Under this heading we may group together all those cases in which visions of some even which is taking place at a distance are seen quite unexpectedly and without any kind of preparation. There are people who are subject to such visions, while there are many others to whom such a thing will happen only once in a life-time. The visions are of all kinds and of all degrees of completeness, and apparently may be produced by various causes. Sometimes the reason of the vision is obvious, and he subject-matter of the gravest importance; at other times no reason at all is discoverable, and the events shown seem of the most trivial nature.
Sometimes these glimpses of the super-physical faculty come as waking visions, and sometimes they manifest during sleep as vivid or oft-repeated dreams. In this latter case the sight employed is perhaps usually of kind assigned to our fourth subdivision of clairvoyance in space, for the sleeping man often travels in his astral body to some spot with which his affections or interests are closely connected, and simply watches what takes place there; in the former it seems probable that the second type of clairvoyance, by means of the astral current, is called into requisition. But in this case the current or tube is formed quite unconsciously, and is often the automatic result of a strong thought or emotion projected from one end or the other—either from the seer or the person who is seen.
The simplest plan will be to give a few instances of the different kinds, and to intersperse among them such further explanations as may seem necessary. Mr. Stead has collected a large and varied assortment of recent and well-authenticated cases in his Real Ghost Stories, and I will select some of my examples from them, occasionally condensing slightly to save space.
There are cases in which it is at once obvious to any Theosophical student that the exceptional instance of clairvoyance was specially brought about by one of the band whom we have called “Invisible Helpers” in order that aid might be rendered to some one in sore need. To this class, undoubtedly, belongs the story told by Captain Yonnt, of the Napa Valley in California, to Dr. Bushnell, who repeats it in his Nature and the Supernatural (page 14).
“About six or seven years previous, in a midwinter’s night, he had a dream in which he saw what appeared to be a company of emigrants arrested by the snows of the mountains, and perishing rapidly by cold and hunger. He noted the very cast of the scenery, marked by a huge, perpendicular front of white rock cliff; he saw the men cutting off what appeared to be treetops rising out of deep gulfs of snow; he distinguished the very features of the persons and the look of their particular distress.
“He awake profoundly impressed by the distinctness and apparent reality of the dream. He at length fell asleep, and dreamed exactly the same dream over again. In the morning he could not expel it from his mind. Falling in, shortly after which an old hunter comrade, he told his story, and was only the more deeply impressed by his recognizing without hesitation the scenery of the dream. This comrade came over the Sierra by the Carson Valley Pass, and declared that a spot in the Pass exactly answered his description.
“By this the unsophisticated patriarch was decided. He immediately collected a company of men, with mules and blankets and all necessary provisions. The neighbours were laughing meantime at this credulity. ‘No matter’, he said, ‘I am able to do this, and I will, for I verily believe that the fact is according to my dream’. The men were sent into the mountains one hundred and fifty miles distant direct to the Carson Valley Pass. And there they found the company exactly in the condition of the dream, and brought in the remnant alive.”
Since it is not stated that Captain Yonnt was in the habit of seeing visions, it seems clear that some helper, observing the forlorn condition of the emigrant party, took the nearest impressionable and otherwise suitable person (who happened to be the Captain) to the spot in the astral body, and aroused him sufficiently to fix the scene firmly in his memory. The helper may possibly have arranged an “astral current” for the Captain instead, but the former suggestion is more probable. At any rate the motive, and broadly the method, of the work are obvious enough in this case.
Sometimes the “astral current” may be set going by a strong emotional thought at the other end of the line, and this may haven even though the thinker has no such intention in his mind. In the rather striking story which I am about to quote, it is evident that the link was formed by the doctor’s frequent thought about Mrs. Broughton, yet he had clearly no especial wish that she should see what he was going at the time. That it was this kind of clairvoyance that was employed is shown by the fixity of her point of view—which, be it observed, is not the doctor’s point of view sympathetically transferred (as it might have been), since she sees his back without recognizing him. The story is to be found in the Proceedings of the Psychical Research Society (Volume II, page 160).
“Mrs. Broughton awoke one night in 1844, and roused her husband, felling him that something dreadful had happened in France. He begged her to go to sleep again, and not trouble him. She assured him that she was not asleep when she saw what she insisted on telling him, what she saw in fact.
“First a carriage accident, which she did not actually see, but what she saw was the result, a broken carriage, a crowd collected, a figure gently raised and carried into the nearest house, then a figure lying on a bed which she then recognized as the Duke of Orleans. Gradually friends collecting round the bed, among them several members of the French royal family, the queen, then the king, all silently, tearfully, watching the evidently dying duke. One man (se could see his back, but did not know who he was) was a doctor. He stood bending over the duke, feeling his pulse, with his watch in the other hand. And then all passed away, and she saw no more.
