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Occultism Or Magic

From A Modern Panarion


Articles by HPB

AMONG the numerous sciences pursued by the well-disciplined army of earnest students of the present century, none has had less honours or more scoffing than the oldest of them—the science of sciences, the venerable mother-parent of all our modern pigmies. Anxious in their petty vanity to throw the veil of oblivion over their undoubted origin, the self-styled positive scientists, ever on the alert, present to the courageous scholar who tries to deviate from the beaten highway traced out for him by his dogmatic predecessors, a formidable range of serious obstacles.

As a rule, Occultism is a dangerous, double-edged weapon for one to handle who is unprepared to devote his whole life to it. The theory of it, unaided by serious practice, will ever remain in the eyes of those prejudiced against such an unpopular cause an idle, crazy speculation, fit only to charm the ears of ignorant old women. When we cast a look behind us and see how for the last thirty years modern Spiritualism has been dealt with, notwithstanding the occurrence of daily, hourly proofs which speak to all our senses, stare us in the eyes, and utter their voices from "beyond the great gulf," how can we hope, I say, that Occultism or Magic—which stands in relation to Spiritualism as the infinite to the finite, as the cause to the effect, or as unity to multifariousness—will easily gain ground where Spiritualism is scoffed at? One who rejects à priori [Translation: HPB means it as: at the forefront -BNet Eds.]or even doubts the immortality of man's soul can never believe in its Creator; and, blind to what is heterogeneous in his eyes, will remain still more blind to the proceeding of the latter from homogeneity. In relation to the Kabalah, or the compound mystic text-book of the great secrets of Nature, we do not know of anyone in the present century who could have commanded a sufficient dose of that moral courage which fires the heart of the true Adept with the sacred flame of propagandism, to force him into defying public opinion by displaying familiarity with that sublime work. Ridicule is the deadliest weapon of the age, and while we read in the records of history of thousands of martyrs who joyfully braved flames and faggots in support of their mystic doctrines in the past centuries, we would scarcely be likely to find one individual in the present times who would be brave enough even to defy ridicule by seriously undertaking to prove the great truths embraced in the traditions of the Past.

As an instance of the above, I will mention the article on Rosicrucianism, signed "Hiraf." This ably-written essay—notwithstanding some fundamental errors, which, though they are such, would be hardly noticed except by those who had devoted their lives to the study of Occultism in its various branches of practical teaching—indicates with certainty to the practical reader that, for theoretical knowledge, at least, the author need fear few rivals, still less superiors. His modesty, which I cannot too much appreciate in his case—though he is safe enough behind the mask of his fancy pseudonym—need not give him any apprehensions. There are few critics in this country of Positivism who would willingly risk themselves in an encounter with such a powerful disputant, on his own ground. The weapons he seems to hold in reserve, in the arsenal of his wonderful memory, his learning, and his readiness to give any further information that enquirers may wish for, will undoubtedly scare off every theorist, unless he is perfectly sure of himself, which few are. But book-learning—and here I refer only to the subject of Occultism—vast as it may be, will always prove insufficient even to the analytical mind—the most accustomed to extract the quintessence of truth, disseminated throughout thousands of contradictory statements—unless supported by personal experience and practice. Hence "Hiraf" can only expect an encounter with some one who may hope to find a chance to refute some of his bold assertions on the plea of having just such a slight practical experience. Still, it must not be understood that these present lines are intended to criticize our too modest essayist. Far from poor, ignorant me be such a presumptuous thought. My desire is simple: to help him in his scientific, but, as I said before, rather hypothetical researches, by telling a little of the little I picked up in my long travels throughout the length and breadth of the East—that cradle of Occultism—in the hope of correcting certain erroneous notions he seems to be labouring under, and which are calculated to confuse uninitiated sincere enquirers, who might desire to drink at his own source of knowledge.

In the first place, "Hiraf" doubts whether there are in existence, in England or elsewhere, what we term regular colleges for the neophytes of this Secret Science. I will say from persona] knowledge that such places there are in the East—in India, Asia Minor, and other countries. As in the primitive days of Socrates and other sages of antiquity, so now, those who are willing to learn the Great Truth will ever find the chance if they only "try" to meet some one to lead them to the door of one "who knows when and how". If "Hiraf" is right about the seventh rule of the Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross, which says that "the Rose-crux becomes and is not made," he may err as to the exceptions which have ever existed among other Brotherhoods devoted to the pursuit of the same secret knowledge. Then again, when he asserts, as he does, that Rosicrucianism is almost forgotten, we may answer him that we do not wonder at it, and add, by way of parenthesis, that, strictly speaking, the Rosicrucians do not now even exist, the last of that fraternity having departed in the person of Cagliostro.

