In all folklore there are stories of ghosts; of apparitions of the recent and long dead; of materializations of the forms of people, of animals, of things; of scents and sounds - all seemingly supernaturally produced. There are tales of Shamans, witches, sorcerers, wonderworkers, magicians, necromancers who could evoke not only the spirits of the dead but nature spirits and local gods for divination and other purposes. All these reports we have assigned to the realm of the mysterious.
In our modern times such stories are usually dismissed as superstition. But there is an extensive and varied world literature on the subject; and nowadays, in the light of the recent interest in persons having extraordinary powers as seen on television and heard on the radio, many more people than formerly seem to be prepared to admit that there may be "something in it".
Actual occurrences we have assigned to the realms of mystery , but the mystery is created by man's ignorance. The more interested and serious student who is prepared to follow leads and seek it in the relevant literature can, sooner or later, find that there is a long-standing tradition of knowledge of these normally inexplicable happenings and an extensive "science" concerning them and their production. Interest often starts with the darker aspects of the subject. If these more sensational and "occult" practices, which are sometimes bestial and depraved, are pursued, more often than not they lead to a marked moral degeneration.
Other more healthful avenues of exploration are the ancient reputable systems of occult learning such as, the Kabala, alchemy, astrology, and those found in the secret schools or societies such as the Rosicrucians and the Freemasons. All these indicate the existence of a wide field of investigation into the normally hidden side of things, a field which may be worthy of more attention. If we can accept the possibility of this inner world we may discover, in studying it, not only many interesting explanations, but also
something of value to the modern psychologist and to practitioners of the various kinds of meditation now becoming so popular. We would here be turning our attention to the deep invisible parts of our own natures, the domain of our psyches, our souls.
A rich source of psychic phenomena is in what has relatively recently and generally become known as Spiritualism. Here all kinds of unusual things occur involving, for example, messages from "spirits", materializations of solid objects, phantom appearances of people who have died, scents and sounds, all often in the presence of an audience. However, for these phenomena to occur a medium who, so to say, mediates between the "spirit" world and this physical objective one is necessary. Mediums commonly operate in two ways. One is by clairvoyance and clairaudience, in which the medium is seemingly using extensions of the normal senses of seeing and hearing and is apparently aware, in full consciousness, of what is going on in both our world and the psychic or "spirit" world around us. In the other method, the medium provides the means for the "spirits" to communicate with this world by going into a trance and, so to speak, vacating his body which can then be used by "spirits" other than his own. When this happens, the medium often assumes the appearance and mannerisms of the informing "spirit", adopts his voice, his peculiarities of expression, and so on, and to all appearances is taken over by the "spirit".
Spiritualists advance the view that this is irrefutable evidence of the reality and presence of the "spirits" of the dead and, therefore, of survival of the soul after death. This claim is strengthened often by the "spirits" having a knowledge of the affairs of both living and dead people of which those alive at the séance are not consciously aware. Sometimes the "spirits" evince a knowledge of future events. All this is impressive, and there is a vast literature telling of innumerable cases, well authenticated, of "spirit" manifestations and of their awareness of things past, present, and future, and also of the ability of the "spirits" to perform a very wide range of quite remarkable feats.
Spiritualistic literature, however, while commonly agreeing on the explanation that the phenomena are produced by the "spirits" of the dead, is in some other important respects quite inconsistent. There are various views, for example, on whether there is such a thing as' reincarnation, on the actual nature of the life hereafter , whether or not the soul in the next world can learn and make
progress in its general growth and development, whether or not new skills can be acquired or old ones further developed. There are different views on such matters, for example, as the ages at which deceased parents find, on the other side, their children who may have predeceased them, or the age at which children who grew to old age in this world find their parents, or even their grandparents, on their entry into the next world. Do spirits, for example, move from a horse-and-buggy age to a steam age, to a motor age, to a television age, in the heavenly worlds, irrespective of when they died? Apparent communications from the dead are sometimes very rational and extensive, but why does a dead author or musician of genius, for example of the stamp of, say, Shakespeare or Mozart, never produce another masterpiece, or why does a deceased great scientist never again make an epoch making discovery? It seems that whereas the phenomena of spiritualism are, with some possible exceptions, irrefutable, the explanations of them-all appearances to the contrary notwithstanding-may not be valid.
