Printed in the Fall 2013 issue of Quest magazine.
Citation: Lefevour, James A. "Clairvoyance and the Fairy Realm" Quest 101. 4 (Fall 2013): pg. 141-144.
By James A. Lefevour
Last year the Theosophical Society was lucky enough to have Robyn Finseth speak at its Summer National Convention. As a clairvoyant, she described for all present the unseen world of fairies and nature spirits that has been a part of her life since she was a young child.
Finseth's vivid descriptions of astral life helped audience members imagine the details themselves. One could visualize a world of gnomes, who are round and squat and have no great interest in human life unless they are digging in the earth or gardening. One could also imagine towering and massive storm devas, directing cloud currents and ionic energies in the atmosphere above the Swiss Alps.
Finseth went on to explain how fairies love to make colors and play with children: "I remember the little sprites, they would be so much fun. They used to flit and be funny and show off and make pretty little colors. I [was] a child and I would think it was wonderful. I still think it's wonderful, but they don't play with me like when I was a kid."
One of Finseth's most poignant statements was about her gratitude for being raised in a Theosophical family. "They nurtured my ability. They did not exploit it, nor did anyone that I met exploit it ... As far as being raised a Theosophist, of course if I had been born into any other family, you know exactly what would have occurred. I would have been put on medication or in some institution. Because it's very difficult, when you do have [clairvoyant] vision, to deny it."
An interest in fairies and astral nature spirits is interwoven with Theosophical history. The noted clairvoyant Dora Van Gelder Kunz, sister to Finseth's mentor Harry Van Gelder, wrote The Real World of Fairies: A First-Person Account. In it she describes the different types of fairy life she has met, as well as their qualiies. Kunz also recounts various personal interactions with such astral beings, including a story involving a friend who, she implies, was her own childhood mentor, Charles W Leadbeater.
The story begins just after Kunz turned fourteen years old. In an Australian national park, she and some friends, probably including Leadbeater, met an angel of great power and stature. The angel felt pleased that they could see him and the fairies in the area and that they could communicate with him as well. What he requested from them, as a favor, was a jeweled cross dangling from Leadbeater's neck. With the cross, which, the angel remarked, was blessed with a very special radiation of light, he intended to ensoul the valley with a sanctifying presence for the benefit of everyone.
They agreed to make the angel a similar cross if possible, which greatly pleased him. When the agreed-upon date of the exchange arrived, the angel's first question was, "Have you got the cross?" When they informed him that the item was not yet finished, the angel felt only confusion and disappointment. The angel explained that such things do not happen in the angelic kingdom. Once an agreement is made, one always keeps one's promises.
When they returned again, this time with the sacred object, the angel asked them to bury or conceal it for him on the park premises, since it was a physical object and he could not do so. The placement required great care and consideration, to the point where another angel was called upon to give input on the matter. After a spot was chosen, thousands of fairies came to witness the event at the call of the angel. The fairies were instructed to bathe often in the radiation of the jewels in order to carry the positive energy with them and spread it throughout the valley.
This story illustrates the prevalence of fairies and unseen nature as well as their influence on their surroundings. Kunz encourages people to interact with nature, and laments that pollution and urban sprawl have been separating human life from fairy influence. Kunz encourages people to be aware of what they cannot observe with their five senses but can feel intuitively and spiritually. She also expresses the importance of celebrating and preserving the sacredness of nature, as well as its invisible denizens.
Many people are not aware that another well-known name in Theosophy, Geoffrey Hodson, gained control of his latent clairvoyant abilities in his late thirties from a sudden interaction with fairies. With fairies, with his wife, Jane, and with his dog, Peter, to be more accurate. It is an account best told in Hodson's own words:
Jane and I lived in a large old house just outside the city. A wonderful pet, a rough-haired fox-terrier named Peter, shared our home and was actually the means of a startling development in my life. He was highly intelligent and very much a part of our lives. In winter he loved to lie near the fire and could almost always be found there while we ourselves relaxed during the evening hours.
However, one evening, to our surprise, he left the fireside and went to the far end of the long room, where he stood for some time staring into a corner. Very curious, we called him, but he did not respond. Now and then his eyes would roll as though watching something flying about the room; otherwise he stared at what, from our view, seemed empty space. Finally Jane said, "Do go and see what Peter is looking at."
