The Groundwork in Practical Occultism

Many a man has essayed the steep ascent to the Occult Path and has fallen and failed because the ladder used was planted on insecure ground. The Path is in SELF. The ladder by which the Path is reached is in Self. The base upon which it rests is in self. Self-testing is therefore the groundwork of true practical occultism, but it is equally true to say that occultism in any of its degrees is always a testing of SELF in one or other of its aspects.

   Testing for the aspirant who as yet is not even a neophyte begins with self-questioning. From within himself the answers must come, and must be true, for to the extent that they are self-deceiving they become obstacles and snares in the way, making success difficult or impossible. Of their truth, the Learner himself is the sole judge. His guide or teacher, should he have one, will pass no judgment upon him, nor tell him the truth concerning himself, but he will, as I attempt to do in this lesson, strive by explanation, illustration and exhortation to lead him to discover whatever truth is in him.
    Let the aspiring Learner begin by asking himself a series of questions such as those that follow, and strive by the aid of whatever light he can find within himself, or through study of spiritual scriptures, or through consideration of such hints as I give to answer them truly and rightly:-

Question 1.
Do I believe that man is perfectable?

    If the answer should be no, it is evidence of unfitness for any true occult effort, and can mean only that the aspirant is seeking results from the work, in the shape of some sort of satisfaction or aggrandisement for his existing, and most imperfect selfhood. If it should be yes, it then becomes necessary to subject it to close examination to determine what its real nature is.

    The belief required is very different from that which the ordinary religious man declares when he says he "believes" in the dogmas of his Church, merely an unreasoning faith, or a pious hope. To the true aspirant his own inherent perfectability appears as a fact as axiomatic as that the whole is greater than any of its parts; if not, let him ask himself towards what end does he work.

Question 2.
What is my true motive in seeking the PATH?

 In the East this question is always the first the would-be disciple is required to answer, though not always is it formulated in words, nor is the answer required in words, but rather in being. Here to help the Learner it is placed second, since the first propounded leads towards the right answer, which is not, however, the one which first springs to mind, namely:-

    I desire to attain to perfection.

    But this at once suggests another question:

Question 3.
What is Perfection? -
and its answer:
Selfconscious union with Universal Being.

Question 4.
How is this union achieved?

By following the Disciple's PATH.

Question 5.
What is the PATH?

    The Learner may perhaps attempt to answer this question, but unless his philosophic understanding is unusually deep he will fail to do so with any correctness. The true meaning of this constantly used term the PATH is but very rarely understood.

    The Path is the EVERBECOMING of Universal or Noumenal BEING.

   This BEING (the unmanifest Logos of Greek philosophy) exists eternally in each and every one, and all of its infinitude of aspects. Noumenally each is its own essential, or ultimate self, but regarded in another way it is, exactly equally, BEING. Hence BEING, The Everexisting, exists in Ever- becomingness, its aspects eternally becoming itself. H. P. Blavatsky in "The Secret Doctrine" calls this noumenal Everbecoming, Absolute abstract MOTION.

  As a conception the foregoing is doubtless very difficult, but it will repay the student to get some measure of understanding of it, for upon it as a philosophic basis rests the whole fabric of true, Practical Occultism. Absolute abstract MOTION, or noumenal Everbecoming manifests in the phenomenal worlds in incessant change, in the infinite gradations of being in all that we know as growth, or evolution; all these are aspects of BEING becoming itself, as perceived by the limited and imperfect consciousness now used by man. Outside the Everbecoming, therefore, or in any opposition to its law (which is itself) there can be no true growth or progress.

   The importance of grasping what I attempt to convey in the two preceding paragraphs is, for the typical Western aspirant, very great, for it gives him a logical philosophic basis, satisfactory to the reason, for the practical efforts which will later be required of him as a true neophyte, or disciple. Of the Oriental, and of a few natural mystics in the West, this is less true, for they have an instinctive, or intuitive appreciation of universal law which the typical Western student has not, and which he has to acquire by intellectual effort.

