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Clairvoyance In Space: Intentional
Clairvoyance In Space: Semi-intentional
Clairvoyance In Space: Unintentional
Clairvoyance In Time: The Future
Clairvoyance In Time: The Past
Methods Of Development
Simple Clairvoyance: Full
Simple Clairvoyance: Partial
What Clairvoyance Is

Clairvoyance In Time: The Past

Clairvoyance in time--that is to say, the power of reading the past
and the future--is, like all the other varieties, possessed by
different people in very varying degrees, ranging from the man who has
both faculties fully at his command, down to one who only occasionally
gets involuntary and very imperfect glimpses or reflections of these
scenes of other days. A person of the latter type might have, let us
say, a vision of some event in the past; but it would be liable to the
most serious distortion, and even if it happened to be fairly accurate
it would almost certainly be a mere isolated picture, and he would
probably be quite unable to relate it to what had occurred before or
after it, or to account for anything unusual which might appear in it.
The trained man, on the other hand, could follow the drama connected
with his picture backwards or forwards to any extent that might seem
desirable, and trace out with equal ease the causes which had led up
to it or the results which it in turn would produce.

We shall probably find it easier to grasp this somewhat difficult
section of our subject if we consider it in the subdivisions which
naturally suggest themselves, and deal first with the vision which
looks backwards into the past, leaving for later examination that
which pierces the veil of the future. In each case it will be well for
us to try to understand what we can of the modus operandi, even
though our success can at best be only a very modified one, owing
first to the imperfect information on some parts of the subject at
present possessed by our investigators, and secondly to the
ever-recurring failure of physical words to express a hundredth part
even of the little we do know about higher planes and faculties.

In the case then of a detailed vision of the remote past, how is it
obtained, and to what plane of nature does it really belong? The
answer to both these questions is contained in the reply that it is
read from the akashic records; but that statement in return will
require a certain amount of explanation for many readers. The word is
in truth somewhat of a misnomer, for though the records are
undoubtedly read from the akasha, or matter of the mental plane, yet
it is not to it that they really belong. Still worse is the
alternative title, "records of the astral light," which has sometimes
been employed, for these records lie far beyond the astral plane, and
all that can be obtained on it are only broken glimpses of a kind of
double reflection of them, as will presently be explained.

Like so many others of our Theosophical terms, the word akasha has
been very loosely used. In some of our earlier books it was considered
as synonymous with astral light, and in others it was employed to
signify any kind of invisible matter, from mulaprakriti down to the
physical ether. In later books its use has been restricted to the
matter of the mental plane, and it is in that sense that the records
may be spoken of as akashic, for although they are not originally made
on that plane any more than on the astral, yet it is there that we
first come definitely into contact with them and find it possible to
do reliable work with them.

This subject of the records is by no means an easy one to deal with,
for it is one of that numerous class which requires for its perfect
comprehension faculties of a far higher order than any which humanity
has yet evolved. The real solution of its problems lies on planes far
beyond any that we can possibly know at present, and any view that we
take of it must necessarily be of the most imperfect character, since
we cannot but look at it from below instead of from above. The idea
which we form of it must therefore be only partial, yet it need not
mislead us unless we allow ourselves to think of the tiny fragment
which is all that we can see as though it were the perfect whole. If
we are careful that such conceptions as we may form shall be accurate
as far as they go, we shall have nothing to unlearn, though much to
add, when in the course of our further progress we gradually acquire
the higher wisdom. Be it understood then at the commencement that a
thorough grasp of our subject is an impossibility at the present stage
of our evolution, and that many points will arise as to which no exact
explanation is yet obtainable, though it may often be possible to
suggest analogies and to indicate the lines along which an explanation
must lie.

Let us then try to carry back our thoughts to the beginning of this
solar system to which we belong. We are all familiar with the ordinary
astronomical theory of its origin--that which is commonly called the
nebular hypothesis--according to which it first came into existence as
a gigantic glowing nebula, of a diameter far exceeding that of the
orbit of even the outermost of the planets, and then, as in the course
of countless ages that enormous sphere gradually cooled and
contracted, the system as we know it was formed.

Occult science accepts that theory, in its broad outline, as correctly
representing the purely physical side of the evolution of our system,
but it would add that if we confine our attention to this physical
side only we shall have a very incomplete and incoherent idea of what
really happened. It would postulate, to begin with, that the exalted
Being who undertakes the formation of a system (whom we sometimes
call the Logos of the system) first of all forms in His mind a
complete conception of the whole of it with all its successive chains
of worlds. By the very act of forming that conception He calls the
whole into simultaneous objective existence on the plane of His
thought--a plane of course far above all those of which we know
anything--from which the various globes descend when required into
whatever state of further objectivity may be respectively destined for
them. Unless we constantly bear in mind this fact of the real
existence of the whole system from the very beginning on a higher
plane, we shall be perpetually misunderstanding the physical evolution
which we see taking place down here.

