The Path – April 1886

SEERSHIP — Murdhna Joti

The following remarks are not intended to be a critique upon the literary merits or demerits of the poem which is taken as the subject of criticism. In 1882, The Theosopist (1) published a review of "The Seer, a Prophetic Poem," by Mr. H. G. Hellon, and as clairvoyance is much talked of in the West, it seemed advisable to use the verses of this poet for the purpose of inquiring, to some extent, into the western views of Seership, and of laying before my fellow seekers the views of one brought up in a totally different school.

I have not yet been able to understand with the slightest degree of distinctness what state is known as "Seership " in the language of western mysticism. After trying to analyze the states of many a "seer," I am as far as ever from any probability of becoming wiser on the subject, as understood here, because it appears to me that no classification whatever exists of the different states as exhibited on this side of the globe, but all the different states are heterogeneously mixed. We see the state of merely catching glimpses in the astral light denominated seership, at the same time that the very highest illustrations of that state are called trances.

As far as I have yet been able to discover, "Seership," as thus understood here, does not come up to the level of Sushupti, which is the dreamless state in which the mystic's highest consciousness — composed of his highest intellectual and ethical faculties — hunts for and seizes any knowledge he may be in need of. In this state the mystic's lower nature is at rest (paralyzed); only his highest nature roams into the ideal world in quest of food. By lower nature, I mean his physical, astral or psychic, lower emotional and intellectual principles, including the lower fifth. (2) Yet even the knowledge obtained during the Sushupti state must be regarded, from this plane, as theoretical and liable to be mixed, upon resuming the application of the body, with falsehood and with the preconception of the mystic's ordinary waking state, as compared with the true knowledge acquired during the several initiations. There is no guarantee held out for any mystic that any experience, researches, or knowledge that may come within his reach in any other state whatever, is accurate, except in the mysteries of initiation.

But all these different states are necessary to growth. Yagrata — our waking state, in which all our physical and vital organs, senses, and faculties find their necessary exercise and development, is needed to prevent the physical organization from collapsing. Swapna — dream state, in which are included all the various states of consciousness between Yagrata and Sushupti, such as somnambulism, trance, dreams, visions, &c. — is necessary for the physical faculties to enjoy rest, and for the lower emotional and astral faculties to live, become active, and develop; and Sushupti state comes about in order that the consciousnesses of both Yagrata and Swapna states may enjoy rest, and for the fifth principle, which is the one active in Sushupti, to develop itself by appropriate exercise. In the equilibrium of these three states lies true progress.

The knowledge acquired during Sushupti state might or might not be brought back to one's physical consciousness; all depends upon his desires, and according as his lower consciousnesses are or are not prepared to receive and retain that knowledge.

The avenues of the ideal world are carefully guarded by elementals from the trespass of the profane.

Lytton makes Mejnour say: (3) "We place our tests in ordeals that purify the passions and elevate the desires. And nature in this controls and assists us, for it places awful guardians and unsurmountable barriers between the ambitions of vice and the heaven of loftier science."

The desire for physical enjoyment, if rightly directed, becomes elevated, as a desire for something higher, gradually becoming converted into a desire to do good to others, and thus ascending, ceases to be a desire, and is transformed into an element of the sixth principle.

The control by nature to which Mejnour refers is found in the natural maximum and minimum limits; there cannot be too much ascension, nor can the descent be too quick or too low. The assistance of nature is found in the Turya state, in which the adept takes one step and nature helps for another.

In the Sushupti state, one might or might not find the object of his earnest search, and as soon as it is found, the moment the desire to bring it back to normal consciousness arises, that moment Sushupti state is at an end for the time being. But one might often find himself in an awkward position when he has left that state. The doors for the descent of the truth into the lower nature are closed. Then his position is beautifully described in an Indian proverb: "The bran in the mouth and the fire are both lost." This is an allusion to a poor girl who is eating bran, and at the same time wants to kindle the fire just going out before her. She blows it with the bran in her mouth; the bran falls on the dying ashes, extinguishing them completely; she is thus a double loser. In the Sushupti state, the anxiety which is felt to bring back the experience to consciousness acts as the bran with the fire. Anxiety to have or to do, instead of being a help as some imagine, is a direct injury, and if permitted to grow in our waking moments, will act with all the greater force on the plane of Sushupti. The result of these failures is clearly set forth by Patanjali. (4)

Even where the doors to the lower consciousness are open, the knowledge brought back from Sushupti state might, owing to the distractions and difficulties of the direct and indirect routes of ascent and descent, be lost on the way either partially or wholly, or become mixed up with misconceptions and falsehood.

