the immensely wider world to which that vision introduced him; but I have said nothing of the stupendous change in his mental attitude which comes from the experiential certainty as to the existence of the soul, its survival after death, the action of the law of karma, and other points of equally paramount importance. The difference between even the profoundest intellectual conviction and the precise knowledge gained by direct personal experience must be felt in order to be appreciated.
SIMPLE CLAIRVOYANCE: PARTIAL.
The experiences of the untrained clairvoyant—and be it remembered that that class includes all European clairvoyants except a very few—will, however, usually fall very far short of what I have attempted to indicate; they will fall short in many different ways—in degree, in variety, or in permanence, and above all in precision.
Sometimes, for example, a man's clairvoyance will be permanent, but very partial, extending only perhaps to one or two classes of the phenomena observable; he will find himself endowed with some isolated fragment of higher vision, without apparently possessing other powers of sight which ought normally to accompany that fragment, or even to precede it. For example, one of my dearest friends has all his life had the power to see the atomic ether and atomic astral matter, and to recognize their structure, alike in darkness or in light, as inter-penetrating everything else; yet he has only rarely seen entities whose bodies are composed of the much more obvious lower ethers or denser astral matter, and at any rate is certainly not permanently able to see them. He simply finds himself in possession of this special faculty, without any apparent reason to account for it, or any recognizable relation to anything else: and beyond proving to him the existence of these atomic planes and demonstrating their arrangement, it is difficult to see of what particular use it is to him at present. Still, there the thing is, and it is an earnest of greater things to come—of further powers still awaiting development.
There are many similar cases—similar, I mean, not in the possession of that particular form of sight (which is unique in my experience), but in showing the development of some one small part of the full and clear vision of the astral and etheric planes. In nine cases out of ten, however, such partial clairvoyance will at the same time lack precision also—that is to say, there will be a good deal of vague impression and inference about it, instead of the clear-cut definition and certainty of the trained man. Examples of this type are constantly to be found, especially among those who advertise themselves as "test and business clairvoyants."
Then, again, there are those who are only temporarily clairvoyant under certain special conditions. Among these there are various subdivisions, some being able to reproduce the state of clairvoyance at will by again setting up the same conditions, while with others it comes sporadically, without any observable reference to their surroundings, and with yet others the power shows itself only once or twice in the whole course of their lives.
To the first of these subdivisions belong those who are clairvoyant only when in the mesmeric trance—who when not so entranced are incapable of seeing or hearing anything abnormal. These may sometimes reach great heights of knowledge and be exceedingly precise in their indications, but when that is so they are usually undergoing a course of regular training, though for some reason unable as yet to set themselves free from the leaden weight of earthly life without assistance.
In the same class we may put those—chiefly Orientals—who gain some temporary sight only under the influence of certain drugs, or by means of the performance of certain ceremonies. The ceremonialist sometimes hypnotizes himself by his repetitions, and in that condition becomes to some extent clairvoyant; more often he simply reduces himself to a passive condition in which some other entity can obsess him and speak through him. Sometimes, again, his ceremonies are not intended to affect himself at all, but to invoke some astral entity who will give him the required information; but of course that is a case of magic, and not of clairvoyance. Both the drugs and the ceremonies are methods emphatically to be avoided by any one who wishes to approach clairvoyance from the higher side, and use it for his own progress and for the helping of others. The Central African medicine-man or witch-doctor and some of the Tartar Shamans are good examples of the type.
Those to whom a certain amount of clairvoyant power has come occasionally only, and without any reference to their own wish, have often been hysterical or highly nervous persons, with whom the faculty was to a large extent one of the symptoms of a disease. Its appearance showed that the physical vehicle was weakened to such a degree that it no longer presented any obstacle in the way of a certain modicum of etheric or astral vision. An extreme example of this class is the man who drinks himself into delirium tremens, and in the condition of absolute physical ruin and impure psychic excitation brought about by the ravages of that fell disease, is able to see for the time some of the loathsome elemental and other entities which he has drawn round himself by his long course of degraded and bestial indulgence. There are, however, other cases where the power of sight has appeared and disappeared without apparent reference to the state of the physical health; but it seems probable that even in those, if they could have been observed closely enough, some alteration in the condition of the etheric double would have been noticed.