But occultism has more than this to teach us on the subject. It tells
us not only that all this wonderful system to which we belong is
called into existence by the Logos, both on lower and on higher
planes, but also that its relation to Him is closer even than that,
for it is absolutely a part of Him--a partial expression of Him upon
the physical plane--and that the movement and energy of the whole
system is His energy, and is all carried on within the limits of His
aura. Stupendous as this conception is, it will yet not be wholly
unthinkable to those of us who have made any study of the subject of
the aura.

We are familiar with the idea that as a person progresses on the
upward path his causal body, which is the determining limit of his
aura, distinctly increases in size as well as in luminosity and purity
of colour. Many of us know from experience that the aura of a pupil
who has already made considerable advance on the Path is very much
larger than that of one who is but just setting his foot upon its
first step, while in the case of an Adept the proportional increase is
far greater still. We read in quite exoteric Oriental scriptures of
the immense extension of the aura of the Buddha; I think that three
miles is mentioned on one occasion as its limit, but whatever the
exact measurement may be, it is obvious that we have here another
record of this fact of the extremely rapid growth of the causal body
as man passes on his upward way. There can be little doubt that the
rate of this growth would itself increase in geometrical progression,
so that it need not surprise us to hear of an Adept on a still higher
level whose aura is capable of including the entire world at once; and
from this we may gradually lead our minds up to the conception that
there is a Being so exalted as to comprehend within Himself the whole
of our solar system. And we should remember that, enormous as this
seems to us, it is but as the tiniest drop in the vast ocean of space.

So of the Logos (who has in Him all the capacities and qualities with
which we can possibly endow the highest God we can imagine) it is
literally true, as was said of old, that "of Him and through Him, and
to Him are all things," and "in Him we live and move and have our

Now if this be so, it is clear that whatever happens within our system
happens absolutely within the consciousness of its Logos, and so we at
once see that the true record must be His memory; and furthermore, it
is obvious that on whatever plane that wondrous memory exists, it
cannot but be far above anything that we know, and consequently
whatever records we may find ourselves able to read must be only a
reflection of that great dominant fact, mirrored in the denser media
of the lower planes.

On the astral plane it is at once evident that this is so--that what
we are dealing with is only a reflection of a reflection, and an
exceedingly imperfect one, for such records as can be reached there
are fragmentary in the extreme, and often seriously distorted. We know
how universally water is used as a symbol of the astral light, and in
this particular case it is a remarkably apt one. From the surface of
still water we may get a clear reflection of the surrounding objects,
just as from a mirror; but at the best it is only a reflection--a
representation in two dimensions of three-dimensional objects, and
therefore differing in all its qualities, except colour, from that
which it represents; and in addition to this, it is always reversed.

But let the surface of the water be ruffled by the wind and what do we
find then? A reflection still, certainly, but so broken up and
distorted as to be quite useless or even misleading as a guide to the
shape and real appearance of the objects reflected. Here and there for
a moment we might happen to get a clear reflection of some minute part
of the scene--of a single leaf from a tree, for example; but it would
need long labour and considerable knowledge of natural laws to build
up anything like a true conception of the object reflected by putting
together even a large number of such isolated fragments of an image of

Now in the astral plane we can never have anything approaching to what
we have imaged as a still surface, but on the contrary we have always
to deal with one in rapid and bewildering motion; judge, therefore,
how little we can depend upon getting a clear and definite reflection.
Thus a clairvoyant who possesses only the faculty of astral sight can
never rely upon any picture of the past that comes before him as being
accurate and perfect; here and there some part of it may be so, but
he has no means of knowing which it is. If he is under the care of a
competent teacher he may, by long and careful training, be shown how
to distinguish between reliable and unreliable impressions, and to
construct from the broken reflections some kind of image of the
object reflected; but usually long before he has mastered those
difficulties he will have developed the mental sight, which renders
such labour unnecessary.

On the next plane, which we call the mental, conditions are very
different. There the record is full and accurate, and it would be
impossible to make any mistake in the reading. That is to say, if
three clairvoyants possessing the powers of the mental plane agreed to
examine a certain record there, what would be presented to their
vision would be absolutely the same reflection in each case, and each
would acquire a correct impression from it in reading it. It does not
however follow that when they all compared notes later on the physical
plane their reports would agree exactly. It is well known that if
three people who witness an occurrence down here in the physical world
set to work to describe it afterwards, their accounts will differ
considerably, for each will have noticed especially those items which
most appeal to him, and will insensibly have made them the prominent
features of the event, sometimes ignoring other points which were in
reality much more important.

