Sunday, June 2, 2013




[* Reprinted from the Theosophist, May 1910. The author of this paper is Mr. C. W. Leadbeater, the well-known practical occultist, and our object in reprinting it is to show to our readers how the teachings of the yoga-pada of the Agamas are explained from the Theosophic view-point – Ed. L.T]


    In each of our vehicles there are certain force-centers which in Sanskrit are called chakrams – a word which signifies a wheel or revolving disc. These are points of connection at which force flows from one vehicle to another. They may easily be seen in the etheric double, where they show themselves as saucer-like depressions or vortices in its surface. They are often spoken of as corresponding to certain physical organs; but it must be remembered that the etheric force-center is not in the interior of the body, but on the surface of the etheric double, which projects a quarter of an inch beyond the outline of the denser matter.

    The centers which are usually employed in occult development are seven, and they are situated in the following parts of the body: (1) the base of the spine; (2) the navel; (3) the spleen; (4) the heart; (5) the throat; (6) the space between the eyebrows; and (7) the top of the head. There are other force-centers in the body besides these, but they are not employed by students of the White Magic. It may be remembered that Madame Blavatsky speaks of three others which she calls the lower centers; there are schools which use these, but the dangers connected with them are so serious that we should consider their awakening as the greatest of misfortunes.

    These seven are often described as corresponding to the seven colors and to the notes of the musical scale; and in the Indian books certain letters of the alphabet and certain forms of vitality are mentioned as attached to each of them. They are also poetically as attached to each of them. They are also poetically described as resembling flowers, and to each of them a certain number of petals is assigned.

    It must be remembered that they are vortices of etheric matter, and that they are all in rapid rotation. Into each of these open mouths, at right angles to the plane of the whirling disc or saucer, rushes a force from the astral world (which we will call the primary force) – one of the forces of the Logos. That force is seven-fold in its nature, and all its forms operate in all the centers, though in each of them one of the forms is always greatly predominant.

    This inrush of force brings the Divine Life into the physical body, and without it that body could not exist. These centers through which the force can enter are therefore actually necessary, to the existence of the vehicle, but they may be whirling with very different degrees of activity. Their particles may be in comparatively sluggish motion, just forming the necessary vortex for the force and no more, or they may be glowing and pulsating with living light so that an enormously greater amount of force passes through them, with the result that various additional faculties and possibilities are opened to the Ego as he functions on that plane. Now, those forces which rush into the center from without set up at right angles to themselves (that is to say, in the surface of the etheric double) secondary forces in undulatory circular motion, just as a bar magnet thrust into an induction coil produces a current of electricity which flows round the coil at right angles to the axis or direction of the magnet.

    Each of these secondary forces, which sweep round the saucer-like depression, has its own characteristic wave-length, just as has light of a certain color; but instead of moving in a straight line as light does, it moves along in certain relatively large undulations of various sizes, each of which is some multiple of the smaller wave-lengths within it, though the exact proportions have not as yet been calculated. The wave-lengths are infinitesimal, and probably some thousands of them are included within one of the undulations. As the forces rush round in the vortex these undulations of different sizes, crossing one another, produce a wavy appearance which is not inaptly described in the Hindu books as resembling the petals of a flower; or it is still more like certain saucers or shallow vases of wavy iridescent glass which I have seen in Venice. All of these undulations or petals have that shimmering iridescent effect, like mother-of-pearl, yet each of them has usually its own predominant color.    

    In the ordinary man, in whom these centers are just active enough to be channels for sufficient force to keep his body alive, these colors glow with a comparatively dull light; but in those in whom the centers have been aroused and are in full activity they are of blinding brilliancy, and the centers themselves, which have gradually grown from a diameter of about two inches to the size of an ordinary saucer, are blazing and coruscating like miniature suns.


    The first center, at the base of the spine, so arranges its undulations as to give the effect of its being divided into quadrants, with hollows between them. This makes it seem as though marked with the sign of the cross, and for that reason the cross is often used to symbolize this center, and sometimes a flaming cross is used to indicate the serpent-fire which resides in it. When aroused into full activity this center is fiery orange-red in color.

