My Occult Experiences
The Theosophist 1913 May p249
The Theosophist 1913 June p389
The Theosophist 1913 July p581
by Johan van Manen, F. T. S.
(with Explanatory Notes by CW Leadbeater, F. T. S.)
- I. CHILDHOOD
- I.1. Astral Nakedness.
- I.2. The Wrong End of the Telescope.
- I.3. Turned Inside Out.
- II. PROPHETIC VISIONS AND DREAMS
- II.4. An Inverted Icarus.
- II.5. A Troubled Dinner.
- III. MEDITATIONAL EXPERIENCES
- III.6. A Vision of Brotherhood.
- III.7. The Master's Love for Humanity
- IV. PSYCHOLOGY
- IV.8. A Living Portrait
- IV.9. A Spiritual Duel
- V. SEEING IDEAS
- V.10. The Secrets of the Master's Mind
- V.11. The Chains of Humanity
- V.12. In Him We live and move and have Our Being
- VI. ILLUSTRATIONS
- VI.13. The Size of the Earth
- VII. OBJECTIVE THINGS
- VII.14. The Blue Lotus
- VII.15. Higher Dimensions
- VIII. PHENOMENA OF THE HALF-AWAKENED STATE
- VIII.16. Brain Dramatisations
- VIII.17. Bliss - of a Sort
- VIII.18. A Piece of Mysterious Tapestry.
- VIII.19. A Sheet of the Vâhan.
- VIII.20. On the Verge
- IX. FALSE DREAMS
- IX.21. A Salutary Object Lesson
- X. MUSICAL FORMS
- X.22. A Cathedral and Angels.
- XI. NATURAL BEAUTY
- XI.23. In the Vosges.
- XII. LECTURING EXPERIENCES
- XII.24. A Sea of Light and Lightness.
- XII.25. Other Phenomena connected with Lecturing
- XIII. APPARITION AT A DISTANCE
- XIII.26. Advice at a Distance.
- XIII.27. A Visit aboard a Steamer.
- XIV. KARMIC PROBLEMS
- XIV.28. Trick Cycling.
- XIV.29. In the Gorges d'Héric
- XV. UNPLEASANT EXPERIENCES
- XV.30. An Unwelcome Visitor.
- XV.31. Undesirable Cattle.
- XVI. SUNDRIES
- XVI.32. Thought-Action on Dreamers.
- XVI.33. Dream Interpretation.
- XVI.34. Running water.
- XVI.35. An Anecdote
There exists an old letter of H. P. B.'s, copies of which are now exceedingly rare, addressed some thirty years ago to the members of the London Lodge of the Theosophical Society. It is a confidential admonition to the Lodge concerning spiritual endeavour, and contains a paragraph which struck me very forcibly when I read it. This passage says that if members only gave proper attention to the little experiences of life they might find revealed in them unsuspected occult teachings or unthought-of instances of occult influence. In the light of this injunction I have kept a close watch on such tiny rays of light as have filtered through, from time to time, into my own every-day consciousness, and have analysed carefully the slight glimpses into the something-else which now and then have been vouchsafed to me.
I am not a clairvoyant, and I wish at the outset to prevent any possible misconstruction of what I am going to lay before my readers. I am not able to turn on the tap of astral or any other sight as one might switch on or off the electric light. That is only for the masters in the art. It is of the utmost importance for the sane and solid development of the Theosophical movement that the strictest probity should prevail in all reports and relations of psychic experiences, and that no one should suffer to cluster round himself exaggerated opinions concerning his occult powers. Such incorrect estimation, if spread widely within our ranks, would ultimately annihilate all sound standards of judgment, falsify doctrine and turn into chaos what should be an ordered whole of testimony and description. The temptation to promote, or at least not to prevent, such a state of things is very great in our Society, and there are minor deities in our ranks who have sinned heavily in this respect.
What I have to present then is a sober record of whatever experiences I recollect as I write, in so far as they seem to have an illustrative value, especially selecting those examples which seem to be capable of some interpretation. I divide them into groups as their nature suggests.
