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The Occult Way
The Mystic Way that leads to Divine Union is so well known that it is often forgotten that there is another Path, seemingly totally different in route, that leads in the end to the same goal. We are so accustomed to hear the renunciation of the world and the abnegation of the self set up as the only true Path of the soul which seeks the Highest, that we hardly dare whisper that there may be another Path—the Path of the mastery of manifested existence and the apotheosis of the self.
There are two ways in which God can be worshipped; we can worship Him in unmanifested Essence, or we can worship Him in His manifested form. Both ways are legitimate, provided that in worshipping the manifested form we do not forget the Essence, and in worshipping the Essence we do not confuse it with the manifested form, for these things are the sin of idolatry, which consists in a wrongly-placed emphasis.
The mystic seeks to worship God in essence. But the essence or root of God, being unmanifest, eludes human consciousness. The mystic, then, in order to conceive the object of his worship, has to transcend normal human consciousness. It is not possible to know the inmost nature of a state of existence unless we can enter into it and share, in some measure at least, its experience. The Mystic, then, has for his task the freeing of his consciousness from its habitual bondage to form. It is to this end that the ascetic discipline is directed, killing out the lower in order that the higher may be set free to unite with God and thereby know Him. The Way of the Mystic is a way of renunciation till he breaks all the limitations of his lower nature and enters into his freedom; nothing then remains that can withhold him from God, and his soul flies upwards to enter the Light and return not again.
But the other Path is not a way of Renunciation, but a Way of Fulfilment; it is not a breaking away from the path of human destiny, but a concentration and sublimation of that destiny. Each soul which takes that Path lives through its own experience every phase and aspect of manifested existence and equilibrates it, spiritualises it, and absorbs its essence.
The aim of those who follow this Path is to obtain complete mastery over every aspect of created life. But when we say mastery, we do not mean the mastery of a slave-owner over his slave. Rather do we mean the mastery of the virtuoso over his instrument; a mastery which rests upon his power to adapt himself to its nature and enter into its spirit and so draw forth its full capacity of interpretation. The adept who has gained mastery over the Sphere of Luna interprets the message of the Moon to the world and shows forth her powers in equilibrated balance. The kingdom ruled by the Master of the Temple is no absolute monarchy. He does not obtain that mastery in order to make thrones, dominions and powers serve himself, but in order to bring to them God's message of salvation and call them to their high heritage. He is a servant of evolution; it is his task to bring order out of chaos, harmony out of discord, and reduce unbalanced forces to equilibrium.
The Vedanta teaching of the Eastern Tradition clearly distinguishes between the devotion to the Unmanifest God, the spiritual essence of creation, and the manifesting aspects, or gods. "Identify the self with the partial aspects, which are the Yoginis, and the various Powers, (Siddhis) are attained. Identify the self with the Maha-yogini Herself, and man is liberated, for he is no longer man but Her.... With what a man should identify himself depends upon what he wants. But whatever it is, he gets the Power if he but wills and works for it." (World as Power, Power as Reality, by Woodroffe.)
What ought a man to want? That is the next question we have to ask ourselves. The answer to this depends entirely upon the stage of evolution we have arrived at. The soul has to complete its human experience before it is ready for Divine Union. It must pass the nadir of the descent into matter before it can come on to the Path of Return. We are not ready for the Mystic Way until we are approaching the time of our freedom from the Wheel of Birth and Death; to try and escape from that Wheel prematurely is to evade our training. Like the racing yacht, which fails to round the outermost marking-buoy, we are disqualified; we have not fulfilled the conditions of liberation, which command that we shall shirk nothing and leave behind us only that which we have mastered, equilibrated, and outgrown.
It is a false teaching which bids us eradicate from our natures anything which God has implanted there, as false and foolish as ham-stringing a spirited thorough-bred colt because it is wild and unbroken. The love of beauty, the vitalising urge of clean, normal, healthy instinct, the joy of battle, we should be poor creatures indeed without all these. God gave them to us, and we may presume that He knew what He was about when He did so. Who are we to judge His handiwork and condemn that which He found good?
