Theosophical University Press Online Edition
Chapter 5: Hypnotism
Psychologization in General
Chapter 6: Clairvoyance and Other Psychic Powers
Clairvoyance and Clairaudience
Chapter 7: The Theosophical Objective
Return to Section 1
Closely associated with the general topic of mediumship is that of hypnotism, since the subject of the hypnotizer's experiments becomes in a very real sense a medium: his will is temporarily paralyzed and often permanently weakened, and his psychic nature becomes a passive receiver of the foreign will-force it is subjected to.
H. P. Blavatsky speaks of hypnotism as the "illegitimate son of Mesmerism." This indicates that a distinction is actually to be made between the two, though in early theosophical literature the terms are sometimes used interchangeably.
Anton Mesmer reintroduced to the western world, in the latter part of the eighteenth century, a knowledge of the healing power of magnets. He showed that certain diseases could be treated effectively by stroking the afflicted parts with magnets of various kinds. He soon realized that the magnetic rods with which his first experiments were made merely served as conductors for a fluid emanating from his own person; and he then re-enunciated the truth that the human body itself is a magnet and that some people have the ability to use this magnetic power from themselves without the aid of metals. It is because of its presence in the physical body that the force became known as "animal" magnetism for want of a more truly scientific term.
This magnetism is, as a matter of fact, as Mesmer was well aware, a quality pervading the whole universe, man merely sharing in it because he is built out of the very substance of the universe. In man it manifests as an invisible fluid that can be induced to flow by means of the will from one individual to another. Blavatsky describes it thus:
Occultism calls the force transmitted, the "auric fluid," to distinguish it from the "auric light"; the "fluid" being a correlation of atoms on a higher plane, and a descent to this lower one, in the shape of impalpable and invisible plastic Substances, generated and directed by the potential Will; . . . — Studies in Occultism
This "correlation of atoms" spoken of is but one aspect of the general law, already stated, that we are all continuously pouring forth streams of life-atoms on all planes of our being. This outflow is very weak in some individuals, very strong in others, depending upon the general vitality of the individual, which vitality is in itself determined by the habitual trends of the ego through many lives, in which it has been building and perfecting for itself outer and inner bodies for its means of expression in earth life.
The magnetic fluid is not in itself a spiritual thing, and it need not necessarily be the possession only of those who are spiritually developed. It might be said that the force per se is colorless, receiving its healthy or unhealthy stamp from the operator. All types of magnetic healers of today use this force, and whether they understand its rationale or not does not affect in any way the quality of the emanation. They give to the patient of their own vitality and, if their own vital stream is healthy, not only on the physical but on the psychic plane (this latter being the more important), then real cures can be made by means of this "auric fluid." But it is a question how many would-be healers have an absolutely pure heredity; and there is always some risk in attempted cures of this kind because where there are any physical weaknesses in the practitioner, even though they be only in germ, these may be transplanted into the patient's life-stream, and a worse disease take root in the adopted system than the one that is being cured.
Painstaking and conscientious investigation over long periods of time, and a study of many types of cases, would have to be undertaken to provide "convincing" scientific proof of this occult truth; and even such examinations would be incomplete since the present-day scientist does not consider the thread of continuous life carrying along from incarnation to incarnation, following the longer cycles of cause and effect.
Anton Mesmer was, of course, an adept in the art of magnetic healing. As one of the cyclical envoys from the Brotherhood of Compassion he was authorized to teach the real nature of this power and its use in healing. His cures were effected always by direction of his will and in full understanding of the polarity of the physical body in its relation to the great magnet, the universe. His knowledge, in fact, was much vaster than is generally supposed. We are told (Theosophical Glossary, p. 214) that he founded in 1783 the "Order of Universal Harmony," where it is generally supposed only animal magnetism was taught; but in reality he taught the principles and methods used in the ancient Temples of Healing, called in Greece the Temples of Aesculapius.
There has always been known to the few "enlightened ones" a complete occult system of healing; sometimes it has been generally recognized for the actual fact that it is, and sometimes it has been scoffed at and called superstition or fraud, as was the case with Mesmer's work of nearly two centuries ago. In many lands this art, or true science, was carried on under the aegis of the Mystery Schools where proper supervision and training was possible; where the physicians were adepts in the mysteries of man's inner nature as well as of his physical body, and where the possibility of the art's being used for evil purposes was unthinkable.
Today there is no such occult school for training in this art, whose modern presentation, the pseudo-science known as hypnotism, denies the very source from which it sprang. This modern counterfeit is classed by all occultists as a species of the black art — sorcery; unconscious in many cases, to be sure, but evil nonetheless because it violates a fundamental law and right of our human nature: that each person shall be his own ruler in his inner kingdom, with the right of choice as to what guests he shall entertain therein, and the right to direct his own development by discovering for himself and making use of the exhaustless treasures that his inner kingdom contains.
