Mahatma C.W. Leadbeater

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The Hidden Side of Things


C. W. Leadbeater



THIS book has been in contemplation, and even in process of construction, for the last ten or twelve years, but only now has it been found possible to publish it. It has lost nothing by the delay, for a student of the occult never ceases to learn, and I know a good deal more in various ways now than I did twelve years ago, even though I see still more clearly than ever what an infinity of further knowledge stretches before us for our acquiring.

Much of what is written here has appeared in the form of articles in The Theosophist and elsewhere ; but all has been revised, and considerable additions have been made. I trust that it may help some brothers to realise the importance of that far larger part of life which is beyond our physical sight -- to understand that, as the Lord Buddha Himself has taught us:

The unseen things are more.









A Wider Outlook. The Fourth Dimension. The Higher World.

The Purpose of Life 






Radiations. The Deity of the Solar System. Different Types of Matter.

The Living Centres. Their Influence. Liberty of Action.



The Heat of the Sun. The Willow-Leaves. Vitality. The Vitality Globule.

The Absorption of Vitality. Vitality and Health. Vitality not Magnetism



The Weather. Rocks. Trees. The Seven Types. Animals. Human Beings. Travel



An Evolution Apart. Lines of Evolution. Overlapping. Fairies. National Types.

On a Sacred Mountain in Ireland. Fairy Life and Death. Their Pleasures. The

Romances of Fairyland. Their Attitude towards Man. Glamour. Instances of

Friendship. Water-Spirits. Freshwater Fairies. Sylphs. Their Amusements.

An Abnormal Development. The Advantages of Studying Them



Our Great Cathedrals. Temples. Sites and Relics. Ruins. Modern Cities. Public

Buildings. Cemeteries. Universities and Schools. Libraries, Museums and

Galleries. The Stock-yards of Chicago. Special Places. Sacred Mountains. Sacred




The Hierarchy. The Three Paths. Christian Magic. The Mass. Ordination. The

Anglican Church. The Music. The Thought-Forms. The Effect of Devotion. Holy

Water. Baptism. Union is Strength. Consecration. The Bells. Incense. Services

for the Dead. Other Religions. The Orders of the Clergy



Sound, Colour and Form. Religious Music. Singing. Military Music. Sounds

in Nature. In Domestic Life. Noises



Race Prejudice. Popular Prejudice. Political Prejudice. Government. Religious

Prejudice. Class Prejudice. Public Standards. Caste Prejudice. The Duty of

Freedom. Business Methods. The Results of Deceit. Prejudice against Persons.

The Influence of Friends. Popular Superstitions. The Fear of Gossip. A Better




A Funeral. The Disposal of the Dead Body. A Surgical Operation. A

Lecture. A Political Meeting. Crowds. A Séance. A Religious Revival. A

Wave of Patriotism. War Catastrophes



Sensitive People. A Remarkable Case. The Vision Investigated. Writing a Book




Protective Shells. The Etheric Shell. Shields. A Warning. The Astral Shell.

The Mental Shell. The Best Use of a Shell. A Beautiful Story. The Better Way





Food. Intoxicating Liquors. Flesh-Eating. Smoking. Drugs. Cleanliness.

Occult Hygiene. Physical Exercise. Reading and Study. System and

Thoroughness. Novel and Newspaper-Reading. Speech. Meditation



Houses. Streets. Pictures. Curiosities. Books. Furnishing. Jewellery. Talismans.

Things We Carry About. Money. Clothing



Thought-forms. Moods. Recurrent Thoughts. Falling in Love. Unset Blossom.

Occultism and Marriage. Changes in Consciousness



Children's Games. Sport. Fishing. Horse. Racing. Gambling. The Theatre






The Interrelation of Men. The Duty of Happiness Peace



The Realm of Thought. The Effects of Thought. The Thought-Wave. The

Thought-Form. What We can do by Thought. The Responsibility of Thought



Work for the Poor. The Force of the Master. The Manufacture of Talismans.

Varieties of Talismans. Demagnetisation. Do Little Things Well. Writing a

Letter. Work during Sleep



Church Hymns and Rituals. Congregations. Monasteries. Effect upon the

Dead. Saving Souls. People who Dislike Ceremonies. Theosophical Meetings



The Duty of Parents. The Plasticity of Childhood. The Influence of Parents.

The Aura of a Child. Carelessness of Parents. The Necessity for Love.

Religious Training. Physical Training



Domestic Animals. Birds. Plants. Nature-Spirits. Inanimate Surroundings. A

Ship. Machines. Unlucky Ships. Stone used in Building. Sea-Sickness





A Summary. The Future








1.              THE term ` occultism' is one which has been much misunderstood. In the mind of the ignorant it was, even recently, synonymous with magic, and its students were supposed to be practitioners of the black art, veiled in flowing robes of scarlet covered with cabalistic signs, sitting amidst uncanny surroundings with a black cat as a familiar, compounding unholy decoctions by the aid of satanic evocations.

2.              Even now, and among those whom education has raised above such superstition as this, there still remains a good deal of misapprehension. For them its derivation from the Latin word occultus ought to explain at once that it is the science of the hidden; but they often regard it contemptuously as nonsensical and unpractical, as connected with dreams and fortune-telling, with hysteria and necromancy, with the search for the elixir of life and the philosopher' s stone. Students, who should know better, perpetually speak as though the hidden side of things were intentionally concealed, as though knowledge with regard to it ought to be in the hands of all men, but was being deliberately withheld by the caprice or selfishness of a few; whereas the fact is that nothing is or can be hidden from us except by our own limitations, and that for every man as he evolves the world grows wider and wider, because he is able to see more and more of its grandeur and its loveliness.

3.              As an objection against this statement may be cited the well-known fact that, at each of the great Initiations which mark the advance of the neophyte along the path of the higher progress, a definite new block of knowledge is given to him. That is quite true, but the knowledge can be given only because the recipient has evolved to the point at which he can grasp it. It is no more being withheld from ordinary humanity than the knowledge of conic sections is being withheld from the child who is still struggling with the multiplication-table. When that child reaches the level at which he can comprehend quadratic equations, the teacher is ready to explain to him the rules which govern them. In exactly the same way, when a man has qualified himself for the reception of the information given at a certain Initiation, he is forthwith initiated. But the only way to attain the capacity to imbibe that higher knowledge is to begin by trying to understand our present conditions, and to order our lives intelligently in view of the facts which we find.

4.              Occultism, then, is the study of the hidden side of nature; or rather, it is the study of the whole of nature, instead of only that small part of it which comes under the investigation of modern science. At the present stage of our development, by far the greater part of nature is entirely unknown to the majority of mankind, because they have as yet unfolded only a minute proportion of the faculties which they possess. The ordinary man, therefore, is basing his philosophy (so far as he has any) upon entirely inadequate grounds; his actions are moulded more or less in accordance with the few laws of nature which he knows, and consequently both his theory of life and his daily practice are necessarily inaccurate. The occultist adopts a far more comprehensive view; he takes into account those forces of the higher worlds whose action is hidden from the materialist, and so he moulds his life in obedience to the entire code of Nature' s laws, instead of only by occasional reference to a minute fragment of it.

5.              It is difficult for the man who knows nothing of the occult to realise how great, how serious and how all-pervading are his own limitations. The only way in which we can adequately symbolise them is to suppose some form of consciousness still more limited than our own, and to think in what directions it would differ from ours. Suppose it were possible that a consciousness could exist capable of appreciating only solid matter-- the liquid and gaseous forms of matter being to it as entirely non-existent as are the etheric and astral and mental forms to the ordinary man. We can readily see how for such a consciousness any adequate conception of the world in which we live would be impossible. Solid matter, which alone could be perceived by it, would constantly be found to be undergoing serious modifications, about which no rational theory could be formed.

6.              For example, whenever a shower of rain took place, the solid matter of the earth would undergo change; it would in many cases become both softer and heavier when charged with moisture, but the reason of such a change would necessarily be wholly incomprehensible to the consciousness which we are supposing. The wind might lift clouds of sand and transfer them from one place to another; but such motion of solid matter would be entirely inexplicable to one who had no conception of the existence of the air. Without considering more examples of what is already so obvious, we see clearly how hopelessly inadequate would be such an idea of the world as would be attainable by this consciousness limited to solid matter. What we do not realise so readily, however, is that our present consciousness falls just as far short of that of the developed man as this supposed consciousness would fall short of that which we now possess.

