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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

What Clairvoyance Is

Clairvoyance means literally nothing more than "clear-seeing," and it
is a word which has been sorely misused, and even degraded so far as
to be employed to describe the trickery of a mountebank in a variety
show. Even in its more restricted sense it covers a wide range of
phenomena, differing so greatly in character that it is not easy to
give a definition of the word which shall be at once succinct and
accurate. It has been called "spiritual vision," but no rendering
could well be more misleading than that, for in the vast majority of
cases there is no faculty connected with it which has the slightest
claim to be honoured by so lofty a name.

For the purpose of this treatise we may, perhaps, define it as the
power to see what is hidden from ordinary physical sight. It will be
as well to premise that it is very frequently (though by no means
always) accompanied by what is called clairaudience, or the power to
hear what would be inaudible to the ordinary physical ear; and we will
for the nonce take our title as covering this faculty also, in order
to avoid the clumsiness of perpetually using two long words where one
will suffice.

Let me make two points clear before I begin. First, I am not writing
for those who do not believe that there is such a thing as
clairvoyance, nor am I seeking to convince those who are in doubt
about the matter. In so small a work as this I have no space for that;
such people must study the many books containing lists of cases, or
make experiments for themselves along mesmeric lines. I am addressing
myself to the better-instructed class who know that clairvoyance
exists, and are sufficiently interested in the subject to be glad of
information as to its methods and possibilities; and I would assure
them that what I write is the result of much careful study and
experiment, and that though some of the powers which I shall have to
describe may seem new and wonderful to them, I mention no single one
of which I have not myself seen examples.

Secondly, though I shall endeavour to avoid technicalities as far as
possible, yet as I am writing in the main for students of Theosophy, I
shall feel myself at liberty sometimes to use, for brevity's sake and
without detailed explanation, the ordinary Theosophical terms with
which I may safely assume them to be familiar.

Should this little book fall into the hands of any to whom the
occasional use of such terms constitutes a difficulty, I can only
apologize to them and refer them for these preliminary explanations to
any elementary Theosophical work, such as Mrs. Besant's Ancient
Wisdom or Man and His Bodies. The truth is that the whole
Theosophical system hangs together so closely, and its various parts
are so interdependent, that to give a full explanation of every term
used would necessitate an exhaustive treatise on Theosophy as a
preface even to this short account of clairvoyance.

Before a detailed explanation of clairvoyance can usefully be
attempted, however, it will be necessary for us to devote a little
time to some preliminary considerations, in order that we may have
clearly in mind a few broad facts as to the different planes on which
clairvoyant vision may be exercised, and the conditions which render
its exercise possible.

We are constantly assured in Theosophical literature that all these
higher faculties are presently to be the heritage of mankind in
general--that the capacity of clairvoyance, for example, lies latent
in every one, and that those in whom it already manifests itself are
simply in that one particular a little in advance of the rest of us.
Now this statement is a true one, and yet it seems quite vague and
unreal to the majority of people, simply because they regard such a
faculty as something absolutely different from anything they have yet
experienced, and feel fairly confident that they themselves, at any
rate, are not within measurable distance of its development.

It may help to dispel this sense of unreality if we try to understand
that clairvoyance, like so many other things in nature, is mainly a
question of vibrations, and is in fact nothing but an extension of
powers which we are all using every day of our lives. We are living
all the while surrounded by a vast sea of mingled air and ether, the
latter inter-penetrating the former, as it does all physical matter;
and it is chiefly by means of vibrations in that vast sea of matter
that impressions reach us from the outside. This much we all know, but
it may perhaps never have occurred to many of us that the number of
these vibrations to which we are capable of responding is in reality
quite infinitesimal.

Up among the exceedingly rapid vibrations which affect the ether there
is a certain small section--a very small section--to which the
retina of the human eye is capable of responding, and these particular
vibrations produce in us the sensation which we call light. That is to
say, we are capable of seeing only those objects from which light of
that particular kind can either issue or be reflected.

In exactly the same way the tympanum of the human ear is capable of
responding to a certain very small range of comparatively slow
vibrations--slow enough to affect the air which surrounds us; and so
the only sounds which we can hear are those made by objects which are
able to vibrate at some rate within that particular range.

