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Centres of Magnetism


C W Leadbeater

Our Great Cathedrals. Temples. Sites and Relics.

Ruins. Modern Cities. Public Buildings.

Cemeteries. Universities and Schools. Libraries,

Museums and Galleries. The Stock-yards of Chicago.

Special Places. Sacred Mountains. Sacred Rivers



We all recognise to some extent that unusual surroundings may produce special effects; we speak of certain buildings or

landscapes as gloomy and depressing; we understand that there is something

saddening and repellent about a prison, something devotional about a church, and

so on. Most people never trouble to think why this should be so, or if they do

for a moment turn their attention to the matter, they dismiss it as an instance

of the association of ideas.


Probably it is that, but it is also much more than that, and if we examine into its rationale we shall find that it operates in many cases where we have never suspected its influence, and that a knowledge of it may be of practical use in everyday life.


A study of the finer forces of nature will show us not only that every living being is radiating a complex set of definite influences upon those about him, but also that this is true to a lesser degree and in a simpler manner of inanimate objects.





We know that wood and iron and stone have their own respective characteristic radiations, but the point to be emphasised

just now is that they are all capable of absorbing human influence, and then

pouring it out again. What is the origin of that feeling of devotion, of reverential awe, which so permeates some of our great cathedrals that even the most hardened Cook' s tourist cannot entirely escape it?


It is due not only to the historical associations, not only to the remembrance of the fact that for centuries men have met here for praise and prayer, but far more to that fact itself, and to the conditions which it has produced in the substance of the



To understand this we must first of all

remember the circumstances under which those buildings were erected. A modern

brick church, run up by contract in the shortest possible time, has indeed but

little sanctity about it; but in mediaeval days faith was greater, and the influence of the outer world less prominent. In very truth men prayed as they built our great cathedrals, and laid every stone as though it had been an offering upon an altar.


When this was the spirit of the work, every such stone became a veritable talisman charged with the reverence and devotion of the builder, and capable of radiating those same waves of sensation upon others, so

as to stir in them similar feelings. The crowds who came afterwards to worship

at the shrine not only felt these radiations, but themselves strengthened them

in turn by the reaction of their own feelings.


Still more is this true of the interior

decorations of the church. Every touch of the brush in the colouring of a triptych, every stroke of the chisel in the sculpture of a statue, was a direct offering to God. Thus the completed work of art is surrounded by an atmosphere of reverence and love, and it distinctly sheds these qualities upon the

worshippers. All of them, rich and poor alike, feel something of this effect,

even though many of them may be too ignorant to receive the added stimulus which its artistic excellence gives to those who are able to appreciate it and to

perceive all that it means.


The sunlight streaming through the splendid

stained glass of those mediaeval windows brings with it a glory that is not all

of the physical world, for the clever workmen who built up that marvellous

mosaic did so for the love of God and the glory of His saints, and so each fragment of glass is a talisman also. Remembering always how the power conveyed into the statue or picture by the fervour of the original artist has been perpetually reinforced through the ages by the devotion of successive generations of worshippers, we come to understand the inner meaning of the great influence which undoubtedly does radiate from such objects as have been regarded as sacred for centuries.


Such a devotional effect as is described in

connection with a picture or a statue may be entirely apart from its value as a

work of art. The bambino at the Ara Coeli at Rome is a supremely inartistic object, yet it has unquestionably considerable power in evoking devotional feeling among the masses that crowd to see it. If it were really a work of art, that fact would add but little to its influence over most of them, though of course it would in that case produce an additional and totally different effect

upon another class of persons to whom now it does not in the least appeal.


From these considerations it is evident that

these various ecclesiastical properties, such as statues, pictures and other decorations, have a real value in the effect which they produce upon the worshippers, and the fact that they thus have a distinct power, which so many people can feel, probably accounts for the intense hatred felt for them by the

savage fanatics who miscalled themselves puritans. They realised that the power

which stood behind the Church worked to a great extent through these objects as

its channels, and though their loathing for all higher influences was considerably tempered by fear, they yet felt that if they could break up these centres of magnetism, that would to a certain extent cut off the connection. And so in their revolt against all that was good and beautiful they did all the harm that they could-- almost as much perhaps as those earlier so-called Christians

who, through sheer ignorance, ground up the most lovely Grecian statues to

furnish lime to build their wretched hovels.


