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H P B : Occultism vs the Occult Arts

Feb 20, 2002 06:01 AM
by dalval14

Wednesday, February 20, 2002

RE: H P B == Occultism Vs. The Occult Arts

This most important article that distinguishes between Spiritual
Occultism and the many kinds of "occult arts and magics" was
published by H P B in "Lucifer," for May, 1888.

It gives warnings and makes it clear how important the moral (and
ethical) power of an individual is involved in such

Best wishes,




I oft have heard, but ne'er believed till now,
There are, who can by potent spells
Bend to their crooked purpose Nature's laws.

In this month's "Correspondence" several letters testify to the
strong impression produced on some minds by our last month's
article "Practical Occultism." Such letters go far to prove and
strengthen two logical conclusions.

(a) There are more well-educated and thoughtful men who believe
in the existence of Occultism and Magic (the two differing
vastly) than the modern materialist dreams of; and--

(b) That most of the believers (comprising many theosophists)
have no definite idea of the nature of Occultism and confuse it
with the Occult sciences in general, the "Black art" included.

Their representations of the powers it confers upon man, and of
the means to be used to acquire them are as varied as they are

Some imagine that a master in the art, to show the way, is all
that is needed to become a Zanoni. Others, that one has but to
cross the Canal of Suez and go to India to bloom forth as a Roger
Bacon or even a Count St. Germain. Many take for their ideal
Margrave with his ever-renewing youth, and care little for the
soul as the price paid for it. Not a few, mistaking
"Witch-of-Endorism" pure and simple, for Occultism--"through the
yawning Earth from Stygian gloom, call up the meagre ghost to
walks of light," and want, on the strength of this feat, to be
regarded as full blown Adepts.

"Ceremonial Magic" according to the rules mockingly laid down by
Eliphas Levi, is another imagined alter-ego of the philosophy of
the Arhats of old. In short, the prisms through which Occultism
appears, to those innocent of the philosophy, are as multicolored
and varied as human fancy can make them.

Will these candidates to Wisdom and Power feel very indignant if
told the plain truth? It is not only useful, but it has now
become necessary to disabuse most of them and before it is too
late. This truth may be said in a few words: There are not in the
West half-a dozen among the fervent hundreds who call themselves
"Occultists," who have even an approximately correct idea of the
nature of the Science they seek to master. With a few exceptions,
they are all on the highway to Sorcery.

Let them restore some order in the chaos that reigns in their
minds, before they protest against this statement. Let them first
learn the true relation in which the Occult Sciences stand to
Occultism, and the difference between the two, and then feel
wrathful if they still think themselves right. Meanwhile, let
them learn that Occultism differs from Magic and other secret
Sciences as the glorious sun does from a rush-light, as the
immutable and immortal Spirit of Man reflection of the absolute,
causeless and unknowable ALL--differs from the mortal clay--the
human body.

In our highly civilized West, where modern languages have been
formed, and words coined, in the wake of ideas and thoughts--as
happened with every tongue--the more the latter became
materialized in the cold atmosphere of Western selfishness and
its incessant chase after the goods of this world, the less was
there any need felt for the production of new terms to express
that which was tacitly regarded as absolute and exploded

Such words could answer only to ideas which a cultured man was
scarcely supposed to harbor in his mind. "Magic," a synonym for
jugglery; "Sorcery," an equivalent for crass ignorance; and
"Occultism," the sorry relic of crack-brained, mediæval
Fire-philosophers, of the Jacob Boehmes and the St. Martins, are
expressions believed more than amply sufficient to cover the
whole field of "thimble-rigging." They are terms of contempt, and
used generally only in reference to the dross and residues of the
dark ages and its preceding æons of paganism.

Therefore have we no terms in the English tongue to define and
shade the difference between such abnormal powers, or the
sciences that lead to the acquisition of them, with the nicety
possible in the Eastern languages--pre-eminently the Sanskrit.
What do the words "miracle" and "enchantment" (words identical in
meaning after all, as both express the idea of producing
wonderful things by breaking the laws of nature (!!) as explained
by the accepted authorities) convey to the minds of those who
hear, or who pronounce them?