Those who have only one instance of clairvoyance to report in the whole of their lives are a difficult band to classify at all exhaustively, because of the great variety of the contributory circumstances. There are many among them to whom the experience has come at some supreme moment of their lives, when it is comprehensible that there might have been a temporary exaltation of faculty which would be sufficient to account for it.
In the case of another subdivision of them the solitary case has been the seeing of an apparition, most commonly of some friend or relative at the point of death. Two possibilities are then offered for our choice, and in each of them the strong wish of the dying man is the impelling force. That force may have enabled him to materialize himself for a moment, in which case of course no clairvoyance was needed or more probably it may have acted mesmerically upon the percipient, and momentarily dulled his physical and stimulated his higher sensitiveness. In either case the vision is the product of the emergency, and is not repeated simply because the necessary conditions are not repeated.
There remains, however, an irresolvable residuum of cases in which a solitary instance occurs of the exercise of undoubted clairvoyance, while yet the occasion seems to us wholly trivial and unimportant. About these we can only frame hypotheses; the governing conditions are evidently not on the physical plane, and a separate investigation of each case would be necessary before we could speak with any certainty as to its causes. In some such it has appeared that an astral entity was endeavouring to make some communication, and was able to impress only some unimportant detail on its subject—all the useful or significant part of what it had to say failing to get through into the subject's consciousness.
In the investigation of the phenomena of clairvoyance all these varied types and many others will be encountered, and a certain number of cases of mere hallucination will be almost sure to appear also, and will have to be carefully weeded out from the list of examples. The student of such a subject needs an inexhaustible fund of patience and steady perseverance, but if he goes on long enough he will begin dimly to discern order behind the chaos, and will gradually get some idea of the great laws under which the whole evolution is working.
It will help him greatly in his efforts if he will adopt the order which we have just followed—that is, if he will first take the trouble to familiarize himself as thoroughly as may be with the actual facts concerning the planes with which ordinary clairvoyance deals. If he will learn what there really is to be seen with astral and etheric sight, and what their respective limitations are, he will then have, as it were, a standard by which to measure the cases which he observes. Since all instances of partial sight must of necessity fit into some niche in this whole, if he has the outline of the entire scheme in his head he will find it comparatively easy with a little practice to classify the instances with which he is called upon to deal.
We have said nothing as yet as to the still more wonderful possibilities of clairvoyance upon the mental plane, nor indeed is it necessary that much should be said, as it is exceedingly improbable that the investigator will ever meet with any examples of it except among pupils properly trained in some of the very highest schools of occultism. For them it opens up yet another new world, vaster far than all those beneath it—a world in which all that we can imagine of utmost glory and splendour is the commonplace of existence. Some account of its marvellous faculty, its eneffable bliss, its magnificent opportunities for learning and for work, is given in the sixth of our Theosophical manuals, and to that the student may be referred.
All that it has to give—all of it at least that he can assimilate—is within the reach of the trained pupil, but for the untrained clairvoyant to touch it is hardly more than a bare possibility. It has been done in mesmeric trance, but the occurrence is of exceeding rarity, for it needs almost superhuman qualifications in the way of lofty spiritual aspiration and absolute purity of thought and intention upon the part both of the subject and the operator.
To a type of clairvoyance such as this, and still more fully to that which belongs to the plane next above it, the name of spiritual sight may reasonably be applied; and since the celestial world to which it opens our eyes lies all round us here and now, it is fit that our passing reference to it should be made under the heading of simple clairvoyance, though it may be necessary to allude to it again when dealing with clairvoyance in space, to which we will now pass on.
