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Volume V - Spiritual Liberty


Chapter VI

The believers in spirit phenomena often lose their balance and go to such lengths that the pursuit of spiritualism becomes a craze with them, for it is always interesting to tell and to listen to ghost stories. The teller has a tendency to exaggerate the story, to make it more interesting and arouse the astonishment of the hearer, and a simple listener has a tendency sometimes to take the rod for a snake.

There is a well-known case, which happened in India where ghosts were being discussed among friends. One of them said, 'I don't believe in such things. I am willing to go and sit half the night in the graveyard if you like.' His friends said that they would not believe him unless he did so. He went the same night to sit in the graveyard. Half the night he passed trying to avoid all the threats that his imagination produced before him during that dark night in the graveyard. When the time was over, as he started to return to his friends, his long robe caught in some thorn bushes growing there. He thought a spirit had surely caught him. He fell down and was choked with fear, and in the morning he was found dead.

Often a landlord's enemies spread rumors that the house is haunted, so that he may not be able to get a tenant. Sometimes pretended spiritualists, who have made this their life's occupation, make it as interesting a play as they can, by arranging some knocks from here and there, by lifting the chairs and tables with an arrangement of wires, by producing effects of light and shade with phosphorus. They take advantage of the simple-minded. Some pretend to carry messages from the spirit world or to it, and deceive many earnest inquirers into these matters. Many carry out their questionable purposes by holding spirit meetings. All this drives material people, unbelievers in the spirit, still further away from the knowledge of the finer existence, while the so-called spiritualists are often so much engrossed in their hobby that they never realize their own spirit.

In ordinary life we experience two planes, the physical plane in which we experience through the eyes, the ears, and all the organs of the body; and the mental plane, the plane of thought and feeling. When we are asleep and all our organs are resting, we see ourselves just as we appear when awake in various surroundings. This shows us that we have another being besides this physical being and other eyes besides these eyes. Whilst we are dreaming, the dream is real to us. When we awaken, we think, 'I was there and now I am here. If what I saw in the dream had been real, it should all still be here now that I am awake; but it is all gone.' We distinguish the dream as a dream by its contrast with the waking condition.

Whilst we are dreaming, if someone comes and tells us that it is a dream, that it is not real, we do not believe him. Or if someone tells us it is a dream, we say, 'No, it is quite real, I see the things about me.' There is an expression we use of what is past, saying, 'It is all a dream now.'

When a person after death still longs for the earthly joys, he is in a very bad state, because he has not the physical body with which to experience them. He is like a cricketer or a football player who has lost his arms. He longs to play, but he has no arms; or a singer whose throat has been operated upon. He will long to sing, but he cannot, because his voice has gone.

When the physical plane is taken from a person, then the dream remains as reality, because there is no contrast to prove it otherwise. This state of existence is called Mithal. He can not experience on the earth now because he has lost the physical means. All the impressions that he has gathered upon earth are his world. It is the nature of the mind to gather as many impressions as it can. From this store the pictures that he sees are formed. We do not dream of what we do not know, of what we have not seen. The butcher sees the meat all day, and at night he does not dream of the dairy but of meat.

Sometimes, not only in the West but also in the East, those apparitions of the departed that come to communicate, to warn, to speak with someone dear to them, are called spirits. The word is really inappropriate. The spirit is the essence, the soul that dwells beyond. But since the word is so generally used, let us accept it. These so-called spirits are not the soul alone, but the soul together with the mind; that is, all that remains of the external self after the death of the body.

It sometimes happens that ghosts wish so much to experience the life of this world, that to a certain extent they make themselves substantial. They cannot make themselves as concrete as we are; otherwise they could live here. But to a certain extent they do, by activating the elements around, either the ether or the air.

When people see a ghost, it is in part illusion and in part they may really see it. When the inner eye sees, these outer eyes think that they see. But if they try to touch the ghost, there is nothing there. Thus the actual self of the spirit might show itself in the mist; but where, one may ask, does it get the clothes in which it appears, or anything that it may hold in its hand? The answer is that it is the impression of itself that the spirit holds which mirrors in the soul of the spectator, so that by his concrete illusion he feels its presence as positively as if he saw it with his own eyes.

