The word “glamour” was long ago defined in old dictionaries as “witchery or a charm on the eyes, making them see things differently from what they really are.” This is still the meaning of the word. Not long ago, before the strange things possible in hypnotic experiments became known to the Western world, it seemed as if everything would be reduced to mere matter and motion by the fiat of science. Witchery was to fade away, be forgotten, be laughed out of sight, and what could not be ascribed to defective training of the senses was to have its explanation in the state of the liver, a most prosaic organ. But before science with its speculation and ever-altering canons could enlighten the unlearned multitude, hypnotism crept slowly and surely forward and at last began to buttress the positions of theosophy. Glamour stands once more a fair chance for recognition. Indeed, H. P. B. uttered prophetic words when she said that in America more than anywhere else this art would be practised by selfish men for selfish purposes, for money-getting and gratification of desire.
Hurriedly glancing over some fields of folk-lore, see what a mass of tales bearing on glamour produced by men, gods, or elementals. In India the gods every now and then, often the sages, appear before certain persons in various guises by means of a glamour which causes the eye to see what is not really there. In Ireland volumes of tales in which the person sees houses, men, and animals where they are not; he is suddenly given the power to see under the skin of natural things, and then perceives the field or the market-place full of fairies, men, and women gliding in and out among the people. Anon a man or woman is changed into the appearance of animal or bird, and only regains the old semblance when touched with the magic rod. This change of appearance is not a change in fact, but always a glamour affecting the eyes of the other person. Such a mass of similar stories found during all time and among every people cannot be due to folly nor be without a basis. The basis is a fact and a law in man’s nature. It is glamour, the reason for glamour, and the power to bring it about. Just because there have always been those who, either by natural ability or training, had the power to bring on a “witchery over the eyes,” these stories have arisen.
A writer well known in England and America once thought he had found a mare’s nest when he reported that Mme. Blavatsky had confessed to him that certain phenomena he enquired of had been caused by glamour.
“Ah, glamour!” he said; “thus falls this theosophic house of cards”; and he went away satisfied, for in truth he had been himself thoroughly glamoured. But theosophists should not stumble and fall violently as this gentleman did over a word which, when enquired into, carries with it a good deal of science relating to an important branch of occultism. When I read in an issue of the Arena all about this confession on glamour, I was quite ready to believe that H. P. B. did say to the learned enquirer what he reported, but at the same time, of course, knew that she never intended to apply her enchantment explanation to every phenomenon. She only intended to include certain classes,—although in every occult phenomenon there is some glamour upon some of the observers according to their individual physical idiosyncrasies.
The classes of phenomena covered by this word are referred to in part by Patanjali in his Yoga Aphorisms, where he says that if the luminousness natural to object and eye is interfered with the object will disappear, whether it be man or thing and whether it be day or night. This little aphorism covers a good deal of ground, and confutes, if accepted, some theories of the day. It declares, in fact, that not only is it necessary for rays of light to proceed from the object to the eye, but also light must also proceed from the eye towards the object. Cut off the latter and the object disappears; alter the character of the luminousness coming from the eye, and the object is altered in shape or color for the perceiver.
Carrying this on further and connecting it with the well-known fact that we see no objects whatever, but only their ideal form as presented to the mind, and we arrive at an explanation in part of how glamour may be possible. For if in any way you can interfere with the vibrations proceeding to the eye on the way to affect the brain and then the percipient within, then you have the possibility of sensibly altering the ideal form which the mind is to cognize within before it declares the object to be without which produced the vibration.
Take up now imagination in its aspect of a power to make a clear and definite image. This is done in hypnotism and in spiritualism. If the image be definite enough and the perceiver or subject sensitive enough, a glamour will be produced. The person will see that which is not the normal shape or form or corporature of the other. But this new shape is as real as the normal, for the normal form is but that which is to last during a certain stage of human evolution and will certainly alter as new senses and organs develop in us.
Thus far having gone, is it not easy to see that if a person can make the definite and vivid mind-pictures spoken of, and if the minor organs can affect and be affected, it is quite probable and possible that trained persons may have glamoured the eyes of others so to make them see an elephant, snake, man, tree, pot, or any other object where only is empty space, or as an alteration of a thing or person actually there? This is exactly what is done in experiments by the hypnotists, with this difference, that they have to put the subject into an abnormal state, while the other operators need no such adventitious aids. Glamour, then, has a very important place in magic. That it was frequently used by H. P. B. there is not the smallest doubt, just as there is no doubt that the yogi in India puts the same power into operation.
In many cases she could have used it by making the persons present think they saw her when she had gone into the next room, or that another person was also present who was not in fact. The same power of glamour would permit her to hide from sight any object in the room or in her hands. This is one of the difficult feats of magic, and not in the slightest degree dependent on legerdemain. Persons sometimes say this is folly even if true, but looked at in another light it is no folly, nor are the cases those in which anyone was entitled to know all that was going on. She exhibited these feats—seldom as it was—for the purpose of showing those who were learning from her that the human subject is a complicated and powerful being, not to be classed, as science so loves to do, with mere matter and motion. All these phenomena accomplished two. objects. First, to help those who learned from her, and second, to spread abroad again in the west the belief in man’s real power and nature. The last was a most necessary thing to do because in the West materialism was beginning to have too much sway and threatened to destroy spirituality. And it was done also in pursuance of the plans of the Great Lodge for the human race. As one of her Masters said, her phenomena puzzled sceptics for many years. Even now we see the effects, for when such men as Stead, the Editor of the Review of Reviews, and Du Prel, Schiaparelli, and others take up the facts of Spiritualism scientifically, one can perceive that another day for psychology is dawning.
This power of glamour is used more often than people think, and not excluding members of the T. S., by the Adepts. They are often among us from day to day appearing in a guise we do not recognize, and are dropping ideas into men’s minds about the spiritual world and the true life of the soul, as well as also inciting men and women to good acts. By this means they pass unrecognized and are able to accomplish more in this doubting and transition age than they could in any other way. Sometimes as they pass they are recognized by those who have the right faculty, but a subtle and powerful bond and agreement prevents their secret from being divulged. This is something for members of the Society to think of, for they may be entertaining now and then angels unawares. They may now and then be tried by their leaders when they least expect it, and the verdict is not given out but has its effect all the same.
But glamour covers only a small part of the field of occultism. The use of the astral body enters into nearly all of the phenomena, and in other directions the subject of occult chemistry, absolutely unknown to the man of the day, is of the utmost importance; if it is ever given out it will be a surprise to science, but certainly that divulgation will not soon be to such a selfish age.