In all these splendid mediaeval buildings

the sentiment of devotion absolutely and literally exudes from the walls, because for centuries devotional thought-forms have been created in them by successive generations. In strong contrast to this is the atmosphere of criticism and disputation which may be felt by any sensitive person in the meeting-houses of some of the sects. In many a conventicle in Scotland and in

Holland this feeling stands out with startling prominence, so as to give the

impression that the great majority of the so-called worshippers have had no

thought of worship or devotion at all, but only of the most sanctimonious

self-righteousness, and of burning anxiety to discover some doctrinal flaw in the wearisome sermon of their unfortunate minister.


An absolutely new church does not at first

produce any of these effects; for in these days workmen build a church with the

same lack of enthusiasm as a factory. As soon as the bishop consecrates it, a

decided influence is set up as the effect of that ceremony, but the consideration of that belongs to another chapter of our work. A few years of use will charge the walls very effectively, and a much shorter period than that will produce the result in a church where the sacrament is reserved, or where

perpetual adoration is offered. The Roman Catholic or Ritualistic church soon becomes thoroughly affected, but the meeting-houses of some of the dissenting sects which do not make a special point of devotion, often produce for a long

time an influence scarcely distinguishable from that which is to be felt in an

ordinary lecture hall. A fine type of devotional influence is often to be found

in the chapel of a convent or monastery, though again the type differs greatly

according to the objects which the monks or the nuns set before themselves.




I have been taking Christian fanes as an

example, because they are those which are most familiar to me-- which will also be most familiar to the majority of my readers; also perhaps because Christianity is the religion which has made a special point of devotion, and has, more than any other, arranged for the simultaneous expression of it in special buildings erected for that purpose. Among Hindus the Vaishnavite has a devotion quite as profound as that of any Christian, though unfortunately it is

often tainted by expectation of favours to be given in return.


But the Hindu has no idea of anything like combined worship. Though on great festivals enormous crowds attend the temples, each person makes his little prayer or goes through his little ceremony for himself, and so he misses the enormous additional effect which is produced by simultaneous action.


Regarded solely from the point of view of

charging the walls of the temple with devotional influence, this plan differs

from the other in a way that we may perhaps understand by taking a physical

illustration of a number of sailors pulling at a rope. We know that, when that

is being done, a sort of chant is generally used in order to ensure that the men

shall apply their strength at exactly the same moment; and in that way a much

more effective pull is produced than would be achieved if each man put out

exactly the same strength, but applied it just when he felt that he could, and

without any relation to the work of the others.


Nevertheless as the years roll by there

comes to be a strong feeling in a Vaishnavite temple-- as strong perhaps as that of the Christians, though quite different in kind. Different again in quite another way is the impression produced in the great temples dedicated to Shiva.


In such a shrine as that at Madura, for example, an exceedingly powerful influence radiates from the holy of holies. It is surrounded by a strong feeling of

reverential awe, almost of fear, and this so deeply tinges the devotion of the crowds who come to worship that the very aura of the place is changed by it.


Completely different again is the impression

which surrounds a Buddhist temple. Of fear we have there absolutely no trace

whatever. We have perhaps less of direct devotion, for to a large extent devotion is replaced by gratitude. The prominent radiation is always one of joyfulness and love-- an utter absence of anything dark or stern.


Another complete contrast is represented by the Muhammadan mosque; devotion of a sort is present there also, but it is

distinctly a militant devotion, and the particular impression that it gives one

is that of a fiery determination. One feels that this population' s comprehension of their creed may be limited, but there is no question whatever as to their dogged determination to hold by it.


The Jewish synagogue again is like none of

the others, but has a feeling which is quite distinct, and curiously dual-- exceptionally materialistic on one side, and on the other full of a strong, pathetic longing for the return of vanished glories.




A partial recognition of another facet of

the facts which we have been mentioning accounts for the choice of the site of

many religious edifices. A church or a temple is frequently erected to

commemorate the life and death of some saint, and in the first instance such a

fane is built upon a spot which has some special connection with him. It may be

the place where he died, the spot where he was born, or where some important

event of his life occurred.