CLAIRVOYANCE IN SPACE: INTENTIONAL.
We have defined this as the capacity to see events or scenes removed from the seer in space and too far distant for ordinary observation. The instances of this are so numerous and so various that we shall find it desirable to attempt a somewhat more detailed classification of them. It does not much matter what particular arrangement we adopt, so long as it is comprehensive enough to include all our cases; perhaps a convenient one will be to group them under the broad divisions of intentional and unintentional clairvoyance in space, with an intermediate class that might be described as semi-intentional—a curious title, but I will explain it later.
As before, I will begin by stating what is possible along this line for the fully-trained seer, and endeavouring to explain how his faculty works and under what limitations it acts. After that we shall find ourselves in a better position to try to understand the manifold examples of partial and untrained sight. Let us then in the first place discuss intentional clairvoyance.
It will be obvious from what has previously been said as to the power of astral vision that any one possessing it in its fulness will be able to see by its means practically anything in this world that he wishes to see. The most secret places are open to his gaze, and intervening obstacles have no existence for him, because of the change in his point of view; so that if we grant him the power of moving about in the astral body he can without difficulty go anywhere and see anything within the limits of the planet. Indeed this is to a large extent possible to him even without the necessity of moving the astral body at all, as we shall presently see.
Let us consider a little more closely the methods by which this super-physical sight may be used to observe events taking place at a distance. When, for example, a man here in England sees in minutest detail something which is happening at the same moment in India or America, how is it done?
A very ingenious hypothesis has been offered to account for the phenomenon. It has been suggested that every object is perpetually throwing off radiations in all directions, similar in some respects to, though infinitely finer than, rays of light, and that clairvoyance is nothing but the power to see by means of these finer radiations. Distance would in that case be no bar to the sight, all intervening objects would be penetrable by these rays, and they would be able to cross one another to infinity in all directions without entanglement, precisely as the vibrations of ordinary light do.
Now though this is not exactly the way in which clairvoyance works, the theory is nevertheless quite true in most of its premises. Every object undoubtedly is throwing off radiations in all directions, and it is precisely in this way, though on a higher plane, that the akashic records seem to be formed. Of them it will be necessary to say something under our next heading, so we will do no more than mention them for the moment. The phenomena of psychometry are also dependent upon these radiations, as will presently be explained.
There are, however, certain practical difficulties in the way of using these etheric vibrations (for that is, of course, what they are) as the medium by means of which one may see anything taking place at a distance. Intervening objects are not entirely transparent, and as the actors in the scene which the experimenter tried to observe would probably be at least equally transparent, it is obvious that serious confusion would be quite likely to result.
The additional dimension which would come into play if astral radiations were sensed instead of etheric would obviate some of the difficulties, but would on the other hand introduce some fresh complications of its own; so that for practical purposes, in endeavouring to understand clairvoyance, we may dismiss this hypothesis of radiations from our minds, and turn to the methods of seeing at a distance which are actually at the disposal of the student. It will be found that there are five, four of them being really varieties of clairvoyance, while the fifth does not properly come under that head at all, but belongs to the domain of magic. Let us take this last one first, and get it out of our way.
1. By the assistance of a nature-spirit.—This method does not necessarily involve the possession of any psychic faculty at all on the part of the experimenter; he need only know how to induce some denizen of the astral world to undertake the investigation for him. This may be done either by invocation or by evocation; that is to say, the operator may either persuade his astral coadjutor by prayers and offerings to give him the help he desires, or he may compel his aid by the determined exercise of a highly-developed will.
This method has been largely practised in the East (where the entity employed is usually a nature-spirit) and in old Atlantis, where "the lords of the dark face" used a highly-specialized and peculiarly venomous variety of artificial elemental for this purpose. Information is sometimes obtained in the same sort of way at the spiritualistic seance of modern days, but in that case the messenger employed is more likely to be a recently-deceased human being functioning more or less freely on the astral plane—though even here also it is sometimes an obliging nature-spirit, who is amusing himself by posing as somebody's departed relative. In any case, as I have said, this method is not clairvoyant at all, but magical; and it is mentioned here only in order that the reader may not become confused in the endeavour to classify cases of its use under some of the following headings.
