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Observations placeholder

Jacolliot, Louis - Occult Science in India - 10 Fakirs Mysterious hands and letters of fire



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

Jacolliot, Louis - Occult Science in India



…… At the appointed hour Covindasamy quietly entered my room.

"Is not the Fakir fatigued by three weeks of watching and prayer?" said I, greeting him in the most friendly manner.

"The Fakir's body is never fatigued. It is a slave, whose only duty is obedience," answered the Hindu, sententiously.

Before entering my apartments, He had divested himself of the small piece of cloth, called the langouty, about four inches wide, which usually composed his only garment, and had deposited it upon one of the steps. He was entirely naked when he came in, and his seven knotted stick was fastened to a lock of his long hair.

"Nothing impure" said he, "should come in contact with the body of the evocator, if he wishes to reserve his power of communication with the spirits unimpaired.

Whenever I met a Fakir of this character I wondered whether those whom the Greeks saw upon the banks of the Indus and whom they called γυμνοσοφισται, or naked monks, did not belong to the same class.

My bedroom was on a level with the terrace. I set apart both rooms for our experiments, and carefully shut and fastened all the outside doors by means of which they were accessible.

The terrace was securely closed by its movable ceiling and curtains of vetivert matting. There was no opening from the outside, and nobody could gain admission except through my bedroom.

In the centre of each room there was a cocoa oil-lamp, protected by a glass shade of the clearest crystal, which hung from a bronze chain and diffused a soft light, sufficiently intense, however, to enable any one to read the smallest type in the remotest corner of the room.

All Hindu houses contain small copper furnaces which are kept constantly supplied with burning coals, on which are burned from time to time a few pinches of a perfumed powder, consisting of sandal wood, iris root, incense and myrrh.

The Fakir placed one of these in the centre of the terrace, and deposited by its side a copper platter filled with the fragrant powder; having done so, he took his seat upon the floor in his usual posture, with his arms folded across his chest, and commenced a long incantation in an unknown tongue.

When he was through with the recitation of his entrains, he remained in the same position without making a movement, his left hand resting upon his heart, and his right hand leaning upon his seven-knotted stick.

I thought that he was going to drop into a cataleptic sleep as he had done the day before, but such was not the case. From time to time, he pressed his hand against his forehead, and seemed to make passes as though to relieve his brain.

Involuntarily, I experienced a sudden shock. A slightly phosphorescent cloud seemed to have formed in the middle of my chamber, from which semblances of hands appeared to go and come with great rapidity. In a few minutes, several hands seemed to have lost their vaporous appearance and to resemble human hands; so much so, indeed, that they might have been readily mistaken for the latter. Singular to relate, while some became, as it were, more material, others became more luminous. Some became opaque, and cast a shadow in the light, while others became so transparent that an object behind them could be distinctly seen.

I counted as many as sixteen.

Asking the Fakir if I could touch them, I had hardly expressed a wish to that effect, when one of them, breaking away from the rest, flew toward me and pressed my outstretched hand. It was small, supple and moist, like the hand of a young woman.

"The spirit is present, though one of its hands is alone visible," said Covindasamy. "You can speak to it, if you wish."

I smilingly asked whether the spirit to whom that charming hand belonged would give me something in the nature of a keepsake.

Thereupon, in answer to my request, I felt the hand fade away in my own. I looked; it was flying toward a bouquet of flowers, from which it plucked a rosebud, which it 'threw at my feet and vanished.

For nearly two hours a scene ensued which was calculated to set my head in a whirl. At one time, a hand brushed against my face or fanned it with a fan. At another, it would scatter a shower of flowers all over the room, or would trace in the air, in characters of fire, words which vanished as soon as the last letter was written.

Some of these words were so striking that I wrote them down hastily with a pencil.

Divyavapour gatwâ.

Meaning in Sanscrit—"I have clothed myself with a fluidic (fluidique) body."

Immediately afterward, the hand wrote:

Atmânam crêyasa yoxyatas
Dehasya ’syâ vimôcanant.

"You will attain happiness when you lay aside this perishable body."

Meanwhile, flashes of genuine lightning seemed to dart across both rooms.

Gradually, however, all the hands disappeared. The cloud from which they came seemed to vanish by degrees as the hands became more material.

In the place where the last hand had disappeared, we found a garland of those yellow flowers with penetrating fragrance which the Hindus use in all their ceremonies.

I offer no explanation—I merely relate what occurred—leaving the reader at perfect liberty to draw any conclusion that he may see fit.

