Power of Imagination
The first power that meets us at the threshold of soul's dominion is the power of imagination: it is the plastic and creative power of the mind. Man is conscious of being able to receive ideas and to put them into forms. He lives not entirely in the objective world, but possesses an interior world of his own. It is in his power to be the sole autocrat in that world, the master of its creations and lord over all it contains.
He may govern there by the supreme power of his will, and if ideas intrude, which have no legitimate right to exist in it, it is in his power either to drive them away or suffer them to remain and to grow. His reason is the supreme ruler in that world, its ministers are the emotions. If man's reason, misled by the treacherous advice of evil emotions, suffers evil ideas to grow, they may become powerful and dethrone reason.
This interior world, like the outer world, is a world of its own. It is sometimes dark, sometimes illumined; its space and the things it contains are as real to its inhabitants as the physical world is real to the physical senses; its horizon may be either narrow or expanded, limited in some and without limits in others; it has its beautiful scenery and its dismal localities, its sunshine and storms, its forms of beauty and horrible shapes. It is the privilege of man to retire to that world whenever he chooses; physical enemies do not persecute him there; bodily pain cannot enter. The vexations of material life remain behind, only that which moves his soul enters with him.
In this interior realm is the Temple of Man wherein he can lock the door against the intrusion of sensual impressions. On the entrance of that temple are the Dwellers of the Threshold, made of desires and passions, which are our own creations, and which must be conquered before we can enter. Within that temple exists a world, as big and illimitable as the unbounded universe. In this inner realm is the God whose spirit floats over the waters of the deep, and whose fiat calls into existence the creatures which inhabit the kingdom of mind.
In the air surrounding the centre of that interior world is the battle ground of the gods. There the gods of love and hate, the daemons of lust and pride, and anger, the devils of malice, cruelty, and revenge, vanity, envy, and jealousy, hold high carnival, they stir up the emotions, and, unless subdued by Reason, grow strong enough to dethrone it.
Reason rests upon the recognition of Truth. Wherever truth is disregarded illusions appear. If we lose sight of the highest, the low will appear, and an illusion will be created. One is the number of Truth, Six is the number of illusion, because the Six have no existence without the Seventh, they are the visible products of the one, manifesting itself as six around an invisible centre. Wherever they are six, there must be the seventh. The six cannot know the seventh if the seventh does not become manifest. God knows himself; but we cannot know his presence unless that presence becomes manifested in us. One is the number of life, and six the number of shadows, having no life of their own.
Forms without life are illusive, and he who mistakes the form for the life or principle of which it is an expression is haunted by an illusion. Forms perish, but the principle that causes their existence remains. The object of forms is to represent principles, and as long as a form is a true representation of a principle the principle gives it life; but if a form is made to serve another principle than the one which called it into existence, degradation will be the result.
The irrational forms produced by nature are perfect expressions of the principles they are intended to represent; rational beings only are the dissemblers. Each animal is a true expression of the character represented by its form, only at the point where intellectuality begins deception commences. Each animal form is a symbol of the mental state which characterises its soul, because it is not itself the arbitrary originator of its form. But rational man has it in his power to create, and if he prostitutes one principle in a form for another, the form will gradually adopt that shape which characterises the prostituted principle, of which, in the course of time, it becomes a true expression.
Therefore we find that a man of noble appearance, by becoming a miser, gradually adopts the sneaking look and the stealthy gait of an animal going in search of its prey; the lascivious may acquire the habits, and perhaps the appearance, of a monkey or goat, the sly one the features of a fox, and the conceited the looks of a donkey.
If our bodies were formed of a more ethereal and plastic material than of muscles and bones, each change of our character would produce quickly a corresponding change of our form; but gross matter is inert and follows only slowly the impressions made upon the soul. The material of which astral forms are made are more plastic, and the soul of a villainous person may actually resemble a pool filled with vipers and scorpions, the true symbol of his moral characteristics, mirrored in his mind. A generation of saints would, in the course of time, produce a nation of Apollos and Dianas, a generation of villains would grow into monsters and dwarfs. To keep the form in its original beauty the principle must be kept pure and without any adulteration.