But in this search for knowledge in Sushupti, there must not remain a spark of indifference or idle inquisitiveness in the higher consciousness. Not even a jot of lurking hesitation about entering into the state, nor doubt about its desirability, nor about the usefulness or accuracy of the knowledge gleaned on former occasions, or to be presently gleaned. If there is any such doubt or hesitancy, his progress is retarded. Nor can there be any cheating or hypocrisy, nor any laughing in the sleeve. In our normal wakeful state it always happens that when we believe we arc earnestly aspiring, some one or more of the elements of one or more of our lower consciousness belie us, make us feel deluded and laugh at us, for such is the self-inconsistent nature of desire.

In this state which we are considering, there are subjective and objective states, or classes of knowledge and experience, even as there are the same in Yagrata. So, therefore, great care should be taken to make your aims and aspirations as high as possible while in your normal condition. Woe to him who would dare to trifle with the means placed at his disposal in the shape of Sushupti. One of the most effectual ways in which western mystics could trifle with this is to seek for the missing links of evolution, so as to bring that knowledge to the ncrmal consciousness, and then with it to extend the domain of "scientific" knowledge. Of course, from the moment such a desire is entertained, the one who has it is shut out from Sushupti. (5)

The mystic might be interested in analyzing the real nature of the objective world, or in soaring up to the feet of Manus, (6) to the spheres where Manava intellect is busy shaping the mould for a future religion, or had been shaping that of a past religion. But here the maximum and minimum limits by which nature controls are again to be taken account of. One essential feature of Sushupti is, as far as can now be understood, that the mystic must get at all truths through but one source, or path, viz: through the divine world pertaining to his own lodge (or teacher), and through this path he might soar as high as he can, though how much knowledge he can get is an open question.

Let us now inquire what state is the seership of the author of our poem "The Seer," and try to discover the "hare's horns" in it. Later on we may try to peep into the states of Swedenborg, P. B. Randolph, and a few of the "trained, untrained, natural-born, self-taught, crystal, and magic mirror seers."

I look at this poem solely to point out mistakes so as to obtain materials for our study. There are beauties and truths in it which all can enjoy.

In ancient days it was all very well for mystics to write figuratively so as to keep sacred things from the profane. Then symbolism was rife in the air with mysticism, and all the allegories were understood at once by those for whom they were intended. But times have changed. In this materialistic age it is known that the wildest misconceptions exist in the minds of many who are mystically and spiritually inclined. The generality of mystics and their followers are not free from the superstitions and prejudices which have in church and science their counterpart. Therefore in my humble opinion there can be no justification for writing allegorically on mysticism, and, by publication, placing such writings within reach of all. To do so is positively mischievous. If allegorical writings and misleading novels are intended to popularize mysticism by removing existing prejudices, then the writers ought to express their motives. It is an open question whether the benefit resulting from such popularization is not more than counterbalanced by the injury worked to helpless votaries of mysticism, who are misled. And there is less justification for our present allegorical writers than there was for those of Lytton's time. Moreover, in the present quarter of our century, veils are thrown by symbolical or misleading utterances over much that can be safely given out in plain words. With these general remarks let us turn to "The Seer."

In the Invocation, addressed evidently to the Seer's guru, (7) we find these words:

"When in delicious dreams I leave this life,
And in sweet trance unveil its mysteries;
Give me thy light, thy love, thy truth divine!"

Trance here means only one of the various states known as cataleptic or somnambulic, but certainly neither Turya nor Sushupti. In such a trance state very few of the mysteries of "this life," or even of the state of trance itself, could be unveiled. The so-called Seer can "enjoy" as harmlessly and as uselessly as a boy who idly swims in the lagoon, where he gains no knowledge and may end his sport in death. Even so is the one who swims, cuts capers, in the astral light, and becomes lost in something strange which surpasses all his comprehension. The difference between such a Seer and the ordinary sensualist is, that the first indulges both his astral and physical senses to excess, while the latter his physical senses only. These occulists fancy that they have removed their interest from self, when in reality they have only enlarged the limits of experience and desire, and transferred their interest to the things which concern their larger span of life. (8)

Invoking a Guru's blessings on your own higher nature for the purpose of sustaining you in this trance state, is as blasphemous and reprehensible an act of assisting descent, and conversion of higher into lower energies, as to invoke your Guru to help you in excessive wine drinking; for the astral world is also material. To be able to solve the mysteries of any consciousness whatever, even of the lowest physical, while in trance, is as vain a boast of the hunters for such a state as that of physiologists or mesmerists. While you are in trance state, if you are not ethical enough in your nature, you will be tempted and forced, by your powerful lower elements, to pry into the secrets of your neighbors, and then, on returning to your normal state, to slander them. The surest way to draw down your higher nature into the miry abyss of your physical and astral world, and thus to animalize yourself, is to go into a trance or to aspire for clairvoyance.

