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The Nature of the Difficulties in Practical Occultism

The Nature of the Difficulties in Practical Occultism
© Photograph by Francesco

It is easy to become a Theosophist and any person of average intellectual capacities, and a leaning toward the metaphysical; of pure, unselfish life, who finds more joy in helping his neighbor than in receiving help himself; one who is ever ready to sacrifice his own pleasures for the sake of other people; and who loves Truth, Goodness and Wisdom for their own sake, not for the benefit they may confer — is a Theosophist. However, it is quite another matter to put oneself upon the path which leads to the knowledge of what is right to do, as to the right discrimination of good from evil; a path which also leads a man to that power through which he can do the good he desires, often without even apparently lifting a finger.

Moreover, there is a critical fact with which the student should be made acquainted. Namely, the enormous, almost limitless, responsibility assumed by the teacher for the sake of the pupil. From the Gurus of the East who teach openly or secretly, down to the few Kabbalists in Western lands who undertake to teach the rudiments of the Sacred Science to their disciples — those western Hierophants being often themselves ignorant of the danger they incur — one and all of these “Teachers” are subject to the same inviolable law. From the moment they begin really to teach, from the instant they confer any power — whether psychic, mental or physical — on their pupils, they take upon themselves all the sins of that pupil, in connection with the Occult Sciences, whether of omission or commission, until the moment when initiation makes the pupil a Master and responsible in his turn. There is a weird and mystic religious law, greatly reverenced and acted upon in the Greek, half-forgotten in the Roman Catholic, and extinct in the Protestant Church. It dates from the earliest days of Christianity and has its basis in the law just stated, of which it was a symbol and an expression. This is the dogma of the absolute sacredness of the relation between the godparents who stand sponsors for a child. These tacitly take upon themselves all the sins of the newly baptised child — (anointed, as at the initiation, a mystery truly!) — until the day when the child becomes a responsible unit, knowing good and evil. Thus it is clear why the “Teachers” are so reticent, and why “Chelas” are required to serve a seven years probation to prove their fitness and develop the qualities necessary to the security of both Master and pupil.

Occultism is not magic, it is comparatively easy to learn the trick of spells and the methods of using the subtler, but still, material, forces of physical nature; the powers of the animal soul in man are soon awakened; the forces which his love, his hate, his passion, can call into operation, are readily developed. However, this is Black Magic — Sorcery. For it is the motive, and the motive alone, which makes any exercise of power become black, malignant, or white, beneficent Magic. It is impossible to employ spiritual forces if there is the slightest tinge of selfishness remaining in the operator. For, unless the intention is entirely unalloyed, the spiritual will transform itself into the psychic, act on the astral plane, and dire results may be produced by it. The powers and forces of animal nature can equally be used by the selfish and revengeful, as by the unselfish and the all-forgiving; the powers and forces of spirit lend themselves only to the perfectly pure in heart — and this is Divine Magic.

What are then the conditions required to become a student of the “Divine Sapientia”? For let it be known that no such instruction can be given unless these certain conditions are complied with, and rigorously carried out during the years of study. This is a “sine qua non.” No man can swim unless he enters deep water. No bird can fly unless its wings are grown, and it has space before it and courage to trust itself to the air. A man who will wield a two-edged sword must be a thorough master of the blunt weapon, if he would not injure himself — or what is worse — others, at the first attempt.

All Western, and especially English, education is instinct with the principle of emulation and strife; each boy is urged to learn more quickly, to outstrip his companions, and to surpass them in every possible way. What is miscalled “friendly rivalry” is assiduously cultivated, and the same spirit is fostered and strengthened in every detail of life?

With such ideas “educated into” him from his childhood, how can a Westerner bring himself to feel towards his co-students “as the fingers on one hand”? That co-students, too, are not of his selection or chosen by himself from personal sympathy and appreciation. They are chosen by his teacher on far other grounds, and he who would be a student must first be strong enough to kill out in his heart all feelings of dislike and antipathy to others. How many Westerners are ready even to attempt this in earnest?

Moreover, then the details of daily life, the command not to touch even the hand of one’s nearest and dearest. How contrary to Western notions of affection and good feeling! How cold and hard it seems. Egotistical too, people would say, to abstain from giving pleasure to others for the sake of one’s development. Well, let those who think so defer, till another lifetime, the attempt to enter the path in real earnest. However, let them not glory in their own fancied unselfishness. For, in reality, it is only the seeming appearances which they allow to deceive them, the conventional notions, based on emotionalism and gush, or so-called courtesy, things of the unreal life, not the dictates of Truth.

But even putting aside these difficulties, which may be considered “external,” though their importance is none the less great, how are students in the West to “attune themselves” to harmony as here required of them? So strong has personality grown in Europe and America, that there is no school of artists even whose members do not hate and are not jealous of each other. “Professional” hatred and envy have become proverbial; men seek each to benefit himself at all costs, and even the so-called courtesies of life are but a hollow mask covering these demons of hatred and jealousy.

In the East, the spirit of “non-separateness” is inculcated as steadily from childhood up, as in the West the spirit of rivalry. Personal ambition, personal feelings and desires, are not encouraged to grow so rampant there. When the soil is naturally right, it is cultivated in the right way, and the child grows into a man in whom the habit of subordination of one’s lower to one’s higher Self is healthy and dominant. In the West, men think that their likes and dislikes of other men and things are guiding principles for them to act upon, even when they do not make of them the law of their lives and seek to impose them upon others.

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