Occultism (not the occult arts), which embraces a knowledge of the hidden side of things, ought to have something significant to say on these matters, and it is claimed that it has. It must be stressed at the outset that occultism is not, as some would have it, a set of limited sectarian views. Occultism, which has many other names (the Ancient Wisdom, the Wisdom Religion, Theosophy, the Esoteric Science, etc.), is the comprehensive science of life at all levels of being. Whatever is true in nature is covered by this science. Theosophy, as the name implies, could be regarded as Absolute Truth itself, but this is an aspect which will not concern us in this book except possibly indirectly, at the end.
Some critics of the views to be put forward have said that because most of the material was given out to the public for the first time at the end of the last century in the theosophical literature of the time, it is now nearly a hundred years old and that, since then, the nature of psychic and spiritualistic phenomena has changed and expanded beyond the theosophical teachings. It is one of the purposes of this book to show that this is not the case and that the original exponent of most of the explanations given not only knew all the possible kinds of phenomena, but could produce many of them at will; further, that the explanations given are part of, and consistent with, a vast comprehensive scheme of knowledge of the workings of Nature at all levels of being, ranging from the physical
through the psychic to the mental, supermental, and spiritual levels.
No occurrence of any kind could possibly be outside the scope of universal and natural law. There can therefore be nothing supernatural. What we usually mean by the supernatural can, however, be abnormal, or supernormal.
As an illustration of the amount of information available to us, not only are there many great works, but there is available a work by CoI. Henry Steel Olcott (Col. Olcott was one of the founders of The Theosophical Society in New York City in 1875, and served as its first president from 1876 to 1907) entitled People from the Other World, published in 1875. This is an account of a considerable number and variety of phenomena which he investigated personally. A summary of the content of this book is given in the next chapter. It shows the range of phenomena of the spiritualistic variety which he and many others witnessed at the homestead of the Eddy family in Chittenden, Vermont. The variety of phenomena which took place there has probably not since been equalled; almost certainly it has not been exceeded. It is possible that occasional isolated incidents might be considered more wonderful. There is the case, for example, of the strange visitor to CoI. Olcott in America who apparently produced and stopped a thunderstorm with its attendant wind and rain.
Readers who have not previously come across stories of this kind may tend to dismiss them as, at best, fictions of the imagination if not falsehoods or downright frauds, but eminent men, some of scientific and literary ability, have investigated-and are still investigating-psychic phenomena of all kinds and have written accounts of well attested happenings, sometimes whole series of phenomena. These reports command respect and deserve attention.
The literature of the spiritualistic phenomena is certainly worth scrutiny by anyone at all interested in learning more about the "hinterland" of our normal world and who is concerned to discover the truth about it, what goes on there, and how it can and does react on us.
Another aspect of these researches concerns the realms of our after-death states. This is of direct interest and even importance to everyone. Not only do we all have to die, but a knowledge of these states can affect our lives. This it can do in two ways. It can
remove the fog of mystery surrounding death, with its often intolerable uncertainties, doubts, and fears; and further, it can give us some guidelines for behaviour in our living so that we do not offend the great law which, we begin to see, operates throughout cosmos. This law can in no way be stayed or avoided, but we learn that we can trust it and its absolute justice, absolutely.
We do, however, meet obscurities and difficulties in studying spiritualistic literature. It is wide-ranging and not consistent in quality. Furthermore, in spite of appearances to the contrary, it is largely speculative in its explanations, where indeed any are given. More often than not the authors assume that the reader will already be convinced on certain fundamental ideas, for example, that the "spirits" of the dead are responsible for everything that happens. This, however, is at least open to question. We have already mentioned that the "dead" do not any more take an effective part in the affairs of the world. Defunct statesmen do not influence world events. Deceased generals fight no more campaigns on earth, and so on. It is important to bear this point in mind because the content and quality of "spirit" communications is relevant to any consideration of, and may even be indicative of, what is really happening.