In both cases it is a matter perfectly well known to science that
there are large numbers of vibrations both above and below these two
sections, and that consequently there is much light that we cannot
see, and there are many sounds to which our ears are deaf. In the case
of light the action of these higher and lower vibrations is easily
perceptible in the effects produced by the actinic rays at one end of
the spectrum and the heat rays at the other.

As a matter of fact there exist vibrations of every conceivable degree
of rapidity, filling the whole vast space intervening between the slow
sound waves and the swift light waves; nor is even that all, for there
are undoubtedly vibrations slower than those of sound, and a whole
infinity of them which are swifter than those known to us as light. So
we begin to understand that the vibrations by which we see and hear
are only like two tiny groups of a few strings selected from an
enormous harp of practically infinite extent, and when we think how
much we have been able to learn and infer from the use of those
minute fragments, we see vaguely what possibilities might lie before
us if we were enabled to utilize the vast and wonderful whole.

Another fact which needs to be considered in this connection is that
different human beings vary considerably, though within relatively
narrow limits, in their capacity of response even to the very few
vibrations which are within reach of our physical senses. I am not
referring to the keenness of sight or of hearing that enables one man
to see a fainter object or hear a slighter sound than another; it is
not in the least a question of strength of vision, but of extent of

For example, if anyone will take a good bisulphide of carbon prism,
and by its means throw a clear spectrum on a sheet of white paper, and
then get a number of people to mark upon the paper the extreme limits
of the spectrum as it appears to them, he is fairly certain to find
that their powers of vision differ appreciably. Some will see the
violet extending much farther than the majority do; others will
perhaps see rather less violet than most, while gaining a
corresponding extension of vision at the red end. Some few there will
perhaps be who can see farther than ordinary at both ends, and these
will almost certainly be what we call sensitive people--susceptible in
fact to a greater range of vibrations than are most men of the present

In hearing, the same difference can be tested by taking some sound
which is just not too high to be audible--on the very verge of
audibility as it were--and discovering how many among a given number
of people are able to hear it. The squeak of a bat is a familiar
instance of such a sound, and experiment will show that on a summer
evening, when the whole air is full of the shrill, needle-like cries
of these little animals, quite a large number of men will be
absolutely unconscious of them, and unable to hear anything at all.

Now these examples clearly show that there is no hard-and-fast limit
to man's power of response to either etheric or aerial vibrations, but
that some among us already have that power to a wider extent than
others; and it will even be found that the same man's capacity varies
on different occasions. It is therefore not difficult for us to
imagine that it might be possible for a man to develop this power, and
thus in time to learn to see much that is invisible to his fellow-men,
and hear much that is inaudible to them, since we know perfectly well
that enormous numbers of these additional vibrations do exist, and are
simply, as it were, awaiting recognition.

The experiments with the Roentgen rays give us an example of the
startling results which are produced when even a very few of these
additional vibrations are brought within human ken, and the
transparency to these rays of many substances hitherto considered
opaque at once shows us one way at least in which we may explain such
elementary clairvoyance as is involved in reading a letter inside a
closed box, or describing those present in an adjoining apartment. To
learn to see by means of the Roentgen rays in addition to those
ordinarily employed would be quite sufficient to enable anyone to
perform a feat of magic of this order.

So far we have thought only of an extension of the purely physical
senses of man; and when we remember that a man's etheric body is in
reality merely the finer part of his physical frame, and that
therefore all his sense organs contain a large amount of etheric
matter of various degrees of density, the capacities of which are
still practically latent in most of us, we shall see that even if we
confine ourselves to this line of development alone there are enormous
possibilities of all kinds already opening out before us.

