Disappearance of Ascetics at Will
The Path, January, 1894
Note: the first part of this article is written by one Kali Prasanna Mukherji. Only the Editorial Note that follows is from the pen of Mr. Judge.
We often read of Yogis and Rishis disappearing on a sudden; a moment before, they were speaking to a king or his ministers, their mission ends and they disappear. How could they do so? Did they appear in their Mayāvi-rupa? Could they dissolve their physical bodies at will and re-form them? I was often confronted by these questions but could not answer satisfactorily; many of our Saints have thus disappeared, a few even after the Mohammedan Conquest of India. One was seen to enter a temple for the apparent purpose of worship, but was never seen to come out again; the temple had but one door and no windows; he was living near the temple long since—in his physical body; his work ended, he disappeared on a sudden.
2. Now it must be understood that in all such phenomena what is absolutely necessary is a developed and trained will and a strong power of concentration practiced for a long time. The Yogi simply hypnotizes the persons present and passes out unobserved. To a person thus trained it is only necessary to concentrate on the thought that his body is without a rupa, and as a strong-scented essence when opened in the midst of an assembly affects all present, that focalized thought sends out rays on all sides and affects or hypnotizes those standing near; and they do not see the Yogi, though he might pass by them or be close to them. That this can happen has been already proved in France and other places by hypnotic experiments.
3. But no such successful concentration is possible without preliminary training, without long practice. In those days they never tried to know something of every thing, but each tried to excel in that which appeared best suited to his nature.
4. The Yogis in those days mixed more freely with men, and perhaps the conditions were more favorable then. It was only after the battle of Kuru Kshetra, and the death of Sri Krishna that they retired to thenceforth live in a secluded sacred spot where the influence of the Black Age would not be felt.
5. And now Antardhanam, as such disappearance is called, is no longer regarded by our Indians, educated in the science of the West, as belonging to the realm of truth and reality, until western hypnotism, a monster infant of occult laws, shows them that Antardhanam is not an impossibility after all.
6. But that power of Concentration, that preliminary training are no longer to be found in us. We aim at knowing all about everything, can talk on a variety of subjects which must have bewildered many a sage, had they been living still, and we are always active and talking, and imagine that we are progressing.
7. Thus in the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali we find in the twenty-first Sutra of Bibhuti Padu that on concentrating on the rupa of our body, its visibility being suspended, there is no more union with the power of seeing, and Antardhanam is accomplished. Now it must be understood that in order that we might see an object three things are necessary, viz.: 1. The visibility of the object; 2. Our power to see; and 3. The union of the two. If, for instance, there be no transparent media between our eyes and the object to be seen, the first condition is wanting and we do not see it; if, again, the object is visible but our eyesight is not strong enough, we do not see it because condition No. 2 is not fulfilled. It sometimes happens that being deeply absorbed in thinking we sometimes do not see an object though perfectly visible to us and our eyes directed towards it; in this case there is no union between the two. To make an object invisible, therefore, we should cut off this union; in order to do this, the minds of others must be affected, and this is done by a trained and concentrated will.
KALI PRASANNA MUKHERJI.
Barakar, India, September 10, 1893.
Ed. Note.—The aphorism of Patanjali on the subject of this article is No. 21, Book II, and in the American edition reads as follows:
“By performing concentration in regard to the properties and essential nature of form, especially of the human body, the ascetic acquires the power of causing the disappearance of his corporeal frame from the sight of others, because thereby its property of being apprehended by the eye is checked, and that property of sattva which exhibits itself as luminousness is disconnected from the spectator’s organ of sight.”
In the old edition and in that published later by M. N. Dvivedi, the word used for concentration is sanyama. This is to be translated as concentration, and also “restraint,” which comes to the same thing. The aphorism raises the issues made by modern science that no disappearance is possible if the object be in line with a normal eye and there be light and the like. Hypnotism has for some made the modern view a little doubtful, but many deny hypnotism, and the cases of disappearance in those experiments have all been but disappearances for the senses of but one person who is admittedly under some influence and is not normal in organ and function. The author cites alleged cases of complete disappearance of ascetics from the sight of normal persons normally exercising their senses. It is not a case of hypnotism collectively or otherwise, but should be distinguished from all such. In hypnotic cases normal function is abated and the mind imposed with an inhibiting idea or picture which seems real in action to the subject. In the cases of the ascetics there is left to those about perfect control of their organs and senses, the powerful mental action of the ascetic bringing into play another law, as indicated in the aphorism, which prevents the senses, however normal, from seeing the form of the ascetic. Form, it is held by the occultists of the school to which Patanjali must have belonged, is an illusion itself, which remains for the generality of all people because they are subject to a grand common limitation due to the non-development of other than the usual senses. It would seem that all clairvoyance might prove this, as in that it is known by the seer that every form visible to our eye has extensions and variations in the subtler parts of its constitution which are not visible on the material plane. The illusionary nature of form in its essence being meditated on, one becomes able, it is held, to check the “luminousness of sattva” and thus prevent sight. This does not mean that ordinary light is obstructed, but something different. All light, gross or fine, is due to the universal sattva, which is one of the qualities of the basis of manifested nature. And besides showing as ordinary light, it is also present, unseen by us it is true, but absolutely necessary for any sense-perception of that sort, whether by men, animals, or insects. If the finer plane of this luminousness is obstructed, the ordinary light is none the less, but the result will be that no eye can see the body of that person whose mind is operative at the time to cause the obstruction of the luminous quality mentioned. This may seem labored, but it is in consequence of our language and ideas that such is the case. I have known some cases in the West of disappearances similar to those mentioned by the foregoing article, and in The Secret Doctrine and, I think, Isis Unveiled, are some references to the matter where the author says the power conferred by this is wonderful as well as full of responsibility. While very likely no Theosophist or scientist will be able to use this power, still the cases cited and the explanation will go towards showing that the ancient Rishis knew more of man and his nature than moderns are prone to allow, and it may also serve to draw the attention of the mind of young Indians who worship the shrine of modern science to the works and thoughts of their ancestors.