Groundwork in Practical Occultism
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
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
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:-
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.
What is my true motive in seeking the PATH?
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
I desire to attain to perfection.
this at once suggests another question:
What is Perfection? - and its answer:
Selfconscious union with Universal Being.
How is this union achieved?
By following the Disciple's PATH.
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.
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
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
"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
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.
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
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.