It seems to me that such an autobiographical fragment may be of some value as furnishing material for comparison. It may also incite others to relate their similar experiences. In the hands of some other "James" these "varieties of religious experience" may then be ultimately welded into an instructive whole. It should, however, be well understood that any such relation can have value only if the experience has been very carefully observed and, so far as possible, analysed, keen introspection having taken place at the time. The experience may have been religious, but the description must be scientific; the value may have been mystical, but the process must be recognised as psychological. Above all, the giving of premature (Theosophical or other) explanations to such experiences must be avoided. That is a matter for the experts, psychologists or occultists. We are only concerned with one end of the line, that of truthfully reporting. The explainers stand at the other end. So, for instance, no special 'plane' should be assigned to any phenomenon or sensation. Only an occultist can do that. A subjective feeling of the highest rapture may well have been produced by a dulling of the general sensibility, and that only: the felicity of tamas is something else than that of sattva.
Many readers may recognise in the few experiences I have to relate some of their own, or at least find an affinity with them. Perhaps they may have thought that such experiences were too isolated, infrequent and unimportant to note down. Here, however. the value of H.P.B.'s remark shows itself. I too attach very little value or importance to most of the experiences which I relate, and none at all to some of them, but I see equally well that, taken together - despite their infrequency - they indicate that my mind comes now and then into touch with a mysterious other-world of consciousness, where, it seems, forms of thought prevail other than those which we know here. They tell me that if I could always have present the symbolic vision and synthetic thought or the heightened sensibility of which I have only experienced momentary and intermittent flashes, I should be so much the richer as a conscious being and, I think, a step higher in the scale as an evolving entity. The mere experience, once, leads me to believe that there may be a possibility of experiencing it always and uninterruptedly. In short, I regard these things as forebodings, foreshadowings, promises even, for distant days to come, and as my own personal and invaluable little certitudes for that hope of inner unfoldment which, roughly, is sketched out by modern Theosophical literature, but which, after all, is and must remain unprovable by books alone. In other words: our occultists testify to their higher experiences. From their vast masses of testimony I think I have perceived the existence of a few atoms; and the existence of one atom of gold is enough to prove that gold exists.
From the days of my childhood I recollect only two experiences. The first is trifling but amusing, and became intelligible to me only afterwards.
I.1. Astral Nakedness. I was asleep, and was walking in one of the streets of the little town in which I was then living. I was amusing myself as children do at that age, but suddenly I became aware that I was clad only in my nightshirt (pyjamas being a fairly recent invention as far as Holland is concerned). I experienced a feeling of intense shame and felt as if all passers-by in the street were looking at me. I awoke with a start and felt still very much ashamed. Later on in reading about the astral plane I found the clue to this dream which, by its extraordinary vividness, made a strong impression on me.
[Notes by CWL]. (I very heartily congratulate my friend, Mr. Van Manen; first on his courage in coming forward thus openly to relate experiences many of which are of a somewhat private character; secondly, on the clearness and force with which he has stated them; and thirdly and chiefly, on the experiences themselves.
For, though to those unversed in these studies they may at first glance appear disconnected, anyone who has fully opened the higher consciousness will at once recognise them all as parts of a coherent whole. True, many of them are glimpses only, but they are glimpses of the higher world, giving to him who experiences them a momentary foretaste of what will in the future be the everyday possibilities of his life.
Again and again our author explains that he cannot do justice to his subject - that words fail to express what be has seen and felt. We have all felt that, and we can well appreciate his difficulty; but, nevertheless, even though the attempt at description fails, as it cannot but fail, there are still touches in it which are unmistakable to those who have seen. He is assuredly quite right in regarding these experiences as foreshadowings of days still to come; and it is easy to appreciate his remark that even the simplest direct experience gives one a certainty as to the existence of other worlds which is not to be gained by any amount of mere study.
He hardly does himself and his experiences justice when he says that "a subjective feeling of the highest rapture may have been produced by a dulling of general sensibility." The dulling of sensibility does give a blissful feeling of complete repose, of escape from the ever-present weight and weariness of physical life which we ordinarily fail to recognise, because we have been born into it, and know no other condition; but the essence of this feeling is relief, which is a kind of negative sensation. The bliss of the higher worlds has in it an intensity of positive vivid life - life in the most vigorous activity, life raised to the nth power - which is quite unmistakable, and by no means to be confused with the other. At least, so it seems to me.
The first experience which he notes for us is by no means uncommon - that of finding oneself in some public place with much less than the usual amount of clothing. It has often been said in Theosophical literature that in the astral and higher worlds people clothe themselves as they choose by a mere effort of the will. Very often this will seems to act unconsciously, so that most people appear in some quite ordinary costume with which their friends are familiar; but where through forgetfulness or for some other reason the active will fails to attend to this matter, the subconscious part of it gives us an automatic reproduction of the garment which is actually worn by the physical body at the moment, as in the case which our author describes.)
