Very few of those who are interested in occultism pause to ask themselves what occultism really is. They may know that the word “occult” means hidden, and that “esoteric,” which is often used as its synonym, means “for the few.” If they put the two together, they may conclude, and rightly, that occult science is really a branch of knowledge which is hidden from the many and reserved for the few.
An immense mass of verbiage has gathered around the Sacred Science since Mme Blavatsky drew back the curtain of the Sanctuary, and the Theosophical Society sought to popularise the ancient Mystery-teaching. Imagination, freed from the bonds of proof, has had free rein, and scoffers have found ample material that was a legitimate game for their comments.
The pseudo-occultism of the present day, with its dubious psychism, wild theorising, and evidence that cannot stand up to the most cursory examination, is but the detritus which accumulates around the base of the Mount of Vision. All such worthless rubbish is not worth the powder and shot of argument; in order to form a just estimate of the Sacred Science, we must study originals, and try to penetrate the minds of the great mystics and Illuminati whose works bear evidence of first-hand knowledge of the supersensible worlds.
Leaving aside all theories and dogmatic teaching, we find a consensus of agreement on certain matters of experience. There are states of consciousness which transcend the normal, and when these states prevail, we can discern forms of existence with which normally we have no contact.
All the seers are agreed on this point and we may take it as being the fundamental experience from which occult science is derived. There are universal traditions concerning superhuman beings who taught occult science to the remote ancestors of the races and founded their civilisation; these statements, how.. ever, being unverifiable according to the accepted rules of evidence, will be put aside for the purpose of the present discussion.
Let us then concede, as we cannot very well deny in the face of the available evidence, that the supernormal faculties of the human mind open up to man a supernatural range of experience. It is the cumulative supernatural experience of the ages, perceived by means of the supernormal faculties sporadically developed in mankind, that forms the subject-matter of occult science and the data for its speculations.
It is the sporadic development of the supernormal faculties; however, that makes evidential proof a difficulty.
Natural science lays its evidence before the five physical senses possessed by every normal human being; occult science makes its appeal to the judgment of senses but rarely to be found developed in human beings. The average man has to base his opinion in occult matters upon circumstantial evidence. Occult science, like classical music, reserves itself for the few whose training and natural gifts enable them to appreciate it. The Philistine is unapproachable because there is no common standpoint from which a start can be made.
In these latter days, however, there is a widespread occurrence of minor degrees of psychism. Many people have had experiences which have set them thinking and asking questions. They have glimpsed something outside the four walls of our everyday life, and they ate no longer contented with the statement that nothing exists save that which we habitually see.
In their quest, they may follow the line of experimental research, as the spiritualists have done; unearthing in the course of their work a vast mass of phenomena of the supersensible states of existence. Alternatively, following another line of advance, they may ask their questions of those who go to tradition for their explanation.
Until one studies the literature of the subject, one is utterly unaware of its extent; it reaches from the oral traditions on the one hand, through the mythologies developed and systematised in the ancient literatures, to the writings of highly trained philosophers whose speculations led them “beyond our bourne of time and space.”
It must, however, always be kept in mind that occultism is more than a philosophy or science: it is a vast range of experience, and it is this body of experience that its speculations seek to systernatise and explain.
We can define occultism as an extension of psychology, for it studies certain little-known aspects of the human mind and the mind side of Nature. Its findings rightly formulated and understood, fit in with what is already established in psychology and natural science. This mutual corroboration must be the test of occult science. There must be no discrepancies between its findings’ and those of natural science upon such points as natural science is in a position to test.
We must no longer content ourselves with wild statements of psychic experiences in proof of which no shadow of independent evidence can be offered. We must realise that if we are dealing with genuine phenomena) they will bear investigation.
In seeking to investigate these little known aspects of the mind, let us remember that they have their technique, and unless we are prepared to observe that technique we will no more obtain accurate results than we should if the object of our study were bacteriology.
Occultism, however, is more than a science to be pursued objectively; it provides also a philosophy of life derived from its experiences, and it is this philosophical, or even religions aspect that attracts most of those who devote their lives to it.
Out of experience of the rare states of consciousness which it studies comes a greatly changed attitude towards revealed religion, for the seeker has now penetrated to the planes whence the revelations come, and for him they have an entirely different significance, and validity. He is no longer dependent upon faith, he has had personal experience. and out of that experience he tends to formulate a religious belief in which he himself aspires to share in the work usually assigned to saints and angels as the ministers and messengers of God.
From time immemorial the training and teaching of specially selected individuals have gone on with that end in view, and the schools dedicated to that work are known as the Mystery Schools.
Experience of the rarer forms of natural phenomena brings the conviction that their influences, in a subtle and little-understood fashion, affect healthy human life very much more than is realised, especially in the spheres of disease and therapeutics.