One fundamental colour of the solar spectrum, if unmixed, is as pure as another; one element, if free from another, is pure. Unmixed copper is as pure as unalloyed gold, and emotions are pure if free from extraneous mixture. Forms are pure if they represent their principles in their purity; a villain who shows himself what he is is pure and true to his nature, a saint who dissembles is impure and false. Fashions are the external expressions of the mental states of a country, and if men and women degenerate in their character, their fashions will become absurd.
The want of power to discriminate between the true and the illusive, between the form and the principle, and the consequent error of apprehending the low for the high, is the cause of suffering. Man's material interests are generally considered to be of supreme importance, and the interests of the highest elements in his constitution are forgotten. The power that should be expended to feed the high is eaten up by the low. Instead of the low serving the high, the high is made to serve the low, and instead of the form being used as an instrument of action for a high principle, a low principle is substituted for a higher one, for the purpose of serving the form.
Such a prostitution of principle in favour of form is found in all spheres of social life. We find it among the rich and the poor, the educated and the ignorant, in the forum, the press, and the pulpit, no less than in the halls of the merchant and in the daily transactions of life. The prostitution of principle is worse than the prostitution of the body. He who uses his intellectual powers for selfish and villainous purposes is more to be pitied than she who carries on a trade with her bodily charms to gain the means by which she may keep that body alive. The prostitution of universal human rights for the benefit of a few individuals is the most dangerous form of prostitution on Earth.*
* The difference between vulgar prostitution of the body and the more refined prostitution of the intellectual faculties for the purpose of accomplishing selfish ends, is merely that in the first class merely the grossest parts of the human organisation are misused, while in the other class the higher and nobler elements are prostituted. There are few women in the world who have become degraded from an inclination to be so; in the great majority of cases they are the victims of circumstances which they had not the power to resist; but intellectual prostitutes belong to the higher classes, where want and poverty are unknown.
To employ the intellectual powers for selfish purposes is the beginning of intellectual prostitution. Blessed are they who are able to gain their bread by the honest work of their hands, for an employment which requires little intellectual attention will leave them free to employ their powers for the purpose of spiritual unfoldment; while those who spend all their energy upon the lower planes of the mind are selling their immortal birthright for a worthless mess of potage which will nourish the impermanent intellect while it starves the soul.
The soul no less than the body requires to be nourished. The heart starves if the brain is overfed. The nutriment of the soul comes from the action of the spirit in the body, and this food is as "material" and necessary for it as physical food for the physical body. The existing of the emotions is no nutriment for the soul. The emotions belong to the astral form. The nutriment of the soul is drawn out of the material body by the power of the divine light of the spirit within the heart.
Illusion of Self
The greatest of all illusions is the illusion of Self. Material man looks upon himself as something existing apart from every other existence. The shape of his form creates the illusion of being a separate part of the whole.
Still, experience shows that there is not a single element in his body, in the constitution of his soul, or in the mechanism of his intellect, that is not continually departing, and is replaced by others. What belongs to him to-day belonged yesterday to another, and will belong to another to-morrow. In his physical form there is a continual change. In the bodies of organised beings tissues disappear slowly or quickly, according to the nature of their affinities, and new ones take their places, to be replaced in their turn by others. The human body changes in size, shape, and density as age advances, presenting successively the symbols of the buoyant health in youth, the vigorous constitution of manhood, or the grace and beauty of womanhood, up to the attributes indicating old age, the forerunner of decay and cessation of activity in that individual form.
No less is the change in the mind. Sensation and desires change, consciousness changes, memories grow dim. No man has the same opinions he had when he was a child; knowledge increases, intellect grows weak, and on the mental as well as on the physical plane the special activity ceases when the accumulated energy is exhausted by transformation into other modes of action or is transferred into other forms.
The lower material elements in the constitution of man change rapidly, the higher ones change slowly, but only the highest elements are enduring. Nothing can be said to belong essentially to man but his character. He who cares a great deal for his lower nature, cares for that which is not his own, but which he has only borrowed from nature. While he enjoys its possession an illusion is created, making it appear to be an essential part of himself. But man's terrestrial nature is not more an essential part of himself than the clothes which a man wears, a constituent part of the man. His only true self is his character, and he who loses the purity and strength of his character loses all his possessions.
Illusion of Money
One of the kings of illusions is Money, the king of the world. Money represents the principle of equity, and it should be employed to enable everyone to obtain the just equivalent for his labour. If we desire more money than we can rightfully claim, we wish for something that does not belong to us but to another. If we obtain labour without paying for it its proper equivalent, we deprive others of justice, and therefore deprive ourselves of the truth, which is a more serious loss to ourselves than the loss of money to the defrauded.
