I oft have heard, but ne'er believed till now,
There are, who can by potent spells
Bend to their crooked purpose Nature's laws.
In this month's "Correspondence"
several letters testify to the strong impression produced on some
minds by our last month's article "Practical Occultism."
Such letters go far to prove and strengthen two logical
(a) There are more well-educated and thoughtful men who
believe in the existence of Occultism and Magic (the two differing
vastly) than the modern materialist dreams of; and
(b) That most of the believers (comprising many theosophists)
have no definite idea of the nature of Occultism and confuse it
with the Occult sciences in general, the "Black art"
Their representations of the powers it confers upon man,
and of the means to be used to acquire them are as varied as they
are fanciful. Some imagine that a master in the art,
to show the way, is all that is needed to become a Zanoni.
Others, that one has but to cross the Canal of Suez and
go to India to bloom forth as a Roger Bacon or even a Count
St. Germain. Many take for their ideal Margrave
with his ever-renewing youth, and care little for the soul
as the price paid for it. Not a few, mistaking "Witch-of-Endorism"
pure and simple, for Occultism "through the yawning
Earth from Stygian gloom, call up the meagre ghost to walks
of light," and want, on the strength of this
feat, to be regarded as full blown Adepts. "Ceremonial
Magic" according to the rules mockingly laid down by Eliphas
Levi, is another imagined alter-ego of the philosophy
of the Arhats of old. In short, the prisms through
which Occultism appears, to those innocent of the philosophy,
are as multicoloured and varied as human fancy can make them.
Will these candidates to Wisdom and Power feel very indignant
if told the plain truth? It is not only useful, but it
has now become necessary to disabuse most of them and before
it is too late. This truth may be said in a few words:
There are not in the West half-a dozen among the fervent hundreds
who call themselves "Occultists," who have even
an approximately correct idea of the nature of the Science they
seek to master. With a few exceptions, they are
all on the highway to Sorcery. Let them restore some order
in the chaos that reigns in their minds, before they protest
against this statement. Let them first learn the true relation
in which the Occult Sciences stand to Occultism, and the
difference between the two, and then feel wrathful if they
still think themselves right. Meanwhile, let them
learn that Occultism differs from Magic and other secret Sciences
as the glorious sun does from a rush-light, as the immutable
and immortal Spirit of Man reflection of the absolute,
causeless and unknowable ALL differs from
the mortal clay the human body.
In our highly civilized West, where modern languages have
been formed, and words coined, in the wake of ideas
and thoughts as happened with every tongue the more the latter
became materialized in the cold atmosphere of Western selfishness
and its incessant chase after the goods of this world,
the less was there any need felt for the production of new terms
to express that which was tacitly regarded as absolute and exploded
"superstition." Such words could answer only
to ideas which a cultured man was scarcely supposed to harbour
in his mind. "Magic," a synonym for jugglery;
"Sorcery," an equivalent for crass ignorance;
and "Occultism," the sorry relic of crack-brained,
mediæval Fire-philosophers, of the Jacob Boehmes
and the St. Martins, are expressions believed more
than amply sufficient to cover the whole field of "thimble-rigging."
They are terms of contempt, and used generally only
in reference to the dross and residues of the dark ages and its
preceding æons of paganism. There fore have we no
terms in the English tongue to define and shade the difference
between such abnormal powers, or the sciences that lead
to the acquisition of them, with the nicety possible in
the Eastern languages pre-eminently the Sanskrit. What
do the words "miracle" and "enchantment" (words
identical in meaning after all, as both express the idea
of producing wonderful things by breaking the laws of nature
(!!) as explained by the accepted authorities) convey to
the minds of those who hear, or who pronounce them? A Christian breaking
"of the laws of nature," notwithstanding while
believing firmly in the miracles, because
said to have been produced by God through Moses, will either
scout the enchantments performed by Pharaoh's magicians,
or attribute them to the devil. It is the latter whom our
pious enemies connect with Occultism, while their impious
foes, the infidels, laugh at Moses, Magicians,
and Occultists, and would blush to give one serious thought
to such "superstitions." This, because
there is no term in existence to show the difference; no
words to express the lights and shadows and draw the line of demarcation
between the sublime and the true, the absurd and the ridiculous.
