The Astral Plane/Chapter IV
FROM one point of view this should have been the first chapter of our book instead of the last, for it was from the consideration of its subject-matter that all the rest arose. I owe my introduction to Theosophy in this incarnation to our then Vice-President, Mr. A. P. Sinnett, who was always exceptionally kind to me, and while I was staying with him we used to meet every Sunday morning in his library to discuss Theosophical matters. On one such occasion he casually remarked that he did not think that the Theosophical teaching so far given to us adequately covered or accounted for many of the spiritualistic phenomena which both of us had repeatedly seen. Rather startled by this hypothesis I stoutly maintained the opinion that they were satisfactorily covered, and proceeded to give examples.
Mr. Sinnett seemed favourably impressed, and asked me to give a lecture to the London Lodge expounding my views. I agreed to do this, but when I came to prepare that lecture I soon found that in order to make myself intelligible I must begin by a general description of the astral world as a whole, with its conditions and the powers and possibilities of its inhabitants. I realized that I had undertaken a larger contract than I intended; but clearly it was a piece of work that had to be done, so I might as well go ahead and do it to the best of my ability. The eventual result was a lecture to the Lodge which appeared as its Transaction No. 24.
Dr. Besant, who was then publishing a series of Theosophical Manuals, was kind enough to include this essay as one of them; hence its appearance in its present form.
Though in the course of this manual various super-physical phenomena have been mentioned and to some extent explained, it will perhaps before concluding be desirable so far to recapitulate as to give a list of those with which the student of these subjects most frequently meets, and to show by which of the agencies we have attempted to describe they are usually caused. The resources of the astral world, however, are so varied that almost any phenomenon with which we are acquainted can be produced in several different ways, so that it is only possible to lay down general rules in the matter.
Apparitions or ghosts furnish a very good instance of the remark just made, for in the loose manner in which the words are ordinarily used they may stand for almost any inhabitant of the astral plane. Psychically developed people are constantly seeing such things, but for an ordinary person to "see a ghost", as the common expression runs, one of two things must happen: either that ghost must materialize, or that person must have a temporary flash of psychic perception. But for the fact that neither of these events is common, we should meet with ghosts in our streets as frequently as living people.
- 1 CHURCHYARD GHOSTS
- 2 APPARITIONS OF THE DYING
- 3 HAUNTED LOCALITIES
- 4 FAMILY GHOSTS
- 5 BELL-RINGING, STONE-THROWING, ETC.
- 6 FAIRIES
- 7 COMMUNICATING ENTITIES
- 8 ASTRAL RESOURCES
- 9 CLAIRVOYANCE
- 10 PREVISION AND SECOND-SIGHT
- 11 ASTRAL FORCES
- 12 ETHERIC CURRENTS
- 13 ETHERIC PRESSURE
- 14 LATENT ENERGY
- 15 SYMPATHETIC VIBRATION
- 16 MANTRAS
- 17 DISINTEGRATION
- 18 MATERIALIZATION
- 19 WHY DARKNESS IS REQUIRED
- 20 SPIRIT PHOTOGRAPHS
- 21 REDUPLICATION
- 22 PRECIPITATION
- 23 SLATE-WRITING
- 24 LEVITATION
- 25 SPIRIT LIGHTS
- 26 HANDLING FIRE
- 27 TRANSMUTATION
- 28 REPERCUSSION
If the ghost is seen hovering about a grave it is probably the etheric shell of a newly¬buried person, though it may be the astral body of a living man haunting in sleep the tomb of a friend; or again, it may be a materialized thought¬form — that is, an artificial elemental created by the energy with which a man thinks of himself as present at that particular spot. These varieties would be easily distinguishable one from the other by any one accustomed to use astral vision, but an unpractised person would be likely to call them all vaguely "ghosts".
APPARITIONS OF THE DYINGEdit
Apparitions at the time of death are by no means uncommon, and are often really visits paid by the astral form of the dying man just before what we elect to call the moment of dissolution; though here again they are just as likely to be thought-forms called into being by his earnest wish to see some friend once more before he passes into an unfamiliar condition. There are some instances in which the visit is paid just after the moment of death instead of just before; and in such a case the visitor is really a ghost; but for various causes this form of apparition is far less frequent than the other.
