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Man Visible and Invisible
By C. W. Leadbeater
Theosophical Publishing HouseCopyright © 2000 Theosophical Publishing House
All rights reserved.
HOW THESE THINGS ARE KNOWN
MAN is a curiously complex being, and his evolution, past, present and future, is a study of perennial interest for all who can see and understand. Through what toilsome eternities of gradual development he has come to be what he is, to what round in the long ladder of his progress he has now attained, what possibilities of further progress the veil of the future conceals from us, these are questions to which few can be indifferent—questions which have been occurring all through the ages to everyone who has thought at all.
In the Western world the answers given have been many and various. There has been much dogmatic assertion, based on differing interpretations of alleged revelation; there have been many ingenious speculations, the fruit in some cases of close metaphysical reasoning. But dogmatism meets us with a story which is on the face of it manifestly impossible, while speculation moves chiefly along entirely materialistic lines, and endeavors to arrive at a satisfactory result by ignoring half of the phenomena for which we have to account. Neither, dogmatism nor speculation approaches the problem from a practical point of view, as a matter which can be studied and investigated like any other science.
Theosophy comes forward with a theory based upon entirely different foundations. While in no way depreciating the knowledge to be gained either by study of the ancient scriptures or by philosophical reasoning, it nevertheless regards the constitution and the evolution of man as matters, not of speculation, but of simple investigation. When so examined, they prove to be parts of a magnificent scheme, coherent and readily comprehensible—a scheme which, while it agrees with and explains much of the old religious teaching, is yet in no way dependent on it, since it can be verified at every step by the use of the inner faculties which, though as yet latent in the majority of mankind, have already been brought into working order by a number among our students.
For the past history of man, this theory depends not only upon the concurrent testimony of the tradition of the earlier religions, but upon the examination of a definite record—a record which can be seen and consulted by anyone who possesses the degree of clairvoyance requisite to appreciate the vibrations of the finely subdivided matter upon which it is impressed. For its knowledge as to the future which awaits humanity, it depends, first, upon logical deduction from the character of the progress already made; second, on direct information supplied by men who have already reached those conditions which for most of us still constitute a more or less remote future; and third, on the comparison which anyone who has the privilege of seeing them may make between highly evolved men at various levels. We can imagine that a child who did not otherwise know the course of nature might reason that he would presently grow up and become a man, merely from the fact that he had already grown to a certain extent and in a certain way, and that he saw around him other children and young people at every stage of growth between his own and the adult level.
The study of the condition of man at the present time, of the immediate methods for his evolution, and of the effect upon that evolution of his thoughts, his emotions, his actions—all this is regarded by theosophical students as a matter of the application of well-known laws as a broad, general principle, and then of careful observation, of painstaking comparison of many cases in order to comprehend the detailed working of these laws. It is, in fact, simply a question of sight, and this book is published in the hope, first, that it may help earnest students who do not yet possess this sight to realize how the soul and its vehicles appear when examined by its means; and second, that the persons who are now beginning to exercise this vision more or less perfectly, may by it be helped to understand the meaning of what they see.
I am perfectly aware that the world at large is not yet convinced of the existence of this power of clairvoyant sight; but I also know that all who have really studied the question have found the evidence for it irresistible. If any intelligent person will read the authenticated stories quoted in my book Clairvoyance, and will then turn from them to the books from which they were selected, he will see at once that there is an overwhelming mass of evidence in favor of the existence of this faculty. To those who themselves can see, and are daily in the habit of exercising this higher vision in a hundred different ways, the denial of the majority that such sight is possible naturally seems ridiculous. For the clairvoyant the question is not worth arguing. If a blind man came up to us and assured us that there was no such thing as ordinary physical sight, and that we were deluded in supposing that we possessed this faculty, we in our turn should probably not feel it worth while to argue at great length in defense of our supposed delusion. We should simply say: "I certainly do see, and it is useless to try to persuade me that I do not; all the daily experiences of my life show me that I do; I decline to be argued out of my definite knowledge of positive facts." Now this is precisely how the trained clairvoyant feels when ignorant people serenely pronounce that it is quite impossible that he should possess a power which he is at that very moment using to read the thoughts of those who deny it to him!