Money as such is a symbol, only the principle which it represents has a real existence. Nevertheless we see the world lie at the feet of the illusion. The poor clamour for it, and the rich crave for more, and the general desire is to obtain the greatest amount of reward by giving the least possible equivalent. Clergymen save souls, and doctors cure bodies for the purpose of making money; law is sold to him who is able and willing to pay, fame and reputation and the semblance of love can be obtained for money, and the worth of a man is expressed in the sum of shillings or pounds which he may call his own.
Starvation threatens the poor, and the consequences of superabundance the rich, and the rich take advantage of the distress of the poor to enrich themselves more. Science exerts her powers to increase the amount of the material comforts of man. It vanquishes the impediments presented by time and space, and turns night into day. New engines are invented, and the work whose performance in former times required the use of a thousand arms, may now be accomplished by a child.
An immense amount of personal suffering and labour is thereby saved. But as the means to satisfy the craving for comfort increase a craving arises for more. Things that formerly were considered luxuries now become indispensable needs. Illusions create illusions, and desires give rise to desires. The sight of the principle is lost, and the golden calf is put into its place. Production is followed by over production, the supply exceeds the demand, the price of labour comes down to starvation rates, and on the rotten soil the mushrooms of monopoly grow. The more the facilities increase to sustain the battle of life, the more increases its fury.
The noblest power of man, his intellect, whose destiny it is to form a solid basis for the highest spiritual knowledge of man, is forced to labour for the satisfaction of the animal instincts of man; the body flourishes while the soul starves and becomes a beggar in the kingdom of truth.
Illusion of Love
From the love of self arises the love of possession. It is the hydra-headed monster whose cravings can never be stilled. Nearest to the illusion of self stands the illusion of so-called Love. True love is not an illusion, it is the power that unites the worlds and an attribute of the spirit; but the illusion of love is not love, but only love's shadow. True love is sacrifice, but false love cares for itself, and seeks for enjoyment. True love exists, even if the form is dissolved; false love dies, when the form to which it was attached decays.
Ideal women is the crown of creation, and has a right to be loved by man. A man who does not love beauty has no element of beauty in him. Man loves beauty and woman loves strength. A man who is the slave of his desires is weak, and cannot command the respect of woman. If she sees him squirm under the lash of his animal passions, she will see an animal and will not be able to look upon him as her protector and god.
Marital love is a law of nature and a necessity for the propagation of man. But however beautiful the relations between husband and wife may be, sexual intercourse belongs to the animal kingdom and not to the spiritual nature of man. Mutual attraction between animals is not less beautiful and usually more pure than among mankind; the birds of the air do not marry for money, and often animals die on account of their grief over the death of their mates.
A person who has not yet outgrown his terrestrial nature will yearn for terrestrial love; a celibacy enforced by law is a crime against nature: a celibacy enforced by circumstances is a misfortune; but for the spiritually unfolded soul there exists a higher attraction; the true divine requires no law to teach him celibacy; he is already a natural celibat, and inhabitant of that kingdom (coelum), where terrestrial marriage does not exist.
Illusion of Life
Another illusion is the craving for physical life, and well may he crave for it who has no individual character of his own, because, if he loses his life, he loses his all. Men and women cling to the illusion of life because they do not know what life is. They will submit to indignity, dishonour, and suffering rather than die. But why should animal life be so desirable as to sacrifice character for it? One life is only one temporary condition among a thousand similar ones through which the individuality of man passes in its travels on the road to perfection, and whether he remains a longer or a shorter interval at one station, cannot be of any very serious importance to him. Man can make no better use of his life than to sacrifice it, if necessary, for a high purpose; because this act will strengthen his own individuality, in which rests the power by which he is enabled to reappear in a new form.
On the other band, he who sneaks away from the battle of life for selfish purposes, or because he is afraid to continue its struggles, will not escape. He may wish to step out of life and destroy his body, but the law cannot be cheated. Life will remain with him until his natural days would have ended. He cannot destroy it, he can only deprive himself of the instrument through which he can act. He resembles a man who has to perform some work and throws away the instrument which would have enabled him to perform it. Vain will be his regrets.
