by W.E. Butler
The ghost story of modern days seems to bear little resemblance to those blood-curdling stories of headless horsemen, grey ladies, phantom hounds, and chain-cranking revenants of Victorian times.
Indeed the modern ghost is a highly respectable but unfortunate member of super-mundane society, and the only writer who seems to cater for the older type of ghost at the present time is M. Elliott O’Donnell.
Nevertheless, the old-fashioned ghost still persists in occasionally showing himself, and thereby raising points of interest to the psychic student. Must we conclude that the fair maiden who was so tragically put to death by the villain is indeed compelled to appear in propria persona and re-enact the tragedy of her passing?
The rather naive theory of many earnest spiritualists (not all, let it be remembered) is one which, although it accounts for many so-called ghosts, fails to account for others, and therefore, though a partial explanation, fails to account for all the facts. The esoteric explanation provides a ‘reference frame’ into which we can fit any ghost with which we may have to deal in the course of our investigations.
All esoteric schools posit the existence of an ethereal medium of underlying substance, and this universal medium is held to be the vehicle for all manifestations of supra-physical energies, as well as being in one of its aspects the matrix of all material manifestations.
Modern science in the persons of its great exponents, Lodge, Jeans, Eddington, seems to be rapidly approaching the view-point of occult science, and it will soon be respectable science to speak of the ‘Astral Light’ in the same breath as we speak of radio-activity or Mendelief’s Law. This universal medium has been termed ‘Astral Ether’ in its extra-planetary form, and ‘Astral Light’ in its restricted mundane form. For the moment let us leave the Astral Ether in its undifferentiated aspect, and confine ourselves to the mundane Astral Light. It is an occult axiom, supported by research and experiment, that every action, and every intense thought is indelibly imprinted upon the Astral Light.
In the course of ages the Astral Light is increased as the raw Astral Ether is brought into the service of organised consciousness. The Astral Light is that which has been termed the “Treasure House of Images”, and it is from this storehouse of images in its lower astro-etheric aspect that many ‘ghosts’ are drawn.
What are the causes which present one of out of many millions of the astral pictures to the bewildered ghost-seer?
The late Monseigneur Robert Hugh Benson used a very significant illustration of this point – “If we were to suddenly draw up the blind of our window and gaze into the busy street, we might conceivably see a girl in a red cloak walking past us. We might describe her to someone else who was with us in the room, but it would be foolish to waste time in speculating upon the symbolism of the red cloak, or wondering what message such a sight was meant to convey to us.” In short, it was a random glimpse into the street, and many ghosts are simply the result of a random glimpse into the Astral Light.
But in many cases there is a definite reason for the appearance of the ghost in some particular locality. With all objects is bound a certain portion of the Astral Light, and upon that portion are imprinted the records of the happenings, physical, astral and spiritual which take place in its vicinity. This, of course, is the basis of the art of psychometry. It is also the underlying reality behind all psychic magnetisation, blessings and consecrations, and it is employed alike in the preparation of ‘Holy Water’, the making of talismans, and the consecration of persons and objects which play so great a part in the ritual of the Catholic Church.
Under conditions of extreme terror or emotion, exceptionally vivid images may have been impressed upon the Astral Light in some particular locality, and these images may be perceived by anyone who comes in a sensitive condition to the place. In many of these cases the drama is re-enacted before the horrified spectator – the victim flies in terror down the haunted gallery, and as the old music-hall song has it – “The villain still pursues her!”
These ghosts who haunt definite localities often seem to exhibit some curious cyclic variation, the anniversary of the deed of violence, or some one or other of the etheric tides of this planet. Here we are leaving behind us the ghost who is simply a picture in the Astral Light, and we are coming to a ghost which is not merely a picture but is an ‘ensouled picture’. Ensouled by what? Once again, several agencies may be suggested but one, and that a sufficiently powerful and comprehensive one, is that which I will now try to describe.
Let us take the case of the victim who has suffered violent death at the hands of the villain. As a personality she has passed into the astral world, and progressing steadily upwards, has finally reached union with her Higher Self – that union which is the death of the personality. As concrete memories, the earth experiences will have been left behind, but the magnetic trace of the last personality will have been imprinted upon all the levels of the Astral Light through which she has passed. This magnetic trace persists in the Astral Light, and is one of the conditioning factors in the building of the next personality. It equates with the skandha of the Buddhist philosophy. Under certain pathological conditions the magnetic trace may be psychically linked with disintegrating etheric form, and then becomes the ‘galvanised astral corpse’, so beloved of some Theosophical writers. This, however, is what we may term an astral pathology, and under normal astral conditions the magnetic trace subsists in the Astral Light as a quiescent line of images – in contact at its higher end with the radiant Higher Self.
