Sunday, October 3, 2010


“To see the false as the false, to see the true in the false,
and to see the true as the true—it is this that sets

the mind free.” J. Krishnamurti.

In 1984 I began attending lunchtime meditation classes twice a week at a Unity centre in Sydney, Australia. A most enlightened woman who ran the meditation classes gave me a typed copy of a curious short story to read. I fell in love with the story and I have loved it ever since. I have given many talks and lectures on the story at church groups, metaphysical societies and other gatherings. By the way, I still have the copy of the story given to me in 1984. (I throw little or nothing away.) Here is the first page of the document:

The story was called The Psychologist and the Magician: A Psychological Study in Story Form (1920), and it was written by one Ernest Christopher Rodwick (1857-1944), who was an American painter, paperhanger and inventor. He was quite a creative person; he even designed a suggested international flag which he copyrighted in 1918. He also had an interest in 'mental science'and he wrote quite well. I don't know whether he wrote anything else but this short story of his is well worth reading. 

Here's a link to the story, which is sometimes referred to as "The Cave Story"not to be confused with Plato's "Allegory of the Cave", although there are quite a few similarities between the two stories. Both stories highlight the fact that impressions gained through the senses can and often do mislead us. What we sometimes take to be reality can in fact be a gross distortion and misrepresentation of the truth.

Set in 1910, the story takes place in a certain mountain cave known as Black Art Cave ['Black Cat Cave', in some versions of the story], up in the Himalaya Mountains. The story concerns, yes, a psychologist (Professor Herman von Scholtz), described as “one of the ablest scientists of Europe”, and a magician [or “hypnotist”] (Marbado), who is said to have “no peer in India as a magician”. The regents of Heidelberg University elected him "to study, to unravel, to explode or explain, scientifically is possible, the extraordinary performances of India's magicians". 

Deep in the Himalayas.
Photo credit: Yuval Sadeh. Distributed via

Von Scholtz journeys to India where he meets Marbado. Von Scholtz agrees to go through a three mile (4.8 km) long cave--in which Marbado will practise his art on him--to see if von Scholtz can overcome the hypnotist's influence on his thinking.

Von Scholtz immediately goes through the cave and sees nothing unusual in it. This is important. The two men then begin the test. Almost immediately von Scholtz stands “transfixed, horrified, yes, petrified with fear,” as he sees Marbado's prostrate body covered with poisonous cobras. But after taking time to reason, he decides that the hypnotist’s work has already begun. Next, “a wall of rock” stretches across the cave. Von Scholtz tries physically to knock it down, but then sees his mistake and reasons:

To try to knock it down is to admit it is there and only adds to its solidity by hammering away at it. The truth is, the wall does not exist as an objective fact. I should have walked on and not slapped, kicked and hammered at it; I should have looked upon it as a form of thought which the magician would have me accept as an objective reality, but which I deny.

So saying, von Scholtz closes his eyes and walks straight ahead and passes the apparent obstruction without hindrance, the wall disappearing as mist before the sun. While in the cave von Scholtz is met with many horrible and terrifying images. He sees them and he feels them. However, he refuses to let any of them have any power over him. True, he is scared to death but he presses on through the cave. Marbado the magician throws even worse things at him. Von Scholtz thinks of giving up and running back. (Don't we think of giving up from time to time?) Nevertheless, von Scholtz knows that Marbado is an expert illusionist. 

After von Scholtz surmounts several terrifying ordeals which follow the wall episode, he becomes inclined to give way to a feeling of drowsiness, hunger and thirst. In the interest of scientific research, von Scholtz decides, with mental reservations, to submit to the suggestions of the hypnotist’s influence. This decision puts von Scholtz through more harrowing “experiences.” 

However, before partaking of the water and food, which magically appeared, von Scholtz charges his subconscious mind with the truth that even though he will be submitted to suggestions unacceptable to reason such that his conscious mind will be set adrift in an abnormal direction, his unconscious mind will nevertheless continue to carry out its own normal purposes during the time the contrary influence is at work. Thus, in spite of all the hypnotist’s suggestions, von Scholtz is able to conquer illusion.  

Gran Caverna de Santo Tomás, Valle de Viñales, Cuba.
Note. The author of this post explored this cave,
which is Cuba's largest cave system, in August 2018.

Eventually, von Scholtz sees light at the end of the cave. Yes, he makes it back to the mouth of the cave. He proves that all the hypnotic suggestions of the magician were unreal. Von Scholtz has made it through the various tests. He is victorious!

Like so many spiritual or metaphysical stories, this one also concerns a “journey” or “quest” of some kind. It's the journey of life that we all must travel. The psychologist (who is generally referred to in the story as either “the Professor” or “von Scholtz”) agrees to undergo what is described as an “ordeal”-- the ordeal of life. The psychologist must “go to the end of this cave and out again regardless of what [he] will see, hear, feel or think, and regardless of what becomes of me”.

