ED. NOTE-The aphorism of Patanjali on the subject of this article is No. 21, Book III, and in the American edition reads as follows:
In the old edition and in that published by M.N. Dvivedi, the word used for concentration is sanyama. This is to be translated as concentration, and also "restraint," which comes to the same thing. The aphorism raises the issues made by modern science that no disappearance is possible if the object be in line with a normal eye and there be light and the like. Hypnotism has for some made the modern view a little doubtful, but many deny hypnotism, and the cases of disappearance in those experiments have all been but disappearances for the senses of but one person who is admittedly under some influence and is not normal in organ and function. The author cites alleged cases of complete disappearance of ascetics from the sight of normal persons normally exercising their senses. It is not a case of hypnotism collectively or otherwise, but should be distinguished from all such. In hypnotic cases normal function is abated and the mind imposed with an inhibiting idea or picture which seems real in action to the subject. In the cases of the ascetics there is left to those about perfect control of their organs and senses, the powerful mental action of the ascetic bringing into play another law as indicated in the aphorism, which prevents the senses, however normal, from seeing the form of the ascetic. Form, it is held by the occultists of the school to which Patanjali must have belonged, is an illusion itself, which remains for the generality of people because they are subject to a grand common limitation due to the non-development of other than usual senses. It would seem that all clairvoyance might prove this, as in that it is known by the seer that every form visible to our eye has extensions and variations in the subtler parts of its constitution which are not visible on the material plane. The illusionary nature of form in its essence being meditated on, one becomes able, it is held, to check the "luminousness of sattva" and thus prevent sight. This does not mean that ordinary light is obstructed, but something different. All light, gross or fine, is due to the universal sattva, which is one of the qualities of the basis of manifested nature. And besides showing as ordinary light, it is also present, unseen by us it is true, but absolutely necessary for any sense-perception of that sort, whether by men, animals, or insects. If the finer plane of this luminousness is obstructed, the ordinary light is none the less, but the result will be that no eye can see the body of that person whose mind is operative at the time to cause the obstruction of the luminous quality mentioned. This may seem labored, but it is in consequence of our language and ideas that such is the case. I have known some cases in the West of disappearances similar to those mentioned by the foregoing article, and in Secret Doctrine and, I think, Isis Unveiled are some references to the matter where the author says the power conferred by this is wonderful as well as full of responsibility. While very likely no Theosophist or scientist will be able to use this power, still the cases cited and the explanation will go towards showing that the ancient Rishees knew more of man and his nature than moderns are prone to allow, and it may also serve to draw the attention of the mind of young Indians who worship the shrine of modern science to the works and thoughts of their ancestors.
Path, January, 1894.