I.2. The Wrong End of the Telescope. The second experience is one which I can only describe, not understanding it at all up to this day. Fairly often when lying in bed prior to falling asleep it seemed as if the walls of the room and perhaps also the objects therein were beginning to recede and recede unendingly, and they would appear as if seen through the wrong end of a telescope. This recession, however, was not so much in a straight line as rather in a most curious twirling motion, as if every point in them was turning itself inside out. To put it graphically, it was as if every point, as well as the whole total, was moving away in the manner of a ring of smoke, blown by an expert in these matters. I believe that I at least once saw small heinzel-männchen-like figures in the distance. Of course I did not analyse these things at the time in such detail, but I remember the experience clearly. As a matter of fact I was rather afraid of this sort of thing.
I.3. Turned Inside Out. I may add that in later times I have had on several occasions a sensation analogous to the above, only it was not accompanied by visual impressions. Several times I have experienced in concentration the feeling (in the body) of such a turn-inside-out movement, going on like a propeller in the air. I always expected that the next turn should lead somewhere (where exactly I could never locate), but it always ended in nothing. Sometimes this sensation is not felt inside the body but in the space around the body, and then the impression is that one ascends, or as the case may be descends, ever and ever more highly or deeply. Yet one never arrives, though firmly expecting to arrive somewhere.
[CWL note] (The second and third experiences are very characteristic and instantly recognisable, yet impossible fully to describe or to make clear to those who have never felt anything of the kind. The change from the physical to the astral consciousness usually takes place so quickly that it has no observable stages; and even when the stages are observed, some people naturally select one group of phenomena for special attention, while others concentrate themselves on a quite different group. When one does reach the astral plane, its consciousness is by no means equally developed in all of us. Some of us, for example, invariably associate with it the power to see fourth-dimensionally, while most have as yet no glimpse of that quality. This peculiar spiral turning inside-out which is mentioned here clearly indicates the possession of knowledge of that sort, and the quaint way in which, when the author is just about to pass into that condition of consciousness, he experiences the change some times in himself, sometimes outside himself, and sometimes in connection with partially seen physical objects - all these again are thoroughly characteristic of that condition of half-awakened consciousness. When this is attained in meditation it ought of course to lead to something, as Mr. Van Manen very properly says; but all who have experimented in these matters know well how frequently one fails upon the very brink of success, and how many times one has to try before results are finally achieved.)
II. PROPHETIC VISIONS AND DREAMS
After these two preliminary incidents I will deal with those of later years, now roughly classifying the examples. The two following experiences are of necessity of an intimate nature, and I have to apologise for mentioning them, in order not to be accused of vanity. They are, however, the only two of the class I have, and so I cannot leave them out without making my record, so far as it goes, incomplete. I need not say that I myself have not consciously invented their interpretation; the interpretation came simultaneously with the pictures as part and parcel of them. I have nothing to do with it. Besides, it may be false, and also the first part in each story is not flattering to me, nothing to boast of.
II.4. An Inverted Icarus. As far as I recollect, soon after my entrance into the Theosophical Society I would see, or a picture of it would arise in my consciousness, a little figure, standing as if on a strip of seashore. I remember quite well one morning, while dressing, how I stared a long time at that little figure, naked, on the beach, before me. I saw with the 'mind's eye,' whatever that may mean. There was no objective picture, no beach anywhere near, yet I saw the picture. That little shining figure was somehow about an inch or two high, though how I could assign length I don't know, unless I stared through the window-sill, which may have furnished a sort of general background of measure. Anyhow the little figure was me, not in the sense of a pre-incarnational me, but he signified me, he was meant to indicate me. While I watched I saw that the little figure was meant to do something, but was tarrying and tarrying. Strange - the figure was there and did nothing, but I knew that he was doing something very hard: he was waiting, losing time. I saw what he was doing: he was doing nothing, he was positively at work at doing nothing. At last, very much at last, the figure made up his mind and with one mighty jump soared upwards into the sky like a rocket, leaving a silvery track, and, reaching the sky with a graceful curve, disappeared.
This picture I saw several times during my younger days of membership. The explanation, neither sought for nor discussed, came simultaneously with, and as involuntarily as, the picture. It was that I should squander much time (and evidently many opportunities) in the first period (which may of course stretch over many lives, who knows?) of my endeavours to reach or tread the Path, but that once having reached it I should make rapid and brilliant progress.
Once more I only record my experience, and if I have constructed picture or explanation by the aid of my subconsciousness, then call my sub-ego vain but not me, for I myself do not accept responsibility for either.
