Occultism, Its Past, Present And Future
( Originally Published 1902 )
To many persons the subjects discussed in these lectures may appear preposterous, and therefore those of you who have not studied along meta-physical lines are requested to hold yourselves agnostically until this entire course shall be finished. You do not know whether Occultism is true or not; you are now ready to examine the subject and, after having heard the entire exposition, you will be in a position to judge whether it offers a logical, working hypothesis, and whether it is worthy to receive more of your time and consideration. If it is true it can be demonstrated, for truth is always demonstrable.
You can prove by demonstration each of the fundamental statements that will be made, as you can prove a proposition in mathematics. When I say truth is demonstrable, do not understand me to mean that it is capable of being demonstrated immediately upon hearing it. Everything must unfold. You cannot raise your body on a horizontal bar the first time you try because your muscles are not strong enough; but after your muscles have become strengthened by practice you may be capable of raising your body to any position you desire. So it is with a person who has never used his mind in scientific reasoning or in concentration. He should not flatter himself that he can immediately accomplish what a person who has practiced for many years can do. If you use your mind along the lines indicated in these lectures you will find that there will be a continuous growth for you, and that the time will come when you can do anything that you desire. A very large promise, you may say, but if it is true I assure you it is demonstrable.
Our first subject is "Occultism, Its Past, Present and Future." This is an introductory lecture, giving something of the history of Occult-ism and of the Occultists in order that we may know the source from which our information is derived.
The Century Dictionary gives the definition of Occultism as: "The doctrine, practice or rites of things occult or mysterious; the Occult Sciences or their study; mysticism; esotericism." In the Middle Ages Occult Science or Occultism em-braced primarily what is now known as the physical sciences. It was understood to mean those things which were unknown, but which by experimentation might become known. Chemistry, as a branch of Alchemy, was regarded as one of the Occult Sciences because it was largely unknown, but through investigation and experimentation it constantly became better known. But Occultism also had a secondary meaning which was coupled with the first, namely, mysticism, esotericism. In ancient days people thought it not unwise to attempt the discovery of the unknown through experimentation with the subjective as well as the objective side of nature, and the two meanings, that which pertained to the objective, which was unknown but could be ascertained, and that which pertained to the subjective, which was unknown but could be ascertained, were both included in the term Occultism.
Materialism as it grew in strength called the unknown (which was becoming known on the objective or visible side of life) "Science," but stamped the belief in or the investigation of the subjective side of life as "superstition." And most people became very much afraid of that word, and became afraid of being known as superstitious even more than to be known as ignorant; and such persons preferred to remain ignorant of the Occult. In time the word Occultism grew to mean that which pertained to the subjective— that which pertained to esotericism, and at present it is defined as esotericism.
As you go back in history you will find that esotericism has everywhere played a large part in moulding the thoughts of men. There were always the esoteric and the exoteric religions and sciences. There always has been and there will be for ages yet to come one religion for the masses and another for the students. There have been for a long time, and for some time yet to come there will be two sciences—one for the materialist, diluted for the masses, and another for the students of Occultism. You will find traces of this duality in any religion at any period in history. The Nazarene, the inspired leader of the Christians, after having taught the multitude in parables and having withdrawn to one side, was questioned by His disciples : "Why speakest thou to them in parables?" He answered: "Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given." And afterward He unfolded to His disciples the esoteric side of His teachings, thus giving them truths that were not for the masses. And in all religions, whether it be the Egyptian, Buddhism, or that precursor of the Christian religion—Judaism, there are truths which are revealed only to the student. In Judaism there was the Jehovic teaching for the masses, the Cabalistic for the most secret students, and between these two was a third, the Talmudic, which partook of the nature of both. So the truth reached all grades of society according to the comprehension of each—a plan that was adopted later by the Church of Rome with very great success.
Of course many religionists, especially those calling themselves Christians, will deny that there is any esotericism in their faith. But those who are acquainted with the history of the early Christian Church and the writings of the Fathers, and those who are familiar with the philosophy of The Logos, and the mysticism of Paul as shown in his Epistles, will never attempt to deny it to the educated.
