The role of 'elementals' in visions and appearances
- whether or not they exist [as disincarnate spirits] exist and/or what explains beliefs in them


Thanks to the advice of a colleague, my attention is drawn to the article I wrote under the above title - which has been on-line in various up-dated forms since 1987 - and which now cries out for modification. One key assertion which I no longer support as such is "My 'explanation' of these events, as far as far I have been able to discover through a range of subsequent experiences and wide reading on the subject, is that they are produced by so-called 'elementals'". I now hold that alternative possible explanations of these events to be far more likely and understandable. In recent years, a lot more has become known about these phenomena, so I cannot support my former level of tentative belief I held in these 'spiritual agencies', nor - of course - in the practices of exorcism, 'magic' and so forth which assume these beliefs to be fact-based in one way or another. However, the various sources quoted in the original article I still regard as raising interesting questions, though my relation to them has changed in most cases, due to increased knowledge of the issues involved and recent groundbreaking researches.

My interpretation of these facts has changed quite radically in most cases. The article was written while I was still in the process of penetrating the basic faults in 'spiritual' belief systems. This reorientation came about in parallel with my (unasked-for and at the time wholly unwanted) first penetration of the deep veil of lies and deceptions around the 'secret swami', Sathya Sai Baba of India. Fortunately, I am open to new ideas and evidence - especially scientific discoveries - which is one reason why I was able to uncover the deceits of Sathya Sai Baba, whose insight and honesty I had mistakenly been led to accept and for whose organisation I had worked tirelessly for close on 20 years. A person will always have to abandon former standpoints as knowledge progresses, unless their mind's development has been arrested or arbitrarily fixated in some belief system or other.

Since then, my investigation of these experiences has led me to consider many scientific advances. Since I came to reject - on philosophical grounds - the advaitic position asserting the creative primacy of consciousness over matter, my view of all these phenomena has gone through something of a 'Copernican revolution' - or one might say, an 180 degree turn of the circle back to realism and moderate scientific scepticism. This is quite a mental liberation, coming as it does, after an extremely in-depth study of - and wholehearted involvement in -what one might summarise as 'the spiritual hypothesis'. This was no mere academic-type or mere mental reorientation, it involved and still involves the whole of my being. Concurrent with this increasing illumination as to the through-and-through fallibility of even the most sophisticated spiritual and religious belief systems, my active interest in scientific advances has returned in strength.

There are now most interesting scientific explanations of many of the kinds of visions and appearances which, as research into these matters progresses yet further, promise eventually to answer - on neurological and other evidence - at least most of the age-old questions about these reported phenomena. It has been shown definitively that there are states of mind which combine some of the physiological effects of sleep with some of those of waking consciousness, and these states have been studied empirically in neurological researches into consciousness and located in the brain by 'live' magnetic imaging. (eg. Dr. Peter Fenwick's work at the Maudsley Hospital and the cutting-edge research around the world as covered in a series of most remarkable Discovery Channel programmes since 2000). Briefly summarised, there are neurological states which allow the dreaming imagery the mind presents to superimpose itself on a waking mind - such as when the body is immobilised in sleep (or alternatively by hypnotic suggestion). This kind of 'in-between' condition (involving sleep paralysis) causes a person to confuse mental images with reality - one may call it 'dreaming while awake', where one does not realise that the images are mere figments, because one is otherwise awake. Visions and appearances are still most likely caused by subjective mind, and probably only by the mind. However, this would not in any way validate Advaitic claims that the mind creates all or that the entire universe is simply a projection of mind, not matter.

Sleep paralysis reportedly occurs in brief episodes of partial or complete skeletal muscle paralysis which can be associated with hypnagogic hallucinations or dream-like mentation (act or use of the brain).
"There is no known explanation why some people experience this paralysis. It is not harmful, although most people report feeling very afraid because they do not know what is happening, and within minutes they gradually or abruptly are able to move again; the episode is often terminated by a sound or a touch on the body. In some cases, when hypnogogic hallucinations are present, people feel that someone is in the room with them, some experience the feeling that someone or something is sitting on their chest and they feel impending death and suffocation. That has been called the “Hag Phenomena” and has been happening to people over the centuries. These things cause people much anxiety and terror, but there is no physical harm." (See here)

Apparent waking perceptions (hypnagogic hallucinations) together with the inability to move or talk (sleep paralysis) occur. These can be related to a disease of the nervous system (narcolepsy), the causes of which are so far unknown. The incidence of the various symptoms independent of the fuller neurological disorder in the general population is also uncertain, and may there occur fairly commonly, especially when occasionally or seldom experienced due to mental or emotional stress or other personal factors.