II.5. A Troubled Dinner. The second case of prophetic character was a dream, and dates from a few years later than the previous story. I was living at the time in the Theosophical Headquarters in Amsterdam, and one night I dreamt very vividly that I was sitting at table with all, or most, of my fellow-inhabitants of Headquarters. I do not know whether Mrs. Besant and some other Theosophical leaders were present at the meal; I'm uncertain concerning that detail. We were eating the specially Dutch dish 'hutspot' (a kind of hodge-podge, mainly consisting of mashed potatoes and slices of carrot). I remarked that my neighbour and good friend, Mr. Wierts van Coehoorn, was eating away with fierce determination. When I made ready to fall to also, a regular flow of earwigs began to issue from the food on my plate. I began to kill them as they came along, and kept at it a long time. I felt that if I gave up the food as a bad job, I should fail in something very important. At last the stream of insects ceased; the last had been killed, and I ate the food, finishing it. Awakening in the morning I remembered simultaneously dream and explanation. The latter was similar to that of the previous experience. There were in my character as yet many flaws; I was united to a group of other people all striving for the higher life (eating the food spiritual). For me the task was very difficult. I had to slay several obnoxious skandhas, to work off several items of bad karma. But I must not leave off, must not turn away discouraged. After having overcome these difficulties I too would finish my plate, i.e., attain.
True prophecy or not, I have a shrewd suspicion that I recognised some of the earwigs; some of them are not yet dead at the present day! I wonder whether if I had dreamed this dream in India instead of Holland, the earwigs would not have been cockroaches or ants?
[CWL note] (Experiences four and five are obviously instances of the symbolical thought of the ego, which he is kind enough to throw down in this case into the lower mind along with a strong impression of its explanation. Our writer is fortunate in this, for it is far more common to receive the symbol without the explanation, and to be left to guess wildly. The first symbol is beautiful, the second distinctly unattractive; but no doubt the ego, which does not eat, would find it difficult to comprehend the idea that unpleasant forms of life would pollute food. Very characteristic also is the fact that, in the case of the little figure standing on the beach, the seer knows that he is wasting time in unnecessary hesitation, although he is in no way told that fact, nor is there anything in the vision itself to show it. I do not mean that the ego thinks in pictures such as these; but pictures such as these are the nearest representation that we can get down here of the way in which an ego formulates thought. But his thought means and includes much more than can be represented in our picture.)
III. MEDITATIONAL EXPERIENCES
Of these I will relate two. The first I have already published in this journal some years ago, but it may be repeated here as having a natural place in this report.
III.6. A Vision of Brotherhood. Some years ago in meditation I tried several experiments with myself, and some of these led to results which I found rather interesting. When meditating on a single idea, such as purity, love, or unity, there would often come to me a sudden and vivid vision symbolising that idea, accompanied by a spontaneously-arising sonnet, the contents of which were always a poetic commentary on the vision.
For example, one day when meditating on brotherhood there suddenly leaped into existence before my internal vision a magnificent temple, apparently Egyptian or Grecian in style. It had no outer walls, but consisted of a large number of pillars, supporting a graceful roof, and surrounding a small walled shrine, into which I did not see. I cannot express the vividness with which I felt that the building was instinct with meaning - impregnated, as it were, with a magnetism of intelligence which made it no mere vision, but an object lesson containing the very highest teaching. Simultaneously the explanatory sonnet unfolded itself, and described in its few terse compact lines how this was a symbol of true brotherhood - how all these pillars, all in different places, some bathed in the glorious sunlight, some forever in the half shade of the inner lines, some thick, some thin, some exquisitely decorated, some equally strong yet unadorned, some always frequented by devotees who used to sit near them, others always deserted - how all of them silently, ungrudgingly, perseveringly and equally bore together the one roof, protecting the inner hall and its shrine - all different and yet so truly all the same. And the sonnet ended: "In this see brotherhood."
I could not reproduce it now, but the richness and fulness of its meaning, the deep wisdom so neatly wrapped up in those few words, made me see as if in the gleam of a search-light what true brotherhood really means - the sharing of service, the bearing one's part, regardless of all else but the work to be done.
A word of caution should be added. Cases are on record where glorious poems have been composed in states of meditation or rapture, but when written down these proved sometimes to be nothing more than insufferable doggerel. I never put my experiences along such lines to the test by writing them down.