    The second center, at the navel or solar plexus, vibrates in such a manner as to divide itself into ten undulations or petals, and is very closely associated with feelings and emotions of various kinds. Its predominant color is a curious blend of various shades of red.

    The third center, at the spleen, gives the effect of sex petals or undulations, and it seems that all of these are concerned in the specialization, sub-division and dispersion of the vitality which comes to us from the sun. Presumably for that reason this center is specially radiant, glowing and sun-like.

    The fourth center, at the heart, is of a glowing golden color, and each of its quadrants is divided into three parts, which gives it twelve undulations.

    The fifth center, at the throat, has sixteen such apparent divisions, but its general effect is silvery and gleaning, with a kind of suggestion as of moonlight upon rippling water.

    The sixth center, between the eyebrows, has the appearance of being divided into halves, the one predominantly rose-colored, and the other predominantly a kind of purplish-blue. Perhaps it is for the reason that this center is mentioned in Indian books as having only two petals, though if we are to count undulations of the same character as those of the previous centers we shall find that each half is sub-divided into forty-eight of these, making ninety-six in all.

    The seventh, the center at the top of the head, is when stirred into full activity perhaps the most resplendent of all, full of indescribable chromatic effects and vibrating with almost inconceivable rapidity. It is described in Indian books as thousand-petal, and really this is not very far from the truth, the total number of its undulations being nine hundred and sixty. In addition to this it has a feature which is possessed by none of the other centers – a sort of subsidiary whirlpool of gleaming white in its heart – a minor activity which has twelve undulations of its own.

    I have heard it suggested that each of the different petals of these force-centers represents a moral quality, and that the development of that quality brings the center into activity. I have not yet met with any facts which confirm this, nor am I able to see exactly how it can be, because the appearance is produced by certain quite definite and easily recognizable forces, and the petals in any particular center are either active or not active according as these forces have or have not been aroused, and their development seems to me to have no more connection with morality than has the development of the biceps. I have certainly met with persons in whom some of the centers were in full activity, though the moral development was by no means exceptionally high, whereas in other persons of high spirituality and the noblest possible morality the centers were not yet vitalized at all, so that there does not seem to me to be any connection between the two developments.


    Besides the keeping alive of the physical vehicle, these force-centers have another function, which comes into play only when they are awakened into full activity. Each of these etheric centers corresponds to an astral center, though as the astral center is a vortex in four dimensions it has an extension in a direction quite different from the etheric, and consequently is by no means always coterminous with it, though some part is always coincident. The etheric vortex is always on the surface of the etheric body, but the astral center is frequently quite in the interior of that vehicle. The function of each of these etheric centers when fully aroused is to bring down into physical consciousness whatever may be the quality inherent in the astral center which corresponds to it; so, before cataloguing the results to be obtained by arousing the etheric centers into activity, it may be well to consider what is done by each of the astral centers, although these latter are already in full activity in all cultured people of the latter races. What effect, then, has the quickening of each of these astral centers produced in the astral body?

    The first of these centers that at the base of the spine is the home of that mysterious force called the serpent-fire or, in The Voice of the Silence, the World's Mother. I will say more about this force latter; for the moment let us consider its effects on the astral centers. This force exists on all planes, and by its activity the rest of the centers are aroused. We must think of the astral body as having been originally an almost inert mass, with nothing but the vaguest consciousness, with no definite power of doing anything, and no clear knowledge of the world which surrounded it. The first thing that happened, then, was the awakening of that force in the man at the astral level. When awakened it moved on to the second center, corresponding to the navel, and vivified it, thereby awakening in the astral body the power of feeling – a sensitiveness to all sorts of influences, though without as yet anything like the definite comprehension that comes from seeing or hearing.

    Then it moved on to the third, that corresponding to the physical spleen, and through it vitalized the whole astral body, enabling the person to travel consciously, though with only a vague conception as yet of what he encountered on his journeys.

    The fourth center, when awakened, endowed the man with the power to comprehend and sympathize with the vibrations of other astral entitles, so that he could instinctively understand their feelings.