7.              Theosophical students are at least theoretically acquainted with the idea that to everything there is a hidden side; and they also know that in the great majority of cases this unseen side is of far greater importance than that which is visible to the physical eye.

8.              To put the same idea from another point of view, the senses, by means of which we obtain all our information about external objects, are as yet imperfectly developed; therefore the information obtained is partial. What we see in the world about us is by no means all that there is to see, and a man who will take the trouble to cultivate his senses will find that, in proportion as he succeeds, life will become fuller and richer for him. For the lover of nature, of art, of music, a vast field of incredibly intensified and exalted pleasure lies close at hand, if he will fit himself to enter upon it. Above all, for the lover of his fellow-man there is the possibility of far more intimate comprehension and therefore far wider usefulness.

9.              We are only halfway up the ladder of evolution at present, and so our senses are only half-evolved. But it is possible for us to hurry up that ladder-- possible, by hard work, to make our senses now what all men' s senses will be in the distant future. The man who has succeeded in doing this is often called a seer or a clairvoyant.

10.           A fine word that-- clairvoyant. It means ` one who sees clearly' ; but it has been horribly misused and degraded, so that people associate it with all sorts of trickery and imposture-- with gypsies who for sixpence will tell a maid-servant what is the colour of the hair of the duke who is coming to marry her, or with establishments in Bond Street where for a guinea fee the veil of the future is supposed to be lifted for more aristocratic clients.

11.           All this is irregular and unscientific; in many cases it is mere charlatanry and bare-faced robbery. But not always; to foresee the future up to a certain point is a possibility; it can be done, and it has been done, scores of times; and some of these irregular practitioners unquestionably do at times possess flashes of higher vision, though usually they cannot depend upon having them when they want them.

12.           But behind all this vagueness there is a bed-rock of fact-- something which can be approached rationally and studied scientifically. It is as the result of many years of such study and experiment that I state emphatically what I have written above-- that it is possible for men to develop their senses until they can see much more of this wonderful and beautiful world in which we live than is ever suspected by the untrained average man, who lives contentedly in the midst of Cimmerean darkness and calls it light.

13.           Two thousand and five hundred years ago the greatest of Indian teachers, Gautama the BUDDHA, said to His disciples: ` Do not complain and cry and pray, but open your eyes and see. The truth is all about you, if you will only take the bandage from your eyes and look; and it is so wonderful, so beautiful, so far beyond anything that men have ever dreamt of or prayed for, and it is for ever and for ever.'

14.           He assuredly meant far more than this of which I am writing now, but this is a step on the way towards that glorious goal of perfect realisation. If it does not yet tell us quite all the truth, at any rate it gives us a good deal of it. It removes for us a host of common misconceptions, and clears up for us many points which are considered as mysteries or problems by those who are as yet uninstructed in this lore. It shows that all these things were mysteries and problems to us only because heretofore we saw so small a part of the facts, because we were looking at the various matters from below, and as isolated and unconnected fragments, instead of rising above them to a standpoint whence they are comprehensible as parts of a mighty whole. It settles in a moment many questions which have been much disputed-- such, for example, as that of the continued existence of man after death. It explains many of the strange things which the Churches tell us; it dispels our ignorance and removes our fear of the unknown by supplying us with a rational and orderly scheme.

15.           Besides all this, it opens up a new world to us in regard to our every-day life-- a new world which is yet a part of the old. It shows us that, as I began by saying, there is a hidden side to everything, and that our most ordinary actions often produce results of which without this study we should never have known. By it we understand the rationale of what is commonly called telepathy, for we see that just as there are waves of heat or light or electricity, so there are waves produced by thought, though they are in a finer type of matter than the others, and therefore not perceptible to our physical senses. By studying these vibrations we see how thought acts, and we learn that it is a tremendous power for good or for ill-- a power which we are all of us unconsciously wielding to some extent-- which we can use a hundredfold more effectively when we comprehend its workings. Further investigation reveals to us the method of formation of what are called ` thought-forms,' and indicates how these can be usefully employed both for ourselves and for others in a dozen different ways.

16.           The occultist studies carefully all these unseen effects, and consequently knows much more fully than other men the result of what he is doing. He has more information about life than others have, and he exercises his common-sense by modifying his life in accordance with what he knows. In many ways we live differently now from our forefathers in mediaeval times, because we know more than they did. We have discovered certain laws of hygiene; wise men live according to that knowledge, and therefore the average length of life is decidedly greater now than it was in the Middle Ages. There are still some who are foolish or ignorant, who either do not know the laws of health or are careless about keeping them; they think that because disease-germs are invisible to them, they are therefore of no importance; they don't believe in new ideas. Those are the people who suffer first when an epidemic disease arrives, or some unusual strain is put upon the community. They suffer unnecessarily, because they are behind the times. But they injure not only themselves by their neglect; the conditions caused by their ignorance or carelessness often bring infection into a district which might otherwise be free from it.

17.           The matter of which I am writing is precisely the same thing at a different level. The microscope revealed disease-germs; the intelligent man profited by the discovery, and rearranged his life, while the unintelligent man paid no attention, but went on as before. Clairvoyance reveals thought-force and many other previously unsuspected powers; once more the intelligent man profits by this discovery, and rearranges his life accordingly. Once more also the unintelligent man takes no heed of the new discoveries; once more he thinks that what he cannot see can have no importance for him; once more he continues to suffer quite unnecessarily, because he is behind the times.

18.           Not only does he often suffer positive pain, but he also misses so much of the pleasure of life. To painting, to music, to poetry, to literature, to religious ceremonies, to the beauties of nature there is always a hidden side-- a fulness, a completeness beyond the mere physical; and the man who can see or sense this has at his command a wealth of enjoyment far beyond the comprehension of the man who passes through it all with unopened perceptions.

19.           The perceptions exist in every human being, though as yet undeveloped in most. To unfold them means generally a good deal of time and hard work, but it is exceedingly well worth while. Only let no man undertake the effort unless his motives are absolutely pure and unselfish, for he who seeks wider faculty for any but the most exalted purposes will bring upon himself a curse and not a blessing.

20.           But the man of affairs, who has no time to spare for a sustained effort to evolve nascent powers within himself, is not thereby debarred from sharing in some at least of the benefits derived from occult study, any more than the man who possesses no microscope is thereby prevented from living hygienically. The latter has not seen the disease-germs, but from the testimony of the specialist he knows that they exist, and he knows how to guard himself from them. Just in the same way a man who has as yet no dawning of clairvoyant vision may study the writings of those who have gained it, and in this way profit by the results of their labour. True, he cannot yet see all the glory and the beauty which are hidden from us by the imperfection of our senses; but he can readily learn how to avoid the unseen evil, and how to set in motion the unseen forces of good. So, long before he actually sees them, he can conclusively prove to himself their existence, just as the man who drives an electric motor proves to himself the existence of electricity, though he has never seen it and does not in the least know what it is.

21.           We must try to understand as much as we can of the world in which we live. We must not fall behind in the march of evolution, we must not let ourselves be anachronisms, for lack of interest in these new discoveries, which yet are only the presentation from a new point of view of the most archaic wisdom. “Knowledge is power” in this case as in every other; in this case, as in every other, to secure the best results, the glorious trinity of power, wisdom and love must ever go hand in hand.

22.           There is a difference, however, between theoretical acquaintance and actual realisation; and I have thought that it might help students somewhat towards the grasp of the realities to have a description of the unseen side of some of the simple transactions of every day life as they appear to clairvoyant vision-- to one, let us say, who has developed within himself the power of perception through the astral, mental and causal bodies. Their appearance as seen by means of the intuitional vehicle is infinitely grander and more effective still, but so entirely inexpressible that it seems useless to say anything about it; for on that level all experience is within the man instead of without, and the glory and the beauty of it is no longer something which he watches with interest, but something which he feels in his inmost heart, because it is part of himself.

23.           The object of this book is to give some hints as to the inner side of the world as a whole and of our daily life. We shall consider this latter in three divisions, which will resemble the conjugations of our youthful days in being passive, middle and active respectively-- how we are influenced, how we influence ourselves, and how we influence others; and we shall conclude by observing a few of the results which must inevitably flow from a wider diffusion of this knowledge as to the realities of existence.

