Extract from the Book
Psychic Self-Defense by Dion Fortune
THE PSYCHIC ELEMENT IN MENTAL DISTURBANCE
WE have seen in a previous Chapter that nervous and mental disorders can simulate a psychic attack, especially if the subject is familiar with the terminology of occultism. We must also consider the part played by psychic attack in nervous and mental disorders. But before we can embark upon this section of our studies, we must give a brief explanation of the nature of nervous and mental disturbances and the distinction between them. We will not go into academic considerations, for these pages are not written for the orthodox professional psychologist, who has an abundance of textbooks at his disposal, but for the person whose interest is primarily in occult matters, and who comes to the study of the subject unequipped with the technicalities of psychology and psycho-physiology, two sciences of which at least a working knowledge is exceedingly necessary in the pursuit of practical occultism.
In the course of an incarnation the mind is built up on the foundations of the traits of the Higher Self, or Individuality, which is the immortal soul that develops in the course of an evolution. The mind, therefore, is part of the personality the unit of incarnation – commencing at birth and dissolving at death, its essence being absorbed by the individuality, which evolves thereby.
[Note for clarification from the Editor/Arranger of this html document: The Personality is the ego or external identity and ordinary consciousness of a person, and the Individuality is the Higher-self, H.G.A., or spiritual component of a person.]
The mind is essentially the organ of adaptation to the environment, and it is when that adaptation fails that neurotic and hysterical troubles begin. Each living creature is the channel for a current of life-force which proceeds from the Logos, the Creator of this universe. This current is divided into three main channels represented to us as the three great natural instincts, Self-preservation, Reproduction, and the Social Instinct. These are the mainsprings of our lives. The pressure of Life itself is behind them, and if they are thwarted beyond their power of compensation (considerable as that is), they are like streams whose channels are blocked, and which in consequence overflow and make a morass of the adjacent land.
Emotion is the subjective aspect of an instinct. That is to say, when an instinct is at work, we feel emotion. Every emotion we feel can be referred to one or other of the instincts. Our resentment of a slur upon our dignity has its roots in the instinct of Self-preservation. Our love of art has its roots in the instinct of love, beauty and creative expression which, upon its lowest arc, is called sex. Each of these instincts has its high spiritual aspect and its elemental physical aspect, and transmution from one plane to another takes place freely, so that unless we understand the significance of these manifestations we shall be misled. In their understanding is the key to the science of life.
If one of these great instincts is so thwarted that all attempts at compensation break down; or if the temperament is so inelastic and unaccommodating that it will not modify its demands, the ego makes a final desperate attempt at adjustment which goes outside the limits within which harmonious relations with the environment can be maintained. Communications with the environment break down, and the mind has, in part at least, quitted the sphere of reality for the sphere of imagination. The sense of fixed values is lost, and things assume a symbolic importance. This breakdown may be partial, relating to certain aspects of the life only, or it may be total.
In hysteria, the dammed-up forces of life remain in the channel, but spurt with concentrated force through any sluice that may be opened to them. Consequently, instead of the river below the obstruction being a smooth-flowing body of water, it descends in rapids and whirlpools difficult and dangerous to navigate, so that the barque of life makes shipwreck therein. The surrounding country, too, is reduced to a morass, neither land nor water. In other words, the temperament becomes tempestuous and unduly emotional, and the non-emotional factors of the mind, such as judgment and self-control, are demoralised. Such a temperament must of necessity be perpetually in difficulties with life, and periodically the repressed emotions boil over in fits of screaming, crying and convulsive muscular movements, which act as safety-valves and relieve the pressure temporarily.
The neurotic differs from the hysteric in certain well-marked ways which need to be carefully borne in mind, as they are very important from the practical standpoint. The troubles of the neurotic start in the same way as those of the hysteric, being due to repressed emotion and failure to adapt to environment; but in his case, the life-forces set to work to cut fresh channels for themselves that shall circumvent the obstacle which blocks their path. Consequently we get what the psychologist calls displacement of emotion. Some comparatively innocuous matter becomes the object of an outpouring of emotion which in no way concerns it, for it has been made a substitute for something else. It is this curious underground tracking of emotion in the mind which causes so much trouble, for the sufferer is not insane, and yet certain sections of his values and reactions to life are perverted. He is an extremely tricky person to deal with because he is given to unexpected and quite irrational loves and hates and fears, and acts accordingly.
Similar conditions prevail in the organic insanities; the psychological results are the same, but because the origin is physical, not mental, they are but little amenable to psychotherapy. Certain things can be done to alleviate them, however, even if they are not entirely curable; therefore let us consider them from both the psycho-physical and occult standpoints.