Now in the case of an observation on the mental plane this personal
equation would not appreciably affect the impressions received, for
since each would thoroughly grasp the entire subject it would be
impossible for him to see its parts out of due proportion; but,
except in the case of carefully trained and experienced persons, this
factor does come into play in transferring the impressions to the
lower planes. It is in the nature of things impossible that any
account given down here of a vision or experience on the mental plane
can be complete, since nine-tenths of what is seen and felt there
could not be expressed by physical words at all; and, since all
expression must therefore be partial, there is obviously some
possibility of selection as to the part expressed. It is for this
reason that in all our Theosophical investigations of recent years so
much stress has been laid upon the constant checking and verifying of
clairvoyant testimony, nothing which rests upon the vision of one
person only having been allowed to appear in our later books.

But even when the possibility of error from this factor of personal
equation has been reduced to a minimum by a careful system of
counter-checking, there still remains the very serious difficulty which
is inherent in the operation of bringing down impressions from a higher
plane to a lower one. This is something analogous to the difficulty
experienced by a painter in his endeavour to reproduce a
three-dimensional landscape on a flat surface--that is, practically in
two dimensions. Just as the artist needs long and careful training of
eye and hand before he can produce a satisfactory representation of
nature, so does the clairvoyant need long and careful training before he
can describe accurately on a lower plane what he sees on a higher one;
and the probability of getting an exact description from an untrained
person is about equal to that of getting a perfectly-finished landscape
from one who has never learnt how to draw.

It must be remembered, too, that the most perfect picture is in
reality infinitely far from being a reproduction of the scene which it
represents, for hardly a single line or angle in it can ever be the
same as those in the object copied. It is simply a very ingenious
attempt to make upon one only of our five senses, by means of lines
and colours on a flat surface, an impression similar to that which
would have been made if we had actually had before us the scene
depicted. Except by a suggestion dependent entirely on our own
previous experience, it can convey to us nothing of the roar of the
sea, of the scent of the flowers, of the taste of the fruit, or of the
softness or hardness of the surface drawn.

Of exactly similar nature, though far greater in degree, are the
difficulties experienced by a clairvoyant in his attempt to describe
upon the physical plane what he has seen upon the astral; and they are
furthermore greatly enhanced by the fact that, instead of having
merely to recall to the minds of his hearers conceptions with which
they are already familiar, as the artist does when he paints men or
animals, fields or trees, he has to endeavour by the very imperfect
means at his disposal to suggest to them conceptions which in most
cases are absolutely new to them.

Small wonder then that, however vivid and striking his descriptions
may seem to his audience, he himself should constantly be impressed
with their total inadequacy, and should feel that his best efforts
have entirely failed to convey any idea of what he really sees. And we
must remember that in the case of the report given down here of a
record read on the mental plane, this difficult operation of
transference from the higher to the lower has taken place not once but
twice, since the memory has been brought through the intervening
astral plane. Even in a case where the investigator has the advantage
of having developed his mental faculties so that he has the use of
them while awake in the physical body, he is still hampered by the
absolute incapacity of physical language to express what he sees.

Try for a moment to realize fully what is called the fourth dimension,
of which we said something in an earlier chapter. It is easy enough to
think of our own three dimensions--to image in our minds the length,
breadth and height of any object; and we see that each of these three
dimensions is expressed by a line at right angles to both of the
others. The idea of the fourth dimension is that it might be possible
to draw a fourth line which shall be at right angles to all three of
those already existing.

Now the ordinary mind cannot grasp this idea in the least, though some
few who have made a special study of the subject have gradually come
to be able to realize one or two very simple four-dimensional figures.
Still, no words that they can use on this plane can bring any image of
these figures before the minds of others, and if any reader who has
not specially trained himself along that line will make the effort to
visualize such a shape he will find it quite impossible. Now to
express such a form clearly in physical words would be, in effect, to
describe accurately a single object on the astral plane; but in
examining the records on the mental plane we should have to face the
additional difficulties of a fifth dimension! So that the
impossibility of fully explaining these records will be obvious to
even the most superficial observation.