24.           CHAPTER II

25.           THE WORLD AS A WHOLE

26.           A WIDER OUTLOOK

27.           WHEN we look upon the world around us, we cannot hide from ourselves the existence of a vast amount of sorrow and suffering. True, much of it is obviously the fault of the sufferers, and might easily be avoided by the exercise of a little self-control and common-sense; but there is also much which is not immediately self-induced, but undoubtedly comes from without. It often seems as though evil triumphs, as though justice fails in the midst of the storm and stress of the roaring confusion of life, and because of this many despair of the ultimate result, and doubt whether there is in truth any plan of definite progress behind all this bewildering chaos.

28.           It is all a question of the point of view; the man who is himself in the thick of the fight cannot judge of the plan of the general or the progress of the conflict. To understand the battle as a whole, one must withdraw from the tumult and look down upon the field from above. In exactly the same way, to comprehend the plan of the battle of life we must withdraw ourselves from it for the time, and in thought look down upon it from above-- from the point of view not of the body which perishes but of the soul which lives for ever. We must take into account not only the small part of life which our physical eyes can see, but the vast totality of which at present so much is invisible to us.

29.           Until that has been done we are in the position of a man looking from beneath at the under side of some huge piece of elaborate tapestry which is in process of being woven. The whole thing is to us but a confused medley of varied colour, of ragged hanging ends, without order or beauty, and we are unable to conceive what all this mad clatter of machinery can be doing; but when through our knowledge of the hidden side of nature we are able to look down from above, the pattern begins to unfold itself before our eyes, and the apparent chaos shows itself as orderly progress.

30.           A more forcible analogy may be obtained by contemplating in imagination the view of life which would present itself to some tiny microbe whirled down by a resistless flood, such as that which rushes through the gorge of Niagara. Boiling, foaming, swirling, the force of that stream is so tremendous that its centre is many feet higher than its sides. The microbe on the surface of such a torrent must be dashed hither and thither wildly amidst the foam, sometimes thrown high in air, sometimes whirled backwards in an eddy, unable to see the banks between which he is passing, having every sense occupied in the mad struggle to keep himself somehow above water. To him that strife and stress is all the world of which he knows; how can he tell whither the stream is going?

31.           But the man who stands on the bank, looking down on it all, can see that all this bewildering tumult is merely superficial, and that the one fact of real importance is the steady onward sweep of those millions of tons of water downwards towards the sea. If we can furthermore suppose the microbe to have some idea of progress, and to identify it with forward motion, he might well be dismayed when he found himself hurled aside or borne backwards by an eddy; while the spectator could see that the apparent backward movement was but a delusion, since even the little eddies were all being swept onwards with the rest. It is no exaggeration to say that as is the knowledge of the microbe struggling in the stream to that of the man looking down upon it, so is the comprehension of life possessed by the man in the world to that of one who knows its hidden side.

32.           Best of all, though not so easy to follow because of the effort of imagination involved, is the parable offered to us by Mr. Hinton in his Scientific Romances. For purposes connected with his argument Mr. Hinton supposes the construction of a large vertical wooden frame, from top to bottom of which are tightly stretched a multitude of threads at all sorts of angles. If then a sheet of paper be inserted horizontally in the frame so that these threads pass through it, it is obvious that each thread will make a minute hole in the paper. If then the frame as a whole be moved slowly upwards, but the paper kept still, various effects will be produced. When a thread is perpendicular it will slip through its hole without difficulty, but when a thread is fixed at an angle it will cut a slit in the paper as the frame moves.

33.           Suppose instead of a sheet of paper we have a thin sheet of wax, and let the wax be sufficiently viscous to close up behind the moving thread. Then instead of a number of slits we shall have a number of moving holes, and to a sight which cannot see the threads that cause them, the movement of these holes will necessarily appear irregular and inexplicable. Some will approach one another, some will recede; various patterns and combinations will be formed and dissolve; all depending upon the arrangement of the invisible threads. Now, by a still more daring flight of fancy, think not of the holes but of the minute sections of thread for the moment filling them, and imagine those sections as conscious atoms. They think of themselves as separate entities, they find themselves moving without their own volition in what seems a maze of inextricable confusion, and this bewildering dance is life as they know it. Yet all this apparent complexity and aimless motion is in fact a delusion caused by the limitation of the consciousness of those atoms, for only one extremely simple movement is really taking place-- the steady upward motion of the frame as a whole. But the atom can never comprehend that until it realises that it is not a separated fragment, but part of a thread.

34.           ` Which things are an allegory,' and a very beautiful one; for the threads are ourselves-- our true selves, our souls-- and the atoms represent us in this earthly life. So long as we confine our consciousness to the atom, and look on life only from this earthly standpoint, we can never understand what is happening in the world. But if we will raise our consciousness to the point of view of the soul, the thread of which the bodily life is only a minute part and a temporary expression, we shall then see that there is a splendid simplicity at the back of all the complexity, a unity behind all the diversity. The complexity and the diversity are illusions produced by our limitations; the simplicity and the unity are real.

35.           The world in which we live has a hidden side to it, for the conception of it in the mind of the ordinary man in the street is utterly imperfect along three quite distinct lines. First, it has an extension at its own level which he is at present quite incapable of appreciating; secondly, it has a higher side which is too refined for his undeveloped perceptions; thirdly, it has a meaning and a purpose of which he usually has not the faintest glimpse. To say that we do not see the whole of our world is to state the case far too feebly; what we see is an absolutely insignificant part of it, beautiful though that part may be. And just as the additional extension is infinite compared to our idea of space, and cannot be expressed in its terms, so are the scope and the splendour of the whole infinitely greater than any conception that can possibly be formed of it here, and they cannot be expressed in any terms of that part of the world which we know.


37.           The extension spoken of under the first head has often been called the fourth dimension. Many writers have scoffed at this and denied its existence, yet for all that it remains a fact that our physical world is in truth a world of many dimensions, and that every object in it has an extension, however minute, in a direction which is unthinkable to us at our present stage of mental evolution. When we develop astral senses we are brought so much more directly into contact with this extension that our minds are more or less forced into recognition of it, and the more intelligent gradually grow to understand it; though there are those of less intellectual growth who, even after death and in the astral world, cling desperately to their accustomed limitations and adopt most extraordinary and irrational hypotheses to avoid admitting the existence of the higher life which they so greatly fear.

38.           Because the easiest way for most people to arrive at a realisation of the fourth dimension of space is to develop within themselves the power of astral sight, many persons have come to suppose that the fourth dimension is an exclusive appanage of the astral world. A little thought will show that this cannot be so. Fundamentally there is only one kind of matter existing in the universe, although we call it physical, astral or mental according to the extent of its subdivision and the rapidity of its vibration. Consequently the dimensions of space-- if they exist at all-- exist independently of the matter which lies within them; and whether that space has three dimensions or four or more, all the matter within it exists subject to those conditions, whether we are able to appreciate them or not.

39.           It may perhaps help us a little in trying to understand this matter if we realise that what we call space is a limitation of consciousness, and that there is a higher level at which a sufficiently developed consciousness is entirely free from this. We may invest this higher consciousness with the power of expression in any number of directions, and may then assume that each descent into a denser world of matter imposes upon it an additional limitation, and shuts off the perception of one of these directions. We may suppose that by the time the consciousness has descended as far as the mental world only five of these directions remain to it; that when it descends or moves outward once more to the astral level it loses yet one more of its powers, and so is limited to the conception of four dimensions; then the further descent or outward movement which brings it into the physical world cuts off from it the possibility of grasping even that fourth dimension, and so we find ourselves confined to the three with which we are familiar.

40.           Looking at it from this point of view, it is clear that the conditions of the universe have remained unaffected, though our power of appreciating them has changed; so that, although it is true that when our consciousness is functioning through astral matter we are able to appreciate a fourth dimension which normally is hidden from us while we work through the physical brain, we must not therefore make the mistake of thinking that the fourth dimension belongs to the astral world only and that physical matter exists somehow in a different kind of space from the astral or mental. Such a suggestion is shown to be unjustified by the fact that it is possible for a man using his physical brain to attain by means of practice the power of comprehending some of the four-dimensional forms.