But however violent the denial of esotericism may be by the religionist, it will not exceed in violence the denial of the term "science" to any-thing pertaining to the occult by the majority of the modern physicists ; yet scorn, laughter or denial will not blot from the pages of either sacred or profane history the fact that Magic was and is practiced among all people. The existence of magic necessitates the knowledge of certain laws and forces which are as yet unknown to the materialist, though modern science, having gone almost to the limit of the visible, is now beginning to knock at the door of the Occult Sciences and to pry into the invisible. It is already studying the ether, ions, electrical invisibles, atoms and radiant matter. It is only a few weeks since Flammarion, in one of his articles, said that he was a student of Occultism, and that henceforth all progressive men of science would have to study along that line.
According to the teachings of esotericism Oc-cultism is the science of Divine Unfoldment. The student of Occultism regards Deity as the All; and is taught that there is not nor cannot be any manifestation outside of Deity. Whether we look at a blade of grass, or a drop of water, or upon our planet with its teeming myriads of men and animals, or look away into space at system after system of worlds, all is Deity in various states of manifestation. The Occultist is primarily an evolutionist and says that all evolution is carried on during vast periods of time, which he calls Cosmic Days; that Deity idealizes a picture of what It will accomplish during a Cosmic Day, and then the whole impulse of evolution—which is Divine Energy or Impulse—is onward and upward, striving ever to reach that idealization.
Everything in the universe is an unfoldment of Deity Itself, and Occultism is the science of that Unfoldment. It teaches the laws under which that Unfoldment takes place, not only upon the objective plane of life but also upon the subjective plane. The Occultist finds that where he merely studies the modern sciences he is only studying the sciences of effects, for there is not one of the modern sciences that teaches the cause of phenomena. Take the subject where modern science has perhaps made as much progress as in any other line—embryology. We find there is a germ; it has a form of life; a method of accretion; it reaches a certain point of development; then ask a scientific man what it is going to be, a fish, a bird, a reptile or a man, and he cannot answer. Up to this point the formation of a germ of each kind is identical with the others. But after this point has been reached there is new accretion, a new form is assumed, and the germ may become a bird, a fish, a reptile or a man; but the form that it takes was indelibly stamped upon it from the beginning. How was it stamped? What determines the diverging point, what determines the form of consciousness, the form of expression? In the science of embryology there is no satisfactory answer to be had because here, as you see, is the study of effects. The cause is not looked for, is not found.
The student of Occultism says, I want to know when the ideal which determined all its future growth was stamped upon that germ. I want to know why, when it reached that point, it became a man instead of a bird; why it drew to itself certain elements and threw off others. I want to know the laws that govern the subjective side of life; I want the veil to be torn away, that I may see the cause of form, and not only its effects. This is why he attempts to study first upon the objective side of life and then upon the subjective, or to study them contemporaneously.
As materialistic as was the Nineteenth Century, we find that a few men once more began to turn their thoughts toward the realm of the unknown and unseen in order to discover, if possible, the "why" of existence. And certain scientific men thought it not unreasonable nor undignified to investigate the Occult or to organize The Society for Psychical Research for the purpose of investigating these occult subjects. We have seen the great cult of Spiritualism spreading through the world and have witnessed the revival of Palmistry and of Astrology and other quasi Occult Sciences. Then following these, the crowning effort of all, we find that a great psychic wave swept over the world and man began to realize that he was Mind and as such was neither bound by time nor by space, but could send his thoughts in any given direction and could communicate without words with distant minds ; and that mind could compel matter to obey it. With the awakening of the world the Occult Sciences have again challenged the attention of the most progressive men of the race.
But man grows tired of externals and life after life as he evolves he studies deeper and deeper into Nature's laws. We do not always accomplish the same amount of study in each life because we think we have not the time for study. We believe we have so much, else to do that is of much more importance to us. Then there is the external world with its duties and pleasures and our attention is so deeply engaged with these things that we have no time left for more serious subjects. But in each life we take up as much of the study of these sciences as we have the time and inclination for, and gradually after many ages have passed we become earnest and devoted students.
A knowledge of Occult Law may be gained in two ways, by original research and by teachers. There are courageous souls who choose to progress along the lines of personal experimentation instead of taking the easier and perhaps the better way of gaining a knowledge of its principles through the aid of teachers. These strong souls often make terrible mistakes and unnecessary sacrifices, for, after leaving the objective plane, they come upon the hidden or subjective side where there are forces and agencies that turn to naught man's thought and efforts unless both be properly directed. But even when knowledge has been gained through teachers it does not put an end to experimentation; because the teacher explains the law and leaves the pupil to make his own verification after having been taught how it should be done. The knowledge comes, however, as all real knowledge must, by experimentation and by experience.