  The PATH is, then, universal becoming, and all the life of unselfconscious nature moves upon it - more accurately, is the phenomenal manifestation of it. From it man alone of all creatures is a wanderer, for with his attainment of selfconsciousness he made, and continues to make the little spark he knows as self the goal of his becoming, instead of the infinite flame of Everexisting BEING, in which, only, perfect selfhood can be found. The task that confronts him, now true aspiration has begun to stir within him, is to struggle back into the PATH, and that means, as has been shown, to make himself once more an integral part of the Everbecoming, but this time with clear consciousness.

   To be upon the PATH in any real sense is to be already in union with Universal BEING in its one absolute attribute of Everbecoming, and this understanding leads back to the true answer which the question, "What is my true motive in seeking the PATH"? demands. The motive must be desire for the PATH itself - desire ìíto be ìíthe PATH. It is clear that to be the PATH means to have surrendered self absolutely to the law of BEING and, therefore (and this is a most wholesome thing) it reveals to the aspirant that, as he now stands, the true PATH lies far above him, and beyond his reach and sight, and that if he is ever to attain it, he must begin upon and within the ground and conditions that surround him.

  The work he does there must correspond in nature to the activities which constitute the PATH, for, as the ancient Hermetic aphorism says:

  "As it is above, so it is below: there is but one Life and Law."

   At the very outset let the aspirant examine himself to make sure that he has at command the form of energy needed to do the work he thinks to do. Noumenal Energy, that element which links abstract Consciousness with abstract Substance, and in interaction with them forms BEING, is manifest in an infinite series of aspects in the phenomenal world. Let the Learner enquire which of these it is which links consciousness steadfastly with any subject of object, and holds it there to the exclusion of all other subjects or objects. The answer is easy: it is interest - concentrated desire. Powerful and sustained interest in the actual work, or activities that constitute becoming, or lead towards it is the form of energy, or motive power which the aspirant must possess, or which he must strive to cultivate, for without it he cannot advance. He may learn what to do and may do it, but if his interest is centred in results and not in the work he is not moving towards the PATH, but wandering as almost all men do in bypaths, now far more mazy than those he followed of old. This is a serious warning to all would-be occultists which they should take to heart.

  At this point many questions will arise, some of which may be answered by a teacher, or a more experienced learner; but for the most part must be resolved by the aspirant himself. In seeking such answers, though to the ordinary mind it means delay, or stagnation, he is actually doing an enormously important work, for he is calling into conscious activity a higher Self which observes and questions, and in due time will come to direct the lower, acting, and outwardly manifesting self, or selves. When once the process is begun it tends to produce, and to be its own interest, for it opens up a view of life which is no longer that of the self involved in the activities which constitute earthly life, and gives a hitherto unsuspected insight into the nature of others. But it also means entry into a strait and perilous way wherein every step is accompanied by dangers unknown to the world of common man, which if not recognized and rightly encountered will check the Learner's progress, or even throw him back to begin all over again. To indicate all of these that may threaten is wholly impossible, but a few of the most common may be pointed out.

   The first detached, uninterrupted view which a Higher, watching Self achieves of the lower, manifesting selfhood inevitably invites attack upon it, and the attack comes from either the particular aspect of self now under observation, or from others of its very numerous kindred which lurk unseen.

   It usually manifests in some such way as this:

  For a brief moment the observing Self stands free, and sees clearly to what unprofitable ends an aspect of lower - that is personal - selfhood is tending; then the attack comes, and a host of excuses for the delinquent self fill the field of consciousness, each masquerading, or attempting to masquerade as the vanquished Higher Self. When once the attack is recognized for what it is, the observing Self can again withdraw without too severe a struggle, and resume its study of the masqueraders, but in doing this the Learner should be on guard against two more subtle dangers: first, that of regarding with abhorrence and condemnation any aspect of his lower, acting selfhood, for to do so is to identify himself with it and to lose the momentary freedom he has had.

   The lower selfhood is not evil in itself. It is a misleader if it rules the being, but as an obedient servant to the Higher Self it is good and useful in its own place. If watched and studied without condemnation, approval, or excuse and the ends to which it would move the being marked, it will help the Self to higher and wider vision still, for the energy it manifests is taken up and transmuted to serve its Master.