41.           I do not wish here to take up fully the consideration of this fascinating subject; those who would follow it further should apply themselves to the works of Mr. C. H. Hinton-- Scientific Romances and The Fourth Dimension -- the former book for all the interesting possibilities connected with this study, and the latter for the means whereby the mind can realise the fourth dimension as a fact. For our present purposes it is necessary only to indicate that here is an aspect or extension of our world which, though utterly unknown to the vast majority of men, requires to be studied and to be taken into consideration by those who wish to understand the whole of life instead of only a tiny fragment of it.

42.           THE HIGHER WORLD

43.           There is a hidden side to our physical world in a second and higher sense which is well known to all students of Theosophy, for many lectures have been delivered and many books have been written in the endeavour to describe the astral and mental worlds-- the unseen realm which interpenetrates that with which we are all familiar, and forms by far the most important part of it. A good deal of information about this higher aspect of our world has been given in the fifth and the sixth of the Theosophical manuals, and in my own book upon The Other Side of Death; so here I need do no more than make a short general statement for the benefit of any reader who has not yet met with those works.

44.           Modern physicists tell us that matter is interpenetrated by aether-- a hypothetical substance which they endow with many apparently contradictory qualities. The occultist knows that there are many varieties of this finer interpenetrative matter, and that some of the qualities attributed to it by the scientific men belong not to it at all, but to the primordial substance of which it is the negation. I do not wish here to turn aside from the object of this book to give a lengthy disquisition upon the qualities of aether; those who wish to study this subject may be referred to the book upon Occult Chemistry , p. 93 . Here it must suffice to say that the true aether of space exists, just as scientific men have supposed, and possesses most of the curious contradictory qualities ascribed to it. It is not, however, of that aether itself, but of matter built up out of the bubbles in it, that the inner worlds of finer matter are built, of which we have spoken just now. That with which we are concerned at the moment is the fact that all the matter visible to us is interpenetrated not only by aether, but also by various kinds of finer matter, and that of this finer matter there are many degrees.

45.           To the type which is nearest to the physical world occult students have given the name astral matter; the kind next above that has been called mental, because out of its texture is built that mechanism of consciousness which is commonly called the mind in man; and there are other types finer still, with which for the moment we are not concerned. Every portion of space with which we have to do must be thought of as containing all these different kinds of matter. It is practically a scientific postulate that even in the densest forms of matter no two particles ever touch one another, but each floats alone in its field of aether, like a sun in space. Just in the same way each particle of the physical aether floats in a sea of astral matter, and each astral particle in turn floats in a mental ocean; so that all these additional worlds need no more space than does this fragment which we know, for in truth they are all parts of one and the same world.

46.           Man has within himself matter of these finer grades, and by learning to focus his consciousness in it, instead of only in his physical brain, he may become cognisant of these inner and higher parts of the world, and acquire much knowledge of the deepest interest and value. The nature of this unseen world, its scenery, its inhabitants, its possibilities, are described in the works above mentioned. It is the existence of these higher realms of nature that makes occultism possible; and few indeed are the departments of life in which their influence has not to be considered. From the cradle to the grave we are in close relation with them during what we call our waking life; during sleep and after we are even more intimately connected with them, for our existence is then almost confined to them.

47.           Perhaps the greatest of the many fundamental changes which are inevitable for the man who studies the facts of life is that which is produced in his attitude towards death. This matter has been fully treated elsewhere; here I need state only that the knowledge of the truth about death robs it of all its terror and much of its sorrow, and enables us to see it in its true proportion and to understand its place in the scheme of our evolution. It is perfectly possible to learn to know about all these things instead of accepting beliefs blindly at secondhand, as most people do; and knowledge means power, security and happiness.

48.           THE PURPOSE OF LIFE

49.           The third aspect of our world which is hidden from the majority is the plan and purpose of existence. Most men seem to muddle through life without any discernible object, except possibly the purely physical struggle to make money or attain power, because they vaguely think that these things will bring them happiness. They have no definite theory as to why they are here, nor any certainty as to the future that awaits them. They have not even realised that they are souls and not bodies, and that as such their development is part of a mighty scheme of cosmic evolution.

50.           When once this grandest of truths has dawned upon a man' s horizon there comes over him that change which occidental religion calls conversion-- a fine word which has been sadly degraded by improper associations, for it has often been used to signify nothing more than a crisis of emotion hypnotically induced by the surging waves of excited feeling radiated by a half-maddened crowd. Its true meaning is exactly what its derivation implies, ` a turning together with' . Before it, the man, unaware of the stupendous current of evolution, has, under the delusion of selfishness, been fighting against it; but the moment that the magnificence of the Divine Plan bursts upon his astonished sight there is no other possibility for him but to throw all his energies into the effort to promote its fulfilment, to ` turn and go together with' that splendid stream of the love and the wisdom of God.

51.           His one object then is to qualify himself to help the world, and all his thoughts and actions are directed towards that aim. He may forget for the moment under the stress of temptation, but the oblivion can be only temporary; and this is the meaning of the ecclesiastical dogma that the elect can never finally fail . Discrimination has come to him, the opening of the doors of the mind, to adopt the terms employed for this change in older faiths; he knows now what is real and what is unreal, what is worth gaining and what is valueless. He lives as an immortal soul who is a Spark of the Divine Fire, instead of as one of the beasts that perish-- to use a biblical phrase which, however, is entirely incorrect, inasmuch as the beasts do not perish, except in the sense of their being reabsorbed into their group-soul.

52.           Most truly for this man an aspect of life has been displayed which erst was hidden from his eyes. It would even be truer to say that now for the first time he has really begun to live, while before he merely dragged out an inefficient existence.

53.           SECOND SECTION


55.           CHAPTER III

56.           BY PLANETS

57.           RADIATIONS

58.           THE first fact which it is necessary for us to realise is that everything is radiating influence on its surroundings, and these surroundings are all the while returning the compliment by pouring influence upon it in return. Literally everything-- sun, moon, stars, angels, men, animals, trees, rocks-- everything is pouring out a ceaseless stream of vibrations, each of its own characteristic type; not in the physical world only, but in other and subtler worlds as well. Our physical senses can appreciate only a limited number of such radiations. We readily feel the heat poured forth by the sun or by a fire, but we are usually not conscious of the fact that we ourselves are constantly radiating heat; yet if we hold out a hand towards a radiometer the delicate instrument will respond to the heat imparted by that hand even at a distance of several feet, and will begin to revolve. We say that a rose has a scent and that a daisy has none; yet the daisy is throwing off particles just as much as the rose, only in the one case they happen to be perceptible to our senses, and in the other they are not.

59.           From early ages men have believed that the sun, the moon, the planets and the stars exercised a certain influence over human life. In the present day most people are content to laugh at such a belief, without knowing anything about it; yet anyone who will take the trouble to make a careful and impartial study of astrology will discover much that cannot be lightly thrown aside. He will meet with plenty of errors, no doubt, some of them ridiculous enough; but he will also find a proportion of accurate results which is far too large to be reasonably ascribed to coincidence. His investigations will convince him that there is unquestionably some foundation for the claims of the astrologers, while at the same time he cannot but observe that their systems are as yet far from perfect.

60.           When we remember the enormous space that separates us from even the nearest of the planets, it is at once obvious that we must reject the idea that they can exercise upon us any physical action worth considering; and furthermore, if there were any such action, it would seem that its strength should depend less upon the position of the planet in the sky than upon its proximity to the earth-- a factor which is not usually taken into account by astrologers. The more we contemplate the matter the less does it seem rational or possible to suppose that the planets can affect the earth or its inhabitants to any appreciable extent; yet the fact remains that a theory based upon this apparent impossibility often works out accurately. Perhaps the explanation may be found along the line that just as the movement of the hands of a clock shows the passage of time, though it does not cause it, so the motions of the planets indicate the prevalence of certain influences, but are in no way responsible for them. Let us see what light occult study throws upon this somewhat perplexing subject.


