Clairvoyance In Time: The Future

Even if, in a dim sort of way, we feel ourselves able to grasp the

idea that the whole of the past may be simultaneously and actively

present in a sufficiently exalted consciousness, we are confronted by

a far greater difficulty when we endeavour to realize how all the

future may also be comprehended in that consciousness. If we could

believe in the Mohammedan doctrine of kismet, or the Calvinistic

theory of predestina
ion, the conception would be easy enough, but

knowing as we do that both these are grotesque distortions of the

truth, we must look round for a more acceptable hypothesis.

There may still be some people who deny the possibility of prevision,

but such denial simply shows their ignorance of the evidence on the

subject. The large number of authenticated cases leaves no room for

doubt as to the fact, but many of them are of such a nature as to

render a reasonable explanation by no means easy to find. It is

evident that the Ego possesses a certain amount of previsional

faculty, and if the events foreseen were always of great importance,

one might suppose that an extraordinary stimulus had enabled him for

that occasion only to make a clear impression of what he saw upon his

lower personality. No doubt that is the explanation of many of the

cases in which death or grave disaster is foreseen, but there are a

large number of instances on record to which it does not seem to

apply, since the events foretold are frequently exceedingly trivial

and unimportant.

A well-known story of second-sight in Scotland will illustrate what I

mean. A man who had no belief in the occult was forewarned by a

Highland seer of the approaching death of a neighbour. The prophecy

was given with considerable wealth of detail, including a full

description of the funeral, with the names of the four pall-bearers

and others who would be present. The auditor seems to have laughed at

the whole story and promptly forgotten it, but the death of his

neighbour at the time foretold recalled the warning to his mind, and

he determined to falsify part of the prediction at any rate by being

one of the pall-bearers himself. He succeeded in getting matters

arranged as he wished, but just as the funeral was about to start he

was called away from his post by some small matter which detained him

only a minute or two. As he came hurrying back he saw with surprise

that the procession had started without him, and that the prediction

had been exactly fulfilled, for the four pall-bearers were those who

had been indicated in the vision.

Now here is a very trifling matter, which could have been of no

possible importance to anybody, definitely foreseen months beforehand;

and although a man makes a determined effort to alter the arrangement

indicated he fails entirely to affect it in the least. Certainly this

looks very much like predestination, even down to the smallest detail,

and it is only when we examine this question from higher planes that

we are able to see our way to escape that theory. Of course, as I said

before about another branch of the subject, a full explanation eludes

us as yet, and obviously must do so until our knowledge is infinitely

greater than it is now; the most that we can hope to do for the

present is to indicate the line along which an explanation may be


There is no doubt whatever that, just as what is happening now is the

result of causes set in motion in the past, so what will happen in the

future will be the result of causes already in operation. Even down

here we can calculate that if certain actions are performed certain

results will follow, but our reckoning is constantly liable to be

disturbed by the interference of factors which we have not been able

to take into account. But if we raise our consciousness to the mental

plane we can see very much farther into the results of our actions.

We can trace, for example, the effect of a casual word, not only upon

the person to whom it was addressed, but through him on many others as

it is passed on in widening circles, until it seems to have affected

the whole country; and one glimpse of such a vision is far more

efficient than any number of moral precepts in impressing upon us the

necessity of extreme circumspection in thought, word, and deed. Not

only can we from that plane see thus fully the result of every action,

but we can also see where and in what way the results of other actions

apparently quite unconnected with it will interfere with and modify

it. In fact, it may be said that the results of all causes at present

in action are clearly visible--that the future, as it would be if no

entirely new causes should arise, lies open before our gaze.

New causes of course do arise, because man's will is free; but in the

case of all ordinary people the use which they will make of their

freedom can be calculated beforehand with considerable accuracy. The

average man has so little real will that he is very much the creature

of circumstances; his action in previous lives places him amid certain

surroundings, and their influence upon him is so very much the most

important factor in his life-story that his future course may be

predicted with almost mathematical certainty. With the developed man

the case is different; for him also the main events of life are

arranged by his past actions, but the way in which he will allow them

to affect him, the methods by which he will deal with them and perhaps

triumph over them--these are all his own, and they cannot be foreseen

even on the mental plane except as probabilities.

Looking down on man's life in this way from above, it seems as though

his free will could be exercised only at certain crises in his career.