Herbert W Eustace

odwick's short story 
was promoted and popularized by Herbert W Eustace CSB who was an independent Christian Science teacher and writer and who had been anathematized (lovingly "excommunicated forever" [!] for daring to think differently) by the Mother Church in Boston. Eustace was one of the members of the board of trustees of the Christian Science Publishing Society overthrown and excommunicated by the board of directors because, so I have read, he stood loyally with his leader and her deed of trust rather than yield to the power grab of others back in 1918 and 1919. 

Eustace had been instrumental in establishing Christian Science in California, and during his long lifetime he toured the world lecturing and teaching as an independent Christian Science teacher and practitioner. His last lecture tour was at the age of 90 when he went to Australia where I live. He wrote an introduction to the story in 1950, and included the story in his bulky book Christian Science: "Its Clear, Correct Teaching" and Complete Writings. Eustace died in 1957, but his many books, pamphlets and some spoken word voice recordings he made are still available to listen to.

Now, I have no brief for Christian Science, and you don't have to believe in Christian Science in order to enjoy and derive some spiritual insight from this short but amazing allegorical story. Indeed, there is nothing inherently "Christian Science" about the story. 

The Psychologist and the Magician is an allegory--some have called it a parable--containing a wonderful lesson about the power of the mind, as well as its limitations and misuse. The story illustrates the way we are so easily hypnotized (that is, deflected and led astray by things that have no power in themselves at all, except the power we give to them through our attention). Our minds tend to operate "hypnotically" far too often, especially when we place beliefsyes, beliefsbetween ourselves and reality. 

Beliefs distort our perception of reality; indeed, they veil the truththat is, that which isfrom our vision and understanding. Beliefs are the direct and immediate cause of so much of our anguish, for they prevent us from seeing things as they really are. The result? We cripple ourselves; we weaken our power. Power comes from seeing things as they really are

Eschew beliefs! Bugger beliefs! Beliefs are a form of self-hypnosis. They are illusionsmisbeliefs, all of them. I note that Herbert W Eustace writes, "You must cheerfully give up cherished beliefs if you would enter into the kingdom of your birthright." As I see it, we must give up all beliefscherished or otherwise. None of them are any good.

Here's another thing. We lose our identity when we mistakenly identify with all the little "I's" and "me's" in our mind
our 'false selves'believing them to be the real person that we are. For example, there is the "I am inferior" self, the "me who is scared" self, the "I am weak" self, and so on. We hypnotize ourselves by our ignorance of who we really are and by our superstitions, fears and desires. However, as I have said many times on this blog, none of these 'selves' are anything more than images in our mind. Got that? They are mental images, that is, they are created by thought. They come and go, even though some of them seem permanent. They are powered by feeling and emotion. You are not the "inferior self". You are not the "me who is scared". You are not the "weak self". None of these little "I's" and "me's" has a separate, independent or distinct identity from the person that you are. You are a person among persons. These so-called false selves are labelled false, not because they have no existence whatsoever, but because they exist only as mental images. They are a "borrowed life", so to speak. They are not you.

As I see it, Marbado in the story symbolizes all our misbeliefs about ourselves and our false selves. Marbado represents our mistaken belief in the "self" as a thing-in-itself. In reality, the "self' has no separate, permanent identity from the person that each one of us is. In Rodwick's story the cobras, Bengal tigers and deep crevasses symbolize these false selves in our mind.

When our lives are going more-or-less "normal" and uneventful, we often lose our way. Indeed, that is when we are most likely to be deflected and led astray. In Rodwick's story, it was the so-called normal, ordinary, everyday appearances of relative good that completely disoriented von Scholtz. It was at those times that he was so deeply asleep, so to speak, that he lost his dominion over circumstances. That happens to us as well, if we are honest with ourselves. 

Ernest C Rodwick's gravestone in
Oak Hill Memorial Park, San Jose, California

Rodwick's story also tells us that every problem, difficulty or obstacle we face in lifein the story, the various encounters with cobras, Bengal tigers, deep crevasses, and so forthis an "initiation" of sorts by means of which we can either progress or regress, and reminds us that our environment is, for the most part at least, a shadow cast by our consciousness. If you mindfully see things as-they-really-are, and give up your illusions, all power and success will be yours. In the words of von Scholtz:

It soon dawned on me that I was not in the water at all, but in a submarine in which I found myself giving orders to its crew as if it were my accustomed duty. The vessel was completely under my control, delving to the bottom of the sea or rising at will to its surface by manipulating a series of levers placed conveniently at hand.

If you bother to read the storyand I hope you willyou will note that when the psychologist first went through the cave he saw that there was nothing in it that could harm him. However, things turned out differently after the magician had started his "magic". Fortunately, the psychologist had already fortified his mind, and was (with only a couple of lapses of attention) mindfully aware at all times of what was taking place from one moment to the next. Each one of us must watch our self-talk. Our minds are the door to our experience and, as Mary Baker Eddy pointed us, we must 'stand porter at the door of thought'. I also like what H P Blavatsky wrote, namely, "The Mind is the great Slayer of the Real. Let the Disciple slay the Slayer."