62.           Occult students regard the entire solar system in all its vast complexity as a partial manifestation of one great living Being, and all its parts as expressing aspects of Him. Many names have been given to Him; in our Theosophical literature He has often been described under the Gnostic title of the Logos-- the Word that was in the beginning with God, and was God; but now we usually speak of Him as the Solar Deity. All the physical constituents of the solar system-- the sun with its wonderful corona, all the planets with their satellites, their oceans, their atmospheres and the various aethers surrounding them-- all these are collectively His physical body, the expression of Him in the physical realm.

63.           In the same way the collective astral worlds-- not only the astral worlds belonging to each of the physical planets, but also the purely astral planets of all the chains of the system (such, for example, as planets B and F of our chain)-- make up His astral body, and the collective worlds of the mental realm are His mental body-- the vehicle through which He manifests Himself upon that particular level. Every atom of every world is a centre through which He is conscious, so that not only is it true that God is omnipresent, but also that whatever is is God.

64.           Thus we see that the old pantheistic conception was quite true, yet it is only a part of the truth, because while all nature in all its worlds is nothing but His garment, yet He Himself exists outside of and above all this in a stupendous life of which we can know nothing-- a life among other Rulers of other systems. Just as all our lives are lived literally within Him and are in truth a part of His, so His life and that of the Solar Deities of countless other systems are a part of a still greater life of the Deity of the visible universe; and if there be in the depths of space yet other universes invisible to us, all of their Deities in turn must in the same way form part of One Great Consciousness which includes the whole.


66.           In these ` bodies' of the Solar Deity on their various levels there are certain different classes or types of matter, which are fairly equally distributed over the whole system. I am not speaking here of our usual division of the worlds and their subsections-- a division which is made according to the density of the matter, so that in the physical world, for example, we have the solid, liquid, gaseous, etheric, super-etheric, sub-atomic and atomic conditions of matter-- all of them physical, but differing in density. The types which I mean constitute a totally distinct series of cross-divisions, each of which contains matter in all its different conditions, so that if we denote the various types by numbers, we shall find solid, liquid and gaseous matter of the first type, solid, liquid and gaseous matter of the second type, and so on all the way through.

67.           These types of matter are as thoroughly intermingled as are the constituents of our atmosphere. Conceive a room filled with air; any decided vibration communicated to the air, such as a sound, for example, would be perceptible in every part of the room. Suppose that it were possible to produce some kind of undulation which should affect the oxygen alone without disturbing the nitrogen, that undulation would still be felt in every part of the room. If we allow that, for a moment, the proportion of oxygen might be greater in one part of the room than another, then the oscillation, though perceptible everywhere, would be strongest in that part. Just as the air in a room is composed (principally) of oxygen and nitrogen, so is the matter of the solar system composed of these different types; and just as a wave (if there could be such a thing) which affected only the oxygen or only the nitrogen would nevertheless be felt in all parts of the room, so a movement or modification which affects only one of these types produces an effect throughout the entire solar system, though it may be stronger in one part than in another.

68.           This statement is true of all worlds, but for the sake of clearness let us for the moment confine our thought to one world only. Perhaps the idea is easiest to follow with regard to the astral. It has often been explained that in the astral body of man, matter belonging to each of the astral sub-sections is to be found, and that the proportion between the denser and the finer kinds shows how far that body is capable of responding to coarse or refined desires, and so is to some extent an indication of the degree to which the man has evolved himself. Similarly in each astral body there is matter of each of these types, and in this case the proportion between them will show the disposition of the man-- whether he is devotional or philosophic, artistic or scientific, pragmatic or mystic.

69.           THE LIVING CENTRES

70.           Now each of these types of matter in the astral body of the Solar Deity is to some extent a separate vehicle, and may be thought of as also the astral body of a subsidiary Deity or Minister, who is at the same time an aspect of the Deity of the system, a kind of ganglion or force-centre in Him. Indeed, if these types differ among themselves, it is because the matter composing them originally came forth through these different living Centres, and the matter of each type is still the special vehicle and expression of the subsidiary Deity through whom it came, so that the slightest thought, movement or alteration of any kind in Him is instantly reflected in some way or other in all the matter of the corresponding type. Naturally each such type of matter has its own special affinities, and is capable of vibrating under influences which may probably evoke no response from the other types.

71.           Since every man has within himself matter of all these types, it is obvious that any modification in or action of any one of these great living Centres must to some degree affect all beings in the system. The extent to which any particular person is so affected depends upon the proportion of the type of matter acted upon which he happens to have in his astral body. Consequently we find different types of men as of matter, and by reason of their constitution, by the very composition of their astral bodies, some of them are more susceptible to one influence, some to another.

72.           The types are seven, and astrologers have often given to them the names of certain of the planets. Each type is divided into seven sub-types, because each ` planet' may be either practically uninfluenced, or it may be affected predominantly by any one of the other six. In addition to the forty-nine definite sub-types thus obtained, there are any number of possible permutations and combinations of influences, often so complicated that it is no easy matter to follow them. Nevertheless, this gives us a certain system of classification, according to which we can arrange not only human beings, but also the animal, vegetable and mineral kingdoms, and the elemental essence which precedes them in evolution.

73.           Everything in the solar system belongs to one or other of these seven great streams, because it has come out through one or other of these great Force-Centres, to which therefore it belongs in essence, although it must inevitably be affected more or less by the others also. This gives each man, each animal, each plant, each mineral a certain fundamental characteristic which never changes-- sometimes symbolised as his note, his colour or his ray.

74.           This characteristic is permanent not only through one chain-period, but through the whole planetary scheme, so that the life which manifests through elemental essence of type A will in the due course of its evolution ensoul successively minerals, plants, and animals of type A; and when its group-soul breaks up into units and receives the Third Outpouring, the human beings which are the result of its evolution will be men of type A and no other, and under normal conditions will continue so all through their development until they grow into Adepts of type A.

75.           In the earlier days of Theosophical study we were under the impression that this plan was carried out consistently to the very end, and that these Adepts rejoined the Solar Deity through the same subsidiary Deity or Minister through whom they originally came forth. Further research shows that this thought requires modification. We find that bands of egos of many different types join themselves together for a common object.

76.           For example, in the investigations connected primarily with the lives of Alcyone it was found that certain bands of egos circled round the various Masters, and came closer and closer to Them as time went on. One by one, as they became fit for it, these egos reached the stage at which they were accepted as pupils or apprentices by one or other of the Masters. To become truly a pupil of a Master means entering into relations with Him whose intimacy is far beyond any tie of which we know on earth. It means a degree of union with Him which no words can fully express, although at the same time a pupil retains absolutely his own individuality and his own initiative.

77.           In this way each Master becomes a centre of what may be truly described as a great organism, since his pupils are veritably members of Him. When we realise that He Himself is in just the same way a Member of some still greater Master we arrive at a conception of a mighty. organism which is in a very real sense one, although built up of thousands of perfectly distinct egos.

78.           Such an organism is the Heavenly Man who emerges as the result of the evolution of each great root-race. In Him, as in an earthly man, are seven great centres, each of which is a mighty Adept; and the Manu and the Bodhisattva occupy in this great organism the place of the brain and the heart centres respectively. Round Them-- and yet not round Them, but in Them and part of Them, although so fully and gloriously ourselves-- shall we, Their servants, be; and this great figure in its totality represents the flower of that particular race, and includes all who have attained Adeptship through it. Each root-race is thus represented at its close by one of these Heavenly Men; and They, these splendid totalities, will, as Their next stage in evolution, become Ministers Themselves of some future Solar Deity. Yet each one of these contains within Himself men of all possible types, so that each of these future Ministers is in truth a representative not of one line but of all lines.

79.           When looked at from a sufficiently high level the whole solar system is seen to consist of these great living Centres or Ministers, and the types of matter through which each is expressing Himself. Let me repeat here for the sake of clearness, what I wrote some time ago on this subject in The Inner Life, vol. i, page 217:

80.           Each of these great living Centres has a sort of orderly periodic change or motion of his own, corresponding perhaps on some infinitely higher level to the regular beating of the human heart, or to the inspiration and expiration of the breath. Some of these periodic changes are more rapid than others, so that a complicated series of effects is produced; and it has been observed that the movements of the physical planets in their relation to one another furnish a clue to the operation of these influences at any given moment. Each of these Centres has His special location or major focus within the body of the sun, and a minor exterior focus which is always marked by the position of a planet.

