Occult Science in India, by Louis Jacoilliot, , at sacred-texts.com
Covindasamy had only three days more to stay at Benares. I determined to devote our last meeting to experiments in magnetism and somnambulism. When I informed him of my intention he seemed to be surprised by these novel expressions, though I translated them as well as I could into the Tamoul language.
When I had made him understand the meaning attached to those words in Europe, he smiled and answered, in his usual way, that such phenomena were also produced by the Pitris, in addition to those I had already witnessed. It was not possible to hold any discussion with him upon that point. Without regard to his religious opinions, or to the causes to which he attributed his power, I merely asked him if he was willing to take part in experiments of that character.
"The Franguy," he answered, "has spoken to the Fakir in his native language. The Fakir can refuse him nothing."
Seeing that his reply was so satisfactory in this respect, I was encouraged to make another request.
"Will you allow me to-day," said I, "to indicate the phenomena that I wish you to perform, instead of leaving them to you?"
Although it seems highly improbable, in view of the peculiar circumstances of their occurrence, that the Fakir should have wade any preparations in advance for the
performances which I have already described, or should have had any previous understanding with the servants, I was anxious, however, to ascertain whether Covindasamy would be able to produce any manifestations that he had no previous notice of.
"I will do as you please," said the Hindu, simply. This plan however, met the fate of many others. I spent so much time, and took so deep an interest in the Fakir's manifestations of spiritual force, that I had no opportunity to investigate the subject of his magnetic power.
I had often seen the performing Fakirs attach different objects to the ground, either, according to the explanation given me by an English major who had devoted much time and thought to questions of this class, by charging them with fluid in order to augment their specific gravity or in some other manner unknown to me. I determined to repeat the experiment. Taking a small stand of teak wood which I could lift without any effort with my thumb and forefinger, I placed it in the middle of the terrace, and asked the Fakir if he could not fix it there so that it could not be moved.
The Fakir, without the slightest hesitation, walked toward the small piece of furniture, and imposing both hands upon the top stood motionless in that position for nearly a quarter of an hour, at the end of which time he said to me, smiling:
The spirits have come and nobody can remove the table without their permission.
Feeling somewhat incredulous, I approached the table and took hold of it, as though I were going to lift it. It would not stir from the ground any more than if it had been sealed. I struggled harder, with the result that the fragile leaf there fastened came off in my hands.
I then took hold of the legs, which were united by a cross brace and which remained standing, but the result was the same. A thought then crossed my mind.
Suppose, thought I, that these phenomena are produced by the Fakir's charging objects with some kind of fluid, and that a natural force is thus developed the laws of which we are as yet ignorant of, the supply of fluid with which they are charged must gradually lose its efficacy unless renewed by the operator, and in that case I shall soon be able to remove what is left of the table without any difficulty.
I asked the Fakir to go to the other end of the terrace, which he did with the utmost good humor imaginable. At the end of a few minutes I was able to handle the stand without any trouble whatever. It was evident, therefore, that there was a force of some kind or other; there was no other alternative unless I was willing to admit that I had been egregiously imposed upon, which would have been impossible, under the circumstances.
I should have had to devote some months to this experiment alone, if I had desired to test it scientifically. I had not sufficient time at my disposal to do so, and I merely describe it now, like all the rest, without expressing an opinion either one way or the other, as to means employed or the cause thereof.
"The Pitris have departed," said the Hindu, in explanation, "because their means of terrestrial communication was broken. Listen! they are coming back again."
As he uttered these words, he imposed his hands above one of those immense copper platters inlaid with silver such as are used by wealthy natives for dice playing, and almost immediately there ensued such a rapid and violent succession of blows or knocks that it might have been taken for a hail-shower upon a metal roof, and I thought I saw (the reader will observe that I do not express myself positively in this respect) a succession of phosphorescent lights (plain enough to be visible in broad daylight) pass to and fro across the platter in every direction.
This phenomenon ceased or was repeated at the Fakir's pleasure.
I have already remarked that the apartments I occupied at the Peishwa's were furnished partly in the European and partly in the Oriental style. There was a multitude of fancy articles upon the étagères, such as windmills setting blacksmiths in motion, tin soldiers, and wooden houses from Nuremberg with those everlasting little green fir trees, from which many children obtain their earliest ideas of nature. The furniture was all cluttered up with objects of this nature; the most childish articles were mingled pell-mell with the most artistic, according to the fancies of the native servants. We need not laugh, however; a native of those countries could not look at three-quarters of the Chinese, Hindu, or Oceanic objects with which we proudly and ostentatiously decorate our dwellings, and keep a sober face. I bethought myself of a small mill which might be moved by a breath, which set several personages in motion. I pointed it out to Covindasamy and asked him if he could make it go without touching it.
In consequence of the imposition of his hands alone he set the mill in motion with great rapidity, at a rate which increased or diminished according to the distance at which the Fakir stood.
This was a very simple fact, but yet it made a great impression upon my mind, by reason of the improbability of any previous notice or preparation.
The following is another of the same character, but much more surprising.