Who are the teachers? They may be grouped into three great classes, Masters, Adepts and Students. The Masters of Occultism are those who, in a prior period of Cosmic evolution, passed upward through the human stage until they reached the Divine, and became Gods. When a new Cosmic Day commences, and new planets are formed, and men are brought into existence for the purpose of unfolding more and more of the Deity within themselves and enlarging their consciousness as individualized parts of nature, the Masters are they who lead and teach the evolving race. The Adepts are those advanced men of our race who are students of the Masters, while at the same time they are teachers of their less developed brothers. They are men who have perfected themselves along certain lines, but have not reached perfection along all lines. The Students are they who are studying under these Adepts; they are persons who desire to know the truth, and have devoted themselves to the study of these particular sciences. They hold the same relation to the Adepts as the Adepts hold to the Masters.
There are different grades of Masters because they who finished their evolution upon their system of worlds earlier in the great Cosmic Day are stronger than they who finished later. And so there are grades of Adepts and of Students. We find that there are everywhere grades of intelligence. In other words, that which Huxley speaks of as a scientific necessity is true, and there are intelligences in this Universe as superior to man as man is superior to a black beetle. Take, for instance, a Patagonian or an Australian Bushman, and contrast him with an Emerson. What a vast gulf separates these two intelligences ! Yet both are proceeding upward in their evolutionary career ; the one, of course, being in advance of the other.
And it does not require much scientific imagination to conceive that there is an infinite gradation of intelligence because we see such a diversity everywhere. Then it is only logical to suppose that what is true upon the lower plane of our daily experience is also true throughout nature.
The Masters and Adepts are the custodians of the Occult Sciences, which are perfected sciences, it is claimed, because they cover all departments of nature, both physical and metaphysical, the objective and the subjective.
Now, all the facts and principles of these sciences must be verified by each person as he progresses along his evolutionary path. I may tell you something that may seem absurd to you; or you may say "that sounds reasonable," and therefore you believe it. I may tell you something else, and you say, "I believe that is true because both the intuitive and rational portions of my nature endorse it." But you do not know whether it is true or not. In the first case you have a disbelief, in the next two cases a belief; but before you have a knowledge, you must verify the truth of my assertion. And so it is that every student of Occultism must verify each statement of his teacher in order that he may make it a part of his own being—that he may know that it is true; otherwise it would be only a belief, and beliefs do not amount to much, because there are almost as many beliefs and theories as there are individuals.
In this Cosmic Day Occultism commenced when the Masters came upon this planet to teach mankind. The evolution on this planet is divided into a certain number of periods, and we are at the present time in what the Occultists know as the fifth period. In the first and second periods very little was accomplished by man. He was, as it were, in a new world with new sensations and new experiences, and his life was entirely objective, and largely animal. His theater of activity was that continent known to tradition as "The Land of the Gods," "Mount Muru," "The Imperishable Isles," or what we would prosaically call the "Continent of the North Pole."
During the third period of evolution, man lived upon the continent known as Lemuria—a continent lying in the Pacific Ocean, Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean. Its Northern portion was much in the present location of Australia, the Philippines, and the Islands of the Southern Pacific; all of which constitute the remnants of that continent now sunken beneath the seas. That periods occur in which there is a sinking of certain continents, and a rising of others, is as well known to Physicists as to Occultists. In Lemuria man passed from his lowest state of animal existence into what we may call a more rational or human state. His development during this time is substantially shown in the history of primitive man. Some of the egos, outstripping the others, succeeded in reaching adeptship along certain lines, but the great mass of the people lived sensuous and sensual lives. There was very little spirituality manifested by the race during this period, and the perversion of natural laws and forces became marked toward its close.
The most notable event which occurred on that continent, immediately prior to the cataclysm which swept it beneath the waters, was the establishment of colonies in India. The colonists consisted of Masters, the Adepts and the cream of the race. It was these colonists who built the rock temples of Elephanta and the other great temples of India—those temples in which mysticism seems to have had its earlier home; and where, upon their walls, are painted the strange old symbols, in colors, that indicate the history and the growth of man.
Those were the souls who gave to India its riches in literature and philosophy, and established the mighty empires which even tradition has forgotten. But it was the degenerate descend-ants of these colonists who spread Northward and Westward, and populated first Asia, and later, Europe.
