Occultism is that sublime wisdom delivered to the early races of mankind by exalted beings from other lokas [worlds or spheres]; and while in our modern times to this wisdom has been given the name of occultism, that is the science of things which are secret or hid, and while that name has its correspondence in other languages, as in the Sanskrit gupta-vidya, in the form in which it has been presented to the public in our age, it is called theosophy. One may ask oneself: Is there any intrinsic difference between occultism and theosophy? I think we may say very fairly and justly that there is not, that fundamentally the two are one, two names for one thing.
Now the unfortunate part of this matter is the following: everything that is of human nature, or which springs from the heart or brain of mankind, is de facto subject to imitation or even to degeneration; and consequently this name occultism, a truly noble name in its real meaning, is often greatly, even vilely, misused and misunderstood; it is bandied about in the newspapers, and passes from mouth to mouth as signifying little more than the so-called psychistic or wonderment-doctrines on which the public feeds so avidly. That use is a degradation of the original sense. All things which really satisfy the heart and mind of man must be of necessity true in degree, otherwise they could not so satisfy; but, as we all know, men's minds and hearts sometimes feed on mere husks, as it is expressed in the Christian New Testament.
The point which I wish to impress upon our minds in this connection is, that occultism is the exposition of the very essence, the quintessence, of truth, of reality. It cannot be studied by the higher mind alone, nor can it be studied alone by those other faculties in man which he classes under the generic heading of "feelings." But it must be studied as a complete whole, and it answers fully to all demands of man's entire spiritual and psychological composition, and is therefore entirely and utterly satisfactory. It provides man not merely with a basis for the noblest system of ethics the world knows, but describes to him what those ethics are, and on what they are founded, and what the due and perfect practice of them will lead to. And that leading, we are told, is along that old, small path, of which the Upanishads speak -- for those who follow it finally come into direct connection and into confabulation with the all-wise and calm-eyed gods, for that path leads us directly to the heart of the universe -- the "heart" in the mystical and esoteric sense: into those places, into those spiritual, superspiritual, and divine, regions where is the core of the being of each one of us.
The various great religions of the present and of the past times have sprung forth from the doctrines of occultism; each one of such religions in its germinal state, in its beginning, was the spiritual offspring of some great and noble man, one of the Masters, indeed, who taught publicly during the particular period when he appeared among men openly for the salvation of his fellows, giving them anew, once again, the age-old truths or, it may be, but a newer version of the ancient light, elucidating the great problems concerning the kosmos and man, which to those who have not received such light, so harass the human heart and, it may be, the human intellect, with an urgency demanding solution.
The study of occultism involves a great moral responsibility: it places such a responsibility upon the shoulders of him or of her who studies it, because it awakens the inner man; it awakens his hid powers. And, furthermore, precisely proportionate to a man's earnestness is its study productive of good -- or the reverse. OCCULTISM CANNOT BE TRIFLED WITH. It deals with direct and original things, if you understand these terms, not with reflected truths. Hence, unless a man's heart be absolutely pure -- I mean by that, clean of all personal selfishness -- he never is safe. There can be no trifling with it. It calls out of a man all he is inwardly, and brooks no halfway loyalty.
The two paths lie always at our feet; at every step they diverge, one to the right and one to the left; and one single act may induce a habit, which will make a character, in time, by repetition; and that character is you or I, for it is the exercise of knowledge (or half-knowledge) and will.
Yet you cannot teach occultism as you would teach a language, for the reason that the facts of being of the kosmos, of inner and of outer nature, are so interlocked that unless one had a thousand tongues, speaking a thousand idioms at the same time, and the hearers were capable of appreciating these thousand idioms at the same instant, one could not convey the ideas, the thoughts, simultaneously into the minds of the hearers. This may illustrate, if poorly, why you cannot teach occultism as you can teach a language, or a mere physical science, or some other ordinary system of exoteric study, such as our universities do teach; for these latter studies or sciences or arts are very simple, dealing with one main line of thought alone.
Nevertheless, the great sages of ancient times laid down certain principles of thought and of study which, they tell us, are, or rather represent, the fundamental operations and characteristic natures of the universe. And not one of those mighty minds ever attempted, because it is de facto impossible, to teach of these operations and natures as one would teach a language or a mere physical science; but by hint, by allusion, by an appeal to the intuition and the innate knowledge of his hearers, and by proper physical illustration, such a teacher leads them on, step by step, until finally the man or the woman sees as in a flash the meaning conveyed as a key, and grasps and applies that key, with greater or less success, depending on the individual's own spiritual insight. In that way, therefore, are the doctrines of occultism communicated in the first four stages of initiation.