Hypnotism comes from a Greek word hypnos, meaning "sleep"; and the practice is so named because the state brought about in the subject of the experiment resembles an artificially induced somnambulism. In such a state the will of the subject is passive, and by means of impressing pictures upon the astral double (a process called "suggestion"), the subject automatically does whatever the operator wills that he shall do, since the physical body, driven by the will-force from without, merely produces the motion-patterns indicated in the astral double.
In this process the nervous system, the link between the physical and astral bodies, is anesthetized: a state that in itself has questionable after-effects, since it is likely to cause or aggravate the nervous unbalance and sensitiveness so characteristic of all types of mediums.
Further, when the hypnotizer dominates the will of another so that it becomes inactive, what actually happens is that he synchronizes the rate of vibration of his will and that of his subject. Blavatsky thus describes the process:
it is the Will of the operator radiating through his eye that produces the required unison between his will and the will of the person operated upon. For, out of two objects attuned in unison — as two chords, for instance — one will always be weaker than the other, and thus [the stronger] have mastery over the other and even the potentiality of destroying its weaker "co-respondent." -- Studies in Occultism
In these words lies the key to a scientific explanation of the deterioration of the force of will in the victim of such practices. Even in cases where experimentation is well-meaning, once the controlling power is withdrawn, as for instance at the death of the hypnotizer, the subject finds himself stranded, deprived both of the artificial aid and of his self-generated will. It is for this reason that the use of hypnotism for the cure of bad habits or mental ills cannot be approved. To be able temporarily to supply an alien psychic force for making an artificial adjustment is merely delaying the process that finally has to take place. Cures made in this way are at best temporary, and the time will come when the steps of the sufferer will have to be retraced and the enfeebled psychic nature build as best it may a secure stronghold within the outer vehicle.
In all cases of hypnotic subjugation, the contact between hypnotist and patient establishes a rapport which reacts on both. The karma of the two becomes inextricably woven, so that the operator becomes largely karmically responsible for anything the other may do in his unconscious state, or even afterwards due to the effect of post-hypnotic suggestion. Moreover, the hypnotizer is unable to make the line of demarcation between the purely physiological results of his efforts and the psychic results, and in his ignorance may bring on subtle reactions which even he had no intention of inducing and over which he has no control. It is even said that there is the possibility of a psychic backwash too strong for the practitioner himself to withstand, since the channels of communication are open in both directions, and the very things that he is combating may find lodgment in his own nature.
Quite aside from the use of this power for cures of one kind or another, which are in these days better regulated than formerly, there is much illicit use of the power to amuse wonder seekers. This is a disgrace to our civilization and can only be excused on the grounds of the utter ignorance of most performers and of those who allow themselves to be used for such public exhibitions. Such spectacles accustom the unthinking to imagine that the whole thing is a sport and nothing more; while they act as a constant suggestion to the evil-minded to develop the power for their own purposes. The last mentioned use of the power is the most insidious, since crimes committed in this way are untraceable. W. Q. Judge speaks of this as one of the most serious aspects of our present development, since the power is likely to increase in coming generations rather than decrease, and the ethical development of the human race does not appear to be keeping pace.
Under this heading may be classed a great many abnormal states, which might even include the psychological case in which the self-deluded individual has given over all the energies of his being to some fixed idea that he has built up in his consciousness. The idea may have no basis in actual reality, but it can become of such absorbing reality to the unfortunate person that he may entirely lose his sense of proportion and finally become unfit to continue life among normal people. Mental unbalance of this sort often starts by the fostering of some imaginary grievance which, once it receives lodgment in the mind, finds little difficulty in waxing strong and finally dominating its victim.
However, confining ourselves to those cases which rightly come under the study of psychic powers, and in which there are definite physiological as well as psychological reactions, we might enumerate the following:
(a) Those who induce artificial somnambulism without the aid of an outside operator, by various mechanical means such as gazing at a bright object.
(b) The religious ecstatics who can reproduce upon their own bodies the wounds as pictured on the body of Jesus by the concentrated visualizing of such unpleasant pictures until the astral disfiguration affects the physical flesh.
(c) Those who practice certain lower forms of yoga, hoping by psycho-physiological means to rise superior over the claims of body and mind.
(d) Those who, in their misguided enthusiasm, try to heal the ills of the body by denying the existence of their troubles.
In all these cases imagination and will are the two moving powers. For the human being is a tremendous dynamo of energy — a creator who makes his creations out of thought driven by will. But thought can either build or destroy, and whether he is acting upon his own nature or that of another, it behooves him to know something about the tools with which he works, otherwise he may find himself well on the road to destroying — himself.
