The powers with which occultism invests its adepts include, to begin with, a control over various forces in Nature which ordinary science knows nothing about, and by means of which an adept can hold a conversation with any other adept, whatever intervals on the earth’s surface may lie between them. This psychological telegraphy is wholly independent of all mechanical conditions or appliances whatever. And the clairvoyant faculties of the adept are so perfect and complete that they amount to a species of omniscience as regards mundane affairs. The body is the prison of the soul for ordinary mortals. We can see merely what comes before its windows; we can take cognisance only of what is brought within its bars. But the adept has found the key of his prison and can emerge from it at pleasure. It is no longer a prison for him merely a dwelling. In other words, the adept can project his soul out of his body to any place he pleases with the rapidity of thought.
The whole edifice of occultism from the basement to a roof is so utterly strange to ordinary conceptions that it is difficult to know how to begin an explanation of its contents. How could one describe a calculating machine to an audience unfamiliar with the simplest mechanical contrivances and knowing nothing of arithmetics, and the highly cultured classes of modern Europe, as regards the achievements of occultism, are, in spite of the perfection of their literary scholarship and the exquisite precision of their attainments in their own departments of science, in the position as regards occultism of knowing nothing about the A B C of the subject, nothing about the capacities of the soul at all as distinguished from the capacities of body and soul combined.
The occultists for ages have devoted themselves to that study chiefly; they have accomplished results in connexion with it which are absolutely bewildering in their magnificence; but suddenly introduced to some of these, the prosaic intelligence is staggered and feels in a world of miracle and enchantment.
On charts that show the stream of history, the nations all intermingle more or less, except the Chinese, and that is shown coming down in a single river without affluents and without branches from out of the clouds of time. Suppose that civilized Europe had not come into contact with the Chinese till lately, and suppose that the Chinamen, very much brighter in intelligence than they really are, had developed some branch of physical science to the point it actually has reached with us; suppose that particular branch had been entirely neglected with us, the surprise we should feel at taking up the Chinese discoveries in their refined development without having gradually grown familiar with their small beginnings would be very great. Now, this is exactly the situation as regards occult science. The occultists have been a race apart from an earlier period than we can fathom- not a separate race physically, not a uniform race physically at all, nor a nation in any sense of the word, but a continuous association of men of the highest intelligence linked together by a bond stronger than any other tie of which mankind has experience, and carrying on with a perfect continuity of purpose the studies and traditions and mysteries of self-development handed down to them by their predecessors. All this time the stream of civilization, on the foremost waves of which the culture of modern Europe is floating, has been wholly and absolutely neglectful of the one study with which the occultists have been solely engaged. What wonders that the two lines of civilization have diverged so far apart that their forms are now entirely unlike each other. It remains to be seen whether this attempt to reintroduce the long-estranged cousins will be tolerated or treated as an impudent attempt to pass off an impostor as a relation.
I have said that the occultist can project his soul from his body. As an incidental discovery, it will be observed, he has thus ascertained beyond all shadow of a doubt that he really has got a soul. A comparison of myths has sometimes been called the science of religion. If there can really be a science of religion it must necessarily be occultism. On the surface, perhaps, it may not be obvious that religious truth must necessarily open out more completely to the soul as temporarily loosened from the body, than to the soul as taking cognisance of ideas through the medium of the physical senses. But to ascend into a realm of immateriality, where cognition becomes a process of pure perception while the intellectual faculties are in full play and centred in the immaterial man, must manifestly be conducive to an enlarged comprehension of religious truth.
I have just spoken of the “immaterial man” as distinguished from the body of the physical senses; but, so complex is the statement I have to make, that I must no sooner induce the reader to tolerate the phrase that I must reject it for the future as inaccurate. Occult philosophy has ascertained that the inner ethereal self, which is the man as distinguished from his body, is itself the envelope of something more ethereal still — is itself, in a subtle sense of the term, material.
The majority of civilized people believe that man has a soul which will somehow survive the dissolution of the body, but they have to confess that they do not know very much about it. A good many of the most highly civilized, have grave doubts on the subject, and some think that researchers in physics which have suggested the notion that even though maybe a mode of motion, tend to establish the strong probability of the hypothesis that when the life of the body is destroyed nothing else survives. Occult philosophy does not speculate about the matter at all; it knows the state of the facts.
Saint Paul, who was an occultist, speaks of man as constituted of body, soul, and spirit. The distinction is one that hardly fits in with the theory, that when a man dies his soul is translated to heaven or hell forever. What then becomes of the spirit, and what is the spirit as different from the soul, on the ordinary hypothesis. Orthodox thinkers work out each some theory on the subject for himself. Either that the soul is the seat of the emotions and the spirit of the intellectual faculties, or vice versa. No one can put such conjectures on a solid foundation, not even on the basis of an alleged revelation. But Saint Paul was not indulging in vague fancies when he made use of the expression quoted. The spirit he was referring to may be described as the soul of the soul. With that for the moment we need not be concerned.
The important point which occultism brings out is that the soul of man, while something enormously subtler and more ethereal and more lasting than the body, is itself a material reality. Not material as chemistry understands matter, but as physical science “en bloc” might understand it if the tentacle of each branch of science were to grow more sensitive and were to work more in harmony. It is no denial of the materiality of any hypothetical substance to say that one cannot determine its atomic weight and its affinities. The ether that transmits light is held to be material by anyone who holds it to exist at all, but there is a gulf of difference between it and the thinnest of the gases. You do not always approach a scientific truth from the same direction. You may perceive some directly; you have to infer others indirectly; but these latter may not on that account be the less certain. The materiality of ether is inferable from the behaviour of light: the materiality of the soul may be inferable from its subjection to forces. A mesmeric influence is a force emanating from certain physical characteristics of the mesmerist. It impinges on the soul of the subject at a distance and produces an effect perceptible to him, demonstrable to others. Of course this is an illustration and no proof.
I must set forth as well as I am able — and that can but be very imperfectly-the discoveries of occultism without at first attempting the establishment by proof of each part of these discoveries. Further on, I shall be able to prove some parts at any rate, and others will then be recognised as indirectly established, too.