What God's law forbids is the abuse of these things, not the use for the purposes for which they are intended. The Path of the Hearth-fire gives a far sounder and more effectual discipline of the instincts than the hermit-caves of Thebes, with their ascetic tortures and self-mutilations, doing violence to Nature and outraging God's handiwork.
Frightened by the Elemental forces when he meets them unpurified and unprepared, the ascetic flees from what he believes to be temptation. It is a far sounder policy to equilibrate the warring forces in our own nature until we can handle our unruly team of instincts and make them draw the chariot of the soul with the power of their untiring speed.
The day will come for each one of us when we shall be freed from the Wheel of Birth and Death and enter the Light to return not again; if we try to put aside the Elements and their problems before that day dawns we are shifting our helm for the homeward course before we have rounded the marking-buoy; we are like the man who buried his talent in the ground because he was afraid of it. Our Lord will not thank us for our misplaced devotion to an unripe ideal, but call us unprofitable servants.
The key to the whole problem, like so many others, lies in the doctrine of reincarnation. If we believe that all human achievement has to be accomplished in one life and that at the end of it we shall be judged, we are liable to be stampeded into an idealism which we'll have not yet attained by a process of natural growth. Freedom from the Wheel, the abandonment of matter, Divine Union—these will come for all of us in due course of evolutionary time, for it is the aim of evolution to bring us to them, but that time may not be yet, and we are very foolish if we allow another, however advanced, to judge for us where we stand upon the ladder of evolution, and decide what is to be our next step. Let us have the courage of our convictions and follow our own deeper promptings. If our urge is to worship God in His glorious manifestation, let us do it wholeheartedly; therein lies the way of attainment for us. This does not mean the unleashing of the impulses; the Dance of Nature is an ordered and rhythmical movement, we must not break from our place in the living pattern or we will spoil it. We must work with Nature for Nature's ends if She is to be our Mother. Here is discipline enough for any soul.
If, on the other hand, our promptings are towards a withdrawal on to the Mystical Path, let us ask ourselves honestly whether we are following that Path because the call of God in our hearts is so strong, or because we have found life so difficult that we want to escape for ever from its problems.
Some Practical Applications of Occultism
When I first came to the study of Occult Science, it was extremely hidden and secretive. The various open societies that existed were either purely exoteric and elementary, or else they were really quite bogus. So it was difficult to know where to look for any real teaching. Consequently, unless one were psychic one was completely debarred from any knowledge. But this is no longer so in the same degree, and the problem remains for many people, do they want the occult teaching or not? We are so accustomed to think that in order to have any practical knowledge of occultism one must go apart from the world, and it is not practicable for the vast majority of people to follow that path at all. That meant that a very great many people who could have had great help from this teaching were debarred from pursuing its study, which I think is a pity. When I was training it was a strenuous affair altogether. The more I see of it, the more I feel that the work of the adept is one thing, and the general giving out of the teaching is another. The feats which are done by the trained gymnast are entirely beyond the scope of the ordinary man; but nevertheless, the same exercises on which the gymnast is trained, only not carried to the same extreme pitch, keep the ordinary man strong and fit when practised regularly. So I think it is with Occultism. If you want to be an adept and do the strong feats of Magic, you are equivalent to the gymnast, and this means a very strenuous training. But I think the next application of this work will be the bringing of the teachings, so that they are available for people not able to leave all, whose Karma holds them to daily life. It is interesting to note that at the time when the recrudescence of occultism began in the West—about 1875—three movements had their inception: Occultism, the Spiritualist Movement, and Christian Science, with New Thought as its offspring. These are three distinct lines dealing with occult forces. The occultist bases his work on tradition and generally uses ceremonial. The spiritualist is approaching the same ground, but has no tradition and bases his work on experiment. The Christian Scientist has no tradition or experiment, but bases his work on the hypothesis of the powers of the mind. Spiritualism and Christian Science are rule-of-thumb procedures. If one studies the healing movement of Christian Science one sees that it has a very good method, but its practitioners seldom can explain it. Occultism is the scientific basis of all these movements and can explain the phenomena of these different modes of experience and practice. In that its value lies. Christian Science and New Thought do yield valuable fruits, but they give no explanation that a thinking person can accept, and yet they get their results. Therefore find that basis, and do not away with the valuable results. I maintain that in the esoteric doctrines we get an explanation of so much in life that everybody would be the richer for having them given. Life is a very different matter if we have a clue to its meaning. Without this we are like leaves blown in the wind, we do not know where we are or where we are going; we are blind and wandering as best we may, groping our way, with no guarantee that we do not fall over a precipice. But if we take the esoteric doctrines, then we see ourselves as part of the great whole.
