Imagination and Occult Phenomena
The Path, December 1892
The faculty of imagination has been reduced to a very low level by modern western theorisers upon mental philosophy. It is “only the making of pictures, daydreaming, fancy and the like”: thus they have said about one of the noblest faculties in man. In Occultism it is well known to be of the highest importance that one should have the imagination under such control as to be able to make a picture of anything at any time, and if this power has not been so trained the possession of other sorts of knowledge will not enable one to perform certain classes of occult phenomena.
Those who have read Mr. Sinnett’s Occult World will have noticed two or three classes of phenomena performed by H.P. Blavatsky and her unseen friends, and those who have investigated spiritualism will know that in the latter have been many cases of similar phenomena done by so-called “controls.” Others who made no such investigations have, however, on their own account seen many things done by forces not mechanical but of a nature which must be called occult or psychical. In spiritualism, and by the Adepts like H.P. Blavatsky and others, one thing has excited great interest, that is the precipitating on to paper or other substances of messages out of the air, as it were, and without any visible contact between the sender of the message and the precipitated letters themselves. This has often occurred in séances with certain good mediums, and the late Stainton Moses wrote in a letter which I say many years ago that there had come under his hand certain messages precipitated out of the air. But in these cases the medium never knows what is to be precipitated, cannot control it at will, is in fact wholly ignorant of the whole matter and the forces operating and how they operate. The elemental forces make the pictures through which the messages are precipitated, and as the inner nature of the medium is abnormally developed, acting subconsciously to the outer man, the whole process is involved in darkness so far as spiritualism is concerned. But not so with trained minds or wills such as possessed by Madame Blavatsky and all like her in the history of the past, including the still living Adepts.
The Adepts who consciously send messages from a distance or who impress thoughts or sentences on the mind of another at a distance are able to do so because their imagination has been fully trained.
The wonderworker of the East who make you see a snake where there is none, or who causes you to see a number of things done in your presence which were not done in fact, is able to so impress you with his trained imagination, which, indeed, is also often in his case an inheritance, and when inherited it is all the stronger when trained and the easier to put into training. In the same way but to a much smaller degree the modern western hypnotizer influences his subject by the picture he makes with his imagination in those cases where he causes the patient to see or not to see at will, and if that power were stronger in the West than it is, the experiments of the hypnotizing schools would be more wonderful than they are.
Take the case of precipitation. In the first place, all the minerals, metals, and colored substances any one could wish for use are in the air about us held in suspension. This has long been proved so as to need no argument now. If there be any chemical process known that will act on these substances, they can be taken from the air and thrown down before us into visibility. this visibility only results from the closer packing together of the atoms of matter composing the mass. Modern science has only a few processes for thus precipitating , but while they do not go to the length of precipitating in letters or figures they do show that such precipitation is possible. Occultism has a knowledge of the secret chemistry of nature whereby those carbons and other substances in the air may be drawn out at will either separately or mixed. The next step is to find for these substances so to be packed together a mold or matrix through which they may be poured, as it were, and, being thus closely packed, become visible. Is there such mold or matrix?
The matrix is made by means of the trained imagination. It must have been trained either now or in some other life before this, or no picture can be precipitated nor message impressed on the brain to which it is directed. The imagination make a picture of each word of each letter of every line and part of line in every letter and work and having made that picture it is held there by the will and the imagination acting together for such a length of time as is needed to permit the carbons or other substances to be strained down through this matrix and appear upon the paper. This is exactly the way in which the Masters of H.P.B. sent those messages which they did not write with their hands, for while they precipitated some they wrote some others and sent them by way of the ordinary mail.
The explanation is the same for the sending of a message by words which the receiver is to hear. The image of the person who is to be the recipient has to be made and held in place; that is, in each of these cases you have to become as it were a magic lantern or a camera obscura and if the image of the letters or if the image of the person be let go or blurred, all the other forces will shoot wide of the mark and naught be accomplished. If a picture were made of the ineffectual thoughts of the generality of people, it would show little lines of force flying out from their brains and instead of reaching their destination falling to the earth just a few feet away from the person who is thus throwing them out.
But, of course, in the case of sending and precipitating on to paper a message from a distance, a good many other matters have to be well known to the operator. For instance, the inner as well as the outer resistance of all substances have to be known, for if not calculated they will throw the aim out, just as the billiard ball may be deflected if the resistance of the cushion is variable and not known to be so by the player. And again, if a living human being has to be used as the other battery at this end of the line, all the resistances and also all the play of that person’s thought have to be known or a complete failure may result. This will show those who inquire about phenomena, or who at a jump wish to be adepts or to do as the adepts can do, what a task it is they would undertake. But there is still another consideration, and that is that inasmuch as all these phenomena have to do with the very subtle and powerful planes of matter it must follow that each time a phenomenon is done the forces of those planes are roused to action, and reaction will be equal to action in these things just as on the ordinary plane.
An illustration will go to make clear what has been said of the imagination. One day H.P. Blavatsky said she would show me precipitation in the very act. She looked fixedly at a certain smooth piece of wood and slowly on it come out letters which at last made a long sentence. It formed before my eyes and I could see the matter condense and pack itself on the surface. All the letters were like such as she would make with her hand, just because she was making the image in her brain and of course followed her own peculiarities. But in the middle, one of the letters were blurred and, as it were, all split into a mass of mere color as to part of the letter.
“Now here,” she said, “I purposely wandered in the image, so that you could see the effect. As I let my attention go, the falling substance had no matrix and naturally fell on the wood any way and without shape.”
A friend on whom I could reply told me that he once asked a wonderworker in the East what he did when he made a snake come and go before the audience, and he replied that he had been taught from very early youth to see a snake before him and that it was so strong an image everyone had to see it.
“But,” said my friend, “how do you tell it from a real snake?”
The man replied that he was able to see through it, so that for him it looked like the shadow of a snake, but that if he had not done it so often he might be frightened by it himself. The process he would not give, as he claimed it was a secret in his family. But anyone who has made the trial knows that it is possible to train the imagination so as to at will bring up before the mind the outlines of any object whatsoever, and that after a time the mind seems to construct the image as if it were a tangible thing.
But there is a wide difference between this and the kind of imagination which is solely connected with some desire or fancy. In the latter case the desire and the image and the mind with all its powers are mixed together, and the result, instead of being a training of the image-making power, is to bring on a decay of that power and only a continual flying to the image of the thing desired. This is the sort of use of the power of the imagination which has lowered it in the eyes of the modern scholar, but even that result would not have come about if the scholars had a knowledge of the real inner nature of man.