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Seven Principles of Man

By Annie Besant

Principles 6 & 7 – Atman, Buddhi and the Spirit

AS the completion of the thought of the last section, we will look at Âtma-Buddhi first in its connection with Manas and will then proceed to a somewhat more general view of it as the “Monad.” 

The clearest and best description of the human trinity, Âtma-Buddhi-Manas, will be found in the Key to Theosophy, in which H.P. Blavatsky gives the following definitions:

DEFINITIONS FROM THE KEY TO THEOSOPHY

THE HIGHER SELF is

Atma, the inseparable ray of the Universal and ONE SELF. It is the God above, more than within us. Happy the man who succeeds in saturating his inner Ego with it.

THE SPIRITUAL DIVINE EGO is

The spiritual soul, or Buddhi, in close union with Manas, the mind-principle, without which it is no EGO at all, but only the Atmic Vehicle.

THE INNER or HIGHER EGO is

Manas, the fifth principle, so called, independently of Buddhi. The mind-principle is only the Spiritual Ego when merged into one with Buddhi... It is the permanent individuality or the reincarnating Ego.

Âtmâ must then be regarded as the most abstract part of man’s nature, the “breath” which needs a body for its manifestation. It is the one reality, that which manifests on all planes, the essence of which all our principles are but aspects. The one Eternal Existence, wherefrom are all things, which embodies one of its aspects in the universe, that which we speak of as the One Life — this Eternal Existence rays forth as Âtmâ, the very Self alike of the universe and of man; their innermost core, their very heart, that in which all things in here. 

In itself incapable of direct manifestation on lower planes, yet That without which no lower planes could come into existence, It clothes Itself in Buddhi, as Its vehicle, or medium of further manifestation. “Buddhi is the faculty of cognizing, the channel through which divine knowledge reaches the Ego, the discernment of good and evil, also divine conscience, and the spiritual Soul, which is the vehicle of Âtmâ.” 

It is often spoken of as the principle of spiritual discernment. But Âtma-Buddhi, a universal principle, needs individualizing ere experience can be gathered and self-consciousness attained. So, the mind-principle is united to Âtma-Buddhi, and the human trinity is complete. Manas becomes the spiritual Ego only when merged in Buddhi; Buddhi becomes the spiritual Ego only when united to Manas; in the union of the two lies the evolution of the Spirit, self-conscious on all planes. 

Hence Manas strives upward to Âtma-Buddhi, as the lower Manas strives upward to the higher, and hence, in relation to the higher Manas, Âtma-Buddhi, or Âtma, is often spoken of as “the Father in Heaven” as the higher Manas is itself thus described in relation to the lower. The lower Manas gathers experience to carry it back to its source; the higher Manas accumulates the store throughout the cycle of reincarnation; Buddhi becomes assimilated with the higher Manas; and these, permeated with the Âtmic light, one with that True Self, the trinity becomes a unity, the Spirit is self-conscious on all planes, and the object of the manifested universe is attained.

But no words of mine can avail to explain or to describe that which is beyond explanation and beyond description. Words can but blunder along on such a theme, dwarfing and distorting it. Only by long and patient meditation can the student hope vaguely to sense something greater than himself, yet something which stirs at the innermost core of his being. As to the steady gaze directed at the pale evening sky, there appears after a while, faintly and far away, the soft glimmer of a star, so to the patient gaze of the inner vision there may come the tender beam of the spiritual star, if but as a mere suggestion of a far-off world. Only to a patient and persevering purity will that light arise and blessed beyond all earthly blessedness is he who sees but the palest shimmer of that transcendent radiance.

With such ideas as to “Spirit,” the horror with which Theosophists shrink from ascribing the trivial phenomena of the séance-room to “spirits” will be readily understood. Playing on musical boxes, talking through trumpets, tapping people on the head, carrying accordions round the room — these things may be all very well for astrals, spooks and elementals, but who can assign them to “spirits,” who has any conception of Spirit worthy of the name? Such vulgarization and degradation of the most sublime conceptions as yet evolved by man are surely subjects for the keenest regret, and it may well be hoped that ere long these phenomena will be put in their true place, as evidence that the materialistic views of the universe are inadequate, instead of being exalted to a place they cannot fill as proofs of Spirit. No physical, no intellectual phenomena are proofs of the existence of Spirit. Only to the spirit can Spirit be demonstrated. You cannot prove a proposition in Euclid to a dog; you cannot prove Âtma-Buddhi to Kâma and the lower Manas. As we climb, our view will widen, and when we stand on the summit of the Holy Mount the planes of Spirit shall lie before our opened vision.