Apparitions at the spot where some crime was committed are usually thought-forms projected by the criminal; for the ordinary criminal, whether living or dead, but most especially when dead, is perpetually thinking over again and again the circumstances of his action. Since these thoughts are naturally specially vivid in his mind on the anniversary of the original crime, it is often only on that occasion that the thought-forms which he creates are strong enough to materialize themselves to ordinary sight — a fact which accounts for the periodicity of some manifestations of this class. Habitual criminals are frequently too callous to be especially moved by the recollection of one particular crime, but in that case other factors might come into play.
Another point in reference to such phenomena is that, wherever any tremendous mental disturbance has taken place, wherever overwhelming terror, pain, sorrow, hatred, or indeed any kind of intense passion has been felt, an impression of so marked a character has been made upon the astral matter that a person with even the faintest glimmer of psychic faculty cannot but be deeply impressed by it. It would need but a slight temporary increase of sensibility to enable him to visualize the entire scene — to see the event in all its detail apparently taking place before his eyes — and in such a case he would report that the place was haunted, and that he had seen a ghost.
People who are yet unable to see psychically under any circumstances are frequently unpleasantly impressed when visiting such places as we have mentioned. There are many, for example, who feel uncomfortable when passing the site of Tyburn Tree, or cannot stay in the Chamber of Horrors at Madame Tussaud's, though they may not be in the least aware that their discomfort is due to the dreadful impressions in the astral matter which surround places and objects redolent of horror and crime, and to the presence of the loathsome astral entities which always swarm about such centres.
The family ghost, whom we generally find in the stock stories of the supernatural as an appanage of the feudal castle, may be either a thought-form or an unusually vivid impression in astral matter, or again he may really be an earth-bound ancestor still haunting the scenes in which his thoughts and hopes centred during life.
BELL-RINGING, STONE-THROWING, ETC.Edit
Another class of hauntings, which take the form of bell-ringing, stone¬throwing, or the breaking of crockery, has already been mentioned, and is almost invariably the work of elemental forces, either set blindly in motion by the clumsy efforts of an ignorant person trying to attract the attention of is surviving friends, or intentionally employed by some childishly mischievous nature-spirit. To such manifestations the name poltergeist is usually given.
The nature-spirits are also responsible for whatever of truth may be in all the fairy stories which are so common in certain country places. Sometimes a temporary accession of clairvoyance, which is by no means uncommon among the inhabitants of lonely mountainous regions, enables some belated wayfarer to watch their joyous gambols; sometimes strange tricks are played upon some terrified victim, and a glamour is cast over him, making him, for example, see houses and people where he knows none really exist. And this is frequently no mere momentary delusion, for a man will sometimes go through quite a long series of imaginary but most striking adventures, and then suddenly find that all his brilliant surroundings have vanished in a moment, leaving him standing in some lonely valley or on some wind-swept plain. On the other hand, it is by no means safe to accept as founded on fact all the popular legends on the subject, for the grossest superstition is often mingled with the theories of the peasantry about these beings, as has been shown sometimes by terrible murder cases.
To the same entities must he attributed a large portion of what are called physical phenomena at spiritualistic séances — indeed, many a séance has been given entirely by these mischievous creatures. Such a performance might easily include many very striking items, such as the answering of questions and delivery of pretended messages by raps or tilts, the exhibition of "spirit lights," the apport of objects from a distance, the reading of thoughts which were in the mind of any person present, the precipitation of writings or drawings, and even materializations.
In fact, the nature-spirits alone, if any of them happened to he disposed to take the trouble, could give a séance equal to the most wonderful of which we read; for though there may be certain phenomena which they would not find it easy to reproduce, their marvellous power of glamour would enable them without difficulty to persuade the entire circle that these phenomena also had duly occurred — unless, indeed, there were present a trained observer who understood their arts and knew how to defeat them. As a general rule, whenever silly tricks or practical jokes are played at a séance, we may infer the presence either of low¬class nature-spirits, or of human beings who were of a sufficiently degraded type to find pleasure in such idiotic performances during life.