    The awakening of the fifth, that corresponding to the throat, gave him the power of hearing on the astral plane – that is to say, it caused the development of that sense which in the astral world produces on our consciousness the effect which on the physical plane we call hearing.

    The development of the sixth, that corresponding to the center between the eyebrows, in a similar manner produced astral sight.

    The arousing of the seventh, that corresponding to the top of the head, rounded off and completed for him the astral life, and endowed him with the perfection of its faculties.

    With regard to this center a certain difference seems to exist according to the type to which men belong. For many of us the astral vortices corresponding to the sixth and seventh of these centers both converge upon the pituitary body, and for these people the pituitary body is practically the only direct link between the physical and the higher planes. Another type of people, however, while still attaching the sixth center to the pituitary body, bend or slant the seventh until its vortex coincides with the atrophied organ called the pineal gland, which is by people of that type vivified and made into a line of communication directly with the lower mental, without apparently passing through the intermediate astral plane in the ordinary way. It was for this type that Madame Blavatsky was writing when she laid such emphasis upon the awakening of that organ.


    Thus these to some extent take the place of sense-organs for the astral body, and yet without proper qualification that expression would be decidedly a misleading one, for it must never be forgotten that though, in order to make ourselves intelligible, all that we really mean by those expressions is the faculty of responding to such vibrations as convey to the man's consciousness, when he is functioning in his astral body, information of the same character as that conveyed to him by his eyes and ears while he is in the physical body. But in the entirely different astral conditions specialized organs are not necessary for the attainment of this result. There is matter in every part of the astral body which is capable of such response, and consequently the man functioning in that vehicle sees equally well the objects behind him, above him, and beneath him, without needing to turn his head. The centers, therefore, cannot be described as organs in the ordinary sense of the word, since it is not through them that the man sees or hears, as he does here through the eyes and ears. Yet it is upon their vivification that the power of exercising these astral senses depends, each of them as it is developed giving to the whole astral body the power of response to a new set of vibrations.

    As all the particles of the astral body are constantly flowing and swirling about like those of boiling water, all of them in turn pass through each of the centers or vortices, so that each center in its turn evokes in all the particles of the body the power of receptivity to a certain set of vibrations, and so all the astral senses are equally active in all parts of the body. Even when these astral senses are fully awakened it by no means follows that the man will be able to bring through into his physical body any consciousness of their action.


    While all this astral awakening was taking place, then, the man in the physical consciousness knew nothing whatever of it. The only way in which the dense body can be brought to share all these advantages is by repeating that process of awakening with the etheric centers. That is to be achieved precisely in the same way as it was done upon the astral plane – that is to say, by the arousing of the serpent-fire, which exists clothed in etheric matter on the physical plane, and sleeps in the corresponding etheric center, that at the base of the spine.

    In this case the arousing is done by a determined and long-continued effort of the will, and to bring the first center into activity is precisely to awaken the serpent-fire. When once that is aroused, it is by its tremendous force that the other centers are vivified. Its effect on the other etheric centers is to bring into the physical consciousness the powers which were aroused by the development of their corresponding astral centers.

    When the second of the etheric centers, that at the navel, comes into activity the man begins in the physical body to be conscious of all kinds of astral influences, vaguely feeling that some of them are friendly and others hostile, or that some places are pleasant and others unpleasant, without in the least knowing why.

    When the third center, that at the spleen, is awakened the man is enabled to remember his vague astral journeys, though sometimes only very partially. The effect of a slight and accidental stimulation of this center is often to produce half-remembrances of a blissful sensation of flying through the air.

    Stimulation of the fourth that at the heart, makes the man instinctively aware of the joys and sorrows of others, and sometimes even causes him to reproduce in himself by sympathy their physical aches and pains.

    The arousing of the fifth that at the throat, enables him to hear voices, which sometimes make all kinds of suggestions to him. Also sometimes he hears music, or other less pleasant sounds. When it is fully working it makes the man clairaudient as far as the etheric and astral planes are concerned.

