Dr. Raynor C. Johnson

Obtained a First Class in the final Honour School of Natural Science, then worked under Professor T. R. Merton, FRS, in the field of spectroscopy, and continued this research at the Queen's University of Belfast, where he was appointed Lecturer in Physics in 1923. In 1927 he left Belfast for a Lectureship in the University of London, King's College. He was awarded the Doctorate in Science of this University. In 1934 he was appointed Master of Queen's College in the University of Melbourne.

The Complex Structure of Man

 - Raynor C. Johnson -

Not Chaos, not The darkest pit of lower Erebus 
Nor aught of blinder vacancy, scooped out 
By help of dreams, can breed such fear and awe 
As fall upon us often when we look 
Into our Minds, into the Mind of Man
My haunt, and the main region of my song.

"As the self existent pierced the openings of the senses outward, one looks outward not within oneself. A certain thoughtful person, seeking immortality, turned the eye inward and saw the self."
Katha Upanishad, IV, I.

"If we think that our nature is limited by the little wave of our being which is our conscious waking self, we are ignorant of our true being. The relation of our life to a larger spiritual world betrays itself even in the waking consciousness through our intellectual ideals, our moral aspirations, our cravings for beauty, and our longing for perfection. Behind our conscious self is our secret being without which the superficial consciousness cannot exist or act. Consciousness in us is partly manifest and partly hidden. We can enlarge the waking part of it by bringing into play ranges of our being which are now hidden. It is our duty to become aware of ourselves as spiritual beings, instead of falsely identifying ourselves with the body, life or mind."
Radhakrishnan (from Eastern Religions and Western Thought).

He who knows others is wise; He who knows himself is enlightened.
The Tao Te Ching.

          THIS IS a subject so vast and overwhelming that, like a tree, its roots ramify into the soil of all the sciences and its branches spread into the empyrean of all the mysteries. Tennyson believed that could he but fully understand the "flower in the crannied wall" he would have the key to both God and man. No doubt we must grant poetic license here, as also in the judgment which sees in Man the measure of all things; but it is probable that the latter is the best clue we have. For if the nature of Man does not in some degree partake of, and reflect, the ultimates, how can he know anything of them at all? If he cannot discover divinity within himself, where in the sweep of space and time shall he look with any hope of success? All problems of the Universe and of the nature of knowledge therefore come back to Man himself, and in so doing throw light on his own structure.

The data of psychical research, which we have examined in the preceding chapters, have a very important contribution to make to the subject.

1. The Contribution of Psychical Research

All the evidence points to a conception of the Self as a hierarchy, an impression which it was attempted to convey through the diagram on page 239. A brief review of the steps which led to this picture may be useful. Telepathy has shown us a whole world of Mind operative without essential dependence on matter. It has revealed the existence of mind-to-mind relationships not limited to the present moment nor apparently affected at all by space. All the data lend support to Bergson's conception of the brain as an organ of limitation of the mind. Clairvoyance introduced us on the sensory side, and psycho-kinesis on the motor side, to the relationships between matter and mind, and this led to the postulate of a psychic aether as an intermediary between the two. To understand object-reading this hypothesis seemed a necessity, and the psychic aether seemed also involved fundamentally in the phenomena of hauntings, apparitions and of materialisations. We do not therefore hesitate to incorporate an aetheric structure in Man's own synthesis. Of this we shall say more later. The level or world of Mind has its own sub-levels or strata, as was clearly shown by the phenomena of apparitions, where they were described by Tyrrell as playing roles like the author, producer and stage carpenter of a play. Some such subdivision or stratification of Mind (or a more complex one) is supported also by the nature of dreams, mediumistic trance and hypnosis, and by the subjective impressions of artists and others seeking to bring to birth in form the creative inspirations rising up from a more profound level of the self. The region or field of psychical phenomena extends over the whole range from matter to deeper mind: beyond this we pass into the field of mystical experience. Viewed thus in broadest outline, we can see Man as a synthesis of principles or vehicles of growing significance, and widening powers, as we approach towards his essence which is one with the ultimate reality.