We have spoken of the records as the memory of the Logos, yet they are
very much more than a memory in an ordinary sense of the word.
Hopeless as it may be to imagine how these images appear from His
point of view, we yet know that as we rise higher and higher we must
be drawing nearer to the true memory--must be seeing more nearly as He
sees; so that great interest attaches to the experience of the
clairvoyant with reference to these records when he stands upon the
buddhic plane--the highest which his consciousness can reach even
when away from the physical body until he attains the level of the

Here time and space no longer limit him; he no longer needs, as on the
mental plane, to pass a series of events in review, for past, present
and future are all alike simultaneously present to him, meaningless as
that sounds down here. Indeed, infinitely below the consciousness of
the Logos as even that exalted plane is, it is yet abundantly clear
from what we see there that to Him the record must be far more than
what we call a memory, for all that has happened in the past and all
that will happen in the future is happening now before His eyes just
as are the events of what we call the present time. Utterly
incredible, wildly incomprehensible, of course, to our limited
understanding; yet absolutely true for all that.

Naturally we could not expect to understand at our present stage of
knowledge how so marvellous a result is produced, and to attempt an
explanation would only be to involve ourselves in a mist of words from
which we should gain no real information. Yet a line of thought recurs
to my mind which perhaps suggests the direction in which it is
possible that that explanation may lie: and whatever helps us to
realize that so astounding a statement may after all not be wholly
impossible will be of assistance in broadening our minds.

Some thirty years ago I remember reading a very curious little book,
called, I think, The Stars and the Earth, the object of which was to
endeavour to show how it was scientifically possible that to the mind
of God the past and the present might be absolutely simultaneous. Its
arguments struck me at the time as decidedly ingenious, and I will
proceed to summarize them, as I think they will be found somewhat
suggestive in connection with the subject which we have been

When we see anything, whether it be the book which we hold in our
hands or a star millions of miles away, we do so by means of a
vibration in the ether, commonly called a ray of light, which passes
from the object seen to our eyes. Now the speed with which this
vibration passes is so great--about 186,000 miles in a second--that
when we are considering any object in our own world we may regard it
as practically instantaneous. When, however, we come to deal with
interplanetary distances we have to take the speed of light into
consideration, for an appreciable period is occupied in traversing
these vast spaces. For example it takes eight minutes and a quarter
for light to travel to us from the sun, so that when we look at the
solar orb we see it by means of a ray of light which left it more than
eight minutes ago.

From this follows a very curious result. The ray of light by which we
see the sun can obviously report to us only the state of affairs
which existed in that luminary when it started on its journey, and
would not be in the least affected by anything that happened there
after it left; so that we really see the sun not as he is, but as he
was eight minutes ago. That is to say that if anything important took
place in the sun--the formation of a new sun-spot, for instance--an
astronomer who was watching the orb through his telescope at the time
would be quite unaware of the incident while it was happening, since
the ray of light bearing the news would not reach him until more than
eight minutes later.

The difference is more striking when we consider the fixed stars,
because in their case the distances are so enormously greater. The
pole star, for example, is so far off that light, travelling at the
inconceivable speed above mentioned, takes a little more than fifty
years to reach our eyes; and from that follows the strange but
inevitable inference that we see the pole star not as and where it is
at this moment, but as and where it was fifty years ago. Nay, if
to-morrow some cosmic catastrophe were to shatter the pole star into
fragments, we should still see it peacefully shining in the sky all
the rest of our lives; our children would grow up to middle age and
gather their children about them in turn before the news of that
tremendous accident reached any terrestrial eye. In the same way there
are other stars so far distant that light takes thousands of years to
travel from them to us, and with reference to their condition our
information is therefore thousands of years behind time.

Now carry the argument a step farther. Suppose that we were able to
place a man at the distance of 186,000 miles from the earth, and yet
to endow him with the wonderful faculty of being able from that
distance to see what was happening here as clearly as though he were
still close beside us. It is evident that a man so placed would see
everything a second after the time when it really happened, and so at
the present moment he would be seeing what happened a second ago.
Double the distance, and he would be two seconds behind time, and so
on; remove him to the distance of the sun (still allowing him to
preserve the same mysterious power of sight) and he would look down
and watch you doing not what you are doing now, but what you were
doing eight minutes and a quarter ago. Carry him away to the pole
star, and he would see passing before his eyes the events of fifty
years ago; he would be watching the childish gambols of those who at
the very same moment were really middle-aged men. Marvellous as this
may sound, it is literally and scientifically true, and cannot be

The little book went on to argue logically enough that God, being
almighty, must possess the wonderful power of sight which we have
been postulating for our observer; and further, that being
omnipresent, He must be at each of the stations which we mentioned,
and also at every intermediate point, not successively but
simultaneously. Granting these premises, the inevitable deduction
follows that everything which has ever happened from the very
beginning of the world must be at this very moment taking place
before the eye of God--not a mere memory of it, but the actual
occurrence itself being now under His observation.

