We can most profitably embark upon our voyage of psychic investigation, perhaps, by setting ourselves to deal with one problem which perplexes not only the outside world but many thoughtful students also.
“Why is it," the question is often asked, “that psychics are usually uneducated people, devoid of critical ability, ignorant and untutored?" We must admit the impeachment. In fact we may go rather further and say that it is not so much that such people are uneducated - for that is often a man's [Page 5] misfortune and does not necessarily imply stupidity on his part - but that a great many seem incapable of making much use of the mind. Into the psychism of these people there enters not infrequently a considerable element of fortune-telling, and even fraud and chicanery; so that much prejudice is created against the whole subject. On the other hand, there are other psychics, quite a minority, whose work entitles them to a position in the forefront of progressive thought.
Now the Theosophical scheme of evolution not only explains this well-defined phenomenon, but shows how perfectly natural it is in the sequence of evolution. At the outset, we must distinguish between a lower psychism and a higher psychism. The one is a relic of the earlier evolution of man, [Page 6] the other an anticipation of the future development of the race.
We may picture man's pilgrimage in matter as differentiating itself into three main stages - they correspond perhaps to those of which Paracelsus spoke when he referred to the three ages of man. There is first the gradual descent from spirit into matter, from the subtle to the gross. Secondly, the period of deepest immersion in matter, the turning point, the battlefield of Kurukshetra. Thirdly, the stage of the re-ascent from matter to spirit. In Hindu Philosophy the first stage is called the Pravritti Marga, the Path of Forth-going, and the last the Nivritti Marga, the Path of Return. This three-fold scheme of progress runs throughout the whole of nature. We see it in the large cycle of a Scheme of [Page 7] Evolution, where the first three Chains constitute a downward arc of progressive densification, the fourth the turning-point, and the fifth, sixth, and seventh an upward arc. Similarly in the smaller cycle of the passage of the Life-Wave round the seven globes of a Chain. And the same process is repeated in the seven successive Root-Races which inhabit a globe, and within those in the sub-races again. Thus, in studying the development of mankind, we naturally expect to see these three phases of progress faithfully reproduced. And it is so.
In the earlier stages, man's consciousness is focussed more in the higher worlds, and there is little effective touch with the physical. In a limited sense only would it be true to say that man was more "spiritual" [Page 8] then than now. True, the consciousness was more centred in the higher bodies, but it was comparatively inward-turned, as that of a man in a "brown study" - and we may suppose that this also is very much the state of those out of the body at night, or in the post-mortem life, who are not "awake" to the plane which they are temporarily inhabiting. Presumably it is this which Dr. Steiner means, when he says, in his curiously indirect fashion, that in the earlier stage man was truly an inhabitant of the higher worlds but did not belong to them. He does not fully belong to them till he masters them on the upward arc. Only then does he become a Freeman in those worlds.
During this primitive stage, while the Higher Man was, so to speak, [Page 9] merely anchored to a physical body, there was an involuntary interplay between the physical and higher worlds - a natural involuntary clairvoyance.
Animals not infrequently show a similar primitive clairvoyance. It is well known that a dog will growl at a presence in a room imperceptible to his master, and sometimes cower with fear: a cat under similar conditions will arch its back and ruffle its fur, spit and hiss; and a horse will shy at an object invisible to his rider.[ There is a clever story turning upon this psychic sensitiveness of animals in Mr. Algernon Blackwood's John Silence] Horses will sometimes show great uneasiness at passing a roadside spot where an accident, or a scene of violence, has occurred, showing that they are sensitive to the akashic impression. [Page 10]
There is nothing dignified about these phases of clairvoyance, whether found in animals or as a survival in some present-day people. Their rationale has been admirably described by Mrs. Besant in ‘A Study in Consciousness’:
“The impacts on the astral sheath from the astral plane produce vibratory waves over the whole astral sheath . . . The aggregations of astral matter, connected with the physical nervous systems, naturally share in the general surgings of the astral sheath, and the vibrations caused by these surgings mingle with those coming from the physical body. . ,"[ page 185]
A distinguishing feature of this type of clairvoyance (easily explicable in the light of the above statement) is that [Page 11] the possessor is seldom able to distinguish with entire clearness between astral and physical objects. Hence the horse, seeing an astral figure on the road before him, endows him with physical objectivity. The savage shows some advance upon the animal, in that he displays more ability to distinguish the subjective from the objective.
Dr. Steiner speaks of an early phase of consciousness, which he calls picture-consciousness, because its workings presented themselves to the mind as a series of pictures. This may mean nothing more than that the psychism, natural to that stage and exercised involuntarily, caused the man to read the record of what took place in the akasha, either on the etheric or higher planes. [Page 12]
We have been told by those able to read the records of the past that man formerly possessed a “third eye," located in the centre of the retreating forehead of those days. It was the organ - or one of the organs, for possibly there were others[ Reference is sometimes made to an organ at the back of the head, by which heat and cold were differentiated. Whether in these cases it was the pineal gland that was observed - or not - is not certain. Some scientific authorities have held that the pineal gland was the organ of a primitive thermal sense] - of the higher perception, comprising the etheric and part of the dense physical within its range of observation. Perhaps it would be more accurate to name it “the first eye," since it surely preceded the two eyes we now possess; as man entered more into the physical body the two eyes, positive and negative, developed, adapted more for observation at the dense physical levels. [Page 13]
In speaking of the "first eye," we are reminded of the Homeric legend of Ulysses - how he wrestled with the Cyclops, the Giant with only one eye in the middle of his forehead. It has well been said that the legends and sagas of antiquity contain many truths, and scientists will presently begin to realise the existence in them of much embryonic science. The central eye retreated and became the pineal gland. Even now there are cases where something similar to a third eye is found in animals. A lizard was recently discovered in Australia at the top of whose head was a third eye, intact though covered over with scales. And vertebrates of the lamprey class have a pineal development resembling an eye. [Page 14]
It is not until the second stage is entered that in any real sense man begins to master the world about him. Here, where spirit is "cribbed, cabined and confined" in matter, the powers of the consciousness must be outward-turned in the course of the struggle. In the earlier stage Devic forces played upon him from without, swinging him along the general drift of evolution; now he must learn that the power is within him, and work from within outwards. In Masonic phraseology, he must learn to work from the centre to the circumference of the circle. Gradually he must realise that within him is an inexhaustible reservoir of power, the all-sustaining Life; that he must no longer be tossed about by the ceaseless play of the outer universe, but remain firm as a rock, steady and [Page 15] unmoved, amid the fleeting and impermanent.
