first printed in The Theosophist, 1909, Sept, p721-728

Concerning the "Occult Chemistry" Researches

by Johan van Manen

From different sides the question has been raised what is the exact value of the Occult Chemistry researches with regard to pure science. The pre-requisites for an answer to such a question are threefold. First of all we need a full description of the results of the researches. These have been published in the book and subsequent article in The Theosophist (p455, July number 1909). Secondly we need a careful description of the general and special conditions of occult enquiry of a similar nature, including the pre-imposed restrictions which the researchers postulate for themselves. Thirdly we need a detailed description of the genesis of, and mode of procedure followed for, the special researches referred to.

Herewith I append a few notes concerning the second division of the subject as mentioned above.

Pre-Imposed Restrictions

Our observers make two restrictions at the very outset.

In the first place they frankly tell us that they do not divorce their scientific researches from their ethics and their theology. They say that they are connected with a hierarchy of spiritual teachers who impose upon them certain restrictions. We need not say any more about this general point. But one specific restriction must be mentioned separately.

This second point is the restriction forbidding strictly anything in the nature of a 'test', any material proof or phenomenal demonstration.(1)

Whether this restriction is wise or not, desirable or undesirable, is no business of ours to determine; we may only note that this restriction is not new or confined to our latter-day investigators, but is already discussed in full in one of our earliest theosophical works, Mr Sinnett's The Occult World (1st edition, 1881, p93, et seq.)

It is explained that Madame Blavatsky had petitioned for and obtained from her instructors a suspension of this rule with regard to herself - hence the many phenomena she produced.

Practical Conditions

Still a few other considerations must be taken into account.

The first is that we have at present only two (2) generally and publicly known 'revealers' as witnesses amongst us, those who have written Occult Chemistry. We find that each of these has a personal and distinctly typical way of expression and a different mode of exposition.

Secondly, that both have scientific investigation as only a small part of a great and public work, including lecturing, inspiring, teaching, propaganda, correspondence, administrative duties and much travelling - in short great practical activity.

Thirdly, that they are often separated by great distances, so that there are considerable difficulties in the way of their co-operation.

Fourthly, that they very rarely have expert help on the spot when working out results of investigations or seeking advice concerning them.

Fifthly, that Mr Leadbeater, anyhow, says that his ordinary chemical education was very limited.

Lastly, that both investigations and recording of results have often to be done 'as best one may under the circumstances', not despising any rule-of-thumb method.

Why the Power has been Developed

Concerning their clairvoyant powers in general and those exercised in our present researches specially, our seers make the following statements. In the course of their preparation for the various stages of the path of discipleship which has been referred to above, certain 'powers' have to be evolved (3) at a certain stage. The use of these powers has, according to our authority, to do with practical 'magic'(4), or in other words, the practical work of the man on that stage of evolution.

One of them is the power of magnification in all degrees of intensity. It has to be learned specially, and is as it were a separate branch of the science of psychic development.

It is necessary for the evolving occultist in order to deal with many of the practical problems which he has to encounter. The occultist will, either out of the body in sleep, or in the body when awake, have much to do with occult philanthropy. He has to deal with the helping and adjusting to their new life of the recently dead. He will often have to deal with cases of nervous disease, of voluntary or involuntary mediumship, with cases of obsession, and also with the study and further unfolding of his own latent psychic powers. Now there is a side of occult study, practically untouched as yet in our literature, dealing with various 'chakrams' or vital centres in our physical and higher bodies, but also with the minor subdivisions of these, which may be called the vortices in the bodies, which are caused by the minute vital and nervous currents in the organs. The study of these and a thorough mastering of their intricacies is imposed on the occult student. They have to do with the power to recognise, and to deal with, the difference between the astral bodies of dead and living people (when the latter are out of the body) and with the operation of 'magic' of all sorts.(5) Such a study of these minute organs or still smaller fractions of them and their currents is one which can only be pursued by the help of this power of magnification, and so the development of this power comes naturally in the way of the occult student when progressing on his path. The underlying theory of all this will be more clear to the reader if he compares the description of the structure of the physical ultimate atom and its spirillae, together with the part it plays in letting through magnetic and other currents, as will be found partially on pages 5-8 of Occult Chemistry. A somewhat fuller description, however, occurs on pages 554-557 of The Theosophical Review (vol xxiii, Feb 1899) and also on pages 283-286 of the Dutch Magazine Theosophia for September 1900 (vol ix). The latter description forms a passage of a stenographic report of a lecture delivered in Holland by Mr Leadbeater on 'The Planetary Chains'. Mrs Besant's A Study in Consciousness pages 17-31 may also be compared, though there the description is not given in such objective compactness. Compare however the index under 'spirillae'(6). See also her Thought Power, p103.

