Delusions of Clairvoyance
The Path, July, 1892
Some years ago it was proposed that psychometry should be used in detecting crime and for the exposing of motive in all transactions between man and man. This, the alleged discoverer said, would alter the state of society by compelling people to be honest and by reducing crime. Now for those who do not know, it may be well to say that when you psychometrize you take any object that has been in the immediate vicinity of any person or place of any action, or the writing of another, and by holding it to your forehead or in the hand a picture of the event, the writer, the surroundings, and the history of the object, comes before your mental eye with more or less accuracy. Time and distance are said to make no difference, for the wrapping from a mummy has been psychometrized by one who knew nothing about it, and the mummy with its supposed history accurately described. Letters also have been similarly treated without reading them, and not only their contents given but also the unexpressed thoughts and the surroundings of the writers. Clairvoyants have also on innumerable occasions given correct descriptions of events and persons they could never have seen or known. But other innumerable times they have failed.
Without doubt if the city government, or any body of people owning property that can be stolen, had in their employment a man or woman who could declare beyond possibility of ever failing where any stolen article was, and who stole it, and could in advance indicate a purpose on the part of another to steal, to trick, to lie, or otherwise do evil, one of two things would happen. Either criminals or intending offenders would abide elsewhere, or some means of getting rid of the clear-seer would be put into effect. Looking at the alluring possibilities of clairvoyance so far as it is understood, many persons have sighed for its power for several different reasons. Some would use it for the purposes described, but many another has thought of it merely as a new means for furthering personal ends.
Its delusions are so manifold that, although mystical and psychical subjects have obtained in the public mind a new standing, clairvoyance will not be other than a curiosity for some time, and when its phenomena and laws are well understood no reliance greater than now will be placed upon it. And even when individual clairvoyants of wonderful power are known, they will not be accessible for such uses, because, having reached their power by special training, the laws of their school will prohibit the exercise of the faculty at the bidding of selfish interest, whether on the one side or the other.
If it were not always a matter of doubt and difficulty, natural clear-seers would have long ago demonstrated the unerring range of their vision by discovering criminals still uncaught, by pointing out where stolen property could be recovered, by putting a finger on a moral plague-spot which is known to exist but cannot be located. Yet this they have not done, and careful Theosophists are confirmed in the old teaching that the field of clairvoyance is full of delusions. Coming evil could in the same way be averted, since present error is the prelude and cause of future painful results.
The prime cause for delusion is that the thought of anything makes around the thinker an image of the thing thought about. And all images in this thought-field are alike, since we remember an object by our thought-image of it, and not by carrying the object in our heads. Hence the picture in our aura of what we have seen in the hands of another is of the same sort for untrained seers—as our ideas on the subject of events in which we have not participated. So a clairvoyant may, and in fact does, mistake these thought-pictures one for the other, thus reducing the chances of certainty. If an anxious mother imagines her child in danger and with vivid bought pictures the details of a railway accident, the picture the seer may see will be of something that never happened and is only the product of emotion or imagination.
Mistakes in identity come next. These are more easily made a the astral plane, which is the means for clairvoyance, than yen upon the visible one, and will arise from numerous causes. So numerous and complex is this that to fully explain would not only be hopeless but tedious. For instance, the person, say at a distance, to whom the clairvoyant eye is directed may look entirely different from reality, whether as clothing or physiognomy. He may, in the depths of winter, appear clad in spring clothing, and your clairvoyant report that, adding probably that it symbolizes something next spring. But, in fact, the spring clothing was due to his thoughts about well-worn comfortable suit of this sort throwing a glamour f the clothing before the vision of the seer. Some cases exactly like this I have known and verified. Or the lover, dwelling on the form and features of his beloved, or the criminal upon the one he has wronged, will work a protean change and destroy identification.
Another source of error will be found in the unwitting transfer to the clairvoyant of your own thoughts, much altered either for better or worse. Or even the thoughts of some one else whom you have just met or heard from. For if you consult the seer on some line of thought, having just read the ideas on the same subject of another who thinks very strongly and very clearly, and whose character is overmastering, the clairvoyant will ten to one feel the influence of the other and give you his ideas.
Reversion of image is the last I will refer to. It has been taught always in the unpopular school of Theosophy that the astral light reverses the images, just as science knows the image a the retina is not upright. Not only have the Cabalists said us, but also the Eastern schools, and those who now have studied these doctrines along Theosophical lines have discovered it to be a fact. So the untrained clairvoyant may see a number or amount backwards, or an object upside down in whole or in part. The reliance we can place on the observations of untrained people in ordinary life the scientific schools and courts of law have long ago discovered; but seekers after the marvellous carelessly accept the observations of those who must be equally untrained in the field of clairvoyance. Of course there are many genuine cases of good clear-seeing, but the mass are not to be relied on. The cultivation of psychic senses is more difficult than any physical gymnastics, and the number of really trained clairvoyants in the Western world may be described by a nought written to the left.