A Christian--breaking "of the laws of nature,"
notwithstanding--while believing firmly in the miracles, because
said to have been produced by God through Moses, will either
scout the enchantments performed by Pharaoh's magicians, or
attribute them to the devil. It is the latter whom our pious
enemies connect with Occultism, while their impious foes, the
infidels, laugh at Moses, Magicians, and Occultists, and would
blush to give one serious thought to such "superstitions." This,
because there is no term in existence to show the difference; no
words to express the lights and shadows and draw the line of
demarcation between the sublime and the true, the absurd and the
ridiculous. The latter are the theological interpretations which
teach the "breaking of the laws of Nature" by man, God, or devil;
the former--the scientific "miracles" and enchantments of Moses
and the Magicians in accordance with natural laws, both having
been learned in all the Wisdom of the Sanctuaries, which were the
"Royal Societies" of those days--and in true OCCULTISM. This last
word is certainly misleading, translated as it stands from the
compound word Gupta-Vidya, "Secret Knowledge." But the knowledge
of what? Some of the Sanskrit terms may help us.

There are four (out of the many other) names of the various kinds
of Esoteric Knowledge or Sciences given, even in the esoteric
Purânas. There is

(1) Yajna-Vidya, knowledge of the occult powers awakened in
Nature by the performance of certain religious ceremonies and
Footnote: "The Yajna," say the Brahmans, "exists from
eternity, for it proceeded forth from the Supreme One. . . in
whom it lay dormant from 'no beginning.' It is the key to
Traividya, the thrice sacred science contained in the Rig verses,
which teaches the Yagus or sacrificial mysteries. 'The Yajna'
exists as an invisible thing at all times; it is like the latent
power of electricity in an electrifying machine, requiring only
the operation of a suitable apparatus in order to be elicited. It
is supposed to extend from the Ahavaniya or sacrificial fire to
the heavens, forming a bridge or ladder by means of which the
sacrificer can communicate with the world of gods and spirits,
and even ascend when alive to their abodes."-- Martin Hauge's
Aitareya Brahmana.

"This Yajna is again one of the forms of the Akasa; and the
mystic word calling it into existence and pronounced mentally by
the initiated Priest is the Lost Word receiving impulse through
WILL-POWER." Isis Unveiled, Vol. I, Intr. See: Aitareya
Brahmana, Hauge.

(2) Maha-vidya, the "great knowledge," the magic of the Kabalists
and of the Tantrika worship, often Sorcery of the worst

(3) Guhya-Vidya, knowledge of the mystic powers residing in Sound
(Ether), hence in the Mantras (chanted prayers or incantations)
and depending on the rhythm and melody used; in other words a
magical performance based on Knowledge of the Forces of Nature
and their correlation; and

(4) ATMA-VIDYA, a term which is translated simply "knowledge of
the Soul," true Wisdom by the Orientalists, but which means far
more. [ see S D I 168-9 ]

This last is the only kind of Occultism that any theosophist who
admires Light on the Path, and who would be wise and unselfish,
ought to strive after. All the rest is some branch of the "Occult
Sciences," i.e., arts based on the knowledge of the ultimate
essence of all things in the Kingdoms of Nature--such as
minerals, plants and animals--hence of things pertaining to the
realm of material nature, however invisible that essence may be,
and howsoever much it has hitherto eluded the grasp of Science.
Alchemy, Astrology, Occult Physiology, Chiromancy, exist in
Nature and the exact Sciences--perhaps so called, because they
are found in this age of paradoxical philosophies the
reverse--have already discovered not a few of the secrets of the
above arts. But clairvoyance, symbolised in India as the "Eye of
Siva," called in Japan, "Infinite Vision," is not Hypnotism, the
illegitimate son of Mesmerism, and is not to be acquired by such

All the others may be mastered and results obtained, whether
good, bad or indifferent; but Atma-Vidya sets small value on
them. It includes them all and may even use them occasionally,
but it does so after purifying them of their dross, for
beneficent purposes, and taking care to deprive them of every
element of selfish motive.

Let us explain: Any man or woman can set himself or herself to
study one or all of the above specified "Occult Arts" without any
great previous preparation, and even without adopting any too
restraining mode of life. One could even dispense with any lofty
standard of morality. In the last case, of course, ten to one the
student would blossom into a very decent kind of sorcerer, and
tumble down headlong into black magic. But what can this matter?
The Voodoos and the Dugpas eat, drink and are merry over
hecatombs of victims of their infernal arts. And so do the
amiable gentlemen vivisectionists and the diplomaed "Hypnotizers"
of the Faculties of Medicine; the only difference between the two
classes being that the Voodoos and Dugpas are conscious, and the
Charcot-Richet crew unconscious, Sorcerers.