2. By means of an astral current.—This is a phrase frequently and rather loosely employed in some of our Theosophical literature to cover a considerable variety of phenomena, and among others that which I wish to explain. What is really done by the student who adopts this method is not so much the setting in motion of a current in astral matter, as the erection of a kind of temporary telephone through it.
It is impossible here to give an exhaustive disquisition on astral physics, even had I the requisite knowledge to write it; all I need say is that it is possible to make in astral matter a definite connecting-line that shall act as a telegraph-wire to convey vibrations by means of which all that is going on at the other end of it may be seen. Such a line is established, be it understood, not by a direct projection through space of astral matter, but by such action upon a line (or rather many lines) of particles of that matter as will render them capable of forming a conductor for vibrations of the character required.
This preliminary action can be set up in two ways—either by the transmission of energy from particle to particle, until the line is formed, or by the use of a force from a higher plane which is capable of acting upon the whole line simultaneously. Of course this latter method implies far greater development, since it involves the knowledge of (and the power to use) forces of a considerably higher level; so that the man who could make his line in this way would not, for his own use, need a line at all, since he could see far more easily and completely by means of an altogether higher faculty.
Even the simpler and purely astral operation is a difficult one to describe, though quite an easy one to perform. It may be said to partake somewhat of the nature of the magnetization of a bar of steel; for it consists in what we might call the polarization, by an effort of the human will, of a number of parallel lines of astral atoms reaching from the operator to the scene which he wishes to observe. All the atoms thus affected are held for the time with their axes rigidly parallel to one another, so that they form a kind of temporary tube along which the clairvoyant may look. This method has the disadvantage that the telegraph line is liable to disarrangement or even destruction by any sufficiently strong astral current which happens to cross its path; but if the original effort of will were fairly definite, this would be a contingency of only infrequent occurrence.
The view of a distant scene obtained by means of this "astral current" is in many ways not unlike that seen through a telescope. Human figures usually appear very small, like those on a distant stage, but in spite of their diminutive size they are as clear as though they were close by. Sometimes it is possible by this means to hear what is said as well as to see what is done; but as in the majority of cases this does not happen, we must consider it rather as the manifestation of an additional power than as a necessary corollary of the faculty of sight.
It will be observed that in this case the seer does not usually leave his physical body at all; there is no sort of projection of his astral vehicle or of any part of himself towards that at which he is looking, but he simply manufactures for himself a temporary astral telescope. Consequently he has, to a certain extent, the use of his physical powers even while he is examining the distant scene; for example, his voice would usually still be under his control, so that he could describe what he saw even while he was in the act of making his observations. The consciousness of the man is, in fact, distinctly still at this end of the line.
This fact, however, has its limitations as well as its advantages, and these again largely resemble the limitations of the man using a telescope on the physical plane. The experimenter, for example, has no power to shift this point of view; his telescope, so to speak, has a particular field of view which cannot be enlarged or altered; he is looking at his scene from a certain direction, and he cannot suddenly turn it all round and see how it looks from the other side. If he has sufficient psychic energy to spare, he may drop altogether the telescope that he is using and manufacture an entirely new one for himself which will approach his objective somewhat differently; but this is not a course at all likely to be adopted in practice.
But, it may be said, the mere fact that he is using astral sight ought to enable him to see it from all sides at once. So it would if he were using that sight in the normal way upon an object which was fairly near him—within his astral reach, as it were; but at a distance of hundreds or thousands of miles the case is very different. Astral sight gives us the advantage of an additional dimension, but there is still such a thing as position in that dimension, and it is naturally a potent factor in limiting the use of the powers of its plane. Our ordinary three-dimensional sight enables us to see at once every point of the interior of a two-dimensional figure, such as a square, but in order to do that the square must be within a reasonable distance from our eyes; the mere additional dimension will avail a man in London but little in his endeavour to examine a square in Calcutta.
