At the beginning of the twentieth century, Eugene Caslant published a small book entitled 'Method For The Development of Paranormal Faculties.'
Caslant's talent lay in being able extract a clear, effective and simple method from the huge body of literature on occult sciences which existed at the time, a method that is being rediscovered by modern researchers. The accuracy of his remarks, combined with his vast personal experience, has made the book a classic of its genre, which is why it is still being used as a guide today.
A former science student, Caslant decided to weed out all religious or philosophical interpretations in his study of the paranormal, and approach the subject from a purely scientific point of view. Through observation, experimentation and the creation of instruments capable of measuring paranormal phenomena, Caslant hoped to establish laws that were verifiable and accessible to all. He also tried to offer an hypothesis that not only explained paranormal phenomena, but revealed new facts about the subject as well.
The paranormal faculties he concentrated on included:
• Clairvoyance or double vision: The conscious ability to form a clear mental picture of a distant place or scene which the subject has no prior knowledge of whatsoever, or to read another person's thoughts, or the ability to discern the character or intentions of another person, completely unknown to the subject, without relying on any auditory or visual stimulation.
• Premonitory or retrospective vision: The ability to describe events which took place in the distant past, or depict scenes which would take place in the future.
Caslant himself called these faculties supranormal instead of paranormal, for the following reasons: "The word paranormal, taken from the Greek 'para' meaning beside, implies that these phenomena are rare and in some way abnormal. Thus, many people tend to associate parapsychology with parapathology, considering persons who devote themselves to the study of the paranormal as being pathological. In other words, such persons are more or less crazy. And in fact, many so-called mentally ill persons have experiences which closely resemble what we call clairvoyance or the mental transmission of thoughts. Their disease seems to act as a catalyst, stimulating the development of new faculties, unfortunately at the expense of their mental stability.
"Inversely, so-called normal persons who live through a paranormal experience tend to minimize its importance by ignoring it completely, or refusing to talk about it, for fear of being labeled crazy.
"In fact, experience and practical tests have convinced me, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that all persons possess these faculties in a latent state. For that reason, they are neither paranormal or abnormal, but completely normal."
Caslant also believed that, in addition to our subconscious mind, we also possess a super-conscious mind which controls supranormal faculties. This part of the mind can provide us with information via our imagination, in the form of subjective thoughts which we all have, without knowing where they come from.
"After all," Caslant goes on to theorize, "what is imagination? Well, imagination could be described as the ability to perceive interior images. And what are these interior images? They are the memories of groups of elementary sensations."
The process works something like this: various stimuli, in the form of particles or electromagnetic waves of a certain wavelength, produce sensations in the human mind. These sensations are registered by our brain cells. Although they may be forgotten, they are never completely destroyed. They can reappear, usually with less intensity than the original sensations, without the need of a stimulus. These are our memories. A group of sensations constitute a mental image. Our subconscious mind acts as a kind of storehouse for mental images, which are then associated by their affinity for one another.
"Since our impressions are, to some extent, common to other persons, it can happen that our subconscious stores images drawn from the minds of other individuals."
Acting as a kind of bridge between two subconscious minds, images can, on occasion, and under certain conditions, be used to draw information from the subconscious mind of another person. Since the brain acts as both a sender and a receiver, images can be of two kinds: emitted and received. There are also two kinds of imagination - active and passive.
Here's what Caslant has to say about active imagination, the vehicle of human mental activity, controlling functions like thought, comprehension, invention and memory:
"If we could understand the laws governing active imagination and knew how to apply them, we could cure disease without medicine, transform our selves and make miracles come true."
The basis of his method is the activation of passive imagination, followed by the gradual elimination of all active imagination. Whether produced by active or passive imagination, an image is always linked to the one preceding it (Jung studied the same phenomenon, calling it association) In order to produce a passive image that is not linked to its preceding image, Caslant used an instructor who would suggest the new image.
Developing supranormal faculties takes two people: a subject and an instructor or guide. Instructors use their voice as the means of induction. "The subject gets comfortable, with eyes covered to block out any ambient light. The instructor then guides the subject towards a state of inner calm by suggesting an image - a calm lake at sunset, an endless plain of swaying grass stretching all the way to the horizon, etc."
It is unfortunate that Caslant had no opportunity to study sophrology, since the images he tried to evoke in his subjects are similar to those which arise in dreams, or better still when the brain is in a state between waking and sleep, either before falling asleep at night, or just after waking up in the morning, i.e. during the alpha state.
When subjects have attained this particular state, instructors repeat a single word a couple of times, asking what sensations, if any, the word evokes.
There are three possible results: either nothing happens, or the word evokes a memory, or it evokes some new, completely unknown image.
In the first case, i.e. if nothing happens, it is likely that the subject is preoccupied with some problem or other. The instructor should do whatever is necessary to break the subject's immediate train of thought, either by suggesting other words, asking the subject to recall a familiar image, or inviting the subject to be creative and come up with a new image on his own.
In the second case, i.e. if the word evokes a memory, more words should be suggested until a new image arises. If no new images arise, Caslant suggests that instructors guide their subjects through a series of imagined actions. If, for example, a subject forms an image of a car, the instructor could suggest that he get into the car and start driving. This will inevitably produce new, unknown images, which is the aim of the exercise.
Two problems can then arise:
• The subject reverts back to active images which take the form of projections of personal problems. When this happens, subjects become introspective and start doubting the validity of their subjective impressions. They start elaborating rational hypotheses which short-circuit their passive imagination. This is why the instructor's attitude is so important. An instructor should always be reassuring in order to boost a subject's confidence. A strong sense of empathy and a fertile imagination are also necessary.
• The subject cannot concentrate on the image that is evoked. Instead, the image appears like a flash of light and then vanishes, leaving only a fleeting memory. If this happens the instructor should tell the subject to try and recall the image, and then ask specific questions: What make of car was it? What color was the car? What color did it appear to be to you? What season of the year was it? What feeling did you get from the weather? And so on.
Note that it is better for an instructor to ask about feelings and impressions rather than saying, What kind of car do you think it was? or What season do you think it was? This is because passive imagination and intuition depend much more on feelings and impressions than on rational thoughts, which are more closely related to active imagination. Thinking will simply summon up the bank of data already stored in the person's subconscious.
Subjects should not be allowed to get lost in thought. Instructors should be constantly stimulating their subject's passive imagination by asking questions, without trying to anticipate the answers, which is why it is so important to train them properly. An instructor should know how to regain control of an induction session when a subject's active imagination is in the process of taking over, using what is called a maieutic approach (based on the Socratic technique of helping a subject bring forth or become aware of his or her latent ideas or memories).
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