We have defined this as the capacity to see events or scenes removed from the seer in space and too far distant for ordinary observation. The instances of this are so numerous and so various that we shall find it desirable to attempt a somewhat more detailed classification of them. It does not much matter what particular arrangement we adopt, so long as it is comprehensive enough to include all our cases; perhaps a convenient one will be to group them under the broad divisions of intentional and unintentional clairvoyance in space, with an intermediate class that might be described as semi-intentional—a curious title, but I will explain it later.
As before, I will begin by stating what is possible along this line for the fully-trained seer, and endeavouring to explain how his faculty works and under what limitations it acts. After that we shall find ourselves in a better position to try to understand the manifold examples of partial and untrained sight. Let us then in the first place discuss intentional clairvoyance.
It will be obvious from what has previously been said as to the power of astral vision that any one possessing it in its fullness will be able to see by its means practically anything in this world that he wishes to see. The most secret places are open to his gaze, and intervening obstacles have no existence for him, because of the change in his point of view; so that if we grant him the power of moving about in the astral body he can without difficulty go anywhere and see anything within the limits of the planet. Indeed this is to a large extent possible to him even without the necessity of moving the astral body at all, as we shall presently see.
Let us consider a little more closely the methods by which this super-physical sight may be used to observe events taking place at a distance. When, for example, a man here in England sees in minutest detail something which is happening at the same moment in India or America, how is it done?
A very ingenious hypothesis has been offered to account for the phenomenon. It has been suggested that every object is perpetually throwing off radiations in all directions, similar in some respects to, though infinitely finer than, rays of light, and that clairvoyance is nothing but the power to see by means of these finer radiations. Distance would in that case no bar to the sight, all intervening objects would be penetrable by these rays, and they would be able to cross one another to infinity in all directions without entanglement, precisely as the vibrations of ordinary light do.
Now though this is not exactly the way in which clairvoyance works, the theory is nevertheless quite true in most of its premises. Every object undoubtedly is throwing off radiations in all directions, and it is precisely in this way, though on a higher plane, that the ākāshic records seem to be formed. Of them it will be necessary to say something under our next heading, so we will do no more than mention them for the moment. The phenomena of Psychometry are also dependent upon these radiations, as will presently be explained.
There are however, certain practical difficulties in the way of using these etheric vibrations (for that is, of course, what they are) as the medium by means of which one may see anything taking place at a distance. Intervening objects are not entirely transparent, and as the actors in the scene, which the experimenter tried to observe would probably be at least equally transparent, it is obvious that serious confusion would be quite likely to result.
The additional dimension which would come into play if astral radiations were sensed instead of etheric would obviate some of the difficulties, but would on the other hand introduce some fresh complications of its own; so that for practical purposes, in endeavouring to understand clairvoyance, we may dismiss this hypothesis of radiations from our minds, and turn to the methods of seeing at a distance which are actually at the disposal of the student. It will be found that there are five, four of them being really varieties of clairvoyance, while the fifth does not properly come under that head at all, but belongs to the domain of magic. Let us take this last one first, and get it out of our way.
1. By the assistance of a nature-spirit. This method does not necessarily involved the possession of any psychic faculty at all on the part of the experimenter; he need only know how to induce some denizen of the astral world to undertake the investigation for him. This may be done either by invocation or by evocation: that is to say, the operator may either persuade his astral coadjutor by prayers and offerings to give him the help he desires, or he may compel his aid by the determined exercise of a highly-developed will.
This method has been largely practised in the East (where the entity employed is usually a nature-spirit) and in old Atlantis, where “the lords of the dark face” used a highly-specialized and peculiarly venomous variety of artificial elemental for this purpose. Information is sometimes obtained in the same sort of way at the spiritualistic seance of modern days, but in that case the messenger employed is more likely to be a recently-deceased human being functioning more or less freely on the astral plane, though even here also it is sometimes an obliging nature-spirit, who is amusing himself by posing as somebody’s departed relative. In any case, as I have said, this method is not clairvoyant at all, but magical; and it is mentioned here only in order that the reader may not become confused in the endeavour to classify cases of its use under some of the following headings.