THE MONAD IN EVOLUTION 

Perhaps a slightly more definite conception of Atmâ-Buddhi may be obtained by the student, if he considers its work in evolution as the Monad. Now Atmâ-Buddhi is identical with the universal Over-soul, "itself an aspect of the Unknown Root," the One Existence. When manifestation begins the Monad is "thrown downwards into matter" to propel forward and force evolution; it is the mainspring, so to speak, of all evolution, the impelling force at the root of all things. All the principles we have been studying are mere "variously differentiated aspects" of Atmâ, the One Reality manifesting in our universe; it is in every atom, "the root of every atom individually and of every form collectively" and all the principles are fundamentally Atmâ on different planes. 

The stages of its evolution are very clearly laid down in Five Years of Theosophy, pages 273 et seq. There we are shown how it passes through the stages termed elemental, "nascent centers of forces" and reaches the mineral stage; from this it passes up through vegetable, animal, to man, vivifying every form. As we are taught in the Secret Doctrine: 

The well-known Kabbalistic aphorism runs:

“A stone becomes a plant; the plant a beast; the beast, a man; the man, a spirit; and the spirit, a god.”

The ‘spark’ animates all the kingdoms in turn before it enters into and informs divine man, between whom and his predecessor, animal man, there is all the difference in the world…. The Monad…is first of all, shot down by the law of evolution into the lowest form of matter – the mineral. After a sevenfold gyration incased in the stone, or that which will become mineral and stone in the Fourth Round, it creeps out of it, say as a lichen. Passing thence, through all the forms of vegetable matter, into what is termed animal matter, it has now reached the point in which it has become the germ, so to speak, of the animal, that will become the physical man.

It is the Monad, Âtma-Buddhi, that thus vivifies every part and kingdom of nature, making all instinct with life and consciousness, one throbbing whole. 

Occultism does not accept anything inorganic in the Kosmos. The expression employed by science, “inorganic substance,” means simply that the latent life, slumbering in the molecules of so-called “inert matter,” is incognizable. All is life and every atom of even mineral dust is a life, though beyond our comprehension and perception, because it is outside the range of the laws known to those who reject Occultism.

And again: 

Everything in the universe, throughout all its kingdoms, is conscious, i.e.., endowed with a consciousness of its own kind and on its own plane of perception. We men must remember that simply because we do not perceive any signs of consciousness which we can recognize, say in stones, we have no right to say that no consciousness exists there. There is no such thing as either “dead” or “blind” matter, as there is no “blind” or “unconscious” law.

How many of the great poets, with the sublime intuition of genius, have sensed this great truth! To them all nature pulses with life; they see life and love everywhere, in suns and planets as in the grains of dust, in rustling leaves and opening blossoms, in dancing gnats and gliding snakes. Each form manifests as much of the One Life as it is capable of expressing, and what is man that he should despise the more limited manifestations, when he compares himself as a life-expression, not with the forms below him, but with the possibilities of expression that soar above him in infinite heights of being, which he can estimate still less than the stone can estimate him? The student will readily see that we must regard this force at the center of evolution as essentially one. There is but one Âtma-Buddhi in our universe, the universal Soul, everywhere present, immanent in all, the One Supreme Energy whereof all varying energies or forces are only differing forms. As the sunbeam is light or heat or electricity according to its conditioning environment, so is Âtma all-energy, differentiating on different planes. 

As an abstraction, we will call it the One Life; as an objective and evident reality, we speak of a Septenary scale of manifestation, which begins at the upper rung with the one unknowable causality and ends as Omnipresent Mind and Life immanent in every atom of matter.

Its evolutionary course is very plainly outlined in a quotation given in the Secret Doctrine, and as students are very often puzzled over this unity of the Monad, I subjoin the statement. The subject is difficult, but it could not, I think, be more clearly put than it is in these sentences:

Now the monadic or cosmic essence (if such a term be permitted) in the mineral, vegetable, and animal, though the same throughout the series of cycles from the lowest elemental up to the Deva kingdom yet differs in the scale of progression. It would be very misleading to imagine a Monad as a separate entity trailing its slow way in a distinct path through the lower kingdoms, and after incalculable series of transformations flowering into a human being; in short, that the Monad of a Humboldt dates back to the Monad of an atom of hornblende. Instead of saying a “Mineral Monad,” the more correct phraseology in physical science, which differentiates every atom, would of course have been to call it “the Monad manifesting in that form of Prakriti called the mineral kingdom.” 