The Church of the Nativity at Bethlehem and that of the Crucifixion at Jerusalem are instances of this, as is also the great

Stupa at Buddhagaya where the Lord Gautama attained His Buddhahood, or the

temple of the ` Bishanpad' where it is supposed that Vishnu left His foot-mark.

All such shrines are erected not so much from an historical sense which wishes

to indicate for the benefit of posterity the exact spot where an important event

happened, as with the idea that that spot is especially blessed, especially charged with a magnetism which will remain through the ages, and will radiate upon and benefit those who bring themselves within the radius of its influence. Nor is this universal idea without adequate foundation.


The spot at which the Lord BUDDHA gained the step which gives Him that august title is charged with a magnetism which causes

it to glow forth like a sun for anyone who has clairvoyant vision.


It is calculated to produce the strongest possible magnetic effect on anyone who is

naturally sensitive to such influence, or who deliberately makes himself temporarily sensitive to such influence by putting himself in an attitude of heartfelt devotion.


In a recent article on Buddhagaya in The

Lotus Journal Alcyone wrote:


When I sat quietly under the tree for awhile

with Mrs. Besant, I was able to see the Lord BUDDHA, as He had looked when He sat there. Indeed, the record of His meditation is still so strong that it needs only a little clairvoyance to see Him even now. I had the advantage of having met Him in that life in 588 B.C., and become one of His followers, so that it was easier for me to see Him again in this present life. But I think almost anyone who is a little sensitive would see Him at Buddhagaya by staying quite quiet for a little time because the air is full of His influence, and even now

there are always great Devas bathing in the magnetism, and guarding the place.


Other churches, temples or dagobas are

sanctified by the possession of relics of some Great One, and here again the

connection of ideas is obvious. It is customary for those who are ignorant of

these matters to ridicule the idea of paying reverence to the fragment of bone which once belonged to a saint; but though reverence paid to the bone may be out

of place, the influence radiating from that bone may nevertheless be quite a real thing, and well worthy of serious attention.


That the trade in relics has led, all the world over, to fraud on the one hand and blind credulity on the other, is not a thing to be disputed; but that by no means alters the fact that a genuine relic may be a valuable thing.


Whatever has been part of the physical body of a Great One, or even of the garments which have clothed that physical

body, is impregnated with his personal magnetism. That means that it is charged

with the powerful waves of thought and feeling which used to issue from him,

just as an electrical battery may be charged.


Such force as it possesses is intensified

and perpetuated by the thought-waves poured upon it as the years roll by, by the

faith and devotion of the crowds who visit the shrine. This when the relic is genuine; but most relics are not genuine. Even then, though they have no initial strength of their own, they acquire much influence as time goes on, so that even a false relic is by no means without effect.


Therefore anyone putting himself into a receptive attitude, and coming into the immediate neighbourhood of a relic, will receive into himself its strong vibrations, and soon will be more or less attuned to them. Since those vibrations are unquestionably better and stronger than any which he is likely to generate on his own account, this is a good thing for him.


For the time being it lifts him on to a higher level, it opens a higher world to him; and though the effect is only temporary, this

cannot but be good for him-- an event which will leave him, for the rest of his

life, slightly better than if it had not occurred.


This is the rationale of pilgrimages, and

they are quite often really effective. In addition to whatever may have been the

original magnetism contributed by the holy man or relic, as soon as the place of

pilgrimage is established and numbers of people begin to visit it, another factor comes into play, of which we have already spoken in the case of churches and temples.


The place begins to be charged with the devotional feeling of all these hosts of visitors, and what they leave behind reacts upon their successors. Thus the influence of one of these holy places usually does not

decrease as time passes, for if the original force tends slightly to diminish, on the other hand it is constantly fed by new accessions of devotion. Indeed, the only case in which the power ever fades is that of a neglected shrine-- as, for example, when a country is conquered by people of another religion, to whom the older shrines are as nothing. Even then the influence, if it has been originally sufficiently strong, persists almost without diminution for many centuries, and for this reason even ruins have often a powerful force connected

with them.


