Astral Plane Phenomena

Though in the course of this paper various superphysical 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 which are most frequently met with by the student of

these subjects, 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. Of

course 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 a common

one, ghosts would be met with in our streets as frequently as living


[Sidenote: Churchyard Ghosts.]

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 quite likely to call them all vaguely


[Sidenote: Apparitions of the Dying.]

Apparitions at the time of death are by no means uncommon, and are

very 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 quite 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.

[Sidenote: Haunted Localities.]

Apparitions at the spot where some crime was committed are usually

thought-forms projected by the criminal, who, whether living or dead,

but most especially when dead, is perpetually thinking over again and

again the circumstances of his action; and 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 artificial

elementals he creates are strong enough to materialize themselves to

ordinary sight--a fact which accounts for the periodicity of some

manifestations of this class. 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

very marked a character has been made upon the astral light that a

person with even the faintest glimmer of psychic faculty cannot but be

deeply impressed by it, and 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 of course report that

the place was haunted, and that he had seen a ghost. Indeed, people

who are as yet unable to see psychically under any circumstances are

frequently very 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

light 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.

[Sidenote: Family Ghosts.]

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 the astral light, or

again he may really be an earth-bound ancestor still haunting the

scenes in which his thoughts and hopes centred during life.

[Sidenote: Bell-ringing, stone-throwing, etc.]

Another class of hauntings which take the form of bell-ringing,

stone-throwing, or the breaking of crockery, has already been referred

to, 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 his surviving friends, or intentionally

employed by some childishly mischievous nature-spirit.

[Sidenote: Fairies.]

The nature-spirits are also responsible for whatever of truth there

may be in all the strange fairy stories which are so common in certain

parts of the country. 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 was shown by a recent

terrible murder case in Ireland.

To the same entities must be attributed a large portion of what are

called physical phenomena at spiritualistic _seances_--indeed, many a

_seance_ has been given entirely by these mischievous creatures; and

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 be disposed to take the trouble, could give a

_seance_ 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

_seance_, 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.

[Sidenote: Communicating Entities.]

As to the entities who may "communicate" at a _seance_, 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

very much against their coming from a high one. A manifesting "spirit"

_may_ be exactly what it professes to be, but on the whole the

probabilities are that it is nothing of the kind; and for the ordinary

sitter there is absolutely 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

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 a just one; 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 light; 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 sometimes been made at

_seances_ 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 _seance_ ever to be certain that

he is not being cruelly deceived in one or other of half a dozen

different ways.

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 _seances_, not at public performances for

which money has been paid.

[Sidenote: Astral Resources.]

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 plane 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 explained above. 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 slow 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. Now 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

very greatly increased on that level, and we might be able to acquire

much information which is now hidden from us.

[Sidenote: Clairvoyance.]

[Sidenote: Prevision and Second-sight.]

It is admitted that some of these pass through solid matter with

perfect ease, so that this enables us to account scientifically for

some of the peculiarities of astral vision, though those minds to

which the theory of the fourth dimension commends itself find in it 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 very wonderful to

us--such, for example, as the reading of a passage from a closed book;

and when we remember, furthermore, that this faculty includes the

power of thought-reading to the fullest extent, and also, when

combined with the knowledge of the projection of currents in the

astral light, that of observing a desired object in almost any part of

the world, we see that a good many of the phenomena of clairvoyance

are explicable even without rising above this level. Of course 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

"second-sight" among the Highlanders of Scotland being a well-known


Another fact which must not be forgotten 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.

[Sidenote: Astral Forces.]

[Sidenote: Etheric Currents.]

[Sidenote: Etheric Pressure.]

[Sidenote: Latent Energy.]

[Sidenote: Sympathetic Vibration.]

It will be readily understood that superphysical 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 very long before at any rate some applications 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

_seances_ 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 unskilful

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

inter-penetrates 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.

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 ones) 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

many-fold; 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.

[Sidenote: Mantras.]

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


[Sidenote: Disintegration.]

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 operated upon. A still higher rate of

vibrations 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 very 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 form. It is in

this way that objects are sometimes brought almost instantaneously

from great distances at spiritualistic _seances_, 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.

[Sidenote: Materialization.]

Since it is possible by an alteration of vibrations 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 form, 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 _seance_, 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; and this explains 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.

[Sidenote: Why Darkness is required.]

[Sidenote: Spirit Photographs.]

The reason why the beings directing a _seance_ find it easier to

operate in darkness or in very 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 very few

seconds amidst the intense vibrations set up by brilliant light. The

_habitues_ of _seances_ 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 which 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 ultra-violet 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 get 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 Mayavirupa or his astral body, he does not draw upon

either his own etheric double or any one else's, since he has been

taught how to extract the matter which he requires directly from the

astral light or even from the Akasha.

[Sidenote: Reduplication.]

Another phenomenon closely connected with this part of the subject is

that of reduplication, which is produced by simply forming in the

astral light a perfect mental image of the object to be copied, and

then gathering about that mould the necessary physical matter. Of

course 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 reduce the matter required directly from the astral

light have sometimes borrowed it from the material of the original

article, which in this case would be correspondingly reduced in


[Sidenote: Precipitation.]

We read a good deal in Theosophical literature about 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 an image of the

writing which he wished to appear upon it, and draw from the astral

light 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 astral light 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 physical matter, could be drawn upon more


It is of course obvious that the possession of this power would be a

very dangerous weapon in the hands of an unscrupulous person, since it

is just 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, get

on 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 get through his work

with greater facility. It is in this manner that quite long letters

are sometimes produced in a few seconds at a _seance_.

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 he visualized at once, and if many colours are required

there is of course 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 what to look for, would certainly

be very much more successful than the ordinary person if he attempted

precipitation when on the astral plane after death.

[Sidenote: Slate-writing.]

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


[Sidenote: Levitation.]

An occurrence which occasionally takes place at _seances_, 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 simply 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 air-ships 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.

[Sidenote: Spirit Lights.]

With the knowledge of the forces of nature which the resources of the

astral plane place at the command its inhabitants the production of

what are called "spirit lights" is a very 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 simply 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.

[Sidenote: Handling Fire.]

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.

[Sidenote: Transmutation.]

Most of the occurrences of the _seance_-room have now been referred

to, but there are one or two of the rarer phenomena of the outer world

which must not be left quite without mention in our list. The

transmutation of metals is commonly supposed to be a mere dream of the

mediaeval alchemists, and no doubt in most 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. Be that as it

may, 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.

[Sidenote: Repercussion.]

The principle of sympathetic vibration mentioned above also provides

the explanation of that strange and little-known phenomenon called

repercussion, by means of which any injury done to, or any mark made

upon, the astral 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 astral body or perhaps even his

etheric double, forced by the guiding influences to take some form

other than his own. In fact the astral and physical bodies are so

intimately connected that it is impossible to touch the keynote of one

without immediately setting up exactly corresponding vibrations in the


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