The atom, as represented in the ordinary scientific hypothesis, is not a particle of something, animated by a psychic something, destined after aeons to blossom as a man. But it is a concrete manifestation of the universal energy which itself has not yet become individualized; a sequential manifestation of the one universal Monad The ocean of matter does not divide into its potential and constituent drops until the sweep of the life-impulse reaches the stage of man-birth. The tendency towards segregation into individual Monads is gradual, and in the higher animals comes almost to the point. 

The Peripatetics applied the word Monad to the whole Kosmos in the pantheistic sense; and the Occultists, while accepting this thought for convenience sake, distinguish the progressive stages of the evolution of the concrete from the abstract by terms of which the “mineral, vegetable, animal, Monad,” etc., are examples. The term merely means that the tidal wave of spiritual evolution is passing through that arc of its circuit. The “Monadic Essence” begins imperfectly to differentiate towards individual consciousness in the vegetable kingdom. 

As the Monads are uncompounded things, as correctly defined by Leibnitz, it is the spiritual essence which vivifies them in their degrees of differentiation, which properly constitutes the Monad — not the atomic aggregation, which is only the vehicle and the substance through which thrill the lower and the higher degrees of intelligence.

The student who reads and weighs this passage will, at the cost of a little present trouble, save himself from much confusion in days to come. Let him first realize clearly that the Monad – “the spiritual essence” to which alone in strict accuracy the term Monad should be applied – is one all the universe over, that Âtma-Buddhi is not his, nor mine, nor the property of anybody in particular, but the spiritual essence energizing in all. So is electricity one all the world over; though it may be active in his machine or in mine, neither he nor I can call it distinctly our electricity. But — and here arises confusion — when Âtma-Buddhi energizes in man, in whom Manas is active as an individualizing force, it is often spoken of as though the “atomic aggregation” were a separate Monad, and then we have “Monads,” as in the above passage. This loose way of using the word will not lead to error if the student will remember that the individualizing process is not on the spiritual plane, but Âtma-Buddhi as seen through Manas seems to share in the individuality of the latter. So, if you hold pieces of variously colored glass in your hand you may see through them a red sun, a blue sun, a yellow sun, and so on. None the less there is only the one sun shining down upon you, altered by the media through which you look at it. So, we often meet the phrase “human Monads”; it should be “the Monad manifesting in the human kingdom”; but this somewhat pedantic accuracy would be likely only to puzzle a large number of people, and the looser popular phrase will not mislead when the principle of the unity on the spiritual plane is grasped, any more than we mislead by speaking of the rising of the sun. “The Spiritual Monad is one, universal, boundless, and impartite, whose rays, nevertheless, form what we, in our ignorance, call the ‘individual Monads’ of men.” 

Very beautifully and poetically is this unity in diversity put in one of the Occult Catechisms in which the Guru questions the Chela:

Lift thy head, O Lanoo; dost thou see one or countless lights above thee, burning in the dark midnight sky?

I sense one Flame, O Gurudeva; I see countless undetached sparks burning in it.

Thou sayest well. And now look around and into thyself. That light which burns inside thee, dost thou feel it different in any wise from the light that shines in thy brother-men?

It is in no way different, though the prisoner is held in bondage by Karma, and though its outer garments delude the ignorant into saying, “thy soul” and “my soul.”

There ought not to be any serious difficulty now in grasping the stages of human evolution; the Monad, which has been working its way as we have seen, reaches the point at which the human form can be built up on earth; an etheric body and its physical counterpart are then developed, Prâna specialized from the great ocean of life, and Kâma evolved, all these principles, the lower quaternary, being brooded over by the Monad, energized by it, impelled by it, forced onward by it towards continually increasing perfection of form and capacity for manifesting the higher energies in Nature. This was animal, or physical man, evolved through two and a half Races. But the Monad and the lower quaternary could not come into sufficiently close relation with each other; a link was yet wanting.