The wealth of testimony from the world through history as to the effect of strong belief (faith) on the mind stands, and even where its accuracy and factuality is held in parentheses as uncertain or 'anecdotal' evidence from a scientific viewpoint. The main point is that these vision, apparitions and 'miracles' are only apparent, not being proven to have any existence independent of the mind (or minds). The existence of 'elementals' is still highly hypothetical and - in the light of the on-going research facilitated by massive advances in computing power and consequent depth of neurological research. I am not inclined entirely to reject the 'elementals' hypothesis, seeing that I do not assert that I can know sufficiently things which so far are not entirely researched. However, the social consequences of stating a definitiv belief in such things as black magic and witchcraft are having extremely serious consequences, not least in India, as I have recently documented. Unlike 'believers' in elementals and divine miracles, I take an anticipatory stance as to the further discoveries of the more exact nature of the causes and processes involved throughout this very wide field of phenomena. That the mind is involved in the production of these phenomena is beyond doubt, as with the mind's involvement in the forming of - and interpretation of - all perception.

So as not to be confused by the outdated article below, please also my current viewpoints on related issues at my credo; and witchcraft and black magic

The many 'poltergeist'-type phenomena that occur and are attributed to Sathya Sai Baba's direct astral influence (eg. Sai books falling on people's heads, pictures of him falling down and many another phenomenon regarded as unusual or 'miraculous') are well known from the mediumistic and spiritualistic traditions, and are held universally by mediums and religionists to represent low or 'primitive' forces (whether one calls them elementals, earth spirits, djinns, disembodied entities, disincarnate souls or demons etc.). That certain 'higher' constructive forces can also operate through any such persons, and even be the predominant ones, is not thereby wholly excluded.

In persons apparently exhibiting such 'powers', the sexual force is almost always powerful and frequently seriously out of control, as has been seen in the cases of most of the famous and rich Indian swamis of the 20th century, several of whom already languish in Indian gaols convicted for rape and murder. These powers were also exercised by many Europeans, eg. Norway's remarkable Marcello Haugen, and are widely known, for example, in Brazilian spiritism and numerous other New World cultures. There are many known and lesser known precursors of this human phenomenon or predicament - spirit possession - often in African and Eastern culture, also among known Europeans like the famous and enigmatic Rasputin of many amazing, proven powers. As Kasturi related, the incarnate entity Raju/Baba was believed by his family (who were close enough to observe!) to be possessed by a Muslim spirit, which view the elder brother reportedly still held till his last days. It is being seen more and more clearly that Raju/Baba is something of a living contradiction, with many increasingly obvious faults and discrepancies between word and behaviour... and he is of course also suspected for impelling reasons of being a major criminal on various counts. He doubtless became aware in time that his sexual proclivities - though such is accepted fairly passively in village India - would, when known to the wider world, bring a dénouement eventually, hence all his predictions (an almost empty ashram in future, the grain to be separated from the chaff, big changes etc.), which have nevertheless very largely been wrong predictions as to when things would come about. By cleverly confusing the monistic (advaitic) teaching that God is One/All is God with dualistic (dvaitic) guru worship - and digressing to middle positions (vishtadvaitic) to cover discrepancies, Sathya Sai Baba has made people think that it is he, Sathya Sai Baba, who should be worshipped as oneself! This self-destructive web of half-truths has sooner or later to be painstakingly unravelled by the disaffected devotee who remains a seeker of truth.

A considerrable proportion of the phenomena reported as showing Sathya Sai Baba has telepathic knowledge, or can influence people's minds at a distance, are of a kind investigated by the analytical psychologist, C.G. Jung, which he called 'synchronicities' (or extraordinary and meaningful coincidences). See Meaningful Coincidence, 'Sai Leelas' etc, here

Here is the original article as it stood on one or another of my websites since 1988.