The latter are the theological interpretations which teach the
"breaking of the laws of Nature" by man, God,
or devil; the former the scientific "miracles"
and enchantments of Moses and the Magicians in accordance with
natural laws, both having been learned in all
the Wisdom of the Sanctuaries, which were the "Royal
Societies" of those days and in true OCCULTISM.
This last word is certainly misleading, translated as it
stands from the compound word Gupta-Vidya, "Secret
Knowledge." But the knowledge of what? Some of the
Sanskrit terms may help us.
There are four (out of the many other) names of the various kinds
of Esoteric Knowledge or Sciences given, even in the esoteric
Purânas. There is (1) Yajna-Vidya,1
knowledge of the occult powers awakened in Nature by the performance
of certain religious ceremonies and rites. (2) Maha-vidya,
the "great knowledge," the magic of the Kabalists
and of the Tantrika worship, often Sorcery of the
worst description. (3) Guhya-Vidya, knowledge
of the mystic powers residing in Sound (Ether), hence in
the Mantras (chanted prayers or incantations) and depending on
the rhythm and melody used; in other words a magical performance
based on Knowledge of the Forces of Nature and their correlation;
and (4) ATMA-VIDYA,
a term which is translated simply "knowledge of the Soul,"
true Wisdom by the Orientalists, but which means far more.
This last is the only kind of Occultism that any theosophist who
admires Light on the Path, and who would
be wise and unselfish, ought to strive after. All
the rest is some branch of the "Occult Sciences,"
i.e., arts based on the knowledge of the
ultimate essence of all things in the Kingdoms of Nature such
as minerals, plants and animals hence of things pertaining
to the realm of material nature, however invisible
that essence may be, and howsoever much it has hitherto
eluded the grasp of Science. Alchemy, Astrology,
Occult Physiology, Chiromancy, exist in Nature and
the exact Sciences perhaps so called, because they
are found in this age of paradoxical philosophies the reverse have
already discovered not a few of the secrets of the above arts.
But clairvoyance, symbolised in India as the "Eye
of Siva," called in Japan, "Infinite Vision,"
is not Hypnotism, the illegitimate son of Mesmerism,
and is not to be acquired by such arts. All the others
may be mastered and results obtained, whether good,
bad or indifferent; but Atma-Vidya sets small value
on them. It includes them all and may even use them occasionally,
but it does so after purifying them of their dross, for
beneficent purposes, and taking care to deprive them of
every element of selfish motive. Let us explain:
Any man or woman can set himself or herself to study one or all
of the above specified "Occult Arts" without any great
previous preparation, and even without adopting any too
restraining mode of life. One could even dispense with
any lofty standard of morality. In the last case,
of course, ten to one the student would blossom into a
very decent kind of sorcerer, and tumble down headlong
into black magic. But what can this matter? The Voodoos
and the Dugpas eat, drink and are merry over
heca-tombs of victims of their infernal arts. And so do
the amiable gentlemen vivisectionists and the diploma-ed "Hypnotizers"
of the Faculties of Medicine; tube only difference between
the two classes being that the Voodoos and Dugpas are conscious,and the Charcot-Richet crew unconscious, Sorcerers. Thus, since both have to reap
the fruits of their labours and achievements in the black
art, the Western practitioners should not have the punishment
and reputation without the profits and enjoyments they may get
therefrom. For we say it again, hypnotism
and vivisection as practiced in such schools, are
schools, are Sorcery pure and simple,
minus a knowledge that the Voodoos and Dugpas enjoy,
and which no Charcot-Richet can procure for himself in fifty years
of hard study and experimental observation. Let then those
who will dabble in magic, whether they understand its nature
or not, but who find the rules imposed upon students too
hard, and who, therefore lay Atma-Vidya or Occultism
aside go without it. Let them become magicians by all
means, even though they do become Voodoos and Dugpas
for the next ten incarnations.
But the interest of our readers will probably centre on those
who are invincibly attracted towards the "Occult,"
yet who neither realise the true nature of what they aspire towards,
nor have they become passion-proof, far less truly unselfish.
How about these unfortunates, we shall be asked,
who are thus rent in twain by conflicting forces? For it has been
said too often to need repetition, and the fact itself
is patent to any observer, that when once the desire for
Occultism has really awakened in a man's heart, there remains
for him no hope of peace, no place of rest and comfort
in all the world. He is driven out into the wild and desolate
spaces of life by an ever-gnawing unrest he cannot quell.
