Jiddu Krishnamurti's Clairvoyance and relationship to the theosophical Masters
Katinka Hesselink 2006
Jiddu Krishnamurti's life was special in many ways, as is relatively well known. For those that didn't know yet: clairvoyance is part of that list. It started when Krishnamurti was young and there is every indication that it stayed part of his life.
Krishnamurti said the following on his mother's clairvoyance and his own childhood clairvoyance, which started after the death of Krishnamurti's eldest sister (Lutyens, 1975: 5)
They [his mother and his dead sister] talked together and there was a special place in the garden to which my sister used to come. My mother always knew when my sister was there and sometimes took me with her to the place, and would ask me whether I saw my sister too. At first I laughed at the question, but she asked me to look again and then sometimes I saw my sister. Afterwards I could always see my sister. I must confess I was very much afraid, because I had seen her dead and her body burnt. I generally rushed to my mother's side and she told me there was no reason to be afraid. I was the only member of the family, except my mother, to see these visions, though all believed in them. My mother was able to see the auras of people, and I also sometimes saw them.
Krishnamurti said (in public) about visions of Krishna and later Buddha:
When one has an experience, a new vision, say of Christ or of Buddha or Krishna, that vision is the projection of your own conditioning. The Communist, if he has visions at all, will see the perfect state all beautifully arranged where everything is bureaucratically laid down. Or if you are a Catholic, you will have your visions of Christ or the Virgin and so on; it all depends on your conditioning. And when you recognise that vision, you recognise it because it has already been experienced, already known. So there is nothing really new in the recognition of a vision. [http://www.krishnamurti.oddech.com/berkeley4.html: you are the world, 1969, Berkley]
This public stance makes it seem as though Krishnamurti thoroughly repudiated all occultism. But the various biographies of Krishnamurti do mention incidents that can only be interpreted as confirming in quite a personal way that his world-view and personal experience didn't stop having occult or theosophical traits after he left the Theosophical Society. Most of this was private. But in public he also made his view clear when he said:
"So meditation has a significance. One must have this meditative quality of the mind, not occasionally but all day long. And that implies another thing, which is: this something that is sacred, not imagined, not fantastic, affects our lives not only during the waking hours but during sleep. And in this process of meditation there are all kinds of powers that come into being. One becomes clairvoyant, the body then becomes extraordinarily sensitive. Now clairvoyance, healing, thought transference and so on, becomes totally unimportant. All the occult powers become so utterly irrelevant and when you pursue those you are pursuing something that will ultimately lead to illusion. That is one factor." 4th Public Talk, Brockwood Park, 1975, “Truth & Actuality”, Chapter 9
In short: clairvoyance is a fact, but it isn't important, it also leads to illusion.
It may surprise some of my readers, but this is actually a thoroughly traditional view of this issue in Buddhism, the Yoga Suttras of Patanjali and it is also traditional theosophy:
- THESE instructions are for those ignorant of the dangers of the lower IDDHI [siddhis or psychic powers]
- He who would hear the voice of Nada, "the Soundless Sound," and comprehend it, he has to learn the nature of Dharana.
- 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. [first page of The H.P. Blavatsky, The Voice of the Silence, 1886] (numbering for this article)
Notice that Blavatsky too warns of the danger of psychic powers (or Siddhis in Sanskrit and Iddhi in Pali). The third line refers directly to illusion, and how the mind changes what we see and produces illusion.
All this is part of the explicit tension in theosophical tradition between recognizing that there are occult powers in nature, and not taking these to be very important. Blavatsky's role in occult history is dual: she recognized the reality of occult powers and helped people in recognizing that. On the other hand she also made it clear that in spiritual growth (real occultism in her words) those spiritual powers are not very important and are in fact dangerous. Both of these aspects are essential in the debate between science and spirituality. One way of showing that the soul is (somewhat) independent of the body, is that clairvoyance is a fact.
To get back to Krishnamurti: in his time and in the world he grew up in, occultism was a fact of daily life. This was true even before his life was saved by C.W. Leadbeater finding him on the beach in Adyar. It was possibly even more true in his training by C.W. Leadbeater who was the center of a lot of occult excitement. The occult excitement in the Theosophical Society at that time (things have calmed down since then) was such that Mary Lutyens writes (Lutyens, 1975; p. 305-06)
K [Krishnamurti] has always been very reticent about his power of healing and has never considered it as more than a sideline to his main work. He does not want to become known as a healer or for people to come to him only for physical healing. In some cases he does not know even the names of the people who claim to have been cured by him. It is different with the clairvoyant powers he possessed at one time. He was so disgusted by Arundale's and Wedgwood's psychic revelations in 1925 that far from using these powers or developing them, he was determined from that time onwards to push them into the background if unable to suppress them altogether. His antipathy to clairvoyance is now even more positive; he regards it as an intrusion of privacy. When people come to him for help he does not want to know more about them than they are willing to reveal to him. As he says, most people come to him wearing a mask; he hopes they will remove the mask, but if not he would no more try to look behind it than to read their private letters.
Krishnamurti walks through a Mahatma
Ingram Smith says that in a conversation with him, Krishnamurti told him how one day he had walked through the image of a Mahatma and since then had never seen one again.