In our normal use of thought directed by will we are using a psychic power. This is legitimate; but the cases enumerated above instance the unwise use of such power. To discuss briefly but one example, that of curing disease by forcible efforts of the self-centered will: in the ancient schools it was understood that most sickness originates with the thinking self, which has the power of impressing, first upon the astral body, and through it on the physical, the stamp of its character. Thought at the present stage of our development is largely governed by emotion, and it is actually the potent interaction of these two that changes our bodies and accounts for our states of health and disease. The disease itself is only a symptom of an inner state, or of a state held at some time in the past by the ego, perhaps several incarnations ago. Disease might, in fact, be described as "a state of mind and emotion in the last stages of working itself out of the human constitution through the physical body." For nature works normally from within outward, and the appearance of a disease is a testimony to her thorough and efficient methods.
No adept in the art of healing will therefore do anything that will dam back the disease. He would consider it merely doing away with the symptoms and sending the seeds of the trouble back to its psychic source. To deny with concentrated will the existence of an obvious ill is a form of this damming back, or sending back, process, which, apparently so effective sometimes, is really most ineffective since it is an interference with a natural process which will at a later date have to be repeated.
This does not mean that mind plays no part in healing. Just the contrary. Since mind caused the disease, mind can also cause eventual health by creating a generating center of mental health within. But ills perhaps long ago established are better left to the wise care of a good physician who aids nature in carrying them out of the system; aided also, hopefully, by the patient himself by a cheerful attitude of mind based on a philosophical outlook towards the trouble.
PSYCHOLOGIZATION IN GENERAL
Under the general term hypnotism are included all forms of fascination, suggestion, glamour, spell-binding, and so on, all of which might accurately be grouped under the general heading of "psychologization," a tampering with the psychic nature of other individuals. Probably a record of the former lives of many unfortunate inmates of our mental hospitals as well as our prisons would show that there had been subjection at one time or another to hypnotic influence.
In all cases of hypnosis the confidence and good will of the patient are necessary for complete success, while prejudice against the practice may render one much less amenable to suggestion and even entirely immune. Similarly in all forms of psychologization: an intelligent understanding of the danger of the process, and a healthy and positive disapproval of any form of it, are an excellent protection. And it is worth pondering upon the thought that, as in all forms of mediumship, each person is vulnerable to such domination at those points where his nature is weakest. As Blavatsky says:
Every man has his little "weaknesses," and every man has his little "mediumship"; that is to say, some vulnerable point, by which he may be taken unawares. — The Theosophist, June 1884, p. 211
If a person allows fear to rule his life, then it is this aura of fear about him that will invite some form of subtle suggestion. Or sloth and indifference may throw him off his guard. Living as we do amid a constant subtle interplay of forces, bathed as we are at all times by the thought-laden astral currents, it is never wise to imagine our fortress impregnable unless we can keep the connection with our spiritual inner center unbroken.
This state of inner stability is the truly human condition. When we drop below this by allowing any vagrant force to sweep us off our feet, we have fallen somewhat below the human standard. We can be said to be for the time subhuman. The inanities and even atrocities committed by groups of people under the power of what is called mob psychology show to what extent otherwise quite decent people can forgo their true humanity and become irresponsible "elementals" automatically driven by some outside will or idea.
There is one other type of psychic power which should receive mention, though it does not strictly belong under the subject of hypnotism. This power is used in various ways which might all be classed under what H. P. Blavatsky calls will-prayer.
The number of groups and individuals in the West who use some form of will-prayer is growing rapidly. They have discovered, indeed, an occult secret: "the mysterious power of thought which enables it to produce external, perceptible, phenomenal results by its own inherent energy." (The Secret Doctrine 2:173)
Since the human being is a thinker, he is a creator, and if his will is strong enough and one-pointed enough, he can make of an idea a fact. But when this divine gift is used, as only too often it is, to satisfy selfish personal wishes, remove hardships and trials, and in general do away with the wholesome disciplines which his life provides, he transforms the spiritual will into the psychic. This is a dangerous practice which can become the first step along the path of moral degeneration. One's "willing" for this or for that may "work"; but the many instances recorded of results coming about in unexpected ways, or at times when the objects are no longer desired, should act as a deterrent to those who are tempted to dabble with occult powers.
A study of the legitimate uses of thought and will is essential to all students of life. Intelligent discrimination must be used, however, if one would discern the false from the true. (For further study of this important subject see The Key to Theosophy, by H. P. Blavatsky, pp. 67-8.)
Clairvoyance, clairaudience, telepathy, psychometry, and the like powers may or may not be connected with the phenomena of spiritualistic mediumship. Certain phases of these powers are common to the medium under trance, but many clairvoyants, psychometrists, etc., have no connection whatsoever with the spiritualistic seance.
The possession of these faculties, mentioned above, does not indicate an unusual degree of spiritual development, nor is their manifestation dependent upon purity and unselfishness of character. They are merely evidences that one or more of the astral senses are partially able to act independent of their physical counterparts.