2. By means of an astral current. This is a phrase frequently and rather loosely employed in some of our Theosophical literature to cover a considerable variety of phenomena, and among others that which I wish to explain. What is really done by the student who adopts this method is not so much the setting in motion of a current in astral matter as the erection of a kind of temporary telephone through it.
It is impossible here to give an exhaustive disquisition on astral physics, even had I the requisite knowledge to write it; all I need say is that it is possible to make in astral matter a definite connecting-line that shall act as a telegraph-wire to convey vibrations by means of which all that is going on at the other end of it may be seen. Such a line is established, be it understood, not by a direct projection through space of astral matter, but by such action upon a line (or rather many lines) of particles of that matter as will render them capable of forming a conductor for vibrations of the character required.
This preliminary action can be set up in two ways—either by the transmission of energy from particle to particle until the line is formed, or by the use of a force from a higher plane which is capable of acting upon the whole line simultaneously. Of course this latter method implies far greater development, since it involves the knowledge of (and the power to use) forces of a considerably higher level; so that the man who could make his line in this way would not, for his own use, need a line at all, since he could see far more, easily and completely by means of an altogether higher faculty.
Even the simpler and purely astral operation is a difficult one to describe, though quite an easy one to perform. It may be said to partake somewhat of the nature of the magnetization of a bar of steel; for it consists in what we might call the polarization, by an effort of the human will, of a number of parallel lines of astral atoms reaching from the operator to the scene which he wishes to observe. All the atoms thus affected are held for the time with their axes rigidly parallel to one another, so that they form a kind of temporary tube along which the clairvoyant may look. This method has the disadvantage that the telegraph line is liable to disarrangement or even destruction by any sufficiently strong astral current which happens to cross its path; but if the original effort of will were fairly definite, this would be a contingency of only infrequent occurrence.
The view of a distance scene obtained by means of this “astral current” is in many ways not unlike that seen through a telescope. Human figures usually appear very small, like those on a distance stage, but in spite of their diminutive size, they are as clear as though they were close by. Sometimes it is possible by this means to hear what is said as well as to see what is done; but as in the majority of cases this does not happen, we must consider in rather as the manifestation of an additional power than as a necessary corollary of the faculty of sight.
It will be observed that in this case the seer does not usually leave his physical body at all; there is no sort of projection of his astral vehicle or of any part of himself towards that at which he is looking, but he simply manufactures for himself a temporary astral telescope. Consequently he has, to a certain extent, the use of his physical powers even while he is examining the distance scene; for example, his voice would usually still be under his control, so that he could describe what he saw even while he was in the act of making his observations. This consciousness of the man is, in fact, distinctly still at this end of the line.
This fact, however, has its limitations as well as its advantages, and these again largely resemble the limitations of the man using a telescope on the physical plane. The experimenter, for example, has no power to shift this point of view; his telescope, so to speak, has a particular field of view which cannot be enlarged or altered; he is looking at his scene from a certain direction, and he cannot suddenly turn it all round and see how it looks from the other side. If he has sufficient psychic energy to spare, he may drop altogether the telescope that he is using and manufacture an entirely new one for himself which will approach his objective somewhat differently; but this is not a course at all likely to be adopted in practice.
But, it may be said, the mere fact that he is using astral sight ought to enable him to see it from all sides at once. So it would if he were using that sight in the normal way upon an object which was fairly near him—within his astral reach, as it were; but at a distance of hundreds or thousands of miles the case is very different. Astral sight gives us the advantage of an additional dimension, but there is still such a thing as position in that dimension, and it is naturally a potent factor in limiting the use of the powers of its plane. Our ordinary three-dimensional sight enables us to see at once every point of the interior of a two-dimensional figure, such as a square, but in order to do that the square must be within a reasonable distance form our eyes; the mere additional dimension will avail a man in London but little in his endeavour to examine a square in Calcutta.
Astral sight, when it is cramped by being directed along what is practically a tube, is limited very much as physical sight would be under similar circumstances; though if possessed in perfection it will still continue to show, even at that distance, the auras, and therefore all the emotions and most of the thoughts of the people under observation.