The Double Dragon [the Monad] has no hold upon the mere form. It is like the breeze where there is no tree or branch to receive and harbor it. It cannot affect the form where there is no agent of transmission, and the form knows it not.

Then, at the middle point just reached, in the middle, that is, of the Third race, the lower Mânasaputra stepped in to inhabit the dwellings thus prepared for them, and to form the bridge between animal man and the Spirit, between the evolved quaternary and the brooding Âtma-Buddhi, to begin the long cycle of reincarnation which is to issue in the perfect man.

The “monadic inflow,” or the evolution of the Monad, from the animal into the human kingdom, continued through the Third Race on to the middle of the Fourth, the human population thus continually receiving fresh recruits, the birth of souls thus continuing through the second half of the Third race and the first half of the Fourth. After this, the “central turning point” of the cycle of evolution, “no more Monads can enter the human kingdom. The door is closed for this cycle.” Since then reincarnation has been the method of evolution, this individual reincarnation of the immortal Thinker in conjunction with Âtma-Buddhi replacing the collective indwelling of Âtma-Buddhi in lower forms of matter.

According to Theosophical teachings, humanity has now reached the Fifth Race, and we are in the fifth sub-race thereof, mankind on this globe in the present stage having before it the completion of the Fifth race, and the rise, maturity and decay of the Sixth and Seventh Races. But during all the ages necessary for this evolution, there is no increase in the total number of reincarnating Egos; only a small proportion of these are reincarnated at any special time on our globe, so that the population may ebb and flow within very wide limits, and it will have been noticed that there is a rush of birth after a local depopulation has been caused by exceptional mortality. There is room and to spare for all such fluctuations, having in view the difference between the total number of reincarnating Egos and the number actually incarnated at a given period.

LINES OF PROOF FOR AN UNTRAINED ENQUIRER

It is natural and right that any thoughtful person brought face to face with assertions such as those put forth in the preceding pages, should demand what proof is forthcoming to substantiate the propositions laid down. A reasonable person will not demand full and complete proof available to all comers, without study and without painstaking. He will admit that the advanced theories of a science cannot be demonstrated to one ignorant of its first principles, and he will be prepared to find that very much will have been alleged which can only be proved to those who have made some progress in their study. 

An essay on the higher mathematics, on the correlation of forces, on the atomic theory, on the molecular constitution of chemical compounds, would contain many statements the proofs of which would only be available for those who had devoted time and thought to the study of the elements of the science concerned; and so an unprejudiced person, confronted with the Theosophical view of the constitution of man, would readily admit that he could not expect complete demonstration until he had mastered the elements of the Theosophical science.

None the less are there general proofs available in every science which suffice to justify its existence and to encourage study of its more recondite truths; and in Theosophy it is possible to indicate lines of proof which can be followed by the untrained enquirer, and which justify him in devoting time and pains to a study which gives promise of a wider and deeper knowledge of himself and of external nature than is otherwise attainable.

It is well to say at the outset that there is no proof available to the average enquirer of the existence of the three higher planes of which we have spoken. The realms of Spirit, and of the higher mind are closed to all save those who have evolved the faculties necessary for their investigation. Those who have evolved these faculties need no proof of the existence of those realms; to those who have not, no proof of their existence can be given. That there is something above the astral and the lower levels of the mental plane may indeed be proved by the flashes of genius, the lofty intuitions, that from time to time lighten the darkness of our lower world; but what that something is, only those can say whose inner eyes have been opened, who see where the race as a whole is still blind. 

But the lower planes are susceptible to proof, and fresh proofs are accumulating day by day. The Masters of Wisdom are using the investigators and thinkers of the Western world to make “discoveries” which tend to substantiate the outposts of the Theosophical position, and the lines which they are following are exactly those which are needed for the finding of natural laws which will justify the assertions of Theosophists with regard to the elementary “powers” and “phenomena” to which such exaggerated importance has been given. If it is found that we have undeniable facts which establish the existence of planes other than the physical on which consciousness can work; which establish the existence of senses and powers of perception other than those with which we are familiar in daily life; which establish the existence of powers of communication between intelligences without the use of mechanical apparatus, surely, under these circumstances, the Theosophist may claim that he has made out a prima facie case for further investigation of his doctrines.