Thus, since both have to reap the fruits of their labours and
achievements in the black art, the Western practitioners should
not have the punishment and reputation without the profits and
enjoyments they may get therefrom. For we say it again, hypnotism
and vivisection as practiced in such schools, are Sorcery pure
and simple, minus a knowledge that the Voodoos and Dugpas enjoy,
and which no Charcot-Richet can procure for himself in fifty
years of hard study and experimental observation. Let then those
who will dabble in magic, whether they understand its nature or
not, but who find the rules imposed upon students too hard, and
who, therefore lay Atma-Vidya or Occultism aside--go without it.
Let them become magicians by all means, even though they do
become Voodoos and Dugpas for the next ten incarnations.

But the interest of our readers will probably centre on those who
are invincibly attracted towards the "Occult," yet who neither
realise the true nature of what they aspire towards, nor have
they become passion-proof, far less truly unselfish.

How about these unfortunates, we shall be asked, who are thus
rent in twain by conflicting forces? For it has been said too
often to need repetition, and the fact itself is patent to any
observer, that when once the desire for Occultism has really
awakened in a man's heart, there remains for him no hope of
peace, no place of rest and comfort in all the world. He is
driven out into the wild and desolate spaces of life by an
ever-gnawing unrest he cannot quell. His heart is too full of
passion and selfish desire to permit him to pass the Golden Gate;
he cannot find rest or peace in ordinary life. Must he then
inevitably fall into sorcery and black magic, and through many
incarnations heap up for himself a terrible Karma? Is there no
other road for him?

Indeed there is, we answer. Let him aspire to no higher than he
feels able to accomplish. Let him not take a burden upon himself
too heavy for him to carry. Without ever becoming a "Mahatma," a
Buddha or a Great Saint, let him study the philosophy and the
"Science of Soul," and he can become one of the modest
benefactors of humanity, without any superhuman powers.

Siddhis (or the Arhat powers) are only for those who are able to
"lead the life," to comply with the terrible sacrifices required
for such a training, and to comply with them to the very letter.
Let them know at once and remember always, that true Occultism or
Theosophy is the "Great Renunciation of SELF," unconditionally
and absolutely, in thought as in action. It is ALTRUISM, and it
throws him who practices it out of calculation of the ranks of
the living altogether. "Not for himself, but for the world, he
lives," as soon as he has pledged himself to the work.

Much is forgiven during the first years of probation. But, no
sooner is he "accepted" than his personality must disappear, and
he has to become a mere beneficent force in Nature. There are two
poles for him after that, two paths, and no midward place of
rest. He has either to ascend laboriously, step by step, often
through numerous incarnations and no Devachanic break, the golden
ladder leading to Mahatmaship (the Arhat or Bodhisatva
condition), or--he will let himself slide down the ladder at the
first false step, and roll down into Dugpaship. . . .

All this is either unknown or left out of sight altogether.
Indeed, one who is able to follow the silent evolution of the
preliminary aspirations of the candidates, often finds strange
ideas quietly taking possession of their minds. There are those
whose reasoning powers have been so distorted by foreign
influences that they imagine that animal passions can be so
sublimated and elevated that their fury, force, and fire can, so
to speak, be turned inwards; that they can be stored and shut up
in one's breast, until their energy is, not expanded, but turned
toward higher and more holy purposes: namely, until their
collective and unexpanded strength enables their possessor to
enter the true Sanctuary of the Soul and stand therein in the
presence of the Master--the HIGHER SELF! For this purpose they
will not struggle with their passions nor slay them. They will
simply, by a strong effort of will put down the fierce flames and
keep them at bay within their natures, allowing the fire to
smolder under a thin layer of ashes. They submit joyfully to the
torture of the Spartan boy who allowed the fox to devour his
entrails rather than part with it. Oh, poor blind visionaries!

As well hope that a band of drunken chimney-sweeps, hot and
greasy from their work, may be shut up in a Sanctuary hung with
pure white linen, and that instead of soiling and turning it by
their presence into a heap of dirty shreds, they will become
masters in and of the sacred recess, and finally emerge from it
as immaculate as that recess. Why not imagine that a dozen of
skunks imprisoned in the pure atmosphere of a Dgon-pa (a
monastery) can issue out of it impregnated with all the perfumes
of the incenses used? . . . .

Strange aberration of the human mind. Can it be so? Let us argue.