"Hiraf" ought to add to the word Rosicrucianism "that particular sect" at least, for it was but a sect after all, one of many branches of the same tree.

By forgetting to specify that particular denomination and by including under the name of Rosicrucians all those who, devoting their lives to Occultism congregated together in Brotherhoods, "Hiraf" commits an error by which he may unwittingly lead people to believe that the Rosicrucians having disappeared, there are no more Kabalists practising Occultism on the face of the earth. He also becomes thereby guilty of an anachronism, attributing to the Rosicrucians the building of the pyramids and other majestic monuments, which indelibly exhibit in their architecture the symbols of the grand religions of the past. For it is not so. If the main object in view was, and still is, alike, with all the great family of the ancient and modern Kabalists, the dogmas and formulae of certain sects differ greatly. Springing one after the other from the great Oriental mother-root, they scattered broadcast all over the world, and each of them desiring to out-rival the other by plunging deeper and deeper into the secrets jealously guarded by Nature, some of them became guilty of the greatest heresies against the primitive Oriental Kabalah.

While the first followers of the secret sciences, taught to the Chaldæans by nations whose very name was never breathed in history, remained stationary in their studies, having arrived at the maximum, the Omega of the knowledge permitted to man, many of the subsequent sects separated from them, and, in their uncontrollable thirst for more knowledge, trespassed beyond the boundaries of truth and fell into fictions. In consequence of Pythagoras—so says Jamblichus—having by sheer force of energy and daring penetrated into the mysteries of the Temple of Thebes, obtained therein his initiation and afterwards studied the sacred sciences in Egypt for twenty-two years, many foreigners were subsequently admitted to share the knowledge of the wise men of the East, who, as a consequence, had many of their secrets divulged. Later still, unable to preserve them in their purity, these mysteries were so mixed up with fictions and fables of the Grecian mythology that truth was wholly distorted.

As the primitive Christian religion divided, in course of time, into numerous sects, so the science of Occultism gave birth to a variety of doctrines and various brotherhoods. So the Egyptian Ophites became the Christian Gnostics, shooting forth the Basilideans of the second century, and the original Rosicrucians created subsequently the Paracelsists, or Fire Philosophers, the European Alchemists, and other physical branches of their sect. (See Hargrave Jennings' Rosicrucians.) To call indifferently every Kabalist a Rosicrucian, is to commit the same error as if we were to call every Christian a Baptist on the ground that the latter are also Christians.

The Brotherhood of the Rosy Cross was not founded until the middle of the thirteenth century. and notwithstanding the assertions of the learned Mosheim, it derives its name neither from the Latin word Ros (dew), nor from a cross, the symbol of Lux. The origin of the Brotherhood can be ascertained by any earnest, genuine student of Occultism, who happens to travel in Asia Minor, if he chooses to fall in with some of the Brotherhood, and if he is willing to devote himself to the head-tiring work of deciphering a Rosicrucian manuscript—the hardest thing in the world—for it is carefully preserved in the archives of the very Lodge which was founded by the first Kabalist of that name, but which now goes by another name. The founder of it, a German Ritter, of the name of Rosencranz, was a man who, after acquiring a very suspicious reputation through the practice of the Black Art in his native place, reformed in consequence of a vision. Giving up his evil practices, he made a solemn vow, and went on foot to Palestine, in order to make his amende honorable [Translation: honorable apologies -BNet Eds. ] at the Holy Sepulchre. Once there, the Christian God, the meek, but well-informed Nazarene—trained as he was in the high school of the Essenians, those virtuous descendants of the botanical as well as astrological and magical Chaldæans—appeared to Rosencranz, a Christian would say, in a vision, but I would suggest, in the shape of a materialized spirit. The purport of this visitation, as well as the subject of their conversation, remained for ever a mystery to many of the Brethren; but immediately after that, the ex-sorcerer and Ritter disappeared, and was heard of no more till the mysterious sect of Rosicrucians was added to the family of Kabalists, and their powers aroused popular attention, even among the Eastern populations, indolent and accustomed as they are to live among wonders. The Rosicrucians strove to combine together the most various branches of Occultism, and they soon became renowned for the extreme purity of their lives and their extraordinary powers, as well as for their thorough knowledge of the secret of secrets.

