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Occult Science in India, by Louis Jacoilliot, [1919], at

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Huc, the missionary, in his account of his travels in Thibet, gives a description of a phenomenon similar to that which I am about to relate, and which I can only look upon as a cunning trick.

I should not have mentioned it, perhaps, in the present work, but it forms an essential part, so to speak, of the stock in trade of those believers in the Pitris, who deal more particularly in external manifestations, and, as a faithful historian, I am loath to omit any of their curious practices.

Among the extraordinary claims advanced by the Fakirs, is one that they can directly influence the growth of plants, and that they can so hasten it as to accomplish in a few hours what usually takes several months or even years.

I had already seen this phenomenon performed by itinerant magicians a number of times, but, as I had always regarded it merely as a successful fraud, I had omitted to record the circumstances under which it occurred.

Absurd as it seemed, as Covindasamy, who was really a man of remarkable power, proposed to repeat the various phenomena which I had already seen performed by others at different times, I determined to watch him so that he could do nothing which should escape my notice.

He had promised to give inc two hours more of his time—from three to five—previous to the night sitting. I determined to employ them as proposed,

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The Fakir suspected nothing, and I thought he would be highly surprised when, upon his arrival, I told him what I intended to.

"I am entirely at your service," said he, in his usual simple way.

I was somewhat disconcerted by his assurance, but I continued:

"Will you allow me to choose the earth, the vessel, and the seed, which you are to make grow before my eyes?"

"The vessel and the seed, yes; but the earth must be taken from a nest of carias."

These little white ants, who build, for shelter, small hills, often reaching a height of nine or a dozen yards, are very common in India, and there was no difficulty, whatever, in procuring a little of the earth which they prepare very skilfully for their purpose.

I told my cansama to have a flower-pot of the usual size filled with the earth required, and to bring me, at the same time, some seeds of different sorts.

The Fakir asked him to break the earth between a couple of stones, as it was only to be obtained in pieces, almost as hard as old building material.

It was well he did so, as that was an operation that we never could have performed in our rooms, without a great deal of trouble.

In less than a quarter of art hour my servant had returned with the articles required. I took them from his hands and dismissed him, not wishing to leave him in communication with Covindasamy.

To the latter I handed the flower-pot filled with a whitish earth, which must have been entirely saturated with that milky fluid, which the caria secrete and deposit upon every particle of earth, however small, which they use for building purposes.

When the Fakir deemed that it was in proper condition, he asked me to give him the seed that I had selected, as

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well as about a foot and a half of some white cloth. I chose at random a papaw seed from among those which my cansama had brought, and before handing it to him, I asked him if he would allow me to mark it. Being answered in the affirmative, I made a slight cut in its outer skin. It was very much like the kernel of a gourd, except in color, which was a deep brown. I gave it to him, with a few yards of mosquito cloth.

"I shall soon sleep the sleep of the spirits," said Covindasamy; "you must promise me that you will neither touch me personally nor the flower-pot."

I made the promise required.

He then planted the seed in the earth, which was now in a state of liquid mud, thrusting his seven-knotted stick—which, being a sign of his initiation, he never laid aside—into one corner of the vessel, and using it as a prop to hold up the piece of muslin which I had just given him. After hiding from sight in this manner the object upon which he was to operate, he sat down upon the floor, stretched both hands horizontally above him, and gradually fell into a deep cataleptic sleep.

I had promised that I would not touch him, and at first I could not tell whether his sleep was real or simulated; but when I saw, at the end of half an hour, that he had not stirred, I was forced to believe the evidence of my own senses. No man, however strong he might be, was able, except in that condition, to hold both his arms stretched horizontally before him for the space of even ten minutes.

An hour passed by, and no motion of the muscles indicated that he was alive. With his body almost entirely naked, his skin polished and glistening in the heat, and open and staring eyes, the Fakir looked like a bronze statue in a position of mystical evocation.

At first, I took my place opposite him, so that I could see everything that was going on, but he looked at me in

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a manner that soon became unendurable. His eyes seemed to be half dead, but they were filled at the same time with magnetic influences. At one time, everything seemed to be in a whirl, and the Fakir himself appeared to take part in the dance that was going on around me. In order to break loose from the effects of this hallucination of the senses, caused, no doubt, by looking at one object too attentively, I left the seat that I had been occupying, without, however, losing sight of Covindasamy, who was as motionless as a corpse. I took a seat at the end of the terrace, alternately directing my attention to the course of the Ganges and to the Fakir, that I might not be exposed to too direct and steady an influence from him.

I had been waiting for a couple of hours, and the sun was fast sinking below the horizon, when a low sigh startled me. The Fakir had recovered possession of his senses.

He made signs to me to approach. Removing the muslin that hid the flower-pot, he then pointed out to me a young stalk of papaw, fresh and green, and nearly eight inches high.

Anticipating my thoughts, he thrust his fingers into the ground, which, meanwhile, had parted with nearly all of its moisture, and carefully taking up the young plant, he showed me, upon one of the two cuticles still adhering to the roots, the cut that I had made two hours previously.

Was it the same seed and the same cut? I have only one answer to make. I noticed no substitution. The Fakir had not left the terrace; I had not lost sight of him. When he came, he did not know what I was going to ask. It was impossible for him to conceal a plant in his clothes, as he was almost entirely naked, and, at any rate, he could not have told, in advance, that I would select a papaw seed, among thirty different kinds that my cansama had brought.

As may be imagined, I can state nothing more positively

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regarding a fact of this nature. There are cases where reason refuses its assent, even in view of phenomena that can only be accounted for upon the supposition of delusion, though there is no evidence to that effect.

After enjoying my surprise for a few moments, the Fakir said to me, with an ill-concealed movement of pride:

"If I had continued my evocations longer, the papaw tree would have borne flowers in eight days, and fruit in fifteen.

Bearing in mind the accounts of Hue, the missionary, as well as various other phenomena of the same character which I had myself witnessed in the Carnatic, I said in reply that there were other performers who accomplished the same results in two hours.

"You are mistaken," said the Hindu; "in the manifestations you speak of, there is an apport, as it is called, of fruit trees by the spirits. What I have just shown you is really spontaneous vegetation; but the pure fluid, under the direction of the Pitris, never was able to produce the three phases of germination, flowering, and fruitage in a single day."

It was near the hour of ablutions; in other words, it was near sunset. The Fakir hastened to leave, engaging to meet me, for the last time, at ten o'clock that evening, when the remainder of the night was to be devoted to phenomena of apparition.

There is one fact, however, which I ought not to omit, and which may be of service in arriving at a satisfactory explanation, and that is a fact with which those who live in India are perfectly familiar.

There are a multitude of kitchen plants (I have seen the experiment tried myself a score of times) which, when put at dawn into moist soil, and exposed to the favorable influence of a sun which does wonders, appear above ground between noon and one o'clock, and at six o'clock, or the close of day, are already nearly half an inch high.

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On the other hand, I am bound also to say, in justice to the Fakir, at least fifteen days are necessary to the germination of a papaw seed.

We have dwelt long enough, however, on a fact which many will reject as a delusion, and which cannot be explained by any process of pure reasoning, excluding the hypothesis of fraud.

Next: Chapter I. Mysterious Hands—the Production of Flowers, Crowns, etc.—Letters of Fire—The Spectre of a Priest of Brahma—the Phantom Musician