Another illusion is a great deal of what is called "science." True knowledge makes a man free, but false science renders him a slave to the opinions of others. Many men waste their lives to learn that which is foolish and neglect that which is true, mistaking that which is evanescent and perishing for the eternal. Often learning is not the aim but the means to the aim of the student, while his real objects are the attainment of wealth, position, and fame, or the gratification of ambition or curiosity. The true wealth of a nation or a man does not rest in its collected opinions, but in moral and spiritual possessions, which alone will remain permanent.
There is nothing more productive of a tendency to the development of an extreme degree of selfishness than the development of a high degree of intellectuality, without any accompanying growth of spirituality. A high degree of intellectuality enables a person to take personal advantages over others who are less clever, and unless he possesses great moral powers he will not be able to resist the temptations that are put in his way. The greatest villains and criminals have been persons of great intellectual qualifications.
That which a man really needs to know, and without whose knowledge he cannot obtain the consciousness of his own true and immortal nature, is not taught in our colleges. The most favoured student is he who is taught by his God. "Blessed is he whom wisdom teaches, not by perishable emblems and words, but by its own inherent power; not what it appears to be, but as it is."*
The desire for power and fame are other illusions.
True power is an attribute of the spirit. If I am obeyed because I am rich, it is not myself who commands obedience, but my riches. If I am called powerful because I enjoy authority, it is not myself who is powerful, but it is the authority vested in me. Riches and authority are illusions thrown around men, which often vanish as quickly as they have been acquired. Fame is often enjoyed by him who does not deserve it. The most honoured man is he who has cause to respect himself.
Place of birth and condition of life are circumstances which are usually not matters of choice, and no one has a right to despise another on account of his nationality, religious belief, colour of skin, or the act he may play on this planet. Whether an actor plays the part of a king or a servant, the actor is, therefore, not despised, provided he plays his part well.
"Honour and shame from no conditions rise;
Act well your part, there all the honour lies."
One of the greatest illusions is much of what goes today by the name of "religion," not religion itself, but its mask in the shape of clericalism, priestcraft, and orthodoxy. Each religious system represents an expression of truth, but it requires the possession of truth to find truth therein.
As a man's spirit cannot exist upon this earth and express itself except in and through the material body, so each church, however spiritual its soul may be, has an external, physical, animal, and mental organism, represented by the members composing the church or society and by its doctrines, creeds, theories, and speculations; neither can the spiritual organism be separated from the lower principles; such a separation would be death to the visible church.
Thus the lower self of the church battles for life and is founded upon selfishness, while its spires reach up to heaven. All that can be hoped for reasonably is that the spirituality at the top may gradually descend to the foundations, and that each member may find the truth contained in his religious system, not by the candle light of blind speculation and foolish belief, but by its own light; for the truth requires no other light but itself.
There are other illusions which come without being asked, and remain, although their stay is not wanted. They are the unwelcome visitors -- Fear, Doubt, and Remorse. Their father is "selfishness," and "cowardice" is the name of the mother. Born from the kingdom of darkness, their substance is ignorance, which only the magic of true knowledge can dissolve.
Men live in fear of a revengeful power which has no existence, and die from fear of an evil that does not exist. They are afraid of the effects of causes which they, nevertheless, continue to create; and not daring to face their natural consequences, they seek to escape from the creatures which they themselves have created.
Every act creates a cause, and the cause is followed by an effect which reacts on him who created the cause, whether he may experience that effect in this life or in another. To escape the effect of the cause which has been created, he who created the cause must try to transform himself into another being. If the elements composing his lower nature have led him into making mistakes they will suffer, but if he succeeds in living in his higher nature he changes himself into a superior being.
Only in this sense is the Christ in every human nature the "Lamb" taking upon himself the sins of the world. The lamb is the symbol of obedience to divine law; this obedience is wisdom; wisdom is self-knowledge; divine self-knowledge is divine being, and he who has entered the state of Divinity is one with the law and has ceased to sin.
Such is the only rational philosophy of the "forgiveness of sins," and priests could forgive sins if they were able to change the sinner into a saint. This can, however, only be done by the individual exertions of the "sinner," who may be instructed by one who is wise. To become sufficiently wise to instruct another about the laws of his nature it is of the utmost importance that the instructor should know these laws, and be acquainted with the true constitution of man.
Power of Reason
The truth is the saviour of man, ignorance is his perdition. Reason is the power of the mind to recognise the truth, and in the light of truth the shadows of doubt and fear and remorse cannot exist.
