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vol. 1, p. 135
from Adyar archives of the International Theosophical Society
vol. 1 (1874-1876)


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< Supersensous Perception (continued from page 1-134) >

cousin had not informed her of what I had told him, but she had heard nothing of it. I repeated to her my statement to Count Y—, but she seemed to look upon this as a sort of kind consolation, as all the prophets had been long since dead.

Three weeks had passed away, and yet no trace of the money; the police had searched everybody and everywhere, but nothing could be found. Some persons connected with the family, who had heard of my positive assertion, and who had given up all hopes of recovering the lost property, said to me, “Well, sir, where's the money?” “The money,” replied I, “is all safe. I never said when it would be found, I only asserted it would be found, and of that 1 am as convinced as that we are standing here." The very moment I had uttered these words came the firm conviction, and I added, “Now I can tell you what I could not before, for in fact I had never thought of the when or where; the money will be found next Wednesday morning.” And so it was, at nine o’clock, but the loo florins, as I had foretold, were lost. This may appear rather extraordinary; for me it is quite simple, on the principle of Socrates. From the time Count Y— had told me of the loss my mind was unconsciously occupied with the question whether the money would be found, whether the whole or only a part of it, and the moment he stood up to depart the firm conviction was there as above stated.

Of an imaginary voice, such as Stokes speaks of I have had but one instance in the whole course of my experience. In the year 1849, the cholera was very bad in Vienna. The young Princess W—, who, with the exception of her own immediate family, had all her dearest relations there, expressed to me her great anxiety for their safety. I gave her that sort of cheap consolation in which every one is more or less rich, and of which people are generally very liberal. Three days after I was occupied writing in my study, when, in the middle of a sentence, a voice, an imaginary one of course, expressed clearly — “None of the relations of the Princess W — will die of the cholera in Vienna.” I immediately took a piece of paper, and wrote down the above words, simply adding “All right!" and continued my occupation. I informed the Princess the next day that she might be perfectly tranquil about the cholera, as none of her relations would die of it; whether they would get the disease or not was not at that moment in my power to say. I left the town before the question could be decided; however, in due time I received in the Pyrenees a letter from the Princess informing me that what I had so confidently predicted had turned out perfectly true. I can only account for the imaginary voice by supposing that, as the conscious faculties of the mind were at the time actively employed, the unconscious faculty had to resort to other than the usual means to claim my attention, the same as in telegraphing the bell rings to announce that a telegram is on the way.

Two hours after I had read in the papers that the vessel to lay the first telegraphic cable between Europe and America had sailed from Queenstown, I had the conviction that the undertaking would succeed; this conviction, however, was one of the weakest, the least defined I ever had, and I was curious to know the result. The enterprise succeeded, but as is well knewn, it was not, a success, and this corresponded completely with my own feeling about the matter. Two hours after I had read that the ship had departed on the second attempt, I was perfectly convinced that it would not succeed, and one hour after the Great Eastern sailed on the third attempt I had the full and sure conviction of complete success.

In the course of recent years I have had fewer intimations concerning dubious questions, and cannot say whether this arose from the circumstance that fewer questions particularly interested me, or from a weakening of this unconscious faculty or power of the mind, or perhaps from both. The last firm conviction of the kind I have had was in the year 1866, A family with whom I was very intimate had a son, an officer in the Austrian army, at that time in Italy, and in this young man I took particular interest for his own sake, as well as for that of his family. The news of the great battle of Custozza arrived, stating that 20,000 men had been killed or wounded, A quarter of an hour after I had read the news came the fixed conviction, “Ernest von F —,” the name of the young officer, “is safe, he is not killed, not even wounded.” I communicated the good news to his mother, who was quite in despair, having telegraphed several times without receiving an answer.

I may remark here that I was never deceived in any conviction I ever had.

Strange to say, I could never receive an intimation of anything concerning myself or family, although there were many things of great importance to me which I much desired to know. This I can only account for by supposing that the conscious wish to know prevailed over the unconscious action of the mind.

With Socrates I differ so far, that I do believe that every man has the power to which he alludes. I am tolerably confident that a person with a robust constitution and strong nerves can never have this feeling or faculty. If we add to what Socrates asserts that which Plato says, — “That the spirit or power of prophecy consists in having a highly excited nervous system in connection with a more or less diseased liver," it will, to a certain degree, help to solve that which we cannot distinctly explain. Most men of common sense would no doubt prefer strong nerves and a good appetite to the power of being able to prophesy, and they are right.

In my intercourse with mankind, I have met with only two persons possessed of this power in a higher or lower degree. One of them is a lady, the other an old gentleman living at Breslau, Mr. Von Holtei, an author well known and highly esteemed in Germany. He touches upon the subject several times in his autobiography, but does not enter far into the subject for fear of being misunderstood by “those wise in their generation,” or of being looked upon as a conjurer, a dreamer, or even as one in some way connected with a certain Hack gentleman with a curious orthopadical shoe.

Presentiments, “the coming events which cast their shadows before,” I have always found more difficult to explain to my own satisfaction. I have often been in the midst of gay society, when suddenly, and without any apparent cause, the dark shadow came over my mind. I shrugged my shoulders in order to shake it off, I drank an extra glass of wine, but without effect; the sensation ceased for a few minutes, but returned again and again, and this generally lasted from four to six hours. From that sensation, experience taught me that I might expect something disagreeable within three days; the seriousness of the latter being always in proportion to the force of the former. On the other hand, often when I had more or less reason to be sad and serious, I had a sudden feeling of joy, which caused me to spring up from my chair and exclaim, What now! In the Socratic assertion, the mind has simply to decide whether a given event would happen or not, and how and when. In the presentiment, we have to do with a vague future of which we know nothing. It would almost appear that the mind is supplied with some sort of spiritual antennae, which have the power of penetrating the future, and of so subtle and delicate a nature that they feel the influence of the coming shadow when still far remote. In all cases, happy are those who have no presentiments, whether of joy or sorrow, for the anticipated pleasure of the former is sadly counterbalanced by the apprehension of the unknown but approaching evil.

From what I have stated above, you may perhaps feel a sort of curiosity to know something of the tendencies of my mind in general. The following will explain this. From superstition of all kinds, I consider myselr perfectly free. In religious matters, I believe all that Christians are agreed upon. I disbelieve all that Christians differ on; or, at least, I explain it my own philosophical way. I believe in wonders, —for the whole creation, a simple little flower, or a blade of grass is for me a wonder. I hold with Hamlet, “that there are more things twixt heaven and earth than we have dreamed of in our philosophy,” but I don’t believe in miracles, being contrary to the laws of nature, which are the laws of God. In this matter, I am of the opinion of the philosopher of Fernay (Voltaire), when he asks: “Qu' est-ce que c'est qu’un miracle! Un miracle, mon ami, est quelque chose que la nature ne peut faire, par consequent I’ impossible. — Mais, monsieur, tout est possible pour Dieu.—O non, mon ami, ce n’est pas comme cela.—Mais, monsieur, il faut etre Athe-iste pour croire cela; qu’y a-t-il que Dieu ne peut faire?— Jamais, mon ami, Dieu n’a pu faire I’absurde voila tout.”

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