… a continuation of the fascinating first chapter of Dion Fortune’s Psychic Self-Defense:
… in addition to the purely subjective phenomena, there will also be subjective ones if the attack has any degree of concentration. The phenomenon of repercussion is well-known, the phenomenon wherein that which befalls the subtle body is reflected in the dense body, so that after an astral skirmish during sleep, bruises are found on the physical body, sometimes bruises of a definite pattern. I have seen the print of a goat’s hoof and the ace of clubs marked upon the skin as well-defined bruises, passing from blue to yellow and dying away in the course of a few days, as bruises will.
Evil odours are another manifestation of an astral attack. The characteristic smell is of decomposing flesh, and it comes and goes capriciously; but while it is manifesting, there is no doubt whatever about it, and anyone who is present can smell it, whether they are psychic or not. I have also known a frightful stench of drains arise when a ritual belonging to the Element of Earth was being incorrectly performed.
Another curious phenomenon is the precipitation of slime. I have not actually seen this myself, but I have first-hand information on good authority of one such case. The marks are sometimes as if an army of slugs had been marching in ordered formation; sometimes there is a broad smear of slime, and at others, distinct footprints, often of a gigantic size. In the case to which I refer, of which I heard from an eyewitness, the marks were like the footprints of an elephant, enormous tracks on the floor of the drawing-room of a bungalow situated near the sea.
Odd footprints appearing from nowhere and leading nowhere are sometimes observes when there is snow about. I have seen them on two occasions on the roof of an outbuilding. They alighted upon the edge of it, as if the walker had stepped off an aeroplane, went straight across, and ended abruptly at the wall of the main building upon which the lean-to abuts. They did not return. A single line of footprints came from nowhere and ended in a lofty wall.
A similar happening took place on a very extensive scale in Devon some fifty years ago, and an account of it is to be found in that very curious book, Oddities, by Commander Gould. In this case, however, the prints were not human, but were those of what was apparently the hoof of a donkey, proceeding in a single line and going straight through walls and over roofs and covering the best part of hundred miles in a single night on both sides of an unbridged estuary. Those who want confirmatory evidence would do well to consult Commander Gould’s book, where the incident is given full detail.
There is a curious phenomenon known to occultists as the astral bell; Sir Arthur Conan Doyle makes use of it in one of his Sherlock Holmes stories. The sounds varies from a clear, bell-like noise to a faint click. I have often heard it resemble the sound made by striking a cracked wine glass with a knife-blade. It commonly announces the advent of an entity that is barely able to manifest, and need not necessarily be a herald of evil at all. It may simply be a knock on the door of the physical world to attract attention of the inhabitants to the presence of one who stands without and would speak with them. If, however, it occurs in the presence of other symptoms of an astral attach, it would give strong evidence in confirmation of the diagnosis.
Inexplicable outbreaks of fire are also sometimes seen in this connection. These indicate that elemental forces,not human, are at work. Poltergeist phenomena also occur, in which objects are flung about, bells rung and other noisy manifestations take place. Of course, there may be multiplicity of phenomena, more than one appearing in the same case.
Needless to say, the possibility of some natural, material explanation must never be ignored, even in cases where the supernatural element appears most obvious. It should always be diligently sought in every possible direction before any supernormal hypothesis is considered worthy of attention. But, on the other hand, we should not be so wedded to materialistic theories that we refuse to take psychic theory as a working hypothesis if it shows any possibility of being fruitful. After all, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and if, working on an occult hypothesis, we are able to clear up a case which has resisted all other methods of handling, we have pretty good evidence in support of our contention.
We must also bear in mind that the element of fraud may enter into the most unexpected places. I have seen a drug addict successfully pass himself off for a considerable length of time as the victim of an occult attack. A recent writer in the British Medical journal declared that whenever he came across a case of bell-ringing, knocks, the dripping of water and oil from the ceilings, and other untoward happenings, he always looked for the hysterical maidservant. Occultist would be very well advised to do likewise before they begin to worry about the Devil. But, on the other hand, the wise man, whether occultist or scientist, will not insist upon the hysterical maidservant unless he can catch her red-handed, as he surely will do sooner or later if she is the guilty party.
Forged bank-notes would never gain currency unless there were such a thing as genuine bank-notes. It would never occur to anyone to produce fraudulent psychic phenomena unless there had been some genuine psychic phenomena to act as a pattern for the forgery.
The acceptance of an explanation should rest upon the weight of evidence in its favour, it upon one’s dislike of its alternatives. I plead that the possibility of a non-material explanation should be investigated in cases where the material hypothesis does not yield results. Not in diseases of the brain and nervous system, nor of the ductless glands, nor in repression of natural instincts, shall we find the explanation in all cases where the mind is afflicted. There is more to man than mind and body. We shall never find the clue to the riddle of life until we realize that man is a spiritual being and that mind and body are the garments of his manifestation.