Occultism: What is it?
The Path, May, 1890
Not only in the Theosophical Society, but out of it, are tyros in Occultism. They are dabblers in a fine art, a mighty science, an almost impenetrable mystery. The motives that bring them to the study are as various as the number of individuals engaged in it, and as hidden from even themselves as is the center of the earth from the eye of science. Yet the motive is more important than any other factor.
These dilettanti in this science have always been abroad. No age or country has been without them, and they have left after them many books—of no particular value. Those of today are making them now, for the irresistible impulse of vanity drives them to collate the more or less unsound hypotheses of their predecessors, which, seasoned with a proper dash of mystery, are put forth to the crowd of those who would fain acquire wisdom at the cost-price of a book. Meanwhile the world of real occultists smiles silently, and goes on with the laborious process of sifting out the living germs from the masses of men. For occultists must be found and fostered and prepared for coming ages when power will be needed and pretension will go for nothing.
But the persons now writing about occultism and competent to do any more than repeat unproved formulae and assertions left over from mediaeval days, are few in number. It is very easy to construct a book full of so-called occultism taken from French or German books, and then to every now and then stop the reader short by telling him that it is not wise to reveal any more. The writings of Christian in France give much detail about initiations into occultism, but he honestly goes no further than to tell what he has gained from Greek and Latin fragments. Others, however, have followed him, repeated his words without credit, and as usual halted at the explanation.
There are, again, others who, while asserting that there is magic science called occultism, merely advise the student to cultivate purity and spiritual aspirations, leaving it to be assumed that powers and knowledge will follow. Between these two, theosophists of the self-seeking or the unselfish type are completely puzzled. Those who are selfish may learn by bitter disappointment and sad experience; but the unselfish and the earnest need encouragement on the one hand and warning on the other. As an Adept wrote years ago to London Theosophists: “He who does not feel equal to the work need not undertake a task too heavy for him.” This is applicable to all, for every one should be informed of the nature and heaviness of the task. Speaking of this tremendous thing—Occultism—Krishna in the Bhagavad-Gita says: “During a considerable period of time this doctrine has been lost in the world. . . . This mystery is very important.” We do not think that the doctrine has yet been restored to the world, albeit that it is in the keeping of living men—the Adepts. And in warning those who strive after occultism with a selfish motive he declares: “Confused by many worldly thoughts, surrounded by the meshes of bewilderment, devoted to the enjoyment of their desires, they descend to foul Naraka . . . and hence they proceed to the lowest plane of being.”
In what, then, does the heaviness of the Occultist’s task consist? In the immensity of its sweep as well as the infinitude of its detail. Mere sweet and delightful longing after God will not of itself accomplish it, nor is progress found in aspiring to self-knowledge, even when as a result of that is found partial illumination. These are excellent; but we are talking of a problem whose implacable front yields to nothing but force, and that force must be directed by knowledge.
The field is not emotional, for the play of the emotions destroys the equilibrium essential to the art. Work done calling for reward avails not unless it has produced knowledge.
A few examples will show that in Occult Science there is a vastness and also a multiplicity of division not suspected by theosophical Occultists in embryo.
The element of which fire is a visible effect is full of centres of force. Each one is ruled by its own law. The aggregate of centres and the laws governing them which produce certain physical results are classed by science as laws in physics, and are absolutely ignored by the book-making Occultist because he has no knowledge of them. No dreamer or even a philanthropist will ever as such know those laws. And so on with all the other elements.
The Masters of Occultism state that a law of “transmutation among forces” prevails forever. It will baffle any one who has not the power to calculate the value of even the smallest tremble of a vibration, not only in itself but instantly upon its collision with another, whether that other be similar to it or different. Modern science admits the existence of this law as the correlation of forces. It is felt in the moral sphere of our being as well as in the physical world, and causes remark-able changes in a man’s character and circumstances quite beyond us at present and altogether unknown to science and metaphysics.
It is said that each person has a distinct mathematical value expressed by one number. This is a compound or resultant of numberless smaller values. When it is known, extraordinary effects may be produced not only in the mind of the person but also in his feelings, and this number may be discovered by certain calculations more recondite than those of our higher mathematics. By its use the person may be made angry without cause, and even insane or full of happiness, just as the operator desires.
There is a world of beings known to the Indians as that of the Devas, whose inhabitants can produce illusions of a character the description of which would throw our wildest romances into the shade. They may last five minutes and seem as a thousand years, or they may extend over ten thousand actual years. Into this world the purest theosophist, the most spiritual man or woman, may go without consent, unless the knowledge and power are possessed which prevent it.
On the threshold of all these laws and states of being linger forces and beings of an awful and determined character. No one can avoid them, as they are on the road that leads to knowledge, and they are every now and then awakened or perceived by those who, while completely ignorant on these subjects, still persist in dabbling with charms and necromantic practices.
It is wiser for theosophists to study the doctrine of brotherhood and its application, to purify their motives and actions, so that after patient work for many lives, if necessary, in the great cause of humanity, they may at last reach that point where all knowledge and all power will be theirs by right.