When a man becomes convinced of the reality of the valuable power of clairvoyance, his first question usually is, “How can I develop in my own case this faculty which is said to be latent in everyone?”
Now the fact is that there are many methods by which it may be developed, but only one which be at all safely recommended for general use—that of which we shall speak last of all.
Among the less advanced nations of the world the clairvoyant state has been produced in various objectionable ways; among some of the non-Aryan tribes of India, but the use of intoxicating drugs or the inhaling of stupefying fumes; among the dervishes, by whirling in a mad dance of religious fervour until vertigo and insensibility supervene; among the followers of the abominable practice of the Voodoo cult, by frightful sacrifices and loathsome rites of black magic.
Methods such as these are happily not in vogue in our race, yet even among us large numbers of dabblers in this ancient art adopt some plan of self-hypnotization, such as gazing at a bright spot or the repetition of some formula until a condition of semi-stupefaction is produced; while yet another school among them would endeavour to arrive at similar results by the use of some of the Indian systems of regulation of the breath.
All these methods are unequivocally to be condemned as quite unsafe for the practice of the ordinary man who has no idea of what he is doing—who is simply making vague experiments in an unknown world.
Even the method of obtaining clairvoyance by allowing oneself to be mesmerized by another person is one from which I should myself shrink with the most decided distaste; and assuredly it should never be attempted except under conditions of absolute trust and affection between the magnetizer and the magnetized, and a perfection of purity in heart and soul In mind and intention, such as is rarely to be seen among any but the greatest of saints.
Experiments in connection with the mesmeric trance are of the deepest interest, as offering (among other things) a possibility of proof of the fact of clairvoyance to the sceptic, yet except under such conditions as I have just mentioned—conditions, I quite admit, almost impossible to realize—I should never counsel anyone to submit himself as a subject for them.
Curative mesmerism, (in which, without putting the patient into the trance state at all, an effort is made to relieve his pain, to remove his disease, or to pour vitality into him by magnetic passes) stands on an entirely different footing; and if the mesmerizer, even though quite untrained, is himself in good health and animated by pure intentions, no harm is likely to be done to the subject.
In so extreme a case as that of a surgical operation, a man might reasonably submit himself even to the mesmeric trance, but it is certainly not a condition with which one ought lightly to experiment. Indeed, I should most strongly advise any one who did me the honour to ask for my opinion on the subject, not to attempt any kind of experimental investigation into what are still to him the abnormal forces of nature, until he has first of all read carefully everything that has been written on the subject, or—which is by far the best of all—until he is under the guidance of a qualified teacher.
But where, it will be said, is the qualified teacher to be found? Not, most assuredly, among any who advertise themselves as teachers, who offer to impart for so many guineas or dollars the sacred mysteries of the ages, or hold “developing circles” to which casual applicants are admitted at so much per head.
Much has been said in this treatise of the necessity for careful training—of the immense advantages of the trained over the untrained clairvoyant; but that again brings us back to the same question—where is this definite training to be had?
The answer is that the training may be had precisely where it has always been to be found since the world’s history began—at the hands of the Great White Brotherhood of Adepts, which stands now, as it has always stood, at the back of human evolution, guiding and helping it under the sway of the great Cosmic Laws which represent to us the Will of the Eternal.
But how, it may be asked, is access to be gained to Them? How is the aspirant thirsting for knowledge to signify to Them his wish for instruction?
Once more, by the time-honoured methods only. There is no new patent whereby a man can qualify himself without trouble to become a pupil in that School—no royal road to the learning which has to be acquired in it.
At the present day, just as in the mists of antiquity, the man who wishes to attract Their notice must enter upon the slow and toilsome path of self-development—must learn first of all to take himself in hand and make himself all that he ought to be.
The steps of that path are no secret; I have given them in full details in Invisible Helpers, so I need not repeat them here. But it is no easy road to follow, and yet sooner or later all must follow it, for the Great Law of evolution sweeps mankind slowly but resistlessly towards its goal.