We see our place in Nature, we see whence we have come and where we are going, and we see our relationship to the Cosmos, and the whole of life opens up. That is what esoteric science can give—a very broad, profound and practical application of occultism. My experience with many esoteric scientists is this—they make a sort of intellectual study of it, but they do not apply it to practical problems. They are more or less engaged in research work, in studying symbol systems, the Qabalah, etc., but except as a means for divination these studies are for them of no practical application to life. Moreover these divinations are very spurious on the whole and tend to demoralise people's outlook on life. If something good or bad is going to happen to a person shortly, what good does it do to tell them so? But they can find the explanation of things in an interpretation of life. When we study the esoteric teachings of evolution, we see a tremendous vista opening up before us. And of course the belief in reincarnation is implicit in occultism, as is that in thought-transference. There we have, I think, one of the most illuminating teachings that can possibly be given to the problems of life. What can any being do in one life to earn either Heaven or Hell for ever? Surely the teaching of reincarnation is a more reasonable one—the going out and returning again, and going out once more into incarnation for further experience. That is to my mind a very wonderful concept of existence—that behind us stretches a long chain of incarnations. We do not remember them because the memory chain is broken, but they are there, and the Divine Spark is the core of each one of us, round which experience has built up a whole; this constitutes the temperament and capacities of each one of us. That concept gives us a very deep philosophy of life. If the fortunes of life are blind hazard, then indeed we are most miserable. But if we see that the broad outlines of the spiritual experiences that life brings us are determined by our own soul, we shall begin to see how to take things.
Then comes another question—the great esoteric doctrine of the invisible planes of existence. These teachings tell us that what the five senses see or contact does not constitute the whole of existence. This exoteric science can confirm, by means of the microscope, etc. But the occultist goes further and says there is a whole kingdom of mind and spirit as well, which you do not see with your physical senses. In these live the great Forces which actuate life and its circumstances. In it you will find the key to conditions of life on the physical plane, and you will never find it anywhere else. Such people as Coue are manipulating these invisible forces successfully. If we understand these conditions, we shall be free, we shall then be able to work with these forces and manipulate them ourselves. But we can manipulate them only within very definite limits. Christian Science sets no limits; but if we watch the results they obtain, we can see that there are limits. There are certain things you are wise not to meddle with. The occultist does not try to dominate Nature, but to bring himself into harmony with these great Cosmic Forces, and work with them. You can see an illustration of this if you watch the Thames bargees pushing off when the tide is on the turn; they are taking advantage of their knowledge of the tides, and the river does the rest. With us in life, we should have the same knowledge and wisdom. We ought to understand these natural laws of the Unseen. They are natural laws, and there is nothing spooky about them. We can make life a very different thing if we do understand them. Of course, there are certain conditions we must accept, that are the fruits of Karma; but I do not want you to take Karma in the crude way in which it is sometimes put forth. It is not a question of murder for murder, that if you steal from a person in this life, that same person will steal from you in the next. It is not as simple as that. It means that something in your nature has got to be realised and changed so that you shall be in harmony. As long as that particular factor is in your nature, it will precipitate a similar sort of trouble in your life. Errors of intention, deliberate wrong-doing, are usually paid for in future lives; you may get away with it in this life—we have all seen the wicked flourish like a green bay tree—but the effect of that goes on, it is put down to your account, and in due time you have got to pay. But payment is always in spiritual values. You learn that you have got to make certain adjustments, and when you have done this, the pressure eases up, and you are free. So point by point we gain character and equilibrium. We win our freedom by learning the lessons life forces on us; and if we refuse, they become more and more drastic. When people have arrived at a certain degree of development, they are more sensitive and have more spiritual force, and so their problems are more acute. The soul may have decided to go rapidly on, and brings down in a concentrated form all the Karma due. Trouble seems always to come down on this soul, and through an incarnation of trouble the soul is purified, and then the next incarnation opens up free of these conditions. A single incarnation does