81.           The exact relation can hardly be made clear in our three-dimensional phraseology; but we may perhaps put it that each Centre has a field of influence practically co-extensive with a solar system; that if a section of this field could be taken it would be found to be elliptical; and that one of the foci of each ellipse would always be the sun, and the other would be the special planet ruled by that Minister. It is probable that, in the gradual condensation of the original glowing nebula from which the system was formed, the location of the planets was determined by the formation of vortices at these minor foci, they being auxiliary points of distribution of these influences-- ganglia, as it were, in the solar system.

82.           It must of course be understood that we are referring here not to the curious astrological theory which considers the sun himself as a planet, but to the real planets which revolve round him.

83.           THEIR INFLUENCE

84.           The influences belonging to these great types differ widely in quality, and one way in which this difference shows itself is in their action upon the living elemental essence both in man and around him. Be it ever remembered that this dominance is exerted in all worlds, not only in the astral, though we are just now confining ourselves to that for simplicity' s sake. These mysterious agencies may have, and indeed must have, other and more important lines of action not at present known to us; but this at least forces itself upon the notice of the observer, that each Centre produces its own special effect upon the manifold varieties of elemental essence.

85.           One, for example, will be found greatly to stimulate the activity and the vitality of those kinds of essence which specially appertain to the Centre through which it comes, while apparently checking and controlling others; the sway of another type will be seen to be strong over a quite different set of essences which belong to its Centre, while apparently not affecting the previous set in the least. There are all sorts of combinations and permutations of these mystic powers, the action of one of them being in some cases greatly intensified and in others almost neutralised by the presence of another.

86.           Since this elemental essence is vividly active in the astral and mental bodies of man, it is clear that any unusual excitation of any of these classes of that essence-- any sudden increase in its activity-- must undoubtedly affect to some extent either his emotions or his mind, or both; and it is also obvious that these forces would work differently on different men, because of the varieties of essence entering into their composition.

87.           These influences neither exist nor are exercised for the sake of the man or with any reference to him, any more than the wind exists for the sake of the vessel which is helped or hindered by it; they are part of the play of cosmic forces of whose object we know nothing, though we may to some extent learn how to calculate upon them and to use them. Such energies in themselves are no more good nor evil than any other of the powers of nature: like electricity or any other great natural force they may be helpful or hurtful to us, according to the use that we make of them. Just as certain experiments are more likely to be successful if undertaken when the air is heavily charged with electricity, while certain others under such conditions will most probably fail, so an effort involving the use of the powers of our mental and emotional nature will more or less readily achieve its object according to the influences which predominate when it is made.

88.           LIBERTY OF ACTION

89.           It is of the utmost importance for us to understand that such pressure cannot dominate man' s will in the slightest degree; all it can do is in some cases to make it easier or more difficult for that will to act along certain lines. In no case can a man be swept away by it into any course of action without his own consent, though he may evidently be helped or hindered by it in any effort that he chances to be making. The really strong man has little need to trouble himself as to the agencies which happen to be in the ascendant, but for men of weaker will it may sometimes be worth while to know at what moment this or that force can most advantageously be applied. These factors may be put aside as a negligible quantity by the man of iron determination or by the student of true occultism; but since most men still allow themselves to be the helpless sport of the forces of desire, and have not yet developed anything worth calling a will of their own, their feebleness permits these influences to assume an importance in human life to which they have intrinsically no claim.

90.           For example, a certain variety of pressure may occasionally bring about a condition of affairs in which all forms of nervous excitement are considerably intensified, and there is consequently a general sense of irritability abroad. That condition cannot cause a quarrel between sensible people; but under such circumstances disputes arise far more readily than usual, even on the most trifling pretexts, and the large number of people who seem to be always on the verge of losing their tempers are likely to relinquish all control of themselves on even less than ordinary provocation. It may sometimes happen that such influences, playing on the smouldering discontent of ignorant jealousy, may fan it into an outburst of popular frenzy from which wide-spread disaster may ensue.

91.           Even in such a case as this we must guard ourselves against the fatal mistake of supposing the influence to be evil because man' s passions turn it to evil effect. The force itself is simply a wave of activity sent forth from one of the Centres of the Deity, and is in itself of the nature of an intensification of certain vibrations-- necessary perhaps to produce some far-reaching cosmic effect. The increased activity produced incidentally by its means in the astral body of a man offers him an opportunity of testing his power to manage his vehicles; and whether he succeeds or fails in this, it is still one of the lessons which help in his evolution. Karma may throw a man into certain surroundings or bring him under certain influences, but it can never force him to commit a crime, though it may so place him that it requires great determination on his part to avoid that crime. It is possible, therefore, for an astrologer to warn a man of the circumstances under which at a given time be will find himself, but any definite prophecy as to his action under those circumstances can only be based upon probabilities-- though we may readily recognise how nearly such prophecies become certainties in the case of the ordinary will-less man. From the extraordinary mixture of success and failure which characterise modern astrological predictions, it seems fairly certain that the practitioners, of this art are not fully acquainted with all the necessary factors. In a case into which only those factors enter which are already fairly well understood, success is achieved; but in cases where unrecognised factors come into play we have naturally more or less complete failure as the result.

92.           CHAPTER IV

93.           BY THE SUN

94.           THE HEAT OF THE SUN

95.           THOSE who are interested in astronomy will find the occult side of that science one of the most fascinating studies within our reach. Obviously it would be at once too recondite and too technical for inclusion in such a book as this, which is concerned more immediately with such of the unseen phenomena as affect us practically in our daily life; but the connection of the sun with that life is so intimate that it is necessary that a few words should be said about him.

96.           The whole solar system is truly the garment of its Deity, but the sun is His veritable epiphany-- the nearest that we can come in the physical realm to a manifestation of Him, the lens through which His power shines forth upon us.

97.           Regarded purely from the physical point of view, the sun is a vast mass of glowing matter at almost inconceivably high temperatures, and in a condition of electrification so intense as to be altogether beyond our experience. Astronomers, supposing his heat to be due merely to contraction, used to calculate how long he must have existed in the past, and how long it would be possible for him to maintain it in the future; and they found themselves unable to allow more than a few hundred thousand years either way, while the geologists on the other hand claim that on this earth alone we have evidence of processes extending over millions of years. The discovery of radium has upset the older theories, but even with its aid they have not yet risen to the simplicity of the real explanation of the difficulty.

98.           One can imagine some intelligent microbe living in or upon a human body and arguing about its temperature in precisely the same way. He might say that it must of course be a gradually cooling body, and he might calculate with exactitude that in so many hours or minutes it must reach a temperature that would render continued existence impossible for him. If he lived long enough, however, he would find that the human body did not cool, as according to his theories it should do, and no doubt this would seem to him very mysterious, unless and until he discovered that he was dealing not with a dying fire but with a living being, and that as long as the life remained the temperature would not sink. In exactly the same way if we realise that the sun is the physical manifestation of the Solar Deity, we shall see that the mighty life behind it will assuredly keep up its temperature, as long as may be necessary for the full evolution of the system.

99.           THE WILLOW-LEAVES

100.        A similar explanation offers us a solution of some of the other problems of solar physics. For example, the phenomena called from their shape the ` willow-leaves' or ` rice-grains,' of which the photosphere of the sun is practically composed, have often puzzled exoteric students by the apparently irreconcilable characteristics which they present. From their position they can be nothing else than masses of glowing gas at an exceedingly high temperature, and therefore of great tenuity; yet though they must be far lighter than any terrestrial cloud, they never fail to maintain their peculiar shape, however wildly they may be tossed about in the very midst of storms of power so tremendous that they would instantly destroy the earth itself.

101.        When we realise that behind each of these strange objects there is a splendid Life-- that each may be considered as the physical body of a great Angel-- we comprehend that it is that Life which holds them together and gives them their wonderful stability. To apply to them the term physical body may perhaps mislead us, because for us the life in the physical seems of so much importance and occupies so prominent a position in the present stage of our evolution. Madame Blavatsky has told us that we cannot truly describe them as solar inhabitants, since the Solar Beings will hardly place themselves in telescopic focus, but that they are the reservoirs of solar vital energy, themselves partaking of the life which they pour forth.