CLAIRVOYANCE AND CLAIRAUDIENCE
The word clairvoyance means "clear-seeing," but this is exactly what it is not, as this psychic power is known today, since its outstanding characteristic is unreliability. There are, as said, many grades of astral substance, each of which is familiar to a certain type of "seer," but as a rule it is the lower regions of the astral light that the clairvoyant contacts, a realm where all is a welter of confusion. Even here their vision is limited; they see only into one or more subplanes, and their pictures are therefore partial and scrappy.
Through octave after octave of vibrations the effect of every thought or act on our plane makes its own particular impression on inner planes, each and all known to the occultist. Each such impression represents but one phase of the imperishable record. The trained seer must combine all of these aspects in order to read the true picture. W. Q. Judge describes how even in so simple an act as a person's moving from one chair to another in a room, all the centers of force in his being come into play and each one makes its own and peculiar effect on the astral substance, and he goes on to say that:
At once the motion made and thoughts aroused elicit their own sound, color, motion in ether, amount of etheric light, symbolic picture, disturbance of elemental forces, and so on through the great catalogue. Did one but wink his eye, the same effects follow in due order. And the seer can perceive but that which attunes itself to his own development and personal peculiarities, all limited in force and degree. — The Path, vol. 5, pp. 283-4
Every reading made by the seer is modified, if not markedly colored, by his own powers of interpretation, partly governed by his degree of technical knowledge concerning the character of the various subplanes of the astral light, and partly by his mental and intuitional development. In fact his whole hereditary and evolutionary background affects the nature of his interpretation.
There is also a distinction to be made between actual astral records of people and events either of the past, present, or future, and mere thought-forms relating to such people and events projected from the minds of individuals. Suppose, for instance, one approaches a "fortuneteller" for the purpose of finding out whether some project will turn out to one's liking. There are several possibilities of error in the answer, aside from the limitations already mentioned. There hangs around every person in his own astral atmosphere, sometimes called his aura, a perfect phantasmagoria of images that he weaves out of the stuff of his own thinking self. Now if our querent has built up, as he undoubtedly has, a thought-picture of what he hopes will happen, the seer may mistake this for a foreshadowing of the future outcome. Or the querent's mind may be just freshly impressed by thoughts from another dominant mind. This impression will then stand out most clearly and prove a false indication for the undiscriminating seer. Or there may be spontaneous and quite unconscious feelings of either sympathy or antipathy between the two, and this in itself will color the reply.
Further the relation of pictures one with another is not clear in the astral light. There is often a reversal of sequence or conditions: the future may appear as the past, summer as winter, results look like causes, and so on. Numbers also are said to appear in reverse, as for instance 321 may be transformed into 123.
Such instances of the unreliability of most clairvoyant readings could be added to almost indefinitely. Conflicting reports from a number of clairvoyants about some event of nationwide interest bear out the emphatic statements made by occultists as to the uncertain character of all such sources of knowledge. And mention might also be made of the strong temptation to deception and fraud risked by those professed psychics whose rather doubtful powers are not always functioning.
Besides this matter of unreliability, which often may lead others astray, there are the more serious dangers to the clairvoyant himself. It is significant that a large majority of clairvoyants suffer from nervous and other physical disorders and from mental instability, and that their degree of sensitivity often increases proportionally to their ill-health.
Further, the effect of such constant centering of attention on this subtle sense perception brings on a gradual atrophy of the thinking, reasoning faculty. The clairvoyant, also, may not be able to stop the power at will, and the images that float before his inner eye may torment and perplex until sanity itself is threatened. When we are so little able as yet to stand firm against the throng of subtle suggestions that assault the fortress of our psychic nature through the avenues of our five physical senses, it would seem to be rashness in the extreme to wish to be introduced to a whole new set of senses, far more complicated and bewildering in action. And to advise another to try to develop clairvoyant powers is a responsibility no one would care to undertake once he knew all that it entails.
The following words from Judge are emphatic and unmistakable in their import:
But what shall theosophists do? Stop all attempts at clairvoyance. And why? Because it leads them slowly but surely — almost beyond recall — into an interior and exterior passive state where the will is gradually overpowered and they are at last in the power of the demons who lurk around the threshold of our consciousness. Above all, follow no advice to "sit for development." Madness lies that way. The feathery touches which come upon the skin while trying these experiments are said by mediums to be the gentle touches of the "spirits." But they are not. They are caused by the ethereal fluids from within us making their way out through the skin and thus producing the illusion of a touch. When enough has gone out, then the victim is getting gradually negative, the future prey for spooks and will-o'-the-wisp images.