There are many people for whom this type of clairvoyance is very much facilitated if they have at hand some physical object, which can be used as a starting-point for their astral tube- a convenient focus for their willpower. A ball of crystal is the commonest and most effectual of such foci, since it has the additional advantage of possessing within itself qualities which stimulate psychic faculty; but other objects are also employed, to which we shall find it necessary to refer more particularly when we come to consider semi-intentional clairvoyance.
In connection with this astral-current form of clairvoyance, as with others, we find that there are some psychics who are unable to use it except when under the influence of mesmerism. The peculiarity in this case is that among such psychics there are two varieties—one in which by being thus set free the man is enabled to make a telescope for himself, and another in which the magnetizer himself makes the telescope and the subject is simply enabled to see through it. In this latter case obviously the subject has not enough will to form a tube for himself, and the operator, though possessed of the necessary willpower, is not clairvoyant, or he could see through his own tube without needing help.
Occasionally, though rarely, the tube which is formed possesses another of the attributes of a telescope—that of magnifying the objects at which it is directed until they seem of life-size. Of course the objects must always be magnified to some extent, or they would be absolutely invisible, but usually the extent is determined by the size of the astral tube and the whole thing is simply a tiny moving picture. In the few cases where the figures are seen as a life-size by this method, it is probable that an altogether new power is beginning to dawn; but when this happens, careful observation is needed in order to distinguish them from examples of our next class.
3. By the projection of a thought-form. The ability to use this method of clairvoyance implies a development somewhat more advanced than the last, since it necessitates a certain amount of control upon the mental plane. All students of Theosophy are aware that thought takes form, at any rate upon its own plane, and in the vast majority of cases upon the astral plane also; but it may not be quite so generally known that if a man thinks strongly of himself as present at any given place, the form assumed by that particular thought will be a likeness of the thinker himself, which will appear at the place in question.
Essentially this form must be composed of the matter of the mental plane, but in very many cases it would draw round itself matter of the astral plane also, and so would approach much nearer to visibility. There are, in fact, many instances in which it has been seen by the person thought of, most probably by means of the unconscious mesmeric influence emanating from the original thinking. None of the consciousness of the thinker would, however, be included within this thought-form. When once sent out from him, it would normally be a quite separate entity—not indeed absolutely unconnected with its maker, but practically so as far as the possibility of receiving any impression through it is concerned.
This third type of clairvoyance consists, then, in the power to retain so much connection with and so much hold over a newly-erected thought-form as will render it possible to receive impressions by means of it. Such impressions as were made upon the form would in this case be transmitted to the thinker—not along an astral telegraph line, as before, but by sympathetic vibration. In a perfect case of this kind of clairvoyance it is almost as though the seer projected a part of his consciousness into the thought-form, and used it as a kind of outpost, from which observation was possible. He sees almost as well as he would if he himself stood in the place of his thought-form.
The figures at which he is looking will appear to him as of life-size and close at hand, instead of tiny and at a distance, as in the previous case; and he will find it possible to shift his point of view if he wishes to do so. Clairaudience is perhaps less frequently associated with this type of clairvoyance than with the last, but its place is to some extent taken by a kind of mental perception of the thoughts and intentions of those who are seen.
Since the man’s consciousness is still in the physical body, he will be able (even while exercising the faculty) to hear and to speak, insofar as he can do this without any distraction of his attention. The moment that the intentness of his thought fails the whole vision is gone, and he will have to construct a fresh thought-form before he can resume it. Instances in which this kind of sight is possessed with any degree of perfection by untrained people are naturally rarer than in the case of the previous type, because of the capacity for mental control required, and the generally finer nature of the forces employed.
4. By travelling in the astral body. We enter here upon an entirely new variety of clairvoyance, in which the consciousness of the seer no longer remains in or closely connected with his physical body, but is definitely transferred to the scene which he is examining. Though it has no doubt greater dangers for the untrained seer than either of the methods previously described, it is yet quite the most satisfactory form of clairvoyance open to him, for the immensely superior variety which we shall consider under our fifth head is not available except for specially trained students.