"And thou, (Guru) left me looking upward through the veil,
To gaze into thy goal and follow thee!"

These lines are highly presumptuous. It is impossible, even for a very high Hierophant, in any of his states whatever, to gaze into his Guru's goal (9) his subjective consciousness can but barely come up to the level of the normal or objective consciousness of his Guru. It is only during the initiation that the initiated sees not only his own immediate goal, but also Nirvana, which of course includes his Guru's goal also; but after the ceremony is over he recollects only his own immediate goal for his next "class," but nothing beyond that. (10) This is what is meant by the God Jehovah saying to Moses: "And I will take away mine hand and Thou shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen." And in the Rig Veda it is said: (11) "Dark is the path of Thee, who art bright: the light is before Thee."

Mr. Hellon opens his poem with a quotation from Zanoni: "Man's first initiation is in trance: in dreams commence all human knowledge, in dreams he hovers over measureless space, the first faint bridge between spirit and spirit — this world and the world beyond."

As this is a passage often quoted approvingly, and recognized as containing no misconceptions, I may be permitted to pass a few remarks, first, upon its intrinsic merits, and secondly, on Lytton himself and his Zanoni. I shall not speak of the rage which prevails among mystical writers for quoting without understanding what they quote.

In Swapna state man gets human, unreliable knowledge, while divine knowledge begins to come in Sushupti state. Lytton has here thrown a gilded globule of erroneous ideas to mislead the unworthy and inquisitive mysticism hunters, who unconsciously price the globule. It is not too much to say that such statements in these days, instead of aiding us to discover the true path, but give rise to numberless patent remedies for the evils of life, remedies which can never accomplish a cure. Man-made edifices called true Raja Yoga, (12) evolved in trance, arise confronting each other, conflicting with each other, and out of harmony in themselves. Then not only endless disputation arises, but also bigotry, while the devoted and innocent seekers after truth are misled, and scientific, intelligent, competent men are scared away from any attempt to examine the claims of the true science. As soon as some one sided objective truth is discovered by a Mesmer, a defender of ancient Yoga Vidya (13) blows a trumpet crying out, "Yoga is selfmesmerization, mesmerism is the key to it, and animal magnetism develops spirituality and is itself spirit, God, Atman," deluding himself with the idea that he is assisting humanity and the cause of truth, unconscious of the fact that he is thus only degrading Yoga Vidya. The ignorant medium contends that her "control" is divine. There seems to be little difference between the claims of these two classes of dupes and the materialist who sets up a protoplasm in the place of God. Among the innumerable hosts of desecrated terms are Trance, Yoga, Turya, initiation, &c. It is therefore no wonder that Lytton, in a novel, has desecrated it and misapplied it to a mere semi-cataleptic state. I, for one, prefer always to limit the term Initiation to its true sense, viz., those sacred ceremonies in which alone "Isis is unveiled."

Man's first initiation is not in trance, as Lytton means. Trance is an artificial, waking, somnambulistic state, in which one can learn nothing at all about the real nature of the elements of our physical consciousness, and much less any of any other. None of Lytton's admirers seems to have thought that he was chaffing at occultism, although he believed in it, and was not anxious to throw the pearls before swine. Such a hierophant as Mejnour — not Lytton himself — could not have mistaken the tomfoolery of somnambulism for even the first steps in Raja Yoga. This can be seen from the way in which Lytton gives out absolutely erroneous ideas about occultism, while at the same time he shows a knowledge which he could not have, did he believe himself in his own chaffing. It is pretty well recognized that he at last failed, after some progress in occultism as a high accepted disciple. His Glyndon might be Lytton, and Glyndon's sister Lady Lytton. The hieroglyphics of a book given him to discipher, and which he brought out as Zanoni, must be allegorical. The book is really the master's ideas which the pupil's highest consciousness endeavors to read. But they were only the mere commonplaces of the master's mind. The profane and the cowardly always say that the master descends to the plane of the pupil. Such can never happen. And precipitation of messages, from the master is only possible when the pupil's highest ethical and intuitive faculties reach the level of the master's normal and objective state. In Zanoni, this is veiled by the assertion that he had to read the hieroglyphics — they did not speak to him. And he confesses in the preface that he is by no means sure that he has correctly deciphered them. "Enthusiasm," he says, "is when that part of the soul which is above intellect soars up to the Gods, and there derives the inspiration." Errors will therefore be due to wilful misstatements or to his difficulty in reading the cipher.

