By Life Positive April 2000 Madame H.P. Blavatsky (1831-1891), Russian-born mystic, co-founded the Theosophical Society with the American Colonel H.S. Olcott. An outspoken and controversial figure, she helped to spread Eastern religious, philosophical and occult ideas in the West. Blavatsky, who exhibited psychic gifts as a child, apparently continued to perform psychic feats throughout her career. Her own interest, however, was not in the powers themselves, but in the laws and principles of nature that governed them. Her most famous books on the subject are Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine. An excerpt from Blavatsky’s Practical Occultism: BLACK MAGIC AND WHITE Occultism is not magic. It is comparatively easy to learn the trick of spells and the methods of using the subtler, but still material, forces of physical nature; the powers of the animal soul in man are soon awakened; the forces which his love, his hate, his passion, can call into operation, are readily developed. But this is black magic— sorcery. For it is the motive, and the motive alone, which makes any exercise of power become black, malignant, or white, beneficent magic. It is impossible to employ spiritual forces if there is the slightest tinge of selfishness remaining in the operator. For, unless the intention is entirely unalloyed, the spiritual will transform itself into the psychic, act on the astral plane, and dire results may be produced by it. The powers and forces of animal nature can equally be used by the selfish and revengeful, as by the unselfish and the all-forgiving; the powers and forces of spirit lend themselves only to the perfectly pure in heart—and this is divine magic. What are then the conditions required to become a student of the ‘Divina Sapientia’? For let it be known that no such instruction can possibly be given unless these certain conditions are complied with, and rigorously carried out during the years of study. This is a sine qua non. No man can swim unless he enters deep water. No bird can fly unless its wings are grown, and it has space before it and courage to trust itself to the air. A man who will wield a two-edged sword, must be a thorough master of the blunt weapon, if he would not injure himself or—what is worse—others, at the first attempt. TYPES OF OCCULT KNOWLEDGE There are four (out of the many other) names of the various kinds of Esoteric Knowledge or Sciences given, even in the exoteric Puranas. There is (1) Yajna-Vidya, knowledge of the occult powers awakened in nature by the performance of certain religious ceremonies and rites. (2) Mahavidya, the ‘great knowledge’, the magic of the Kabalists and of the Tantrikworship, often Sorcery of the worst description. (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. 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 above arts. But clairvoyance, symbolized 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 arts. 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. PITFALLS FOR THE NOVICE But the interest of our readers will probably center on those who are invincibly attracted towards the ‘Occult‘, yet who neither realize 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 Bodhisattva condition), or he will let himself slide down the ladder at the first false step, and roll down into Dugpaship…. 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 for ever. SOME PRACTICAL SUGGESTIONSLearn that there is no cure for desire, for the love of reward, for the misery of longing, save in the fixing of the mind on that which is invisible and soundless. A man must believe in his innate power of progress. A man must refuse to be terrified by his greater nature, and must not be drawn back by his lesser or material self. All the past shows us that difficulty is no excuse for dejection, much less for despair, else the world would have been without the many wonders of civilization. Strength to step forward is the primary need of him who has chosen his path. Where is this to be found? Looking round, it is not hard to see where other men find their strength. Its source is profound conviction. The man who wars against himself and wins the battle can do it only when he knows that in that war he is doing the one thing which is worth doing. ‘Resist not evil,’ that is, do not complain of or feel anger against the inevitable disagreeable of life. Forget yourself (in working for others). If men revile, persecute, or wrong one, why resist? In the resistance we create greater evils. The immediate work, whatever it be, has the abstract claim of duty, and its relative importance or non-importance is not to be considered at all. The best remedy for evil is not the suppression, but the elimination of desire, and this can best be accomplished by keeping the mind constantly steeped in things divine. The knowledge of the Higher Self is snatched away by engaging the mind in contemplating with pleasure the objects, which correspond to the unruly sense. Our own nature is so base, proud, ambitious, and full of appetites, judgments, and opinions, that if temptations restrained it not, it would be undone without remedy; therefore are we tempted to the end that we may know ourselves and be humble. Know that the greatest temptation is to be without temptation, wherefore be glad when it assaults thee, and
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