In this case the man’s body is either asleep or in trance, and its organs are consequently not available for use which the vision is going on, so that all description of what is seen, and all questioning as to further particulars, must be postponed until the wanderer returns to this plane. On the other hand the sight is much fuller and more perfect; the man hears as well as sees everything, which passes before him, and can move about freely at will within the very wide limits of the astral plane. He can see and study at leisure all the other inhabitants of that plane, so that the great world of the nature-spirits (of which the traditional fairy-land is but a very small part) lies open before him, and even that of some of the lower devas.
He has also the immense advantage of being able to take part, as it were, in the scenes which come before his eyes—of conversing at will with these various astral entities from whom so much information that is curious and interesting may be obtained. If in addition he can learn how to materialize himself (a matter of no great difficulty for him when once the knack is acquired), he will be able to take part in physical events or conversations at a distance, and to show himself to an absent friend at will.
Again, he has the additional power of being able to hunt about for what he wants. By means of the varieties of clairvoyance previously described, for all practical purposes he could find a person or a place only when he was already acquainted with it, or when he was put en rapport with it by touching something physically connected with it, as in Psychometry. It is true that by the third method a certain amount of motion is possible, but the process is a tedious one except for quite short distances.
By the use of the astral body, however, a man can move about quite freely and rapidly in any direction, and can (for example) find without difficulty any place pointed out upon a map, without either any previous knowledge of the spot or any object to establish a connection with it. He can also readily rise high into the air so as to gain a bird’s-eye view of the country which he is examining, so as to observe its extent, the contour of its coastline, or its general character. Indeed, in every way his power and freedom are far greater when he uses this method than they have been in any of the previous cases.
A good example of the full possession of this power is given, on the authority of the German writer Jung Stilling, by Mrs. Crowe in The Night Side of Nature (page 127). The story is related of a seer who is stated to have resided in the neighbourhood of Philadelphia, in America. His habits were retired, and he spoke little; he was gave, benevolent and pious, and nothing was known against his character, except that he had the reputation of possessing some secrets that were considered not altogether lawful. Many extraordinary stories were told of him, and amongst the rest the following:
“The wife of a ship captain (whose husband was on a voyage to Europe and Africa, and from whom she had been long without tidings), being overwhelmed with anxiety for his safety, was induced to address herself to this person. Having listened to her story he begged her to excuse him for a while when he would bring her the intelligence she required. He then passed into an inner room and she sat herself down to wait; but his absence continuing longer than she expected, she became impatient, thinking he had forgotten her, and softly approaching the door she peeped through some aperture, and to her surprise beheld him lying on a sofa as motionless as if he were dead. She of course did not think it advisable to disturb him, but waited his return, when he told her that her husband had not been able to write to her for such and such reasons, but that he was then in a coffeehouse in London and would very shortly be home again.
“Accordingly he arrived, and as the lady learnt from him that the causes of his unusual silence had been precisely those alleged by the man, she felt extremely desirous of ascertaining the truth of the rest of the information. In this she was gratified, for he no sooner set his eyes on the magician than he said that he had seen him before on a certain day in a coffeehouse in London, and that he told him that his wife was extremely uneasy about him, and that he, the captain, had thereon mentioned how he had been prevented from writing, adding that he was on the eve of embarking for America. He had then lost sight of the stranger amongst the throng, and knew nothing more about him.
We have of course no means now of knowing what evidence Jung Stilling had of the truth of this story, though he declares himself to have been quite satisfied with the authority on which he relates it; but so many similar things have happened that there is no reason to doubt its accuracy. The seer, however, must either have developed his faculty for himself or learnt it in some school other than that from which most of our Theosophical information is derived; for in our case there is a well-understood regulation expressly forbidding the pupils to give any manifestation of such power which can be definitely proved at both ends in that way, and so constitute what is called a “phenomenon.” That this regulation is emphatically a wise one is proved to all who know anything of the history of our Society by the disastrous results, which followed from a very slight temporary relaxation of it.