III.7. The Master's Love for Humanity. At another time, whilst sitting in meditation, there appeared before me a figure of Master K. H., bearing a child on His arm. The appearance was like the image of a Roman Catholic saint, something similar to the figure of the Virgin with the Christ-child. Its height was about two or three feet - though I cannot find any reason why I should fix any definite measurement to the appearance, there being no point of comparison. Nevertheless the impression of size was there. My eyes were closed and the figure drifted into (internal) vision and out of it, not fading away, as far as I can remember. The curious thing was that I was at the time not at all thinking of the Master, and the appearance was, as it were, an intrusion from without into the current of my consciousness.
Now the chief importance of the phenomenon was that I knew that the child was humanity, and that I felt the immense and indescribable love of the Master for it. It was this love that was the central point in the experience. I have never before or since felt anything like it. It was overwhelming in its strength and virility, and at the same time in its softness and tenderness. It was mighty and holy and overflowingly full of life and reality and force. It was something beyond merely human capacity; mighty without violence, sweet without weakness; unique, and yet so natural. Of course I cannot describe it, of course I cannot remember - or better, recall it. I remember that it was, but not how it was, as, in after years, one remembers that some excruciating pain was once suffered, but the pain itself does not emerge again from the past. All I know now is that, since that time, I can laugh at any ordinary talk about love, even the highest and holiest descriptions. All love that I have heard about, or read about, or have seen manifested, or have been able to feel myself, is as a pale shadow of that great Love radiating from that picture, is in comparison to it a stone for bread, an empty husk for the fruit of life, is a dream, a delusion, a snare - is nothing.
When I speak here again of 'seeing,' it should be understood that in this as in other cases I do so only for want of other words. I had a visual impression, that is all. Of its nature I am wholly ignorant.
[CWL note] (The vision of brotherhood, and that other which indicates the Master's love for humanity, are deeper and more beautiful examples of the same faculty. The wonderful vision of the temple is a very fine example of thought in the causal body, and our author describes for us also how there comes along with it a poetical expression of its meaning - a sonnet which, however, he is unable to recover upon the physical plane. The thought of the ego is perfect; it is in itself at the same time a picture and a description, but in order to give upon the physical plane even the most imperfect expression of its wondrous fullness, it is necessary to call upon two of our modes of manifestation - painting and poetry. But for the ego the picture and the poetic description are one effort, and that no more of an effort than the flash of an ordinary thought into the brain is for us. The word of caution with which our author annotates this experiences - saying that what in a condition of rapture appear to be glorious poems often prove to be dreadful doggerel when written down - is not, strictly speaking, appropriate in this case, though true with regard to another and quite different type of experience - the partial recollection on waking of the memories of the physical brain, whose rather dull consciousness is apt to regard its geese as especially noble swans, and is quite capable of endowing doggerel with indescribable splendour. But this is a case of the consciousness of the ego, and consequently the poem, on its own plane, must have been perfect - indeed, what would seem to us super-perfect; though it is true that it is utterly impossible to bring such a thing down into ordinary human words, and that attempts to do so have frequently ended in bathos. But he need have no doubt that at its own level the poetical expression was as perfect as the picture, though less susceptible of translation. Such a thought as that, including all those varied meanings, and manifesting in many different ways, is the thought "brotherhood" to an ego.
In the second of these two experiences we have again the characteristic knowledge of the exact meaning of what was seen, without the reception of definite information; and again in the deep realisation of the intensity of the Master's love, so far beyond anything which language can express. Every word of the description at once evokes a mental response in those who have felt, but cannot describe. The figure may have been a thought-form called into existence by some other ego, but if that were so, the writer instantly accepted it, understood it and responded to it, and through it attained a realisation which can never be reached on the physical plane.)
The next two experiences seem best classified as more directly psychological. The first appears very trivial, but as I have found that others also have observed a similar thing I record it.
IV.8. A Living Portrait. During the first year of my membership in the Society I habitually put a portrait of H. P. B. on the table at which I worked. (The maidservant was afraid of that queer face; she thought it uncanny, and called it - out of my hearing - the spook.) Now, often looking up to the portrait, it seemed many a time to express a variety of moods in response to mine. I got the impression that it could clearly express approbation and discontentment, approval and reproach. Of course I do not refer to actual physical changes in the piece of cardboard, but its psychical impression changed according to circumstances; I felt the facial expression differently.
For many years I have no longer observed similar impressions, and I recognise that I have perhaps lost a certain guilelessness which may probably be a prerequisite for receptivity in this direction.