I am not attempting, therefore, in this book to prove that clairvoyance is a reality; I take that for granted, and proceed to describe what is seen by its means. Neither will I here repeat the details given in the little book which I have mentioned as to the methods of clairvoyance, but will confine myself to such brief statement of the broad principles of the subject as is absolutely necessary in order that this book shall be comprehensible to one who has not studied other theosophical literature.CHAPTER 2
THE PLANES OF NATURE
THE first point which must be clearly comprehended is the wonderful complexity of the world around us—the fact that it includes enormously more than comes within the range of ordinary vision.
We are all aware that matter exists in different conditions, and that it may be made to change its conditions by variation of pressure and temperature. We have the three well-known states of matter, the solid, the liquid, and the gaseous, and it is the theory of science that all substances can, under proper variation of temperature and pressure, exist in all these conditions.
Occult chemistry shows us another and higher condition than the gaseous, into which also all substances known to us can be translated or transmuted; and to that condition we have given the name of etheric. We may have, for example, hydrogen in an etheric condition instead of as a gas; we may have gold or silver or any other element either as a solid, a liquid, or a gas, or in this other higher state which we call etheric.
In ordinary science we speak of an atom of oxygen, an atom of hydrogen, an atom of any of the substances which chemists call elements, the theory being that that is an element which cannot be further reduced, and that each of these elements has its atom—and an atom, as we may see from the Greek derivation of the word, means that which cannot be cut, or further subdivided. Occult science has always taught that all these so-called elements are not in the true sense of the word elements at all; that what we call an atom of oxygen or hydrogen can under certain circumstances be broken up. By repeating this breaking-up process it is found that there is one substance at the back of all substances, and different combinations of its ultimate units give us what in chemistry are called atoms of oxygen or hydrogen, gold or silver, lithium or platinum, etc. When these are all broken up we get back to a set of units which are all identical, except that some of them are positive and some negative.
The study of these units and of the possibilities of their combination is in itself one of most enthralling interest. Even these, however, are found to be units only from the point of view of our physical plane; that is to say, there are methods by which even they can be subdivided, but when they are so broken up they give us matter belonging to a different realm of nature. Yet this higher matter also is not simple but complex; and we find that it also exists in a series of states of its own, corresponding very fairly to the states of physical matter which we call solid, liquid, gaseous, or etheric. Again, by carrying on our process of subdivision far enough we reach another unit—the unit of that realm of nature to which occultists have given the name of the astral world.
Then the whole process may be repeated; for by further subdivision of that astral unit we find ourselves dealing with another still higher and more refined world, though a world which is still material. Once again we find matter existing in definitely marked conditions corresponding at that much higher level to the states with which we are familiar; and the result of our investigations brings us once again to a unit—the unit of this third great realm of nature, which in Theosophy we call the mental world. So far as we know, there is no limit to this possibility of subdivision, but there is a very distinct limit to our capability of observing it. However, we can see enough to be certain of the existence of a considerable number of these different realms, each of which is in one sense a world in itself, though in another and wider sense all are parts of one stupendous whole.
In our literature these different realms of nature are frequently spoken of as planes, because in our study it is sometimes convenient to image them as one above another, according to the different degrees of density of the matter of which they are composed. It will be seen that in the accompanying diagram (Plate II) they are drawn in this way; but it must be very carefully borne in mind that this arrangement is merely adopted for convenience and as a symbol, and that it in no way represents the actual relations of these various planes. They must not be imagined as lying above one another like the shelves of a book-case, but rather as filling the same space and interpenetrating one another. It is a fact well known to science that even in the hardest substances no two atoms ever touch one another; always each atom has its field of action and vibration, and every molecule in turn has its larger field; so that there is always space between them under any possible circumstances. Every physical atom is floating in an astral sea—a sea of astral matter which surrounds it and fills every interstice in this physical matter. The mental matter in its turn interpenetrates the astral in precisely the same manner; so that all these different realms of nature are not in any way separated in space, but are all existing around us and about us here and now, so that to see them and to investigate them it is not necessary for us to make any movement in space, but only to open within ourselves the senses by means of which they can be perceived.CHAPTER 3
THIS brings before us another very important consideration. All these varieties of finer matter exist not only in the world without, but they exist in man also. He has not only the physical body which we see, but he has also within him what we may describe as bodies appropriate to these various planes of nature, and consisting in each case of their matter. In man's physical body there is etheric matter as well as the solid matter which is visible to us (see Plates XXIV and XXV); and this etheric matter is readily visible to the clairvoyant. In the same way a more highly developed clairvoyant, who is capable of perceiving the more refined astral matter, sees the man represented at that level by a mass of that matter, which is in reality his body or vehicle as regards that plane; and exactly the same thing is true with regard to the mental plane in its turn. The soul of man has not one body, but many bodies, for when sufficiently evolved he is able to express himself on all these different levels of nature, and he is therefore provided with a suitable vehicle of the matter belonging to each, and it is through these various vehicles that he is able to receive impressions from the world to which they correspond.