I will have given some quite modern cases almost exactly parallel to the above in my little book on Invisible Helpers. An instance of a lady well-known to myself, who frequently thus appears to friends at a distance, is given by Mr. Stead in Real Ghost Stories (page 27); and Mr. Andrew Lang gives, in his Dreams and Ghosts (page 89), an account of how Mr. Cleave, then at Portsmouth, appeared, intentionally on two occasions to a young lady in London, and alarmed her considerably. There is any amount of evidence to be had on the subject by any one who cares to study it seriously.
This paying of intentional astral visits seems very often to become possible when the principles are loosened at the approach of death for people who were unable to perform such a feat at any other time. There are even more examples of this class than of the other; I epitomize a good one given by Mr. Andrew Lang on page 100 of the book last cited- one of which he himself says, “Not many stories have such good evidence in their favour.”
“Mary, the wife of John Goffe of Rochester, being afflicted with a long illness, removed to her father’s house at West Malling, about nine miles from her own.
“The day before her death she grew very impatiently desirous to see her two children, who she had left at home to the care of a nurse. She was too ill to be moved, and between one and two o’clock in the morning she fell into a trance. One widow Turner, who watched with her that night, says that her eyes were open and fixed, and her jaw fallen. Mrs. Turner put her hand upon her mouth, but could perceive no breath. She thought her to be in a fit, and doubted whether she were dead or alive.
“The next morning the dying woman told her mother that she had been at home with her children, saying, “I was with them last night when I was asleep.”
“The nurse at Rochester, widow Alexander by name, affirms that a little before two o’clock that morning she saw the likeness of the said Mary Goffe come out of the next chamber (where the elder child lay in a bed by itself), the door being left open, and stand by her bedside for about a quarter of an hour; the younger child was there lying by her. Her eyes moved and her mouth went, but she said nothing. The nurse, moreover, says that she was perfectly awake; it was then daylight, being one of the longest days in the year. She sat up in bed and looked steadfastly on the apparition. In that time she heard the bridge clock strike two, and a while after said: “In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost, what art thou?” Thereupon the apparition removed and went away; she slipped on her clothes and followed, but what became of it she cannot tell.”
The nurse apparently was more frightened by its appearance than its presence, for after this she was afraid to stay in the house, and so spent the rest of the time until six o’clock in walking up and down outside. When the neighbours were awake she told her tale to them, and they of course said she had dreamt it all; she naturally enough warmly repudiated that idea, but could obtain no credence until the news of the other side of the story arrived from West Malling, when people had to admit that there might have been something in it.
A noteworthy circumstance in this story is that the mother found it necessary to pass from ordinary sleep into the profounder trance condition before she could consciously visit her children; it can, however, be paralleled her and there among the large number of similar accounts which may be found in the literature of the subject.
Two other stories of precisely the same type- in which a dying mother, earnestly desiring to see her children, falls into a deep sleep, visits them and returns to say that she has done so—are given by Dr. F. G. Lee. In one of them the mother, when dying in Egypt, appears to her children at Torquay, and is clearly seen in broad daylight by all five of the children and also by the nurse-maid. (Glimpses of the Supernatural, Vol. II, page 64). In the other a Quaker lady dying at Cockermouth is clearly seen and recognized in daylight by her three children at Settle, the remainder of the story being practically identical with the one given above. (Glimpses in the Twilight, page 94) . Though these cases appear to be less widely known than that of Mary Goffe, the evidence of their authenticity seems to be quite as good, as will be seen by the attestations obtained by the reverend author of the works from which they are quoted.
The man who fully possesses this fourth type o clairvoyance has many and great advantages at his disposal, even in addition to those already mentioned. Not only can he visit without trouble or expense all the beautiful and famous places of the earth, but if he happens to be a scholar, think what it must mean to him that he has access to all the libraries of the world! What must it be for the scientifically-minded man to see taking place before his eyes so many of the processes of the secret chemistry of nature, or for the philosopher to have revealed to him so much more than ever before of the working of the great mysteries of life and death? To him those who are gone from this plane are dead no longer, but living and within reach for a long time to come; for him many of the conceptions of religion are no longer matters of faith, but of knowledge. Above all, he can join the army of invisible helpers, and really be of use on a large scale. Undoubtedly clairvoyance, even when confined to the astral plane, is a great boon to the student.