You may take, for instance, the teaching regarding the beginnings of kosmic evolution. We realize from this study that there are seven different principles of and in which the kosmos is builded; which work, each one of the seven, on its own plane -- or rather in its own world; and to attempt to describe at the same instant of time the simultaneous operations of these seven principle-elements is physically impossible. But a hint is given, an allusion is made to some one or more facts of universal nature; and the mind of the hearer is opened by an intuitional thought which is aroused in himself by the communication. No child is taught to walk merely by seeing its parents walk, but by itself learning to put leg before leg; and its first feeble and vacillating steps, in time, grow into the assured and confident stride of the man.
So it is with these doctrines. Little by little, step by step, our teachers lead us on to understand, so that we in our turn become teachers to and of ourselves, and are enabled boldly and successfully to apply as keys the doctrines that we have heard to larger doors of learning and knowledge, leading into still more secret chambers of our great Mother Nature. And these chambers are full of wonders and mysteries, mystic and marvelous beyond all comparison with things upon earth.
One of the noblest results of these studies is the effect it has on the moral nature of man, of the student. You may tell a man to "be good because it is good to be good"; and this statement is perfectly correct and probably no one will object to it, yet it will not go very deep into the consciousness and mind. But if you tell a man that he is, in essence, an incarnate divinity, and that he has come down into these spheres of matter for purposes of universal work, and that he is failing in his duty, he is failing in his relationship to his own higher self, if that duty be not accomplished, then you put a thought into that man's mind which allows him to think, and makes him think, and gives him a basis for morals, a religious and philosophical basis which, if he has any good in him at all, he himself will follow up to the end.
It is absurd to think that any one of the theosophical doctrines can be divorced from its ethical aspect. They cannot be separated so; and this, perhaps, is the distinction most easily understood between the archaic teachings and those of the various so-called cults or cultuses or quasi-religions which spring up like mushrooms from age to age and from time to time, and have a longer or shorter life, depending on circumstances, causing meanwhile more or less deplorable spiritual injury to the unfortunate people who hear of them and follow them in confidence and misplaced trust.
So far as this question of ethics is concerned, pray remember that you cannot understand them adequately unless you "live the life" that they inculcate: "Live the life as it ought to be lived, and knowledge will come to you naturally." There is only one truth in nature, and understanding of it comes naturally to him or her who "obeys the law." Real knowledge brings modesty and compassion and magnanimity and courage in its train, and all the fine, old, noble virtues; and those virtues are the insignia which mark the real disciple -- not foolish claims which, in direct proportion as the claims are false, are the more foolishly pretentious. The greater the claims, the less truth is there behind them.
With regard to these doctrines being so difficult: they are very difficult, not merely in their elucidation, which we are attempting, but also because they are so intimately interwoven together. Yet this very fact contains the clue, the Ariadne's thread, leading to their solution. The very fact that, just as the forces and principles and planes of nature are so interlocked and are so intimately bound together that if you really know one you know more or less of all, just so is it with these doctrines. If you really know one with some fair degree of complete knowledge -- some fair degree, I say -- you have a more or less perfect key that will fit the locks of all.
Indeed, analogy is the fundamental law or, if you like, the fundamental operation, of our processes of thinking, derived from nature because we are the children of nature; for just as the highest is reflected in the lowest, so is the working of the human mind. If you follow the workings of nature as taught in occultism, you will find that the lowest is but the exemplification or copy of what is above.
It probably has occurred to every thoughtful mind that if man has within himself a quasi-divine monad, and seated within that divine monad a divinity, a god, it is strange that our consciousness of this unity with the divine through this monadic link is not stronger in us than it is today. The Christians speak of their guardian angel, and so do the Mohammedans; and other peoples, such as the Greeks, spoke as did Socrates of the daimon, the guardian self; but why is it that our conscience is not stronger and more vocal than it is? Why is it that we have to work and struggle inwardly to get this interior illumination consciously, which, even according to the Christian teachings, must be "taken by violence"? Is the reason not here? Man is composite; he is a complex, a compound being, and lives on different planes, and these planes are the seven elements of nature; and the seven elements of nature are its seven principles, and the seven principles of man can otherwise be called man's seven elements.
The monad lives in its own world, in its own logoic activity, with its quasi- or semi-divine powers in full action, far more self-conscious on its own plane than you are or I am on this our plane of consciousness. And similarly with the god within us, seated within the monad.
Man and the universe are both, respectively, many and one, many in the lower nature, and one in the higher. Now, then, please note carefully the following: our consciousness is no higher than it is because we are (each of us) a person; and it is the raising of this person, of this personal self, of this personal soul, into the impersonality and individuality of the monad, that is the great work, the magnum opus, of life. The purpose of all initiatory ceremonies -- the aim of all initiatory teachings of the ancient Mystery Schools -- was the evocation of the higher self, of this inner being; and it is possible to do it. A strong and indomitable will is the first requisite. Purity of life is the second, mental purity above everything else. And absolute loyalty and devotion to the teachings of the esoteric wisdom and to the teacher, is the third; and these three principles of life and conduct are true raja-yoga; and this "kingly union" is the union with the god within, our divine self.
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