To the second experience I attach more value; indeed, it afforded me some instruction and furnished me with some food for serious thought.
IV.9. A Spiritual Duel. In the Amsterdam Headquarters, where I resided at the time, the chief leader was Mrs. Meuleman, a striking and forceful character, of whom I still think with great gratitude and respect, and to whom I owe much in the way of help and guidance during a stage of my journey through life. She was a remarkable personality and, so far as I can gather, was of the H. P. B. type, though not, perhaps, of the same stature. She had all the ruggedness and incalculability of that type, as well as its constant self-contradictions; at the same time she was whole-heartedly devoted to the Theosophical cause, and was a true, loyal and tender friend. To me she has always been a living commentary on H. P. B. herself, and by living in close intimacy with her I have learned to understand much in Theosophical history which otherwise would have remained puzzling and unintelligible to me.
Temperamentally Mrs. Meuleman and myself were very different, and though I recognised her very many superior qualities, her manner and method were often unacceptable to me. In short, I felt often towards her a sort of inner rebellion wedded to outer assent - not so much a state of hypocrisy as a war of conflicting elements in my nature. Now the curious point about it was that this feeling chiefly manifested only in meditation and in dreams, and little in the ordinary waking consciousness. Without intentionally seeking it, I would in meditation drift into veritable battles, true duels, of arguments and controversy with Mrs. Meuleman, or wake up from sleep with the memory of a vivid dream to the same effect. There was no question of insults or of unseemly fighting, but rather I felt as if my real self was 'having it out' with the real self of my antagonist. I had a sort of impression not as if the personalities were in conflict, but as if the egos were engaged, so that my own personality-consciousness was not only looking on, but also half identifying itself with something behind itself that fought the battle. As said before, I never consciously started this train of thought, it was rather as if some restrained and subdued subconscious impulse worked itself out on these occasions. (Mrs. Meuleman being an old lady and I a youngster, she holding the local headship of the E. S. whilst I was a novice, and all other points being similarly disproportionate, there could not be any frank discussion on the footing of equality. Some things must therefore needs remain unsolved.) I related the case to Mrs. Meuleman, and she gave a fine intuitive answer for which I am still grateful to her - which symbolised one of these large traits in her character - showing tolerance and insight - which made us all love her so much. She simply said: "That is a very good sign, my boy. Go on fighting until you have fought it out." And she spoke no more of it. Indeed, it has been a source of the greatest satisfaction to me to have been able to come to a definite conclusion, and be consequently at rest, with regard to Mrs. Meuleman's remarkable character a short time before her death. She was in many ways a great woman, who nobly and strongly held a responsible post during the period when there was no other to hold it.
[CWL note] (The eighth item on our list sounds fantastic, yet is not so in reality. It must be remembered that every portrait is a definite link with its subject, and I have little doubt that that would be so to a far greater extent than is usual in the case of such a teacher as Madame Blavatsky. It is not probable that any change (other than a very slow and gradual one) took place in the physical expression of the face upon the cardboard; but it is certain that the author's frequent thought of Madame Blavatsky would attract her attention, and it is likely that in answer to it she would project enough of herself into that portrait to convey to him such impressions as he describes. These impressions would be by no means necessarily reflections of the moods of the owner of the portrait; they are far more likely to have been the comments of the original of the portrait upon those moods, or upon the actions which had led to them or resulted from them. A portrait is a very real centre of force, and when the person whom it represents has any degree of occult advancement it is often an actual means of communication to a quite considerable extent.
Many of our students know that it is possible gradually to modify the expression of a portrait by long meditation upon it; but that is a phenomenon of a class different from that which is mentioned above. The fact that similar impressions are no longer received may possibly be due to the reason given in the text but it is just as likely to mean that Madame Blavatsky herself considers that her pupil has reached a stage where such special attentions are no longer necessary.
The spiritual duel described in number nine is remarkable and interesting. It is clearly a case of an argument between two egos working on different lines. The physical plane personalities attached to the two egos were brought into a somewhat difficult relationship - one in which our author was expected to adopt the attitude of a submissive disciple. One can see that there were many ways in which this was good and necessary at a certain stage in evolution; but it was inevitable that difficulties should arise, owing to the fact that the dispositions and the lines of evolution of the two egos were so entirely different. If the people concerned had been less forbearing, these innate differences between those who were forced together into such a close relationship would have led to violent quarrels; I think both parties may be congratulated on the good sense with which they faced a delicate situation.)