    When the sixth, between the eye-brows, becomes vivified, the man begins to see things, to have various sorts of waking visions, sometimes of places, sometimes of people. In its earlier development, when it is only just beginning to be awakened, it often meant nothing more than half-seeing landscapes and clouds of color. The full arousing of this brings about clairvoyance.

    The center between the eyebrows is connected with sight in yet another way. It is through it that the power of magnification of minute physical objects is exercised. A tiny flexible tube of etheric matter is projected from the center of it, resembling a microscopic snake with an eye at the end of it. This is the special organ used in that form of clairvoyance, and the eye at the end of it can be expanded or contracted, the effect being to change the power of magnification according to the size of the object which is being examined. This is what is meant in ancient books when mention is made of the capacity to make oneself large or small at will. To examine an atom one develops an organ of vision commensurate in size with the atom. This little snake projecting from the centers of the forehead was symbolized upon the head-dress of the Pharaoh of Egypt, who as the chief priest of his country was supposed to possess this among many other occult powers.

    When the seventh is awakened the man I able by passing through it to leave his body in full consciousness, and also to return to it without the usual break, so that his consciousness will now be continuous through night and day. When the fire has been passed through all these centers in a certain order (which varies for different types of people) the consciousness becomes continuous up to the entry into the heaven-world at the end of the life on the astral plane, no difference being made by either the temporary separation from the physical body during sleep or the permanent division at death. Before this is done, however, the man may have many glimpses of the astral world, for specially strong vibrations may at any time galvanize one or other of the centers into temporary activity, without arousing the serpent-fire at all; or it may happen that the fire may be partially roused, and in this way also partial clairvoyance may be produced for the time. For this fire exists in seven layers or seven degrees of force, and it often happens that a man who exerts his will in the effort to arose it may succeed in affecting one layer only, and so when he thinks that he has done the work he may find it ineffective and may have to do it all over again many times, digging gradually deeper and deeper, until not only the surface is stirred but the very heart of the fire is in full activity.


    As we know it, this serpent-fire (called in Samskrit Kundalini) is the manifestation on the physical plane of one of the great world-forces – one of the powers of the Logos. You know that what we call electricity is a manifestation of one of His forces, and that that force may take various forms, such as heat, light and motion. Another of His forces is vitality – what is sometimes called prana, but this is not interchangeable with any of those other forms which we have just mentioned. We may say then that vitality and electricity are as it were the lower ends of two of His streams of force.

    This serpent-fire may be taken as the lower end of another of His streams, the physical-plane manifestation of another of the manifold aspects of His power. Like vitality, it exists on all planes of which we know anything; but it is the expression of it in etheric matter with which we have to do. It is not convertible into either vitality or electricity, and does not seem to be affected in any way by either. I have seen as much as a million and a quarter volts of electricity put into a human body, so that when the man held out his arm towards the wall huge flames rushed out from his fingers, yet he felt nothing unusual, nor was he in the least burnt unless he accidently touched some external object; but even this enormous display of power had no effect whatever upon the serpent-fire. In The Voice of the Silence this force is called "the Fiery Power" and "the World's Mother". There is much reason for all these strange names, for it is in very truth like liquid fire as it rushes through the body, and the course through which it ought to move is a spiral one like the coils of a serpent. It is called the World's Mother because through it our vehicle may be vivified, so that the higher worlds may open before us in succession.

    In the body of man its home, as we have said, is at the base of the spine, and for the ordinary person it lies there unawakened, and its very presence unsuspected, during the whole of his life; and it is indeed far better to allow it thus to remain dormant until the man has made definite moral development, until his will is strong enough to control it and his thoughts pure enough to enable him to face its awakening without injury. No one should experiment with it without definite instruction from a teacher who thoroughly understands the subject, for the dangers connected with it are very real and terribly serious. Some of them are purely physical. Its uncontrolled movement often produces intense physical pain, and it may very readily tear tissues and even destroy physical life. This, however, is the least of the evils of which it is capable, for it may do permanent injury to vehicles higher than the physical.