For the above reasons then, the practical student of occultism along certain lines has to undergo a systematic training in the manipulation of this power of magnification, at an earlier or later stage of his development. And thus our seers explain that they happened to possess that power at the time that the first Occult Chemistry researches were undertaken in the summer of 1895.

How the Power is Exercised

If we ask our seers how this process of magnification is to be understood they explain it as follows.(7) Magnification may be attained in two ways: first through the instrumentality of magnification proper, a power pertaining to the causal body, and secondly by physical sight.

The latter method consists of focussing the consciousness, through sheer will, in the etheric part of the eye and willing to see through that. By sympathetic vibration the impressions are then transmitted either to the rods and cones of the denser physical part and thus things are seen, or it may be that not only the etheric part of the eye, but also the etheric part of the brain is stimulated into activity, so that the ego can receive impressions from it. The impacts made upon the grey matter of the brain in ordinary life must be conveyed from that dense matter to etheric, from etheric to astral, and from astral to mental, before they can reach the true man within. When impressions are made directly upon the etheric or astral or mental matter we are merely tapping this telegraph-wire at an intermediate point.

Then again by sheer will the attention is limited to only a few atoms of this etheric matter, whereby an equal relation of size between object observed and observing organ is attained. I cannot extract any further details from data furnished to me as far as this method goes. But Mrs Besant seems to allude to the same thing, though in quite other terms, on page 441 (bottom lines) and 442 of the Transactions cited. If the description be thought vague it should not be forgotten that occultists may sometimes be able to produce an action without knowing in full detail and in all minutiae the instrumentation of such activity.

We may remember Colonel Olcott's apt simile(8) that anyone may know how to whistle, yet scientifically be ignorant of the physiological and muscular processes by which the whistling sound is produced and accurately manipulated. This physical method was mostly used in the early investigations of 1895, but has of late been to a great extent abandoned.

The other method of magnification is described by Mr Leadbeater more in detail.(9) He says that he uses the method by preference, especially of late years. It should be understood that the occult observer not only grows constantly more familiar, by experience, with the wielding of these powers and their varieties, but also that he is all the while making steady progress and adds new knowledge and powers to earlier conquests. So our seers declare that they can now do things which even a few years ago would have been totally impossible to them.

This description of this second method is as follows.

The chakram of the causal body corresponding to the place between the eyebrows in the physical, is when in a state of rest a mere vortex, but when magnification is desired a special sort of current is directed through it so that part of it can be projected outwards, and under such conditions it spatially resembles a tiny snake projecting from between the eyebrows - invisible of course to physical eyes. This snake-like arrangement narrows down to a mere point and acts as an organ of transmission for visual impressions, and at the same time as a sort of holder, able to grasp and contain a minute lens. Occultists are taught to construct such a lens from a single ultimate atom of any of the lower planes - physical, astral, or mental (causal) planes, or from a mental unit (on the fourth sub-plane of the mental). This is done by opening up all spirillae of such an atom (as if making it ready for a seventh-round body), by then inserting it in the living snake-like holder and by letting the vibrations it receives in that way be recorded and translated in the causal body.

The power itself belongs to the causal body, and therefore if the inset be an astral or physical atom there must be a telescopic system of reflexions from the lower (say physical) into a higher (astral) atom, from that into the next (a mental unit) and lastly into the causal body, which then records the sight. This lens can be further adjusted to the various sub-planes of any plane by other processes. So that one may obtain any degree of proportion of size between the instrument of observation and the object observed. It should also be noted that the observer centres for the moment - however strange it may sound - a portion of his own self-consciousness in his temporary lens, whereby he practically diminishes his own size to any desired extent. Carrying back his observation to his ordinary notions of proportion, and comparing the two, he can only compare the size of the minute things seen to a size as many times greater than his own body as the temporary lens was smaller than his body. So that in fact this power of magnification (of the object) is rather in reality a power of diminution (of the subject).