As to the entities who may "communicate" at a séance or may obsess and speak through an entranced medium, their name is simply legion; there is hardly a single class among all the varied inhabitants of the astral plane from whose ranks they may not be drawn, though after the explanations given it will be readily understood that the chances are against their coming from an exalted level. A manifesting "spirit" is often exactly what it professes to be, especially at a private séance conducted by educated and serious people; but often also it is nothing of the kind; and for the ordinary sitter there is no means of distinguishing the true from the false, since the extent to which a being having all the resources of the astral plane at his command can delude a person on the physical plane is so great that no reliance can be placed even on what seems at first sight to be the most convincing proof.
If something manifests which announces itself as a man's long-lost brother, he can have no certainty that its claim is just. If it tells him of some fact known only to that brother and to himself, he remains unconvinced, for he knows that it might easily have read the information from his own mind, or from his surroundings in the astral world. Even if it goes still further and tells him something connected with his brother, of which he himself is unaware, but which he afterwards verifies, he still realizes that even this may have been read from the astral record, or that what he sees before him may be only the shade of his brother, and so possess his memory without in any way being himself. It is not for one moment denied that important communications have been made at séances by entities who in such cases have been precisely what they said they were; all that is claimed is that it is quite impossible for the ordinary person who visits a séance (especially a public séance) ever to be certain that he is not being cruelly deceived in one or other of half a dozen different ways. However, any one who wishes to study a case in which irrefutable evidence is laboriously given should read Life Beyond Death with Evidence by the Rev. C. D. Thomas.
There have been a few cases in which members of the Lodge of occultists referred to above as originating the spiritualistic movement have themselves given, through a medium, a series of valuable teachings on deeply interesting subjects, but this has invariably been at strictly private family séances, not at public performances for which money has been paid.
To understand the methods by which a large class of physical phenomena are produced, it is necessary to have some comprehension of the various resources mentioned above, which a person functioning on the astral plane finds at his command; and this is a branch of the subject which it is by no means easy to make clear, especially as it is hedged about with certain obviously necessary restrictions. It may perhaps help us if we remember that the astral world may be regarded as in many ways only an extension of the physical, and the idea that matter may assume the etheric state (in which, though intangible to us, it is yet purely physical) may serve to show us how the one melts into the other. In fact, in the Hindu conception of Jagrat, or "the waking state," the physical and astral planes are combined, its seven subdivisions corresponding to the four conditions of physical matter, and the three broad divisions of astral matter which have previously been explained.
With this thought in our minds it is easy to move a step further, and grasp the idea that astral vision, or rather astral perception, may from one point of view be defined as the capability of receiving an enormously increased number of different sets of vibrations. In our physical bodies one small set of vibrations is perceptible to us as sound; another small set of much more rapid vibrations affects us as light; and again another set as electric action; but there are immense numbers of intermediate vibrations which produce no result which our physical senses can cognize at all. It will readily be seen that if all, or even some only, of these intermediates, with all the complications producible by differences of wave-length, are perceptible on the astral plane, our comprehension of nature might be greatly increased on that level, and we might be able to acquire much information which is now hidden from us.
It is admitted that some of these vibrations pass through solid matter with perfect ease, so that this enables us to account scientifically for the peculiarities of etheric vision, though for astral sight the theory of the fourth dimension gives a neater and more complete explanation. It is clear that the mere possession of this astral vision by a being would at once account for his capability to produce many results that seem wonderful to us — such, for example, as the reading of a passage from a closed book. When we remember, furthermore, that this faculty includes the power of thought-reading (in so far as that thought affects emotions), and also, when combined with the knowledge of the projection of currents in the astral currents, that of observing a desired object in almost any part of the world, we see that many of the phenomena of clairvoyance are explicable even without rising above this level. I would refer any one who desires to study more closely this interesting subject to my little book, Clairvoyance, in which its varieties are tabulated and explained, and numerous examples given.