He arrives at a point in his life where there are obviously two or

three alternative courses open before him; he is absolutely free to

choose which of them he pleases, and although some one who knew his

nature thoroughly well might feel almost certain what his choice would

be, such knowledge on his friend's part is in no sense a compelling


But when he has chosen, he has to go through with it and take the

consequences; having entered upon a particular path he may, in many

cases, be forced to go on for a very long way before he has any

opportunity to turn aside. His position is somewhat like that of the

driver of a train; when he comes to a junction he may have the points

set either this way or that, and so can pass on to whichever line he

pleases, but when he has passed on to one of them he is compelled to

run on along the line which he has selected until he reaches another

set of points, where again an opportunity of choice is offered to him.

Now, in looking down from the mental plane, these points of new

departure would be clearly visible, and all the results of each choice

would lie open before us, certain to be worked out even to the

smallest detail. The only point which would remain uncertain would be

the all-important one as to which choice the man would make. We

should, in fact, have not one but several futures mapped out before

our eyes, without necessarily being able to determine which of them

would materialize itself into accomplished fact. In most instances we

should see so strong a probability that we should not hesitate to come

to a decision, but the case which I have described is certainly

theoretically possible. Still, even this much knowledge would enable

us to do with safety a good deal of prediction; and it is not

difficult for us to imagine that a far higher power than ours might

always be able to foresee which way every choice would go, and

consequently to prophesy with absolute certainty.

On the buddhic plane, however, no such elaborate process of conscious

calculation is necessary, for, as I said before, in some manner which

down here is totally inexplicable, the past, the present, and the

future, are there all existing simultaneously. One can only accept

this fact, for its cause lies in the faculty of the plane, and the

way in which this higher faculty works is naturally quite

incomprehensible to the physical brain. Yet now and then one may meet

with a hint that seems to bring us a trifle nearer to a dim

possibility of comprehension. One such hint was given by Dr. Oliver

Lodge in his address to the British Association at Cardiff. He said:

"A luminous and helpful idea is that time is but a relative mode of

regarding things; we progress through phenomena at a certain definite

pace, and this subjective advance we interpret in an objective manner,

as if events moved necessarily in this order and at this precise rate.

But that may be only one mode of regarding them. The events may be in

some sense in existence always, both past and future, and it may be we

who are arriving at them, not they which are happening. The analogy of a

traveller in a railway train is useful; if he could never leave the

train nor alter its pace he would probably consider the landscapes as

necessarily successive and be unable to conceive their co-existence....

We perceive, therefore, a possible fourth dimensional aspect about time,

the inexorableness of whose flow may be a natural part or our present

limitations. And if we once grasp the idea that past and future may be

actually existing, we can recognize that they may have a controlling

influence on all present action, and the two together may constitute the

'higher plane' or totality of things after which, as it seems to me, we

are impelled to seek, in connection with the directing of form or

determinism, and the action of living beings consciously directed to a

definite and preconceived end."

Time is not in reality the fourth dimension at all; yet to look at it

for the moment from that point of view is some slight help towards

grasping the ungraspable. Suppose that we hold a wooden cone at right

angles to a sheet of paper, and slowly push it through it point first.

A microbe living on the surface of that sheet of paper, and having no

power of conceiving anything outside of that surface, could not only

never see the cone as a whole, but he could form no sort of conception

of such a body at all. All that he would see would be the sudden

appearance of a tiny circle, which would gradually and mysteriously

grow larger and larger until it vanished from his world as suddenly

and incomprehensibly as it had come into it.

Thus, what were in reality a series of sections of the cone would

appear to him to be successive stages in the life of a circle, and it

would be impossible for him to grasp the idea that these successive

stages could be seen simultaneously. Yet it is, of course, easy enough

for us, looking down upon the transaction from another dimension, to

see that the microbe is simply under a delusion arising from its own

limitations, and that the cone exists as a whole all the while. Our

own delusion as to past, present, and future is possibly not

dissimilar, and the view that is gained of any sequence of events from

the buddhic plane corresponds to the view of the cone as a whole.

Naturally, any attempt to work out this suggestion lands us in a

series of startling paradoxes; but the fact remains a fact,

nevertheless, and the time will come when it will be clear as noonday

to our comprehension.

