THEOSOPHY, Vol. 46, No. 2, December, 1957
(Pages 71-74; Size: 12K)

CAN WE BE
PRACTICAL OCCULTISTS?

[The short articles comprising this series are derived from characteristic talks given during the years 1915-35. As often as practicable, the words of the speaker have been used without change, in the hope of conveying some of the force originally imparted to the ideas. This article is based on answers to questions on Practical Occultism, November 14, 1924.]
MUCH of our confusion in discussing practical occultism results from failure to clearly define which "occultism" we are considering: that which is "outside the laws of the natural world; magical," or that which is "beyond the bounds of ordinary knowledge; mysterious." (Definitions 2 and 1, in Thorndike Barnhardt.)

Ability to produce physical or psychic phenomena at will results from knowledge which is "outside the laws of the natural world; magical"; that is, knowledge of laws which supersede the physical laws familiar to us. The application of this knowledge is what we commonly call "practicing the occult." The Adepts are practical occultists in this sense. So was H.P.B.

Yet H.P.B. never produced merely to show off; she never performed "miracles" publicly; never utilized her powers for her own advantage. Indeed, a large part of her phenomena were unavoidable, and were not the result of her pleasure, wisdom, or choice: they were simply the natural result of her being what she was. And she was what she was because she had first developed her natural powers -- powers such as we all possess -- to the fullest capacity, and put them to the best possible use. And it was this use of powers that she encouraged her pupils to emulate.

To enable us to do this, she transmitted to us knowledge which is "beyond the bounds of ordinary knowledge; mysterious": the Three Fundamental Propositions, the teaching on the sevenfold nature of man, examples of the extraordinary complexity of man's psychic structure, a rationale for unraveling the intricacies of interrelation and interaction of psycho-logical powers, the essential unity of the Self as the substratum of unlimited variation in the selves, etc. With this information, she said in effect, you are equipped to delve into "the mysteries" -- specifically, the mystery of the human mind in general and your own mind in particular: but only by acting on and living by this information can you turn it into sure personal knowledge, thus becoming practical occultists in your own right. The problem for us is how to do this.

Let us take a homely example. The prospector for gold cannot accurately estimate the value of the ore he finds; so he takes it to an assayer, an "occultist" in ore. High-grade ore, it is said, runs about thirty-two ounces of gold to the ton. This means that thirty-two thousand ounces of ore must be pulverized and treated in order to extract the one-thirty-two-thousandth part that is valuable. The rest is thrown on the dump heap. Yet because the assayer knew his business, extracting the gold was a "paying proposition."

The Teachers of Theosophy ask us to become assayers of ourselves and of life's experiences. Take the things that go on in everyday life: the things we read and listen to intentionally, see and hear inadvertently, all that touches us in any way. Why, the poorest stuff we contact would yield better than one-thirty-two-thousandth part of pure truth if we only knew how to extract it and throw away the rest, as the metallurgists do! Yet the process of extracting truth from ignorance, banalities, or apparent rubbish is "practical occultism."

Take another example. One of the most common characteristics of the human being is an inflated sense of his own importance; he is always willing to tackle what is too big for him. Hence, he is forever offering advice, suggestion, and counsel. And the man who is least able to offer sound advice, constructive suggestion, and wise counsel is the worst offender in this direction. To notice this tendency in ourselves, and to see that it comes from the weakest, not the strongest, part of our nature is, for us, "practical occultism."

We think that if we had more intellect we would be able to do more good. But what are we doing with the intellect we have? We think that if we had more understanding of the teachings we would be better able to help others with their problems. But what are we doing with the understanding that is ours? Through familiarity with our present powers, we fail to realize that they are truly "Powers"; so we yearn for the powers of the Adepts and H.P.B. Let us, rather, be thankful that we do not have more power than we have: we create enough havoc in our own lives and the lives of others by exercising the powers we do have. The Masters did not seek in the first instance for powers, but to make the best use of the power They had. That is the first step in practical occultism for every man: to learn to use his powers in the right direction.

One thing we notice, however, as we deal with the question of occultism: that which is unitary on one plane becomes dual as it flows to the plane below. Thus, what is pure, impartite occultism, or magic, on the plane "above" us, becomes either "white" or "black" magic in our hands.

In a practical sense, what is black magic? It is any tampering, whatsoever, with the mind and free will of another person. This includes injecting into the mind of another any information that is not essential to his work or growth; it includes especially any attempt to lead another in the direction we want him to go. It makes no difference why we are doing it: we are DOING it! We always think we are absolutely qualified to diagnose our motive, the most "occult" and deeply-hidden part of our nature. Yet no man can say, I know my blood is pure; and how much less can he say, I know my motive is pure!

Every man who will take by violence from another is guilty of black magic, whether he takes that other's material possession, his peace of mind, or his reputation. Look at the number of men who coerce their wives, physically, morally, and psychically. Black magic! Look at the number of wives who cajole, subordinate, tamper with the judgment and free will of their husbands. Black magic! We are not satisfied to rest upon our own convictions and ourselves act according to them, yet still grant that the other may have some convictions of his own, and leave him the freedom of choice in thought and action within the limits of his convictions. It is astonishing to what an extent having a strong conviction of our own compels us to cajole or urge others to act according to our conviction. But that is not conviction; that is dogma. To have our own strong convictions and to act accordingly, yet to freely permit another to have his equally strong convictions and act according to them -- that is to follow the path of pure occultism.

So, we are unconscious black magicians -- all of us; and we may as well recognize that fact. We are not absolutely so, of course, but potentially we are black magicians. Yet we are also potential "white" magicians; and to become such we have but to learn to use our inherent powers in the highest altruism, in the broadest and deepest understanding, in universal applications of the doctrines of Theosophy.

And now, a final example. The ULT Declaration is an occult expression in the world today. Read it as a theory of conduct, of ethics, of life. Have you ever read anything as perfect as the Declaration of this Lodge? There is not a person who can read it and not say that it is an absolutely flawless platform. To take that platform for your own, is to become the United Lodge. For there is Theosophy in the Declaration; there is the theory of occultism in it; there is a philosophy that any man can see is good. To the extent that a man proceeds to act on that basis, it begins to become his knowledge, his power, his peace, his strength, his charity; and after a little while, he will begin to "see" for himself; and because he sees more and knows more, he will be able to do more. The Declaration is not occultism until we know it and apply it; up to this point it is a theory to us, no matter what it is to someone else.

This Lodge may seem to go to extremes, indeed. We do not solicit anybody to join (even though we know that may mean his "salvation"), because if we solicit, we would be practicing black magic. We invite those to whom this platform appeals to join hands in carrying on the work and receive whatever benefits may flow therefrom because of the responsibility assumed. So we hew to the line; let the chips fall where they may. We affirm and assert to all people what we believe, what we know, what we are spending our money on, our time and our effort for; but we do not ask anyone else to spend one cent, one minute, one breath. If, however, he wants to join in our endeavor (and if he sees what we see, he will want to), then we have the beginning of a nucleus of universal brotherhood, The "real" United Lodge of Theosophists consists of a group of people whom neither man nor devil can pry apart. That is cohesion in the sense used in the Bhagavad-Gita.

If, in pursuance of this type of cohesion, we use the teachings of Theosophy to delve into the mysterious depths of our own natures, we are practicing "occultism." And so practicing, according to the theoretical lines laid down, until we practice as virtuosi, we will become "practical occultists." This is practicing the occult arts in the only legitimate way open to us at present; and it is in this sense that we may all become practical occultists, here and now. Can we do so?


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