2. The Aetheric or "Vital" Body

It seems to me that the fact of clairvoyance (Chapter 6 (7)), to explain which we assumed a modification of the psychic aether associated with a material object, and on the other hand the fact of object-reading, which indicated the modification by a mind of the psychic aether linked with an object, provide grounds for expecting to find in Man a highly organised aetheric structure. For here is a region of psychic aether subjected continuously to the influence of a physical body and to the influence of a mind where these are linked in that close relationship characteristic of living things. From the recognition of the plausibility of such a structure or body, to a detailed description of its "anatomy" and "physiology", is naturally a big step. Such descriptions as we have are necessarily derived from the descriptions of sensitives who can withdraw the focus of awareness to this level, which they then claim to see as objective. We must regard these descriptions with some reserve: at the same time, it is remarkable to find that some of the ancient knowledge of the Hindus is in broad general agreement with them. The student who desires a restrained and very reasonable introduction to this subject, should read The Psychic Sense by Payne and Bendit(1).

(1) This little book which is the fruit of collaboration between Dr. and Mrs. Bendit (he a well-qualified psychiatrist, and she an excellent sensitive), seems to me a pioneering work of great value in relating clairvoyant observations to the more familiar data of psychology and medicine.

The aetheric body appears to be very much a field of energy streams and forces inter-penetrating the dense physical body and extending a little distance beyond it (where it is "seen" as an aura)(2). Two important circulations are described, one nutritive(3) and the other sensori-motor. Of the former we shall here say no more than that it is concerned with the intake and output of a type of energy from the aetheric world of which we know little, and which orthodox physiology does not as yet recognise. The sensori-motor circulation is intimately related to the physical sensation and action of the ordinary body, and also to the sensori-motor activity of the aetheric body (i.e., psi-faculty). It is the latter which is of particular interest to us now. According to clairvoyant perception and to many ancient works on yoga, the aetheric body has a number of centres or "chakrams" which are like vortices or whorls with the apex located in the region of the spinal cord and the wide end terminating on the surface of the body. These centres are said to have each a dual function, receptive and motor. The receptive function is analogous to special-sense activity of the physical body; in other words, these centres are the organs of extra-sensory perception. The motor functions corresponding to muscular activity of the physical body are little understood, but have to do with effects of the psycho-kinetic type, the passage of matter through matter (apports) and so forth. Extra-sensory perception of different quality is regarded as associated with the activity of different chakrams. There is one in the region of the solar plexus associated with psychic "feeling" or clairsentience, one in the cardiac region associated with insight and intuition, one in the throat region connected with clairaudience, another at the level of the eyebrows, closely related to the pituitary gland and associated with clairvoyance, and another near the vertex of the head, linked with the pineal body and associated with spiritual enlightenment. (The Egyptian uraeus and the Brahmin caste-mark placed on the forehead are two symbols of the pituitary centre, and the pyramidal projection over the vertex of the head in Buddhist sculpture is a symbol of the last of these centres.) There are also other chakrams not apparently associated with E.S.P.

(2) Vide W. J. Kilner: The Human Atmosphere (Kegan Paul, 1920).
(3) Vide A. E. Powell: The Etheric Double and Allied Phenomena (Theos. Pub. House, 1930).

There is a close linkage between the central ends of the chakrams and the autonomic nervous system-but all this detail of the relationships of the physical and aertheric body is beyond the necessity of our examination here(4). All that we desire to draw attention to, is that there is a considerable amount of detailed clairvoyant observation which at present we must necessarily view with reservation. The paramount necessity of checking and counter-checking such data is obvious. It is neglect of such data which seems to me unfortunate, for they unfold to us the possibility of a new world of structure and function, and suggest a field of exploration compared with which the voyagings of Columbus are but a child's outing.

(4) Payne and Bendit: The Psychic Sense, Chapter IV, is a good account.

3. The Mental Structure

What is the Mind? We cannot hope to obtain a full answer by intellectual cogitation, for this is expecting Mind to explain itself. We should do well to remember that it is but another instrument of the self (even as is the physical body). It has an inner window opening on to the self at what we have called the buddhic level, and it has an outer window opening on to the aetheric structure and via this on to the physical body. Continuing the metaphor, we may add that it has side-windows opening out into the world of minds with which it is in relationship through psi.

There is at least one matter on which most students of Mind agree: that there are various levels or strata through which inspirations pass to find form and embodiment. We have already recognised this in trying to understand apparitions where we used Tyrrell's descriptive metaphors of "author", "producer", and "stage-carpenter" for three of them. The stage-carpenter was the active agency adjacent to the aetheric world, and the producer or mid-mind levels were peculiarly those of psi-relationship between the agent's and percipient's minds.