"In dreams I see a world so fair,
That life would love to linger there,
And pass from this to that bright sphere.
In dreams ecstatic, pure and free,
Strange forms my inward senses see,
While hands mysterious welcome me."

Such indefinite descriptions are worse than useless. The inward senses are psychic senses, and their perceiving strange forms and mere appearances in the astral world is not useful or instructive. Forms and appearances in the astral light are legion, and take their shape not only from the seer's mind unknown to himself, but are also, in many cases, reflections for other people's minds.

"Oh, why should mine be ever less,
And light ineffable bless
Thee, in thy starry loneliness,"

seems to be utterly unethical. Here the seer is in the first place jealous of the light possessed by his guru, or he is grasping in the dark, ignorant even of the rationale of himself being in lower states than his guru, However, Mr. Hellon has not erred about the existence of such a feeling. It does and should exist in the trance and dreaming state. In our ordinary waking state, attachments, desires, &.c., are the very life of our physical senses, and in the same way the emotional energies manifest themselves on the astral plane in order to feed and fatten the seer's astral senses, sustaining them during his trance state. Unless thus animated, his astral nature would come to rest.

No proof is therefore needed for the proposition that any state which is sustained by desires and passions cannot be regarded as anything more than as a means for developing one part of the animal nature. Van Helmont is of the same opinion as Mr. Hellon. (14) We cannot, therefore, for a moment believe that in such a state the "I" of that state is Atman (15) It is only the false "I"; the vehicle for the real one. Ahankara — lower self, or individuality of the waking state, for even in trance state the lower sixth principle plays no greater part and develops no more than in the wakeful state. The change is only in the field of action, from the waking one to the astral plane; the physical one remaining more or less at rest. Were it otherwise, we would find somnambules day by day exhibiting increase of intellect, whereas this does not occur.

Suppose that we induce the trance state in an illiterate man. He can then read from the astral counterpart of Herbert Spencer or Patanjali's books as many pages as we desire, or even the unpublished ideas of Spencer; but he can never make a comparison between the two systems, unless that has already been done by some other mind in no matter what language. Nor can any somnambule analyze and describe the complicated machinery of the astral faculties, much less of the emotional ones, or of the fifth principle. For in order to be analyzed they must be at rest so that the higher self may carry on the analysis. So when Mr. Hellon says:

"A trance steals o'er my spirit now,"

he is undoubtedly wrong, as Atman, or spirit, cannot go into a trance. When a lower plane energy ascends to a higher plane, it becomes silent there for a while until by contract with the denizens of its new home its powers are animated. The somnambulic state has two conditions, (a) waking, which is psycho-physiological or astro-physical; (b) sleeping, which is psychical. In these two the trance steals partly or completely only over the physical consciousness and senses.

"And from my forehead peers the sight," etc.

This, with much that follows, is pure imagination or misconception. As for instance, "floating from sphere to sphere." In this state the seer is confined to but one sphere — the astral or psycho-physiological —; no higher one can he even comprehend.

Speaking of the period when the sixth sense shall be developed, he says:

"No mystery then her sons shall find,
Within the compass of mankind;
The one shall read the other's mind."

In this the seer shows even a want of theoretical knowledge of the period spoken of. He has madly rushed into the astral world without a knowledge of the philosophy of the mystics. Even though the twelfth sense were developed — let alone the physical sixth — it shall ever remain as difficult as it is now, for people to read one another's mind. Such is the mystery of Manas. (16) He is evidently deluded by seeing the apparent triumphs during a transitional period of a race's mental development, of those minds abnormally developed which are able to look into the minds of others; and yet they do that only partially. If one with a highly developed sixth principle were to indulge for only six times in reading others' minds, he would surely drain that development down to fatten the mind and desires. Moreover, Mr. Hellon's seer seems to be totally unaware of the fact that the object of developing higher faculties is not to peer into the minds of others, and that the economy of the occult world gives an important privilege to the mystic, in that the pages of his life and manas shall be carefully locked up against inquisitive prowlers, the key safely deposited with his guru, who never lends it to any one else. If with the occult world the laws of nature are so strict, how much more should they be with people in general. Otherwise, nothing would be safe. The sixth sense would then be as delusive and a curse to the ignorant as sight and learning are now. Nor shall this sixth sense man be "perfect." Truth for him shall be as difficult to attain through his "sense," as it is now. The horizon shall have only widened, and what we are now acquiring as truth will have passed into history, into literature, into axiom. "Sense" is always nothing else than a channel for desire to flow through and torment ourselves and others.