The Egyptian religion, for example, has been practised little since the Christian era, yet no sensitive person can stand

amidst the ruins of one of its temples without being powerfully affected by the

stream of its thought. In this particular instance another force comes into

play; the Egyptian architecture was of a definite type, intentionally so erected

for the purpose of producing a definite impression upon its worshippers, and

perhaps no architecture has ever fulfilled its purpose more effectively.


The shattered fragments which remain still

produce that effect to no inconsiderable degree, even upon members of an alien

race altogether out of touch with the type of the old Egyptian civilisation. For

the student of comparative religion who happens to be sensitive, there can be no

more interesting experience than this-- to bathe in the magnetism of the older

religions of the world, to feel their influence as their devotees felt it thousands of years ago, to compare the sensations of Thebes or Luxor with those of the Parthenon or of the beautiful Greek temples of Girgenti, or those of Stonehenge with the vast ruins of Yucatan.




The religious life of the old world can best

be sensed in this way through the agency of its temples; but it is equally possible in the same way to come into touch with the daily life of those vanished nations, by standing among the ruins of their palaces and their homes.


This needs perhaps a keener clairvoyant sense than the other. The force which

permeates the temple is powerful because it is to a considerable extent one-pointed-- because all through the centuries people have come to it with one leading idea of prayer or devotion, and so the impression made has been comparatively powerful. In their homes, on the other hand, they have lived out their lives with all kinds of different ideas and warring interests, so that the impressions often cancel one another.


Nevertheless there emerges, as years roll

on, a sort of least common multiple of all their feelings, which is characteristic of them as a race, and this can be sensed by one who has the art of entirely suppressing those personal feelings of his own, which are so far nearer and more vivid to him, and listening earnestly to catch the faint echo of

the life of those times so long ago. Such study often enables one to take a

juster view of history; manners and customs which startle and horrify us,

because they are so remote from our own, can in this way be contemplated from

the point of view of those to whom they were familiar; and in seeing them thus,

one often realises for the first time how entirely we have misconceived those

men of the past.


Some of us may remember how, in our

childhood, ignorant though well-meaning relations endeavoured to excite our

sympathy by stories of Christian martyrs who were thrown to the lions in the

Colosseum at Rome, or reprobated with horror the callous brutality which could

assemble thousands to enjoy the combats between gladiators.


I am not prepared to defend the tastes and amusements of the ancient Roman citizen, yet I think that any sensitive person who will go to the Colosseum at Rome and (if he can for the moment escape from the tourist) sit down there quietly, and let his

consciousness drift backwards in time until he can sense the real feeling of those enormous, wildly-excited audiences, will find that he has done them a gross injustice.


First, he will realise that the throwing of

Christians to the lions because of their religious belief is a pious falsehood

of the unprincipled early Christians. He will find that the government of Rome

was in religious matters distinctly more tolerant than most European governments

at the present day; that no person was ever executed or persecuted on account of

any religious opinion whatever, and that those so-called Christians who were put

to death suffered not in the least because of their alleged religion, but because of conspiracy against the State, or of crimes which we should all join in reprobating.


He will find that the government allowed and even encouraged gladiatorial combats, but he will also find that only three

classes of people took part in them. First, condemned criminals-- men whose

lives had been forfeited to the law of the time-- were utilised to provide a

spectacle for the people, a degrading spectacle certainly, but not in any way

more so than many which receive popular approval at the present day. The

malefactor was killed in the arena, fighting either against another malefactor

or a wild beast; but he preferred to die fighting rather than at the hands of

the law, and there was always just a possibility that if he fought well he might

thereby contrive to earn the applause of the fickle population; and so save his life.