   The second danger, yet more subtle, is that of pride in the freedom and vision achieved. The watching, directing Self of the moment which has a momentary freedom, is not, and will not be until progress is far advanced the true Higher Self which is of a deep inner Being, wholly beyond personal, human selfhood. The watching self of the moment is, as is seen by its susceptibility to attack, simply a higher aspect of personal selfhood, but it is, nevertheless, for the Learner in his world, the witness and symbol of that true Higher Self which may one day become known. As such it is a step inward, or upward, nothing more. To feel pride in it is to fall into worship of it, which is the way of common man, but the fall is now more steep and deep.

   To guard against pride in Self, attend to the advice given by a Teacher of old:

"Examine the examiner,
watch the watcher,
judge the judge."

  The Self which surveys a lesser self should instantly be made the subject of surveillance by another higher, or more detached, and that by another, and so on. This process is the very essence of true practical occultism, a constant inward retreat which gives a constant view of and a constant command of the legions of the lower selfhood which manifest in the myriad activities, objective and subjective, constituting what is known as personality, or character. When really established it means being upon the PATH, moving as an integral part of Everbecoming BEING, to the extent to which this is possible in our human phase. The union is there if the work described is done unfalteringly, but what the disciple's consciousness comprehends is not itself the ultimate union, perfection, Nirvana, but the witness, or the symbol of it. The Higher, watching Self, for the moment that it subsists, is the symbol of free, Everliving BEING, but as it changes into a higher still, and itself becomes the subject of surveillance it is the symbol of Everbecoming.

  The groundwork in practical occultism consists of a steady, patient effort to establish as a habit of being the process indicated. All more advanced activities which fall under the heading of occultism, even up to the use of magic and the rousing of powers, are all instruments to the same end, though "end" is a word unfitted for application to an activity which has no end. Does Nirvana mean an end? It would be presumptuous for one who is hardly a disciple to attempt to say what Nirvana may be, but I cannot conceive it as an end of activity. H.P. Blavatsky says: "That which is motionless cannot be Divine". If anything may be postulated of Nirvana it is as a state in which subsist together as one an absolute selfconsciousness of Everliving and of Everbecoming BEING.

  The more abstruse aspects of the philosophy of occultism very often prove a snare, and I incline to deprecate its study, unless as I strive to show, its practical implications can be perceived and acted upon. Neither should I place any value and reliance on philosophic hypotheses, unless there is some practical way, such as that which I suggest, that when diligently followed tends towards demonstration of their truth.

   On more everyday levels the value of self-watchfulness of the kind described can easily be proved. I have said that it consists in itself in the establishment of a habit of being. It is consequently the most effective - indeed the one truly effective means of overcoming and dissipating those numerous hampering aspects of the lower selfhood which we call bad or idle habits.

   Psychologists, and many who call themselves occultists teach as the best means of overcoming a bad habit the substitution of a good one. The principle is correct, but the advice begs the question, what is a good habit? The ordinary individual, or the tyro in occultism cannot judge what is good. In cultivating what he thinks is a good habit to displace one he thinks bad he is usually but exchanging one taskmaster for another. The man who breaks the cigarette habit by substituting that of gumchewing or candy-eating, may possibly, but not certainly gain in physical health; but from the occult point of view is as securely bound to an aspect of his sense nature as ever. But the establishment of the habit of self-watchfulness will restore the being to its true balance, with the result that vitality is withdrawn from all those minor forms of outer activity, and from activities of the less deep aspects of the subjective nature, manifesting in unprofitable habits, desires, impulses and thoughts, and they will consequently gradually wither away and disappear.

  The desire for results in the shape of increased knowledge or power is one of the giants in the path of the beginner in occultism. How to overcome it is an everpresent problem. Interest centred in self-watchfulness is a certain means to victory. The work itself is interest provoking, and is its own result and reward.

   The views above expressed do, perhaps, small justice to the subject, for they are vague and sketchy in the extreme. In leaving them thus, however, I act with intention. Enough has been said, I think, to stir some interest in the mind of any serious student, and my hope is that this interest may lead some to renewed study with a fresh outlook. I recognize also the possibility that criticism from certain quarters will be roused against certain of my ideas. I hope that this is no more than a bare possibility, for where so much is left so vague the chances are that the critic may be but smiting shadow, not realities.

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