But besides and beyond all this we know that man possesses an astral
and a mental body, each of which can in process of time be aroused
into activity, and will respond in turn to the vibrations of the
matter of its own plane, thus opening up before the Ego, as he learns
to function through these vehicles, two entirely new and far wider
worlds of knowledge and power. Now these new worlds, though they are
all around us and freely inter-penetrate one another, are not to be
thought of as distinct and entirely unconnected in substance, but
rather as melting the one into the other, the lowest astral forming a
direct series with the highest physical, just as the lowest mental in
its turn forms a direct series with the highest astral. We are not
called upon in thinking of them to imagine some new and strange kind
of matter, but simply to think of the ordinary physical kind as
subdivided so very much more finely and vibrating so very much more
rapidly as to introduce us to what are practically entirely new
conditions and qualities.

It is not then difficult for us to grasp the possibility of a steady
and progressive extension of our senses, so that both by sight and by
hearing we may be able to appreciate vibrations far higher and far
lower than those which are ordinarily recognised. A large section of
these additional vibrations will still belong to the physical plane,
and will merely enable us to obtain impressions from the etheric part
of that plane, which is at present as a closed book to us. Such
impressions will still be received through the retina of the eye; of
course they will affect its etheric rather than its solid matter, but
we may nevertheless regard them as still appealing only to an organ
specialized to receive them, and not to the whole surface of the
etheric body.

There are some abnormal cases, however, in which other parts of the
etheric body respond to these additional vibrations as readily as, or
even more readily than, the eye. Such vagaries are explicable in
various ways, but principally as effects of some partial astral
development, for it will be found that the sensitive parts of the body
almost invariably correspond with one or other of the chakrams, or
centres of vitality in the astral body. And though, if astral
consciousness be not yet developed, these centres may not be available
on their own plane, they are still strong enough to stimulate into
keener activity the etheric matter which they inter-penetrate.

When we come to deal with the astral senses themselves the methods of
working are very different. The astral body has no specialized
sense-organs--a fact which perhaps needs some explanation, since many
students who are trying to comprehend its physiology seem to find it
difficult to reconcile with the statements that have been made as to
the perfect inter-penetration of the physical body by astral matter,
the exact correspondence between the two vehicles, and the fact that
every physical object has necessarily its astral counterpart.

Now all these statements are true, and yet it is quite possible for
people who do not normally see astrally to misunderstand them. Every
order of physical matter has its corresponding order of astral matter
in constant association with it--not to be separated from it except by
a very considerable exertion of occult force, and even then only to
be held apart from it as long as force is being definitely exerted to
that end. But for all that the relation of the astral particles one to
another is far looser than is the case with their physical

In a bar of iron, for example, we have a mass of physical molecules in
the solid condition--that is to say, capable of comparatively little
change in their relative positions, though each vibrating with immense
rapidity in its own sphere. The astral counterpart of this consists of
what we often call solid astral matter--that is, matter of the lowest
and densest sub-plane of the astral; but nevertheless its particles
are constantly and rapidly changing their relative position, moving
among one another as easily as those of a liquid on the physical plane
might do. So that there is no permanent association between any one
physical particle and that amount of astral matter which happens at
any given moment to be acting as its counterpart.

This is equally true with respect to the astral body of man, which for
our purpose at the moment we may regard as consisting of two
parts--the denser aggregation which occupies the exact position of the
physical body, and the cloud of rarer astral matter which surrounds
that aggregation. In both these parts, and between them both, there is
going on at every moment of time the rapid inter-circulation of the
particles which has been described, so that as one watches the
movement of the molecules in the astral body one is reminded of the
appearance of those in fiercely boiling water.

This being so, it will be readily understood that though any given
organ of the physical body must always have as its counterpart a
certain amount of astral matter, it does not retain the same particles
for more than a few seconds at a time, and consequently there is
nothing corresponding to the specialization of physical nerve-matter
into optic or auditory nerves, and so on. So that though the physical
eye or ear has undoubtedly always its counterpart of astral matter,
that particular fragment of astral matter is no more (and no less)
capable of responding to the vibrations which produce astral sight or
astral hearing than any other part of the vehicle.

It must never be forgotten that though we constantly have to speak of
"astral sight" or "astral hearing" in order to make ourselves
intelligible, all that we mean by those expressions is the faculty of
responding to such vibrations as convey to the man's consciousness,
when he is functioning in his astral body, information of the same
character as that conveyed to him by his eyes and ears while he is in
the physical body. But in the entirely different astral conditions,
specialized organs are not necessary for the attainment of this
result; there is matter in every part of the astral body which is
capable of such response, and consequently the man functioning in that
vehicle sees equally well objects behind him, beneath him, above him,
without needing to turn his head.