"But what," they say, "shall we pursue and study?" Study the philosophy of life, leave the decorations that line the road of spiritual development for future lives, and — practice altruism. -- The Path, vol. 5, p. 284
Clairaudience is but another form of the same psychic power as clairvoyance and may be just as open to error. Sound, like light, leaves its impressions upon the tenacious substance of the astral light. This may be difficult to understand at first, but an analogous phenomenon is found in the simple experiment of the physics laboratory where sand will take on geometrical patterns when submitted to the vibrations of a musical instrument. The phonograph record still better illustrates this point.
The two powers are sometimes hardly distinguishable, both astral senses apparently functioning together. And whether of the ear or of the eye, the "image" may sometimes seem to be objective because the astral sense organ, having received its vibratory message from the ether, sends it on to the brain which then excites the physical organ of sight or sound.
Telepathy or thought transference, also called ESP (extrasensory perception), is the faculty of perceiving thought-pictures sent out by another mind. Involuntary telepathy is very common indeed, especially where there exists a bond of sympathy. Almost everyone has had the experience of having letters cross, one being obviously the reply to the other; or that a friend at a distance is aware of something going on in one's own mind without any written word. There is nothing abnormal or "magical" about this, since thought is known to the occultist to be vibratory, and where two minds are in sympathy, there is similarity of vibration transmitted from one mind to the other along the invisible astral medium.
Voluntary telepathy requires not only a perfect rapport between two individuals, but also an intense concentration of thought directed by the will; but the development of the power in ordinary persons would be exceedingly difficult and probably dangerous in any case. As a race we have not as yet the ethical stamina that would prove us worthy to possess a power allowing us, under a thousand temptations, to pick the thoughts out of another's mind and pry into the inner recesses of his consciousness.
The present rather widespread experiments in telepathy, in order to discover whether there does exist a sixth sense in mankind, an extrasensory perception, are bound to be very incomplete in their results, because the experimenters are working with the mysteries of elusive consciousness which will not be confined within the limits of the laboratory. It is like trying to draw permanent lines with a stick in a body of water. Yet their efforts are interesting, since they may lead to the opening of a door into a realm whose existence scientists have consistently denied.
There is a higher form of telepathy, if one may so call it, in which we all may partake. H. P. Blavatsky speaks of that great ocean of supernal ideas in which our globe exists. To this are attracted those great minds of the human race whose quality of thought is on a similar high plane. These giant minds become the channels by which these sublime ideas are clothed in human language to quicken the spiritual intuitions of humanity. This inner world of thought has no limiting frontiers. We keep ourselves out.
This rather specific term may serve to describe one type of astral visioning. It is the practice of looking into a crystal, a polished mirror, or some such object with the ability to see therein events taking place at a distance, or foreshadowings of the future. Examination shows that there are too many cases of successful divination to class this whole matter under that of hallucination or trickery. Yet as with other occult matters, the subject has not been studied seriously by scientific investigators because of materialistic prejudice which would make the researcher lose caste in scientific circles. For too long the matter has been associated with superstition and the tricks of paid professionals. The inability of the seer to be consistently successful, or to explain causes of failure, has also helped to throw the whole matter into disfavor.
Theosophy explains that certain bright and polished objects more readily than other things collect or concentrate a portion of the astral light about themselves, where pictures are thus made visible to one who has a certain amount of clairvoyant perception. Such objects are really merely an aid to the natural clairvoyant. Records of many peoples show a wide variety of such objects used in different ages and countries, such as a pool of ink in the hand, water in a vessel, a sword blade, and so on.
This is the faculty of reading astral impressions and pictures that cluster around inanimate as well as animate objects. Such pictures the psychometrist can "see" when he comes into physical contact with the object to be studied. The sensations received are not only those of sight. Sounds can be heard, odors smelt, or sensations of heat and cold, dryness and moisture felt.
Thus a manuscript, painting, article of clothing or jewelry — no matter how ancient — conveys to the sensitive, a vivid picture of the writer, painter, or wearer even; though he lived in the days of Ptolemy or Enoch. Nay, more; a fragment of an ancient building will recall its history and even the scenes which transpired within or about it. A bit of ore will carry the soul-vision back to the time when it was in process of formation. — H. P. Blavatsky, Isis Unveiled 1:182
This power is fairly common in a mild degree. In fact all people who are at all sensitive to the unpleasant or perhaps pleasant atmosphere hanging around old houses, books, furniture, and the like are exhibiting a slight and unconscious use of the power; for it is obvious that that unseen something they sense inheres rather in the astral body of the object than in the physical shell.
Psychometry may be considered a relatively safe door into the inner world for scientists. The thousands of experiments that have been made along this line are much more satisfactory and much less subject to fraud than anything else of a psychic nature. Blavatsky suggests that the faculty was extensively used in the ancient world, and quotes a modern investigator who believes that the profound knowledge of the Chaldean astrologers was gained rather through clairvoyant reading of certain meteoric stones than by the use of astronomical instruments (see Isis Unveiled 1:331-2).