The body is the vehicle of the mind. If the vehicle be faulty, the mind cannot express itself accurately; its reactions will be distorted. Orthodox science says that the brain is the organ of the mind, but esoteric science says the brain is the organ of perception of sense impressions and co-ordination of efferent impulses. It is the telephone exchange of the nervous system. It is only one of the points where mind touches body, the others being the ductless glands of the endocrine system, the pineal, pituitary, thyroid, adrenals, thymus and gonads; to which may be added the Solar Plexus and Sacral Plexus. The student of Tantric physiology will be very dull if he has not observed that the Chakras coincide in their physical location with the endocrine organs.
Now the endocrines have for their task the maintenance of the chemical composition of the blood. They pour into it their secretions, called hormones, in certain balanced proportions. If the balance is in any way upset, either by an overplus of one secretion or shortage of another, profound changes in metabolism take place. The whole of the life processes are regulated by the endocrines, and can be speeded up or slowed down in their different aspects as the balance of the endocrines alters. This endocrine balance is known by physiologists to be intimately associated with emotional states, and especially with the alertness or stolidity of the temperament. Psychologists do not sufficiently appreciate the importance of the recent work upon the endocrines, but occultists have a knowledge of this aspect of psycho-physiology as part of their traditional teaching. The breathing exercises of the yoga system are based upon this knowledge, and are exceedingly potent, as are all occult practices which are brought through correctly to the physical plane. In fact, we may say that no occult process is really potent, nor can it be said to have completed its circuit, unless it has its point of contact with dense matter; a point which many occultists leave out of their calculations. Occultism, though primarily a mental process, is not a purely mental process. It is both spiritual and material.
In the great majority of cases of insanity, organic brain changes cannot be demonstrated, but alienists are more and more coming to recognise that they may look for the lues of Hecate in the blood. Its chemical composition may depart from normal, whether owing to a change in the hormone balance or to the by-products of disease. This change in the blood chemistry is immediately followed by a change in the emotional tone. It may become over-emotional or depressed, apathetic or irritable. The ancients described these conditions admirably as the four humours, the sanguine, the bilious, the limphatic and the choleric.
It has been abundantly demonstrated by physiologists that emotional states affect the chemical composition of the blood. It is gradually being realised that these changes are brought about through the mediation of the ductless glands, which may be called the emotional brain, just as the grey matter within the skull may be called the sensory-motor brain. It follows, therefore, that if through some interference with their functioning the glands produce a blood-composition corresponding to that produced by them when a particular emotional state is giving its special stimulus, the individual will experience the physical sensations associated with the corresponding emotional state. His mind will proceed to adjust itself to these conditions by accounting for them through the imagination as best it may. So that if there is a state of the blood characteristic of the condition of fear, fear-images will arise in the mind. It is upon this basis that the organic insanities produce their characteristic mental states.
Whether the emotional state be due to a mental cause or a physical cause, the result is the same for the patient. Organic insanities are distinguished from functional ones solely by their origin. An organic insanity tends to depart further from the normal than a functional nervous disorder, because in the latter a considerable degree of compensation takes place, for the patient can to a great extent pull himself together and keep himself from going to disastrous extremes. This is not the case with an organic insanity, which proceeds to its logical conclusion. It is for this reason that a neurotic, although he may suffer severely, seldom has a complete breakdown unless he is sure of the necessities of life. The self-preservation instinct keeps him on his feet. Having considered the physical and subjective bases of mental disturbances, we are now in a position to assess accurately the part played by the Unseen. What happens when a neurotic takes up occultism? We can best answer this question by considering what happens when a normal person takes up occultism. He learns for the first time of the existence of the Invisible Worlds and begins to think about them. Immediately he does this he comes into touch with them. At first he may not be able to perceive them consciously; nevertheless he is feeling them subconsciously and they are affecting him. His life shows this to the close observer in a thousand ways.