V. SEEING IDEAS
Here we enter upon another group of phenomena. They seem, for one thing, to be marked off by the peculiarity that I experienced them only in normal waking consciousness. I find that I have the faculty of occasionally seeing an idea, a conception, in visual form. The vision comes suddenly and unexpectedly. About the nature of this seeing I might expatiate more fully, but the task is too subtle for me. Enough to say that I have not only the impression that I have seen, but also the impression that I have not seen details. I might put it that I feel as if I had seen the universals of the vision, but not its particulars. As however universals are not objectively existent in the outer world, I do not know what is the 'form' of what I have seen. Yet I have clearly the recollection of form, but not of a particular form. So, for instance, in the next example: there I saw the Masters, but not any particular Master, not any face or form. Still the recollection was that I saw Them. And at the time of the vision I knew that it was They who were there. I know it is hopeless to try to describe this seeing without seeing, together with the simultaneous knowledge of the meaning of what is seen. It sounds like a paradox, and yet when experienced it is quite simple. The whole question baffles and puzzles me, and only inwardly I understand something of it, but outwardly I cannot describe it satisfactorily. The consciousness can grope further than the brain-instrument is able to record. I add that this class of experiences is to me the most valuable of those I relate. They foreshadow some kind of synthetic, symbolic consciousness which seems altogether nobler and more exalted than that of normal life. I will relate three examples.
V.10. The Secrets of the Master's Mind. One evening, a few years ago, at Adyar, Mr. Leadbeater was answering in one of the meetings a question about how the Master could keep secret from the pupil the mysteries of the higher Initiations even though the pupil's consciousness was partly unified with His. While Mr. Leadbeater was speaking there flashed out before me a vision of a number of lights of varying degrees of brilliancy, from faint and soft luminosity to dazzling and blinding radiance. These globes of light were pupils and Masters, seen from some higher point of view. They did not represent these people, but were they. The various globes could freely look at each other, communicate with each other and move through each other as long as each one's outlook remained on his own level of brilliancy. But if a lesser light should strain to peer into the contents of any more brilliant globe, such a globe of a higher grade of brilliancy would mechanically blind the sight of the lower individual, and its contents would remain invisible. The content of the higher consciousness was not artificially hidden, but was quite automatically protected against prying from below by virtue of its own nature. The whole picture was living, and produced of course a far richer impression than that given in this very lame description. As in the case of the vision of brotherhood (No. 6) the whole was pregnant with meaning, instinct with intelligence. From one point of view it was a pure conception, from the other a vision; but I should not be able to separate the two nor to declare which was the primary aspect. In writing down this I feel keenly the insufficiency of the description.
[CWL note] (The tenth vision belongs in reality to the same class as the sixth and seventh; it is a partial impression on the physical brain of the ego's method of thought; and when our author remarks that a description of such a thought sounds like a paradox, and yet is in reality quite simple - that inwardly he understands something of it, but outwardly he cannot describe it satisfactorily - he is saying what every one of us who can see is feeling all the time with respect to such impressions. His description of the way in which the higher secrets are preserved from possible prying on the part of those at a lower level (if such prying could at all be thinkable) is luminous in more senses than one. It is a suggestive description of the relations between a Master and His pupil.)
V.11. The Chains of Humanity. Concerning the next vision I do not remember under what circumstances it arose, nor exactly when. I should say only a few years ago, at Adyar. Here the significance was primary, the form secondary, and I am able to analyse it a little more clearly in that I feel that the form represents less the vision as seen, than the vision as translated into ordinary brain-forms. I feel as if behind the vision as I describe it, there was another, the real vision, the mode of seeing which is different from our ordinary mode. I repeat that this seeing behind the seeing I describe is more a beholding of the principles of the things than of the things as they are here. The feeling of that higher sight remains, but of the sight itself, only its concrete projection, only a materialized deposit.