Illusions are dispersed through the power of true knowledge. When the will is held in abeyance the imagination is rendered passive, and the mind takes in the reflections of pictures stored up in the Astral Light without choice or discrimination. When reason does not guide the imagination the mind creates disorderly fancies and hallucinations.
The passive seer dreams while awake, and to him his dreams are realities, they are impressions caused by foreign ideas taking possession of the unresisting mind, and, according to the scource from which such impressions come, they may be either true or false. Various means have been adopted to suspend the discriminating power of reason and render the imagination abnormally passive, and all such practices are injurious, in proportion as they are efficacious. The ancient Pythoness attempted to heighten her already abnormal receptivity by the inhalation of noxious vapours; some whirl in a dance until the action of reason is temporarily suspended; others use opium, Indian hemp, and other narcotics, which render their mind a blank, and induce morbid fancies and illusions.*
* The fumigations which were used at former times for the purpose of rendering reason inactive, and allowing the products of a passive imagination to appear in an objective state, were usually narcotic substances. Blood was only used for the purpose of furnishing substance to Elementals and Elementaries, by the aid of which they might render their bodies more dense and visible.
Cornelius Agrippa gives the following prescription: Make a powder of spermaceti, aloe wood, musk, saffron, and thyme, sprinkle it with the blood of a hoopop. If this powder is burnt upon the graves of the dead, the ethereal forms of the latter will approach, and may become visible.
Eckartshausen made successful experiments with the following prescription: Mix powdered frankincense and flour with an egg, add milk, honey, and rosewater, make a paste, and throw some of it upon burning coals.
Another prescription given by the same author consists of hemlock, saffron, aloes, opium, mandragora henbane, poppy-flowers, and some other poisonous plants. After undergoing a certain preparation, which he describes, he attempted the experiment, and saw the ghost of the person which he desired to see; but he came very near poisoning himself. Dr Horst repeated the experiment with the same result, and for years afterwards whenever he looked upon a dark object, he saw the apparition again.
Chemistry has advanced since that time, and those who desire to make such experiments at the risk of their health, may now accomplish this in a more comfortable and easy manner by inhaling some of the stupefying gases known to chemical science.
Fortune-tellers and clairvoyants employ various means to fix their attention, for the purpose of suspending thought and rendering their minds passive; others stare at mirrors or crystals, water or ink,* but the enlightened renders his imagination passive by maintaining, under all circumstances, tranquillity of the mind.
* There are numerous prescriptions for the preparation of magic mirrors; but the best magic mirror will be useless to him who is not able to see clairvoyantly; while the natural clairvoyant calls that faculty into action by concentrating his mind on any particular spot, a glass of water, ink, a crystal, or anything; for it is not in the mirror where such things are seen, but in the mind; the mirror merely serves to assist in the entering of that mental state which is necessary to produce clairvoyant sight. The best of all magic mirrors is the soul, and it should always be kept pure, and be protected against dust and dampness and rust, so that it may not become tarnished, and remain perfectly clear, and able to reflect the light of the divine spirit in its original purity.
The surface of a lake whose water is in motion reflects only distorted reproductions of images projected upon it, and if the elements in the interior world are in a state of confusion, if emotion fights with emotion and the uproar of the passions troubles the mind, if the heaven of the soul is clouded by prejudices, darkened by ignorance, hallucinated by insane desires, the true images of things seen will be equally distorted.
The divine principle in man remains in itself unaltered and undisturbed, like the image of a star reflected in water; but unless its dwelling is rendered clear and transparent, it cannot send its rays through the surrounding walls. The more the emotions rage, the more will the mind become disturbed and the spiritual soul be forced to retreat into its interior prison; or if it loses entirely its hold over the mind, it may be driven away by the forces which it cannot control, burst the door of its dungeon, return to the source from whence it came.** But as long as this Christ is one of the passengers in the boat tossed by the waves of the inner life, he will always be ready to come forth, stretch out his hand (manifest his power), bidding the turbulent waters to be still. Then will the storms cease to rage and the soul be restored to calmness.