There are great forces moving like currents in the Unseen and we are drawn into these according to our temperamental affinity for them. The violent personality is drawn into the Current of Mars, the emotional, suggestible one into the sphere of Luna. The influences of these spheres play upon them. Now the occultist working under a proper system, knowing that he has got to meet these forces sooner or later, picks them up one by one voluntarily and by means of the appropriate rituals, and synthesises them within his own nature. He knows too that each aspect has its obverse. The Virgin Mary is reflected in Lilith. The older faiths knew this, but popular Christianity, which has no roots in tradition, has forgotten it. Protestant Christianity threw away its occult aspect at the Reformation. All the pagan pantheons have gross aspects of divinities as well as etherial ones. We need to search the refuse-heap of history for the lost parts of our own tradition if our faith is to be complete, and the most profitable line of search is in the Qabalah and the Gnostic literature. The literature of the Gnosis has been largely destroyed by systematic persecution, but in the Qabalah there is still left us a complete system. The Jews, being strictly monotheistic, did not speak of gods, but they recognised a hierarchy of angels and archangels which is the equivalent of the pagan pantheons. It is through these etherial messengers that the All-Father formed the worlds.
Let us consider once more the Qabalistic doctrine of the Qlippoth, for it has an intimate bearing upon the problem of insanity. The doctrine of the Ten Holy Sephiroth, arranged in their correct pattern to form the Tree of Life, is invaluable in enabling us to conceive the Invisible. The First Sephira is concentrated out of the Unmanifest, the Point within the Circle. This emanates the Second, which in its turn emanates the Third. As soon as one has emanated another, these two are said to be equilibrated; but when emanation is in process, there is a period of unbalanced force. This, as it were, goes off by itself in the Cosmos and establishes a sphere of its own, unconnected with the Cosmic system. Consequently, each sphere of the Cosmos has its counterpart in Chaos, in miniature, it is true, but nevertheless potent and functional.
Each sphere, in the course of its evolution, builds up an Oversoul which is called by different names in different systems. In the Qabalistic system we call them the Archangels, the Spirits before the Throne. The Sphere of the Sun is represented by Raphael, the Sphere of the Moon by Gabriel. The Obverse Sephiroth, or Qlippoth, build up in exactly the same way. In the Habitations of Hell these two are known as the Disputers and the Obscene Ones, whose names sufficiently indicate their characters. The Sphere of the Sun is also the point of manifestation of the Messiah or Saviour upon earth. The Prince of Peace has His obverse in the Disputers. Who that has had the Vision Beautiful does not know the reaction that follows it, and the need of wisdom, self-control and patience to deal with the forces that are released not only in the soul but in the environment? It is for this reason that periods of purgation and discipline precede all revelations. We must keep the vigil before we can sit at the feast.
Consciousness, released from the Sphere of Earth, rises straight upwards to the Sphere of the Moon. This is the negative, feminine, receptive, psychic sphere. From thence it passes onwards to the Sphere of the Sun. This is the positive, masculine sphere of the higher consciousness, the vision of the seer as distinguished from the psychic. Upon either hand the path is flanked by the Spheres of Hermetic Wisdom and Elemental Beauty.
These Spheres, which have to do with the grades of initiation, need not concern us in the present pages. We shall only have to do with the Sphere of the Moon, Luna, the Mistress of the Luna-tic. Now Luna was represented by the ancients under diverse forms as Diana the chaste huntress, symbol of sublimation, and Hecate, patroness of witchcraft and childbirth. We have already noted that the Qlippoth of the Sphere of Luna are called the Obscene Ones. Hence it is that when the unstable soul advances by the Path of Saturn that bridges the Astral and enters the Sphere of Luna, he touches her Hecate aspect and finds himself en rappart with the Gamaliel, the Obscene Ones, whose chief is Lilith, she who giveth lustful dreams. Need we then wonder that Freud finds the dreams of the neurotic filled with sexual images in their most perverted and debased forms? The Rabbis knew their psychology just as well as he does. As has already been noted, the neurotic is very often psychic, and the psychic is very often neurotic. What may we expect to happen to the soul that has taken initiation in a past life, retains subconsciously the psychic development thus conferred, and finds itself incarnated in a neurotic personality in this life? He will come under the dark dominion of the Moon, and Lilith will be his mistress. Through the ill-fitting doors of the neurotic temperament the forces of the Abyss find ingress. The dissociated complexes of the Microcosm are reinforced by the dissociated complexes of the Macrocosm, for that is precisely what the Qlippoth are.
Occultists and their ignorant admirers, the superstitious, have always held that insanity had to do with demonic possession. Modern medicine disputes this, and declares the various manifestations of the diseased mind to be due entirely to subjective psychological processes. At present these two schools of thought are like two armed camps, drawn up for battle and shaking their weapons at each other. Each is too sure of his own ground to be willing to give the other a hearing. It is my belief that a common ground can be found for the meeting of these two opposing view-points. Psychology demonstrates the mechanism of the mind and can explain the mental processes whereby the ideas of the deranged assume their ultimate form. It can show the connection between these ideas and the dreams of the normal mentality. What it cannot explain is the fundamental difference between these subjective states and the normal waking consciousness. It is here that the occultist can tell the psychologist something that it is worth his while to hear, for he can show how these visions can be produced experimentally and at will by means of ceremonial magic. And still more important, the occultist can show him how these visions can be dispersed and the psychic faculties closed down and sealed.