“As soon as it was daylight she wrote down in her journal all that she had seen. It was before the days of the electric telegraph, and two or more days passed before the Times announced ‘The Death of the Duke of Orleans’. Visiting Paris a short time afterwards she saw and recognized the place of the accident and received the explanation of her impression. The doctor who attended the dying duke was an old friend of hers, and as he watched by the bed his mind had been constantly occupied with her and her family.”
A commoner instance is that in which strong affection sets up the necessary current; probably a fairly steady stream of mutual thought is constantly flowing between the two parties in the case, and some sudden need or dire extremity on the part of one of them endues this stream temporarily with the polarizing power which is needful to create the astral telescope. An illustrative example is quoted from the same Proceedings (volume I, page 30).
“On September 9th, 1848, at the siege of Mooltan, Major-General R, C.B., then adjutant of his regiment, was most severely and dangerously wounded; and, supposing himself to be dying, asked one of the officers with him to take the ring off his finger and send it to this wife, who at the time was fully one hundred and fifty miles distant at Ferozepore.
“‘On the night of September 9th, 1848’, writes his wife, ‘I was lying on my bed, between sleeping and waking, when I distinctly saw my husband being carried off the field seriously wounded, and heard his voice saying, “Take this ring off my finger and send it to my wife.” All the next day I could not get the sight or the voice out of my mind.
“‘In due time I heard of General R having been severely wounded in the assault of Mooltan. He survived, however, and is still living. It was not for some time after the siege that I heard from General L, the officer who helped to carry my husband off the field, that the request as to the ring was actually made by him, just as I heard it at Ferozepore at that very time.'”
Then there is the very large class of casual clairvoyant visions, which have no traceable cause, which are apparently quite meaningless, and have no recognizable relation to any events known to the seer. To this class belong many of the landscapes seen by some people just before they fall asleep. I quote a capital and very realistic account of an experience of this sort from W. T. Stead’s Real Ghost Stories (page 65).
“I got into bed but was not able to go to sleep, I shut my eyes and waited for sleep to come; instead of sleep, however, there came to me a succession of curiously vivid clairvoyant pictures. There was no light in the room, and it was perfectly dark; I had my eyes shut also. But notwithstanding the darkness I suddenly was conscious of looking at a scene of singular beauty. It was as if I saw a living miniature about the size of a magic-lantern slide. At this moment, I can recall the scene as if I saw it again. It was a seaside piece. The moon was shining upon the water, which rippled slowly on to the beach. Right before me a long mole ran into the water.
“On either side of the mole irregular rocks stood up above the sea-level. On the shore stood several houses, square and rude, which resembled nothing that I had ever seen in house architecture. No one was stirring, but the moon was there and the sea and the gleam of the moonlight on the rippling waters, just as if I had been looking on the actual scene.
“It was so beautiful that I remember thinking that if it continued I should be so interested in looking at it that I should never go to sleep. I was wide awake, and at the same time that I saw the scene I distinctly heard the dripping of the rain outside the window. Then suddenly, without any apparent object or reason, the scene changed.
“The moonlit sea vanished, and in its place I was looking right into the interior of a reading-room. It seemed as if it had been used as a schoolroom in the daytime, and was employed as a reading-room in the evening. I remember seeing one reader who had a curious resemble to Tim Harrington, although it was not he, hold up a magazine or book in his hand and laugh. It was not a picture-—it was there.
“The scene was just as if you were looking through an opera-glass; you saw the play of the muscles, the gleaming of the eye, every movement of the unknown persons in the unnamed place into which you were gazing. I saw all that without opening my eyes, nor did my eyes have anything to do with it. You see such things as these as it were with another sense, which is more inside your head than in your eyes.
“This was a very poor and paltry experience, but it enabled me to understand better how it is that clairvoyants see than any amount of disquisition.
“The picture were apropos of nothing; they had been suggested by nothing I had been reading or talking of; they simply came as if I had been able to look through a glass at what was occurring somewhere else in the world. I had my peep, and then it passed, nor have I had a recurrence of a similar experience.”
Mr. Stead regards that as a “poor and paltry experience”, and it may perhaps be considered so when compared with the greater possibilities, yet I know many students who would be very thankful to have even so much of direct personal experience to tell. Small though it may be in itself, it at once gives the seer a clue to the whole thing, and clairvoyance would be a living actuality to a man who had seen even that much in a way that it could never have been without that little touch with the unseen world.
These pictures were much too clear to have been mere reflections of the thought of others, and besides, the description unmistakably shows that they were views seen through an astral telescope; so either Mr. Stead must quite unconsciously have set a current going for himself, or (which is much more probable) some kindly astral entity set it in motion for him, and gave him, to while away a tedious delay, any pictures that happened to come handy at the end of the tube.