The experiences of the untrained clairvoyant- and be it remembered that that class includes all European clairvoyants except a very few- will, however, usually fall very far short of what I have attempted to indicate; they will fall short in many different ways- in degree, in variety, or in permanence, and above all in precision.
Sometimes, for example, a man’s clairvoyance will be permanent, but very partial, extending only perhaps to one or two classes of the phenomena observable; he will find himself endowed with some isolated fragment of higher vision, without apparently possessing other powers of sight, which ought normally to accompany that fragment, or even to precede it. For example, one of my dearest friends has all his life had the power to see the atomic ether and atomic astral matter, and to recognize their structure, alike in darkness or in light, as interpenetrating everything else; yet he has only rarely seen entities whose bodies are composed of the much more obvious lower ethers or denser astral matter, and at any rate is certainly not permanently able to see them. He simply finds himself in possession of this special faculty, without any apparent reason to account for it, or any recognizable relation to anything else; and beyond proving to him the existence of these atomic planes and demonstrating their arrangement, it is difficult to see of what particular use it is to him at present. Still, there the thing is, and it is an earnest of greater things to come, of further powers still awaiting development.
There are many similar cases- similar, I mean, not in the possession of that particular form of sight (which is unique in my experience), but in showing the development of some one small part of the full and clear vision of the astral and etheric planes. In nine cases out of ten, however, such partial clairvoyance will at the same time lack precision also, that it is to say, there will be a good deal of vague impression and inference about it, instead of the clear-cut definition and certainty of the trained man. Examples of this type are constantly to be found, especially among those who advertise themselves as “test and business clairvoyance.”
Then, again, there are those who are only temporarily clairvoyant under certain special conditions. Among these there are various subdivisions, some being able to reproduce the state of clairvoyance at will by again setting up the same conditions, while with others it comes sporadically, without any observable reference to their surroundings and with yet others the powers shows itself only once or twice in the whole course of their lives.
To the first of these subdivisions belong those who are clairvoyant only when in the mesmeric trance, who when not so entranced are incapable of seeing or hearing anything abnormal. These may sometimes reach great heights of knowledge and be exceedingly precise in their indications, but when that is so they are usually undergoing a course of regular training, though for some reason unable as yet to set themselves free from the leaden weight of earthly lie without assistance.
In the same class we may put those, chiefly Orientals, who gain some temporary sight only under the influence of certain drugs, or by means of the performance of certain ceremonies. The ceremonialist sometimes hypnotizes himself by his repetitions, and in that condition becomes to some extent clairvoyant; more often he simply reduces himself to a passive condition in which some other entity can obsess him and speak through him. Sometimes, again, his ceremonies are not intended to affect himself at all, but to invoke some astral entity who will give him the required information; but of course that is a case of magic, and not of clairvoyance. Both the drugs and the ceremonies are methods emphatically to be avoided by any one who wishes to approach clairvoyance from the higher side, and use it for his own progress and for the helping of others. The Central African medicine-man or witch doctor and some of the Tartar Shamans are good examples of the type.
Those to whom a certain amount of clairvoyant power has come occasionally only, and without any reference to their own wish, have often been hysterical or highly nervous persons, with whom the faculty was to a large extent one of the symptoms of a disease. Its appearance showed that the physical vehicle was weakened to such a degree that it no longer presented any obstacle in the way of a certain modicum of etheric or astral vision. An extreme example of this class is the man who drinks himself into delirium tremens, and in the condition of absolute physical ruin and impure psychic excitation brought about by the ravages of that fell disease, is able to see for the time some of the loathsome elemental and other entities which he has drawn round himself by his long course of degraded and bestial indulgence. There are, however, others cases where the power of sight has appeared and disappeared without apparent reference to the state of the physical health; but it seems probable that even in those, if they could have been observed closely enough, some alteration in the condition of the etheric double would have been noticed.
Those who have only one instance of clairvoyance to report in the whole of heir lives are a difficult band to classify at all exhaustively, because of the great variety of the contributory circumstances. There are many among them to whom the experience has come at some supreme moment of their lives, when it is comprehensible that there might have been a temporary exaltation of faculty, which would be sufficient to account for it.
In the case of another subdivision of them the solitary case has been the seeing of the an apparition most commonly of some friend or relative at the point of death. Two possibilities are then offered for our choice, and in each of them the strong wish of the dying man is the impelling force. That force may have enabled him to materialize himself for a moment, in which case of course no clairvoyance was needed; or more probably it may have acted mesmerically upon the percipient, and momentarily dulled his physical and stimulated his higher sensitiveness. In either case the vision is the product of the emergency and is not repeated simply because the necessary conditions are not repeated.
There remains, however, an irresolvable number of cases in which a solitary instance occurs of the exercise of undoubted clairvoyance, while yet the occasion seems to us wholly trivial and unimportant. About these we can only frame hypotheses; the governing conditions are evidently not on the physical plane, and a separate investigation of each case would be necessary before we could speak with any certainty as to its causes. In some such it has appeared that an astral entity was endeavouring to make some communication, and was able to impress only some unimportant detail on its subject- the useful or significant part of what it had to say failing to get through into the subject’s consciousness.
In the investigation of the phenomena of clairvoyance all these varied types and many others will be encountered, and a certain number of cases of mere hallucination will be almost sure to appear also, and will have to be carefully weeded out from the list of examples. The student of such a subject needs an inexhaustible fund of patience and steady perseverance, but if he goes on long enough he will begin dimly to discern order behind the chaos, and will gradually get some idea of the great laws under which the whole evolution working.
It will help him greatly in his efforts if he will adopt the order which we have just followed, that, is if he will first take the trouble to familiarize himself as thoroughly as may be with the actual facts concerning the planes with which ordinary clairvoyance deals. If he will learn what there really is to be seen with astral and etheric sight, and what their respective limitations are, he will then have, as it were, a standard by which to measure the cases which he observes. Since all instances of partial sight must of necessity fit into some niche in this whole, if he has the outline of the entire scheme in his head he will find it comparatively easy with a little practice to classify the instances with which he is called upon to deal.
We have said nothing as yet as to the still more wonderful possibilities of clairvoyance upon the mental plane, nor indeed is it necessary that much should be said, as it is exceedingly improbable that the investigator will ever meet with any examples of it except among pupils properly trained on some of the very highest schools of Occultism. For them it opens up yet another new world, vaster far than all those beneath it—a world in which all that we can imagine of utmost glory and splendour is the commonplace of existence. Some account of its marvellous faculty, its ineffable bliss, its magnificent opportunities for learning and for work, is given in the sixth of our Theosophical manuals, and to that the student may be referred.
All that it has to give- all of it at least that he can assimilate- is within the reach of the trained pupil, but for the untrained clairvoyant to touch it is hardly more than a bare possibility. It has been done in mesmeric trance, but the occurrence is of exceeding rarity, for it needs almost superhuman qualifications in the way of lofty spiritual aspiration and absolute purity of thought and intention upon the part both of the subject and the operator.
To a type of clairvoyance such as this, and still more fully to that which belongs to the plane next above it, the name of spiritual sight may reasonably be applied; and since the celestial world to which it opens our eyes lies all round us here and now, it is fit that our passing reference to it should be made under the heading of simple clairvoyance, thought it may be necessary to allude to it again when dealing with clairvoyance in space, to which we will now pass on.