Astral sight, when it is cramped by being directed along what is practically a tube, is limited very much as physical sight would be under similar circumstances; though if possessed in perfection it will still continue to show, even at that distance, the auras, and therefore all the emotions and most of the thoughts of the people under observation.
There are many people for whom this type of clairvoyance is very much facilitated if they have at hand some physical object which can be used as a starting-point for their astral tube—a convenient focus for their will-power. A ball of crystal is the commonest and most effectual of such foci, since it has the additional advantage of possessing within itself qualities which stimulate psychic faculty; but other objects are also employed, to which we shall find it necessary to refer more particularly when we come to consider semi-intentional clairvoyance.
In connection with this astral-current form of clairvoyance, as with others, we find that there are some psychics who are unable to use it except when under the influence of mesmerism. The peculiarity in this case is that among such psychics there are two varieties—one in which by being thus set free the man is enabled to make a telescope for himself, and another in which the magnetizer himself makes the telescope and the subject is simply enabled to see through it. In this latter case obviously the subject has not enough will to form a tube for himself, and the operator, though possessed of the necessary will-power, is not clairvoyant, or he could see through his own tube without needing help.
Occasionally, though rarely, the tube which is formed possesses another of the attributes of a telescope—that of magnifying the objects at which it is directed until they seem of life-size. Of course the objects must always be magnified to some extent, or they would be absolutely invisible, but usually the extent is determined by the size of the astral tube, and the whole thing is simply a tiny moving picture. In the few cases where the figures are seen as of life-size by this method, it is probable that an altogether new power is beginning to dawn; but when this happens, careful observation is needed in order to distinguish them from examples of our next class.
3. By the projection of a thought-form.—The ability to use this method of clairvoyance implies a development somewhat more advanced than the last, since it necessitates a certain amount of control upon the mental plane. All students of Theosophy are aware that thought takes form, at any rate upon its own plane, and in the vast majority of cases upon the astral plane also; but it may not be quite so generally known that if a man thinks strongly of himself as present at any given place, the form assumed by that particular thought will be a likeness of the thinker himself, which will appear at the place in question.
Essentially this form must be composed of the matter of the mental plane, but in very many cases it would draw round itself matter of the astral plane also, and so would approach much nearer to visibility. There are, in fact, many instances in which it has been seen by the person thought of—most probably by means of the unconscious mesmeric influence emanating from the original thinker. None of the consciousness of the thinker would, however, be included within this thought-form. When once sent out from him, it would normally be a quite separate entity—not indeed absolutely unconnected with its maker, but practically so as far as the possibility of receiving any impression through it is concerned.
This third type of clairvoyance consists, then, in the power to retain so much connection with and so much hold over a newly-erected thought-form as will render it possible to receive impressions by means of it. Such impressions as were made upon the form would in this case be transmitted to the thinker—not along an astral telegraph line, as before, but by sympathetic vibration. In a perfect case of this kind of clairvoyance it is almost as though the seer projected a part of his consciousness into the thought-form, and used it as a kind of outpost, from which observation was possible. He sees almost as well as he would if he himself stood in the place of his thought-form.
The figures at which he is looking will appear to him as of life-size and close at hand, instead of tiny and at a distance, as in the previous case; and he will find it possible to shift his point of view if he wishes to do so. Clairaudience is perhaps less frequently associated with this type of clairvoyance than with the last, but its place is to some extent taken by a kind of mental perception of the thoughts and intentions of those who are seen.
Since the man's consciousness is still in the physical body, he will be able (even while exercising the faculty) to hear and to speak, in so far as he can do this without any distraction of his attention. The moment that the intentness of his thought fails the whole vision is gone, and he will have to construct a fresh thought-form before he can resume it. Instances in which this kind of sight is possessed with any degree of perfection by untrained people are naturally rarer than in the case of the previous type, because of the capacity for mental control required, and the generally finer nature of the forces employed.
