We often find in our daily life that we do things that
we do not wish to do, things against our will and contrary
to our ideals. Sometimes we recognize that such or such
a friend has induced us to do an action which otherwise
we should not have done, and we ascribe to him the credit
or discredit of its result. It may be because our love for
him is so great that we take his word to heart, whether
we agree with it or not, or we may be so under the power
of another person that we cannot but act as he wishes.
Occasionally we feel inclined to do a thing which apparently
we have no reason to do. This is owing to the silent influence
of some other person acting upon us without any spoken word
and causing us to do that which we imagine to be his wish.
Sometimes the thoughts and conditions of mind of another
person make so strong an impression upon us, either in the
presence of that person or in his absence, according to
the extent of his power, that his condition is transferred
to us. We sometimes laugh without reason on seeing the intensity
of another person's laughter, and we feel sad without any
reason when we are in contact with one who is sorrowful.
We fulfill the wish of another, not knowing that he had
any such wish, sometimes even without his own knowledge
It also happens now and then that we feel a desire to
eat fish, and find that the cook has prepared the very dish
of which we were thinking; sometimes we think of a friend
and it happens that the friend comes to see us. All such
instances are proofs of silent suggestion, the inner influence
directed consciously or unconsciously. Sometimes we are
under the influence of another person's mind and thought,
at another time someone may be under our influence; it depends
upon the positive or negative state of the will.
Suggestions are of two kinds; spoken command, and suggestion
by thought. One who is powerful minded often may not intentionally
command or suggest, and yet every word spoken by the powerful
and thought by the mastermind is fulfilled. 'Word spoken
and action done.' is the accomplishment which us called
Siddhi by Yogis, and those so accomplished
are called Sahib-i Dil by the Sufis.
Hypnotism and mesmerism are a kind of obsession for either
a good or bad purpose.
The black magicians work six different spells: murder,
fascination, severance, unrest, torture, persecution. The
same are also wrought by the evil soul whose occupation
it still is to work evil upon earth. This it accomplishes
solely by means of obsession. Those subject to its influence
experience any of these ill effects.
All this is partial obsession. Thousands of such influences
come and go like moving pictures upon the blank curtain
of man's mind, and it rarely happens that the effect lasts
longer; if it does, then people call it obsession.
The influence of the dead is the same as the influence
of the living, but even stronger. Their spirit throws its
reflection upon the mirror of man's mind, and man acts as
the spirit wishes, knowing all the while that his wishes
are other than the spirit's. The intensity of spirit obsession
is much greater than that of the influence of a living person;
for the living are themselves subject to influences and
obsessions, and their own self is an obsession to them,
reflecting the various pictures of their own life upon their
soul; but the spirits, from whom the burden of external
existence is removed, are much more powerful, freer, and
more inclined to obsess others.
Frequently, a crime is committed by a man under the influence
of another. A person with an evil thought of revenge, or
the desire to kill somebody, by the very concentration of
his evil thought becomes so weak that he cannot do it himself.
Then he may consciously or unconsciously, by the intensity
of his desire, convey to some other person the suggestion
of doing it. The other person is innocent of the evil desire
and so has the strength to accomplish it. This is often
seen with anarchists; among anarchists there are some who
only plan the deed, and there are others who carry it out.
There are two sorts of obsession: one is when one soul
imparts its qualities to another; the other is when one
soul causes another to accomplish some deed; this may be
either evil or good. In India we have often seen this with
snakes. The soul focuses itself upon the snake, and then
the snake will feel an inclination to go and bite a certain
If the influence is so strong from a living person, the
obsession of a dead person, of a spirit, is much stronger
still. The dead person has no other means of expression,
and so he seizes upon a weak person, a weak mind, and controls
that. It is not that the soul enters into the body; the
soul is much too large to do that; but it reflects itself
upon the other soul. A spirit focuses itself upon the soul
of another; the greater power holds the lesser.