    One very common effect of rousing it prematurely is that it rushes downwards in the body instead of upwards, and thus excites the most undesirable passions – excites them and intensifies their effects to such a degree that it becomes absolutely impossible for the man to resist them, because a force has been brought into play in whose presence he is as helpless as a swimmer before the jaws of a shark. Such men become satyrs, monsters of depravity, because they are in the grasp of a force which is out of all proportion to the ordinary human power of resistance. They may probably gain certain supernormal powers, but these would be such as would bring them into touch with a lower order of evolution with which humanity is intended to hold no commerce, and to escape from its awful thralldom may take them more than one incarnation. There is a school of black magic which purposely uses this power in this way, in order that through it may be vivified those lower force-centers which are never used by the followers of the Good Law.

    Even apart from this greatest of its dangers its premature unfoldment has many other unpleasant possibilities. It intensifies everything in the man's nature, and it reaches the lower and evil qualities more readily than the good. In the mental body, for example, ambition is very readily aroused, and soon swells to an incredibly inordinate degree. It would be likely to bring with it a great intensification of the power of intellect, but at the same time it would produce abnormal and satanic pride, such as is quite inconceivable to the ordinary man. It is not wise for a man to think that he is prepared to cope with any force that may arise within his body; this is no ordinary force, but something resistless. Assuredly no uninstructed man should ever try to awaken it, and if such a one finds that it has been aroused by accident he should at once consult someone who fully understands these matters.

    It may be noticed that I have specially and intentionally refrained from explaining how this arousing is to be done, or mentioning the order in which the force (when aroused) should be passed through these various centers, for, that should by no means be attempted except at the express suggestion of a Master, who will watch over His pupil during the various stages of the experiment. I most solemnly warn all students against making any effort whatever in the direction of awakening these tremendous forces except under such qualified tuition, for I have myself seen many cases of the terrible effects which follow from ignorant and ill-advised meddling with these very serious matters. This force is a tremendous reality, one of the great basic facts of Nature, and most emphatically it is not a thing to be played with, or to be lightly taken in hand, for to experiment with it without understanding it, is far more dangerous than it would be for a child to play with nitroglycerine. As is very truly said in the Hathayogapradipika: "It gives liberation to Yogis and bondage to fools". (iii. 107).

    In matters such as these, students so often seem to think that some special exception to the laws of Nature will be made in their case, that some special intervention of Providence will save them from the consequences of their folly. Assuredly nothing of that sort will happen, and the man who wantonly provokes an explosion is quite likely to become its first victim. It would save much trouble and disappointment if students could be induced to understand that in all matters connected with occultism we mean just exactly and literally what we say, and that it is applicable in every case without exception. For there is no such thing as favoritism in the working of the great Laws of the Universe. Everybody wants to try all possible experiments; everybody is convinced that he is quite ready for the highest possible teaching and for any sort of development, and no one is willing to work patiently along at the improvement of character, and to devote his time and his energies to doing something useful for the work of the Society, waiting for all these other things until a Master shall announce that he is ready for them. The old aphorism still remains true: "Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you".

    There are some cases in which the fire wakes spontaneously so that a dull glow is felt; it may even begin to move of itself, though this is rare. In this latter case it would be likely to cause great pain as, since the passages are not prepared for it, it would have to clear its way by actually burning up a great deal of etheric dross – a process that cannot but engender suffering. When it thus awakes of itself or is accidentally aroused, it usually tries to rush up the interior of the spine, instead of following the spiral course into which the occultist is trained to guide it. If it be possible, the will should be set in motion to arrest its onward rush, but if that proves to be impossible (as is most likely) no alarm need be felt. It will probably rush our through the head and escape into the surrounding atmosphere, and it is likely that no harm will result beyond a slight weakening. Nothing worse than a temporary loss of consciousness need be apprehended. The really appalling dangers are connected not with its upward rush, but with the possibility of its turning downwards and inwards.

    Its principal function in connection with occult development is that by being sent through the force-centers in the etheric body, as above described, it vivifies these centers and makes them available as gates of connection between the physical and astral bodies. It is said in The Voice of the Silence that when the serpent-fire reaches the center between the eyebrows and fully vivifies it, it confers the power of hearing the voice of the Master – which means in this case the voice of the Ego or Higher Self. The reason for this statement is that when the pituitary body is brought into working order it forms a perfect link with the astral vehicle, so that through it all communications from within can be received.