All this is materialistic enough, and on the plane of purely physical
science, and we may therefore be assured that it is not the way in
which the memory of the Logos acts; yet it is neatly worked out and
absolutely incontrovertible, and as I have said before, it is not
without its use, since it gives us a glimpse of some possibilities
which otherwise might not occur to us.

But, it may be asked, how is it possible, amid the bewildering
confusion of these records of the past, to find any particular picture
when it is wanted? As a matter of fact, the untrained clairvoyant
usually cannot do so without some special link to put him en rapport
with the subject required. Psychometry is an instance in point, and it
is quite probable that our ordinary memory is really only another
presentment of the same idea. It seems as though there were a sort of
magnetic attachment or affinity between any particle of matter and the
record which contains its history--an affinity which enables it to act
as a kind of conductor between that record and the faculties of anyone
who can read it.

For example, I once brought from Stonehenge a tiny fragment of stone,
not larger than a pin's head, and on putting this into an envelope and
handing it to a psychometer who had no idea what it was, she at once
began to describe that wonderful ruin and the desolate country
surrounding it, and then went on to picture vividly what were
evidently scenes from its early history, showing that that
infinitesimal fragment had been sufficient to put her into
communication with the records connected with the spot from which it
came. The scenes through which we pass in the course of our life seem
to act in the same manner upon the cells of our brain as did the
history of Stonehenge upon that particle of stone: they establish a
connection with those cells by means of which our mind is put en
rapport with that particular portion of the records, and so we
"remember" what we have seen.

Even a trained clairvoyant needs some link to enable him to find the
record of an event of which he has no previous knowledge. If, for
example, he wished to observe the landing of Julius Caesar on the
shores of England, there are several ways in which he might approach
the subject. If he happened to have visited the scene of the
occurrence, the simplest way would probably be to call up the image of
that spot, and then run back through its records until he reached the
period desired. If he had not seen the place, he might run back in
time to the date of the event, and then search the Channel for a fleet
of Roman galleys; or he might examine the records of Roman life at
about that period, where he would have no difficulty in identifying so
prominent a figure as Caesar, or in tracing him when found through all
his Gallic wars until he set his foot upon British land.

People often enquire as to the aspect of these records--whether they
appear near or far away from the eye, whether the figures in them are
large or small, whether the pictures follow one another as in a
panorama or melt into one another like dissolving views, and so on.
One can only reply that their appearance varies to a certain extent
according to the conditions under which they are seen. Upon the astral
plane the reflection is most often a simple picture, though
occasionally the figures seen would be endowed with motion; in this
latter case, instead of a mere snapshot a rather longer and more
perfect reflection has taken place.

On the mental plane they have two widely different aspects. When the
visitor to that plane is not thinking specially of them in any way,
the records simply form a background to whatever is going on, just as
the reflections in a pier-glass at the end of a room might form a
background to the life of the people in it. It must always be borne in
mind that under these conditions they are really merely reflections
from the ceaseless activity of a great Consciousness upon a far higher
plane, and have very much the appearance of an endless succession of
the recently invented cinematographe, or living photographs. They do
not melt into one another like dissolving views, nor do a series of
ordinary pictures follow one another; but the action of the reflected
figures constantly goes on, as though one were watching the actors on
a distant stage.

But if the trained investigator turns his attention specially to any
one scene, or wishes to call it up before him, an extraordinary change
at once takes place, for this is the plane of thought, and to think of
anything is to bring it instantaneously before you. For example, if a
man wills to see the record of that event to which we before
referred--the landing of Julius Caesar--he finds himself in a moment
not looking at any picture, but standing on the shore among the
legionaries, with the whole scene being enacted around him, precisely
in every respect as he would have seen it if he had stood there in the
flesh on that autumn morning in the year 55 B.C. Since what he sees is
but a reflection, the actors are of course entirely unconscious of
him, nor can any effort of his change the course of their action in
the smallest degree, except only that he can control the rate at which
the drama shall pass before him--can have the events of a whole year
rehearsed before his eyes in a single hour, or can at any moment stop
the movement altogether, and hold any particular scene in view as a
picture as long as he chooses.

In truth he observes not only what he would have seen if he had been
there at the time in the flesh, but much more. He hears and
understands all that the people say, and he is conscious of all their
thoughts and motives; and one of the most interesting of the many
possibilities which open up before one who has learnt to read the
records is the study of the thought of ages long past--the thought of
the cave-men and the lake-dwellers as well as that which ruled the
mighty civilisations of Atlantis, of Egypt or Chaldaea. What splendid
possibilities open up before the man who is in full possession of this
power may easily be imagined. He has before him a field of historical
research of most entrancing interest. Not only can he review at his
leisure all history with which we are acquainted, correcting as he
examines it the many errors and misconceptions which have crept into
the accounts handed down to us; he can also range at will over the
whole story of the world from its very beginning, watching the slow
development of intellect in man, the descent of the Lords of the
Flame, and the growth of the mighty civilisations which they founded.