We must also be careful not to become preoccupied with spiritualistic-type phenomena to the exclusion of all the rest of the unusual, normally inexplicable things that happen. Many nonspiritualistic phenomena involve the living, not the dead. They have to do with the powers of men and women who are very much alive. In subsequent chapters we shall see instances of both kinds of phenomena and attempt explanations in the light of quite specific teachings.
The realm of mystery will perhaps become much less mysterious for us as we become better acquainted with it and begin to think more about it. The feasibility of what is said may make some of the stories seem not quite so impossible and some of the explanations, therefore, the more reasonably acceptable. We may begin to accept that, coupled with the mysterious events, there are mysterious inner realms of being.
The esoteric science postulates that the nature and principles of operation in these invisible realms of being are similar to the subjective nature and activities of man. For example, by an effort of will we, can evoke an image in our mind's eye. Two processes at least are involved here: our will taps some power and makes some
energy available. Then that substantial energy condenses into a picture, with a particular content, which we can "see" with our mind's eye. That picture is therefore not "nothing", nor is the "eye" that sees it, or nothing would register in our consciousness. In other words, if we in fact make an internal picture, we shall not be aware of it without an inner eye to see it.
This apparent diversion has been made to demonstrate the point that there are invisible forces and invisible substances of some kind. It is also reasonable to believe that there are invisible beings, living beings, with their own characteristics and functions, in their particular spheres within the total economy of nature. Occultism says that in fact there are innumerable such beings, ranging from totally irresponsible nature spirits of a very lowly order-mere centres of living energy without form-to great creative intelligences functioning through and even regulating natural processes. There are many names in the literature of folklore and myth for such beings. They are the gods, the archangels, angels, fairies, little people, devas, and the like, crowding the ancient traditional stories of all peoples. In the esoteric science those below the human kingdom are commonly referred to as elementals, and there are a number of kinds. We describe them more fully in Chapter 10.
The habitat of all those normally invisible beings is spatial and, so to say, in the earth's atmosphere-not the physical atmosphere of air and sunlight and so on, but the psychic counterpart. This has been described as multi-layered, but this description is defective, as the layers are not on top of one another but, more accurately, within one another. They correspond to the inner principles of man which relate to his vital energies, his emotions, and his personal mind. The constitution of man in terms of these principles is described in Chapter 6. This layering is further complicated by the fact that each main layer is subdivided, the subdivisions themselves corresponding in their nature to the character of each of the main divisions or layers. All the interior levels, i.e., those other than the normal physical, are considered to have their being in or to comprise what is known as the Astral Light (see Chapter 9). They are the "mansions" within it.
The entities above man in evolutionary development, the powerful superhuman beings, are not essentially of space and time, at any rate on our usual scales, but they can, and very occasionally do, manifest to the physical senses of ordinary men. These occurrences,
however, are very rare and are in no way spiritualistic, i.e., no medium is required.
Just as the esoteric science postulates that there is ultimately only one universal power, one life, one spirit, so there is ultimately only one substance. It has various names; in the East, Akasa is one.
The Astral Light has been referred to as the dregs of Akasa. It is, however, the living, plastic, fluidic, luminous essence of the inner worlds, and (this is of prime importance) the image of every thing, every living being, every human being, every event that has ever been, or is, is recorded in the Astral Light as a complete, timeless or ageless portrait or photograph. Under some conditions these portraits can become ensouled by elementals. Then they have life and present all the appearance of living beings, possessed of the mannerisms and idiosyncrasies, physical and psychical, of the once living man, including even his memory and modes of speech and thought. They are, in effect, a living likeness of the deceased. Often it is these that are seen and heard by the clairvoyant and the clairaudient and thought to be the spirits of the dead.
In this present chapter we have merely opened up a world of possibly new concepts. It is not improbable that, at first, some may recoil from such ideas, which will seem too unlikely, even undesirable, and certainly unjustified, to be acceptable.
Perhaps, however, the following chapters will provoke further interest and a willingness to accede that there may indeed be more things in heaven and earth than we have hitherto suspected.
Exploring the Great Beyond > Next Page Chapter 3 The Other World