The "Master" in the Sanctuary of our souls is "the Higher
Self"--the divine spirit whose consciousness is based upon and
derived solely (at any rate during the mortal life of the man in
whom it is captive) from the Mind, which we have agreed to call
the Human Soul (the "Spiritual Soul" being the vehicle of the
Spirit). In its turn the former (the personal or human soul) is a
compound in its highest form, of spiritual aspirations, volition,
and divine love; and in its lower aspect, of animal desires and
terrestrial passions imparted to it by its associations with its
vehicle, the seat of all these [Kama]. It thus stands as a link
and a medium between the animal nature of man which its higher
reason seeks to subdue, and his divine spiritual nature to which
it gravitates, whenever it has the upper hand in its struggle
with the inner animal. The latter is the instinctual "animal
Soul" and is the hotbed of those passions, which, as just shown,
are lulled instead of being killed, and locked up in their
breasts by some imprudent enthusiasts. Do they still hope to turn
thereby the muddy stream of the animal sewer into the crystalline
waters of life? And where, on what neutral ground can they be
imprisoned so as not to affect man? The fierce passions of love
and lust are still alive and they are allowed to still remain in
the place of their birth--that same animal soul; for both the
higher and the lower portions of the "Human Soul" or Mind reject
such inmates, though they cannot avoid being tainted with them as
neighbours. The "Higher Self" or Spirit is as unable to
assimilate such feelings as water to get mixed with oil or
unclean liquid tallow.

It is thus the mind alone, the sole link and medium between the
man of earth and the Higher Self--that is the only sufferer, and
which is in the incessant danger of being dragged down by those
passions that may be re-awakened at any moment, and perish in the
abyss of matter. And how can it ever attune itself to the divine
harmony of the highest Principle, when that harmony is destroyed
by the mere presence, within the Sanctuary in preparation, of
such animal passions? How can harmony prevail and conquer, when
the soul is stained and distracted with the turmoil of passions
and the terrestrial desires of the bodily senses, or even of the
"Astral man"?

For this "Astral"--the shadowy "double" (in the animal as in man)
is not the companion of the divine Ego but of the earthly body.
It is the link between the personal SELF, the lower consciousness
of Manas and the Body, and is the vehicle of transitory, not of
immortal life. Like the shadow projected by man, it follows his
movements and impulses slavishly and mechanically, and leans
therefore to matter without ever ascending to Spirit.

It is only when the power of the passions is dead altogether, and
when they have been crushed and annihilated in the retort of an
unflinching will; when not only all the lusts and longings of the
flesh are dead, but also the recognition of the personal Self is
killed out and the "astral" has been reduced in consequence to a
cipher, that the Union with the "Higher Self" can take place.
Then when the "Astral" reflects only the conquered man, the still
living but no more the longing, selfish personality, then the
brilliant Augoeides, the divine SELF, can vibrate in conscious
harmony with both the poles of the human Entity--the man of
matter purified, and the ever pure Spiritual Soul--and stand in
the presence of the MASTER SELF, the Christos of the mystic
Gnostic, blended, merged into, and one with IT forever.

Footnote: Those who would feel inclined to see three Egos in
one man will show themselves unable to perceive the metaphysical
meaning. Man is a trinity composed of Body, Soul and Spirit; but
man is nevertheless one, and is surely not his body. It is the
latter which is the property, the transitory clothing of the man.
The three "Egos" are MAN in his three aspects on the astral,
intellectual or psychic, and the Spiritual planes, or states.

How then can it be thought possible for a man to enter the
"straight gate" of occultism when his daily and hourly thoughts
are bound up with worldly things, desires of possession and
power, with lust, ambition and duties, which, however honorable,
are still of the earth earthy? Even the love for wife and
family--the purest as the most unselfish of human affections--is
a barrier to real occultism. For whether we take as an example
the holy love of a mother for her child, or that of a husband for
his wife, even in these feelings, when analyzed to the very
bottom, and thoroughly sifted, there is still selfishness in the
first, and an égoisme à deux in the second instance. What mother
would not sacrifice without a moment's hesitation hundreds of
thousands of lives for that of the child of her heart? And what
lover or true husband would not break the happiness of every
other man and woman around him to satisfy the desire of one whom
he loves? This is but natural, we shall be told.

Quite so; in the light of the code of human affections; less so,
in that of divine universal love. For, while the heart is full of
thoughts for a little group of selves, near and dear to us, how
shall the rest of mankind fare in our souls? What percentage of
love and care will there remain to bestow on the "great orphan"?
And how shall the "still small voice" make itself heard in a soul
entirely occupied with its own privileged tenants? What room is
there left for the needs of Humanity en bloc to impress
themselves upon, or even receive a speedy response?

And yet he who would profit by the wisdom of the universal mind,
has to reach it through the whole of Humanity without distinction
of race, complexion, religion or social status. It is altruism,
not ego-ism even in its most legal and noble conception, that can
lead the unit to merge its little Self in the Universal Selves.
It is to these needs and to this work that the true disciple of
true Occultism has to devote himself, if he would obtain
theo-sophy, divine Wisdom and Knowledge.

