A yoga pupil in Calcutta knew the manager of a theatre, and was sometimes presented with a free seat. On one such occasion he saw a demonstration of thought-reading; the manager said as he handed over the ticket, “This is in your line.” The central part of the show was that the performer came to the front of the stage, opened his arms wide, and asked the audience each to think some question strongly. After a short time, he announced, “There is a lady in the fifth row, worrying about her mother, who has had a road accident. Her leg is broken. If this is correct, will the lady please stand up and acknowledge it? I can tell her that her mother will recover well.”
A middle-aged woman stood up and said, “That is right. Thank you.” The pupil assumed that she was a confederate of the thought-reader.
However, he decided on a little experiment of his own. His father was an import-export merchant dealing in commodities. So he concentrated on the jute market, in which he knew his father was interested. Will the price go up or down? To his surprise, the thought-reader said, a little later, “There is a young man inquiring about a particular commodity market. I can tell him the price will go up.”
The pupil told his father. The next day, the jute market price did go up. The father insisted on going to the theatre the next evening, and got the manager to take him to the performer’s dressing room. He asked him how much he earned with his thought-reading, and offered him five times that fee to advise him on the markets.
The man laughed, “My dear sir, if I could tell the future, do you think I would be here on the stage for these little fees? When I open my arms and stand there, I do pick up some thoughts, usually an anxiety. But as to answers—I have to make that up. That is one reason why I have to keep moving round the country—some of my guesses turn out rather badly.”
The pupil told this to his spiritual teacher, who remarked, “Such things are like fireworks. They seem brilliant and impressive, but they are useless for life. You cannot read by the light of fireworks, you cannot cook or warm yourself by their fire, and they disappear almost at once. Those who try to develop them become inwardly restless, and very often take to alcohol to relieve the inner sense of strain. Sometimes a trace of such things comes unsought to a yogin, but to play with them means loss of independence, and can set back spiritual progress for incarnations. You can’t get anything out of them at all.
“Tell your friend the theatre manager that such performances have nothing to do with spiritual training: in fact they impede it.”
The pupil told the story to a British friend, who later encountered another case; the parallels are striking.
The head of a famous Japanese hospital was visiting Britain as delegate to a medical congress. He had been an expert in Judo, and found friends at the main London Judo club. As a side interest, he had done some investigation of the so-called psychic phenomena among Japanese miko (a sort of priest, often a woman); he said that he had on several occasions seen something like a star traveling across the shrine. “But (as he remarked) these are not controlled conditions. And it may be that controlled conditions upset the delicate balance of trance concentration. In which case such phenomena might never be fully established.” Among the club members was a prominent British spiritualist, and at the doctor’s request he arranged a séance with a reputed medium. Afterwards the doctor was rather thoughtful for a few days.
Then he was his usual cheerful self, and he said to the British captain of the Judo club, “You are a high-grade Judo man, and I pass this on to you privately. That medium told me a few generalities which might be true of many people. But she also told me correctly that I have four children, and she got their ages right. At the end of the sitting, she added, ‘Oh yes, and your wife has cancer of the throat.’
“As a matter of fact, just when I was leaving, my wife did mention casually to me that she had a sore throat. I said I would look at it when I got back. But after hearing that medium, I sent a cable to my deputy to get my wife in immediately for an exploratory operation on the throat. I was uneasy for a couple of days—perhaps you noticed—and then I got the cable in reply: ‘Your wife has a slight soreness of the throat.’
“I realized that the medium must have picked up that slight worry from my mind—I am a doctor, and my wife’s remark must have registered as a remote anxiety. She picked that up, and then something decided to have a bit of fun with me, it seems. After establishing her credit with the children and their ages, it certainly worked.”
The British captain thought, “Just like the witches in Macbeth.” And he remembered what the Calcutta pupil had told him about the teacher’s comment, “You can’t get anything out of them at all.”