Swami Panchadasi’s Clairvoyance & Occult Powers, by William Walker Atkinson, ed. Clint Marsh
Weiser Books, 9781578635009, 187 pp., 1916, 2011
Swami Panchadasi reminds me a bit of Professor X, if only for the fact they’re both fictional psychics. Swami Panchadasi is one of ten known alias of William Walker Atkinson who as this legion of authors wrote over one hundred psychic and magickal texts, probably the best known being The Kybalion.
Clint Marsh, the editor of this book, and author of The Mentalist’s Handbook, raises a good point in the introduction. “Does it matter that all these Hindu mystics and other exotic psychic practitioners never existed?”1 I agree with Clint that when it comes to practical working systems this doesn’t necessarily matter, but representing yourself as from a tradition you seem to have little understanding of is something I’d disagree with. While a product of his times a century ago, and not alone in such works, sadly to this day “Yogi Ramacharaka’s [another nom de plume] works can be found in most New Age bookshops, and remain favorites [sic] among students of yoga and Hindu mysticism”2 despite a lack of authenticity or understanding of the traditions, which I think shows a product or our time. Several places he runs counter to actual yogic thought, even at one point dissuading readers from using pranayama3.
That issue being aired I think it is time to evaluate the book for what it is and what it says, rather than how it is framed. The book is composed of twenty short chapters, each being devoted to a psychic phenomena or ability. For those unfamiliar with the writing style and language of the psychic field a century ago, this book could be a bit awkward of a read, but that shouldn’t be that large of a hurdle. The main “downfall” of the book is the instructions in this book at largely lacking. A chapter explains a phenomena, often gives an example (some chapters are only examples), a proposed mechanism for the phenomena, and generally some instructions. Sadly sometimes instructions are lacking altogether, the reader is to figure it out from related skills I’m assuming, and when there are instructions they rarely tend to contain much information. For someone already with a background in psychic phenomena there is probably enough to puzzle out a workable experience, but for a beginner several chapters I think might be unworkable with a lack of instructions.
An aspect of Panchadasi-Atkinson’s writing that impressed me was despite the constant referencing of unnamed (imagined?) authorities and research to support different assertions, the reader is constantly being told that while this might sound far-fetched, or difficult, to just try, experiment, and see what they think before making judgement; the idea that if they try there will be some success and you should believe your experiences more than the words on the page.
The book covers a wide range of abilities: telepathy, clairvoyance (distance, future, and past), astral travel, healing, and beyond. While the book covers a good range of subjects it covers little you wouldn’t find in any other psychic ability primer, it is mainly set apart by the attempt to establish mechanisms for the abilities, often with interesting and helpful analogies. As a book simply for psychic development I see little reason to recommend this book over any other, but for students of the occult with a more historian leaning I would definitely recommend it for a look back at the past of the culture.