As alchemists and conjurers they became proverbial. Later (I need not inform "Hiraf" precisely when, as we drink at two different sources of knowledge), they gave birth to the more modern Theosophists, at whose head was Paracelsus, and to the Alchemists, one of the most celebrated of whom was Thomas Vaughan (seventeenth century), who wrote the most practical things on Occultism under the name of Eugenius Philalethes. I know and can prove that Vaughan was, most positively, "made before he became."

The Rosicrucian Kabalah is but an epitome of the Jewish and the Oriental ones, combined, the latter being the most secret of all. The Oriental Kabalah, the practical, full, and only existing copy, is carefully preserved at the headquarters of this Brotherhood in the East, and, I may safely vouch, will never come out of its possession. Its very existence has been doubted by many of the European Rosicrucians. One who wants "to become" has to hunt for his knowledge through thousands of scattered volumes, and pick up facts and lessons, bit by bit. Unless he takes the nearest way and consents "to be made," he will never become a practical Kabalist, and with all his learning will remain at the threshold of the "mysterious gate." The Kabalah may be used and its truths imparted on a smaller scale now than it was in antiquity, and the existence of the mysterious Lodge, on account of its secrecy, doubted, but it does exist and has lost none of the primitive secret powers of the ancient Chaldæans. The lodges, few in number, are divided into sections and known but to the Adepts; no one would be likely to find them out, unless the Sages themselves found the neophyte worthy of initiation. Unlike the European Rosicrucians—who, in order "to become and not to be made," have constantly put into practice the word of St. John, who says, "Heaven suffereth violence and the violent take it by force," and who have struggled alone, violently robbing Nature of her secrets—the Oriental Rosicrucians (for such we will call them, being denied the right to pronounce their true name), in the serene beatitude of their divine knowledge, are ever ready to help the earnest student struggling "to become" with practical knowledge, which dissipates, like a heavenly breeze, the blackest clouds of sceptical doubt.

"Hiraf" is right again when he says that

Knowing that their mysteries, if divulged, in the present chaotic state of society, would produce mere confusion and death,

they shut up that knowledge within themselves. Heirs to the early heavenly wisdom of their first forefathers, they keep the keys which unlock the most guarded of Nature's secrets, and impart them only gradually and with the greatest caution. But still they do impart sometimes.

Once in such a cercle vicieux, [Translation: vicious circle -BNet Eds.] "Hiraf" sins likewise in a certain comparison he makes between Christ, Buddha, and Khoung-foo-tsee, or Confucius. A comparison can hardly be made between the two former wise and spiritual Illuminati, and the Chinese philosopher. The higher aspirations and views of the two Christs can have nothing to do with the cold, practical philosophy of the latter, brilliant anomaly as he was among a naturally dull and materialistic people, peaceful and devoted to agriculture from the earliest ages of their history. Confucius can never bear the slightest comparison with the two great Reformers. Whereas the principles and doctrines of Christ and Buddha were calculated to embrace the whole of humanity, Confucius confined his attention solely to his own country, trying to apply his profound wisdom and philosophy to the wants of his countrymen, and little troubling his head about the rest of mankind. Intensely Chinese in patriotism and views, his philosophical doctrines are as much devoid of the purely poetic element, which characterizes the teachings of Christ and Buddha, the two divine types, as the religious tendencies of his people lack in that spiritual exaltation which we find, for instance, in India. Khoung-foo-tsee has not even the depth of feeling and the slight spiritual striving of his contemporary, Lao-tsee. Says the learned Ennemoser:

The spirits of Christ and Buddha have left indelible, eternal traces all over the face of the world. The doctrines of Confucius can be mentioned only as the most brilliant proceedings of cold human reasoning.

Harvey, in his Universal History, has depicted the Chinese nation perfectly, in a few words:

Their heavy, childish, cold, sensual nature explains the peculiarities of their history.

