Jacolliot, Louis - Occult Science in India - 06 Fakirs The Bamboo stool
Type of Spiritual Experience
A description of the experience
Jacolliot, Louis - Occult Science in India
THE BAMBOO STOOL—AËRIAL. FLOWERS—THE MYSTERIOUS PUNKAH.
I spent a part of the night, in reflection upon this subject, but I was not able to solve the riddle. Since I had lived in India I had often seen similar phenomena performed in my presence by others and I was able to bring a multitude of other facts quite as wonderful to the support of what was said and done by the Fakir of Trivanderam, but they did not prove, in my opinion, the truth of the theory with regard to the evocation of the ancestral shades. What I beg to direct the reader's attention to, more particularly because it is strictly true, is the fact that the means employed to produce these phenomena are not known to any person in India except the performers themselves.
Ï was impatiently expecting the Fakir's arrival, for I had long intended to accompany my investigations into the ancient doctrine regarding the Pitris with an inquiry into the material phenomena inseparably connected, in the Hindu mind, with their religious convictions. The willingness, added to the skill, of Covindasamy gave me an opportunity that might not soon occur again of reviewing these singular facts, which seem to have occupied the minds of the sacerdotal classes in ancient times in all their leisure moments, and which had been repeated in my presence more than a hundred times before. I spent a portion of the day in visiting the temples and mosques of Benares, and I did not return to the palace until sunset.
It was night, and I was waiting for the Fakir upon the terrace when he walked quietly in. People of that class have the privilege of entering the presence of the highest personages in Hindustan at any time, without previous announcement, and although they seldom make use of the privilege in the case of Europeans, I had, in the beginning of our acquaintance, allowed Covindasamy to do as he pleased. This, added to my knowledge of his native tongue, had made him very friendly.
"Well," said I, as soon as I perceived his entrance, "the sounds were heard as you predicted; the Fakir is very skilful."
"The Fakir is nothing," he answered, with the utmost coolness. "He utters the proper mentrams and the spirits hear them. It was the ancestral shades of the Franguy who paid him a visit."
"Have you power over the spirits of foreigners?"
"No one has power over the spirits."
"I did not express myself properly. How does it happen that the souls of the Franguys should grant the requests of a Hindu? They do not belong to your caste."
"There are no castes in the superior world."
"Then it was my ancestors who appeared last night?"
"You have said it."
Such was his invariable answer.
Whenever I questioned him upon this subject I carefully watched the expression of his face, to see if I could detect in his looks a smile or any other sign of incredulity, but he seemed to be sincere, and his face was calm and impenetrable.
Without being asked to do so, he then went on with his performances.
Taking a small bamboo stool that stood near, he sat down upon it in the Mussulman style with his legs crossed beneath him, and his arms folded across his chest. According to my instructions to my cansama, the terrace had been lighted à giorno, and I had made such preparations that nothing that occurred could possibly escape my attention.
As in my accounts of previous performances, I omit all the elaborate preparations by which they were accompanied, and the impression made upon my own mind, and confine myself strictly to what is essential.
At the end of a few minutes, during which he appeared to concentrate his attention upon the bamboo stool upon which he was sitting, it began to move noiselessly along the floor, by short jerks which made it advance about three or four inches every time. I watched the Hindu attentively, but he was as still and motionless as a statue.
The terrace was about seven yards long and as many wide. It took about ten minutes to traverse the whole distance, and when the stool had arrived at the end it began to move backward until it returned to its starting-place. The performance was repeated three times, and always successfully, unless the conditions were changed. I ought to say, however, that the Fakir's legs, which were crossed beneath him, were distant from the ground the whole height of the stool.
During the whole day the heat had been overpowering. The night breeze which springs up so regularly in those latitudes to cool the heated lungs, and which blows from the Himalaya Mountains, had not yet risen. The metor was moving, as fast as he could, by the aid of a rope of cocoa fibre above our heads, an enormous punkah, hanging from iron rods in the middle of the terrace, which also supported horizontally the vetivert curtains and surrounding matting.
The punkah is a sort of movable fan of rectangular form, which is fastened at both ends to the ceiling of the room. Set in motion by a servant specially engaged for that purpose, it imparts a factitious, though very agreeable, coolness to the atmosphere. The Fakir made use of this instrument for the performance of the second phenomenon.
Taking the punkah rope from the metor's hands, he pressed it against his forehead with both hands, and sat down in a squatting position beneath the punkah, which soon began to move slowly over our heads, though Covindasamy had not made the slightest motion. It gradually increased its speed until it moved at a very rapid rate, as though it were driven by some invisible hand.
When the Fakir let go of the rope it continued to move, though at a gradually diminishing rate, and finally stopped altogether.
These two phenomena were repeated several times, and it was now quite late at night, but the Fakir was in a good humor, and before leaving he determined to give me another proof of his power.
Three vases of flowers, so heavy that none but a strong man could have lifted them (and then he could not have done so without an effort), stood at one end of the terrace. Selecting one, he imposed his hands upon it so as to touch the edge of the vase with the tips of his fingers. Without any apparent effort on his part it began to move to and fro upon its base as regularly as the pendulum of a clock. It soon seemed to me that the vase had left the floor, without changing its movement in the least degree, and it appeared to me to be floating in the air, going from right to left at the will of the Fakir.
I do not, it will be observed, speak of this phenomenon in positive terms, for I have always regarded it as caused by an illusion of the senses. To be candid, I must acknowledge that I have always been somewhat sceptical with regard to the phenomena performed by the Fakirs, but that especially, though I had often seen it performed under circumstances that seemed to render deception impossible, always appeared to me so strange that I was unable to resist the belief that some imposition, however elaborate or skilful, was being practised upon me.