Krishnaji went on to say that under Leadbeater's direction he rose at four o'clock in the traditional manner and meditated, and that sometimes Kuthumi [the Mahatma K.H.] was present and a conversation took place. Then one morning just after sunrise - Krishnamurti was seated in the lotus posture facing east - Kuthumi appeared in the doorway. Until that day, talking with K.H. had been enough. "That day I wanted more than talk. I wanted not only to feel his presence, hear his voice, but to actually touch him, make sensual contact. Until that day he had been a voice, a presence standing in the doorway. It was a morning when the sun came clear into the room. Kuthumi was standing with his back to the light. I got up, walked to him and through him. I turned. There was no one there. He had disappeared. There was nothing there. And ... I did not ever see him again." (Smith 1989: 20-21)
For my non-theosophist readers it is necessary to add that the Mahatmas are thought to be physical people like you and me, with added powers (1). The power displayed here is the power of sending out a mayavirupa or illusionbody. In other words, the Mahatmas possess the ability to project an image of themselves to people sensitive to them, so they are able to talk at a distance. If that is what the Mahatma was doing, it is natural that Krishnamurti was able to walk through the mahatma - or better: the image of him. That a teenager would want to actually touch his teacher is also very understandable. The puzzling part is the implied surprise. How can someone who has been clairvoyant from the age of 10 (or something) be surprised that a clairvoyant vision can be walked through? The aura is something that the hand can easily go through, and one expects the same with visions of any kind. From the mahatmas perspective it seems likely that Krishnamurti's lack of reverence displayed in walking through him, and perhaps the underlying stubbornness, were reasons not to return. Another reason why the Mahatma (or the vision of him) didn't return might be that Krishnamurti decided not to actively participate in visions of any kind, preferring to deal only with what is more obviously real. Him deciding he didn't want to see the vision of the Mahatma would also be enough cause for the visions to stop, among other things because a Mahatma of the White Brotherhood would never force himself on anybody.
Jiddu Krishnamurti lived from 1895 till 1986. He recognized the reality of clairvoyance publicly in 1975 eleven years before he passed on, though probably at other times as well. He also stated that clairvoyance wasn't important. It is therefor clear that although Krishnamurti's work wasn't specifically aimed at denying or affirming specific ways of looking at reality, his teachings cannot be used to defend a materialistic view of life. Because I have been taught in the tradition of Blavatsky, for me the Mahatmas are basically perfected people. For the present article the distinction isn't very important. Krishnamurti obviously did not meet the Mahatma physically anyhow, so whether he had a physical body to begin with is irrelevant. The question is relevant whether Krishnamurti thought the Mahatma was there physically, but I do think that is highly unlikely.
1) In various theosophical circles there is disagreement on this point. Classical (or Blavatskyan) theosophy takes the view that the Mahatmas or masters are normal people, though with extra talents. Later schools of theosophists have taken to seeing the Mahatmas as basically spiritual, but with the option of taking a physical shape when necessary. Leadbeater was vague on this subject. In his 'The Masters and the Path' he implies both options, though he warns against seeing Mahatmas as a sort of Angels. (p. 15)
- Smith, Ingram; Truth is a Pathless Land, A Journey with Krishnamurti, Wheaton Il. The Theosophical Publishing House, 1989
- Lutyens, Mary; Krishnamurti: The Years of Awakening, New York Avon Books, 1991 (1975)
- Leadbeater, C.W. Masters and the Path (abridged version) third edition 1998 (1969) originally 1925.
Response by Pablo Sender: Krishnamurti as a mystic (February 2008)
I’ve just read your article “Jiddu Krishnamurti's Clairvoyance and relationship to the theosophical Masters”, and I wanted to share some thoughts with you. It is about the incident with Master K.H. as expressed by Ingram Smith. I think the way it is written may simply reflect Smith’s lack of understanding of what really happened and therefore he interpreted things erroneously putting the incident in a misleading way.
In the poem written by Krishnaji in 1928 “The Immortal Friend” he says something that seems related to that incident:
“He was at the door of my room,
I passed through Him.
Purified, with a new song in my heart,
He is before me forever.
Look where I may, He is there.
I see all things through Him.”
In this way of putting the incident, K’s attitude, far from being irreverent, shows a deep devotion. I remember having read in one of his biographers that Krishnaji said he wanted to become one with the Master, that he didn’t want to have a relationship as being two different entities. And in that poem, after a while he states that he became one with his Beloved. The poem finishes saying:
I have sought my Beloved, And discovered Him seated in my heart. My
Beloved beholds through mine eyes, For now my Beloved and I are one.
I laugh with Him, With Him I play.
This shadow is not of mine, It belongs to the heart of my Beloved, For now my Beloved and I are One.”
Krishnaji’s statement that he “did not ever see him again” might have easily been a symbolic way of saying that he never saw the Master as something different from himself again (we have to remember that K didn’t want to talk about those things, and when he did, he usually did it in a very veiled way).
I have not made a research gathering different sources to prove my point, but to me that explanation makes much more sense taking into account all the things K said about the Masters to some people.