The Word Foundation



Vol. 13 MAY, 1911. No. 2

Copyright, 1911, by H. W. PERCIVAL.



THE impressions received on beholding a shadow and the effects produced are usually that the shadow has the characteristics of unreality, unsubstantiality, gloom, darkness, impermanence, uncertainty, weakness, and dependence, that it is an effect produced by a cause and that it is only an outline or adumbration.

A shadow produces a sense of unreality, because although it appears to be something, yet when examined it seems to be nothing. However, it has reality, though in a lesser degree than the object of which it is the shadow and the light which makes it visible. Shadows suggest unreality because by them one may perceive of the changeableness and unreality of the seemingly real, solid objects which cause them. Shadows give an impression of instability because they do not seem to have any matter in their make-up and because they cannot be grasped and held and because the matter of which they are composed is generally not detected and has not been subjected to analysis. The immateriality and strangeness which shadows suggest symbolizes how unsubstantial is the form of the matter of the body which they represent.

Shadows are symbols of impermanence because they come and go, and no reliability can be placed on them. Although they are apparent to the sense of sight, their instability indicates how, like they, the objects and the light which make them will pass away. Gloom follows and is a companion of a shadow, because a shadow obscures and shuts out the light from that on which it falls and gloom rests on that on which the light is obscured.

Shadows are the harbingers of darkness, because they show the passing of the light and indicate that, like their shadows, objects will disappear into the darkness with the passing of the light which makes them visible.

Of all things shadows are dependent and contingent because they can have no existence without the object and the light which makes them visible and because they move and change as the light or object changes. They illustrate how dependent all bodies are on the power which causes them and their movements.

A shadow is a picture of weakness, because it gives way to everything and offers no resistance whatever, and so suggests the comparative weakness of the objects as compared to the forces which move them. Although so evidently weak and intangible, shadows sometimes cause alarm and strike terror to those who meet them unexpectedly and mistake them for realities.

Notwithstanding the apparent harmlessness and evident unreality of shadows, there are strange beliefs concerning shadows. Those beliefs are commonly called superstitions. Among them are beliefs concerning eclipses, and notions held concerning the shadows of certain kinds of persons and about one’s own shadows. Yet, if before pronouncing superstitions to be the idle wanderings of the mind and without any basis of fact, we were to examine without prejudice and carefully into the beliefs held, we should frequently find that each belief called a superstition and which has been handed down by tradition, is a shadow which had its origin in the knowledge of facts. Those who believe without knowing why, are said to be superstitious.

A knowledge of all the facts concerning any particular belief called superstitious often shows it to be based on important facts.

One of the superstitions of which those who are acquainted with Eastern countries tell, is the superstition against the shadow of a red-haired man or woman. A native will avoid stepping across the shadow of many people, but he dreads to step across the shadow of one who has red hair, or to have the shadow of a red-haired person fall on him. It is said that a red haired person is often vindictive, treacherous or spiteful, or is one in whom the vices are particularly pronounced, and the belief is that his shadow will impress much of his nature on those on whom it rests.

Whether this belief about the nature of a red haired person is or is not true, the belief that one is affected by shadows is more than mere fancy. It is the traditional belief which had its origin in a knowledge of the effects, and their causes. Those who knew that a shadow is the projection of the shade or copy or ghost of an object in combination with the light that mingles with and projects it, knew also that certain essentials of the nature of that body are conveyed and impressed by the shade and shadow on the person or place on which they fall. A very sensitive person may feel something of the influence of the invisible shade and the apparently visible shadow even though he may not know the causes which produces it or the law by which it was produced. The light which causes the shadow carries with it some of the finer essences of the body and directs the magnetism of that body to the object on which the shadow falls.