Nor is his study confined to the progress of humanity alone; he has
before him, as in a museum, all the strange animal and vegetable forms
which occupied the stage in days when the world was young; he can
follow all the wonderful geological changes which have taken place,
and watch the course of the great cataclysms which have altered the
whole face of the earth again and again.

In one especial case an even closer sympathy with the past is possible
to the reader of the records. If in the course of his enquiries he has
to look upon some scene in which he himself has in a former birth
taken part, he may deal with it in two ways; he can either regard it
in the usual manner as a spectator (though always, be it remembered,
as a spectator whose insight and sympathy are perfect) or he may once
more identify himself with that long-dead personality of his--may
throw himself back for the time into that life of long ago, and
absolutely experience over again the thoughts and the emotions, the
pleasures and the pains of a prehistoric past. No wilder and more
vivid adventures can be conceived than some of those through which he
thus may pass; yet through it all he must never lose hold of the
consciousness of his own individuality--must retain the power to
return at will to his present personality.

It is often asked how it is possible for an investigator accurately to
determine the date of any picture from the far-distant past which he
disinters from the records. The fact is that it is sometimes rather
tedious work to find an exact date, but the thing can usually be done
if it is worth while to spend the time and trouble over it. If we are
dealing with Greek or Roman times the simplest method is usually to
look into the mind of the most intelligent person present in the
picture, and see what date he supposes it to be; or the investigator
might watch him writing a letter or other document and observe what
date, if any, was included in what was written. When once the Roman or
Greek date is thus obtained, to reduce it to our own system of
chronology is merely a matter of calculation.

Another way which is frequently adopted is to turn from the scene
under examination to a contemporary picture in some great and
well-known city such as Rome, and note what monarch is reigning there,
or who are the consuls for the year; and when such data are discovered
a glance at any good history will give the rest. Sometimes a date can
be obtained by examining some public proclamation or some legal
document; in fact in the times of which we are speaking the difficulty
is easily surmounted.

The matter is by no means so simple, however, when we come to deal
with periods much earlier than this--with a scene from early Egypt,
Chaldaea, or China, or to go further back still, from Atlantis itself
or any of its numerous colonies. A date can still be obtained easily
enough from the mind of any educated man, but there is no longer any
means of relating it to our own system of dates, since the man will be
reckoning by eras of which we know nothing, or by the reigns of kings
whose history is lost in the night of time.

Our methods, nevertheless, are not yet exhausted. It must be
remembered that it is possible for the investigator to pass the
records before him at any speed that he may desire--at the rate of a
year in a second if he will, or even very much faster still. Now there
are one or two events in ancient history whose dates have already been
accurately fixed--as, for example, the sinking of Poseidonis in the
year 9564 B.C. It is therefore obvious that if from the general
appearance of the surroundings it seems probable that a picture seen
is within measurable distance of one of these events, it can be
related to that event by the simple process of running through the
record rapidly, and counting the years between the two as they pass.

Still, if those years ran into thousands, as they might sometimes do,
this plan would be insufferably tedious. In that case we are driven
back upon the astronomical method. In consequence of the movement
which is commonly called the precession of the equinoxes, though it
might more accurately be described as a kind of second rotation of
the earth, the angle between the equator and the ecliptic steadily but
very slowly varies. Thus, after long intervals of time we find the
pole of the earth no longer pointing towards the same spot in the
apparent sphere of the heavens, or in other words, our pole-star is
not, as at present, [Greek: a] Ursae Minoris, but some other celestial
body; and from this position of the pole of the earth, which can
easily be ascertained by careful observation of the night-sky of the
picture under consideration, an approximate date can be calculated
without difficulty.

In estimating the date of occurrences which took place millions of
years ago in earlier races, the period of a secondary rotation (or the
precession of the equinoxes) is frequently used as a unit, but of
course absolute accuracy is not usually required in such cases, round
numbers being sufficient for all practical purposes in dealing with
epochs so remote.

The accurate reading of the records, whether of one's own past lives
or those of others, must not, however, be thought of as an achievement
possible to anyone without careful previous training. As has been
already remarked, though occasional reflections may be had upon the
astral plane, the power to use the mental sense is necessary before
any reliable reading can be done. Indeed, to minimize the possibility
of error, that sense ought to be fully at the command of the
investigator while awake in the physical body; and to acquire that
faculty needs years of ceaseless labour and rigid self-discipline.