When the pupil's consciousness is fully developed upon the buddhic

plane, therefore, perfect prevision is possible to him, though he may

not--nay, he certainly will not--be able to bring the whole result of

his sight through fully and in order into this light. Still, a great

deal of clear foresight is obviously within his power whenever he

likes to exercise it; and even when he is not exercising it, frequent

flashes of fore-knowledge come through into his ordinary life, so that

he often has an instantaneous intuition as to how things will turn out

even before their inception.

Short of this perfect prevision we find, as in the previous cases,

that all degrees of this type of clairvoyance exist, from the

occasional vague premonitions which cannot in any true sense be called

sight at all, up to frequent and fairly complete second-sight. The

faculty to which this latter somewhat misleading name has been given

is an extremely interesting one, and would well repay more careful

and systematic study than has ever hitherto been given to it.

It is best known to us as a not infrequent possession of the Scottish

Highlanders, though it is by no means confined to them. Occasional

instances of it have appeared in almost every nation, but it has

always been commonest among mountaineers and men of lonely life. With

us in England it is often spoken of as though it were the exclusive

appanage of the Celtic race, but in reality it has appeared among

similarly situated peoples the world over. It is stated, for example,

to be very common among the Westphalian peasantry.

Sometimes the second-sight consists of a picture clearly foreshowing

some coming event; more frequently, perhaps, the glimpse of the future

is given by some symbolical appearance. It is noteworthy that the

events foreseen are invariably unpleasant ones--death being the

commonest of all; I do not recollect a single instance in which the

second-sight has shown anything which was not of the most gloomy

nature. It has a ghastly symbolism which is all its own--a symbolism

of shrouds and corpse-candles, and other funereal horrors. In some

cases it appears to be to a certain extent dependent on locality, for

it is stated that inhabitants of the Isle of Skye who possess the

faculty often lose it when they leave the island, even though it be

only to cross to the mainland. The gift of such sight is sometimes

hereditary in a family for generations, but this is not an invariable

rule, for it often appears sporadically in one member of a family

otherwise free from its lugubrious influence.

An example in which an accurate vision of a coming event was seen some

months beforehand by second-sight has already been given. Here is

another and perhaps a more striking one, which I give exactly as it

was related to me by one of the actors in the scene.

"We plunged into the jungle, and had walked on for about an hour

without much success, when Cameron, who happened to be next to me,

stopped suddenly, turned pale as death, and, pointing straight before

him, cried in accents of horror:

"'See! see! merciful heaven, look there!'

"'Where? what? what is it?' we all shouted confusedly, as we rushed up

to him and looked round in expectation of encountering a tiger--a

cobra--we hardly knew what, but assuredly something terrible, since it

had been sufficient to cause such evident emotion in our usually

self-contained comrade. But neither tiger nor cobra was

visible--nothing but Cameron pointing with ghastly, haggard face and

starting eyeballs at something we could not see.

"'Cameron! Cameron' cried I, seizing his arm, "'for heaven's sake,

speak! What is the matter?'

"Scarcely were the words out of my mouth when a low, but very peculiar

sound struck on my ear, and Cameron, dropping his pointing hand, said

in a hoarse, strained voice, 'There! you heard it? Thank God it's

over' and fell to the ground insensible.

"There was a momentary confusion while we unfastened his collar, and I

dashed in his face some water which I fortunately had in my flask,

while another tried to pour brandy between his clenched teeth; and

under cover of it I whispered to the man next to me (one of our

greatest sceptics, by the way), 'Beauchamp, did you hear anything?'

"'Why, yes,' he replied, a curious sound, very; a sort of crash or

rattle far away in the distance, yet very distinct; if the thing were

not utterly impossible, I could have sworn it was the rattle of


"'Just my impression,' murmured I; 'but hush! he is recovering.'

"In a minute or two he was able to speak feebly, and began to thank us

and apologize for giving trouble; and soon he sat up, leaning against

a tree, and in a firm, though still low voice said:

"'My dear friends, I feel I owe you an explanation of my extraordinary

behaviour. It is an explanation that I would fain avoid giving; but it

must come some time, and so may as well be given now. You may perhaps

have noticed that when during our voyage you all joined in scoffing at

dreams, portents and visions, I invariably avoided giving any opinion

on the subject. I did so because, while I had no desire to court

ridicule or provoke discussion, I was unable to agree with you,

knowing only too well from my own dread experience that the world

which men agree to call that of the supernatural is just as real

as--nay, perhaps, even far more real than--this world we see about us.

