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THAT JUST WON’T WAIT
Swans at Llyn Padarn,
Sunset over Gospel Pass in the black Mountains
in South East Wales near the border
with Herefordshire, England.
The Seven Principles of Man
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 be 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 manasic plane. Can we substitute 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 realised, 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 characterise the workings of consciousness when it isremoved 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. E.g., 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" (Philosophy of Mysticism, Du Prel, vol. I, p. 106), 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 (Isis Revelata, vol. I, p. 37).
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 (ibid., vol. II,p, 89-92); of Madame Lagrandré, who diagnosed the internal state of her mother, giving a description that was proved to be correct by the post-mortem examination (Somnolism and Psychism, Dr. Haddock,p. 54-56); of Emma, Dr. Haddock’s somnambule, who constantly diagnosed diseases for him (ibid., chap. vii.).
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 endeavour 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 civilised 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 know 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 worth while to run some risk in order to effect 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 utilises 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 hypnotiser, 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-defence, 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 hypnotised 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 hypnotiser. No word need be spoken, no touch given ; it suffices that the hypnotiser 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 (Etudes Cliniques sur la Grand Hystérie, Richet, p. 645); 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 (Animal Magnetism, translated from. Binet and Féré,p. 213).
Scores of these experiments may be read in Richet or in Binet and Féré. Similar results may be effected 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 hypnotiser and hypnotised.
The literature of mesmerism and hypnotism in English, French, and German is now very extensive, and it is open to every one. 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 manasic, 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 andmonotonous. Granted. All first hand investigations into natural laws and forces are wearisome and monotonous. That is why nearly every one prefers second-hand to firsthand 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.
The Seven Planes and the principles functioning thereon
5 Atma. Spirit Spiritual
4 Buddhi. Spiritual Soul
3 Manas. Human Soul. Mental
2 Kâma. Astral or Desire-Body Astral
1 Prâna. Etheric Double. Dense Physical Body Physical
Another Division according to the Principles
7 Atma Spiritual
5 Higher Manas Mental
Principles closely interwoven during earth life.
Sometimes called high Psychic Plane
4 Lower Manas
3 Kâma Astral
2 Prâna. Etheric Double Physical
1 Dense Physical Body
Another Division also according the Principles
7 Atmâ Spiritual
5 Manas Mental
4 Kâma Astral
3 Prâna Physical
2 Etheric Double
1 Dense Physical Body
These two latter divisions are matters of convenience in classification. The first diagram gives the planes themselves as they exist in nature.
Annie Besant with Mahatma Gandhi
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