There is a great wealth of testimonial evidence from the whole of the world and history that belief or faith - involving intense emotional or mental preoccupation of some kind - can open the experience of visions, apparitions and apparently miraculous phenomena. There is an ancient explanation of this, supported by the investigations of many people - including the more reasonable psychic and mediums of modern societies - that these are effected in many cases - if not all perhaps - by disincarnate entities known as 'elementals'. Instances where strong faith or will is not evidently operative, yet where elementals would seem to have initiated experiences without prior expectation or warning signs are also widely reported. Elementals rely on the capacity or power of the human mind to attract forms and so 'form reality'. The many traditions of magic, white or black, throughout cultures and eras, appear to depend upon the control - or at least invocation - of 'elementals'.

The existence of elementals that seek opportunities to take on any form that a living person's mind or subconscious can provide for them could explain many otherwise incomprehensible 'manifestations', from ghosts and poltergeists to UFOs & extra-terrestrials and even the appearance of divine figures, the manifestation of deities (ishtadarshan) and religious personages. Some of these may be beneficial, some quite the opposite. Advaitic spirituality teaches that, ultimately, everything is a product of mind, which fits very well with this.

Among traditional forms of apparitions and visions in which many believed (and many still do) can sometimes be seen, conversed with and even touched by people are elves, fairies, leprechauns, gnomes, trolls, water spirits, animal and plant spirits or 'devas' , angels, invisible helpers', shaman 'spirits', 'allies' , UFOs, extra-terrestrials, possessive demons, Satan, Pan-figures and other demi-gods. Elementals may sometimes also assume the characteristics (voice, personality traits etc.), or even the physical form, of a departed person, as can allegedly be experienced in spiritualistic sessions.

I am well aware that most people who work in some scientific pursuit, or are involved with psychology and not least in psychiatry, will reject the views I air here, according to the supposed 'scientific correctness' of the times. Such professionals are very often too ensconced in their own beliefs to take notice that something is known of matters outside their ken, for they seldom set a foot beyond their mentally-furnished worlds into the uncomfortable realm of real uncertainties or self-risk.

I happen to have had a considerable number of experiences of otherwise inexplicable phenomena that fit with the thesis of elementals. Once, for example, when I was much attracted to nature mysticism, some wonderful synchronicities with creatures took place. I was writing a drama involving aboriginals and their beliefs, including their worship of lizards as wise spirits. While wondering to myself whether I should make reference to the wisdom of lizards, I was interrupted by a soft but strange scraping noise. A lizard - which I had never seen in Norway before (though they do exist here), was in the room beside me and had climbed a curtain, so was near to my head. It let me pick it up! I kept it for an hour in a jar so my wife would actually see it! The same kind of mysterious power manifested when I was describing a butterfly in a text I was writing... couldn't remember to convey to my wife what species it was, when one of that species - a peacock butterfly - flew over and landed on the tarmac road literally at our feet. It was very late in the year and cold, so no other butterflies were to be seen anywhere.

When I was connected in the 1970s with a pure Indian swami who lived in England (Swami Ambikananda), and to whom I had an intense relationship for some period, the same kind of synchronous phenomena occurred... and grew into a whole range of simultaneous thoughts-cum-events. It became very troublesome, for the more I concentrated on my connection to him, the more every other thought remotely I had about it seemed to produce a creak in the woodwork of the house or various 'signs' relating to him. During one period, the flame of a candle before his picture would 'answer' my definitive mental desire for an affirmation by directly sinking almost down to extinction for some time before burning up again.

My 'explanation' of these events, as far as far I have been able to discover through a range of subsequent experiences and wide reading on the subject, is that they are produced by so-called 'elementals'. Elementals are disincarnate spirits - probably of all levels of karmic development from lowest to highest, which can take on any sensory form whatever for a person, depending on whether one's mind is in one way or another open to them. This can occur through repeated deep concentration on some form or desired vision, through intensity of yearning for some such experience or willing it persistently. There are many ways in which the human mind or soul can be 'invaded' too, through magic, misguided yogic practises, mediumism, intensive prayer, hypnotically-induced and other kinds of trance, the use of alcohol or mind-altering drugs, mental derangement and psychosis, physical accidents, even from excessive bleeding... the list goes on. There is much evidence that elementals can be involved in some of the above-mentioned conditions, enter and influence or 'possess' a person, either partially or more or less wholly, sometimes more than one at a time (as appears to be so in some cases of schizophrenia).


