STUDENT. - What principal idea would it be well for me to dwell upon in my studies on the subject of elementals?
Sage. - You ought to clearly fix in your mind and fully comprehend a few facts and the laws relating to them. As the elemental world is wholly different from the one visible to you, the laws governing them and their actions cannot as yet be completely defined in terms now used either by scientific or metaphysical schools. For that reason, only as partial description is possible. Some of those facts I will give you, it being well understood that I am not including all classes of elemental beings in my remarks.
First, then, Elementals have no form.
Student. - You mean, I suppose, that they have no limited form or body as ours, having a surface upon which sensation appears to be located.
Sage. - Not only so, but also that they have not even a shadowy, vague, astral form such as is commonly ascribed to ghosts. They have no distinct personal form in which to reveal themselves.
Student. - How am I to understand that, in view of the instances given by Bulwer Lytton and others of appearances of elementals in certain forms?
Sage. - The shape given to or assumed by any elemental is always subjective in its origin. It is produced by the person who sees, and who, in order to be more sensible of the elemental"s presence, has unconsciously given it a form. Or it may be due to a collective impression on many individuals, resulting in the assumption of a definite shape which is the result to the combined impressions.
Student. - Is this how we may accept as true the story of Luther"s seeing the devil?
Sage. - Yes. Luther from his youth had imagined a personal devil, the head of the fraternity of wicked ones, who had a certain specific form. This instantly clothed the elementals that Luther evoked, either through intense enthusiasm or from disease, with the old image reared and solidified in his mind; and he called it the Devil.
Student. - That reminds me of a friend who told me that in his youth he saw the conventional devil walk out of the fire place and pass across the room, and that ever since he believed the devil had an objective existence.
Sage. - In the same way also you can understand the extraordinary occurrences at Salem in the United States , when hysterical and mediumistic women and children saw the devil and also various imps of different shapes. Some of these gave the victims information. They were all elementals, and took their illusionary forms from the imaginations and memory of the poor people who were afflicted.
Student. - But there are cases where a certain form always appears. Such as a small, curiously-dressed woman who had never existed in the imagination of those seeing her; and other regularly recurring appearances. How were those produced, since the persons never had such a picture before them?
Sage. - These pictures are found in the aura of the person, and are due to pre-natal impressions. Each child emerges into life the possessor of pictures floating about the clinging to it, derived from the mother; and thus you can go back an enormous distance in time for these pictures, all through the long line of you descent. It is a part of the action of the same law which causes effect upon a child"s body through influences acting on the mother during gestation.1
Student. - In order, then, to know the cause of any such appearance, one must be able to look back, not only into the person"s present life, but also into the ancestor"s past?
Sage. - Precisely. And for that reason an occultist is not hasty in giving his opinion on these particular facts. He can only state the general law, for a life might be wasted in needless investigation of an unimportant past. You can see that there would be no justification for going over a whole lifetime"s small affairs in order to tell a person at what time or juncture an image was projected before his mind. Thousands of such impressions are made every year. That they are not developed into memory does not prove their non-existence. Like the unseen picture upon the photographer"s sensitive plate, they lie awaiting the hour of development.
Student. - In what way should I figure to myself the essence of an elemental and its real mode of existence?
Sage. - You should think of these as centres of energy only, that act always in accordance with the laws of the plane of nature to which they belong.
Student. - Is it not just as if we were to say that gunpowder is an elemental and will invariable explode when lighted? That is, that the elementals know no rules of either wrong or right, but surely act when the incitement to their natural action is present? They are thus, I suppose, said to be implacable.
Sage. - Yes; they are like the lightning which flashes or destroys as the varying circumstances compel. It has no regard for man, or love, or beauty, or goodness, but may as quickly kill the innocent, or burn the property of the good as of the wicked man.
Student. - What next?
Sage. - That the elementals live in and through all objects, as well as beyond the earth"s atmosphere.
Student. - Do you mean that a certain class of elementals, for instance, exist in this mountain, and float unobstructed through men, earth, rocks, and trees?
Sage. - Yes, and not only that, but at the same time, penetrating that class of elementals, there may be another class which float not only through rocks, trees, and men, but also through the first of the classes referred to.
Student. - Do they perceive these objects obstructive for us, through which they thus float?
Sage. - No, generally they do not. In exceptional cases they do, and even then never with the same sort of cognition that we have. For them the objects have no existence. A large block of stone or iron offers for them no limits or density. It may, however, make an impression on them by way of change of color or sound, but not by way of density or obstruction.
Student. - It is not something like this, that a current of electricity passes through a hard piece of copper wire, while it will not pass through an unresisting space of air.
Sage. - That serves to show that the thing which is dense to one form of energy may be open to another. Continuing your illustration, we see that man can pass through air but is stopped by metal. So that "hardness" for us is not "hardness" for electricity. Similarly, that which may stop an elemental is not a body that we call hard, but something which for us is intangible and invisible, but presents to them an adamantine front.
Student. - I thank you for your instruction.
Sage. - Strive to deserve further enlightenment!
Path, October, 1888
1 See Isis Unveiled in the chapter on Teratology.