We have only to consider for a moment the wonders of science to realise to what an extent man has gained the mastery over the world around him. Recall the wonders of the telescope and the microscope, giving man the mastery over space; see how he has harnessed the forces of nature, such as steam and electricity, in his service. There are balances so sensitive in their construction that they turn to the weight of a single hair. Science deals with almost unthinkable exactitudes. We might expatiate at length upon this subject, but the point is clear; that man by the turning outward of the powers of consciousness has gradually gained an almost incredible mastery over the forces of nature around him. [Page 16]
Wherein lies the secret of this accomplishment? Precisely in the fact of this deeper immersion in matter, whereby the working of the consciousness is narrowed down to greater precision, just as the rays of the sun are focussed and concentrated by a burning-glass. The deeper the descent of consciousness into matter, the greater the power of precision in its working. Herein, in truth, is to be found the reason for physical incarnation itself. We are told that on the astral plane sensations are massive, general and vague, outlines more indistinct and blurred. It is only by super-imposing the limitations of the physical vehicle that sharpness, definiteness and precision can be arrived at; that is why it has been stated that accurate visualisation of forms can only be gained on the [Page 17] physical plane in a physical body. Gradual descent (or exteriorisation) through the planes narrows down the dimensions, and hence resolves the unity of the general and universal into the plurality of the particular.
We can well understand that with this further descent into matter came the occlusion of the knowledge of the higher worlds, the psychic touch with the super-physical, which had been the natural condition of the earlier races. In order that man may concentrate his attention on the mastery of the exterior physical world, the memory of all else is for the time being mercifully wiped off the tablets of the mind.
Herein we see the essential difference between what we have called the first and second stages in the pilgrimage of man. And we can trace this gradual [Page 18] change by study of the smaller cycle of the sub-races. In the first sub-race, the Hindu, of our Aryan Root-race, there is a closer relation with the super-physical than in the case of the later western nations. The Hindu is not so firmly in touch with his body; he is easily raised to ecstasy by thoughts of religion; his consciousness is apt to be in-turned, and a Westerner using a bicycle or motor has often to adopt a different standard of giving warning of his approach than that of western countries - he must sound his bell or horn more in advance. In one sense there is a greater spirituality amongst the general people, than in the West, but it is the spirituality of an earlier stage of evolution - in fact it might more accurately be spoken of as a more general pre-disposition to spiritual [Page 19] things. I speak generally, of course and do not refer to cases of special Egoes incarnated either in East or West. The same statement applies in a lesser degree to the difference between the Keltic and Teutonic- peoples.
Lastly, we come to the third stage that of the re-ascent from matter to spirit. It is in this third stage that the higher psychism has its place, for as the lessons of the physical plane are learned and faculties developed, there is a gradual extension of the consciousness until it begins to work self-determinedly in the super-physical worlds.
The significant feature of the higher psychism is that it only succeeds upon, and does not precede, the growth of intelligence, and this is where it is differentiated from the lowest psychism. We may again turn to Mrs. Besant's [Page 20] ‘A Study in Consciousness’ for the explanation of this fact.
“It may be well to add here, to prevent misconception, that the higher clairvoyance follows, instead of preceding, the growth of mind, and cannot appear until the organisation of the astral body, in contradistinction to the astral sheath, has been carried to a considerable height. When this is effected by the play of intellect and the perfecting of the intellectual apparatus, then true astral senses before-mentioned, called the chakras, or wheels, from their whirling appearance, are gradually evolved. These develop on the astral plane, as astral senses and organs, and are built and controlled from the mental plane, as were the brain-centres from the astral."[ pages 191–192.] [Page 21]
There have been people with psychic faculty who have joined the Theosophical Society, attracted by its literature and hoping in the light of its teaching to develop and turn to useful account their own incipient powers. Having applied themselves diligently to study in these unfamiliar and difficult regions of thought, to their surprise and chagrin their psychism has faded away! It was the lower psychism, and the strenuous intellectual effort involved has brought the cerebro-spinal nervous system into predominance over the sympathetic, and so caused the abeyance of the psychic faculty.
Centuries of evolution separate the lower psychism from the higher; [ The lower psychism, when present in a body of refined and superior type may sometimes be carried over into the higher psychism by effort of self-purification and in a comparatively short space of time] the [Page 22] former, we see, is a relic of the past development of humanity, the latter is the promise of the future for the race.
Having this outline of human progress in mind, it is easier to see where the different classes of psychics fit in, and we may not pass on to examine more in detail the different varieties of psychic faculty. [Page 23]
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