Many people seem to expect that as soon as they have signed their
application and joined the Theosophical Society they will at once
remember at least three or four of their past births; indeed, some of
them promptly begin to imagine recollections and declare that in their
last incarnation they were Mary Queen of Scots, Cleopatra, or Julius
Caesar! Of course such extravagant claims simply bring discredit upon
those who are so foolish as to make them but unfortunately some of
that discredit is liable to be reflected, however unjustly, upon the
Society to which they belong, so that a man who feels seething within
him the conviction that he was Homer or Shakespeare would do well to
pause and apply common-sense tests on the physical plane before
publishing the news to the world.

It is quite true that some people have had glimpses of scenes from
their past lives in dreams, but naturally these are usually
fragmentary and unreliable. I had myself in earlier life an experience
of this nature. Among my dreams I found that one was constantly
recurring--a dream of a house with a portico over-looking a beautiful
bay, not far from a hill on the top of which rose a graceful building.
I knew that house perfectly, and was as familiar with the position of
its rooms and the view from its door as I was with those of my home,
in this present life. In those days I knew nothing about
reincarnation, so that it seemed to me simply a curious coincidence
that this dream should repeat itself so often; and it was not until
some time after I had joined the Society that, when one who knew was
showing me some pictures of my last incarnation, I discovered that
this persistent dream had been in reality a partial recollection, and
that the house which I knew so well was the one in which I was born
more than two thousand years ago.

But although there are several cases on record in which some
well-remembered scene has thus come through from one life to another,
a considerable development of occult faculty is necessary before an
investigator can definitely trace a line of incarnations, whether they
be his own or another man's. This will be obvious if we remember the
conditions of the problem which has to be worked out. To follow a
person from this life to the one preceding it, it is necessary first
of all to trace his present life backwards to his birth and then to
follow up in reverse order the stages by which the Ego descended into

This will obviously take us back eventually to the condition of the
Ego upon the higher levels of the mental plane; so it will be seen
that to perform this task effectually the investigator must be able to
use the sense corresponding to that exalted level while awake in his
physical body--in other words, his consciousness must be centred in
the reincarnating Ego itself, and no longer in the lower personality.
In that case, the memory of the Ego being aroused, his own past
incarnations will be spread out before him like an open book, and he
would be able, if he wished, to examine the conditions of another Ego
upon that level and trace him backwards through the lower mental and
astral lives which led up to it, until he came to the last physical
death of that Ego, and through it to his previous life.

There is no way but this in which the chain of lives can be followed
through with absolute certainty: and consequently we may at once put
aside as conscious or unconscious impostors those people who advertise
that they are able to trace out anyone's past incarnations for so many
shillings a head. Needless to say, the true occultist does not
advertise, and never under any circumstances accepts money for any
exhibition of his powers.

Assuredly the student who wishes to acquire the power of following up
a line of incarnations can do so only by learning from a qualified
teacher how the work is to be done. There have been those who
persistently asserted that it was only necessary for a man to feel
good and devotional and "brotherly," and all the wisdom of the ages
would immediately flow in upon him; but a little common-sense will at
once expose the absurdity of such a position. However good a child
may be, if he wants to know the multiplication table he must set to
work and learn it; and the case is precisely similar with the capacity
to use spiritual faculties. The faculties themselves will no doubt
manifest as the man evolves, but he can learn how to use them reliably
and to the best advantage only by steady hard work and persevering

Take the case of those who wish to help others while on the astral
plane during sleep; it is obvious that the more knowledge they possess
here, the more valuable will their services be on that higher plane.
For example, the knowledge of languages would be useful to them, for
though on the mental plane men can communicate directly by
thought-transference, whatever their languages may be, on the astral
plane this is not so, and a thought must be definitely formulated in
words before it is comprehensible. If, therefore, you wish to help a
man on that plane, you must have some language in common by means of
which you can communicate with him, and consequently the more
languages you know the more widely useful you will be. In fact there
is perhaps no kind of knowledge for which a use cannot be found in the
work of the occultist.

It would be well for all students to bear in mind that occultism is
the apotheosis of common-sense, and that every vision which comes to
them is not necessarily a picture from the akashic records, nor every
experience a revelation from on high. It is better far to err on the
side of healthy scepticism than of over-credulity; and it is an
admirable rule never to hunt about for an occult explanation of
anything when a plain and obvious physical one is available. Our duty
is to endeavour to keep our balance always, and never to lose our
self-control, but to take a reasonable, common-sense view of whatever
may happen to us; so shall we be better Theosophists, wiser
occultists, and more useful helpers than we have ever been before.