Some of the most remarkable evidence for the 'existence of other worlds' comes from Immanuel Swedenborg (1688- 1772). To begin with, Immanuel Swedenborg was an all-round scientific genius in Sweden in the 17th century, who travelled widely and made many ground-breaking discoveries in the sciences. He bears comparison with any original European thinker, from Plato to Da Vinci to Newton and Darwin. The reason why Swedenborg is not universally acclaimed is firstly partly because few historians of science etc. can read Latin or Swedish (until fairly recently, very few of Swedenborgs works were unavailable in English). Further, Swedenborg was so selfless that he never asserted his authorship/copyright. Kant visited him in his latter years, wishing to verify the fact that Swedenborg had grown a third set of new teeth in his old age, telling that it was an explicit blessing from the Lord. Kant was apparently strongly influenced by the meeting, though it was too near the close of his own authorship to affect a philosophical revision.

He was the first to put forward the hypothesis of geo-evolution, basing this on studies of topography and nature in Europe during his travels and he proposed the ice age theory. He was first to hypothesise what became the Kant-LaPlace theory of the origin of the solar system. He was first to identify the human brain as the organ of thought having distinct left and right functions. He pursued the sciences and engineering until ca. his 40s - he published many large seminal works covering all then-known science with many original theories now accepted (but attributed to aftercomers). Not only was Swedenborg a master of practically all (17th century) science, he was a vastly original theoriser and researcher in many of them (maths, cosmology, physiology, neurology). He did very original work in anatomy, chemistry, mining and naval engineering Besides, he was an engineer who developed Sweden’s first modern mines and canals. He invented and built the first underwater vessel (submarine), having learnt several trades thoroughly by living in the families of artisans in London (where he spend perhaps 1/2 of his time in adulthood. He became an inventive chief engineer who fathered 14 mechanical inventions in mining, canal construction... as well as the first submarine vessel. He was a leading member of the Swedish Parliament and a highly respected figure in academic circles in Europe.

When he had exhausted the known sciences of his time, having added many vital hypotheses himself, Swedenborg was contacted by Divinity and allegedly given access to all the spiritual realms continuously for the last 40 or so years of his life. His clairvoyance, which he never flaunted, was attested to by many contemporaries, including the highest authorities of the time in Sweden and elsewhere, such as by the mayor and his assembled counsellors in Gothenburg when S. related incidents to them direct from a major fire in Stockholm as they occurred, including the danger to his own house, of which event the news only came days later by horse. Asked by the then Queen of Sweden to tell her of some secret thing, he told her the exact words of a secret clause she had agreed with the Russian ambassador, known only to she and he, while signing a peace treaty. She went white and eventually told her courtiers the whole matter.

Swedenborg's voluminous writings describe in great detail the existence of 'other worlds' as mental or spiritual spheres in which spirits of all kinds exist. These descriptions turned out to match, with considerable exactness, the comparative reconstruction of patients' experiences made over many years related to an American worker in a psychiatric institution by Wilson van Dusen before he heard of Swedenborg.1

In his famous book from 1934 A Search in Secret India,2 Paul Brunton - then a journalist for United Press International - observed a number of paranormal phenomena. One of his first encounters was in Bombay with an Egyptian, Mahmoud Bey, one of a line of medieval sorcerers that are not uncommon in Egypt. Brunton wrote a question on a piece of paper which Mahmoud Bey could in no way see and folded it into a tiny square. He was then asked to clench the paper in his hand along with a pencil. The Egyptian appeared to fall into deep concentration, opened his eyes and told Brunton his question, quite correctly, then asked him to open the paper in his hand. On it was written the answer to Brunton's question. The writing was reportedly still on the paper months later when Brunton wrote about it.