I went and sat beside our pet and put my arm about him. "What is it you are seeing, Peter?" I asked. Then suddenly he and I together became aware clairvoyantly of the presence of many members of the fairy kingdom and a great deva which I beleve brought them to us, using the instinctual clairvoyance of Peter to attract my attention. I must describe the experience in the light of later knowledge, for I did not then understand it. The corner of the room was filled with the great glowing aura of deva, and in this aura, at about the level of our eyes, was a number of nature spirits. They kept moving about with the great cloud of light; occasionally one would flash about the room. I went back to where Jane sat by the place and tried to describe to her what I had seen and still seeing—especially one brownie who tramped up down the fireside carpet in a most amusing manner.
Hodson's work and interaction with the fairy community initially culminated in the writing of Fairies Work and Play. Leadbeater strongly endorsed Hodson's work and writings, stating that he himself could corroborate many of Hodson's descriptions of nature spirits. A major theme throughout his book, similar what Kunz and Finseth describe, is the great differences between the types of nature spirits, especial in appearance. But there is also an overarching note of hierarchy in Hodson's portrayals. For example, he speaks of devas or angels as very advanced beings, one would expect. Below them are what he calls fairies, who are intelligent and clairvoyant, and to whom he personally felt great affinity. These are the types of spirits mentioned in Kunz's story: they carry energies all around their environment, enlivening plants and trees, touching upon flowers and blossoms, and responding readily to angelic influence and direction. At heart, fairies themselves have more of a child-like, mischievous character, though their role is entire necessary to the atmosphere and positive energy of any nature environment. One could argue that if we had no fairies, there would be no Walden or Wordsworth.
Hodson describes nature spirits as being beneath fairies on the evolutionary ladder. There are varying degrees of individualization in these astral life forms, because they seem to be more like manifestations of the energy in the environment than distinct personalities. Examples of this type are undines, mannikins, gnomes, brownies, and elves, but he adds that there are many more in the nature spirit kingdom. He explains:
They may live as the ensouling life of a tree or group of trees (like the "dryads" of tradition), the magnetism of their bodies stimulating the far slower activities of the tree, the circulation of sap, etc.; or they may be engaged in raying out strong influences over certain spots, termed "magnetic centres;' which have been put under their charge, or in assisting in the building, stabilising and distribution of thought-forms, such as those resulting from the use of religious and magical ceremonies, orchestral music, etc. The still more evolved devas or angels, who have reached the level of self-consciousness ... carry out the will of the Most High in all the worlds.
Hodson describes one spirit as wearing a coat and what looked like a leather belt; apparently many lower nature spirits wear the occasional piece of human clothing. This is not functional, as it is with humans; rather it is to mimic human beings that these spirits have observed. They wear clothes because people wear clothes. They also imitate other human activities. Hodson noticed many gnomes with medieval attire pretending to do manual tasks like farming or mining when in fact they did not make a dent in the ground.
The nature spirit with the coat sat down near a tree, in much the same way a human would sit from feeling exhausted. Then it faded into the tree, but not before removing its shell of a humanoid image as a snake might shed a skin. Hodson could still see the outline of the being within the tree, though the being's consciousness was absorbed within the trunk and spread out in its roots and branches. In other instances he saw nature spirits open doorways in the trunks of trees, as if entering a house, but within the doorway was a void. The being did not enter an actual room, but simply disappeared from this plane of existence.
In his book Hodson briefly mentions his involvement with the Cottingley fairies. This was a series of fairy photographs taken by two English girls. The story says something not only about the nature of fairies but also about the human public and its desire to learn about such invisible beings.
In the summer of 1917, two cousins named Elsie Wright and Frances Griffith, age sixteen and ten respectively, claimed they had taken real life photographs of a fairy and a gnome. They wasted no time in showing the photos to Elsie's parents, who did not know quite what to make of them. It happened that Elsie's mother, Polly, occasionally attended Theosophical lectures, having an interest in explaining occult experiences in her own life, and one evening the topic was on fairy life. Polly said that she had actual prints of fairies taken by her daughter and niece.
By 1920, these prints had gotten into the hands of a Theosophist named E.L. Gardner, who had a great interest in photographing nature spirits. He immediately spent some time making quality prints of the copies from Polly and in commissioning experts to discern whether or not the photos had been tampered with. He learned that they had not. Shortly afterward, the writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle contacted Gardner so that he might use the prints in a magazine article he was writing about fairies for The Strand Magazine. Much of the photos' circulation before that point had been among sympathetic believers and Theosophists, but when that issue of the magazine hit the streets, the general public collectively gasped, and everyone was soon forming his own opinion on whether or not fairies could possibly be real. The issue sold out within days.