In other words, I, like many of my countrymen, am cursed with the gift

of second-sight--that awful faculty which foretells in vision

calamities that are shortly to occur.

"'Such a vision I had just now, and its exceptional horror moved me as

you have seen. I saw before me a corpse--not that of one who has died

a peaceful natural death, but that of the victim of some terrible

accident; a ghastly, shapeless mass, with a face swollen, crushed,

unrecognizable. I saw this dreadful object placed in a coffin, and the

funeral service performed over it. I saw the burial-ground, I saw the

clergyman: and though I had never seen either before, I can picture

both perfectly in my mind's eye now; I saw you, myself, Beauchamp, all

of us and many more, standing round as mourners; I saw the soldiers

raise their muskets after the service was over; I heard the volley

they fired--and then I knew no more.'

"As he spoke of that volley of musketry I glanced across with a

shudder at Beauchamp, and the look of stony horror on that handsome

sceptic's face was not to be forgotten."

This is only one incident (and by no means the principal one) in a

very remarkable story of psychic experience, but as for the moment we

are concerned merely with the example of second-sight which it gives

us, I need only say that later in the day the party of young soldiers

discovered the body of their commanding officer in the terrible

condition so graphically described by Mr. Cameron. The narrative


"When, on the following evening, we arrived at our destination, and

our melancholy deposition had been taken down by the proper

authorities, Cameron and I went out for a quiet walk, to endeavour

with the assistance of the soothing influence of nature to shake off

something of the gloom which paralyzed our spirits. Suddenly he

clutched my arm, and, pointing through some rude railings, said in a

trembling voice, 'Yes, there it is! that is the burial-ground I saw

yesterday.' And when later on we were introduced to the chaplain of

the post, I noticed, though my friends did not, the irrepressible

shudder with which Cameron took his hand, and I knew that he had

recognized the clergyman of his vision."

As for the occult rationale of all this, I presume Mr. Cameron's

vision was a pure case of second-sight, and if so the fact that the

two men who were evidently nearest to him (certainly one--probably

both--actually touching him) participated in it to the limited extent

of hearing the concluding volley, while the others who were not so

close did not, would show that the intensity with which the vision

impressed itself upon the seer occasioned vibrations in his mind-body

which were communicated to those of the persons in contact with him,

as in ordinary thought-transference. Anyone who wishes to read the

rest of the story will find it in the pages of Lucifer, vol. xx., p.


Scores of examples of similar nature to these might easily be

collected. With regard to the symbolical variety of this sight, it is

commonly stated among those who possess it that if on meeting a living

person they see a phantom shroud wrapped around him, it is a sure

prognostication of his death. The date of the approaching decease is

indicated either by the extent to which the shroud covers the body, or

by the time of day at which the vision is seen; for if it be in the

early morning they say that the man will die during the same day, but

if it be in the evening, then it will be only some time within a year.

Another variant (and a remarkable one) of the symbolic form of

second-sight is that in which the headless apparition of the person

whose death is foretold manifests itself to the seer. An example of

that class is given in Signs before Death as having happened in the

family of Dr. Ferrier, though in that case, if I recollect rightly,

the vision did not occur until the time of the death, or very near it.

Turning from seers who are regularly in possession of a certain

faculty, although its manifestations are only occasionally fully under

their control, we are confronted by a large number of isolated

instances of prevision in the case of people with whom it is not in

any way a regular faculty. Perhaps the majority of these occur in

dreams, although examples of the waking vision are by no means

wanting. Sometimes the prevision refers to an event of distinct

importance to the seer, and so justifies the action of the Ego in

taking the trouble to impress it. In other cases, the event is one

which is of no apparent importance, or is not in any way connected

with the man to whom the vision comes. Sometimes it is clear that the

intention of the Ego (or the communicating entity, whatever it may be)

is to warn the lower self of the approach of some calamity, either in

order that it may be prevented or, if that be not possible, that the

shock may be minimized by preparation.

The event most frequently thus foreshadowed is, perhaps not

unnaturally, death--sometimes the death of the seer himself, sometimes

that of one dear to him. This type of prevision is so common in the

literature of the subject, and its object is so obvious, that we need

hardly cite examples of it; but one or two instances in which the

prophetic sight, though clearly useful, was yet of a less sombre

character, will prove not uninteresting to the reader. The following

is culled from that storehouse of the student of the uncanny, Mrs.