PREVISION AND SECOND-SIGHTEdit
True, trained, and absolutely reliable clairvoyance calls into operation an entirely different set of faculties, but as these belong to a higher plane than the astral, they form no part of our present subject. The faculty of accurate prevision, again, appertains altogether to that higher plane, yet flashes or reflections of it frequently show themselves to purely astral sight, more especially among simple-minded people who live under suitable conditions – what is called "secondsight" among the Highlanders of Scotland being a well-known example.
Another fact which we must not forget is that any intelligent inhabitant of the astral plane is not only able to perceive these etheric vibrations, but can also — if he has learnt how it is done — adapt them to his own ends, or himself set them in motion.
Super-physical forces and the methods of managing them are not subjects about which much can be written for publication at present, though there is reason to suppose that it may not be long before at any rate some application of one or two of them come to be known to the world at large; but it may perhaps be possible, without transgressing the limits of the permissible, to give so much of an idea of them as shall be sufficient to show in outline how certain phenomena are performed.
All who have much experience of spiritualistic séances at which physical results are produced must at one time or another have seen evidence of the employment of practically resistless force in, for example, the instantaneous movement of enormous weights, and so on; and if of a scientific turn of mind, they may perhaps have wondered whence this force was obtained, and what was the leverage employed. As usual in connection with astral phenomena, there are several ways in which such work may have been done, but it will be enough for the moment to hint at four.
First, there are great etheric currents constantly sweeping over the surface of the earth from pole to pole in volume which makes their power as irresistible as that of the rising tide, and there are methods by which this stupendous force may be safely utilized, though unskillful attempts to control it would be fraught with frightful danger.
Secondly, there is what can best be described as an etheric pressure, somewhat corresponding to, though immensely greater than, the atmospheric pressure. In ordinary life we are as little conscious of one of these pressures as we are of the other, but nevertheless they both exist, and if science were able to exhaust the ether from a given space, as it can exhaust the air, the one could be proved as readily as the other. The difficulty of doing that lies in the fact that matter in the etheric condition freely interpenetrates matter in all states below it, so that there is as yet no means within the knowledge of our physicists by which any given body of ether can be isolated from the rest. Practical Occultism, however, teaches how this can be done, and thus the tremendous force of etheric pressure can be brought into play.
Thirdly, there is a vast store of potential energy which has become dormant in matter during the involution of the subtle into the gross, and by changing the condition of the matter some of this may be liberated and utilized, somewhat as latent energy in the form of heat may be liberated by a change in the condition of visible matter.
Fourthly, many striking results, both great and small, may be produced by an extension of a principle which may be described as that of sympathetic vibration. Illustrations taken from the physical plane seem generally to misrepresent rather than elucidate astral phenomena, because they can never be more than partially applicable; but the recollection of two simple facts of ordinary life may help to make this important branch of our subject clearer, if we are careful not to push the analogy further than it will hold good.
It is well known that if one of the wires of a harp be made to vibrate vigorously, its movement will call forth sympathetic vibrations in the corresponding strings of any number of harps placed round it, if they are tuned to exactly the same pitch. It is also well known that when a large body of soldiers crosses a suspension bridge it is necessary for them to break step, since the perfect regularity of their ordinary march would set up a vibration in the bridge which would be intensified by every step they took until the point of resistance of the iron was passed, when the whole structure would fly to pieces.
With these two analogies in our minds (never forgetting that they are only partial) it may seem more comprehensible that one who knows exactly at what rate to start his vibrations — knows, so to speak, the keynote of the class of matter he wishes to affect — should be able by sounding that keynote to call forth an immense number of sympathetic vibrations. When this is done on the physical plane no additional energy is developed; but on the astral plane there is this difference, that the matter with which we are dealing is far less inert, and so when called into action by these sympathetic vibrations it adds its own living force to the original impulse, which may thus be multiplied manifold; and then by further rhythmic repetition of the original impulse, as in the case of the soldiers marching over the bridge, the vibrations may be so intensified that the result is out of all apparent proportion to the cause. Indeed, it may be said that there is scarcely any limit to the conceivable achievements of this force in the hands of a great Adept who fully comprehends its possibilities; for the very building of the Universe itself was but the result of the vibrations set up by the Spoken Word.