It has been found that a special atom, thus prepared for the work of acting as a lens by having all its spirillae opened for action, very soon clogs up again and loses its special qualities when left alone. Nevertheless, next time such an atom is used for the same work its preparation is easier, and so experience has taught that during a set of observations it is preferable to store away the atom so treated for future use - which accordingly is done. How and where the thing is kept meanwhile is a matter into which we will not enter for the moment. The variants of this strange power I will not discuss here; be it enough to say that it may be exercised at a distance, and in the waking state. The experiment was made of examining in this way from Adyar some atoms in Utah, with success. It may be mentioned that in that case the 'snake' was projected from a sort of distance-flash-line and that the lens atom was picked up in Utah and not brought over from Adyar.

{A curious side-light on this particular experiment was that the investigator first crept round amongst the molecules of a table which he found somewhere, and next among the molecules of a letter lying on that table. Suddenly his cosmos was upheaved by tremendous earthquakes and cyclones, rushing through space at incredible velocities, ending with the more or less definite damaging of his world. Suddenly there was again a change and the paper molecules formed a surging island on an immense ocean of water molecules. Tracing all this tumult back to its origin (by other methods) he found that the owner of the letter had snatched it up, and torn it to pieces and thrown it into the running water of a gutter!]

It should be added that, after all, there are properly speaking a front and a back to the lens. The snake can wriggle itself in all directions and put its point at any required spot. It is explained that the serpent above the eyebrows so common on the crowns and heads of Egyptian representations is a direct allusion to this power and to the snake-like protuberances through which it is exercised. It is also explained that a similar snake with a spread hood, under which are six smaller ones, three at each side, alludes to the sevenfold division of this power as applied either to sub-planes or to planes proper.

There is also another aspect to this power, though we have not to deal with it here. By the insertion of an inverted cone or trumpet at its extremity the snake may record on its lens a diminution instead of a magnification. This trumpet may have any angle and take in practically any size, reducing it to a single point. This reduction may also be of any proportion desired. It may be conveyed to the causal body in its actual diminished size, or may again be magnified in part or as a whole. So, for instance, one might compress the view of a whole gigantic city, like London, into a single microscopic point. Then again one might magnify a single street, a single house, or a single person, leaving the rest in its latent state of smallness. Or one might magnify the whole to a convenient size for the purposes of the enquiry on hand, though it would be simpler not to do this, but to reduce the whole picture directly to the desired size.

The above exhausts the description of the mechanism of this magnifying power as given by Mr Leadbeater. A word may be added about the expression 'distance-flash-line', used above. Our modes of perception receive an expansion in each higher body in which the perceptions become awakened. Vision on each higher plane is not only more complete and fuller in quantity but also more accurate and intensified in quality. This applies also to the instrumentation of vision, which on each higher plane becomes more comprehensive and as it were more elastic. In the physical body we have a localised, one-sided organ of sight, the eye, and an opaque wall behind it. In the astral body there is no such localised organ; the whole surface of the body sees, becomes all eye. In the mental and causal bodies a still further expanded visual power is exercised. It might by said that there the power is added to stretch out the visual power as we stretch out an arm in the physical body. The causal body is able to stretch out its visual organ along the line of its power of vision.

In the physical body we are able to see a star, but we cannot send forth the eye along the rays of light emitted by that star and striking our retina. The trained seer using his causal body, on the contrary, can do this, though only within the limits of our world. But it should be remembered that the eye of this body is no eye at all in the physical sense, and that organ of sight and power of sight have become almost identical. This ray emitted by the causal body and sent to an object of observation at a distance must, however, not be thought of as a mere thread of causal matter stretching out from body to object; it is rather in the nature of a unit of the matter flashing with incredible rapidity between these two and keeping them in touch by its seemingly unintermittent presence at both places simultaneously through this constant and inconceivably rapid vibration.

This has been called the distance-flash-line.

Johan van Manen

Notes

1. CW Leadbeater, Clairvoyance, 2nd edition, p173
2. Mr Sinnett being more a recorder.
3. See Invisible Helpers, 2nd edition, p117. These powers are common to both Hindu and Buddhist teachings. They may be best studied, perhaps, in Patanjali's Yoga-aphorisms.
4. 'Magic' means here merely the production of objective results through other means than the objective organs, and this definition may be applied to any plane.
5. See Chapters viii and ix in Leadbeater's Some Glimpses of Occultism.
6. In referring to these passages, the later rectifications, contained in "On Revelations" by AB and CWL in The Theosophist for June, 1909, should not be overlooked.
7. Compare the excellent and most valuable paper by Mrs Besant on "The Conditions of Occult Research" in The Transactions of the Second Annual Congress of the Federation of European Sections of the TS, p435.
8. Old Diary Leaves.
9. See also some brief allusions in his Clairvoyance, p47.