Let us then, confine ourselves to the lower planes of which we have spoken in the preceding pages, and the four lower principles in man which are correlated with these planes. Of these four, we may dismiss one, that of Prâna, as none will challenge the fact of the existence of the energy we call “life”; the need of isolating it for purposes of study may be challenged, and in very truth the plane of Prâna, or the principle of Prâna, runs through all other planes, all other principles, interpenetrating all and binding all in one. There remain for our study the physical plane, the astral plane, the lower levels of the Mânasic plane. Can we substantiate these by proofs which will be accepted by those who are not yet Theosophists? I think we can.

First, as regards the physical plane: we need here to notice how the senses of man are correlated with the physical universe outside him, and how his knowledge of that universe is bounded by the power of his organs of sense to vibrate in response to vibrations set up outside him. He can hear when the air is thrown into vibrations into which the drum of his ear can also be thrown; if the vibration be so slow that the drum cannot vibrate in answer, the person does not hear any sound; if the vibration be so rapid that the drum cannot vibrate in answer, the person does not hear any sound. So true is this, that the limit of hearing in different persons varies with this power of vibration of the drums of their respective ears; one person is plunged in silence, while another is deafened by the keen shrilling that is throwing into tumult the air around both. The same principle holds good for sight; we see so long as the light waves are of a length to which our organs of sight can respond; below and beyond this length we are in darkness, let the ether vibrate as it may. The ant can see where we are blind, because its eye can receive and respond to etheric vibrations more rapid than we can sense.

All this suggests to any thoughtful person the idea that if our senses could be evolved to more responsiveness, new avenues of knowledge would be opened up even on the physical plane; this realized, it is not difficult to go a step farther, and to conceive that keener and subtler senses might exist which would open up, as it were, a new universe on a plane other than the physical.

Now this conception is true, and with the evolution of the astral senses the astral plane unfolds itself, and may be studied as really, as scientifically, as the physical universe can be. These astral senses exist in all men, but are latent in most, and generally need to be artificially forced, if they are to be used in the present stage of evolution. In a few persons they are normally present and become active without any artificial impulse. In very many persons they can be artificially awakened and developed. The condition, in all cases, of the activity of the astral senses is the passivity of the physical, and the more complete passivity on the physical plane the greater the possibility of activity on the astral.

It is noteworthy that Western psychologists have found it necessary to investigate what is termed the “dream consciousness” in order to understand the workings of consciousness as a whole. It is impossible to ignore the strange phenomena which characterize the workings of consciousness when it is removed from the limitations of the physical plane, and some of the most able and advanced of our psychologists do not think these workings to be in any way unworthy of the most careful and scientific investigation. 

All such workings are, in Theosophical language, on the astral plane, and the student who seeks for proof there is an astral plane may here find enough and to spare. He will speedily discover that the laws under which consciousness works on the physical plane have no existence on the astral. For example, the laws of space and time, which are here the very conditions of thought, do not exist for consciousness when its activity is transferred to the astral world. Mozart hears a whole symphony as a single impression, “as in a fine and strong dream”, but has to work it out in successive details when he brings it back with him to the physical plane. The dream of the moment contains a mass of events that would take years to pass in succession in our world of space and time. The drowning man sees his life history in a few seconds. But it is needless to multiply instances. 

The astral plane may be reached in sleep or in trance, natural or induced, i.e.., in any case in which the body is reduced to a condition of lethargy. It is in trance that it can best be studied, and here our enquirer will soon find proof that consciousness can work apart from the physical organism, unfettered by the laws that bind it while it works on the physical plane. Clairvoyance and clairaudience are among the most interesting of the phenomena that here lie for investigation.

It is not necessary here to give a large number of cases of clairvoyance, for I am supposing that the enquirer intends to study for himself. But I may mention the case of Jane Rider, observed by Dr. Belden, her medical attendant, a girl who could read and write with her eyes carefully covered with wads of cotton wool, coming down from to the middle of the cheek; of a clairvoyant observed by Schelling who announced the death of a relative at a distance of 150 leagues, and stated that the letter containing the news of the death was on its way; of Madame Lagrandré, who diagnosed the internal state of her mother, giving a description that was proved to be correct by the postmortem examination; of Emma, Dr. Haddock’s somnambule, who constantly diagnosed diseases for him. 