** See H. P. Blavatsky: "Isis Unveiled." [Pdf at: /blavatsky/ ]
The author says: "Such a catastrophe may happen long before the final separation of the life-principle from the body. When death arrives, its iron and clammy grasp finds work with life as usual; but there is no more soul to liberate. The whole essence of the latter has already been absorbed by the vital system of the physical man. Grim death frees but a spiritual corpse, at best an idiot. Unable either to soar higher or awaken from lethargy, it is soon dissolved in the elements of the terrestrial atmosphere."
If a person suffers his reason to give up the control over his imagination he surrenders one of the greatest prerogatives of man. True meditation does not consist in rendering the mind passive for the influences of the astral plane, nor does it consist in dreaming. It is a state in which the mind does not roam in the realms of the imagination, but is held still by the soul so as to receive the light of the spirit.
"Yoga is the exercise of the power to hold in abeyance the transformations of the thinking principle," says the Patanjali, and the Bhagavad Gita teaches: "Whenever the wavering and unsteadfast heart wanders away, let him subdue it and bring it back to the control of the soul."*
* Bhagavad Gita, vi. 2 b.
This cannot be accomplished by means of the imagination (which ought to be at rest); neither can the mind control its own self; but it is done by means of the spiritual power of spiritually awakened man.
A person who dreams does not control the actions which he performs in his dream, although he may dream that he is exercising his will. The things seen in his dream are to him realities, and he does not doubt their substantiality, while external physical objects have no existence for him, and not even the possibility of their existence comes to his consciousness. He may see before him a ditch and dream that he wills to jump over it, but he does not actually exert his will, he only dreams that he wills.
A person in a magnetic trance has no active will of his own, and is led by the will of the operator. What he sees is real to him, and if the operator creates a precipice in his imagination, the subject will, on approaching it, experience and manifest the same terror as he would in his normal state if a precipice were yawning under his feet. A glass of water transformed into imaginary wine by the will of the "mesmeriser" makes the subject intoxicated, and if that water has been transformed into imaginary poison it may injure or kill the sensitive.** A powerful "hypnotiser" can form either a beautiful or a horrible picture in his mind, and by transferring it by his will upon the mental sphere of a sensitive, he may cause him either pleasure or suffering.
** Mrs Chandos Leigh Hunt of London, in her "Private Instructions in Organic Magnetism," informs us, that imaginary intoxicants, emetics, &c., have a powerful effect upon subjects.
Eliphas Levi (Abbe Constant) cites a case in which some sceptics submitted a poor girl to magnetic experiments, to gratify their curiosity, and to see whether "magnetism was true." They succeeded in putting her to sleep, and commanded her to look into hell. She became terribly agitated, and begged for mercy, but they insisted that she should go there.
"The features of the subject became frightful to see; her hair stood upright on her head; her eyes were wide open, and showed nothing but the white; her bosom heaved, and a kind of death-rattle came from her breast."
"'Go there! I will it!' repeated the magnetist."
"'I am there,' said the wretched subject, between her closed teeth, and fell exhausted. Then she spoke no more; her head rests on her shoulder; her arms hang motionless down. They approach her and touch her. They wish to awaken her; but the crime has been done; the woman was dead, and the authors of this sacrilegious experiment were safe from prosecution on account of the public's incredulity in regard to such things."
Such states may be induced not merely during the "hypnotic" sleep, but also during the normal condition, and without any conscious desire on the part of a magnetiser. If the audience sheds tears during the performance of a tragedy, although they all know that it is merely a play, they are in a state of partial "hypnotisation." Hundreds of similar occurrences take place every day in every country, and there is sufficient material everywhere in every-day life for the student of psychology to investigate and explain, without seeking for cases of an abnormal character.
All these things are classified as illusions, because the power of reason, the power of discriminating between the true and the false has been suspended, which causes a person to mistake things for realities which only exist in his own imagination, but if this definition is applied to every-day existence, it appears that the whole world is in a state of hypnotic sleep, for there are few that are capable of seeing the truth or to discriminate between the true and the false, and few who act always according to reason.
Whenever the external form of a thing is examined carefully, it will always be found to constitute an illusion. The illusion does not exist in those things, it exists in ourselves. God did not create the world for the purpose of deluding mankind. The illusions are caused by our own misconceptions of truth, which hinder us to see that which is real. If we were to see that which is real, we would be knowing the truth. If we had always known the truth we would not have needed to come into the world. Our existence upon this planet is a certificate of our ignorance, and the fact of having been born a proof of our folly.