Among the objects that composed the Peishwa's museum was a harmoniflute. By the aid of a small cord tied around the wooden square forming a portion of the bellows (a part of the instrument which, as everybody knows, is on the side opposite to that of the keys) I hung it from one of the iron bars of the terrace, in such a way that it swung in the air at about two feet from the ground,
and I asked the Fakir if he could make it play without touching it.
Complying unhesitatingly with my request, he seized the cord by which the harmoniflute was suspended, between the thumb and forefinger of each hand and stood perfectly motionless and still. The harmoniflute soon began to be gently stirred, the bellows underwent an alternate movement of contraction and inflation, as though proceeding from some invisible hand, and the instrument emitted sounds which were perfectly plain and distinct, though of unusual length and not very harmonious it is true.
"Cannot you get a tune?" said I to Covindasamy.
"I will evoke the spirit of one of the old pagoda musicians," he answered with the greatest gravity.
I waited patiently.
The instrument had been silent a long while, not having made a sound since my request. It now began to move anew and first played a series of notes or chords like a prelude; it then bravely attacked one of the most popular airs on the Malabar coast.
("Bring jewels for the young maiden of Arouné, etc.)
As long as the piece lasted the Fakir stood perfectly still. He merely had hold, as I have already described, of the cord by which he was in communication with the harmoniflute.
Wishing to apply every test in my power, I kneeled down in order to observe the various movements of the instrument, and I saw, so that I am positively sure of what I say, unless I was misled by an illusion of the senses, the upward and downward motion of the keys, according to the requirements of the tune.
As before, I merely state the fact, and leave the reader to draw his own conclusions.
Suppose that there was no illusion of the senses and no imposture used in the production of these manifestationsshall we, in that case, investigate their laws?
No! say the French scientists, who occupy an official station, à priori such folly is not worthy of an investigation.
Yes! answer the scientists of England, who are not less dignified, we have ascertained material facts, which are free from the suspicion of illusion or imposture. We are bound in honor to ascertain their laws and proclaim the truth.
Such is the state of the question.
On the one hand, negation under any circumstances; on the other, further investigation.
Our French savantsto call them by the name which they use among themselveshave never lost sight, as we see, of the traditions which have led to the rejection of all the great inventions by which the present century has been distinguished.
I have not taken a very active part in the discussion and that for an obvious reason. Anybody might say to me, if I attempted to formulate a law governing the facts which have come under my own observation:
Have you experimented scientifically regarding all the extraordinary facts described as having been performed by the Fakirs?
As I have had manufactured under my own supervision neither the weights nor scales nor vases nor tables nor any of the instruments used by the Fakirs, to this question I am bound to answerscientifically no!
But, on the other hand, when I see the Fakirs often using articles belonging to myself and most frequently things which, in all probability, they had never seen or touched before, I say with Messrs Crookes, Huggins, Cox, and othershere are the facts for your investigation, science should know the grounds upon which they rest before rejecting or accepting them.
At sunset Covindasamy was to perform his devotions upon the banks of the sacred river. It was near that hour now, and upon taking leave of me with the usual salaams he informed me that he could not come the next day.
As I expressed my regret, he answered me:
"To-morrow will be the twenty-first day since my arrival at Benares, and the mortuary ceremonies will then be concluded." The Fakir was to remain at prayer from one sunrise to anothera period of twenty-four hours. When his task was accomplished, and previous to his departure for Trivanderam, he promised to give me an entire day and night, for, said he, "you have been very kind, and with you I could speak the language that my old ama (mother) used to speak when she rocked me to sleep in a banana leaf. My mouth has long been closed." He often recurred to this subject, and always seemed much moved when he spoke of it.
I have never known a Hindu to speak of his mother without emotion.
As he was about stepping across the threshold of the terrace door he noticed a vase containing various feathers, taken from the most wonderful birds in India. He took up a handful, which he threw above his head high in the air. The feathers of course descended again soon, but the Fakir made passes beneath them as they fell, and whenever one came near him, it turned around quickly and ascended again with a spiral movement, until stopped by the vetivert carpet, which answered the purpose of a movable roof. They all went in the same direction, but after a moment, in obedience to the laws of gravity, they dropped again, but before they had travelled half the distance to the ground they resumed their ascending movement and were stopped as before by the matting, where they remained.
A final tremor was followed by a slight manifestation of downward tendency, but the feathers soon remained stationary.
[paragraph continues] If any one had seen them standing out in sharp relief against the golden background of the straw matting, in brilliant and decided colors of every possible shade, he would have said that they were placed there by the pencil of some accomplished artist.
As soon as the Fakir had disappeared they fell flat to the ground. I left them a long while as they lay strewn upon the floor, as a proof, of which I felt the need, that I had not been misled by some mental hallucination.
Night had no sooner come with its refreshing coolness, than I embarked upon the dingui which lay at the quay, and ordered the cercar to let the boat drift down the river with the current. Influenced, in spite of myself, by the incomprehensible phenomena which I had just witnessed, I felt as though I wanted to change my surroundings, instead of groping my way dreamily among the metaphysical speculations of the past. I also felt the need of the pleasanter sensations always accompanying a night upon the Ganges, soothed by the song of the Hindu boatmen and the distant cry of savage beasts.