Again under normal conditions the attention of the Higher Self is turned inward to its own centre – the Cosmic Atom of which it is the reflection, and because of this withdrawal of attention, the astral images are not vivified. (A similar condition exists when the Day of Manifestation draws to its close, and the attention of the Solar Logos is withdrawn from the field of the Ring-Pass-Not.)
We have here taken for our example the case of a personality completely withdrawn into union with is Higher Self, but it is obvious that all intermediate stages will exist, according to the speed of withdrawal and the purgatorial experiences of the discarnate spirit. In some cases we shall have the recently discarnate personality active on its own level in the Astral Light, and in others we shall have but one more remnant of the veiling personality, and the communications will be from the Radiant Self – if the sensitive can function upon such exalted levels.
To return to our line of astral images, one of that line is, as we have already said, in contact with the Radiant Self. The other end is in contact with the stabilising matrix of the planet Earth, i.e. the astro-etheric level. Vivification of the astral images may occur through stimulation from the lower end or from the higher end of the chain. Now it has been said that the purified spirit dreams in the heaven worlds, the “spheres of contemplation” spoken of by ‘Imperator’, the spirit guide of Stainton Moses (M.A. Oxon.).
In the course of such dreams, the happenings of the life that is past are recalled, and some part of the energy of the dreaming spirit is automatically projected down the line of the magnetic trace, until it is ‘earthed’, as it were, by the astro-etheric reservoir of elemental energy. But in this impaction of spiritual energy upon elemental energy lies the possibility of a temporary intensification and ensoulment of the dense astral images connected with the material locality dreamt of.
We have now a reconstruction of the old personality, and the old records may become perceptible to a sensitive observer. There is a difference, however, between the perception of unvivified images due to their deep impression in the astral medium and the contact with the vivified images. The one is automatic and the actors are but picture images – it is but a cinematograph display. The other is the perception of ensouled images, and contact is found to be established with some portion at least of the actual intelligencies whose phantom presentments are seen.
The communications from ‘Brother Johannes’ in the Glastonbury Scripts clearly point this out. Johannes, the lover of Nature and holding the remembrance of the Abbey dear to him, writes thus: “For I, Johannes, am of many partes and ye better parts of me which remembereth clingeth like memory to what it seeth yet.”
I have not considered in this paper the ordinary astral revenant who is a frequent visitor to spiritualist circles. There are seances held by the thousand in England alone, where earth-bound spirits are prayed for and helped. But they are the more ordinary ghosts. I have tried to show how the localised ghosts of the old-fashioned ghost story may be understood. They do not ask for our prayers, for the radiant intelligencies who once strode upon this earthly stage have attained to levels of light and happiness far beyond our comprehension. In a perfect community of love, thought and being, they subsist in that realm of Love Eternal until the call goes forth again to strive and to conquer.
Let them speak for themselves. Brother Johannes, the spokesman of the Watchers of Avalon, writing of these things says: “Each one, in his remembrance, is the link which makes for us all the faire story of Glaston as one continuous whole.”
“So I, being linked in spirit with Eawulf who comes from out the Danes of olden time, see with his eyes and live in mine own spiritual life the life that he lived in his day. So does Eawulf and so does Abbot Kent who loved the Mere and there took his pleasaunce, go with me, and in me, and I in him to see the sunset imaged in the waters and hear the tide coming in the sedges of Cock Lake, ere it reached me over dear Mere.”
“So, being united and yet separate, in that he is hym and I am Johannes… soe, I say, do we live and have a hundred lives where once we lived but one. Thus are we. Is it not the Paradise of Saints in which we all dwell and praise and rejoice as one?”
So, when in our occult work we meet with the earthbound dweller in the antechamber of Osiris, let us by our prayer and wisely directed effort help him to advance, but when we hear of mediaeval hauntings and family apparitions, let us bear in mind those splendid words: “The Souls of the Righteous are in the Hands of God, and there shall no torment touch them. In the sight of the unwise they seem to die, and their departure from amongst us is taken to be utter destruction but – they are in Peace.”