Crowe's Night Side of Nature, p. 72.

"A few years ago Dr. Watson, now residing at Glasgow, dreamt that he

received a summons to attend a patient at a place some miles from

where he was living; that he started on horseback, and that as he was

crossing a moor he saw a bull making furiously at him, whose horns he

only escaped by taking refuge on a spot inaccessible to the animal,

where he waited a long time till some people, observing his situation,

came to his assistance and released him.

"Whilst at breakfast on the following morning the summons came, and

smiling at the odd coincidence (as he thought it), he started on

horseback. He was quite ignorant of the road he had to go, but by and

by he arrived at the moor, which he recognised, and presently the bull

appeared, coming full tilt towards him. But his dream had shown him

the place of refuge, for which he instantly made, and there he spent

three or four hours, besieged by the animal, till the country people

set him free. Dr. Watson declares that but for the dream he should not

have known in what direction to run for safety."

Another case, in which a much longer interval separated the warning

and its fulfilment, is given by Dr. F. G. Lee, in Glimpses of the

Supernatural, vol. i., p. 240.

"Mrs. Hannah Green, the housekeeper of a country family in

Oxfordshire, dreamt one night that she had been left alone in the

house upon a Sunday evening, and that hearing a knock at the door of

the chief entrance she went to it and there found an ill-looking tramp

armed with a bludgeon, who insisted on forcing himself into the house.

She thought that she struggled for some time to prevent him so doing,

but quite ineffectually, and that, being struck down by him and

rendered insensible, he thereupon gained ingress to the mansion. On

this she awoke.

"As nothing happened for a considerable period the circumstance of the

dream was soon forgotten, and, as she herself asserts, had altogether

passed away from her mind. However, seven years afterwards this same

housekeeper was left with two other servants to take charge of an

isolated mansion at Kensington (subsequently the town residence of the

family), when on a certain Sunday evening, her fellow-servants having

gone out and left her alone, she was suddenly startled by a loud knock

at the front door.

"All of a sudden the remembrance of her former dream returned to her

with singular vividness and remarkable force, and she felt her lonely

isolation greatly. Accordingly, having at once lighted a lamp on the

hall table--during which act the loud knock was repeated with

vigour--she took the precaution to go up to a landing on the stair and

throw up the window; and there to her intense terror she saw in the

flesh the very man whom years previously she had seen in her dream,

armed with the bludgeon and demanding an entrance.

"With great presence of mind she went down to the chief entrance, made

that and other doors and windows more secure, and then rang the

various bells of the house violently, and placed lights in the upper

rooms. It was concluded that by these acts the intruder was scared


Evidently in this case also the dream was of practical use, as without

it the worthy housekeeper would without doubt from sheer force of

habit have opened the door in the ordinary way in answer to the knock.

It is not, however, only in dream that the Ego impresses his lower

self with what he thinks it well for it to know. Many instances

showing this might be taken from the books, but instead of quoting

from them I will give a case related only a few weeks ago by a lady of

my acquaintance--a case which, although not surrounded with any

romantic incident, has at least the merit of being new.

My friend, then, has two quite young children, and a little while ago

the elder of them caught (as was supposed) a bad cold, and suffered

for some days from a complete stoppage in the upper part of the nose.

The mother thought little of this, expecting it to pass off, until one

day she suddenly saw before her in the air what she describes as a

picture of a room, in the centre of which was a table on which her

child was lying insensible or dead, with some people bending over her.

The minutest details of the scene were clear to her, and she

particularly noticed that the child wore a white night-dress, whereas

she knew that all garments of that description possessed by her little

daughter happened to be pink.

This vision impressed her considerably, and suggested to her for the

first time that the child might be suffering from something more

serious than a cold, so she carried her off to a hospital for

examination. The surgeon who attended to her discovered the presence

of a dangerous growth in the nose, which he pronounced must be

removed. A few days later the child was taken to the hospital for the

operation, and was put to bed. When the mother arrived at the hospital

she found she had forgotten to bring one of the child's night-dresses,

and so the nurses had to supply one, which was white. In this white

dress the operation was performed on the girl the next day, in the

room that her mother saw in her vision, every circumstance being

exactly reproduced.