There is, however, another point which it would hardly be fair to
leave entirely out of account, and that is the question of the
chakrams referred to above. Theosophical students are familiar with
the idea of the existence in both the astral and the etheric bodies of
man of certain centres of force which have to be vivified in turn by
the sacred serpent-fire as the man advances in evolution. Though these
cannot be described as organs in the ordinary sense of the word, since
it is not through them that the man sees or hears, as he does in
physical life through eyes and ears, yet it is apparently very largely
upon their vivification that the power of exercising these astral
senses depends, each of them as it is developed giving to the whole
astral body the power of response to a new set of vibrations.

Neither have these centres, however, any permanent collection of
astral matter connected with them. They are simply vortices in the
matter of the body--vortices through which all the particles pass in
turn--points, perhaps, at which the higher force from planes above
impinges upon the astral body. Even this description gives but a very
partial idea of their appearance, for they are in reality
four-dimensional vortices, so that the force which comes through them
and is the cause of their existence seems to well up from nowhere. But
at any rate, since all particles in turn pass through each of them, it
will be clear that it is thus possible for each in turn to evoke in
all the particles of the body the power of receptivity to a certain
set of vibrations, so that all the astral senses are equally active in
all parts of the body.

The vision of the mental plane is again totally different, for in this
case we can no longer speak of separate senses such as sight and
hearing, but rather have to postulate one general sense which responds
so fully to the vibrations reaching it that when any object comes
within its cognition it at once comprehends it fully, and as it were
sees it, hears it, feels it, and knows all there is to know about it
by the one instantaneous operation. Yet even this wonderful faculty
differs in degree only and not in kind from those which are at our
command at the present time; on the mental plane, just as on the
physical, impressions are still conveyed by means of vibrations
travelling from the object seen to the seer.

On the buddhic plane we meet for the first time with a quite new
faculty having nothing in common with those of which we have spoken,
for there a man cognizes any object by an entirely different method,
in which external vibrations play no part. The object becomes part of
himself, and he studies it from the inside instead of from the
outside. But with this power ordinary clairvoyance has nothing to

The development, either entire or partial, of any one of these
faculties would come under our definition of clairvoyance--the power
to see what is hidden from ordinary physical sight. But these
faculties may be developed in various ways, and it will be well to say
a few words as to these different lines.

We may presume that if it were possible for a man to be isolated
during his evolution from all but the gentlest outside influences, and
to unfold from the beginning in perfectly regular and normal fashion,
he would probably develop his senses in regular order also. He would
find his physical senses gradually extending their scope until they
responded to all the physical vibrations, of etheric as well as of
denser matter; then in orderly sequence would come sensibility to the
coarser part of the astral plane, and presently the finer part also
would be included, until in due course the faculty of the mental plane
dawned in its turn.

In real life, however, development so regular as this is hardly ever
known, and many a man has occasional flashes of astral consciousness
without any awakening of etheric vision at all. And this irregularity
of development is one of the principal causes of man's extraordinary
liability to error in matters of clairvoyance--a liability from which
there is no escape except by a long course of careful training under a
qualified teacher.

Students of Theosophical literature are well aware that there are such
teachers to be found--that even in this materialistic nineteenth
century the old saying is still true, that "when the pupil is ready,
the Master is ready also," and that "in the hall of learning, when he
is capable of entering there, the disciple will always find his
Master." They are well aware also that only under such guidance can a
man develop his latent powers in safety and with certainty, since they
know how fatally easy it is for the untrained clairvoyant to deceive
himself as to the meaning and value of what he sees, or even
absolutely to distort his vision completely in bringing it down into
his physical consciousness.