Hence any comparison between the first two Reformers and Confucius, in an essay on Rosicrucianism, in which "Hiraf" treats of the Science of Sciences and invites the thirsty for knowledge to drink at her inexhaustible source, seems inadmissible.

Further, when our learned author asserts so dogmatically that the Rosicrucian learns, though he never uses, the secret of immortality in earthly life, he asserts only what he himself, in his practical inexperience, thinks impossible. The words "never" and "impossible" ought to be erased from the dictionary of humanity, until the time at least when the great Kabalah shall all be solved, and so rejected or accepted. The Count St. Germain is, until this very time, a living mystery, and the Rosicrucian Thomas Vaughan another one. The countless authorities we have in literature, at well as in oral tradition (which sometimes is the more trustworthy), about this wonderful Count's having been met and recognized in different centuries, is no myth. Anyone who admits one of the practical truths of the occult sciences taught by the Kabalah tacitly admits them all. It must be Hamlet's "to be or not to be," and if the Kabalah is true, then St. Germain need be no myth.

But I am digressing from my object, which is, firstly, to show the slight differences between the two Kabalahs, that of the Rosicrucians and the Oriental one; and, secondly, to say that the hope expressed by "Hiraf" to see the subject better appreciated at some future day than it has been till now, may perhaps become more than a hope. Time will show many things till then, let us heartily thank "Hiraf" for this first well-aimed shot at those stubborn scientific runaways, who, once before the Truth, avoid looking her in the face, and dare not even throw a glance behind them, lest they should be forced to see that which would greatly lessen their self-sufficiency. As a practical follower of Eastern Spiritualism, I can confidently wait for the time, when, with the timely help of those "who know," American Spiritualism, which even in its present shape has proved such a sore in the side of the materialists, will become a science and a thing of mathematical certitude, instead of being regarded only as the crazy delusion of epileptic monomaniacs.

The first Kabalah in which a mortal man ever dared to explain the greatest mysteries of the universe, and show the keys to

Those masked doors in the ramparts of Nature through which no mortal can ever pass without rousing dread sentries never seen upon this side her wall,

was compiled by a certain Simeon Ben Iochai, who lived at the time of the second Temple's destruction. Only about thirty years after the death of this renowned Kabalist, his MSS. and written explanations, which had till then remained in his possession as a most precious secret, were used by his son Rabbi Elizzar and other learned men. Making a compilation of the whole, they so produced the famous work called Sohar (God's splendour). This book proved an inexhaustible mine for all the subsequent Kabalists, their source of information and knowledge, and all more recent and genuine Kabalahs were more or less carefully copied from the former. Before that, all the mysterious doctrines had come down in an unbroken line of merely oral tradition as far back as man could trace himself on earth. They were scrupulously and jealously guarded by the wise men of Chaldæa, India, Persia and Egypt, and passed from one Initiate to another, in the same purity of form as when handed down to the first man by the angels, students of God's great Theosophic Seminary. For the first time since the world's creation, the secret doctrines, passing through Moses who was initiated in Egypt, underwent some slight alterations.

In consequence of the personal ambition of this great prophet-medium, he succeeded in passing off his familiar spirit, the wrathful "Jehovah," for the spirit of God himself, and so won undeserved laurels and honours. The same influence prompted him to alter some of the principles of the great oral Kabalah in order to make them the more secret. These principles were laid out in symbols by him in the first four books of the Pentateuch, but for some mysterious reasons he withheld them from Deuteronomy. Having initiated his seventy Elders in his own way, the latter could give but what they had received themselves, and so was prepared the first opportunity for heresy, and the erroneous interpretation of the symbols. While the Oriental Kabalah remained in its pure primitive shape, the Mosaic or Jewish one was full of drawbacks, and the keys to many of the secrets—forbidden by the Mosaic law—purposely misinterpreted. The powers conferred by it on the Initiates were formidable still, and of all the most renowned Kabalists, Ring Solomon and his bigoted parent, David, notwithstanding his penitential psalms, were the most powerful. But still the doctrine remained secret and purely oral, until, as I have said before, the days of the second Temple's destruction. Philologically speaking, the very word Kabalah is formed from two Hebrew words, meaning to receive, as in former times the Initiate received it orally and directly from his Master, and the very book of the Sohar was written out on received information, which was handed down as an unvarying stereotyped tradition by the Orientals, and altered, through the ambition of Moses, by the Jews.


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