You can have any superpower you want, but only one. Which will you choose?
Well that’s a cinch. Invisibility.
As a boy, like kids all over the world, I used to play hide and seek with my sister, and a couple of our friends, but in nearly complete darkness. Our house had a very cool finished basement a la 60’s mode. And when the lights were switched off, windows covered, it took a considerable while before the vision was able to make out contrasts and forms. Our blacked out version of the game had a super high factor of creepiness. There was incredible exhilaration mixed with fear as you groped along, sometimes crawling, trying not to trip over things or bang your bones, reaching into spaces where there could be spiders or that unexpected contact with warm live flesh and a scream. What I remember most, was when the designated seeker got close, sometimes just a foot away; besides holding my breath, I also instinctively felt I had to blank out any thoughts of myself, the other person, and the high voltage tension of being found. In other words, I ‘hid’ myself within myself. It somehow seemed to preempt the native sense we all have of ‘feeling’ the close presence of another, of being watched, and the predator would move on. Of course I can’t prove this half instinctual/half guessed attempt at ‘invisibility’ was the determining factor in not being found, but for some reason it left a salient impression on me as having some validity.
Fast forward to the present. A few weeks back I went for a walk during twilight, my favorite time of the day. I was following a path along an irrigation canal which curves by pastures and scenery which elicit a strong nostalgia. Coming back, dusk approaching, a couple of skunks suddenly appeared approximately 20 feet in front of me. Their tails were raised straight up, a preliminary warning of attack, and I froze in my tracks. I remained standing as still as a statue to see what they would do. One disappeared to the side without approaching. But the other one walked right up to me, only a couple feet away, and then veered into some bushes on the side of the path. It was almost dark then, and I automatically let my mind go dark too. Thoughts of my presence and the skunks’ presence dimmed out, as if thoughts could be seen or make noise if given free rein. I don’t know if it was the darkened mind or standing so still, or a combination of both which allowed that skunk to come so close and not shoot me with its spray gun. But it got me to thinking of times in the past when fellow humans were to be avoided.
When a threat of danger or adversity is directed towards humans, if the fight or flight reflex is not an option, perhaps becoming ‘unseeable’ is not some far fetched option, but a viable one. And I don’t think you have to be some kind of psychic magus to pull it off. As exampled in the hide and seek game, ‘magic’ is intuited and deployed by children all the time, and they get away with it because they don’t doubt or second guess the ‘logic’ of it. Even before I learned that there is a way to control thoughts (not stop them, but control them to varying degree) I had naturally defaulted to this tactic a few times. I would be walking down the street, sometimes in a ‘bad’ area, and I could ‘sniff’ a malicious vibe coming from an individual or group. Or be in a room with unfriendlies or someone I didn’t wish to engage with. In these types of settings, if I was caught unawares, a typical result would involve me being hassled or worse. But if I was able to intentionally shutter the thoughts of myself and the other(s) in question, I recall how matter-of-factly I slipped by without notice or incident. Again, I can’t prove this is what insulated me, because maybe the person most likely to pose a threat was distracted or oblivious to my presence. Yet deep down I felt there was some inner law at work during some very tense situations I skirted. It’s akin to quickly snuffing out a candle wick of self-consciousness before it can flame into a magnetic emotion or connection to that which you wish to avoid. If you’ve ever been on a bus with a mentally unstable or intoxicated person, particularly those who are hyper-sensory, and you make eye contact, then you have an idea of what I’m referring to. And If you’re in the sights of a real predator, and you don’t catch yourself in time, the fear wafts off you like cheap cologne, and then you’re as good as a tethered goat in the jungle.
Richard Rose, the sage who taught others and myself the dictum “First Know Thyself”, was a master psychologist by dint of a lifetime closely observing thought and human behavior, along with personal experimentation into various subtle mental powers. And so it was no surprise that he was also adept at projecting himself as ‘unseeable’. A student of his, Bob C, tells the story of one occasion when Rose was able to walk through the apartment Bob shared with a roommate without either one of them registering the initial event. In Bob’s words:
“Andy was playing the guitar, watching news, (We’re) sitting, killing time. All of a sudden R has driven up, walked up the porch, opened the front door, walked through the room…we had one of these long rowhouses…walked through all the rooms. It wasn’t that he physically became invisible, that his body didn’t reflect light on the retina of my eye. it was sort of like their was a finger on your awareness and it blocked the perception. Because we saw something go by and it didn’t register. And Andy looks up, “Was that Mr. Rose that just went by?