It does not follow that even the pupil who is receiving regular
instruction in the use of occult powers will find them unfolding
themselves exactly in the regular order which was suggested above as
probably ideal. His previous progress may not have been such as to
make this for him the easiest or most desirable road; but at any rate
he is in the hands of one who is perfectly competent to be his guide
in spiritual development, and he rests in perfect contentment that the
way along which he is taken will be that which is the best way for

Another great advantage which he gains is that whatever faculties he
may acquire are definitely under his command and can be used fully and
constantly when he needs them for his Theosophical work; whereas in
the case of the untrained man such powers often manifest themselves
only very partially and spasmodically, and appear to come and go, as
it were, at their own sweet will.

It may reasonably be objected that if clairvoyant faculty is, as
stated, a part of the occult development of man, and so a sign of a
certain amount of progress along that line, it seems strange that it
should often be possessed by primitive peoples, or by the ignorant and
uncultured among our own race--persons who are obviously quite
undeveloped, from whatever point of view one regards them. No doubt
this does appear remarkable at first sight but the fact is that the
sensitiveness of the savage or of the coarse and vulgar European
ignoramus is not really at all the same thing as the faculty of his
properly trained brother, nor is it arrived at in the same way.

An exact and detailed explanation of the difference would lead us into
rather recondite technicalities, but perhaps the general idea of the
distinction between the two may be caught from an example taken from
the very lowest plane of clairvoyance, in close contact with the
denser physical. The etheric double in man is in exceedingly close
relation to his nervous system, and any kind of action upon one of
them speedily reacts on the other. Now in the sporadic appearance of
etheric sight in the savage, whether of Central Africa or of Western
Europe, it has been observed that the corresponding nervous
disturbance is almost entirely in the sympathetic system, and that the
whole affair is practically beyond the man's control--is in fact a
sort of massive sensation vaguely belonging to the whole etheric body,
rather than an exact and definite sense-perception communicated
through a specialized organ.

As in later races and amid higher development the strength of the man
is more and more thrown into the evolution of the mental faculties,
this vague sensitiveness usually disappears; but still later, when the
spiritual man begins to unfold, he regains his clairvoyant power. This
time, however, the faculty is a precise and exact one, under the
control of the man's will, and exercised through a definite
sense-organ; and it is noteworthy that any nervous action set up in
sympathy with it is now almost exclusively in the cerebro-spinal

On this subject Mrs. Besant writes:--"The lower forms of psychism are
more frequent in animals and in very unintelligent human beings than
in men and women in whom the intellectual powers are well developed.
They appear to be connected with the sympathetic system, not with the
cerebro-spinal. The large nucleated ganglionic cells in this system
contain a very large proportion of etheric matter, and are hence more
easily affected by the coarser astral vibrations than are the cells in
which the proportion is less. As the cerebro-spinal system develops,
and the brain becomes more highly evolved, the sympathetic system
subsides into a subordinate position, and the sensitiveness to psychic
vibrations is dominated by the stronger and more active vibrations of
the higher nervous system. It is true that at a later stage of
evolution psychic sensitiveness reappears, but it is then developed in
connection with the cerebro-spinal centres, and is brought under the
control of the will. But the hysterical and ill-regulated psychism of
which we see so many lamentable examples is due to the small
development of the brain and the dominance of the sympathetic system."

Occasional flashes of clairvoyance do, however, sometimes come to the
highly cultured and spiritual-minded man, even though he may never
have heard of the possibility of training such a faculty. In his case
such glimpses usually signify that he is approaching that stage in his
evolution when these powers will naturally begin to manifest
themselves, and their appearance should serve as an additional
stimulus to him to strive to maintain that high standard of moral
purity and mental balance without which clairvoyance is a curse and
not a blessing to its possessor.

Between those who are entirely unimpressible and those who are in full
possession of clairvoyant power there are many intermediate stages.
One to which it will be worth while to give a passing glance is the
stage in which a man, though he has no clairvoyant faculty in ordinary
life, yet exhibits it more or less fully under the influence of
mesmerism. This is a case in which the psychic nature is already
sensitive, but the consciousness is not yet capable of functioning in
it amidst the manifold distractions of physical life. It needs to be
set free by the temporary suspension of the outer senses in the
mesmeric trance before it can use the diviner faculties which are but
just beginning to dawn within it. But of course even in the mesmeric
trance there are innumerable degrees of lucidity, from the ordinary
patient who is blankly unintelligent to the man whose power of sight
is fully under the control of the operator, and can be directed
whithersoever he wills, or to the more advanced stage in which, when
the consciousness is once set free, it escapes altogether from the
grasp of the magnetizer, and soars into fields of exalted vision where
it is entirely beyond his reach.