The second class consisted of such prisoners of war as it was the fashion of the time to put to death; but in this case also

these were people whose death was already decided upon, and this particular form of death utilised them for a certain form of popular entertainment, and also

gave them a chance of saving their lives, at which they eagerly grasped. The third class were the professional gladiators, men like the prize-fighters of the present day, men who took up this horrible line of life for the sake of the popularity which it brought-- accepting it with their eyes fully open to its



I am not for a moment suggesting that the

gladiatorial show was a form of entertainment which could possibly be tolerated by a really enlightened people; but if we are to apply the same standard now, we shall have to admit that no enlightened nations have yet come into existence, for it was no worse than the mediaeval tournaments, than the cock-fighting and bear-baiting of a century ago, or than the bull-fight or prize-fight of the

present day. Nor is there anything to choose between the brutality of its

supporters and that of the people who go in vast crowds to see how many rats a

dog can kill in a minute, or that of the noble sportsmen who (without the excuse

of anything in the nature of a fair fight) go out to slaughter hundreds of inoffensive partridges.


We are beginning to set a somewhat higher

value on human life than they did in the days of ancient Rome; but even so I

would point out that that change does not mark a difference between the ancient

Roman race and its reincarnation in the English people, for our own race was

equally callous about wholesale slaughter up to a century ago. The difference is

not between us and the Romans, but between us and our very recent ancestors; for the crowds which in the days of our fathers went and jested at a public

execution can hardly be said to have advanced much since the time when they

crowded the benches of the Colosseum.


It is true that the Roman Emperors attended those exhibitions, as the English Kings used to encourage the tournament, and as the Kings of Spain even now patronise the bull-fight; but in order to understand the varied motives which led them to do this we must make a thorough study of the politics of the time-- a matter which is quite outside the scope of this

book. Here it must suffice to say that the Roman citizens were a body of men in

a very curious political position, and that the authorities considered it necessary to provide them with constant entertainments in order to keep them in a good humour. Therefore they hit upon this method of utilising what they regarded as the necessary and customary execution of criminals and rebels, in order to provide for the proletariat a kind of entertainment which it enjoyed. A very brutal proletariat, you will say. One must certainly admit that they were not highly advanced, but at least they were far better than those much later

specimens who took active part in the unspeakable horrors of the French

Revolution, for these last felt an active delight in blood and cruelty, which

were only unnoticed concomitants of the enjoyment in the case of the Roman.


Anyone who, standing in the Colosseum, as I have said, will really allow himself to feel the true spirit of those crowds of long ago, will understand that what appealed to them was the excitement of the contest and the skill exhibited in it. Their brutality consisted not in the fact that they enjoyed bloodshed and suffering, but that in the excitement of

watching the struggle they were able to ignore it-- which after all is very much

what we do when we eagerly follow in the columns of our newspapers the news from

the seat of war in the present day. Level for level, case for case, we of the fifth sub-race have made a slight advance from the condition of the fourth sub-race of two thousand years ago; but that advance is much slighter than our self-satisfaction has persuaded us.


Every country has its ruins, and in all

alike the study of the older life is an interesting study. A good idea of the

wonderfully varied activities and interests of the mediaeval monastic life in

England may be obtained by visiting that queen of ruins, Fountains Abbey, just

as by visiting the stones of Carnac (not in Egypt but in Morbihan) one may watch

the midsummer rejoicings round the tantad or sacred fire of the ancient Bretons.


There is perhaps less necessity to study the

ruins of India, since daily life there has remained so unchanged throughout the

ages that no clairvoyant faculty is required to picture it as it was thousands of years ago. None of the actual buildings of India go back to any period of appreciable difference, and in most cases the relics of the golden age of India under the great Atlantean monarchies are already deeply buried. If we turn to mediaeval times, the effect of environment and religion on practically the same people is curiously illustrated by the difference in feeling between any ancient city of the north of India and the ruins of Anuradhapura in Ceylon.




Just as our ancestors of long ago lived

their ordinary lives in what was to them the ordinary commonplace way, and never

dreamed that in doing so they were impregnating the stones of their city walls

with influences which would enable a psychometer thousands of years afterwards

to study the inmost secrets of their existence, so we ourselves are impregnating our cities and leaving behind us a record which will shock the sensibilities of the more developed men of the future. In certain ways which will readily suggest

themselves, all great towns are much alike; but on the other hand there are

differences of local atmosphere, depending to some extent upon the average

morality of the city, the type of religious views most largely held in it, and

its principal trades and manufactures. For all these reasons each city has a

certain amount of individuality-- and individuality which will attract some

people and repel others, according to their disposition. Even those who are not

specially sensitive can hardly fail to note the distinction between the feeling

of Paris and that of London, between Edinburgh and Glasgow, or between

Philadelphia and Chicago.