I have heard from others of similar feats with paper and writing being performed in India, in one case a Norwegian engineer was quite badly scared when a man on the street showed him a piece of paper with a word he had chosen to think of that only he knew. However, Brunton was later able to question the sorcerer about the means by which this feat was achieved, by magic ritual in which spirits were his 'invisible employees'. Mahmoud Bey explained that he had gained control of his spirit attendants by three years of difficult practice. Some spirits or jinns are like animals, some like men, some good and some bad, though the Egyptian tried only to use good djinns and had control of about thirty such. Bad djinns, he said, were dangerous and could turn treacherously on the man who is using them and kill him. Each spirit servant had a particular duty, one of which was to write on paper, another to communicate what was written to him.

In 1935, Brunton published a further account, A Search in Secret Egypt 3. There he relates how he traced another magician, this time in Egypt itself. He also told Brunton that a magician who has imperfectly mastered these genii as servants, or who misuses his powers or weakens in will, risks that the rise in pitiless revolt against him, for they can have intelligence and wit of thir own. The ancient Egyptians, according to this sorcerer, had used such spirit servants to guard tombs and treasures.

Madame Blavatsky's alleged spiritual master, Koot Hoomi, in his 'first instruction concerning karma', informed that:-

"... the thought of man upon being evolved passes into the inner world, and becomes an active entity by associating itself, coalescing we might term it, with an elemental - that is to say, with one of the semi-intelligent forces of the kingdoms. It survives as an active intelligence - a creature of the mind's begetting - for a longer or shorter period proportionate with the original intensity of the cerebral action which generated it. Thus a good thought is perpetuated as an active, beneficent power, an evil one as a maleficent demon. And so man is continually peopling his current in space with a world of his own, crowded with the offspring of his fancies, desires, impulses, passions... which reacts upon any sensitive or nervous organisations which come in contact with it, in proportion to its dynamic energy. The Buddhist calls this his 'Skamdha', the Hindu gives it the name of 'Karma'. The adept evolves these shapes consciously; other men throw them off unconsciously... "4

Madame Blavatsky's spiritual and often self-biographical 'novel' From the Caves and Jungles of Hindostan5, which is seriously educative of Eastern thought in intent, though fantasy is used to that end artistically - contains numerous references to disincarnate 'entities', which is part and parcel of the laws of metempsychosis as taught by Indian scripture. Hindus believe in bodiless evil spirits (bhutas) which hunger to gratify their impure earthly desires with the help of living organs temporarily taken possession of by them. She writes:-

"The notions, ideas and conclusions of the Hindus on this point are diametrically opposed to the aspirations and hopes of Western Spiritualists. 'A good and pure spirit,' they say, 'will not let his soul revisit the earth, if this soul is pure also. He is glad to die and unite the spirit (atman) with Brahman, to live an eternal life in Svarga (heaven)...' But this is not what awaits the wicked soul. The soul that does not succeed in casting off earthly desires before death ensues, is weighed down by its sins, and, instead of reincarnating at once in some new form, according to the laws of metempsychosis, is doomed to wander on earth without a physical body. It becomes a bhuta, and its own sufferings will sometimes cause incredible suffering to its own kinsmen." (p. 169f)

Madame Blavatsky also reports that an old Hindu told her that "every animal, whatever it may be, possesses a lawful body and the right to make an honest use of it." to become a bhuta is a horrible condition, "ever watching for an opportunity to benefit at someone else's expense" (p. 170)

She also summarises the Vedantic view of the composition of human nature (and that view does accord with other prominent authorities) and what survives death. While the physical body (sthula-sarira) and the "vital" or life principle soon both disappear without trace after death, five other aspects continue. Of these, the astral or 'phantom' double 'body', and the faculty known as the 'seat of desires' (kama-rupa), as well as the 'seat of the mind' (manas) survive physical death according to the condition of the mind when the person was alive, while the essential principles of the divine soul and spirit pass beyond these egoic 'remains' (ibid p.553ff). It is the continuing astral form, the unshed desires, and the active mind-stuff that are contacted by mediums, not the 'real person' as such.

1. Wilson van Dusen Presence of Other Worlds (Harper & Row. N.Y. 1974)
2. Dr. Paul BruntonA Search in Secret India Rider & Co. UK, 1934.
3. Dr. Paul BruntonA Search in Secret Egypt Rider & Co. UK, 1935.
4.A.P. Sinnett Occult World 1881, p 108f.
5. H.P. Blavatsky From the Caves and Jungles of Hindostan The Theological Publishing House Wheaton, Illinois. (1975).

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