I can state positively, however, that the doors of both rooms were closed, that I had the keys in my pocket, and that the Fakir had not changed his position.

To these phenomena succeeded two others, that were, perhaps, more surprising still.

Shortly after the hands had disappeared, and while the Fakir was still going on with his evocations, a cloud similar to the first, but more opaque and of a brighter color, hovered near the little furnace, which, at the Hindu's request, I had kept constantly fed with burning coals. By degrees it seemed to assume a human form, and I distinguished the spectre—for I cannot call it otherwise—of an old Brahminical priest kneeling by the side of the little furnace.

On his forehead he wore the signs of his consecration to Vischnou, while his body was girdled with the triple cord, which signified that he had been initiated into the priestly caste. He clasped his hands above his head as in the performance of sacrifices, and his lips moved as if they were reciting prayers. At a certain moment, he took a pinch of the perfumed powder and threw it upon the furnace; there must have been an unusual quantity, for the fire emitted a thick smoke which filled both rooms.

When the smoke dispersed, I noticed the spectre less than a couple of yards distant; it held out to me its fleshless hands. I took them in my own, as I returned his greeting, and was surprised to find them, though hard and bony, warm and lifelike.

"Are you really," said I, in a distinct voice, "a former inhabitant of the earth?"

I had hardly finished the question, when the word


(meaning Yes),

appeared and disappeared in letters of fire upon the bosom of the old Brahmin. The effect was similar to that which would have been produced if the word had been written in the dark with a bit of phosphorus.

"Will you not leave me something as a token of your presence?"

The spirit broke the triple cord, consisting of three strands of cotton, which was tied about his loins, gave it to me and then faded away before my eyes.

I supposed that the seance was over, and I was going to raise the movable curtains that shaded the terrace, to admit a little fresh air inside, where the heat was really suffocating, when I noticed that the Fakir seemed to have no such idea. All at once, I heard a strange tune performed upon an instrument, which seemed to be the harmoniflute that we had used a couple of days before. That, however, appeared impossible, inasmuch as the Peishwa had sent for it the day before, and it was consequently no longer in my rooms.

It sounded at a distance, at first, but soon it came so near that it appeared to come from the next room, and I seemed before long to hear it in my bedroom. I noticed the phantom of a musician from the pagodas, gliding along the wall. He had a harmoniflute in his hands, from which he drew plaintive and monotonous notes exactly like the religious music of the Hindus.

When he had made the circuit of my room and of the terrace, he disappeared, and I found the instrument that he had used at the very place where he had vanished.

It was actually the rajah's harmoniflute. I examined all the doors, but I found them all securely locked and I had the keys in my pocket.

Covindasamy then arose. All his limbs were covered with perspiration, and he seemed to be thoroughly exhausted, though, in a few hours, he was to set out on his return journey.

"Thanks, Malabar," said I, calling him by a name that he liked, because it reminded him of his native land. May he who possesses the three mysterious powers protect you as you journey toward the fair land of the South, and may you find that joy and happiness have ruled in your cottage during your absence."

It is usual in India for people who are about to part to address each other in effusive and flowery terms, and I should have hurt the poor Fakir's feelings if I had spoken otherwise or had used plainer language, which he would have taken as a sign of indifference. He answered me in the same manner, but in even more exaggerated style, and, after accepting the presents that I offered him, without even looking at them or even deigning to thank me, he sorrowfully made his parting salaam and noiselessly disappeared behind the curtains that hung before the outside door to my rooms.

As soon as he had gone, I called my cansama, and ordered him to remove all the tattis and matting from the terrace, so as to admit the cool morning air.

In the pale light of approaching day, I noticed a black speck upon the silvery waves of the Ganges, as they rolled below, which seemed to move toward the opposite shore. I turned my night glass in that direction. It was the Fakir, who, as he had said, had awakened the ferryman and was crossing the Ganges on his homeward way to Trivanderain. A faint red streak in the distant sky indicated that the horizon would soon be illuminated by the beams of the rising sun.

He would soon see the ocean with its blue waves, his beloved cocoa-nut trees, and the cottage that he was constantly talking about.

I threw myself upon a hammock for a few hours’ rest. When I awoke and remembered the strange scenes that had passed before my eyes, it seemed as though I had been the plaything of a dream. Yet there was the harmoniflute, and I could not find out who, if anybody, had brought it. The floor of the terrace was still strewn with flowers, the crown of flowers was upon a divan, and the words that I had written had not vanished from the memorandum book in which I had jotted them down.


The source of the experience


Concepts, symbols and science items


Science Items

Activities and commonsteps