Visions in the Crystal
Theosophist, August, 1882
At a number of his lectures Colonel Olcott has exhibited a crystal from the Gastein Mountains, which was kindly sent him by our very esteemed friend and fellow, the Baroness Adelma von Vay, which has curious properties. If a person, naturally endowed with a certain amount of clairvoyant power, gazes for a while into the crystal, he will see a succession of visions coming into its heart—landscapes, scenes by sea and land, faces of living and dead persons, and sometimes messages written on scrolls which unwind of themselves, or printed in books, that appear and then fade away. The experiment was tried with dozens of people, and in many cases succeeded. One Hindu gentleman saw, besides various scenes, the face of his deceased father and was deeply agitated by the vision. These sights cannot be seen by everyone, nor equally well by all who have the conscious clairvoyant power in some degree. There is quite an extensive literature on the subject of crystal and mirror visions, and some seers—among whom the historical name of Dr. Dee will be recalled—have aroused great public interest by their real or pretended revelation. In this connection a letter received by Colonel Olcott from an old Indian officer of the army will be read with interest:
“My Dear Colonel,
“After you left, I held the glass in my hand without any result for some time. At last it gradually became so heated, that I thought I should have to relinquish my hold of it. All this time I remarked very strange filmy appearances forming in the crystal. The temperature of the latter grew less, and as it did so, a nervous tremor affected my hand and arm. I still had the mirror (the crystal) in hand and perceived colours of varied hues, all very brilliant and seeming to mingle with one another in quick succession, and making the most beautiful phantasmagoria! After the colours had died away, the same cloudy appearances affected the mirror, and its temperature again rose—this time, to such a degree that I had to drop it upon the table. After a few seconds I again took it in my hand and then, to my astonishment, I saw in it the image of a man whose face is quite familiar to me, but where I have seen him I cannot at present bring myself to recollect. After this had disappeared, there came up the image of the little child which I had seen before you left, and, last of all, there came, as pale shadows, the heads of a woman and a child, both of which, I thought, I recognized. At this juncture my hand and arm were nervously affected again, and the crystal landed with a bounce upon the table.
“With the recollection of these short, but striking, experiences of the magic crystal, with which you left me to pass away an hour, allow me to say, my dear Colonel, that there is more in its crystalline philosophy than I was prepared to credit; and if the devil is not in that glass, I am sadly mistaken.
“I may add that, upon looking up from the table to resume my pipe, I perceived a figure standing close to the almirah. The figure was that of an old man, and bore a striking resemblance to the one I had seen in . . . three years before. He gazed intently upon me for some time, and as I rose from my chair, he waved his hand, and at the same moment I felt something apparently strike me, and I fell back in the chair. On recovering myself and looking around the room, I could discover nothing, but that I was alone with my own thoughts, and on the table the crystal, and the writing apparatus wherewith you asked me to jot down what I might see in the evidently spiritualized atmosphere of your chamber.
Yours very sincerely, E. W. L.”
This is something more than a mere case of clairvoyance: the element of mediumship is mingled with it. The visions that the officer saw in the crystal were subjective—the effects of imagination; while the figure of the old man was probably that of a Pisacha. It is not at all uncommon for those, who see such apparitions, to receive a blow: a case of the kind, in which several persons were hit, occurred only the other day at Bombay. We would not at all recommend persons of the sensitive temperament of our friend, the Officer, to pursue researches with crystals or mirrors, or to sit with others for the spiritualistic phenomena. For they are natural mediums, and our opinion with respect to the dangers of mediumship practised without any knowledge of Eastern philosophy has been heretofore so fully set forth that it is unnecessary to repeat it in this instance.