In all these cases the prevision achieved its result, but the books

are full of stories of warnings neglected or scouted, and of the

disaster that consequently followed. In some cases the information is

given to someone who has practically no power to interfere in the

matter, as in the historic instance when John Williams, a Cornish

mine-manager, foresaw in the minutest detail, eight or nine days

before it took place, the assassination of Mr. Spencer Perceval, the

then Chancellor of the Exchequer, in the lobby of the House of

Commons. Even in this case, however, it is just possible that

something might have been done, for we read that Mr. Williams was so

much impressed that he consulted his friends as to whether he ought

not to go up to London to warn Mr. Perceval. Unfortunately they

dissuaded him, and the assassination took place. It does not seem very

probable that, even if he had gone up to town and related his story,

much attention would have been paid to him, still there is just the

possibility that some precautions might have been taken which would

have prevented the murder.

There is little to show us what particular action on higher planes led

to this curious prophetic vision. The parties were entirely unknown to

one another, so that it was not caused by any close sympathy between

them. If it was an attempt made by some helper to avert the threatened

doom, it seems strange that no one who was sufficiently impressible

could be found nearer than Cornwall. Perhaps Mr. Williams, when on the

astral plane during sleep, somehow came across this reflection of the

future, and being naturally horrified thereby, passed it on to his

lower mind in the hope that somehow something might be done to

prevent it; but it is impossible to diagnose the case with certainty

without examining the akashic records to see what actually took place.

A typical instance of the absolutely purposeless foresight is that

related by Mr. Stead, in his Real Ghost Stories (p. 83), of his

friend Miss Freer, commonly known as Miss X. When staying at a country

house this lady, being wide awake and fully conscious, once saw a

dogcart drawn by a white horse standing at the hall door, with two

strangers in it, one of whom got out of the cart and stood playing

with a terrier. She noticed that he was wearing an ulster, and also

particularly observed the fresh wheel-marks made by the cart on the

gravel. Nevertheless there was no cart there at the time; but half an

hour later two strangers did drive up in such an equipage, and every

detail of the lady's vision was accurately fulfilled. Mr. Stead goes

on to cite another instance of equally purposeless prevision where

seven years separated the dream (for in this case it was a dream) and

its fulfilment.

All these instances (and they are merely random selections from many

hundreds) show that a certain amount of prevision is undoubtedly

possible to the Ego, and such cases would evidently be much more

frequent if it were not for the exceeding density and lack of response

in the lower vehicles of the majority of what we call civilized

mankind--qualities chiefly attributable to the gross practical

materialism of the present age. I am not thinking of any profession of

materialistic belief as common, but of the fact that in all practical

affairs of daily life nearly everyone is guided solely by

considerations of worldly interest in some shape or other.

In many cases the Ego himself may be an undeveloped one, and his

prevision consequently very vague; in others he himself may see

clearly, but may find his lower vehicles so unimpressible that all he

can succeed in getting through into his physical brain may be an

indefinite presage of coming disaster. Again, there are cases in which

a premonition is not the work of the Ego at all, but of some outside

entity, who for some reason takes a friendly interest in the person to

whom the feeling comes. In the work which I quoted above, Mr. Stead

tells us of the certainty which he felt many months beforehand that be

would be left in charge of the Pall Mall Gazette though from an

ordinary point of view nothing seemed less probable. Whether that

fore-knowledge was the result of an impression made by his own Ego or

of a friendly hint from someone else it is impossible to say without

definite investigation, but his confidence in it was fully justified.

There is one more variety of clairvoyance in time which ought not to

be left without mention. It is a comparatively rare one, but there

are enough examples on record to claim our attention, though

unfortunately the particulars given do not usually include those which

we should require in order to be able to diagnose it with certainty. I

refer to the cases in which spectral armies or phantom flocks of

animals have been seen. In The Night Side of Nature (p. 462 et

seq.) we have accounts of several such visions. We are there told how

at Havarah Park, near Ripley, a body of soldiers in white uniform,

amounting to several hundreds, was seen by reputable people to go

through various evolutions and then vanish; and how some years earlier

a similar visionary army was seen in the neighbourhood of Inverness by

a respectable farmer and his son.

In this case also the number of troops was very great, and the

spectators had not the slightest doubt at first that they were

substantial forms of flesh and blood. They counted at least sixteen

pairs of columns, and had abundance of time to observe every

particular. The front ranks marched seven abreast, and were

accompanied by a good many women and children, who were carrying tin

cans and other implements of cookery. The men were clothed in red, and

their arms shone brightly in the sun. In the midst of them was an

animal, a deer or a horse, they could not distinguish which, that they

were driving furiously forward with their bayonets.