Certainly it has its dangers also, especially for the untrained; danger from evil entities of various kinds, which may terrify or injure those who allow themselves to lose the courage to face them boldly; danger of deception of all sorts, of misconceiving and misinterpreting what is seen; greatest of all the danger of becoming conceited about the thing and of thinking it impossible to make a mistake. But a little commonsense and a little experience should easily guard a man against these.
5. By travelling the mental body. This is simply a higher and, as it were, glorified form of the last type. The vehicle employed is no longer the astral body, but the mind-body—a vehicle, therefore, belonging to the mental plane, and having within it all the potentialities of the wonderful sense of that plane, so transcendent in its action yet so impossible to describe. A man functioning in this leaves his astral body behind him along with the physical, and if he wishes to show himself upon the astral plane for any reason, he does not send for his own astral vehicle, but just by a single action of his will materializes one for his temporary need. Such an astral materialization is sometimes called the māyāvi rūpa, and to form it for the first time usually needs the assistance of a qualified Master.
The enormous advantages given by the possession of this power are the capacity of entering upon all the glory and the beauty of the higher land of bliss, and the possession, even when working on the astral plane, of the far more comprehensive mental sense which opens up to the student such marvellous vistas of knowledge, and practically renders error all but impossible. This higher flight, however, is possible for the trained man only, since only under definite training can a man at this stage of evolution learn to employ his mental body as a vehicle.
Before leaving the subject of full and intentional clairvoyance, it may be well to devote a few words to answering one or two questions as to its limitations, which constantly occur to students. Is it possible, we are often asked, for the seer to find any person with whom he wishes to communicate, anywhere in the world, whether he be living or dead?
To this the reply must be a conditional affirmative. Yet, it is possible to find any person if the experimenter can, in some way or other, put himself en rapport with that person. It would be hopeless to plunger vaguely into space to find a total stranger among all the millions around us without any kind of clue; but, on the other hand, a very slight clue would usually be sufficient.
If the clairvoyant knows anything of the man who he seeks, he will have no difficulty in finding him, for every man has what may be called a kind of musical chord of his own—a chord which is the expression of him as a whole, produced perhaps by a sort of average of the rates of vibration of all his different vehicles on their respective planes. If the operator knows how to discern that chord and to strike it, it will by sympathetic vibration attract the attention of the man instantly wherever he may be and will evoke an immediate response from him.
Whether the man were living or recently dead would make no difference at all, and clairvoyance of the fifth class could at once find him even among the countless millions in the heaven-world, though in that case the man himself would be unconscious that he was under observation. Naturally a seer whose consciousness did not range higher than the astral plane—who employed therefore one of the earlier methods of seeing—would not be able to find a person upon the mental plane at all; yet even he would at least be able to tell that the man sought for was upon that plane, from the mere fact that the striking of the chord as far up as the astral level produced no response.
If the man sought be a stranger to the seeker, the latter will need something connected with him to act as a clue—a photograph, a letter written by him, an article which has belonged to him, and is impregnated with his personal magnetism; any of these would do in the hands of a practised seer.
Again I say, it must not therefore be supposed that pupils who have been taught how to use this art are at liberty to set up a kind of intelligence office through which communication can be had with missing or dead relatives. A message given from this side to such an one might or might not be handed on, according to circumstances, but even if it were, no reply might be brought, lest the transaction should partake of the nature of a phenomenon—something which could be proved on the physical plane to have been an act of magic.
Another question often raised is as to whether, in the action of psychic vision, there is any limitation as to distance. The reply would seem to be that there should be no limit but that of the respective planes. It must be remembered that the astral and mental planes of our earth are as definitely its own as its atmosphere, though they extend considerably further from it even in our three-dimensional space than does the physical air. Consequently the passage to, or the detailed sight of, other planets would not be possible for any system of clairvoyance connected with these planes. It is quite possible and easy for the man who can raise his consciousness to the buddhic plane to pass to any other glove belonging to our chain of worlds, but that is outside our present subject.