The picture was that of human beings, not very many, but in some mysterious way so inclusive in their totality as to represent humanity, that is physical humanity, in general. Each individual was as if chained to a kennel as dogs are. There were no chains and no kennels, but nevertheless this is as correct a description as I can make it. Each chain left each individual more or less tether-space. For all that, the tether was relatively small. The significance was that man is strictly chained to a definite locality in space, though thinking himself free. The picture had no reference to free-will and similar abstract problems, but indicated the merely natural facts of the case. The tether had a manifold meaning. Man is practically limited to a spherical plane. He cannot move through space at will. A few miles below the surface of the earth heat and atmospheric pressure make life difficult or impossible; a few miles above that surface the rarefaction of the air and cold do the same. He is restricted, for regular living, to earth, the ocean being unsuitable; he needs fertile land; deserts, marshes, jungles, are forbidden to him. In air he has no support, in water he drowns; through the earth he cannot pass. He cannot move more than a few hours away from his food supply, or he dies of hunger; he must remain near drinking water, or he perishes. He cannot move away from home or family; they claim him back. He cannot depart from the resources of his particular form of civilisation, or he loses his own form of humanity. The physical as well as social and psychic elements in the chains were all equally discernible, and somehow there was also a suggestion in the illustration of trees waving their branches, but nevertheless firmly rooted in a fixed spot. The vision meant humanity as a whole, and did not specially indicate individuals who cross oceans, travel to the poles or go up in balloons. They were visible in the mass as something like jumping dogs. (Sven Hedin would be a dog who jumped a little bit higher than the others, voilà tout; the sailors very lively dogs who were never at rest, and so on. But none of them could outreach the chain.)
It struck me as quite instructive that there may be a point of view from which mankind's freedom of motion is not greater, comparatively, than that of the vegetable kingdom is to us, and with some phantasy one might ask whether, similar to our six-day motor races, green peas have also world championships, for a second and a half or so, in rapid growth, which is about all they could know of motion.
There was no notion of time and, pondering it over at a later date, I thought of a simile of a cluster of bees or ants. The cluster remains in a fixed spot, though individuals may swarm out and return. This is, however, only a very one-sided illustration.
[CWL note] (The somewhat uncomplimentary vision of humanity which is given under the number eleven again represents the ego's view with regard to physical limitations. I think that they could hardly be described more graphically. The picture of the vegetable condition of the great mass of humanity, and of the few travellers as chained dogs jumping about among the vegetables, is distinctly effective!)
V.12. In Him We live and move and have Our Being. The last example I relate in this group is the most impressive and beautiful experience I have had. It came to me many years ago when I was still living in Amsterdam. Towards evening I was walking alone along a road just outside the town. At that place the city ends abruptly, and on the one side stretched vast masses of many-storied houses in unbroken conglomeration, whilst on the other there was the equally unbroken expanse of green meadows losing themselves in the horizon; a peaceful landscape, full of repose, and freshness. The road was a lonely one and, leisurely walking, I must have mused about many things. All of a sudden 'themselves the heavens opened'. I use this biblical phrase because I know no apter one. Suddenly I saw inside and through the mighty expanse of the heavenly vault; and at the same time I realised with the utmost certitude that this whole dome above was nothing but the inside of some gigantic skull. The atmosphere, the space around and above me was not only filled with air and ether, but far more, and above all, with throbbing, living consciousness. And from every point in space, on high and below, in front and behind me, from the right and the left, myriads of invisible threads connected every point in space with every other point in space, serving as invisible wires to report wireless messages from every point to every point simultaneously. I had a sensation of extraordinary wideness, roominess, spaciousness. I felt space, as such, better than ever before, and space was conscious. I knew I was inside the consciousness of that measureless skull, as was everything else. And everything was related and correlated with everything else existing in that mighty brain. And though the myriads and millions of connections were beyond counting or enumerating, still this network formed an ordered whole in which the fulness was organic. I felt as if I had touched some single aspect of some world-enveloping consciousness, embracing not only the world as a whole, but every single, even minutest, item in it, in full knowledge of detail as well as totality, and moreover of all internal and mutual relations. My consciousness was swept up for a moment by that bigger insight, and I felt for that moment as if I myself might understand a whole world.
Again I have to repeat that the description is poor and inadequate, for the reality of these things lies in the sensation; the forms of the vision are only the fringes of the experience.
Years later I experienced something much akin to this. This was at Adyar, when, whilst walking through one of its wooded spots, I realised the unity of life, of the living force in this world, more vividly than ever before.
Leaving this class of experiences then with the final warning that my descriptions of them are merely indications rather than real, full, complete descriptions, we will turn to another group.
[CWL note] (The twelfth experience is one of the best of those recorded; yet even that represents but partially the constant experience of one who has opened the higher consciousness. Here, even more than usual, our author insists that his description is inadequate, and one thoroughly realises that that is so, even while one heartily congratulates him upon it; what human words can describe that which is distinctly super-human - not in the sense that it is out of man's reach, but that it is so far above his ordinary experiences? Still, even from what is written we receive a forcible and vivid impression of the fact that everything around us is pulsating with life and intelligence, and yet that all the intelligence is definitely one.)