Automatic writing, besides being one of the phenomena of spiritualism, is also at the present time cultivated by an ever increasing number of people whose purposes in so doing are probably varied. Some enthusiasts seriously believe that they can train themselves to be guided in the composition of marvelous works of literature, or become the channels for revelations of truth from "on high." But most results that have been studied, while sometimes containing bits of lofty thought, are characterized by two things: (a) inequality of style to a marked degree, and (b) lack of any coherent thread of thought. The mass of twaddle put out in this way is conspicuous. Even the best class of this kind of writing never contains any new contribution to the body of spiritual ideas already found in the great literatures of the world.
In India, where the mysteries of the psychic nature have been studied for many ages, such type of automatic writing has always been ascribed to bhutas, astral remnants of former human beings. And the practice has always been warned against, since it leaves one passive to whatever astral entities may find an affinity in one's psychic make-up.
There is, however, another type of automatic writing which is described by G. de Purucker as follows:
This kind is wholesome, good, and proper to cultivate if you have a wise and reliable Teacher. Otherwise you will almost inevitably slip on the path. This other kind of automatic writing can occur when the higher part of the human constitution becomes the controlling factor for an hour or two or three mayhap. The human being then is no longer conscious of his physical personality at all; he has transcended that; he has raised himself, has become for the time being almost at one with the god within, and in these circumstances his hand writes what may actually be a very message from his own spiritual nature.
But alas, in the present state of human evolution, none can do this without initiation, without training, without a Teacher. -- Questions We All Ask, Series II, iv
To establish contact with the spiritual source of one's own being requires not only technical training, but a prepared vehicle as well. It was through such training and preparation that H. P. Blavatsky was able to become the channel for the writing of large portions of her books by her own teachers. She was able at any moment to receive their "call to attention." And hints that she herself has given in her writings show that this was no light accomplishment.
It would not be profitable to dwell further on the various types of abnormal development as exhibited in the West; nor need the numerous other psychic powers known only to the East concern us here. Enough has been said to show how misleading is the glamour that hangs about these subjects, a glamour that we could dispel if we knew more about the genuine spiritual powers of which these are at best but a poor reflection.
For instance, it is undoubtedly the element of prophecy that makes clairvoyance so fascinating to many people. To be able to cheat time, so to speak, becomes almost a passion with some. Yet such attempts to glimpse into the future, when successful, bring dissatisfaction, unrest, a centering of attention upon oneself, and a general loss of equilibrium; when unsuccessful, they are futile indeed.
The true clairvoyant power, on the other hand, which takes its beginnings in unselfish love, brings with it no such unhappy results. It is a power used at will by the master of life; in us it feebly manifests as flashes of intuition, hunches, warnings in dreams, and the like.
Even such qualities as discrimination and sound judgment, natural attributes of the well-developed individual, indicate that normal evolutionary growth leads us sanely, even if imperceptibly, towards the acquiring of clairvoyant powers. Discrimination is essentially a quality derived from our buddhic principle, and wherever we see someone who knows "instinctively," as we say, what to do in a crisis, when to act and when to refrain from action, who can make swift decisions, perhaps on momentous questions, that contain no flaw of judgment, who has a balanced sense of values — such a person we may know is giving exercise to the clairvoyant power of "seeing straight." The highly specialized powers of the adept must always rest on such secure foundations of character. They are the normal higher human faculties, developed, refined, and expanded to a universal scope.
One often comes upon the phrase "the Eye of Siva" or "the third eye" in theosophical literature. This refers to the inner spiritual eye of the seer; but "the faculty which manifests through it is not clairvoyance as ordinarily understood, i. e., the power of seeing at a distance, but rather the faculty of spiritual intuition, through which direct and certain knowledge is obtainable." (The Secret Doctrine 1:46n)
There was a time in the history of human evolution, say the ancient records (see The Secret Doctrine 2:294-302), when the race possessed an actual physical organ known as the third eye which finally became atrophied as spirituality disappeared and materiality increased. This was the organ of spiritual clairvoyance, now represented in the skull by the mysterious pineal gland which remains as a witness to the fact that there exists this sleeping power within us.
The disappearance of the third eye took place when human physical development dominated the scene. But that racial cycle of growth has now passed its lowest point, and it is again time for our spiritual faculties, so long recessive, to find expression through our progressively refining inner and outer bodies. Thus true clairvoyance is not something foreign to the human make-up. To the extent that we can tranquilize and purify our psychic nature, we shall again possess that direct perception of reality which belongs to us by right of our essential spiritual nature. But possession is not enough. Spiritual intuition, the true clairvoyance, does not become our strength and our knowledge until we learn how to use it.