Gardner soon contacted and befriended the two girls and their family in Cottingley, giving them two cameras and twenty plates to see if they could capture any more photos. And success! On their own, Elsie and Frances were able to get three more photos of fairies. This prompted Gardner and Doyle to invite one of the few men who could verify the extent of fairy life in the forests and streams near the girls' house. This is the point where Geoffrey Hodson came to Cottingley.
In 1921 Hodson met with Elsie and Frances, and of course they talked a great deal about fairies. He walked with them and observed the lush backwoods where they often went to play. Indeed there was an abundance of fairy life, which he described to those present. By the end of the visit Hodson was certain that these girls had genuine experiences with nature spirits, and therefore the photographs must also be genuine. In Fairies at Work and Play he wrote, "In order to help the reader to visualise clearly the appearance of a fairy I recommend the study of the fairy photographs in Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's book The Coming of the Fairies. I am personally convinced of the bona fides of the two girls who took these photographs. I spent some weeks with them and their family, and became assured of the genuineness of their clairvoyance, of the presence of fairies, exactly like those photographed, in the glen at Cottingly [sic], and of the complete honesty of all parties concerned." That was how the issue stood for decades until Gardner had passed away and the girls had both become grandmothers.
In 1982 a journalist named Joe Cooper wrote an article called "Cottingley: At Last the Truth," in which Elsie and Frances admitted that it was all a hoax. But as with many complex issues of "truth," the answer ends up being neither a solid black nor white. Frances did see fairy life as a child, often near the stream at the end of the Wright family's gardens. And Elsie, while she could not see them, could feel and experience the radiance of the nature spirits' cheerful presence. Several times Frances would chase after her astral friends and end up falling into the water, getting her clothes drenched, and was often scolded for it when returning to the house. The adults would not believe it when the girls accredited the accident to chasing fairies, so the young Frances and Elsie concocted a prank to get back at their disbelieving elders.
Frances had some artistic skill, and so they made cutouts of the small figures, and the girls used hatpins to affix them to the ground so they would stay still long enough for the camera exposure to get a clear shot. The photos themselves were not fakes, as they had not been tampered with, but the fairies pictured were less than genuine. As for Hodson's verification, he probably determined from the girls' descriptions that they had witnessed and experienced authentic astral beings, since that part was true. His assertion of the photographs' authenticity was based entirely on his clairvoyant knowledge of the fairies at Cottingley, since he was not an expert on the mechanics of photography.
Finseth's lectures speak of bringing balance to our lives, and of the great value of meditation or prayer. She talks about how our emotions have real form; we put them out into our aura and our surroundings so that they benefit or degrade any environment. This is not so different from the type of energies that create lower nature spirits, or the energies that the fairies maintain. The energies cultivated by these astral beings are put into plants and flowers, into the waters and the air, and into the storms. These energies, which are present in all sacred places, have the power to amplify the good moods of human beings and alleviate their sufferings.
It is enough to make one, when next on a nature hike or in the presence of a brilliant sunset, release an intentional feeling of sincere gratitude or of loving peace and see what comes back. It may very well echo in ret with added power. And that's the point. Neither F eth, Kunz, nor Hodson ever asked anyone to belie what they said on faith. What they do ask is that reach out intuitively and experience nature while e sidering their explanations for these phenomena. T act accordingly, changing your worldview, and he fully gaining a newfound degree of appreciation those invisible little critters.
Cooper, Joe. `Cottingley: At Last the Truth." http://www.lhup.edu dsimanekicooper.htm; accessed Jur 11, 2013.
Finseth, Robyn. Understanding the Fields of Consciousness Audio and DVD. Wheaton: Theosophical Society in America, 2012.
• Balance in the Physical Realm. Audio and DVD.
Wheaton: Theosophical Society in America, 2012.
Gardner, Edward L. Fairies: A Book of Real Fairies. Lund: Theosophical Publishing House, 1972.
Hodson, Geoffrey. Fairies at Work and Play. Wheaton: Theosophical Publishing House, 1982.
Keidan, Bill. "An Assessment of Mr. Hodson's Life's Work
http://www.lcatinkahesselink.netiother/hodson-Bill-Keidan-assessment.html; accessed June 10, 2013.
Kunz, Dora. The Real World of Fairies: A First-Person Account. Wheaton: Quest, 1999.
James Lefevour is a lodge member and employee of the TS in Wheaton. He has an M.S. in written communication from National-Louis University.