This brings us to the practical part of our considerations: How far can the methods of ritual magic be applied to the relief of mental disease? They are undoubtedly palliative, but they will not produce a permanent cure unless the origin of the disturbed mental condition is found and cleared up. Unless this be done, as fast as we disperse the phantoms, they will re-form, because the mental state of the patient is invoking them. Under such circumstances, no magic circle can be kept intact. As fast as we break the rapport with the Abyss, the patient renews it. But such conditions constitute a vicious circle. The Qlippotic forces with which a contact has been established will actively develop it, and will hold on to their victim when attempts are made to dislodge them. In this rationalistic age we are apt to forget that there is such a thing as organised and intelligent evil. If the physical causes of this disturbance have been cleared up, the septic focus eradicated, or the tumour pressing upon the ductless gland excised, and still the mentality does not return to normal, an exorcism will often produce immediate and marked results.
In the case of the neurotic, whose trouble is entirely in the sphere of the mind, an exorcism is of enormous value as a preliminary to the appropriate psycho-therapeutic treatment because it clears the ground and prevents re-infection, giving the patient a chance to make a fresh start. It is possible for the Qlippotic demons to gain so powerful a hypnotic influence over a victim that he is powerless to break it by any effort of his own will, nor can the orthodox type of psycho-therapy touch the root of the trouble. The exorcism may have to be repeated two or three times in the course of the treatment, because the rapports may be renewed after they have been broken. But once the patient’s complexes have been cleared up, they will not return. In any case, an exorcism produces marked temporary benefit; during the lull the patient gets a chance to pull himself together and the evil influences are undermined. A courageous patient, who is co-operating intelligently, will seldom have to be exorcised more than three times provided material conditions are favourable. I have seen cases cleared by a single exorcism, and remaining well indefinitely so long as the patient obeyed instructions and had nothing whatever to do with the Unseen, neither reading books upon occultism nor associating with people who were interested in such subjects; and I have also seen the Abyss re-establish its influence when the patient disobeyed instructions and re-awakened the old vibrations.
We need to realise that the human consciousness is not a closed vessel, but like the body, has a continual intake and output. The cosmic forces are circulating through it all the time, like sea-water through a living sponge. Whatever emotional state may arise within us is reinforced from outside. The subjective self only has the kindling, the Cosmos supplies the fuel. Once the fire is started, the cosmic forces of the appropriate type will stoke it. Just as the devout Catholic is inspired by the influences of his patron saint, invoked by prayer, so the neurotic is hag-ridden by his obsessive demon, invoked by the morbid broodings of the dissociated sub consciousness. The occultist maintains that the generalised principle of evil has its intelligent channels, just as the organised Principle of Good has Its ministering spirits. Any observer who considers the phenomena of mental disturbance will find much to support this hypothesis. The question of obsession is an exceedingly important one. The word is used very freely in occult circles, and is held to mean the withdrawal of a soul from its body and its replacement by another soul, but I doubt whether this is a true representation of what happens. It has always appeared to me that in obsession we have not got the actual replacement of one soul by another, but the complete domination of one soul by another. It is a hypnotic domination, and we can explain it in terms of the known psychology of hypnosis, the hypnotist in the case being an astral entity.
There is an operation in magic known as “assuming the god-form,” in which the operator identifies himself in imagination with the god and so becomes a channel for its power. It is one of the special modes of Egyptian magic wherein the priest always wore a mask to represent the animal head symbolically attributed to the god he represented. This imaginative identification is a method well known in occultism and is often employed in order to enter into the inner life of a plant or a crystal as a mental exercise. The effects of it are very marked and very peculiar. I am inclined to think that it is this method, combined with hypnosis, which is used by the obsessing entity, which first identifies itself with its victim and then superimposes its own personality upon his, thus obtaining a vehicle of manifestation. I am also of the opinion, however, that it is only in certain abnormal states, whether induced by disease of mind or body, or by some of the more drastic operations of black magic, that this imposition can take place.
For further reading on Psychic Self Defence and Dion Fortune
7 Basic Psychic Self Defense and Energy Protection Techniques
Introduction to Psychic Self Defense