not furnish us with a clue, but leaves us with a sense of injustice; but if we see all our past lives stretching out, we see differently. We should always look at things in the light of three lives. And we can achieve our purposes in three lives too. We are making the conditions for our next life now, though in the present we have to take all or part of the Karma left from our last one. Some people say, "Surely one life is trying enough." But there is another way to look at it. If we average out our troubles against the long aeons of all our lives, they take on a different proportion. A great sense of freedom comes to the soul when the actual realisation comes that the "I" is going on, and that this incarnation is but an incident in its career. We cannot give anybody that freedom by simply explaining the logical grounds; but a sudden realisation comes of something that has been before, and this causes a great alteration of life's values. Again, if we inspect our life's problems we may find it may be because we are working things out rapidly and developing fast. We say: "This is the material condition that afflicts us, therefore we needed it, and we must learn the lessons it came to give". We try to interpret the spiritual significance of this experience. Let us develop our souls by meditation on it. When the soul has acquired this quality or learnt the lesson that it needed to learn, then the Karmic burden is lifted. When people tackle their conditions they do not change until the freedom is won. We think we would be happy if only certain things were changed; but no, the conditions are in ourselves, and would only bring other similar conditions back. When I was working in a nerve clinic we saw this happen over and over again. The same sort of trouble kept recurring in the same life. There was one woman who had been attacked by tramps three or four times in her life. This does not happen to everyone in the ordinary course of things. Or again, a woman may be continually falling under the power of a bully and be treated with cruelty—first a father, then a husband, and then in her work. We see one particular form of trouble recurring again and again in one person's life. There must be something which determines the recurring experience. If we, most of us, look back through our own lives we can see this to some extent at least. There must be some prominent factor in our own make-up which draws from the invisible forces. The only way to deal with these is by changing your character by meditation, by building thought-forms or by deliberately destroying what we call the thought-forms which are the channels of the undesirable things towards you. These are the practical applications of Occultism, and we do not need to be adepts to apply these. We are making thought-forms one way or the other all the time. Our thoughts not only influence us, they form channels of ingress and attract the corresponding forces in the Cosmos itself. If you surround yourself with hate-thoughts, you will be attracting a sort of Cosmic hate to yourself. The occultist has a system of labelling these forces, he works all these things out. We have such a system in the Qabalistic Tree of Life and the beliefs underlying it can be very valuable in life, they teach the tremendous power of mind and the strict limits in which it works, with which we can do so much. These doctrines should leaven thought more and more. The Theosophical Society has done a big work in this way, but its appeal has been chiefly to the unorthodox and the rebel. This is a great loss, because these teachings should be and can be presented in such a way that they do not estrange the trained mind, which in pure science is indispensable. Modern physics is coming completely round to the occult teachings. The things that Blavatsky said and was laughed to scorn for, are now becoming a matter of pure physics. There are great applications of these things which must be made. They should be applied to Sociology, to the administration of the prison and the asylum, where the thought-forms set up reinfect people unless we neutralize them. We can consider its practical applications to medicine, of which it has the only real keys. If you deal with man as body only, it is very unsatisfactory. Equally, if we take the orthodox view and deal with man as a spirit only, we are not doing him justice. Autointoxication and sin are different, Man is a fourfold being, and you must deal with him as such. You must discern on which level the trouble originates. The life forces of the spiritual level are the real keys to the whole problem, and these life-forces are translated through the intellect and the understanding and brought down the planes.
Excerpted from Applied Magic by DION FORTUNE. Copyright © 2000 Samuel Weiser, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC.
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Introduction by Gareth Knight
I. The Occult Way
II. Some Practical Applications of Occultism
III. The Group Mind
IV. The Psychology of Ritual
V. The Circuit of Force
VI. The Three Kinds of Reality
VIII. Black Magic
IX. A Magical Body
X. The Occult Field Today
XI. Esoteric Glossary
The Society of the Inner Light
About the Author
Posted January 13, 2015
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