The younger of the two men observed to the other that every now and

then the rear ranks were obliged to run to overtake the van; and the

elder one, who had been a soldier, remarked that that was always the

case, and recommended him if he ever served to try to march in the

front. There was only one mounted officer; he rode a grey dragoon

horse, and wore a gold-laced hat and blue Hussar cloak, with wide open

sleeves lined with red. The two spectators observed him so

particularly that they said afterwards they should recognize him

anywhere. They were, however, afraid of being ill-treated or forced to

go along with the troops, whom they concluded to have come from

Ireland, and landed at Kyntyre; and whilst they were climbing over a

dyke to get out of their way, the whole thing vanished.

A phenomenon of the same sort was observed in the earlier part of this

century at Paderborn in Westphalia, and seen by at least thirty

people; but as, some years later, a review of twenty thousand men was

held on the very same spot, it was concluded that the vision must have

been some sort of second-sight--a faculty not uncommon in the


Such spectral hosts, however, are sometimes seen where an army of

ordinary men could by no possibility have marched, either before or

after. One of the most remarkable accounts of such apparitions is

given by Miss Harriet Martineau, in her description of The English

Lakes. She writes as follows:--

"This Souter or Soutra Fell is the mountain on which ghosts appeared

in myriads, at intervals during ten years of the last century,

presenting the same appearances to twenty-six chosen witnesses, and to

all the inhabitants of all the cottages within view of the mountain,

and for a space of two hours and a half at one time--the spectral show

being closed by darkness! The mountain, be it remembered, is full of

precipices, which defy all marching of bodies of men; and the north

and west sides present a sheer perpendicular of 900 feet.

"On Midsummer Eve, 1735, a farm servant of Mr. Lancaster, half a mile

from the mountain, saw the eastern side of its summit covered with

troops, which pursued their onward march for an hour. They came, in

distinct bodies, from an eminence on the north end, and disappeared in

a niche in the summit. When the poor fellow told his tale, he was

insulted on all hands, as original observers usually are when they see

anything wonderful. Two years after, also on a Midsummer Eve, Mr.

Lancaster saw some men there, apparently following their horses, as if

they had returned from hunting. He thought nothing of this; but he

happened to look up again ten minutes after, and saw the figures, now

mounted, and followed by an interminable array of troops, five

abreast, marching from the eminence and over the cleft as before. All

the family saw this, and the manoeuvres of the force, as each

company was kept in order by a mounted officer, who galloped this way

and that. As the shades of twilight came on, the discipline appeared

to relax, and the troops intermingled, and rode at unequal paces, till

all was lost in darkness. Now of course all the Lancasters were

insulted, as their servant had been; but their justification was not

long delayed.

"On the Midsummer Eve of the fearful 1745, twenty-six persons,

expressly summoned by the family, saw all that had been seen before,

and more. Carriages were now interspersed with the troops; and

everybody knew that no carriages had been, or could be, on the summit

of Souter Fell. The multitude was beyond imagination; for the troops

filled a space of half a mile, and marched quickly till night hid

them--still marching. There was nothing vaporous or indistinct about

the appearance of these spectres. So real did they seem, that some of

the people went up, the next morning, to look for the hoof-marks of

the horses; and awful it was to them to find not one foot-print on

heather or grass. The witnesses attested the whole story on oath

before a magistrate; and fearful were the expectations held by the

whole country-side about the coming events of the Scotch rebellion.

"It now comes out that two other persons had seen something of the

sort in the interval--viz., in 1743--but had concealed it, to escape

the insults to which their neighbours were subjected. Mr. Wren, of

Wilton Hall, and his farm servant, saw, one summer evening, a man and

a dog on the mountain, pursuing some horses along a place so steep

that a horse could hardly by any possibility keep a footing on it.

Their speed was prodigious, and their disappearance at the south end

of the fell so rapid, that Mr. Wren and the servant went up, the next

morning, to find the body of the man who must have been killed. Of

man, horse, or dog, they found not a trace and they came down and held

their tongues. When they did speak, they fared not much better for

having twenty-six sworn comrades in their disgrace.