4. By travelling in the astral body.—We enter here upon an entirely new variety of clairvoyance, in which the consciousness of the seer no longer remains in or closely connected with his physical body, but is definitely transferred to the scene which he is examining. Though it has no doubt greater dangers for the untrained seer than either of the methods previously described, it is yet quite the most satisfactory form of clairvoyance open to him, for the immensely superior variety which we shall consider under our fifth head is not available except for specially trained students.
In this case the man's body is either asleep or in trance, and its organs are consequently not available for use while the vision is going on, so that all description of what is seen, and all questioning as to further particulars, must be postponed until the wanderer returns to this plane. On the other hand the sight is much fuller and more perfect; the man hears as well as sees everything which passes before him, and can move about freely at will within the very wide limits of the astral plane. He can see and study at leisure all the other inhabitants of that plane, so that the great world of the nature-spirits (of which the traditional fairy-land is but a very small part) lies open before him, and even that of some of the lower devas.
He has also the immense advantage of being able to take part, as it were, in the scenes which come before his eyes—of conversing at will with these various astral entities, from whom so much information that is curious and interesting may be obtained. If in addition he can learn how to materialize himself (a matter of no great difficulty for him when once the knack is acquired), he will be able to take part in physical events or conversations at a distance, and to show himself to an absent friend at will.
Again, he has the additional power of being able to hunt about for what he wants. By means of the varieties of clairvoyance previously described, for all practical purposes he could find a person or a place only when he was already acquainted with it, or when he was put en rapport with it by touching something physically connected with it, as in psychometry. It is true that by the third method a certain amount of motion is possible, but the process is a tedious one except for quite short distances.
By the use of the astral body, however, a man can move about quite freely and rapidly in any direction, and can (for example) find without difficulty any place pointed out upon a map, without either any previous knowledge of the spot or any object to establish a connection with it. He can also readily rise high into the air so as to gain a bird's-eye view of the country which he is examining, so as to observe its extent, the contour of its coast-line, or its general character. Indeed, in every way his power and freedom are far greater when he uses this method than they have been in any of the previous cases.
A good example of the full possession of this power is given, on the authority of the German writer Jung Stilling, by Mrs. Crowe in The Night Side of Nature (p. 127). The story is related of a seer who is stated to have resided in the neighbourhood of Philadelphia, in America. His habits were retired, and he spoke little; he was grave, benevolent and pious, and nothing was known against his character except that he had the reputation of possessing some secrets that were considered not altogether lawful. Many extraordinary stories were told of him, and amongst the rest the following:—
"The wife of a ship captain (whose husband was on a voyage to Europe and Africa, and from whom she had been long without tidings), being overwhelmed with anxiety for his safety, was induced to address herself to this person. Having listened to her story he begged her to excuse him for a while, when he would bring her the intelligence she required. He then passed into an inner room and she sat herself down to wait; but his absence continuing longer than she expected, she became impatient, thinking he had forgotten her, and softly approaching the door she peeped through some aperture, and to her surprise beheld him lying on a sofa as motionless as if he were dead. She of course did not think it advisable to disturb him, but waited his return, when he told her that her husband had not been able to write to her for such and such reasons, but that he was then in a coffee-house in London and would very shortly be home again.
"Accordingly he arrived, and as the lady learnt from him that the causes of his unusual silence had been precisely those alleged by the man, she felt extremely desirous of ascertaining the truth of the rest of the information. In this she was gratified, for he no sooner set his eyes on the magician than he said that he had seen him before on a certain day in a coffee-house in London, and that he told him that his wife was extremely uneasy about him, and that he, the captain, had thereon mentioned how he had been prevented writing, adding that he was on the eve of embarking for America. He had then lost sight of the stranger amongst the throng, and knew nothing more about him."