The aspirant has to choose absolutely between the life of the
world and the life of Occultism. It is useless and vain to
endeavour to unite the two, for no one can serve two masters and
satisfy both. No one can serve his body and the higher Soul, and
do his family duty and his universal duty, without depriving
either one or the other of its rights; for he will either lend
his ear to the "still small voice" and fail to hear the cries of
his little ones, or, he will listen but to the wants of the
latter and remain deaf to the voice of Humanity. It would be a
ceaseless, a maddening struggle for almost any married man, who
would pursue true practical Occultism, instead of its theoretical
philosophy. For he would find himself ever hesitating between the
voice of the impersonal divine love of Humanity, and that of the
personal, terrestrial love. And this could only lead him to fail
in one or the other, or perhaps in both his duties. Worse than
this. For, whoever indulges after having pledged himself to
OCCULTISM in the gratification of a terrestrial love or lust,
must feel an almost immediate result; that of being irresistibly
dragged from the impersonal divine state down to the lower plane
of matter.

Sensual, or even mental self-gratification, involves the
immediate loss of the powers of spiritual discernment; the voice
of the MASTER can no longer be distinguished from that of one's
passions or even that of a Dugpa; the right from wrong; sound
morality from mere casuistry. The Dead Sea fruit assumes the most
glorious mystic appearance, only to turn to ashes on the lips,
and to gall in the heart resulting in:--

Depth ever deepening,
darkness darkening still;
Folly for wisdom, guilt for innocence;
Anguish for rapture, and for hope despair.

And once being mistaken and having acted on their mistakes, most
men shrink from realizing their error, and thus descend deeper
and deeper into the mire. And, although it is the intention that
decides primarily whether white or black magic is exercised, yet
the results even of involuntary, unconscious sorcery cannot fail
to be productive of bad Karma.

Enough has been said to show that sorcery is any kind of evil
influence exercised upon other persons, who suffer, or make other
persons suffer, in consequence. Karma is a heavy stone splashed
in the quiet waters of Life; and it must produce ever widening
circles of ripples, carried wider and wider, almost ad infinitum.
Such causes produced have to call forth effects, and these are
evidenced in the just laws of Retribution.

Much of this may be avoided if people will only abstain from
rushing into practices neither the nature nor importance of which
they understand. No one is expected to carry a burden beyond his
strength and powers.

There are "natural-born magicians"; Mystics and Occultists by
birth, and by right of direct inheritance from a series of
incarnations and æons of suffering and failures. These are
passion-proof, so to say. No fires of earthly origin can fan into
a flame any of their senses or desires; no human voice can find
response in their souls, except the great cry of Humanity. These
only may be certain of success. But they can be met only far and
wide, and they pass through the narrow gates of Occultism because
they carry no personal luggage of human transitory sentiments
along with them. They have got rid of the feeling of the lower
personality, paralyzed thereby the "astral" animal, and the
golden, but narrow gate is thrown open before them.

Not so with those who have to carry yet for several incarnations
the burden of sins committed in previous lives, and even in their
present existence. For such, unless they proceed with great
caution, the golden gate of Wisdom may get transformed into the
wide gate and the broad way "that leadeth unto destruction," and
therefore "many be they that enter in thereby." This is the Gate
of the Occult arts, practised for selfish motives and in the
absence of the restraining and beneficent influence of

We are in the Kali Yuga and its fatal influence is a
thousand-fold more powerful in the West than it is in the East;
hence the easy preys made by the Powers of the Age of Darkness in
this cyclic struggle, and the many delusions under which the
world is now labouring. One of these is the relative facility
with which men fancy they can get at the "Gate" and cross the
threshold of Occultism without any great sacrifice. It is the
dream of most Theosophists, one inspired by desire for Power and
personal selfishness, and it is not such feelings that can ever
lead them to the coveted goal. For, as well said by one believed
to have sacrificed himself for Humanity--"narrow is the gate and
straightened the way that leadeth unto life" eternal, and
therefore "few be they that find it." So straight indeed, that at
the bare mention of some of the preliminary difficulties the
affrighted Western candidates turn back and retreat with a
shudder. . . .

Let them stop here and attempt no more in their great weakness.
For if, while turning their backs on the narrow gate, they are
dragged by their desire for the Occult one step in the direction
of the broad and more inviting Gates of that golden mystery which
glitters in the light of illusion, woe to them! It can lead only
to Dugpa-ship, and they will be sure to find themselves very soon
landed on that Via Fatale of the Inferno, over whose portal Dante
read the words:--

Per me si va nella
citta dolente
Per me si va nell'eterno dolore
Per me si va tra la perduta gente. . . . .


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