Clairvoyance, some warnings and signposts
Clairvoyance has been one of the subjects that interested theosophists from the start. In Blavatsky's time clairvoyance was usually thought of in the context of spiritualism. To a large extent due to her work, this connection has faded in the modern mind. There are four issues involved in the study of clairvoyance, as far as I can see:
- Is there such a thing??? - the theosophical answer is usually: yes.
- What information can be found?
- How can we check its usefullness and truthfullness?
- How does it work?
To the second question, the answer usually involves a long list of types of clairvoyance. I think the reader can imagine at least part of that list. Some results of clairvoyant investigation can be found on this website.
The third and the fourth question are really the more interesting ones, in my opinion. This article is mainly about the issue of checking the clairvoyantly found information. How clairvoyance works has been well researched by Hugh Shearman, in his article "Assessing Psychism".
But the checking of usefullness and truthfullness of the results of clairvoyant investigation... For one thing: the checking obviously becomes a bit difficult in most cases. When a clairvoyant predicts something about the future, for instance, we will just have to wait untill that future arives. There have also been warnings, from the start in Blavatsky's day, on to what extent the clairvoyant should trust him/herself! For instance, one of Blavavatsky's latest works, the Voice of the Silence, starts with the warning:
These instructions are for those ignorant of the dangers of the lower IDDHI
The note to this sentence says:
The Pali word Iddhi is the sysonym of the Sanskrit Siddhis, or psychic faculties, the abnormal powers in man. There are two kinds of Siddhis. One group which embraces the lower, coarse, psychic and mental energies; the other is one which exacts the highest training of Spiritual pwers. Says Krishna in Shrimad Bhagavat (1)"He who is engaged in the performance of yoga, who has subdued his senses and who has concentrated his mind in me (Krishna), such yogis all Siddhis stand ready to serve."
Fragment 1 of the Voice of the Silence continues with
Having become indifferent to objects of perception, the pupil must seek out the rajah of the senses, the Thought-Producer, he who awakes illusion.
The Mind is the great Slayer of the Real.
Let the Disciple slay the Slayer.
This is where the difficulty of the would be clairvoyant comes in. In order to develop clairvoyance, the inner promptings have to be followed. But which inner promptings? The mind is the great slayer of the real. This is a fact. Our thoughts usually contain the most absurd nonsense as well as trivialities, obviously. The budding clairvoyant notices amongst those thoughts a few that don't seem native to his/her own mind. Then the issue of checking and judging those thoughts comes in. Are these thoughts somebody elses imperfect thoughts? If so, whose? If so, are they significant? If so, are they picked up correctly? Clairvoyants have also reported an inversion of thoughts, in thoughtreading: that is, one reads the precise opposite of the thought produced by somebody else. Or are these thoughts perhaps images of the future? Readings from the past in Akasha? Just some of the issues involved for the starting clairvoyant.
Clairvoyance is obviously then, tricky business. A proper amount of self-knowledge, a lack of prejudice, and training with other clairvoyants will help remedy some of these problems. But essentially The Voice of the Silence warns correctly: as long as thoughts rule you, with or without clairvoyance, you're as fallible as the next guy. The Voice continues with:
When to himself his form appears unreal, as do on waking all the forms he sees in dreams;
When he has ceased to hear the many, he may discern the ONE - the inner sound which kills the outer.
Before the soul can see, the Harmony within must be attained, and fleshly eyes be rendered blind to all illusion.
This does not just refer to fleshly eyes, or the many forms we see with our physical senses. Hearing the many, is just as much a difficulty with the senses we call clairvoyance.
This brings me to my main conclusion: for spiritual development, clairvoyance is just another diversion. The pitfalls on the path have been enumerated in the rest of The Voice of the Silence, I won't repeat them here. Krishnamurti has also pointed out that clairvoyance is just a side effect of traveling the path. These things happen. But so do waterfalls, sunsets and other beautiful things. This does not mean one should get too distracted by them.
1) or Bhagavad Gita