As usual, we find examples of all degrees of the power to see into
this memory of nature, from the trained man who can consult the record
for himself at will, down to the person who gets nothing but
occasional vague glimpses, or has even perhaps had only one such
glimpse. But even the man who possesses this faculty only partially
and occasionally still finds it of the deepest interest. The
psychometer, who needs an object physically connected with the past in
order to bring it all into life again around him, and the
crystal-gazer who can sometimes direct his less certain astral
telescope to some historic scene of long ago, may both derive the
greatest enjoyment from the exercise of their respective gifts, even
though they may not always understand exactly how their results are
produced, and may not have them fully under control under all

In many cases of the lower manifestations of these powers we find that
they are exercised unconsciously; many a crystal-gazer watches scenes
from the past without being able to distinguish them from visions of
the present, and many a vaguely-psychic person finds pictures
constantly arising before his eyes without ever realizing that he is
in effect psychometrizing the various objects around him as he happens
to touch them or stand near them.

An interesting variant of this class of psychics is the man who is
able to psychometrize persons only, and not inanimate objects as is
more usual. In most cases this faculty shows itself erratically, so
that such a psychic will, when introduced to a stranger, often see in
a flash some prominent event in that stranger's earlier life, but on
other similar occasions will receive no special impression. More
rarely we meet with someone who gets detailed visions of the past life
of everyone whom he encounters. Perhaps one of the best examples of
this class was the German writer Zschokke, who describes in his
autobiography this extraordinary power of which he found himself
possessed. He says:--

"It has happened to me occasionally at the first meeting with a total
stranger, when I have been listening in silence to his conversation,
that his past life up to the present moment, with many minute
circumstances belonging to one or other particular scene in it, has
come across me like a dream, but distinctly, entirely involuntarily
and unsought, occupying in duration a few minutes.

"For a long time I was disposed to consider these fleeting visions as
a trick of the fancy--the more so as my dream-vision displayed to me
the dress and movements of the actors, the appearance of the room, the
furniture, and other accidents of the scene; till on one occasion, in
a gamesome mood, I narrated to my family the secret history of a
sempstress who had just before quitted the room. I had never seen the
person before. Nevertheless the hearers were astonished, and laughed
and would not be persuaded but that I had a previous acquaintance with
the former life of the person, inasmuch as what I had stated was
perfectly true.

"I was not less astonished to find that my dream-vision agreed with
reality. I then gave more attention to the subject, and as often as
propriety allowed of it, I related to those whose lives had so passed
before me the substance of my dream-vision, to obtain from them its
contradiction or confirmation. On every occasion its confirmation
followed, not without amazement on the part of those who gave it.

"On a certain fair-day I went into the town of Waldshut accompanied by
two young foresters, who are still alive. It was evening, and, tired
with our walk, we went into an inn called the 'Vine.' We took our
supper with a numerous company at the public table, when it happened
that they made themselves merry over the peculiarities and simplicity
of the Swiss in connection with the belief in mesmerism, Lavater's
physiognomical system and the like. One of my companions, whose
national pride was touched by their raillery, begged me to make some
reply, particularly in answer to a young man of superior appearance
who sat opposite, and had indulged in unrestrained ridicule.

"It happened that the events of this person's life had just previously
passed before my mind. I turned to him with the question whether he
would reply to me with truth and candour if I narrated to him the most
secret passages of his history, he being as little known to me as I to
him? That would, I suggested, go something beyond Lavater's
physiognomical skill. He promised if I told the truth to admit it
openly. Then I narrated the events with which my dream-vision had
furnished me, and the table learnt the history of the young
tradesman's life, of his school years, his peccadilloes, and, finally,
of a little act of roguery committed by him on the strong-box of his
employer. I described the uninhabited room with its white walls, where
to the right of the brown door there had stood upon the table the
small black money-chest, etc. The man, much struck, admitted the
correctness of each circumstance--even, which I could not expect, of
the last."

And after narrating this incident, the worthy Zschokke calmly goes on
to wonder whether perhaps after all this remarkable power, which he
had so often displayed, might not really have been always the result
of mere chance coincidence!

Comparatively few accounts of persons possessing this faculty of
looking back into the past are to be found in the literature of the
subject, and it might therefore be supposed to be much less common
than prevision. I suspect, however, that the truth is rather that it
is much less commonly recognized. As I said before, it may very easily
happen that a person may see a picture of the past without recognizing
it as such, unless there happens to be in it something which attracts
special attention, such as a figure in armour or in antique costume. A
prevision also might not always be recognized as such at the time; but
the occurrence of the event foreseen recalls it vividly at the same
time that it manifests its nature, so that it is unlikely to be
overlooked. It is probable, therefore, that occasional glimpses of
these astral reflections of the akashic records are commoner than the
published accounts would lead us to believe.

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