When the Theosophical Society was founded in 1875, those who were attracted to this "new" and original organization naturally interpreted its objectives in the light of their own understanding and according to their degree of enlightenment. If, as they understood, there existed a great brotherhood of exalted human beings who possessed amazing power over the forces of man and nature, and who were guardians of a great treasury of knowledge accumulated through the ages, then here was the opportunity of a lifetime to receive development along "occult" lines and learn those secrets that confer knowledge and power upon him who can master them.
It was vague in the minds of many as to exactly what sort of training and instruction they were seeking and exactly what were the results they expected to arrive at. To some it was psychism that fascinated. And these were disappointed when they found that no promises were made to teach methods for roaming about in the astral body at will, reading astral records, or communicating with "spirits."
Others, interested in "magic" and the occult arts, looked for instruction in formulas and spells and rites, in "correspondences" and the secret properties of metals, colors, numbers, and the like.
Others aspired rather higher. They wished to acquire the powers of the spirit, those qualities that make one truly holy and wise; and they imagined that their eagerness to be put under training and their high enthusiasm were sufficient guarantee of success.
The theosophical philosophy has an answer for each of these three classes of power seekers, whose like can be found today, as always. The dangers of psychism have already been discussed at length in these pages. No theosophical teacher, however, condemns psychic powers per se.
When a man has allied himself consciously with the god within him, with the real source of everything that he is, then these psychical powers and faculties so-called develop and unfold as naturally as the unfolding of the petals of a flower and the use of these psychical faculties and powers then becomes not only legitimate and proper, but necessary. But to cultivate these psychical things before you have mastered the merest elements of self-knowledge, of selfhood, before you know who you are or before you have found yourself, makes you to be as much without guides as is a bit of drifting flotsam on the ocean of life; . . . — G. de Purucker, Questions We All Ask, Series II, v
To those interested in the occult arts, the following words of H. P. Blavatsky are a fitting answer:
Occultism is not magic. It is comparatively easy to learn the trick of spells and the methods of using the subtler, but still material, forces of physical nature; the powers of the animal soul in man are soon awakened; the forces which his love, his hate, his passion, can call into operation, are readily developed. But this is Black Magic — Sorcery. -- Studies in Occultism
Real divine theurgy requires an almost superhuman purity and holiness of life; otherwise it degenerates into mediumship or black magic. --The Key to Theosophy, p. 3n
A distinction is made in theosophy between occultism and the occult arts. Occultism is atma-vidya, which means literally "knowledge of the self." This knowledge is the supreme aim of the true aspirant to wisdom because he is taught that the universe is within himself, and that the farther "inward" he goes, the more all-embracing his consciousness becomes. This is a mystical saying which will not yield up its secret meaning to the coldly critical mind of the pure materialist.
The occult arts, on the other hand, constitute a group of sciences — however little recognized today; among which are included occult physiology, astrology, alchemy, and chiromancy. They are based on exact knowledge and are known to the great brotherhood of adepts by natural right. But the high spiritual stature of these sages was never achieved by seeking to attain this knowledge and power for its own sake.
Atma-vidya, says H. P. Blavatsky, sets small store by them:
It includes them all, and may even use them occasionally, but it does so after purifying them of their dross, for beneficent purposes, and taking care to deprive them of every element of selfish motive. -- Studies in Occultism
To those who aspire to attain the powers of the spirit, the answer always comes: discipline first.
Siddhis (or the Arhat [a master of life] powers) are only for those who are able to "lead the life," to comply with the terrible sacrifices required for such a training, and to comply with them to the very letter. -- Ibid.
There have been those who have complained of this attitude of reserve on the part of theosophical teachers, in giving out certain knowledge, and have attributed it to unworthy motives of one kind or another — reflected, indeed, from their own distorted consciousness. Study of the philosophy, however, soon uncovers the wise reason for this reticence. Man as he is at present is comparatively well protected against his own follies and imperfections. His very incapacity shields him. But knowledge is power, and power without absolute purity and self-control spells sorcery and finally utter self-destruction. Knowledge also brings responsibility; and whatever evil effects arise from one's wielding of forbidden power, affecting others as well as oneself, have to be met and answered for by the unfortunate offender of the cosmic law.
No true teacher would be guilty of the crime, for such it would be, of putting into the hands of the unprepared the terrible temptations attendant upon the acquiring of technical instruction as to nature's inner secrets. Only he is prepared whose psychic nature is unassailable; and preparedness is achieved through a long period of training, and by the use of the creative will.
But the first steps in training can be taken at any time. Life itself provides the opportunity. Through the gradual refining influence of suffering and the disciplines of experience, the very quality of our psychic nature changes little by little following the natural upward urge towards racial improvement. It becomes purer, less vacillating and wayward, more sensitive to the magnetic pull upwards towards its spiritual parent within. Discrimination, a quality of the spirit, begins to develop. The purpose of life takes on a new and profounder significance. The mystery of the one life flowing through all beings gradually turns one away from the small attentions of the personal self to embrace a wider circle of sympathies and interests.
