The Newsletter of the Northwest Branch of the Theosophical Society
July 2001 Vol. 4 Issue 5
Occultism is the study of that which is "hidden," of the interior worlds which vivify and organize what we perceive with the physical senses. Although most of human life takes place in inner realms – thoughts, feelings, desires – the impact of sense perceptions dominates our minds so completely that we often identify ourselves with our body, and our experience with the physical world. Occultism attempts to transcend this superficial, sense-based view in order to arrive at a truer understanding of ourselves and our surroundings.
In considering occultism, William Q. Judge and H. P. Blavatsky stressed two main points with their private students. First, "that man is identical in spiritual and physical essence with both the Absolute Principle and with God in Nature" (Echoes of the Orient 3:416). This proposition implies the essential oneness of all beings with the spiritual source of the universe and with each other. Thus brotherhood is a fact embedded in the structure of nature, not a noble sentiment or a utopian scheme, and those who wish to penetrate hidden realities must conform themselves to this fact. Another implication of Judge's and Blavatsky's first statement is that the cosmos is inspirited, a conscious whole animated by one all-pervading life. Here life is not an aberration or mere by-product of complex material structures, but a fundamental property possessed by the universe and all its parts.
The second point they emphasized in their exposition of occultism was that in man "are the same potential powers as exist in the creative forces of Nature. . . . each man is potentially a God because in him are the vast powers of Nature" (ibid. 3:416). The capacities of the whole lie latent within, and by will and active study they can be developed.
To those who would approach occultism safely, Judge recommends seeking to adapt "your thoughts to your plastic potency" – the power of creative visualization and imagination. Each thought-energy, he explains, molds the "soul sub-stance" into forms which last as long as the energy inheres in them. These "energic pictures" react upon the inner being of the producer and that of others. We are so used to considering thoughts as peripheral because immaterial that we do not take seriously the responsibility of regulating our thoughts and feelings. But their effects are powerful both on us and on our surroundings.
What, then, are the primary means of acquiring a greater understanding of reality? The first is practicing unselfishness and compassion in our daily lives. The second means is self-knowledge, for "we must know ourselves before knowing things extraneous to ourselves." This "simple" road of self-knowledge and altruism is hidden only to the lower, self-centered ego. Our inner divinity knows well this path, along which in long-past aeons it staggered and groped its way in order to reach its present state. – Sarah Belle Dougherty
Human beings have a deeper, invisible side which strives towards a higher goal. But how can we achieve more in our spiritual life? In many traditions we find a list of rules an aspirant must follow on the spiritual path. The paramitas or sublime virtues, as they are called in Buddhist literature, can be found in The Voice of the Silence (pp. 47-8) by H. P. Blavatsky:
Dana, the key of charity and love immortal.
Sila, the key of Harmony in word and act, the key that counterbalances the cause and the effect, and leaves no further room for Karmic action.
Kshanti, patience sweet, that nought can ruffle.
Viraga, indifference to pleasure and to pain, illusion con-quered, truth alone perceived.
Virya, the dauntless energy that fights its way to the supernal TRUTH, out of the mire of lies terrestrial.
Dhyana [or profound spiritual-intellectual meditation], whose golden gate once opened leads the adept toward the realm of Sat (truth) eternal and its ceaseless contemplation.
Prajna [the Universal Mind], the key to which makes of a man a god, creating him a Bodhisattva, son of the Dhyanis (spiritual beings).
– Bas Rijken van Olst
This month "Occultism: The Science of Right Living" is our subject. Occultism is not black magic or devil worship; rather it is the study of the hidden and invisible side of nature in order to learn how to live in harmony with the reality of universal life. How can we determine what is the best way for us to live? What knowledge do we need? How and where can we obtain it? What are the views of the great thinkers of all ages? How does occultism differ from the occult arts? Come and share your ideas!
Open to the public, unsectarian, non-political, no charge.
The topics for the monthly discussion group for the next few months are:
The sacred sciences of antiquity were all recorded in symbols that sum up certain occult principles and therefore form a mystery language. Most symbols condense a number of meanings into one and can be interpreted in either a cosmic or a human sense. The keys to the symbols which unlock the nature of things will give us some answers to the questions we ask: What is life? Where did I and the world come from? Where am I going? What really is the true nature of things?
Some of the ancient geometric symbols addressed cosmogonical questions. The circle, for example, can represent space – not empty space, but the space referred to in Genesis as "the waters of space." Beyond this is infinity, which cannot be expressed by any form or shape. The perimeter of the circle indicates infinity in that it is beginningless and endless. If we put a point in the middle of this circle of space, we have the first stirring of spirit. The Pythagoreans would refer to this point as the Logos.
The circle can be equated with the egg, a sacred symbol in the cosmogony of many peoples, representing the entire process by which worlds and living beings are born. It contains the positive and negative forces which together produce manifested life. When the circle is shown as a spiral, it represents evolution, eternal change and growth. The circle with a horizontal diameter signifies divine Mother Nature. When the horizontal line is crossed by a vertical line, we have the symbol of Father Nature added, the two together forming a cross and representing the manifested universe. Generally, a vertical line stands for spirit, and a horizontal line matter.
The same idea is represented by the equilateral triangle and the Trinity. The upper point of the triangle, in the same sense as the point in the circle, is the unity, the One Life, from which springs a duality of spirit and matter which can be expressed as energy and substance, positive and negative, or force and matter. This duality manifests from a unity which contains both spirit and matter and which is the source of all. The two sides of the triangle denote duality, and the base of the triangle is the offspring of spirit and matter, being either the inner cosmos or man – for in the process of manifestation, whether of human being, planet, or sun, these three forces over an immense period of time together emanate physical matter as we know it.
The cross symbolizes eternal life and is used in various religions with slight differences. The Christians took it from the Gnostics and Kabbalists, who took it from the Egyptians; also in the Mediterranean area were the Latin or Roman cross and that of Buddhist missionaries from India. The cross of crucifixion actually signifies the incarnation of Divinity, the "Word (Logos) made flesh" – crucified on the cross of matter. Many religions have the story of crucified saviors.
The oldest Egyptian cross, which was also the Greek cross, has both lines of equal length. The horizontal line represents the feminine or passive principle of nature, and the vertical line the energic side, a symbol of dual generative power. Siva, Jehovah, and Osiris are all symbols of the active principle in nature: forces that provide for the formation of matter, its destruction and/or regeneration.
Another widespread symbol is the lotus, sacred to the Egyptians, Hindus, Buddhists, Chinese, and Japanese. Ex-emplifying the miniature as a part of the whole, it includes all the forces of the macrocosm in the microcosm. The lotus, representing all the forces of nature, lives in the four elements – its roots in earth, its stem in water, its blossoms in the air and the sunlight – i.e., in earth, water, air, and fire. Its likeness appears on objects of every description in Asia, Egypt, Greece, Rome, and also America where it is found decorating Inca vessels as well as frieze paintings at Chichen Itza.
From time immemorial, knowledge superior to that of our present age has been preserved in symbol, sacred allegories, and myths. They formed a secret wisdom handed down from person to person and from age to age. There appears to be a system of symbols common to all religions around the world. According to theosophy, there never was, nor can there be, more than one universal religion, for there can be but one truth concerning the Divine. The symbolism of every people reflects the same spiritual principles, and the symbolism of all mythologies has a scientific foundation and substance reflecting spiritual potentialities.