102.        Let us say rather that the willow-leaves are manifestations upon the physical level maintained by the solar Angels for a special purpose, at the cost of a certain sacrifice or limitation of their activities on the higher levels which are their normal habitat. Remembering that it is through these willow-leaves that the light, heat and vitality of the sun come to us, we may readily see that the object of this sacrifice is to bring down to the physical level certain forces which would otherwise remain unmanifested, and that these great Angels are acting as channels, as reflectors, as specialisers of divine power-- that they are in fact doing at cosmic levels and for a solar system what, if we are wise enough to use our privileges, we ourselves may do on a microscopical scale in our own little circle, as will be seen in a later chapter.

103.        VITALITY

104.        We all know the feeling of cheerfulness and well-being which sunlight brings to us, but only students of occultism are fully aware of the reasons for that sensation. Just as the sun floods his system with light and heat, so does he perpetually pour out into it another force as yet unsuspected by modern science-- a force to which has been given the name ` vitality' . This is radiated on all levels, and manifests itself in each realm-- physical, emotional, mental and the rest-- but we are specially concerned for the moment with its appearance in the lowest, where it enters some of the physical atoms, immensely increases their activity, and makes them animated and glowing.

105.        We must not confuse this force with electricity, though it in some ways resembles it. The Deity sends forth from Himself three great forms of energy; there may be hundreds more of which we know nothing; but at least there are three. Each of them has its appropriate manifestation at every level which our students have yet reached; but for the moment let us think of them as they show themselves in the physical world. One of them exhibits itself as electricity, another as vitality, and the third as the serpent-fire, of which I have already written in The Inner Life.

106.        These three remain distinct, and none of them can at this level be converted into either of the others. They have no connection with any of the Three Great Outpourings; all of those are definite efforts made by the Solar Deity, while these seem rather to be results of His life-- His qualities in manifestation without any visible effort. Electricity while it is rushing through the atoms, deflects them and holds them in a certain way-- this effect being in addition to and quite apart from the special rate of vibration which it also imparts to them.

107.        But the action of vitality differs in many ways from that of electricity, light or heat. Any of the variants of this latter force cause oscillation of the atom as a whole-- an oscillation the size of which is enormous as compared with that of the atom; but this other force which we call vitality comes to the atom not from without, but from within.


109.        The atom is itself nothing but the manifestation of a force; the Solar Deity wills a certain shape which we call an ultimate physical atom, and by that effort of His will some fourteen thousand million bubbles are held in that particular form. It is necessary to emphasise the fact that the cohesion of the bubbles in that form is entirely dependent upon that effort of will, so that if that were for a single instant withdrawn, the bubbles must fall apart again, and the whole physical realm would simply cease to exist in far less than the period of a flash of lightning. So true is it that the whole world is nothing but illusion, even from this point of view, to say nothing of the fact that the bubbles of which the atom is built are themselves only holes in koilon, the true aether of space.

110.        So it is the will-force of the Solar Deity continually exercised which holds the atom together as such; and when we try to examine the action of that force we see that it does not come into the atom from outside, but wells up within it-- which means that it enters it from higher dimensions. The same is true with regard to this other force which we call vitality; it enters the atom from within, along with the force that holds that atom together, instead of acting upon it entirely from without, as do those other varieties of force which we call light, heat or electricity.

111.        When vitality wells up thus within the atom it endows it with an additional life, and gives it a power of attraction, so that it immediately draws round it six other atoms, which it arranges in a definite form, this making what has been called in Occult Chemistry a hyper-meta-proto-element. But this element differs from all others which have so far been observed, in that the force which creates it and holds it together comes from the second Aspect of the Solar Deity instead of from the third This vitality-globule is drawn upon page 45 of Occult Chemistry, where it stands first at the left hand of the top line in the diagram. It is the little group which makes the exceedingly brilliant bead upon the male or positive snake in the chemical element oxygen, and it is also the heart of the central globe in radium.

112.        These globules are conspicuous above all others which may be seen floating in the atmosphere, on account of their brilliance and extreme activity-- the intensely vivid life which they show. These are probably the fiery lives so often mentioned by Madame Blavatsky, though she appears to employ that term in two senses. In The Secret Doctrine, vol. ii, 709, it seems to mean the globule as a whole, in vol. i, 283, it probably means the original additionally-vitalised atoms, each of which draws round itself six others.

113.        While the force that vivifies the globules is quite different from light, it nevertheless appears to depend upon light for its power of manifestation. In brilliant sunshine this vitality is constantly welling up afresh, and the globules are generated with great rapidity and in incredible numbers; but in cloudy weather there is a great diminution in the number of globules formed, and during the night the operation appears to be entirely suspended. During the night, therefore, we may be said to be living upon the stock manufactured during the previous day, and though it appears practically impossible that it should ever be entirely exhausted, that stock evidently does run low when there is a long succession of cloudy days. The globule, once charged, remains as a sub-atomic element, and does not appear to be subject to any change or loss of force unless and until it is absorbed by some living creature.


115.        This vitality is absorbed by all living organisms, and a sufficient supply of it seems to be a necessity of their existence. In the case of men and the higher animals it is absorbed through the centre or vortex in the etheric double which corresponds with the spleen. It will be remembered that that centre has six petals, made by the undulatory movement of the forces which cause the vortex. But this undulatory movement is itself caused by the radiation of other forces from the centre of that vortex. Imaging the central point of the vortex as the hub of a wheel, we may think of these last-mentioned forces as represented by spokes radiating from it in straight lines. Then the vortical forces, sweeping round and round, pass alternately under and over these spokes as though they were weaving a kind of etheric basket-work, and in this way is obtained the appearance of six petals separated by depressions.

116.        When the unit of vitality is flashing about in the atmosphere, brilliant as it is, it is almost colourless, and may be compared to white light. But as soon as it is drawn into the vortex of the force-centre at the spleen it is decomposed and breaks up into streams of different colours, though it does not follow exactly our division of the spectrum. As its component atoms are whirled round the vortex, each of the six spokes seizes upon one of them, so that all the atoms charged with yellow rush along one, and all those charged with green along another, and so on, while the seventh disappears through the centre of the vortex-- through the hub of the wheel, as it were. Those rays then rush off in different directions, each to do its special work in the vitalisation of the body. As I have said, however, the divisions are not exactly those which we ordinarily use in the solar spectrum, but rather resemble the arrangement of colours which we see on higher levels in the causal, mental and astral bodies.

117.        For example, what we call indigo is divided between the violet ray and the blue ray, so that we find only two divisions there instead of three; but on the other hand what we call red is divided into two-- rose red and dark red. The six radiants are therefore violet, blue, green, yellow, orange, and dark red; while the seventh or rose red atom (more properly the first, since this is the original atom in which the force first appeared) passes down through the centre of the vortex. Vitality is thus clearly sevenfold in its constitution, but it rushes through the body in five main streams, as has been described in some of the Indian books,¹ (¹ “To them spoke the principal life: Be not lost in delusion I even, fivefold dividing myself, uphold this body by my support.” -- Prashnopanishad . ii, 3. “From this proceed these seven flames.” -- Ibid ., iii, 5.) for after issuing from splenic centre the blue and the violet join into one ray, and so do the orange and the dark red.

(1)  The violet-blue ray flashes upwards to the throat, where it seems to divide itself, the light blue remaining to course through and vivify the throat-centre, while the dark blue and violet pass on into the brain. The dark blue expends itself in the lower and central parts of the brain, while the violet floods the upper part and appears to give special vigour to the force-centre at the top of the head, diffusing itself chiefly through the nine hundred and sixty petals of the outer part of that centre.

(2)  The yellow ray is directed to the heart, but after doing its work there, part of it also passes on to the brain and permeates it, directing itself principally to the twelve-petalled flower in the midst of the highest force-centre.

(3)  The green ray floods the abdomen and, while centring especially in the solar plexus, evidently vivifies the liver, kidneys and intestines, and the digestive apparatus generally.

(4)  The rose-coloured ray runs all over the body along the nerves, and is clearly the life of the nervous system. This is what is commonly described as vitality-- the specialised vitality which one man may readily pour into another in whom it is deficient. If the nerves are not fully supplied with this rosy light they become sensitive and intensely irritable, so that the patient finds it almost impossible to remain in one position, and yet gains but little ease when he moves to another. The least noise or touch is agony to him, and he is in a condition of acute misery. The flooding of his nerves with specialised vitality by some healthy person brings instant relief, and a feeling of healing and peace descends upon him. A man in robust health usually absorbs and specialises so much more vitality than is actually needed by his own body that he is constantly radiating a torrent of rose-coloured atoms, and so unconsciously pours strength upon his weaker fellows without losing anything himself; or by an effort of his will he can gather together this superfluous energy and aim it intentionally at one whom he wishes to help.