Speaking generally, the clairvoyant can see and describe events which are taking place at a distance, or under circumstances that render physical sight impossible. How is this done? The facts are beyond dispute. They require explanation. We say that consciousness can work through senses other than the physical, senses unfettered by the limitations of space which exist for our bodily senses and cannot by them be transcended. Those who deny the possibility of such working on what we call the astral plane should at least endeavor to present a hypothesis more reasonable than ours. Facts are stubborn things, and we have here a mass of facts proving the existence of conscious activity on a superphysical plane, of sight without eyes, hearing without ears, obtaining knowledge without physical apparatus. In default of any other explanation, the Theosophical hypothesis holds the field.

There is another class of facts: that of etheric and astral appearances, whether of living or dead persons, wraiths, apparitions, doubles, ghosts, etc., etc. Of course, the omniscient person of the end of the nineteenth century will sniff with lofty disdain at the mention of such silly superstitions. But sniffs do not abolish facts, and it is a question of evidence. The weight of evidence is enormously on the side of such appearances, and in all ages of the world human testimony has borne witness to their reality. The enquirer whose demand for proof I have in view may well set to work to gather first hand evidence on this head.

 Of course, if he is afraid of being laughed at he had better leave the matter alone, but if he is robust enough to face the ridicule of the superior person he will be amazed at the evidence which he will collect from persons who have themselves come into contact with astral forms. “Illusions! hallucinations! “the superior person will say. But calling names settles nothing. Illusions to which the vast majority of the human race bears witness are at least worthy of study, if human testimony is to be taken as of any worth. There must be something which gives rise to this unanimity of testimony in all ages of the world, testimony which is found today among civilized people, amid railways and electric lights, as well as among barbarous races.

The testimony of millions of Spiritualists to the reality of etheric and astral forms cannot be left out of consideration. When all cases of fraud and imposture are discounted there remain phenomena that cannot be dismissed as fraudulent, and that can be examined by any persons who care to give time and trouble to the investigation. There is no necessity to employ a professional medium; a few friends well known to each other, can carry on their search together; and it is not too much to say that any half-dozen persons, with a little patience and perseverance, may convince themselves of the existence of forces and of intelligences other than those of the physical plane. There is danger in this research to any emotional, nervous, and easily influenced natures, and it is well not to carry the investigations too far, for the reasons given on the previous pages. But there is no readier way of breaking down the unbelief in the existence of anything outside the physical plane than trying a few experiments, and it is worthwhile to run some risk in order to affect this breaking down.

These are but hints as to lines that the enquirer may follow, so as to convince himself that there is a state of consciousness such as we label “astral.” When he has collected evidence enough to make such a state probable to him, it will be time for him to be put in the way of serious study. For real investigation of the astral plane, the student must develop in himself the necessary senses, and to make his knowledge available while he is in the body, he must learn to transfer his consciousness to the astral plane without losing grip of the physical organism, so that he may impress on the physical brain the knowledge acquired during his astral voyagings. But for this he will need to be not a mere enquirer but a student, and he will require the aid and guidance of a teacher. As to finding that teacher, “when the pupil is ready the teacher is always there.”

Further proofs of the existence of the astral plane are, at the present time, most easily found in the study of mesmeric and hypnotic phenomena. And here, ere passing to these, I am bound to put in a word of warning. The use of mesmerism and hypnotism is surrounded by danger. The publicity which attends on all scientific discoveries in the West has scattered broadcast knowledge which places within the reach of the criminally disposed powers of the most terrible character, which may be used for the most damnable purposes. No good man or woman will use these powers, if he finds that he possesses them, save when he utilizes them purely for human service, without personal end in view, and when he is very sure that he is not by their means usurping control over the will and the actions of another human being. 

Unhappily the use of these forces is as open to the bad as to the good, and they may be, and are being, used to most nefarious ends. In view of these new dangers menacing individuals and society, each will do well to strengthen the habits of self-control and of concentration of thought and will, so as to encourage the positive mental attitude as opposed to the negative, and thus to oppose a sustained resistance to all influences coming from without. Our loose habits of thought, our lack of distinct and conscious purpose, lay us open to the attacks of the evil-minded hypnotizer, and that this is a real, not a fancied, danger has been already proved by cases that have brought the victims within grasp of the criminal law. It may be hoped that ere long such hypnotic malpractices may be brought within the criminal code.