After the continent of Lemuria had passed away, then came the fourth period, with man's field of activity in Atlantis. Atlantis extended from the West Indies to the coast of Central and Northern Africa, as we know from the investigations of the British Government, which spent many years, and large sums of money, in deter-mining the extent of the sunken continent ; and it was here that civilization proceeded with tremendous strides. All the accumulated knowledge of the other periods was stored in the minds of those who had been the Lemurians, and were then incarnating as Atlanteans. As they acquired greater and greater knowledge, they not only reached a point in mechanical development al-most as great as our own, but they also took up the study of Occultism, which became common among the people.
By that time the great Masters had retired from physical contact with men, and the Adepts had taken their places as direct teachers of the people. They moved among men, and were the kings and rulers, the law-givers and inventors; in fact, they were the inspirers of the race up to the time it reached its highest point of development in that period.
Then the continent became divided into five great kingdoms, and in each of these there were lodges of Adepts. At the height of Atlantis' glory, once more the people turned to sensual abandonment, and the Adepts withdrew into Re-treats with their pupils, for the people refused to listen to them, or to be aided by them any longer. In the course of time, materialism swept over that continent, as it has swept over Europe and America; and Occultism was forgotten by the masses, and remembered only by the few; and then, gradually, that which was pure Occultism became perverted, and men began to use their powers criminally. Those who remembered or practiced Occultism, put into operation mental and certain other forces which enslaved all those who had forgotten how to use their own forces, or who were not developed to the same point as themselves. And thus Atlantis became a continent where a few immensely wealthy, powerful and strong egos ruled the majority of the people, and made them their slaves.
But the misuse of Occult forces brought its reaction, as it always does, and, as Plato tells us, Atlantis suddenly became submerged. You re-member that when he went to Egypt he was informed that the last remnants of Atlantis had disappeared about five thousand years prior to his visit; and also that the priests had records of the old continent, as well as of their own country, which extended back thousands of years. These records were kept by the Occultists who were priests in the time of Plato, and are still kept in triplicate; one copy has been placed in each of the three great repositories situated on separate continents.
Before Atlantis went down those of the in-habitants who had preserved their purity and who were trying to lead upright lives, were taken by the Adepts out of the country. Those living in the Western Empires were colonized in Central and South America. In Central America that rare civilization which preceded our own was founded, and was the duplicate in every respect of the one formerly established in India. The degenerate descendants from the Central American civilization emigrated to North and South America and populated them. The degeneracy of these aboriginal Americans was due to the fact that at this time in that Fourth Period the undeveloped souls of the Atlanteans were incarnating in those bodies; for it was with the Atlanteans as it had been with the Lemurians, the strongest souls came first and became the pioneers. They bore the heaviest burdens and thus prepared the way for the less developed souls who had not the strength to do the work that their elder brothers had done. And it should not be forgotten that the history of the Lemurians and the Atlanteans is but the history of ourselves. Our strongest and bravest souls came forward to start the Fifth Period onward in its evolution, as even a cursory reading of general history will disclose, and they have reappeared from time to time to manifest their energies in the several lines of human achievement, in order to teach, help and direct the course of events.
From the Eastern Empires of Atlantis the advanced souls went into Africa and laid the foundation of what is known now as the Egyptian Empire. And this brings us to the Fifth Period, in which Occultism was again taught popularly and openly among the people. A study of Egyptian history reveals that during its entire period there were Occultists—Magicians they were called—who could produce great phenomena. They were teachers of the people and were the priests and law-givers; they were the friends of kings and were consulted whenever there was sickness or national calamity. These teachers were the Adepts who came in contact with the people.
In the Fifth Period, which is the present one, the descendants of the colony which remained in India, having reached the height of its prosperity and development, passed Westward and founded the Assyrian and Babylonian Empires. There again the Adepts moved among men. In both sacred and profane history of those times we find that the Magi were able to cure all manner of diseases and to manipulate the laws of nature. Passing upward from Babylon and Syria to the Mediterranean on the one side and through Egypt to the Mediterranean on the other, we find that the great remnants of the Third and Fourth Periods were merged and blended in the Fifth Period in the Phoenician, the Grecian, the Carthaginian and the Roman peoples.
This is not a statement of occult history in full; but is merely the barest outline in order to show you how Occultism has been presented in the past, and how it has been preserved for us.
