Question: Will you please discuss the problem of cognition? How does the seer know on the higher planes? By this I mean, (a) how can he distinguish between a thought form emanating from his own mind and (b) the thought form emanating from some other person either in the body or out, and (c) objective spiritual entities? (Vol. II, #64)
Answer: Contrary to the opinion of people who do not know anything about the matter this is purely a matter of training. It is absolutely wrong to suppose that because a person who has developed the spiritual sight and is able to see things in the worlds which are usually invisible to the ordinary human view in the present stage of evolution he (or she) therefore by the same faculty knows everything. As a matter of fact he does not know anything until he has acquired the knowledge by investigation. The law of analOgy, which is the master key to all mysteries, should make this clear. "As above, so below," and "as below, so above." We see the telephone hanging on the wall; we know how to operate it by taking down the receiver, placing it to our ear and talking through the transmitter. We know even in a vague way that it is operated by electricity, but the mechanism is a mystery to the great majority.
Similarly, we may turn an electric switch, see the lights flash on, and the motors begin to whirl. We see the phenomenon, but we do not know the underlying forces until by investigation we have fitted ourselves and acquired the knowledge. The very same conditions obtain in the Desire World to an even greater degree, because of the superlative plasticity of the desire stuff and the ease wherewith it is changed into different forms by the ensouling Spirit, whether superhuman or elemental. On that account even the person who has voluntary control of his spiritual sight requires a thorough training and must cultivate the faculty of seeing beyond the form to the ensouuling life. It is only when he has cultivated that faculty that he is free from delusion and able to distinguish the true nature and status of all the things and beings which he sees in the invisible world.
To do this in the most efficient manner and have the certainty of escaping illusion it is necessary to cultivate the grade of spiritual sight pertaining to the concrete region of the World of Thought, where the archetypes which are the ensouling life can be seen.
To make this clear we may call to mind that the physical sight varies so that there are certain beings which see perfectly under conditions which to us appear as darkness. For instance, owls and bats. The eyes of fishes are constructed so that they see under water. The organs of spiritual sight are also capable of being attuned to different vibrations. Each rate of vibration produces a different grade of sight and opens up to the investigator a certain realm of nature. By an exceedingly slight extension of the physical sight the ethers and the beings therein become plainly visible. This grade of sight may be likened to the X-ray, for objects which appear solid to the physical sight are most easily penetrated by the etheric sight or vision.
When one looks at a house with etheric vision he sees right through the wall. If he wants to find out what is taking place in a room on the farther side of the house from where he stands, the etheric rays from his eyes to the object in that room pierce the walls and all other intervening objects, and he sees them just as plainly as if the whole house were made of glass. This grade of sight may be applied to the human body, and it is possible with its help to look through the whole organic structure and watch its functions in actual operation. The writer (Max Heindel) also had the idea until recently that the common trick of reading a letter which is enclosed in a sealed envelope, perhaps in the pocket of another person was done in the same manner. One day he took a letter addressed to himself and tried the experiment, which succeeded beautifully, showing the person who had written the letter sitting in his room, and giving the whole contents very nicely. Immediately afterward he tried another letter with etheric sight to ascertain how the result would differ, and it was then found to be very difficult to disentangle the writing on account of the letter having been folded up. There seemed to be a conglomerate mass of ink streaks, and it required the use of the next higher grade of sight which penetrates to the Desire World before the letter could be distinguished and read.
When one looks at an object with the sight necessary to see the Desire World, even the most solid objects are also seen through and through, but with the difference that one sees them as it were from all directions. Thought forms such as spoken of by the enquirer would probably be clothed in this material because no thought form can compel action save through the medium of this force--matter which we call desire stuff, and no one who has not made a study of it can guess how many people are actuated by thought forms which they think are their own, but which as a matter of fact, originated in the brain of someone else. It is in this way that what we call public opinion is formed. Strong thinkers who have certain definite ideas about a particular thing radiate those thought forms from themselves, and others less positive and not antagonistic to the view expressed in these wandering thought forms catch them up and think that these thoughts have originated within themselves. Thus gradually the sentiment grows until that which was originally started by one man has been accepted by a large part of the community.
To learn positively the origin of such stray thought forms would necessitate examination by means of the grade of sight necessary to function in the Region of Concrete Thought where the idea first took shape. There all solid objects appear as vacuous cavities from which a basic keynote is continually sounded and thus whoever sees a thing also hears from itself the whole history of its being. Thought forms which have not yet crystallized into physical action or being do not present themselves to the observer as a cavity, but there thoughts are not silent. They speak in a language which is unmistakable and convey far more accurately than words can, what is their intent until the force which their originator expended to bring them into being has been spent. As they sing in the key peculiar to the person who gave them birth it is a comparatively easy matter for the trained occultist to trace them to their source.
Regarding section "c" of your question it is not quite clear what you mean. If you want to know how we can distinguish the thoughts of objective spiritual entities from our own thoughts, the foregoing method may be applied to all beings without any distinction whatever. But if you mean how can we distinguish objective spiritual entities from thought forms, the answer is that thought forms lack spontaneity. They are more or less like automatons. They move and act in one direction only, according to the will of the thinker which is the motive power within them. The actions of objective spiritual entities are spontaneous and changeable in the same way that our actions or tactics are, whenever we wish or it seems desirable to change them.
This article was adapted from "The Rosicrucian Philosophy in Questions and Answers, Vol. II," by Max Heindel.