Another step along the same path is that upon which such perfect
suppression of the physical as that which occurs in the hypnotic
trance is not necessary, but the power of supernormal sight, though
still out of reach during waking life, becomes available when the
body is held in the bonds of ordinary sleep. At this stage of
development stood many of the prophets and seers of whom we read, who
were "warned of God in a dream," or communed with beings far higher
than themselves in the silent watches of the night.

Most cultured people of the higher races of the world have this
development to some extent: that is to say, the senses of their astral
bodies are in full working order, and perfectly capable of receiving
impressions from objects and entities of their own plane. But to make
that fact of any use to them down here in the physical body, two
changes are usually necessary; first, that the Ego shall be awakened
to the realities of the astral plane, and induced to emerge from the
chrysalis formed by his own waking thoughts, and look round him to
observe and to learn; and secondly, that the consciousness shall be so
far retained during the return of the Ego into his physical body as to
enable him to impress upon his physical brain the recollection of what
he has seen or learnt.

If the first of these changes has taken place, the second is of little
importance, since the Ego, the true man, will be able to profit by the
information to be obtained upon that plane, even though he may not
have the satisfaction of bringing through any remembrance of it into
his waking life down here.

Students often ask how this clairvoyant faculty will first be
manifested in themselves--how they may know when they have reached
the stage at which its first faint foreshadowings are beginning to be
visible. Cases differ so widely that it is impossible to give to this
question any answer that will be universally applicable.

Some people begin by a plunge, as it were, and under some unusual
stimulus become able just for once to see some striking vision; and
very often in such a case, because the experience does not repeat
itself, the seer comes in time to believe that on that occasion he
must have been the victim of hallucination. Others begin by becoming
intermittently conscious of the brilliant colours and vibrations of
the human aura; yet others find themselves with increasing frequency
seeing and hearing something to which those around them are blind and
deaf; others, again, see faces, landscapes, or coloured clouds
floating before their eyes in the dark before they sink to rest; while
perhaps the commonest experience of all is that of those who begin to
recollect with greater and greater clearness what they have seen and
heard on the other planes during sleep.

Having now to some extent cleared our ground, we may proceed to
consider the various phenomena of clairvoyance.

They differ so widely both in character and in degree that it is not
very easy to decide how they can most satisfactorily be classified. We
might, for example, arrange them according to the kind of sight
employed--whether it were mental, astral, or merely etheric. We might
divide them according to the capacity of the clairvoyant, taking into
consideration whether he was trained or untrained; whether his vision
was regular and under his command, or spasmodic and independent of his
volition; whether he could exercise it only when under mesmeric
influence, or whether that assistance was unnecessary for him; whether
he was able to use his faculty when awake in the physical body, or
whether it was available only when he was temporarily away from that
body in sleep or trance.

All these distinctions are of importance, and we shall have to take
them all into consideration as we go on, but perhaps on the whole the
most useful classification will be one something on the lines of that
adopted by Mr. Sinnett in his Rationale of Mesmerism--a book, by the
way, which all students of clairvoyance ought to read. In dealing with
the phenomena, then, we will arrange them rather according to the
capacity of the sight employed than to the plane upon which it is
exercised, so that we may group instances of clairvoyance under some
such headings as these:

1. Simple clairvoyance--that is to say, a mere opening of sight,
enabling its possessor to see whatever astral or etheric entities
happen to be present around him, but not including the power of
observing either distant places or scenes belonging to any other time
than the present.

2. Clairvoyance in space--the capacity to see scenes or events removed
from the seer in space, and either too far distant for ordinary
observation or concealed by intermediate objects.

3. Clairvoyance in time--that is to say, the capacity to see objects
or events which are removed from the seer in time, or, in other words,
the power of looking into the past or the future.

Next: Simple Clairvoyance: Full

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