The class of mantras or spells which produce their result not by controlling some elemental, but merely by the repetition of certain sounds, also depend for their efficacy upon this action of sympathetic vibration.
The phenomenon of disintegration also may be brought about by the action of extremely rapid vibrations, which overcome the cohesion of the molecules of the object upon which we operate. A still higher rate of vibration of a somewhat different type will separate these molecules into their constituent atoms. A body reduced by these means to the etheric condition can be moved by an astral current from one place to another with great rapidity; and the moment that the force which has been exerted to put it into that condition is withdrawn it will be forced by the etheric pressure to resume its original condition.
Students often at first find it difficult to understand how in such an experiment the shape of the article dealt with can be preserved. It has been remarked that if any metallic object — say, for example, a key — be melted and raised to a vaporous state by heat, when the heat is withdrawn it will return to the solid state, but it will no longer be a key, but merely a lump of metal. The point is well taken, though as a matter of fact the apparent analogy does not hold good. The elemental essence which informs the key would be dissipated by the alteration in its condition — not that the essence itself can be affected by the action of heat, but that when its temporary body is destroyed (as a solid) it pours back into the great reservoir of such essence, much as the higher principles of a man, though entirely unaffected by heat or cold, are yet forced out of a physical body when it is destroyed by fire.
Consequently, when what had been the key cooled down into the solid condition again, the elemental essence (of the "earth" or solid class) which poured back into it would not be the same as that which it contained before, and there would be no reason why the same shape should be retained. But a man who disintegrated a key for the purpose of removing it by astral currents from one place to another would be careful to hold the same elemental essence in exactly the same shape until the transfer was completed, and then when his will-force was removed it would act as a mould into which the solidifying particles would flow, or rather round which they would be re-aggregated. Thus, unless the operator's power of concentration failed, the shape would be accurately preserved.
It is in this way that objects are sometimes brought almost instantaneously from great distances at spiritualistic séances, and it is obvious that when disintegrated they could be passed with perfect ease through any solid substance, such, for example, as the wall of a house or the side of a locked box, so that what is commonly called "the passage of matter through matter" is seen, when properly understood, to be as simple as the passage of water through a sieve, or of a gas through a liquid in some chemical experiment.
Since it is possible by an alteration of vibration to change matter from the solid to the etheric condition, it will be comprehended that it is also possible to reverse the process and to bring etheric matter into the solid state. As the one process explains the phenomenon of disintegration, so does the other that of materialization; and just as in the former case a continued effort of will is necessary to prevent the object from resuming its original state, so in exactly the same way in the latter phenomenon, a continued effort is necessary to prevent the materialized matter from relapsing into the etheric condition.
In the materializations seen at an ordinary séance, such matter as may be required is borrowed as far as possible from the medium's etheric double — an operation which is prejudicial to his health, and also undesirable in various other ways. Thus is explained the fact that the materialized form is usually strictly confined to the immediate neighbourhood of the medium, and is subject to an attraction which is constantly drawing it back to the body from which it came, so that if kept away from the medium too long the figure collapses, and the matter which composed it, returning to the etheric condition, rushes back instantly to its source.
In some cases there is no doubt that dense and visible physical matter also is temporarily removed from the body of the medium, however difficult it may be for us to realize the possibility of such a transfer. I have myself seen instances in which this phenomenon undoubtedly took place, and was evidenced by a considerable loss of weight in the medium's physical body. Similar cases are described in Colonel Olcott's People from the Other World, and in Un Cas de Dematerialisation, by M. A. Aksakow. A still more remarkable example is given in Madame d’Esperance’s Shadowland.