His heart is too full of passion and selfish desire to permit
him to pass the Golden Gate; he cannot find rest or peace
in ordinary life. Must he then inevitably fall into sorcery
and black magic, and through many incarnations heap up
for himself a terrible Karma? Is there no other road for him?
Indeed there is, we answer. Let him aspire to no
higher than he feels able to accomplish. Let him not take
a burden upon himself too heavy for him to carry. Without
ever becoming a "Mahatma," a Buddha or a Great
Saint, let him study the philosophy and the "Science
of Soul," and he can become one of the modest benefactors
of humanity, without any superhuman powers. Siddhis
(or the Arhat powers) are only for those who are able to "lead
the life," to comply with the terrible sacrifices
required for such a training, and to comply with them to
the very letter. Let them know at once and remember
always, that true Occultism or Theosophy is the
"Great Renunciation of SELF,"
unconditionally and absolutely, in thought as in action.
It is ALTRUISM, and it throws him who
practises it out of calculation of the ranks of the living altogether.
"Not for himself, but for the world, he lives,"
as soon as he has pledged himself to the work. Much is
forgiven during the first years of probation. But,
no sooner is he "accepted" than his personality must
disappear, and he has to become a mere beneficent force
in Nature. There are two poles for him after that,
two paths, and no midward place of rest. He has
either to ascend laboriously, step by step, often
through numerous incarnations and no Devachanic break,
the golden ladder leading to Mahatmaship (the Arhat or
Bodhisatva condition), or he will let himself slide
down the ladder at the first false step, and roll down
into Dugpaship. . . .
All this is either unknown or left out of sight altogether.
Indeed, one who is able to follow the silent evolution
of the preliminary aspirations of the candidates,
often finds strange ideas quietly taking possession of
their minds. There are those whose reasoning powers have
been so distorted by foreign influences that they imagine that
animal passions can be so sublimated and elevated that their fury,
force, and fire can, so to speak, be turned
inwards; that they can be stored and shut up in one's breast,
until their energy is, not expanded, but turned
toward higher and more holy purposes: namely, until
their collective and unexpanded strength enables their possessor
to enter the true Sanctuary of the Soul and stand therein
in the presence of the Master the HIGHER
SELF! For this purpose they will not struggle
with their passions nor slay them. They will simply,
by a strong effort of will put down the fierce flames and keep
them at bay within their natures, allowing the fire to
smoulder under a thin layer of ashes. They submit joyfully
to the torture of the Spartan boy who allowed the fox to
devour his entrails rather than part with it. Oh,
poor blind visionaries!
As well hope that a band of drunken chimney-sweeps, hot
and greasy from their work, may be shut up in a Sanctuary
hung with pure white linen, and that instead of soiling
and turning it by their presence into a heap of dirty shreds,
they will become masters in and of the sacred recess, and
finally emerge from it as immaculate as that recess. Why
not imagine that a dozen of skunks imprisoned in the pure atmosphere
of a Dgon-pa (a monastery) can issue out of it impregnated
with all the perfumes of the incenses used? . . . . Strange
aberration of the human mind. Can it be so? Let us argue.
The "Master" in the Sanctuary of our souls is "the
Higher Self" the divine spirit whose consciousness is based
upon and derived solely (at any rate during the mortal life of
the man in whom it is captive) from the Mind, which we
have agreed to call the Human Soul (the "Spiritual
Soul" being the vehicle of the Spirit). In its turn
the former (the personal or human soul) is a compound in
its highest form, of spiritual aspirations, volition,
and divine love; and in its lower aspect, of animal
desires and terrestrial passions imparted to it by its associations
with its vehicle, the seat of all these. It thus
stands as a link and a medium between the animal nature of man
which its higher reason seeks to subdue, and his divine
spiritual nature to which it gravitates, whenever it has
the upper hand in its struggle with the inner animal.
The latter is the instinctual "animal Soul" and
is the hotbed of those passions, which, as just
shown, are lulled instead of being killed, and locked
up in their breasts by some imprudent enthusiasts. Do they
still hope to turn thereby the muddy stream of the animal sewer
into the crystalline waters of life? And where, on what
neutral ground can they be imprisoned so as not to affect man?