In Upton Sinclair's book(5) an interesting subjective description is given by Mrs. Sinclair, the percipient, of the process by which she came to "see" clairvoyantly pictures in sealed envelopes. Her working hypothesis comprises (a) the conscious field (which has to be made blank as a preliminary), (b) the subconscious (from which thought - memory-trains and associations are normally thrown up into the conscious field), (c) a deeper zone which can acquire the knowledge desired. In addition, there is something which orders the effective state of mind and supervises it - which can 1) terminate it at will, 2) recognise the point at which it will pass into sleep, 3) issue the order as to what is desired. Mrs. Sinclair gives in detail a method she found effective in achieving the essentially relaxed state of body and mind: this is not relevant here. The point is that the deep level to which the order is given is capable of throwing up the desired picture wholly or partially on to the grey blank screen of the conscious field. Guesses and memory-ghosts from the intermediate subconscious region also tend to interpolate themselves on to the screen. By a study of the successes, the partial successes and the failures, Mrs. Sinclair came to recognise the different "feeling" associated with a true vision as distinct from the subconscious guess. She says:

(5) Upton Sinclair: Mental Radio, Chapter XXI (T. W. Laurie, 1930).

"There was of course always in my consciousness the question 'Is this the right thing or not?' When the true vision came, this question seemed to receive an answer 'yes' as if some intelligent entity was directly informing me. This was not always the case. At times no answer came, or at least if it came, it was obscured by guesses... The subconscious answers questions, and its answers are always false; its answers come quietly like a thief in the night. But the deep mind answers questions too, and these answers come not quietly, but as if by inspiration, whatever that is - with a rustling of wings, with gladness and conviction."

As another ray of light on the mind's structure I quote from M (George Russell), the Irish mystic, poet and artist(6). He is endeavouring to account for the nature of poetic inspiration.

(6) AE: Song and its Fountains, p. 72 (Macmillan & Co., 1932).

"I was in some profundity of being. There was neither sight nor sound) but all was a motion in deep being. Struggling desperately to remain there, I was being dragged down to the waking state, and then what was originally a motion in deep being broke into a dazzle of images which symbolised in some dramatic way the motion of life in that profundity. And still being drawn down there came a third state in which what was originally deep own-being, and after that images, was later translated into words. This experience I told to Yeats who said he had had an identical experience of the three states."

It is interesting to note again the broad recognition of three levels or zones within the mind, although it is not unlikely that there are functionally many different regions. In the present state of our ignorance it seems that three are as many as we can recognise.

In another passage(7) AE is speaking of dreams.

(7) Loc. cit., p. 21.

"The seer in dreams is apart from the creator. It is not unreasonable to surmise an intellectual creator able to work magically upon psychic substance. Sometimes indeed at the apex of a dream I have almost surprised the creator of it peering in upon me as if it desired by these miracles to allure me to discovery of itself."

We shall venture to use a diagram as an aid to thought, emphasising again that it is not to be taken as a cut-and-dried scheme, but only as a hint at a type of relationship which is of course not spatial at all. As previously suggested, objectivity and subjectivity are taken to be wholly determined for the individual by the level on which consciousness is focused. We might almost regard the vertical lines of the diagram as the boundary walls of a well, with the surface level of the water as the level of consciousness. In the waking state the water is brimming at the top - a clear, unruffled surface giving a sharp, clear objectivity to the physical world. All below this is then called subjective. The good sensitive can withdraw the water-level and keep the surface clear and unrippled - so that for such a one the aetheric and emotional and mental worlds may have clear objective reality. In sleep we do something similar, but the water-level is rippled (i.e., consciousness is not focused, but diffuse), and permits no more than fragments, often distorted and disjointed, to be remembered afterwards. From AE's description it is clear that he had kept consciousness clearly focused almost down into the deep-mind region. He identified himself with the seer, but had he been able to go a little further, he would presumably have known himself to be the creator.

Part of the Willett scripts, studied critically by Lord Balfour(8), throw light on this subject. Edmund Gurney is communicating, and I shall quote a few statements which may be considered in relation to the diagram.

(8) Proc. S.P.R., Vol. 43, pp. 290-314.

"The transcendental self [i.e., our buddhic level and beyond it] might be referred to in a rough-and-ready manner by terming it the subliminal of the discarnate.