The story has some important things to say about the relationship between one's "subjective" (or unconscious) mind and "objective" (or conscious) mind. Suffice to say that even if the conscious mind is in error, if the unconscious mind is rightly directed and in its proper "place" (state), all will be well. The story also reminds us of that important psychological and spiritual truth that we ordinarily tend to do whatever is our strongest desire. That is especially important with respect to giving up bad habits and recovering from life-threatening addictions. Here's someting else that's enormously important:

I see my mistake,' said the Professor, throwing away the rock as if disgusted with himself at his blundering. 'To try to knock the wall down is to admit that it is there and but adds to its solidity by hammering away at it. The truth is, the wall does not exist as an objective fact. I should have walked on and not slapped, kicked and hammered at it ... .

In other words, what we resist persists. This is known as the metaphysical or psychological "law of non-resistance". Also, more often than not, the indirect--as opposed to the direct--approach is best in mental working, especially when one is trying to deal with, say, unwanted thoughts. That's called the "law of indirectness". NeverI repeat, nevertry to drive an unwanted thought out of your mind directly. You know what happens if you do that. Yes, enough said about that matter. There's a huge lot of wisdom in this story.

Here's another interpretation of the story, though probably not one intended by the author himself. The psychologist is referred to in the story as a scientist. Indeed, he is "Professor of Science" at Heidelberg University. He is a man who places reason above "magic" and superstition, the latter represented in the story by Marbado, the magician or hypnotist. We live in an age when irrationality and superstition all too often seem to triumph over reason and science. Take the climate change deniers, for example. Then there are the anti-vaxxers. I could go on. Anyway, the story urges us to look to the truth. When faced with "magic", we must be forever skeptical. Like Professor Herman von Scholtz, we must always be on our guard and say to ourselves and others, when necessary, "This is illusory thinking. This has no place in a normal mind."

Indian cobra

So, what are we to do, when we see cobras, Bengal tigers and deep 

Well, our particular cobras and tigers may take the form of lust, sensuality, and cravings and appetites of various kinds (all silly little "I's" and "me's")as well as beliefs of all kinds. Simply say, "Who is speaking?" Say it loud and clear, "Who is speaking?" No voice answers back, for hypnotic suggestion in the form of a mental self-image is neither presence nor power. We must release our belief in the supposed independent reality of our mental states, being merely hypnotic suggestions of various kinds brought about by the illusory belief in the supposed separate, independent existence of an "I" and "me", made worse by sensory overload.

So, what are we to do in this life, when confronted by difficulties and troubles? Listen to the instruction given by the magician to the Professor: 

[Y]ou go to the end of this cave and out again regardless of what you will see, hear, feel or think, and regardless of what becomes of me. 

That takes courage, but we must do likewise. Yes, there will be difficulties and problems, but we must press on nevertheless. And notice those words
"regardless of what becomes of me" [emphasis added]. Yes, the "me"that false self in usmust go if we are to make any real progress in life.

Now, lest you think I am terribly naive and deluded, I want you to know this. I know this to be true, namely, that pain and suffering are very real to our mortal senses. No religion or philosophy of life that seeks to deny their existence deserves to have any future. That is one, but not the only one, of the reasons why Christian Science is in terminal decline, even though it refuses to admit it. Why? Because Christian Science doesn’t believe that death is real. (Hmm.) 

However, even though pain and suffering are very real, we make them so much worse for ourselves by our attitude toward them. It is sometimes said that attitudes are more important than facts (a statement attributed to both Norman Vincent Peale and Karl Menninger). That may or may not be true. In any event, an attitude is also a fact. Can one fact be superior to another? What is true is that, when we change our attitude toward the external facts, the "outer world of circumstance shapes itself to the inner world of thought" (James Allen).

Gran Caverna de Santo Tomás, Valle de Viñales, Cuba.
Note. The author of this post explored this cave,
which is Cuba's largest cave system, in August 2018.

I leave you with this. Early in the story Marbado says to the Professor:

The cave will be lighted by our own personal presence, but if you are in any doubt, or suspect any trickery, take your light with you, though you will find it a hindrance, as it will interfere with your vision.

Each of us must be our own master and our own pupil. We have within us sufficient light (in particular, reason) to guide us throughout our journey in life. We do not need any artificial light. That would only interfere with our vision.

Enjoy the storyand remember to stay mindfully aware at all times. Be not deceived by anything other than realitynot even that. You, too, can conquer illusion and make it safely through, and to the end of, the "cave of life".


1. For those who are interested, here's a link to a longer article I've written on The Psychologist and the Magician. There is also a reading of the story on YouTube; here are the links to Part 1 and Part 2 of the story, read by Carol Conroy.

2. This post was revised with the inclusion of some additional material in March 2019.


  1. Thank you so very much for your kind commentary about Herbert Eustace. I also have some commentary of the referenced story of The Psychologist and the Magician. A large part of my metaphysical blogging, and of my healing and consultation work as a Christian Science practitioner has been inspired by Mr, Eustace's work, in which this story is to be found. I will be inserting a link to you on my site and blog. Please visit me at

  2. My link to you can be found at

    1. Thank you kindly. I am very grateful. Spiritually yours, Ian.


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