A superstition shared by people of many countries and which was and is often a cause for alarm, is the superstition about eclipses. An eclipse of the sun or of the moon, it is believed by many, and especially by Eastern people, should be a time of fasting, prayer or meditation, as it is believed that at such times strange influences prevail, which, if they are evil, can be counteracted, and if good can be taken advantage of by fasting, prayer or meditation. No particular explanation is given, however, as to the causes by and the manner in which such influences are produced. The fact is that an eclipse is an obscuration of the light by which the copy or shade of the body which obscures the light is projected and falls as a SHADOWS shadow on the object from which the light is obscured. When the moon stands between the sun and the earth, there is an eclipse of the sun. At an eclipse of the sun, the earth is in the moon’s shadow. During the sun’s eclipse the moon intercepts what is called the sun’s rays, but other light rays of the sun pass through and project the subtle and essential nature of the moon upon the earth and so affect individuals and the earth according to the prevailing influence of the sun and of the moon, according to the sensitiveness of the individuals and the season of the year. During an eclipse of the sun the moon has a strong magnetic influence over all organic life. All individuals have direct magnetic relation with the moon. It is because of the basic fact of the magnetic influence of the moon during an eclipse of the sun, that strange beliefs are held and strange fancies are indulged in concerning the eclipse.

The fact that some people hold strange beliefs concerning shadows without knowing why, should not prevent others from an investigation of the cause of such beliefs nor prejudice them against the study of shadows.

The earth is the body which causes an eclipse of the moon. At an eclipse of the moon, therefore, the shadow of the earth falls on the moon. Light causes a certain precipitation on all objects within its reach and influence. At an eclipse of the moon the sun projects the shade of the earth on the moon’s surface and the moon reflects the shadow rays of the sun and by its own light turns the shadow and the shade back to the earth. The earth, therefore, when eclipsing the moon is by reflection in its own shadow and shade. The influence which then prevails is that of the interior of the earth in combination with the sunlight reflected by the moon and with the moon’s own light. It is generally supposed that the moon has no light of its own, but this belief is due to a misunderstanding concerning light. Every particle of matter and every body in space has a light peculiar to itself; however, this is not generally supposed to be so, because the human eye is not sensible to the light of all bodies, and the light of most bodies is therefore invisible.

Peculiar influences of shadows do prevail during all eclipses, but those who would know what they are should not accept prevalent belief about them with undue credulity, nor be prejudiced against such beliefs by their seeming absurdities.

Those who look into the subject of shadows intelligently and with impartial mind will find that all shadows produce an influence which is of the nature of the object and the light which projects it, and varies according to the degree of the sensitiveness of the person or the surface on which that shadow falls. This applies to what is called natural or artificial light. It is more pronounced, however, with sunlight. All bodies which pass between the sun and the earth influence that on which the shadows fall, even though the influence may be so slight as to be imperceptible to the common observer. The sun is constantly precipitating on the earth the influences of the spaces through which it acts and the essential natures of the bodies which intercept some of its rays. This may be noticed in the case of clouds. The clouds serve a purpose by protecting the vegetation and animal life from the intensity of sunlight. The moisture of the cloud is precipitated by the sunlight on the surface on which its shadow falls.

Another belief common in the East, which is regarded as superstition in the West, is that one may predict his future condition by gazing at his own shadow. It is believed that the person who looks steadily at his shadow when thrown on the ground by the light of the sun or the moon and then looks upward at the sky, will there see the outline of his figure or shadow from which, according to its color and the signs in it, he may learn what will befall him in the future. It is said that this should only be attempted when there is a clear and cloudless sky. Of course the time of day would affect the size of the shadow, accordingly as the orb of light which projected it was near to or above the horizon, and it is said that one who would thus gaze at his shadow should do so when the sun or moon is rising.

These beliefs do little good and often much harm to those who indulge in the practice without an understanding of the law of shadows or without the ability to make use of what they understand. It is not likely that the Eastern belief in the forecast of the future by the invocation of one’s shadow, originated in idle fancy.

The shadow of a person as cast by the light of the sun or moon is a faint counterpart of his body. When one looks toward the shadow thus cast, he does not at first see this counterpart. He sees only that portion of the background on which the shadow is cast, as outlined by the light to which his eyes are sensible. The light of the shadow itself is not at once perceived. To see the shadow, the eye of the observer must be first sensitized to and be able to record the rays of light which the physical body is not able to intercept and which light, passing through his physical body, projects a copy of his body before him. The copy of his body is a likeness of his astral or form or design body. If he can perceive the astral or design body of his physical structure, he will see the interior condition of his physical body, which physical body is the visible and outward expression of the invisible and interior condition. When he looks at his shadow, he sees the interior condition of his body as plainly as he would see the expression on his face by looking into a mirror. Whereas in the mirror he sees by reflection and sees the parts reversed from right to left, his shadow is seen by projection or emanation and there is a sameness of the position.

(To be continued.)