"Take the persisting element [i.e., the discarnate self] which will be largely composed of subliminal with a vital percentage of supraliminal and call that blended consciousness if you will ... discarnate supraliminality, and you will get as deeper strata the transcendental self... Back of that again lies something I dimly reach after and you would call it 'the Absolute'."

In another remarkable passage dealing with the relation of the individual to the Absolute the communicator says:

"It's the Absolute on its way to self-consciousness ... There is an analogy between the supraliminal and the subliminal, and the individual-rooted-in-the-Absolute and the Absolute."

Again and again Balfour returns to the nature and status of the various centres (our zones) in the subliminal mind. The question as to whether they are analogous to separate selves in a telepathic relationship, or different aspects of one self, is constantly canvassed. The most direct answer given is "Ranges of varying depth", and, after repetition of the question, the answer is: "It's One: and an enlightening point of view - I think it is - is to conceive of it as allied and distinguishable - I missed a word - and then grouped round one nucleus." The difficulty of transmission of these metaphysical ideas through the sensitive is quite obvious, but I think there is no doubt that the communicators regard the "centres" or "levels" of the subliminal as by no means autonomous, but parts of one self. I do not think any questioning of this would have arisen but for the extraordinary phenomena of split personality(9). I have expressed the view that this is a type of dissociation with no direct relevance to the levels of the subliminal, which we have been discussing. It represents, I think, fission or fragmentation of another type, which I can best illustrate by vertical fissures in the diagram (where one is shown on the left-hand side). The communicators, indeed, say:

(9) The reader interested in these psychological abnormalities will find an account of the Sally Beauchamp case in Proc. S.P.R., Vol. 19, p. 410, and the Doris Fischer case, Vol. 31, p. 30.

"If you're going to confuse any of this with the whole question of secondary and tertiary personalities and their respective memories of each other, you'd be making a mistake. Those are cases of dislocation, imperfect and often pathological."

There is an interesting passage where Gurney is endeavouring to explain the sequence of events in communicating through Mrs. Willett. It is extraordinarily similar in its concepts to those of

AE's first passage. I quote a few sentences only:

"I'm going to call that deepest portion, nearer to the transcendental self, say, H. Well, the H-self (of the sensitive) and I, agree on what we want - what I want - to get transmitted, and which the H-self normally, in its own H-ness, through its own cognitive faculties can know... The H-self will touch the uprushable self just the grade below the uprushable, and the uprushable and the grade below will receive the knowledge from H. But in getting it into the uprushable focus as it were, it will know that a sort of crystallisation often through symbolism must be arrived at; and we will imagine, if you like, that that having been foreseen both by me and the H-self, we determined upon what sort of crystals to aim at... Then comes that moment of binding when the self that lies in juxtaposition to the uprushable ... passes it on to the uprushable point in such a state as to make uprush possible. It then rushes out as words spoken or written, or dreams, or never-to-be-denied moments of prescience..."

In another suggestive phrase the communicators describe the supraliminal as "largely the result of attention to what pays".

The part which I habitually think of as myself (the supraliminal) is the "central receiving station" of consciousness, and as the level of consciousness is raised or lowered (like the water in the well), I become aware of different levels of myself. Could we call this variable level the "retina" of consciousness? To use such an analogy is probably dangerous. One is conscious all the time of using spatial imagery to describe relationships which are not spatial, and they may have as little applicability as the use of sound to convey the conception of colour to a blind man. To use the intellect to understand the mind brings us up against the inherent limitations of the instrument. Does this mean, then, that we can never hope to understand fully the nature of Mind? I, for one, do not think so: but our deeper understanding will only come through contacting a level of the self behind Mind. This is probably done in certain forms of yogic trance and certain mystical states of illumination. But even so, we must be prepared for the possibility that such knowledge as a developed individual may obtain of himself cannot in its very nature find much expression in the symbolism of language. It may find a little more in poetry than in prose, and a little more in music than in both these; but, though incommunicable on the level of intellect, it is not necessarily incommunicable on the deeper buddhic level, where we may expect to find an increasingly intimate web of relationships.

This, however, takes us into the subject-matter of the next section of the book.


The article above was taken from Raynor C. Johnson's 1953 book "The Imprisoned Splendor" published by Hodder & Stoughton.


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