WHY DARKNESS IS REQUIREDEdit
The reason why the beings directing a séance find it easier to operate in darkness or in subdued light will now be manifest, since their power would usually be insufficient to hold together a materialized form or even a "spirit hand" for more than a few seconds amidst the intense vibrations set up by brilliant light.
The habituès of séances will no doubt have noticed that materializations are of three kinds: First, those which are tangible but not visible; second, those which are visible but not tangible; and third, those which are both visible and tangible. To the first kind, which is much the most common, belong the invisible spirit hands which so frequently stroke the faces of the sitters or carry small objects about the room, and the vocal organs from which the "direct voice" proceeds. In this case, an order of matter is being used which can neither reflect nor obstruct light, but is capable under certain conditions of setting up vibrations in the atmosphere which affect us as sound. A variation of this class is that kind of partial materialization which, though incapable of reflecting any light that we can see, is yet able to affect some of the ultraviolet rays, and can therefore make a more or less definite impression upon the camera, and so provide us with what are known as "spirit photographs".
When there is not sufficient power available to produce a perfect materialization we sometimes see the vaporous-looking form which constitutes our second class, and in such a case the "spirits" usually warn their sitters that the forms which appear must not be touched. In the rarer case of a full materialization there is sufficient power to hold together, at least for a few moments, a form which can be both seen and touched.
When an Adept or pupil finds it necessary for any purpose to materialize his mental or astral vehicle, he does not draw upon either his own etheric double or that of anyone else, since he has been taught how to extract the matter which he requires directly from the surrounding ether.
Another phenomenon closely connected with this part of the subject is that of reduplication, which is produced by forming a perfect mental image of the object to be copied, and then gathering about that mould the necessary astral and physical matter. For this purpose it is necessary that every particle, interior as well as exterior, of the object to be duplicated should be held accurately in view simultaneously, and consequently the phenomenon is one which requires considerable power of concentration to perform. Persons unable to extract the matter required directly from the surrounding ether have sometimes borrowed it from the material of the original article, which in this case would be correspondingly reduced in weight.
We read a good deal in Theosophical literature of the precipitation of letters or pictures. This result, like everything else, may be obtained in several ways. An Adept wishing to communicate with some one might place a sheet of paper before him, form a mental image of the writing which he wished to appear upon it, and draw from the ether the matter wherewith to objectify that image; or if he preferred to do so it would be equally easy for him to produce the same result upon a sheet of paper lying before his correspondent, whatever might be the distance between them.
A third method which, since it saves time, is much more frequently adopted, is to impress the whole substance of the letter on the mind of some pupil, and leave him to do the mechanical work of precipitation. That pupil would then take his sheet of paper, and, imagining he saw the letter written thereon in his Master's hand, would proceed to objectify the writing as before described. If he found it difficult to perform simultaneously the two operations of drawing his material from the surrounding ether and precipitating the writing on the paper, he might have either ordinary ink or a small quantity of coloured powder on the table beside him, which, being already dense matter, could be drawn upon more readily.
It is obvious that the possession of this power would be a dangerous weapon in the hands of an unscrupulous person, since it is as easy to imitate one man's handwriting as another's, and it would be impossible to detect by any ordinary means a forgery committed in this manner. A pupil definitely connected with any Master has always an infallible test by which he knows whether any message really emanates from that Master or not, but for others the proof of its origin must always lie solely in the contents of the letter and the spirit breathing through it, as the handwriting, however cleverly imitated, is of absolutely no value as evidence.
As to speed, a pupil new to the work of precipitation would probably be able to image only a few words at a time, and would, therefore, progress hardly more rapidly than if he wrote his letter in the ordinary way, but a more experienced individual who could visualize a whole page or perhaps the entire letter at once would do his work with greater facility. It is in this manner that quite long letters are produced in a few seconds at a séance.
When a picture has to be precipitated the method is precisely the same, except that here it is absolutely necessary that the entire scene should be visualized at once, and if many colours are required there is the additional complication of manufacturing them, keeping them separate, and reproducing accurately the exact tints of the scene to be represented. Evidently there is scope here for the exercise of the artistic faculty, and it must not be supposed that every inhabitant of the astral plane could by this method produce an equally good picture; a man who had been a great artist in life, and had therefore learnt how to see and for what to look, would certainly be very much more successful than the ordinary person if he attempted precipitation when on the astral plane after death.