If a man has left this world full of anger, full of hatred
against his enemy and longing to do him harm, he cannot
find peace. If a person leaves the earth with revengeful
feelings he will long to accomplish his revenge. He is restless
and looking for some means to accomplish his desire. The
negative soul, suited to his purpose, receives this impression;
not the positive soul, but one who is weak in body or mind.
The well-balanced and vigorous throw off such influences;
they are not easily affected.
A spirit may obsess for a good purpose or for an evil
purpose. If a mother dies before she has been able to bring
her child up, and all her thoughts and affection are centered
in the child, she may obsess one of the relations, who then
will feel inclined to take the child and do all he can for
It may happen the case of soul-mates. Especially in the
East this is often seen, where a man may love a girl or
woman whom he has seen only once and there is no chance
of his ever seeing her again. Then, if he dies, she may
become obsessed. She can think of nothing else but his thought
and she becomes half dead, and is often in a trance. It
may not be that she loved him very much, but his thought
obsesses her, and she feels his condition only.
The disciples of Khwaja Nizamuddin Wali,
a great saint of Delhi, were once sitting waiting for him
to come and speak upon a very abstruse and difficult matter,
when to their astonishment they saw his servant come into
the room and sit down on the murshid's seat. Nizamuddin
then came in, made a very deep bow to the servant and took
his seat before him. The servant began to speak and spoke
for some time, explaining some very subtle and deep questions.
Then a change came over his face, he looked around, and
ran from the room in great confusion. Afterwards Nizamuddin
told his disciples that he had asked his murshid
for the answer to some very difficult question, and that
the subject was so complex that the murshid needed
a human form in order to explain it exactly, and that was
why he had spoken through the servant.
I have taken a great interest in this subject. As a boy,
out of curiosity, I studied it very much. I have always
gone where obsessed people were to be found and I have seen
some very curious and remarkable cases of obsession. One
was in a Parsi family. There was a young lady who
sometimes once a day and sometimes two or three times, would
change her mood and would speak in Arabic and Persian; and
she spoke about philosophy and metaphysics which she had
never been taught. She was so strongly obsessed that she
did not care to speak to her father and mother or her brothers
and sisters or anyone else; nor would she ever go out. She
always had incense burning in her room and led a very retired
life. They brought learned people to speak with her, and
she discussed with them like a great philosopher and got
the better of the argument. Then she would forget it all
again. At Secunderabad there was a boy who sang Telagu
songs. He had never learnt them, because Telagu
is not spoken there among Muslims. Sometimes he would sing
many songs, and then later on he could not sing one.
Many people who are obsessed go to Ujjain in Central
India to be healed at the tomb of a Sufi, Miran Datar,
a saint who in his lifetime cured cases of obsession, and
continued doing so even after death. I once visited this
place. On the steps of the tomb a man was sitting who seemed
a quiet and thoughtful person. He was praying. I spoke to
him. If I had known that he was obsessed, I would not have
spoken to him, but I did not know it. I asked him, 'Why
are you here?' He said, 'Do not ask me such a question.'
I said, 'Why not?' He said, 'Because I am afraid. Now that
I am near this holy tomb I have a little strength to answer
you; if I were not here I could not even do that.' He told
me that he had been a storekeeper on some British liner
going back and forth between Bombay and London. One day
at sea he had a strange feeling, as if some power were taking
hold of him, and he was not able to do anything. After that
this power would often take hold of him, and he could not
do what he wanted to do. At times he wanted to eat but could
not; at other times, when he did not want to eat he had
to go and eat. He became quite weak. He told the ship's
doctor, but the doctor could do nothing for him. Then he
went to see many other doctors, but none of them could help
him. At last he went to the tomb of Miran Datar to
see if he could find some relief.
While I was at the tomb of Miran Datar, the Prince
of Kheralu came to see it, a very handsome boy of
twelve or thirteen, accompanied by aides-de-camp and attendants.
He was brought there to be cured. A conversation began of
which we could only hear the part spoken by the prince whose
words were really those of the spirit that obsessed him.