    It is not only this one; all the higher force-centers have presently to be awakened, and each must be made responsive to all kinds of astral influences from the various astral sub planes. This development will come to all in due course, but most people cannot gain it during the present incarnation, if it is the first in which they have begun to take these matters seriously in hand. Some Indians might succeed in doing so, as their bodies are by heredity more adaptable than most others; but it is really for the majority the work of a later round altogether. The conquest of the serpent-fire has to be repeated in each incarnation, since the vehicles are new each time, but after it has been once thoroughly achieved these repetitions will be an easy matter. It must be remembered that its action varies with different types of people; some, for example, would see the Higher Self rather than hear its voice. Again this connection with the higher has many stages; for the personality it means the influence of the Ego, but for the Ego himself it means the power of the Monad, and for the Monad in turn it means to become a conscious expression of the Logos.

    It may be of use if I mention my own experience in this matter. In the earlier part of my residence in India twenty-five years ago I made no effort to rouse the fire – not indeed knowing very much about it, and having the opinion that, in order to do anything with it, it was necessary to be born with a specially psychic body, which I did not possess. But one day one of the Master's made a suggestion to me with regard to a certain kind of meditation which would evoke this force. Naturally I at once put the suggestion into practice, and in course of time was successful. I have no doubt, however, that He watched the experiment, and would have checked me if it had become dangerous. I am told that there are Indian ascetics who teach this to their pupils, of course keeping them under careful supervision during the process. But I do not myself know of any such, not should I have confidence in them unless they were specially recommended by someone whom I knew to be possessed of real knowledge.

    People often ask me what I advise them to do with regard to the arousing of this force. I advise them to do exactly what I myself did. I recommend them to throw themselves into Theosophical work and wait until they receive a definite command from some Master who will undertake to superintend their psychic development, continuing in the meantime all the ordinary exercises of meditation that are known to them. They should not cure in the least whether such development comes in this incarnation or in the next, but should regard the matter from the point of view of the Ego and not of the personality, feeling absolutely certain that the Masters are always watching for those whom They can help, that it is entirely impossible for anyone to be overlooked, and that They will unquestionably give Their directions when They think that the right time has come.

    I have never heard that there is any sort of age limit with regard to the development, and I do not see that age should make any difference, so long as one has perfect health; but the health is a necessity, for only a strong body can endure the strain, which is must more serious than anyone who has not made the attempt can possibly imagine.

    The force when aroused must be very strictly controlled, and it must be moved through the centers in an order which differs for people of different types. The movement also to be effective must be made in a particular way, which the Master will explain when the time comes.


    I have said that the astral and etheric centers are in very close correspondence; but between them, and interpenetrating them in a manner not readily describable, is a sheath or web of closely woven texture, a sheath composed of a single layer of physical atoms much compressed and permeated by a special form of vital force. The Divine Life which normally descends from the astral body to the physical is so attuned as to pass through this with perfect ease, but it is an absolute barrier to all other forces – all which cannot use the atomic matter of both the planes. This web is the natural protection provided by nature to prevent a premature opening up of communication between the planes – a development which could lead to nothing but injury.

    It is in this which under normal conditions prevents clear recollection of what has happened during sleep, and it is this also which causes the momentary unconsciousness which always occurs at death. But for this merciful provision the ordinary man, who knows nothing about all these things and is entirely unprepared to meet them, could at any moment be brought by any astral entity under the influence of forces to cope with which would be entirely beyond his strength. He would be liable to constant obsession by any being on the astral plane who desired to seize upon his vehicles.

    It will therefore be readily understood that any injury to this web is a very serious disaster. There are several ways in which injury may come, and it behooves us to use our best endeavors to guard against it. It may come either by accident or by continued malpractice. Any great shock to the astral body, such for example as a sudden terrible fight, may rend apart this delicate organism and, as it is commonly expressed, drive the man mad. (Of course there are other ways in which fear may cause insanity, but this is one). A tremendous outburst of anger may also produce the same effect. Indeed it may follow upon any exceedingly strong emotion of an evil character which produces a kind of explosion in the astral body.