There are some cities whose key-note is not

of the present but of the past-- whose life in earlier days was so much more forcible than it is now, that the present is dwarfed by its comparison. The cities on the Zuyder Zee in Holland are an instance of this; S. Albans in

England is another. But the finest example which the world has to offer is the

immortal city of Rome. Rome stands alone among the cities of the world in having

three great and entirely separate interests for the psychic investigator. First,

and much the strongest, is the impression left by the astonishing vitality and

vigour of that Rome which was the centre of the world, the Rome of the Republic

and the Caesars; then comes another strong and unique impression-- that of mediaeval Rome, the ecclesiastical centre of the world: third and quite different from either, the modern Rome of to-day, the political centre of the somewhat loosely integrated Italian kingdom, and at the same time still an ecclesiastical centre of widespread influence, though shorn of its glory and



I first went to Rome, I confess, with the

expectation that the Rome of the mediaeval Popes, with the assistance of all the world-thought that must for so long have been centred upon it, and with the advantage also of being so much nearer to us in time, would have to a considerable extent blotted out the life of the Rome of the Caesars. I was startled to find that the actual facts are almost exactly the reverse of that.


The conditions of Rome in the Middle Ages were sufficiently remarkable to have

stamped an indelible character upon any other town in the world; but so enormously stronger was the amazingly vivid life of that earlier civilisation, that it still stands out, in spite of all the history that has been made there since, as the one ineffaceable and dominating characteristic of Rome.


To the clairvoyant investigator, Rome is

(and ever will be) first of all the Rome of the Caesars, and only secondarily the Rome of the Popes. The impression of ecclesiastical history is all there,

recoverable to the minutest detail; a bewildering mass of devotion and intrigue,

of insolent tyranny and real religious feeling; a history of terrible corruption

and of world-wide power, but rarely used as well as it might have been. And yet,

mighty as it is, it is dwarfed into absolute insignificance by the grander power that went before it. There was a robustness of faith in himself, a conviction of destiny, a resolute intention to live his life to the utmost, and a certainty of being able to do it, about the ancient Roman, which few nationalities of to-day can approach.




Not only has a city as a whole its general

characteristics, but such of the buildings in it as are devoted to special purposes have always an aura characteristic of that purpose. The aura of a hospital, for example, is a curious mixture; a preponderance of suffering, weariness and pain, but also a good deal of pity for the suffering, and a feeling of gratitude on the part of the patients for the kindly care which is taken of them.


The neighbourhood of a prison is decidedly

to be avoided when a man is selecting a residence, for from it radiate the most

terrible gloom and despair and settled depression, mingled with impotent rage,

grief and hatred. Few places have on the whole a more unpleasant aura around

them; and even in the general darkness there are often spots blacker than the

rest, cells of unusual horror round which an evil reputation hangs. For example,

there are several cases on record in which the successive occupants of a certain

cell in a prison have all tried to commit suicide, those who were unsuccessful

explaining that the idea of suicide persistently arose in their minds, and was

steadily pressed upon them from without, until they were gradually brought into

a condition in which there seemed to be no alternative.


There have been instances in which such a feeling was due to the direct persuasion of a dead man; but also and more frequently it is simply that the first suicide has charged the cell so thoroughly with thoughts and suggestions of this nature that the later occupants, being probably persons of no great strength or development of will, have found themselves practically unable to resist.


More terrible still are the thoughts which

still hang round some of the dreadful dungeons of mediaeval tyrannies, the

oubliettes of Venice or the torture-dens of the Inquisition. Just in the same

way the very walls of a gambling-house radiate grief, envy, despair and hatred,

and those of the public-house, or house of ill-fame, absolutely reek with the

coarsest forms of sensual and brutal desire.