From those who are pressing into this path the great Masters select Their pupils, and it is only by qualifying himself to be taught that a man can put himself in the way of getting the teaching. Without that qualification membership in any Lodge or Society, whether secret or otherwise, will not advance his object in the slightest degree.
It is true, as we all know, that it was at the instance of some of these Masters that our Theosophical Society was founded, and that from its ranks some have been chosen to pass into closer relations with Them. But that choice depends upon the earnestness of the candidate, not upon his mere membership of the Society or of anybody within it.
That, then, is the only absolutely safe way of developing clairvoyance—to enter with all one’s energy upon the path of moral and mental evolution, at one stage of which this and other of the higher faculties will spontaneously begin to show themselves.
Yet there is one practice which is advise by all the religions alike—which if adopted carefully and reverently can do no harm to any human being, yet from which a very pure type of clairvoyance has sometimes been developed and that is the practice of meditation.
Let a man choose a certain time every day—a time when he can rely upon being quiet and undisturbed, though preferably in the daytime rather than at night—and set himself at that time to keep his mind for a few minutes entirely free from all earthly thoughts of any kind whatever and, when that is achieved, to direct the whole force of his being towards the highest spiritual ideal that he happens to know. He will find that to gain such perfect control of thought is enormously more difficult than he supposes, but when he attains it, it cannot but be in every way most beneficial to him, and as he grows more and more able to elevate and concentrate his thought, he may gradually find that new worlds are opening before his sight.
As a preliminary training towards the satisfactory achievement of such meditation, he will find it desirable to make a practice of concentration in the affairs of daily life—even in the smallest of them. If he writes a letter, let him think of nothing else but that letter until it is finished; if he reads a book, let him see to it that his thought is never allowed to wander from his author’s meaning. He must learn to hold his mind in check, and to be master of that also, as well as of his lower passions; he must patiently labour to acquire absolute control of his thoughts, so that he will always know exactly what he is thinking about, and why—so that he can use his mind, and turn it or hold it still, as a practised swordsman turns his weapon where he wilt.
Yet after all, if those who so earnestly desire clairvoyance could possess it temporarily for a day or even an hour, it is far from certain that they would choose to retain the gift. True, it opens before them new worlds of study, new powers of usefulness, and for this latter reason most of us feel it worth while; but it should be remembered that for one whose duty still calls him to live in the world it is by no means an unmixed blessing.
Upon one in whom that vision is opened the sorrow and the misery, the evil and the greed of the world press as an ever-present burden, until in the earlier days of his knowledge he often feels inclined to echo the passionate adjuration contained in those rolling lines of Schiller’s:
In die Stadt der ewig Blinden, mit dem aufgeschloss’nen Sinn?
Frommt’s den Schleier aufzuheben, wo das nahe Schrecknis droht?
Nur der Irrthum ist das Leben; dieses Wissen ist der Tod.
Nimm, O nimm die traur’ge Klarheit mir vom Aug’ den blut’gen Schein!
Schrecklich ist es deiner Wahrheit sterbliches Gefäss zu sein!
[This] may perhaps be translated:
to proclaim thine oracle by the opened sense?
What profits it to lift the veil where the near darkness threatens?
Only ignorance is life; this knowledge is death.
Take back this sad clear-sightedness; take from mine eyes this cruel light!
It is horrible to be the mortal channel of thy truth.
Give me back my blindness, the happy darkness of my senses; take back thy dreadful gift!
But this of course is a feeling which passes, for the higher sight soon shows the pupil something beyond the sorrow—soon bears in upon his soul the overwhelming certainty that, whatever appearances down here may seem to indicate, all things are without shadows of doubt working together for the eventual good of all.
He re reflects that the sin and the suffering are there, whether he is able to perceive them or not, and that when he can see them he is after all better able to give efficient help than he would be if he were working in the dark; and so by degrees he learns to bear his share of the heavy karma of the world.
— from Clairvoyance by C.W. Leadbeater, 1899