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
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
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
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
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
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
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.