In such cases as those mentioned above, it

is easy enough for all decent people to escape the pernicious influences simply

by avoiding the place; but there are other instances in which people are placed

in undesirable situations through the indulgence of natural good feeling. In

countries which are not civilised enough to burn their dead, survivors constantly haunt the graves in which decaying physical bodies are laid; from a feeling of affectionate remembrance they gather often to pray and meditate there, and to lay wreaths of flowers upon the tombs. They do not understand that the radiations of sorrow, depression and helplessness which so frequently permeate the churchyard or cemetery make it an eminently undesirable place to visit. I have seen old people walking and sitting about in some of our more beautiful cemeteries, and nursemaids wheeling along young children in their

perambulators to take their daily airing, neither of them probably having the

least idea that they are subjecting themselves and their charges to influences

which will most likely neutralise all the good of the exercise and the fresh

air; and this quite apart from the possibility of unhealthy physical





The ancient buildings of our great

universities are surrounded with magnetism of a special type, which does much towards setting upon its graduates that peculiar seal which is so readily distinguishable, even though it is not easy to say in so many words exactly of what it consists. Men attending the university are of many and various types-- reading men, hunting men, pious men, careless men; and sometimes one college of a university attracts only one of these classes.


In that case its walls become permeated with those characteristics, and its atmosphere operates to keep up its reputation. But on the whole the university is surrounded with a pleasant feeling of work and comradeship, of association yet of independence, a feeling of respect for the traditions of the Alma Mater and the resolve to uphold them, which soon brings the new undergraduate into line with his fellows and imposes upon him the unmistakable university tone.


Not unlike this is the influence exerted by

the buildings of our great public schools. The impressionable boy who comes to

one of these soon feels about him a sense of order and regularity and esprit de

corps, which once gained can scarcely be forgotten. Something of the same sort,

but perhaps even more pronounced, exists in the case of a battleship, especially

if she is under a popular captain and has been some little time in commission.

There also the new recruit very quickly finds his place, soon acquires the

esprit de corps, soon learns to feel himself one of a family whose honour he is

bound to uphold. Much of this is due to the example of his fellows and to the

pressure of the officers; but the feeling, the atmosphere of the ship herself

undoubtedly bears a share in it also.




The studious associations of a library are

readily comprehensible, but those of museums and picture-galleries are much more varied, as might be expected. In both these latter cases the influence is

principally from pictures or the objects shown, and consequently our discussion

of it is part of a later chapter. As far as the influence of the actual buildings is concerned, apart from the objects exhibited in them, the result is a little unexpected, for a prominent feature is a quite overwhelming sense of fatigue and boredom. It is evident that the chief constituent in the minds of the majority of the visitors is the feeling that they know that they ought to admire or to be interested in this or that, whereas as a matter of fact they are quite unable to achieve the least real admiration or interest.




The awful emanations from the stock-yards in Chicago, and the effect they produce on those who are so unfortunate as to live

anywhere near them, have often been mentioned in Theosophical literature. Mrs.

Besant herself has described how on her first visit she felt the terrible pall

of depression which they cause while she was yet in the train many miles from

Chicago; and though other people, less sensitive than she, might not be able to

detect it so readily, there can be no doubt that its influence lies heavily upon

them whenever they draw near to the theatre of that awful iniquity. On that spot

millions of creatures have been slaughtered and every one of them has added to

its radiations its own feelings of rage and pain and fear and the sense of injustice; and out of it all has been formed one of the blackest clouds of horror at present existing in the world.


In this case the results of the influence

are commonly known, and it is impossible for anyone to profess incredulity. The

low level of morality and the exceeding brutality of the slaughterman are matters of notoriety. In many of the murders committed in that dreadful neighbourhood the doctors have been able to recognise a peculiar twist of the knife which is used only by slaughtermen, and the very children in the streets play no games but games of killing. When the world becomes really civilised men will look back with incredulous horror upon such scenes as these, and will ask how it could have been possible that people who in other respects seem to have had some gleams of humanity and common sense, could permit so appalling a blot upon their honour as is the very existence of this accursed thing in their





Any spot where some ceremony has been

frequently repeated, especially if in connection with it a high ideal has been

set up, is always charged with a decided influence. For example, the hamlet of

Oberammergau, where for many years at set intervals the Passion Play has been

reproduced, is full of thought-forms of the previous performances, which react

powerfully upon those who are preparing themselves to take part in a modern

representation. An extraordinary sense of reality and of the deepest earnestness

is felt by all those who assist, and it reacts even upon the comparatively careless tourist, to whom the whole thing is simply an exhibition.