We must not think of the man as creating these vehicles for himself in the course of his future evolutions, for every man possesses them from the beginning, though he is by no means conscious of their existence. We are constantly using to a certain extent this higher matter within ourselves, even though it be unconsciously. Every time that we think, we set in motion the mental matter within us, and a thought is clearly visible to a clairvoyant as a vibration in that matter, set up first of all within the man, and then affecting matter of the same degree of density in the world around him. But before this thought can be effective on the physical plane it has to be transferred from that mental matter into astral matter; and when it has excited similar vibrations in that, the astral matter in its turn affects the etheric matter, creating sympathetic vibrations in it; and that in turn acts upon the denser physical matter, the grey matter of the brain.
So every time we think, we go through a much longer process than we know; just as every time we feel anything we go through a process of which we are quite unconscious. We touch some substance and feel that it is too hot, and we snatch away our hand from it instantaneously, as we think. But science teaches us that this process is not instantaneous, and that it is not the hand which feels, but the brain; that the nerves communicate the idea of intense heat to the brain, which at once telegraphs back along the nerve-threads the instruction to withdraw the hand; and it is only as a result of all this that the withdrawal takes place, though it seems to us to be immediate. The process has a definite duration, which can be measured by sufficiently fine instruments; the rate of its motion is perfectly well defined and known to physiologists. Just in the same way thought appears to be an instantaneous process; but it is not, for every thought has to go through the stages which I have described. Every impression which we receive in the brain through the senses has to pass up through these various grades of matter before it reaches the real man, the ego, the soul within.
We have here a kind of system of telegraphy between the physical plane and the soul; and it is important to realize that this telegraph-line has intermediate stations. It is not only from the physical plane that impressions can be received; the astral matter within a man, for example, is not only capable of receiving a vibration from etheric matter and trasmitting it to the mental matter, but it is also quite capable of receiving impressions from the surrounding matter of its own plane, and transmitting those through the mental body to the real man within. So the man may use his astral body as a means for receiving impressions from and observing the astral world which surrounds him; and in exactly the same way through his mental body he may observe and obtain information from the mental world. But in order to do either of these things, he must first learn how they are done; that is to say, he must learn to focus his consciousness in his astral body or in his mental body, just as it is now focussed in the physical brain. I have already treated this subject fully in my book Clairvoyance, so that I need do no more than refer to it here.
It should always be remembered that all this is a matter of direct knowledge and certainty to those who are in the habit of studying it, although it is presented to the consideration of the world merely as a hypothesis; but even the man who approaches the subject for the first time must surely see that in suggesting this we are not in any way claiming faith in a miracle, but simply inviting investigation of a system. The higher grades of matter follow on in orderly sequence from those which we already know, so that though to some extent each plane may be regarded as a world in itself, it is yet also true that the whole is in reality one great world, which can be fully seen only by the highly developed soul.
To aid us in our grasp of this, let us take an illustration which, although impossible in itself, may yet be useful to us as suggesting rather startling possibilities. Suppose that instead of the sight which we now possess, we had a visual apparatus arranged somewhat differently. In the human eye we have both solid and liquid matter; suppose that both these orders of matter were capable of receiving separate impressions, but each only from that type of matter in the outside world to which it corresponded. Suppose also that among men some possessed one of these types of sight and some another. Consider how very curiously imperfect would be the concept of the world obtained by each of these two types of men. Imagine them as standing on the seashore; one being able to see only solid matter, would be utterly unconscious of the ocean stretched before him, but would see instead the vast cavity of the ocean-bed, with all its various inequalities, and the fishes and other inhabitants of the deep would appear to him as floating in the air above this enormous valley. If there were clouds in the sky they would be entirely invisible to him, since they are composed of matter in the liquid state; for him the sun would be always shining in the daytime, and he would be unable to comprehend why, on what to us is a cloudy day, its heat should be so much diminished; if a glass of water were offered to him, it would appear to him to be empty.
Excerpted from Man Visible and Invisible by C. W. Leadbeater. Copyright © 2000 Theosophical Publishing House. Excerpted by permission of Theosophical Publishing House.
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