I didn’t live in a very good neighborhood at the time. If it would have been a criminal, I’m sure we would’ve jumped out of our chairs.” Bob says that later he found out that R had wagered out in the car that he could walk by and we wouldn’t see him.”
The art of invisibility is a psychic ability which can be developed through several different methods, all of which exploit the way the brain processes and records visual stimuli. All seem to involve some manipulation of thought or energy. The most popularly recognized one is hypnosis. Another is telekinesis; sending out the thought like a cop at a crime scene “There is nothing to be seen here. Move along.” Or creating a mind of chaos. The method I’m talking about falls under the category of ‘silent mind’.
There is an even deeper meaning and application of ‘invisibility’ which expresses the primary value I wanted to get at in writing about this, of that which facilitates Self Discovery. I return to Richard Rose, whose words below are an amazing description of ‘invisibility’ (which is sometimes called ‘high indifference’) as manifested in Between-ness: a high magic or zen art of equally balancing two opposite forces in the head simultaneously, thereby creating a third force capable of ushering in a seemingly miraculous breakthrough.
“If you are confronted by an angry Tiger, and believe that you are going to be eaten, then you will be eaten. You give credence to the substance that appears to be a Tiger. If you know that the Tiger is there and try to imagine that he is not there, he will eat you. If you are a feeble minded person who does not know that the Tiger is dangerous, he will still eat you. But if you know that the Tiger is both here and not here, and can convey the mind-state to the Tiger, that neither of you are here, but that both of you are here… he may be confused long enough to allow Nobody to walk away.”
There’s one other application which is the most fascinating of all to me. Like Between-ness, it’s all internal; very subtle, precarious, and potentially mind blowing. I was made aware of this in a writing by Maurice Nicoll, the Scottish psychologist and teacher of the Fourth Way School of G.I. Gurdjieff and P.D. Ouspensky. It’s tantamount to becoming ‘invisible’ to one’s own self. Seeing as our minds entertain many jockeying contenders for center stage, e.g. thoughts and their patterns, dueling emotions, delusions of ego, so that any ‘tuning in’ to Pure Being is always getting jammed with distortion and feedback. These mental creatures like to play hide and seek games with us. They are the skunks of reaction who repel us from clear sentience. They are the tigers who consume our attention and energy. So if by some interior balancing act we could practice sustaining our ‘invisibility’ to these tricksters, the window of direct seeing in us could remain open longer and longer, letting through more light in between closings. Until that instant when Nobody passes by the Tiger into the Kingdom of Heaven. I’ll let Nicoll have the last words and eloquently spell this out all this in an exercise he called the ‘Inner Stop’. It is poignant to the point of being devastating if you can admit the implication of the assertion he drops in the last line.
“In … the practice of Inner Stop, you stand motionless in your mind. Thoughts pass you, speak to you, ask you what you are up to and so on, but you pay no attention to them. You will see at once that Inner Stop is connected with a form of Self-Remembering. Now you must note that the Inner Stop exercise is not the same as trying to stop your thoughts. Try to stop your thoughts; and if you are sincere about your experiences of yourself—and you cannot work unless you are—you will admit it cannot be done. But to stand motionless in your mind is another matter
To practice Inner Stop in the mind is like making oneself motionless in space. You are not noticed. Yes—but not noticed by whom? In your mind you are surrounded by different ‘I’s. Each wants you to believe that you are it. Each wants to speak in your name. Suddenly they cannot find where you are. They look everywhere for you. I assure you that you can experience their searching for you and not finding you. Then you remember that you have not rung up the doctor. The effect is similar to a sudden movement in the jungle. All the animals and birds and reptiles instantly see where you are. The customary worries, irritations, unpleasant thoughts, conceits and anxieties seize upon you once more. The animals and birds roar and scream and the ‘I’s shout: “We’ve got him.” And that is the end of what is really you for the time being. You are dismembered again. Another person watching you from outside will be aware of a sudden look of anxiety, a quick movement, hurried steps and an urgent voice at the telephone. He may perhaps guess that you will be “out” for the rest of the day. You will be out of yourself. I am not exaggerating when I say that it is like throwing oneself to the lions or casting oneself under the Juggernaut or drowning in the sea. I mean that it is suicide and that we all commit suicide over and over again and no one in the life of the world points this out.”