The whole poem is misleading, especially such expressions as: "His spirit views the world's turmoil; behold his body feed the soil. — A sixth sense race borne ages since, to God's own zone. "Our higher self — Atman — can never "view the world's turmoil," nor behold the body. For supposing that it did view the body or the world's turmoil, it would be attracted to them, descending to the physical plane, where it would be converted more or less into physical nature. And the elevation of a sixth sense race unphilosophically supposes the raising up of that sense, which certainly has only to do with our physical nature, at most our astro-physical nature, to the sphere of God or Atman.

By merely training the psychical powers true progress is not gained, but only the enjoyment of those powers; a sort of alcohol on the astral plane, which results in unfavorable Karma. The true path to divine wisdom is in performing our duty unselfishly in the station in which we are placed, for thereby we convert lower nature into higher, following Dharma — our whole duty.


1. See Theosophist, Vol. III, p. 177. (return to text)

2. See Esoteric Buddhism for the sevenfold classification adopted by many Theosophists. (return to text)

3. Zanoni, Book IV, Chapter 2. (return to text)

4. Patanjali's Yoga Aphorisms, 30 & 31, Part I (return to text)

5. The following from the Kaushitaki Upanishad, (see Max Muller's translation, and also that published in the Bibliotheka Indica, with Sankaracharya's commentary — Cowell's tran.) may be of interest to students. "Agatasatru to him: 'Balaki, where did this person here sleep? Where was he? Whence did he come back?’ Balaki did not know. And Agatasatru said to him: 'Where this person here slept, where he was, whence he thus came back, is this: The arteries of the heart called Hita extend from the heart of the person towards the surrounding body. Small as a hair divided a thousand times, they stand, full of a thin fluid of various colors, white, black, yellow, red. In these the person is when sleeping, he sees no dream (Sushupti). Then he becomes one with that prana (breath) alone.’" (Elsewhere the number of these arteries is said to be 101.) "And as a razor might be fitted in a razor case, or as fire in the fire place, even thus this conscious self enters into the self of the body, to the very hair and nails; he is the master of all, and eats with and enjoys with them. So long as Indra did not understand the self, the Asuras (lower principles in man) conquered him. When he understood it, he conquered the Asuras, and obtained the pre-eminence among all gods. And thus also he who knows this obtains pre-eminence, sovereignty, supremacy." And in the Khandogya Upanishad, VI Prap. 8, Kh, I: "When the man sleeps here, my dear son, he becomes united with the True — in Sushupti sleep — he is gone to his own self. Therefore they say, he sleeps (Swapita), because he is gone (apita) to his own (sva). And in Prasna Up II, I, "There are 101 arteries from the heart; one of them penetrates the crown of the head; moving upwards by it man reaches the immortal; the others serve for departing in different directions." [ED.] (return to text)

6. This opens up an intensely interesting and highly important subject, which cannot be here treated of, but which will be in future papers. Meanwhile, Theosophiste can exercise their intuition in respect to it. [ED.] (return to text)

7. Guru, a spiritual teacher. (return to text)

8. Vide Light on the Path, Rule 1, note, part I. (return to text)

9. There is one exceptional case where the Guru's goal is seen, and then the Guru has to die, for there can be no two equals. (return to text)

10. There is no contradiction between this and the preceding paragraph where it is said, "To see the Guru's goal is impossible." During the initiation ceremony, there is no separateness between those engaged in it. They all become one whole, and therefore even the High Hierophant, while engaged in an initiation, is no more his separate self, but is only a part of the whole, of which the candidate is also a part, and then, for the time being, having as much power and knowledge as the very highest present. [ED.] (return to text)

11. Rig Veda, IV, VII, 9. (return to text)

12. Divine science. (return to text)

13. The knowledge of Yoga, which is, "joining with your higher self." (return to text)

14. See Zanoni, Book IV, c. iii. (return to text)

15. Highest soul. (return to text)

16. Fifth principle. (return to text)

The Path