"As for the explanation, the editor of the Lonsdale Magazine

declared (vol. ii., p. 313) that it was discovered that on the

Midsummer Eve of 1745 the rebels were 'exercising on the western coast

of Scotland, whose movements had been reflected by some transparent

vapour, similar to the Fata Morgana.' This is not much in the way of

explanation; but it is, as far as we know, all that can be had at

present. These facts, however, brought out a good many more; as the

spectral march of the same kind seen in Leicestershire in 1707, and

the tradition of the tramp of armies over Helvellyn, on the eve of the

battle of Marston Moor."

Other cases are cited in which flocks of spectral sheep have been seen

on certain roads, and there are of course various German stories of

phantom cavalcades of hunters and robbers.

Now in these cases, as so often happens in the investigation of occult

phenomena, there are several possible causes, any one of which would

be quite adequate to the production of the observed occurrences, but

in the absence of fuller information it is hardly feasible to do more

than guess as to which of these possible causes were in operation in

any particular instance.

The explanation usually suggested (whenever the whole story is not

ridiculed as a falsehood) is that what is seen is a reflection by

mirage of the movements of a real body of troops, taking place at a

considerable distance. I have myself seen the ordinary mirage on

several occasions, and know something therefore of its wonderful

powers of deception; but it seems to me that we should need some

entirely new variety of mirage, quite different from that at present

known to science, to account for these tales of phantom armies, some

of which pass the spectator within a few yards.

First of all, they may be, as apparently in the Westphalian case above

mentioned, simply instances of prevision on a gigantic scale--by whom

arranged, and for what purpose, it is not easy to divine. Again, they

may often belong to the past instead of the future, and be in fact the

reflection of scenes from the akashic records--though here again the

reason and method of such reflection is not obvious.

There are plenty of tribes of nature-spirits perfectly capable, if for

any reason they wished to do so, of producing such appearances by

their wonderful power of glamour (see Theosophical Manual, No. V.,

p. 60), and such action would be quite in keeping with their delight

in mystifying and impressing human beings. Or it may even sometimes be

kindly intended by them as a warning to their friends of events that

they know to be about to take place. It seems as though some

explanation along these lines would be the most reasonable method of

accounting for the extraordinary series of phenomena described by Miss

Martineau--that is, if the stories told to her can be relied upon.

Another possibility is that in some cases what have been taken for

soldiers were simply the nature-spirits themselves going through some

of the ordered evolutions in which they take so much delight, though

it must be admitted that these are rarely of a character which could

be mistaken for military manoeuvres except by the most ignorant.

The flocks of animals are probably in most instances mere records, but

there are cases where they, like the "wild huntsmen" of German story,

belong to an entirely different class of phenomena, which is

altogether outside of our present subject. Students of the occult

will be familiar with the fact that the circumstances surrounding any

scene of intense terror or passion, such as an exceptionally horrible

murder, are liable to be occasionally reproduced in a form which it

needs a very slight development of psychic faculty to be able to see

and it has sometimes happened that various animals formed part of such

surroundings, and consequently they also are periodically reproduced

by the action of the guilty conscience of the murderer (see Manual

V., p. 83).

Probably whatever foundation of fact underlies the various stories of

spectral horsemen and hunting-troops may generally be referred to this

category. This is also the explanation, evidently, of some of the

visions of ghostly armies, such as that remarkable re-enactment of the

battle of Edgehill which seems to have taken place at intervals for

some months after the date of the real struggle, as testified by a

justice of the peace, a clergyman, and other eye-witnesses, in a

curious contemporary pamphlet entitled Prodigious Noises of War and

Battle, at Edgehill, near Keinton, in Northamptonshire. According to

the pamphlet this case was investigated at the time by some officers

of the army, who clearly recognized many of the phantom figures that

they saw. This looks decidedly like an instance of the terrible power

of man's unrestrained passions to reproduce themselves, and to cause

in some strange way a kind of materialization of their record.

In some cases it is clear that the flocks of animals seen have been

simply hordes of unclean artificial elementals taking that form in

order to feed upon the loathsome emanations of peculiarly horrible

places, such as would be the site of a gallows. An instance of this

kind is furnished by the celebrated "Gyb Ghosts," or ghosts of the

gibbet, described in More Glimpses of the World Unseen, p. 109, as

being repeatedly seen in the form of herds of mis-shapen swine-like

creatures, rushing, rooting and fighting night after night on the site

of that foul monument of crime. But these belong to the subject of

apparitions rather than to that of clairvoyance.