The slate-writing, for the production of which under test conditions some of the greatest mediums have been so famous, is sometimes produced by precipitation, though more frequently the fragment of pencil enclosed between the slates is guided by a spirit hand, of which only just the tiny points sufficient to grasp it are materialized.
An occurrence which occasionally happens at séances, and more frequently among Eastern Yogis, is what is called levitation — that is, the floating of a human body in the air. No doubt when this takes place in the case of a medium, he is often merely upborne by "spirit hands", but there is another and more scientific method of accomplishing this feat which is always used in the East, and occasionally here also. Occult science is acquainted with a means of neutralizing or even entirely reversing the attraction of gravity, and it is obvious that by the judicious use of this power all the phenomena of levitation may be easily produced. It was no doubt by a knowledge of this secret that some of the airships of ancient India and Atlantis were raised from the earth and made light enough to be readily moved and directed; and not improbably the same acquaintance with Nature's finer forces greatly facilitated the labours of those who raised the enormous blocks of stone sometimes used in cyclopean architecture, or in the building of the Pyramids and Stonehenge.
With the knowledge of the forces of Nature which the resources of the astral plane place at the command of its inhabitants, the production of what are called "spirit lights" is an easy matter, whether they be of the mildly phosphorescent or the dazzling electrical variety, or those curious dancing globules of light into which a certain class of fire elementals so readily transform themselves. Since all light consists of vibrations of the ether, it is obvious that any one who knows how to set up these vibrations can readily produce any kind of light that he wishes.
It is by the aid of the etheric elemental essence also that the remarkable feat of handling fire unharmed is generally performed, though there are as usual other ways in which it can be done. The thinnest layer of etheric substance can be so manipulated as to be absolutely impervious to heat, and when the hand of a medium or sitter is covered with this he may pick up burning coal or red-hot iron with perfect safety.
In addition to the special forces above-mentioned the principle of the ordinary lever is often used to produce minor phenomena, such as the tilting of tables or rapping upon them, the fulcrum being in this case the body of the medium, and the lever a bar of ectoplasm projected from it. (See Psychic Structures, by Dr. W. J. Crawford.)
We have now referred to most of the occurrences of the séance-room, but there are one or two of the rarer phenomena of the outer world which must not he left quite without mention in our list. The transmutation of metals was once supposed to be a mere dream of the mediæval alchemists, and no doubt in many cases the description of the phenomenon was merely a symbol of the purification of the soul; yet there seems to be some evidence that it was really accomplished by them on several occasions, and there are petty magicians in the East who profess to do it under test conditions even now. Modern science is now experimenting along these lines, and will probably succeed in course of time. It is evident that since the ultimate atom is one and the same in all substances, and it is only the methods of its combination that differ, any one who possessed the power of reducing a piece of metal to the atomic condition and of re-arranging its atoms in some other form would have no difficulty in effecting transmutation to any extent that he wished.
The principle of sympathetic vibration mentioned above also provides the explanation of the strange and little-known phenomenon called repercussion, by means of which any injury done to, or any mark made upon, the materialized body in the course of its wanderings will be reproduced in the physical body. We find traces of this in some of the evidence given at trials for witchcraft in the Middle Ages, in which it is not infrequently stated that some wound given to the witch when in the form of a dog or a wolf was found to have appeared in the corresponding part of her human body. The same strange law has sometimes led to an entirely unjust accusation of fraud against a medium, because, for example, some colouring matter rubbed upon the hand of a materialized "spirit" was afterwards found upon his hand — the explanation being that in that case, as so often happens, the "spirit" was simply the medium's etheric double, forced by the guiding influences to take some form other than his own. In fact these two parts of the physical body are so intimately connected that it is impossible to touch the keynote of one without immediately setting up exactly corresponding vibrations in the other.