He said, 'I will not leave him. I like him so much. He was
in the forest, shooting, and he came near the tree on which
I was sitting. Don't whip me, Miran, I am his guardian,
I will not leave him. Miran, don't whip me.' The
prince began to run, leaping high in to the air, and showed
every sign of being severely whipped. He ran round and round
the tomb, leaping every time that the invisible whip struck
the spirit. At last he fell down exhausted, and his attendants
at once lifted him up and carried him away.
When I came to the Western world I was curious to know
whether it is only we in the East who have so many obsessed
people, or whether there are obsessed people in the West
also. They said to me, 'Here if someone were to show such
a condition, we should put him in a lunatic asylum. If you
wish to see cases such as you mention you must go there.'
I went, and found that there were many who were mad and
also many who were obsessed. I wanted to try some experiments
in casting out the influence, but the doctors would not
let me, because they wanted a medical diploma, which unfortunately
Then they took me into the laboratory where they were
dissecting brains. They showed me that this man had a certain
spot in his brain that was decayed and therefore he was
mad, and another man had a cavity in his skull and therefore
he became mad too. I asked them whether it was the decay
that caused the madness, or the madness that caused the
decay. At first they were astonished. But then they thought
that there might be something in my philosophy.
According to the mystic's view the cause is mostly within.
It is the fever that gives heat, not the heat that gives
fever. Weeping does not come first and then sadness. The
sadness comes first and that causes the tears to fall.
An Arab who had lost his camel, after searching for it
everywhere heard that it was in the stable of the Sherif
of Mecca. He went to the Sherif and said, 'I have
been told that my she-camel which I lost has been sold to
you and is in your stable.' The Sherif asked him.
'How will you recognize your camel? Has she any particular
marks?' The Arab said, 'She has two black marks upon her
heart.' The Sherif was amazed to hear this; wondering
how the Arab could know about his camel's heart; and in
order to ascertain the truth the camel was cut open, and
two black marks were found upon her heart. The Sherif
asked, 'How could you know that your camel had these two
black marks upon her heart?' The Arab replied, 'Twice my
camel was in great sorrow; twice she lost her foal; she
looked up and gave a deep sigh, and I knew that each time
a black mark was left upon her heart.'
I have seen that there are many suffering from such influences
in the West, but, science being the conqueror of religion,
the casting out of devils, so often mentioned in the Bible,
is today mostly regarded as only a superstition.
The East, on the contrary, has gone to the other extreme.
There are a great many cases of illness there which are
taken to those who cast out devils, and these, in order
to get as many patients as they can, interpret every disease
as the influence of a spirit.
There are, however, two advantages in this course. The
first is that the patient thinks that the disease is not
within himself, but is an external influence which will
cease if it is cast out. This prevents his taking his illness
too much to heart, for the very thought of having a disease
which is rooted in the body may often lead him to his death.
Instead of that, however serious the illness may be, the
patient will have the impression that it is a spirit that
can be cast out; and this belief may restore him to health.
The second advantage is that a wise person can, while
pretending to cast out spirits, arouse the patient so that
he begins to confess the secrets of his heart – some hidden
thought or feeling which may have made him ill. He had not
been able to speak of it, having been constrained by the
situation in which he was placed, but when this poison is
released, the patient can easily be cured. Faqirs
often work in this way.
Sometimes women, owing to the strict customs and manners
of their country and religion, cannot tell the secret of
their despair to anyone, and thus they hold the poisonous
seed in their heart until their death, and this consumes
them within. Many have had longings which could not be attained,
jealous fits which could not be explained, heart breaks
which could not be repaired. All such cases show externally
as a bodily disease, which doctors try to cure by chemical
prescriptions, but the root remains. This treatment is like
poison within mixed with poison without; the result, without
any doubt, is usually death.
As soon as the patient's secret is known to the healer,
he has really made a successful operation in the invisible
heart and taken out all the poisonous substance which was
causing the sickness and leading the patient to his death.
He then releases him from this by words of consolation,
by fragrance, by music, by the recitation of the names of
God, and by reflecting upon the heart of the obsessed his
own wisdom and piety. No doubt there are very few, even
in the East, who could give the right treatment; and mostly
there are real devils amongst those who profess to cast