The fierce passions of love and lust are still alive and they
are allowed to still remain in the place of their birth that
same animal soul; for both the higher and the
lower portions of the "Human Soul" or Mind reject such
inmates, though they cannot avoid being tainted with them
as neighbours. The "Higher Self" or Spirit is
as unable to assimilate such feelings as water to get mixed with
oil or unclean liquid tallow. It is thus the mind alone,
the sole link and medium between the man of earth and the Higher
Self that is the only sufferer, and which is in the incessant
danger of being dragged down by those passions that may be re-awakened
at any moment, and perish in the abyss of matter.
And how can it ever attune itself to the divine harmony of the
highest Principle, when that harmony is destroyed by the
mere presence, within the Sanctuary in preparation,
of such animal passions? How can harmony prevail and conquer,
when the soul is stained and distracted with the turmoil of passions
and the terrestrial desires of the bodily senses, or even
of the "Astral man"?
How then can it be thought possible for a man to enter the
"straight gate" of occultism when his daily and
hourly thoughts are bound up with worldly things, desires
of possession and power, with lust, ambition and
duties, which, however honourable, are still
of the earth earthy? Even the love for wife and family the purest
as the most unselfish of human affections is a barrier to real
occultism. For whether we take as an example the holy
love of a mother for her child, or that of a husband for
his wife, even in these feelings, when analyzed
to the very bottom, and thoroughly sifted, there
is still selfishness in the first, and an égoisme
à deux in the second instance. What mother would
not sacrifice without a moment's hesitation hundreds of thousands
of lives for that of the child of her heart? and what lover or
true husband would not break the happiness of every other man
and woman around him to satisfy the desire of one whom he loves?
This is but natural, we shall be told. Quite so;
in the light of the code of human affections; less so,
in that of divine universal love. For, while
the heart is full of thoughts for a little group of selves,
near and dear to us, how shall the rest of mankind
fare in our souls? What percentage of love and care will there
remain to bestow on the "great orphan"? And how shall
the "still small voice" make itself heard in a soul
entirely occupied with its own privileged tenants? What room is
there left for the needs of Humanity en bloc to impress
themselves upon, or even receive a speedy response? And
yet he who would profit by the wisdom of the universal mind,
has to reach it through the whole of Humanity without distinction
of race, complexion, religion or social status.
It is altruism, not ego-ism even in its most
legal and noble conception, that can lead the unit to merge
its little Self in the Universal Selves. It is to these
needs and to this work that the true disciple of true Occultism
has to devote himself, if he would obtain theo-sophy,
divine Wisdom and Knowledge.
The aspirant has to choose absolutely between the life of the
world and the life of Occultism. It is useless and vain
to endeavour to unite the two, for no one can serve two
masters and satisfy both. No one can serve his body and
the higher Soul, and do his family duty and his universal
duty, without depriving either one or the other of its
rights; for he will either lend his ear to the "still
small voice" and fail to hear the cries of his little ones,
or, he will listen but to the wants of the latter and remain
deaf to the voice of Humanity. It would be a ceaseless,
a maddening struggle for almost any married man, who would
pursue true practical Occultism, instead of its
theoretical philosophy. For he would find himself
ever hesitating between the voice of the impersonal divine love
of Humanity, and that of the personal, terrestrial
love. And this could only lead him to fail in one or the
other, or perhaps in both his duties. Worse than
this. For, whoever indulges after having pledged
himself to OCCULTISMin the gratification
of a terrestrial love or lust, must feel an
almost immediate result; that of being irresistibly dragged
from the impersonal divine state down to the lower plane of matter.
Sensual, or even mental self-gratification, involves
the immediate loss of the powers of spiritual discernment;
the voice of the MASTER can no longer be distinguished
from that of one's passions or even that of a Dugpa;the right from wrong; sound morality from mere casuistry.
The Dead Sea fruit assumes the most glorious mystic appearance,
only to turn to ashes on the lips, and to gall in the heart
Depth ever deepening, darkness darkening still;
Folly for wisdom, guilt for innocence;
Anguish for rapture, and for hope despair.
