Our Hidden Powers
By Harry Young
From a talk given at Glasgow Friends House, 8th October 2001.
We aren’t all we appear to be. Every morning we wake up and feel like the same person as yesterday, but unaware of where our awareness has been for the hours during sleep or what we really experienced. Sleep is just one aspect of our lives which is concealed from our everyday waking consciousness. Our true selves are even hidden during waking life. So despite the fact that we consider ourselves awake at this moment the challenge of life to wake up and try to realise who or what we are in reality, what our hidden capabilities are, and what our true potential is.
The majority of mankind are as we are. However, history is littered with tales of magicians and heroes, adepts and prophets who possessed mysterious powers over themselves and nature, and could inspire people to greatness. Great Teachers such as Buddha, Krishna, Jesus, Lao Tsu, Confucius, taught a philosophy of life so profound and majestic in scope that it dwarfed expressions of their other advanced abilities. In addition to possessing the power to be able to spiritually inspire others, the Great Ones also possess mastery over their lower faculties. Appolonius of Tyana who is reported to have disappeared in front of dozens of people only to appear miles away a little later. The Master Jesus exhibited many psychic and spiritual powers. It’s said that he healed the sick, walked on water, raised the dead, calmed a storm, and used clairvoyance to foretell future events. By contrast, tribal medicine men such as those of the Amerindians, have long known of man’s inner rapport with nature, and by using their knowledge and wisdom can help whole tribes by causing sunshine or rainfall, or lifting hopes by way of ceremonies, or simply saying the right words at the right time or even cracking a joke.
We can class our powers into two types – physical or material, and spiritual. Physical powers are psychic and emotional and are connected to the mind’s lower part i.e. the brain. The highest of our powers are spiritual and mental. They are more subtle, far more powerful than the lower psychic powers as they are concerned primarily with creation rather than manipulation of nature’s lower elements.
To understand what our powers are we must first understand ourselves. It has long been testified that we are not physical but spiritual beings. We are constantly blended with the Astral Light, the inner substance of nature which, near the earth-plane which we live on, is filled with the thoughts of men past and present. The Astral Light as an etheric medium for thoughts and energies rises way beyond the material plane through to the highest spiritual planes, but to which we are still connected. We are in essence spiritual beings, cosmic in scope who have temporarily focussed a portion of our infinite awareness into bodies with, at present, five senses and limited abilities. These bodies of ours haven’t always been as they are now as they have undergone aeons of inner and outer development, constantly guided by our spiritual selves. We have already passed the point long ago in human evolution where physically and emotionally we were in our prime and at that time we abused our psychic powers, the effects of this abuse we are seeing now, for example in the form of societal unrest, physical and mental disease, and the gaining in popularity of ungoverned, and hence dangerous, psychic practices such as mediumship, so called “astral projection”, various forms of hypnotism, healing, yoga, and meditation. We’ve arrived at a time now of paradox and conflicting interests where our subtle, inner nature is unfolding to reveal more spiritually inspired intellect, but also is letting through to the everyday world unseen, good and bad influences from the Astral Light – which is actually more than the semi-material energy-substance which surrounds and penetrates us and the Earth; it stores not only thoughts but emotions, sights, sounds and events and all other forms of energy. In its lower regions it is known as Kama Loka, the dwelling place of the psychic remains of deceased human and other beings. It is truly a dangerous place for the uninitiated, for the vast majority of mankind at this time. We’re really at a crossroads between mind guided by emotion and mind guided by spirit.
This is partly the reason why the Theosophical Society was formed. Long before its formation it was noted that the veil between the astral and the physical planes was growing thin and that mankind was entering a dangerous time. So the Theosophical Society aims, amongst other things, to unite interested people to rationally discuss the philosophy of Occultism with a view to making informed choices about personal destiny (and by extrapolation the destiny of mankind) rather than walk blindly into areas of life that many were not ready for.
However, paradoxically it is one of the Objects of the Society to investigate the powers latent in man. What exactly does this mean? The Society cautions against developing psychic abilities saying that right now psychic powers are more of a dangerous hindrance than a help, and will develop naturally as evolution progresses. The Theosophical Society does however, favour the development of spiritual powers such as altruism, constant devotion to high ideals, and an inquiring and concentrated mind. In addition, conscience and intuition are seen as the most powerful spiritual powers we possess at present. There seem to be many contradictions in this Object of the Society, but in fact there are none. The way to unravel this is to question our motives.
Anyone wishing to shape their life towards the spiritual side will inevitably be faced with the question of how to do it. The ways are many, but certain ground rules must be adhered to first. No one can go straight to the source without going through the proper channels. The first and most important is, as Buddha pointed out in his Eightfold Path, is the right attitude, or view. Do we want this for personal gain or do we want to do it because we are driven by higher ideals. This is one of the first Sphinxes that any aspirant must face and successfully pass beyond. The solution to its riddle has been given out countless times, yet it remains a mystery to many. W.Q. Judge, in Letters hat Have Helped Me, p.73 restates it in modern language, saying that “He who does not feel irresistibly impelled to serve the Race, whether he himself fails or not, is bound fast by his own personality and cannot progress until he has learned that the race is himself and not that body which he now occupies.” H.P. Blavatsky meanwhile, says it succinctly in The Voice of the Silence: “To live to benefit mankind is the first step.” A difficult or easy task depending on the frame of mind. The next steps, however – the spiritual disciplines known as the Paramitas – require tremendous concentration, devotion, and courage if they are to be followed day-in-day-out.
Today the mass market has embraced techniques such as various forms of Yoga and meditation as ways to quick and easy enlightenment and promotes them with zeal. There is no doubt that these practices are vital at some stage, and yet many practices which are deeply esoteric are practiced by ordinary men and women every minute of the day. For example loving someone, standing up for the principles of brotherhood, fairness, and truth, and the discipline of concentration.
Is there then a criteria we can use to discriminate what is psychic and what is spiritual? The answer to that, I believe, lies in four small words – an old adage which says “Seek wisdom, not powers”. If thought through and put into practice this advice will divert our thoughts and actions into creating situations which will allow us to bring out the highest that is in us – a living example of the compassion of the Universe at work.
In an illustration of how important is the need to understand the true direction for Man to follow concerning hidden powers, H.P. Blavatsky says:
“Occultism is not magic. It is comparatively easy to learn the trick of spells and the methods of using the subtler, but still material, forces of physical nature; the powers of the animal soul in man are soon awakened; the forces which his love, his hate, his passion, can call into operation, are readily developed. But this is Black Magic — Sorcery. For it is the motive, and the motive alone, which makes any exercise of power become black, malignant, or white, beneficent Magic. It is impossible to employ spiritual forces if there is the slightest tinge of selfishness remaining in the operator. For, unless the intention is entirely unalloyed, the spiritual will transform itself into the psychic, act on the astral plane, and dire results may be produced by it. The powers and forces of animal nature can equally be used by the selfish and revengeful, as by the unselfish and the all-forgiving; the powers and forces of spirit lend themselves only to the perfectly pure in heart — and this is DIVINE MAGIC.”
– Studies in Occultism, p.2-3