While thus in the attitude of caution and of self-defense, we may yet wisely study the experiments made public to the world, in our search for preliminary proofs of the existence of the astral plane. For here Western science is on the very verge of discovering some of those “powers” of which Theosophists have said so much, and we have the right to use in justification of our teachings all the facts with which that science may supply us.

Now, one of the most important classes of these facts is that of thoughts rendered visible as forms. A hypnotized person, after being awakened from trance and being apparently in normal possession of his senses, can be made to see any form conceived by the hypnotizer. No word need be spoken, no touch given; it suffices that the hypnotizer should clearly image to himself some idea, and that idea becomes a visible and tangible object to the person under his control. 

This experiment may be tried in various ways; while the patient is in trance, “suggestion” may be used; that is, the operator may tell him that a bird is on his knee, and on awaking from the trance he will see the bird and will stroke it; or that he has a lampshade between his hands, and on awaking he will press his hands against it, feeling resistance in the empty air; scores of these experiments may be read in Richet or in Binet and Féré. Similar results may be affected without “suggestion” by pure concentration of the thought; I have seen a patient thus made to remove a ring from a person’s finger, without word spoken or touch passing between hypnotizer and hypnotized. 

The literature of mesmerism and hypnotism in English, French, and German is now very extensive, and it is open to everyone. There may be sought the evidence of this creation of forms by thought and will, forms which, on the astral plane, are real and objective. Mesmerism and hypnotism set the intelligence free on this plane, and it works thereon without the hindrance normally imposed by the physical apparatus; it can see and hear on that plane and sees thoughts as things. Here, again, for real study, it is necessary to learn how thus to transfer the consciousness while retaining hold of the physical organism; but for preliminary inquiry it suffices to study others whose consciousness is artificially liberated without their own volition. This reality of thought images on a superphysical plane is a fact of the very highest importance, especially in its bearing on reincarnation; but it is enough here to point to it as one of the facts which go to show the prima facie probability of the existence of such a plane.

Another class of facts deserving study is that which includes the phenomena of thought-transference, and here we reach the lower levels of the mental or Mânasic plane. The Transactions of the Psychical Research Society contain a large number of interesting experiments on this subject, and the possibility of the transference of thought from brain to brain without the use of words, or of any means of ordinary physical communication, is on the verge of general acceptance. And two persons, gifted with patience, may convince themselves of this possibility, if they care to devote to the effort sufficient time and perseverance. Let them agree to give, say, ten minutes daily to their experiment, and fixing on the time, let each shut himself up alone, secure from interruption of any kind. Let one be the thought projector, the other the thought-receiver, and it is safer to alternate these positions, in order to avoid risk of one becoming permanently abnormally passive. Let the thought projector concentrate himself on a definite thought and the will to impress it on his friend; no other idea than the one must enter his mind; his thought must be concentrated on the one thing, “one–pointed” in the graphic language of Patanjali. The thought-receiver, on the other hand, must render his mind a blank, and must merely note the thoughts that drift into it. These he should put down as they appear, his only care being to remain passive, to reject nothing, to encourage nothing. 

The thought-projector, on his side, should keep a record of the ideas he tries to send, and at the end of six months the two records should be compared. Unless the persons are abnormally deficient in thought and will, some power of communication will by that time have been established between them: and if they are at all psychic they will probably also have developed the power of see in each other in the astral light.

It may be objected that such an experiment would be wearisome and monotonous. Granted. All firsthand investigations into natural laws and forces are wearisome and monotonous. That is why nearly everyone prefers second-hand to first-hand knowledge; the “sublime patience of the investigator” is one of the rarest gifts. Darwin would perform an apparently trivial experiment hundreds of times to substantiate one small fact. 

The supersensuous domains certainly do not need for their conquest less patience and less effort than the sensuous. Impatience never yet accomplished anything in the questioning of nature, and the would-be student must, at the very outset, show the tireless perseverance which can perish but cannot relinquish its hold.

Finally, let me advise the inquirer to keep his eyes open for new discoveries, especially in the sciences of electricity, physics, and chemistry. Let him read Professor Lodge’s address to the British Association at Cardiff in the Autumn of 1891 and Professor Crookes’ address to the Society of Electrical Engineers in London the following November. He will there find pregnant hints of the lines along which Western science is preparing to advance, and he will perchance begin to feel that there may be something in H.P. Blavatsky’s statement that the Masters of Wisdom are preparing to give proofs that will substantiate the Secret Doctrine.

 

 

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