The dead feel the thought, the good wish of the living. Prayer and religious rites focus the mind of the living on that of the dead, so that the dead may be helped by the living, or the living may be blessed by a saintly spirit.

The custom of offering food, perfume, or incense, to the dead exists among Hindus and Muslims. If someone comes to see us and we set food before him, or whatever may please him, it is appreciated. It is so with the dead also. They enjoy by our eating, by our smelling the perfume, because, although they do not enjoy the actual thing that we put upon the table, yet the impression of our mind, the joy it gives, mirrors itself upon their soul.

The dead person becomes more interested in the things that speak to the mind than in the material satisfactions. Therefore, when the food and drink and perfume are offered, the sacred names, the surahs of the Quran, are read before them so that their intelligence may be satisfied also.

In order to know of the existence of the spirit we must ourselves live in the spirit, and above matter. If a person loses someone whom he loved very much and in whom he was quite absorbed, he goes about lost in the thought of that person. He will become dead to the world around him, and then wherever he goes, in the crowds, in the jungle, he feels the presence of that person, because his self is no more before his view.

Our connection with the beings upon earth is much stronger, because we are conscious of our earthly life. We think of our friends whom we see, and sympathize with them; but we think much less of those who have passed on and what their condition may be now. Those who are living on other planes also think much less of us. There may be a connection between a mother and a child, or between a lover and his beloved, but ordinarily there is no contact between the living and the dead.

In regard to spirit communion, which is a subtle subject, I will say that it is better to have more connection with the beings living upon earth than to be obsessed with the desire to meet with the people on the other side of life. It is here that we are meant to evolve, and by being absorbed in those who have passed on we are taken away from the life we are meant to have; and we live on earth as if we were dead. People in pursuit of the spirits have a dead expression on their faces.

To have devotion for the immortal and holy beings who have passed away is allowable because they are more alive than the living and more than the dead.

There are spirits whom we attract by our love for them, by our wish for their presence. We are surrounded in life by our friends, by those whom we like, whom by our liking we attract to us. And we attract the spirits also by our love. These are usually of a higher sort, these whom we call upon for help, for guidance, the murshids and the prophets. Sometimes there are visions of the murshids, the higher beings; these come to the initiate. They come to guide and to help in all difficulties. Someone who is quite absorbed in the thought of a prophet or murshid may be so lost in him, that if he calls upon him in any difficulty, the one upon whom he calls will always come and help him. To have devotion for a murshid or a prophet who has passed on is better than to ask for his help in whatever difficulty we may be, for God Almighty is closest to us and sufficient to help us in all our difficulties. No mediation of anyone, living or spirit, is necessary. Of course, as in life we depend upon each other's help. Also on the higher plane if the help of some Holy Spirit is granted to us we may accept it, but only if God's being is realized in all; from whatever source the help comes it is from God.

I have had many experiences of the vision of my murshid, one of which is the following.

Once we were making a three days' journey through the jungle, in a place were there was great danger from robbers, and every night two or three travelers were killed. Ours was the smallest caravan. Generally the caravans were of twenty wagons, but it happened that ours was of three wagons only. I had with me very precious gems given to me by the Nizam of Hyderabad, and instead of arms I had musical instruments with me. All the night I saw the form of my murshid, at first faintly, afterwards distinctly, walking with the wagon. The two other wagons were attacked and robbed, and a few worthless bundles were taken. But my wagon was safe. This is not the only instance I have had in my life; I have had a thousand experiences of the sort.

Animals can see the spirits better than we, because their activity is less than ours. We, owing to the worries and anxieties of life and the comforts and temptations of the earth, live more on the surface, although our intelligence is brighter than that of the animals. Animals after their death also appear as spirits, but for a shorter period and fewer in number than human beings, for they are not so absorbed in the earthly life as man is in his person and possessions.

I once had an experience with a dog. Returning from the theater in the middle of the night with a few friends, I saw a dog following us. He showed a special interest in us. One of us, thinking it to be a street dog, struck it with his stick. The instant that the stick hit it, the dog disappeared, and at the same moment the stick broke in pieces. This happened in the presence of many people. We then found that a dog, a pet of our family, very fond of us, had died six months before, and it was the spirit of that dog, still attached to us, that was following. This dog was an exceptional one, and a remarkable thing about it was that every Thursday, regularly, it would fast.

checked 20-Feb-2006