And once being mistaken and having acted on their mistakes,
most men shrink from realizing their error, and thus descend
deeper and deeper into the mire. And, although it
is the intention that decides primarily whether white or
black magic is exercised, yet the results even of
involuntary, unconscious sorcery cannot fail to be productive
of bad Karma. Enough has been said to show that sorcery
is any kind of evil influence exercised upon other persons,
who suffer, or make other persons suffer, in
consequence. Karma is a heavy stone splashed in the
quiet waters of Life; and it must produce ever widening
circles of ripples, carried wider and wider, almost
ad infinitum. Such causes produced have to call
forth effects, and these are evidenced in the just laws of Retribution.
Much of this may be avoided if people will only abstain from rushing
into practices neither the nature nor importance of which they
understand. No one is expected to carry a burden beyond
his strength and powers. There are "natural-born magicians";
Mystics and Occultists by birth, and by right of direct
inheritance from a series of incarnations and æons of suffering
and failures. These are passion-proof, so to say.
No fires of earthly origin can fan into a flame any of their senses
or desires; no human voice can find response in their souls,
except the great cry of Humanity. These only may be certain
of success. But they can be met only far and wide,
and they pass through the narrow gates of Occultism because they
carry no personal luggage of human transitory sentiments along
with them. They have got rid of the feeling of the
lower personality, paralyzed thereby the "astral"
animal, and the golden, but narrow gate is thrown
open before them. Not so with those who have to carry yet
for several incarnations the burden of sins committed in previous
lives, and even in their present existence. For
such, unless they proceed with great caution, the
golden gate of Wisdom may get transformed into the wide gate and
the broad way "that leadeth unto destruction,"
and therefore "many be they that enter in thereby."
This is the Gate of the Occult arts, practised for selfish
motives and in the absence of the restraining and beneficent influence
We are in the Kali Yuga and its fatal influence is a thousand-fold
more powerful in the West than it is in the East; hence
the easy preys made by the Powers of the Age of Darkness in this
cyclic struggle, and the many delusions under which the
world is now labouring. One of these is the relative facility
with which men fancy they can get at the "Gate" and
cross the threshold of Occultism without any great sacrifice.
It is the dream of most Theosophists, one inspired by desire
for Power and personal selfishness, and it is not such
feelings that can ever lead them to the coveted goal. For,
as well said by one believed to have sacrificed himself for Humanity "narrow
is the gate and straightened the way that leadeth unto life"
eternal, and therefore "few be they that find it."
So straight indeed, that at the bare mention of some of
the preliminary difficulties the affrighted Western candidates
turn back and retreat with a shudder. . . .
Let them stop here and attempt no more in their great weakness.
For if, while turning their backs on the narrow gate,
they are dragged by their desire for the Occult one step in the
direction of the broad and more inviting Gates of that golden
mystery which glitters in the light of illusion, woe to
them! It can lead only to Dugpa-ship, and they will be
sure to find themselves very soon landed on that ViaFatale
of the Inferno, over whose portal Dante read
Per me si va nella citta dolente
Per me si va nell'eterno dolore
Per me si va tra la perduta gente. . . . .
Lucifer, May, 1888
H. P. Blavatsky
1 "The Yajna," say the Brahmans,
"exists from eternity, for it proceeded forth from
the Supreme One. . . in whom it lay dormant
from 'no beginning.' It is the key to TRAIVIDYA,
the thrice sacred science contained in the Rig verses,
which teaches the Yagus or sacrificial mysteries. 'The
Yajna' exists as an invisible thing at all times; it is
like the latent power of electricity in an electrifying machine,
requiring only the operation of a suitable apparatus in order
to be elicited. It is supposed to extend from the Ahavaniya
or sacrificial fire to the heavens, forming a bridge or
ladder by means of which the sacrificer can communicate with the
world of gods and spirits, and even ascend when alive to
their abodes." Martin Hauge's Aitreya Brahmana.
"This Yajna is again one of the forms of the Akasa;
and the mystic word calling it into existence and pronounced mentally
by the initiated Priest is the Lost Word receiving impulse
through WILL-POWER." Isis Unveiled,
Vol. I, Intr. See Aitareya Brahmana,
Hauge. back to text
2 Those who would feel inclined to see three Egos
in one man will show themselves unable to perceive the metaphysical
meaning. Man is a trinity composed of Body, Soul
and Spirit; but man is nevertheless one,
and is surely not his body. It is the latter which
is the property, the transitory clothing of the man.
The three "Egos" are MAN in his
three aspects on the astral, intellectual or psychic,
and the Spiritual planes, or states. back to text