The Theosophical Forum – October 1943


In January 1942 The Theosophical Forum began this series of radio talks given over station XQHB, Shanghai, China, by Miss Inga Sjostedt and Miss Elsa-Brita Bergqvist. In these 14 talks the main teachings of Theosophy have been covered in direct and thorough presentation, and this article, which warns against the danger of developing haphazardly the psychic powers, concludes the series.

Good evening, everybody:

One of the classified objects of the Theosophical Society is to investigate the powers innate in man. It is a very interesting one, and it opens up all sorts of possibilities, for when we come to think of it, most of us know little or nothing about the powers innate in man. Engraved on the entrance of a Greek Mystery-School was this injunction: "Man, know thyself," and this was a key to all future studies in the School, for in knowing himself and learning to understand his own intricate nature, man would understand Nature and the complex structure of the Universe; for we, human beings, are the reflexion of the Cosmos, miniature copies of the Infinite. Every power of the universe lies latent in us, and we are, in fact, undeveloped gods and will some day evolve ourselves until we express our divine and spiritual energies consciously and fully, just as the gods or entities above us express their faculties at the present moment.

The materialist says that man is a physical body, a bundle of matter, nerves and sinews and a physical brain, all of which are composed of physical atoms that, somehow, manage to express not only physical impulses, but also mental powers, devotional aspirations, and immortal thoughts.

Another school of thought says that man consists of a soul and a body, and that while the body is mortal, the soul is immortal. In other words, the entire man, minus the physical body, will live on forever in happiness or misery, just as he is, with all his failings and imperfections, his meanness and ignorance — a horrible thought! Imagine living on throughout eternity as we are, without changing or improving ourselves!

The Theosophist believes that man is neither a bundle of merely physical energies, nor a dual creature with one soul and one body, but a most complex entity with untold impulses and energies, mental, spiritual and divine. Everything that the universe is, that man is also in his inmost self, just as a drop of water is identical with the ocean from which it originated. We have nearly all experienced at one time or another an impulse or inspiration that came, not from our everyday selves, but from a deeper self, a self of which we are ordinarily unaware; yet in rare moments of inspiration this wonderful, hidden self reveals itself for an instant, and we feel that we have been in contact with something superhuman or divine. Some men never experience this contact with their higher self, and that is their own fault, for their habits, desires and mode of life pull them down to the earth so much that they have neither time nor inclination for spiritual things. A genius, on the contrary, is a person who listens to the counsel and inspiration of his higher ego more often and more willingly than ordinary men, and the result is that a genius has universal ideas, impersonal thoughts and humanitarian interests to a far greater extent than an average man.

Modern psychology has made many remarkable discoveries about the inner life of the soul, but psychology is nevertheless a physical science, for it concerns itself only with the lower human mind and ignores the spiritual soul. Even so, a psychologist knows that there are unprobed depths in a human mind, and that the simplest thought can have a deep and unsuspected source. How much more is there not to study in human nature when we start to investigate the higher mental, spiritual and divine sources in man! A Yogi who devotes his life to the purification of his human soul and the union between his lower mind and the divine ego, knows that inexpressible power, wisdom and beauty are to be found by him who studies his own nature. The word "yoga" means union, and a devotee of yoga, or a yogi, strives to attain union with his immortal self, his inner god. All the so-called miracles performed by a yogi, which astound the scientific investigator, are merely a manifestation of a knowledge of the hidden laws of nature which anyone who takes the trouble and leads the appropriate life can learn for himself.

Even in the West we hear a good deal about psychic powers these days. We have mediums and psychics, psychometers and mind-readers, hypnotists and mesmerists galore, who all help to bring to the notice of the world depths of man's nature which we scoffed at some fifty or more years ago. Many modern physicians resort to hypnotism or suggestion in treating nervous patients, with remarkable results. Hypnotism is a little-understood power, and unfortunately it is sometimes used for base and selfish purposes. It is a dangerous power too, and a student of occultism would not dare use it, for he knows that no man has the right to seek to control another man's mind or will-power. Among many reasons why hypnotism is dangerous and unethical is the fact that the hypnotized person weakens his own will-power when he allows another man to control his mind. However, whether good or bad, hypnotism is one of the psychic powers which we are beginning to hear more and more about and to study scientifically. As time passes, and materialism will give way more and more to metaphysical and philosophical thought, we shall find that there are many more wonderful and noble powers latent in man, powers which we are today pleased to call superstitions.

Those who have some knowledge of mediumship know also that this state often brings with it certain psychic powers, not of a very high kind, but powers which are certainly interesting to the student of occult phenomena. One of such powers is clairaudience, or the ability to hear sounds and voices which average people are totally unaware of, as also the ability to hear across great distance; for instance, a clairaudient person may hear something from another continent — just like a radio-set. Then there is clairvoyance or "second sight," the ability to see objects and entities which the physical eye cannot see, or else the ability to see across a great distance. For instance, Swedenborg, the Swedish mystic and seer, once saw a city in Sweden burning when he was in another part of the country; he did not see this with his physical eyes but with his inner vision. A medium who has these two powers is not able to control them. They come and go without the medium's volition, but these same powers, when consciously developed by an Adept are in his full control and can be used when and where desired. In the distant future all mankind will acquire these powers, just as naturally as we now use our five senses for their appropriate functions. Even today we sometimes speak of a sixth sense, meaning that faculty of instinct or intuition which warns us or tells us that such and such a thing is about to happen, and which has nothing to do with our mind and reasoning.

All these psychic powers are, in the eyes of real Occultists, mere child's play, and unimportant really, because they are not truly spiritual or uplifting. A far more important power is that of the imagination. We misuse our imagination, not realizing what a tremendous strength it can be. Whatever object a man ponders upon, that object he is drawn to magnetically, and in our daily lives, whatever we usually imagine, whether good or bad, that we invariably attract. There is a great difference between aimless daydreaming and constructive imagining. Day-dreaming without a purpose is the outlet of the weak and fear-filled mind, whereas imagination used constructively, with a purpose, is the greatest strength of the powerful mind. Whenever we imagine ourselves doing great and wonderful deeds, or meeting difficult situations courageously, or achieving victories, we are forming a mental habit which will eventually lead us to act as we think if the occasion should arise. If, on the contrary, we always say "I cannot; I dare not, and I will not," we imagine ourselves as weaklings, inefficient and cowardly, and the result is that we shall never rise above the mediocre. The power of the imagination is without limits. All great deeds must first arise in the mind; they must be planned, painted like a picture on the mental canvas, and after the imagination has paved the way for action, a man is ready to carry out his purpose. Not only in the sense of aiding action is imagination a powerful ally. It also helps to make or break character. We can let our imagination dwell on our weaknesses and psychological complexes and exaggerate them, or we can imagine ourselves possessing the qualities we admire but lack in our make-up, until one fine day we shall find that through our imagination we have overcome mental barriers and woven into our characters those identic qualities which we needed. If we aspire to and imagine the divine qualities which our higher nature hides from our human selves, sooner or later we must realize that these divine qualities are ours, and that they are not as unattainable as we at first imagined. One of Plato's famous sayings is that ideas rule the world. If this is so, then, when we can honestly say that we rule our ideas, through our constructive imagination, we shall find ourselves gods indeed, all-powerful and undaunted by the passing events of human life.

To awaken all these latent powers within us we must study ourselves, study our dreams, our thought-life, our failings and idiosyncrasies, and we shall find that in learning to understand our own nature, we also, most surprisingly, learn to understand others.


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