That which distinguishes a man from an animal is the use of his reason. If a "Medium" submits the control over his imagination to another being he surrenders his reason. This other being may be another person, or an invisible power. It may be an elemental, an astral corpse, or a malicious influence, and the Medium become an epileptic, a maniac, or a criminal. A person who surrenders his will to an unknown power is not less insane than he who would entrust his money and valuables to the first stranger or vagabond that would ask him for it.
If a crime is committed in consequence of "hypnotic suggestions," it is the hypnotiser and not the sensitive person who is responsible for it. Such cases occur every day; for it is not necessary that a very sensitive person should be put to sleep for to become capable of being influenced by the will of another. All individual minds act upon each other; each influences the other or becomes influenced by others without knowing the source of the influence. Thoughts and impulses come and go, and their source is not known. No man creates his own thoughts out of nothing, and he who has no self-knowledge cannot even know who or what it is that is thinking or willing in him.
How many murders and crimes are committed every year through sensitive persons, who have been influenced, "hypnotised," or "mesmerised" by invisible powers to commit them, and who had not sufficient will-power to resist, it is impossible to determine. In such cases we hang or punish the instrument, but the real culprit escapes. Such a "justice" is equivalent to punishing a stick with which a murder has been committed, and to let the man who used the stick go free. Verily the coming generations will have as much cause to laugh at the ignorance of their ancestors as we now laugh at the ignorance of those who preceded us.
We take not things for what they are, but for what we imagine them to be. The savage sees in the sculptured Minerva only a curious piece of rock, and a beautiful painting is to him only a piece of cloth daubed over with colours. The greedy miser, looking at the beauties of nature, thinks only of the money-value they represent, while for the poet the forest swarms with fairies and the water with sprites.
The artist finds beautiful forms in the wandering clouds and in the projecting rocks of the mountains, and to him whose mind is poetic every symbol in nature becomes a poem and suggests to him new ideas; but the coward wanders through life with a scowl upon his face; he sees in every corner an enemy, and for him the world has nothing attractive except his own little self. The world is a mirror wherein every man may see his own face. To him whose soul is beautiful, the world will look beautiful; to him whose soul is deformed, everything will seem to be evil.
The power of the imagination, if rendered strong by the will and made alive by the spirit, is little known. The impressions made on the mind by the effects of such an imagination may be powerful and lasting upon the person. They change or distort the features, they render the hair white in a single hour; they mark, kill, disfigure, or break the bones of the unborn child, and make the effects of injuries received by one person visible upon the body of another with whom that person is in sympathy. They act more powerfully than drugs; they cause and cure diseases, produce hallucinations, and stigmata.
Imagination performs its miracles, either consciously or unconsciously. By altering the surroundings of animals the colour of their offspring can be changed at will. The tiger's stripes correspond to the long jungle grass, and the leopard's spots resemble the speckled light falling through the leaves.*
* Sir John Lubbock: "Proceedings of the British Association."
The forces of nature, influenced by the imagination of man, act on the imagination of nature, and create tendencies on the astral plane, which, in the course of evolution, find expression through material forms. In this way man's vices or virtues become objective realities, and as man's imagination becomes purified, the earth becomes more beautiful and refined, while his vices find their expression in poisonous reptiles and noxious plants.
The Elementals in the soul of man are the products of the action of the thought in the individual mind of man; the elemental forms in the soul of the world are the products of the collective thoughts of all beings. These elemental powers are attracted to the germs of animals, and may grow into objective visible animal forms, and modify the characters and also the outward appearance of the animals of our globe. We therefore see that as the imagination of the Universal Mind changes during the course of ages, old forms disappear and new ones come into existence. Perhaps if there were no snakes in human forms, the snakes of the animal kingdom would cease to exist.
But the impressions made on the mind do not end with the life of the individual on the physical plane. A cause which produces a sudden terror, or otherwise acts strongly on the imagination, can produce an impression that not only lasts through life but beyond it.
A person, for instance, who during his life has strongly believed in the existence of eternal damnation and hell-fire, may at his entrance into the subjective state after death, actually behold all the terrors of hell which his imagination during life has conjured up; the terrified soul, seeing before it all the horrors of its own vivid imagination, rushes back again into the deserted body, and clings to it in despair, seeking protection. Personal consciousness returns, and it finds itself alive in the grave, where it passes a second time through the pangs of death, or, by sending out its astral form in search of sustenance from the living, it becomes a vampire, and prolongs for a while its horrible existence.* Such misfortunes in orthodox countries are by no means rare, and the best remedy for it is knowledge and the cremation of the body soon after death.