118.        The physical body has a certain blind, instinctive consciousness of its own, corresponding in the physical world to the desire-elemental of the astral body; and this consciousness seeks always to protect it from danger, or to procure for it whatever may be necessary. This is entirely apart from the consciousness of the man himself, and it works equally well during the absence of the ego from the physical body during sleep. All our instinctive movements are due to it, and it is through its activity that the working of the sympathetic system is carried on ceaselessly without any thought or knowledge on our part.

119.        While we are what we call awake, this physical elemental is perpetually occupied in self-defence; he is in a condition of constant vigilance, and he keeps the nerves and muscles always tense. During the night or at any time when we sleep he lets the nerves and muscles relax, and devotes himself specially to the assimilation of vitality, and the recuperation of the physical body. He works at this most successfully during the early part of the night, because then there is plenty of vitality, whereas immediately before the dawn the vitality which has been left behind by the sunlight is almost completely exhausted. This is the reason for the feeling of limpness and deadness associated with the small hours of the morning; this is also the reason why sick men so frequently die at that particular time. The same idea is embodied in the old proverb that: “An hour' s sleep before midnight is worth two after it.” The work of this physical elemental accounts for the strong recuperative influence of sleep, which is often observable even when it is a mere momentary nap.

120.        This vitality is indeed the food of the etheric double, and is just as necessary to it as is sustenance to the grosser part of the physical body. Hence when the body is unable for any reason (as through sickness, fatigue or extreme old age) to prepare vitality for the nourishment of its cells, this physical elemental endeavours to draw in for his own use vitality which has already been prepared in the bodies of others; and thus it happens that we often find ourselves weak and exhausted after sitting for a while with a person who is depleted of vitality, because he has drawn away from us by suction the rose-coloured atoms before we were able to extract their energy.

121.        The vegetable kingdom also absorbs this vitality, but seems in most cases to use only a small part of it. Many trees draw from it almost exactly the same constituents as does the higher part of man' s etheric body, the result being that when they have used what they require, the atoms which they reject are precisely those charged with the rose-coloured light which is needed for the cells of man' s physical body. This is specially the case with such trees as the pine and the eucalyptus; and consequently the very neighbourhood of these trees gives health and strength to those who are suffering from lack of this part of the vital principle-- those whom we call nervous people. They are nervous because the cells of their bodies are hungry, and the nervousness can only be allayed by feeding them; and often the readiest way to do that is thus to supply them from without with the special kind of vitality which they need.

122.        (5) The orange-red ray flows to the base of the spine and thence to the generative organs, with which one part of its functions is closely connected. This ray appears to include not only the orange and the darker reds, but also a certain amount of dark purple, as though the spectrum bent round in a circle and the colours began over again at a lower octave. In the normal man this ray energises the desires of the flesh, and also seems to enter the blood and keep up the heat of the body; but if a man persistently refuses to yield to his lower nature, this ray can by long and determined effort be deflected upwards to the brain, where all three of its constituents undergo a remarkable modification. The orange is raised into pure yellow, and produces a decided intensification of the powers of the intellect; the dark red becomes crimson, and greatly increases the power of unselfish affection; while the dark purple is transmuted into a lovely pale violet, and quickens the spiritual part of man' s nature. The man who achieves this transmutation will find that sensual desires no longer trouble him, and when it becomes necessary for him to arouse the serpent-fire, he will be free from the most serious of the dangers of that process. When a man has finally completed this change, this orange-red ray passes straight into the centre at the base of the spine, and from that runs upwards along the hollow of the vertebral column, and so to the brain.


124.        The flow of vitality in these various currents regulates the health of the parts of the body with which they are concerned. If, for example, a person is suffering from a weak digestion, it manifests itself at once to any person possessing etheric sight, because either the flow and action of the green stream is sluggish or its amount is smaller in proportion than it should be. Where the yellow current is full and strong, it indicates, or more properly produces, strength and regularity in the action of the heart. Flowing round that centre, it also interpenetrates the blood which is driven through it, and is sent along with it all over the body. Yet there is enough of it left to extend into the brain also, and the power of high philosophical and metaphysical thought appears to depend to a great extent upon the volume and activity of this yellow stream, and the corresponding awakening of the twelve-petalled flower in the middle of the force-centre at the top of the head.

125.        Thought and emotion of a high spiritual type seem to depend largely upon the violet ray, whereas the power of ordinary thought is stimulated by the action of the blue mingled with part of the yellow. It has been observed that in some forms of idiocy the flow of vitality to the brain, both yellow and blue-violet, is almost entirely inhibited. Unusual activity or volume in the light blue which is apportioned to the throat-centre is accompanied by the health and strength of the physical organs in that part of the body. It gives, for example, strength and elasticity to the vocal chords, so that special brilliance and activity are noticeable in the case of a public speaker or a great singer. Weakness or disease in any part of the body is accompanied by a deficiency in the flow of vitality to that part.

126.        As the different streams of atoms do their work, the charge of vitality is withdrawn from them, precisely as an electrical charge might be. The atoms bearing the rose-coloured ray grow gradually paler as they are swept along the nerves, and are eventually thrown out from the body through the pores-- making thus what was called in Man Visible and Invisible the health-aura. By the time that they leave the body most of them have lost the rose-coloured light, so that the general appearance of the emanation is bluish-white. That part of the yellow ray which is absorbed into the blood and carried round with it loses its distinctive colour in just the same way.

127.        The atoms, when thus emptied of their charge of vitality, either enter into some of the combinations which are constantly being made in the body, or pass out of it through the pores, or through the ordinary channels. The emptied atoms of the green ray, which is connected chiefly with digestive processes, seem to form part of the ordinary waste material of the body, and to pass out along with it, and that is also the fate of the atoms of the red-orange ray in the case of the ordinary man. The atoms belonging to the blue rays, which are used in connection with the throat-centre, generally leave the body in the exhalations of the breath; and those which compose the dark blue and violet rays usually pass out from the centre at the top of the head.

128.        When the student has learnt to deflect the orange-red rays so that they also move up through the spine, the empty atoms of both these and the violet-blue rays pour out from the top of the head in a fiery cascade, which is frequently imaged as a flame in ancient statues of the BUDDHA and other great Saints. When empty of the vital force the atoms are once more precisely like any other atoms; the body absorbs such of them as it needs, so that they form part of the various combinations which are constantly being made, while others which are not required for such purposes are cast out through any channel that happens to be convenient.

129.        The flow of vitality into or through any centre, or even its intensification, must not be confused with the entirely different development of the centre which is brought about by the awakening of the serpent-fire at a later stage in man' s evolution. We all of us draw in vitality and specialise it, but many of us do not utilise it to the full, because in various ways our lives are not as pure and healthy and reasonable as they should be. One who coarsens his body by the use of meat, alcohol or tobacco can never employ his vitality to the full in the same way as can a man of purer living. A particular individual of impure life may be, and often is stronger in the physical body than certain other men who are purer; that is a matter of their respective karma; but other things being equal, the man of pure life has an immense advantage.


131.        The vitality coursing along the nerves must not be confused with what we usually call the magnetism of the man-- his own nerve-fluid, generated within himself. It is this fluid which keeps up the constant circulation of etheric matter along the nerves, corresponding to the circulation of blood through the veins; and as oxygen is conveyed by the blood to all parts of the body, so vitality is conveyed along the nerves by this etheric current. The particles of the etheric part of man' s body are constantly changing, just as are those of the denser part; along with the food which we eat and the air which we breathe we take in etheric matter, and this is assimilated by the etheric part of the body. Etheric matter is constantly being thrown off from the pores, just as is gaseous matter, so that when two persons are close together each necessarily absorbs much of the physical emanations of the other.

132.        When one person mesmerises another, the operator by an effort of will gathers together a great deal of this magnetism and throws it into the subject, pushing back his victim' s nerve-fluid, and filling its place w