    The malpractices which may more gradually injure this protective wed are of two classes – the use of alcohol or narcotic drugs and the deliberate endeavor to throw open the doors which nature has kept closed, by means of such a process as is described in spiritualistic parlance as sitting for development. Certain drugs and drinks – notably alcohol and all the narcotics, including tobacco – contain matter which on breaking up volatilizes, and some of it passes from the physical plane to the astral. (Even tea and coffee contain this matter, but in quantities so infinitesimal that it is usually only after long-continued abuse of them that the effect manifests itself). Where this takes place in the body of man these constituents rush out through the force-centers in the opposite direction to that for which they are intended, and in doing this repeatedly they very seriously injure and finally destroy the delicate web. This deterioration or destruction may be brought about in two different ways, according to the type of the person concerned and to the proportion of the constituents in his etheric and astral bodies. First, the rush of volatilizing matter actually burns away the web, and therefore leaves the door open to all sorts of irregular forces and evil influences.

    The second result is that these volatile constituents, in flowing through, somehow harden the atom so that its pulsation is to a large extent checked and crippled, and it is no longer capable of being vitalized by the particular type of force which welds it into a web. The result of this is a kind of ossification of the web, so that instead of having too much coming through form one plane to the other, we have very little of any kind coming through. We may see the effects of both these types of deterioration in the case of men who yield themselves to drunkenness. Some of those who are affected in the former way fall into delirium tremens, obsession or insanity; but those are after all comparatively rare. Far more common is the second type of deterioration – the case in which we have a kind of general deadening down of the man's qualities, resulting in gross materialism, brutality and animation, in the loss of all finer feelings and of the power to control himself. He no longer feels any sense of responsibility; he may love his wife and children when sober, but when the fit of drunkenness comes upon him he will use the money which should have bought bread for them to satisfy his own bestial cravings, the affection and the responsibility having apparently entirely disappeared.

    The second type of effect is very commonly to be seen among those who are slaves of the tobacco habit; again and again we find that they persist in their self-indulgence even when they know perfectly well that it causes nausea and misery to their neighbors. We shall recognize the deterioration at once when we think that this is the only practice in which a gentleman will persist when he is aware that it causes acute annoyance to others. Clearly in this case the finer feelings have already been seriously blunted.

    All impressions which pass from one plane to the other are intended to come only through the atomic sub-planes, as I have said; but when this deadening process sets in, it presently infects not only other atomic matter, but matter of even the second and third sub-planes, so that the only communication between the astral and the etheric is when some force acting on the lower sub-planes (upon which only unpleasant and evil influences are to be found) happens to be strong enough to compel a response by the violence of its vibration.

    Nevertheless, though nature takes such precautions to guard these centers, she by no means intends that they shall always be kept rigidly closed. There is a proper way in which they may be opened. Perhaps it would be more correct to say that the intention is not that the doors should be opened any wider than their present position, but that the man should so develop himself as that he can bring a very great deal through the recognized channel. The consciousness of the ordinary man cannot yet use pure atomic matter either in the physical body or in the astral, and therefore there is normally no possibility for him of conscious communication at will between the two planes. The proper way to obtain that is to purify both the vehicles until the atomic matter in both is fully vivified, so that all communications between the two may be able to pass by that road. In that case the web retains to the fullest degree its position and activity, and yet is no longer a barrier to the perfect communication, while it still continues to fulfil its purpose of preventing the close contact between lower sub-planes which would permit all sorts of undesirable influences to pass through.

    That is why we are always adjured to wait for the unfolding of psychic powers until they come in the natural course of events as a consequence of the development of character, as we see from the study of these force-centers that they surely will. That is the natural evolution; that is the only really safe way, for by it the student obtains all the benefits and avoids all the dangers. That is the Path which our Masters have trodden in the past; that therefore is the Path for us today.

    C. W. L.


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