* Maximilian Perty: "Die mystischen Erscheinungen in der Natur."
On the other hand, the convicted murderer who, before stepping on the gallows, has been fully "converted" and "prepared" by the attending clergyman, and made to believe firmly that his sins have been forgiven, and that the angels will stand ready to receive him with open arms, may, on his entrance to the subjective state, see the creations of his own imaginations before him until the delusion fades away.
In the state after death and in the devachanic condition the imagination neither creates new and original forms nor is it capable of receiving new impressions; it lives on the sum of the impressions accumulated during life, which evolute innumerable variations of mental states, symbolised in their corresponding subjective forms, and lasting until their forces are exhausted.
These mental states may be called illusive in the same sense as events of the physical life may be called illusive, and life in "heaven" or "hell" may be called a dream, as life on this earth is called a dream. The dream of life only differs from the dream after death, that, during the one, we are able to make use of our will to guide and control our imagination and acts, while during the latter that guidance is wanting, and we earn that which we have sown. No effort, whether for good or for evil, is ever lost. Those who have reached out in their aspirations towards a high ideal on earth will find it in heaven; those whose desires have dragged them down will sink to the level of their desires.
It is generally supposed that this world in which we live is the most dense and "material," and the astral world the land of vapoury ghosts; but the terms "materiality," "density," &c., are merely relative terms. What appear to us dense and material now, will appear ethereal or vaporous if we are in another state, and things which are invisible to us now may appear grossly material then.
There are worlds more dense and material to its inhabitants than our physical world is to us; for it is the light of the spirit that enlivens matter, and the more matter is gathered up by sensuality and concentrated by selfishness, the less penetrable to the spirit will it become, and the more dense and hard will it grow, although it may for all that not be perceptible to our physical senses, they being adapted merely to our present state of existence.
There is no heaven or hell but that which man creates in his imagination; nevertheless, the state in which he lives is real to him. If we wish to secure happiness after death in our next life upon this planet, we must secure it before we die by controlling our impulses for evil, and by cultivating a pure and exalted imagination.
Light of the Spirit
We should enter the higher life now, instead of waiting for it to come to us in the hereafter. The term "heaven" means a state of spiritual consciousness and enjoyment of spiritual truths; but how can he who has evolved no spiritual consciousness and no spiritual power of perception enjoy the perception of spiritual things which he has not the spiritual power to perceive? A man without spiritual power entering a heaven would be like a man blind and deaf and without the power to feel. Man can only enjoy that which he is able to realise, that which he cannot realise does not exist for him.
The surest way to be happy is to rise above "self." People crave for amusements and pastimes; but to forget one's time is to forget one's self; by forgetting themselves they are rendered happy. The charm of music consists in the temporary absorption it causes to the personality in the harmony of sound. If we witness a theatrical performance and enter into the spirit of the play, we forget our personal sorrows and live in the actor. An orator who is in full accord with his audience becomes inspired with the sentiments of his audience; it is his audience that gives expressions of his feelings through him. There are no "spirits" required to inspire an inspirational speaker. If he is impressible the thoughts of those that are present will be sufficient to inspire him.
If we enter a cathedral or a temple, whose architecture inspires sublimity and solemnity, expanding the soul; where the language of music speaks to the heart, drawing it away from the attachment to the earth; and the beauty and odour of flowers lull the senses into a forget-fulness of self, such amusements render us temporarily happy to an extent proportionate to the degree in which they succeed in destroying our consciousness of personality and self.
Illusions as such do not exist; their existence is an illusion. Nature is not an illusion, but a manifestation of truth. Every form in nature is an expression of truth; but it requires the eye of truth to find the truth in those forms. If we cling to forms, we cling to illusions, having no real existence; if we cling to the truth we have the reality. If our happiness depends on the possession of a cherished form, our happiness will perish when that form disappears.
To attain real knowledge is to make the mind free of its illusions; this freedom is attained only by a love for the truth; for the truth is the life and the foundation of our existence, which will remain after all the illusions constituting our lower nature have passed away; when we will possess nothing but that which we are, and being ourselves the light and the truth we will be in possession of truth.