In the same way the magnificent ideals of Wagner are prominent in the atmosphere of

Bayreuth, and they make a performance there a totally different thing from one

by identically the same players anywhere else.




There are instances in which the influence

attached to a special place is non-human. This is usually the case with the many

sacred mountains of the world. I have described in a previous chapter the great

angels who inhabit the summit of the mountain of Slieve-na-Mon in Ireland. It is

their presence which makes the spot sacred, and they perpetuate the influence of

the holier magic of the leaders of the Tuatha-de-Danaan, which they ordained to

remain until the day of the future greatness of Ireland shall come, and its part

in the mighty drama of empire shall be made clear.


I have several times visited a sacred

mountain of a different type-- Adam' s Peak in Ceylon. The remarkable thing about this peak is that it is held as a sacred spot by people of all the various religions of the Island. The Buddhists give to the temple on its summit the name of the shrine of the Sripada or holy footprint, and their story is that when the Lord BUDDHA visited Ceylon in His astral body (He was never there in the physical)


He paid a visit to the tutelary genius of that mountain, who is called by the people Saman Deviyo. Just as He was about to depart, Saman Deviyo asked Him as a favour to leave on that spot some permanent memory of His visit, and

the BUDDHA in response is alleged to have pressed His foot upon the solid rock,

utilising some force which made upon it a definite imprint or indentation.


The story goes on to say that Saman Deviyo, in order that this holy footprint should never be defiled by the touch of man, and that the magnetism radiating from it should be preserved, covered it with a huge cone of rock, which makes the present summit of the mountain. On the top of this cone a hollow has been made which roughly resembles a huge foot, and it

seems probable that some of the more ignorant worshippers believe that to be the

actual mark made by the Lord BUDDHA; but all the monks who know emphatically

deny that, and point to the fact that this is not only enormously too large to

be a human footprint, but that it is also quite obviously artificial.


They explain that it is made there simply to

indicate the exact spot under which the true footprint lies, and they point to the fact that there is unquestionably a crack running all round the rock at some distance below the summit. The idea of a sacred footprint on that summit seems to be common to the various religions, but while the Buddhists hold it to be that of the Lord BUDDHA, the Tamil inhabitants of the Island suppose it to be one of the numerous footprints of Vishnu, and the Christians and the Muhammadans attribute it to Adam-- whence the name Adam' s Peak.


But it is said that long before any of these

religions had penetrated to the Island, long before the time of the Lord BUDDHA

Himself, this peak was already sacred to Saman Deviyo, to whom the deepest

reverence is still paid by the inhabitants-- as indeed it well may be, since He

belongs to one of the great orders of the angels who rank near to the highest

among the Adepts. Although His work is of a nature entirely different from ours,

He also obeys the Head of the Great Occult Hierarchy; He also is one of the Great White Brotherhood which exists only for the purpose of forwarding the evolution of the world.


The presence of so great a being naturally

sheds a powerful influence over the mountain and its neighbourhood, and most of all over its summit, so that there is emphatically a reality behind to account

for the joyous enthusiasm so freely manifested by the pilgrims. Here also, as at

other shrines, we have in addition to this the effect of the feeling of devotion

with which successive generations of pilgrims have impregnated the place, but

though that cannot but be powerful, it is yet in this case completely overshadowed by the original and ever-present influence of the mighty entity who has done His work and kept His guard there for so many thousands of years.




There are sacred rivers also-- the Ganges,

for example. The idea is that some great person of old has magnetised the source

of the river with such power that all the water that henceforth flows out from

that source is in a true sense holy water, bearing with it his influence and his

blessing. This is not an impossibility, though it would require either a great reserve of power in the beginning or some arrangement for a frequent repetition.

The process is simple and comprehensible; the only difficulty is what may be

called the size of the operation. But what would be beyond the power of the

ordinary man might possibly be quite easy to some one at a much higher level.




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