At the beginning of this Fifth Period we had a new burst of occult knowledge and force, because all the knowledge acquired in the preceding periods by the egos had been brought over in these later incarnations, and in the early history of each of the Nations mentioned Occultism was taught to the people once more. The Adepts were friends of the people and were freely consulted by them. But gradually as materialism advanced and sensuality became the dominant trait of each of these peoples, the Adepts withdrew again from personal contact with the world—as the great Masters had withdrawn in previous periods of time.
In Greece materialism in its most artistic form began to stamp itself upon the minds of the people, who turned from spiritual teachings and caused the Adepts to withdraw entirely from the world. And it came to pass that all magic or Occultism, for they were identical in those days, was confined to what is known now as temple magic and was practiced by the priests who were students of the Adepts. In various Grecian temples mechanical or ceremonial magic was taught; that is, a knowledge of mental forces united with a knowledge of chemistry and alchemy, by the blending of which great phenomena were produced. Some record of this great knowledge is preserved even in the histories which you have.
Before Occultism in Greece passed away one final attempt was made to counteract materialism, and the Eleusinian Mysteries were founded. In these mysteries the development and evolution of the human soul were taught in symbolic form and the wisest men of that age thought it a privilege to be initiated into these Mysteries. But even this proved unavailing to stem the tide of materialism and therefore the priests ceased to publicly pro-claim or exert their occult powers. Occasionally some enthusiastic student came forward and exhibited his knowledge of the Occult by the performance of a few miracles and marvelous phenomena ; but the people as a whole were too materialistic to be taught anything better or higher than their own gross beliefs and soon such students had to retire from public work.
Then Christianity arose, and its doctrines were received by a great many who, after a brief period of genuine revival of spirituality, used them for political purposes. The different orders of the priesthood became the Occult Bodies within the Christian Church, and up to the Middle Ages the priests in the Church possessed all the knowledge of Occultism that the world had. And the Catholic Church is now the only one that has preserved a trace of this ancient truth. It was during the Middle Ages that the Occultists as a class with-drew from the Church of Rome and formed secret bodies or societies, such as the Rosicrucians, in various parts of the world.
At the present day almost all occult knowledge is possessed and preserved by secret societies; and the members of these societies or bodies only teach such individuals as have reached a point in their evolution which has made them capable of receiving the higher truths. In this way portions of this secret knowledge are given to the world from time to time as the world becomes able to receive them.
The culmination of what is known as the Dark Age, in this period of evolution, came in the nineteenth century, for at that time the world reached its lowest point in materialism, and from now the tendency will continue to be upward toward Spirituality. A few Occultists believe that the time has passed when there is a necessity for guarding these secrets with such jealous gare, and believe that the world is ready to receive more of these truths than formerly. Then, too, many persons are making discoveries along these lines and are ignorantly misusing the forces they are learning to use. So it has been decided to teach the people something about these forces and how they can and should be used, in the hope of averting, if possible, the fate of the Lemurians and Atlanteans.
Almost every day you may see in the news-papers advertisements in which the offer is made to instruct people concerning personal magnetism and how to use it; how to be successful, how to become popular and how to dominate other minds until they become enslaved. The people are awakening and are beginning to feel a great desire to know about these Occult forces; and if they do not use them rightly they will surely use them wrongly.
At the present time various efforts are being made to give the occult teachings to such persons as are fitted to receive them, but they cannot yet be taught in full to the great mass of people; but should only be given to those who desire to know the truth and who wish to ally their forces with those of Nature for the good of others and for benefit to themselves.
Now you are not going to be taught all there is about Occultism in these lectures, but only that particular portion which teaches what the great Universal Mind is; and after that what you are, what your subjective and objective minds are and what occult forces each of these minds reaches and controls. Then you shall be taught how to use these forces for your own upbuilding and for the hastening of your evolution. We shall con-fine ourselves to mental lines, taking fragments of occult history and bringing them together into a small mosaic which will show you your relationship to the Universal Mind and how all humanity is but a manifestation of that great Mind. We shall learn how to build ourselves up along spiritual, mental and material lines, because this knowledge can be used successfully along all three. We all want to succeed in life materially, and most of us want to grow in knowledge and power; and it is through the use of these forces that we accomplish our heart's desire. The time is fast approaching when man must learn to use his mental forces or fail in the great evolutionary struggle—fail for this entire period—not to take the battle up again until some other Cosmic Day shall come. In the course of time all men who survive will become Occultists.