By such gradual development one becomes prepared to take a further step. No one who is ready is ever denied the opportunity to advance. The Theosophical Society has provided in this cycle such an opportunity. Yet it was not methods for developing powers that the mahatmas who founded the Society offered. Powers fascinate the human mind because, however spiritually conceived, they imply, to us, the ability to have something for ourself; to rise above our fellows; to excel rather than to serve. Our motives are of course mixed. We do entertain altruistic ideals; but the higher forms of selfishness are very subtle indeed, and altruistic motives are very easily submerged under the excess of egoism that grows pari passu with our psychic or, let us say, even spiritual development.
What the Theosophical Society offers is an opportunity to all lovers of humanity to do altruistic work, illuminated by the light of a comprehensive philosophy which explains the causes of the miseries and inequalities in the world. It was founded to help direct altruism along constructive channels, and to show that whole-hearted cooperation in such work was the safest way to higher development. The dynamic energy to give the Movement power to overcome every obstacle is not generated by striving to learn tricks of the occult arts, but by arousing a burning desire to serve. In short, the Society was not formed to be a "Hall of Magic." It was to be a nucleus of universal brotherhood in the world and "to keep alive in man his spiritual intuitions."
Many Westerners find it very distasteful to contemplate a postponement of personal achievement. They say, "Why must we wait for future lives? We want powers now." Such people are fascinated by the various methods of training offered by self-styled occultists, or by yogis from the East. Nevertheless, an inquiry into these systems and their results shows that even here they do not find satisfaction. Even when such systems are not positively dangerous, they practically all pander to the acquisitiveness of the undeveloped human being. Advertisements say: "You can learn in six weeks to gain power over others" or "You can have everything you want, power, riches, friends."
Yet with all their appeal, these adaptations of oriental systems are quite unsuited to the temperament of the average Westerner with his impatient, restless, and undisciplined nature. As a rule we are entirely unable to go through with the difficult courses of training to which the meditative, introspective Oriental is adapted by ages of heredity, by custom and environment. The eager enthusiast gets "stuck half way." Unable to win through to a promised success, and equally unable to regain the more normal if not enlightened state he previously possessed, he does not know where to turn. His foundations are gone and he is likely to become a sort of derelict in life.
The better systems, with a quasi-spiritual appeal, promise the student looking for quick results the possibility of reaching a state of cosmic consciousness by following a particular course of lessons — for a price. But cosmic consciousness is not to be bought! It is the unalterable rule of the real teachers that no spiritual teaching shall ever be sold.
Further than this, the human soul has taken millions of years to reach its present stage, and that slow process of unfolding growth which is to culminate eventually in full spiritual enlightenment cannot suddenly be consummated. You cannot overnight make of a soul something that it is not. Its quality and character change slowly. Soul enlightenment comes as the fruition of lifetimes of diligence and one-pointed effort.
Thus the theosophical philosophy holds out no false hopes. It explains the nature, origin, and destiny of the complex being called man, and provides a grand universal setting in which the awakening consciousness of the aspirant to wisdom views his own progress as inseparable from that of the whole human race, and almost inconsequential in its purely personal aspects. He finds that, far from any barriers being raised to his progressive development, the expansion of consciousness he receives from a study of the ancient wisdom and from its application in a life of unselfish service, clears away veil after veil of the lower selfhood. Thus he himself, by his own self-devised efforts, brings about those higher stages of training and teaching which lead to the final objective: the attainment of atma-vidya, the union of the human self with the aspirant's own inner god.
As a concluding thought, we quote from the closing chapter of The Key to Theosophy. H. P. Blavatsky, writing in 1889, draws a picture of what the Theosophical Society may do if it can avoid the pitfalls that so many former efforts have fallen into. She writes:
Then the Society will live on into and through the twentieth century. It will gradually leaven and permeate the great mass of thinking and intelligent people with its large-minded and noble ideas of Religion, Duty, and Philanthropy. Slowly but surely it will burst asunder the iron fetters of creeds and dogmas, of social and caste prejudices; it will break down racial and national antipathies and barriers, and will open the way to the practical realisation of the Brotherhood of all men. . . . Further, the development of the psychic powers and faculties, the premonitory symptoms of which are already visible in America, will proceed healthily and normally. Mankind will be saved from the terrible dangers, both mental and bodily, which are inevitable when that unfolding takes place, as it threatens to do, in a hot-bed of selfishness and all evil passions. Man's mental and psychic growth will proceed in harmony with his moral improvement, while his material surroundings will reflect the peace and fraternal good-will which will reign in his mind, instead of the discord and strife which is everywhere apparent around us to-day.
Top of File