© H. P. Blavatsky; Nefastos, commentary 2010; Smaragd & Silvaeon, commentary translation 2021. 1
Blavatsky’s writings are easily available and the commentary presented here is not crucial for understanding the original text. Then what is the actual purpose for presenting this text? It is to emphasise and give special attention to the thoughts presented. The article cites an extract of esoteric instructions as an invitation as well as a warning. Are we able to regard esotericism seriously and cautiously enough? Do we know what is expected of us – or what we should expect from ourselves? How should we proceed, if one day we might have the chance to study the occult doctrine in a group founded for this purpose?
In this article Blavatsky points out the difference between a ’Theosophist’ and an ’occultist’. In the former case, we might just as well speak of a ”truth seeker”, or use some other synonymous term. By ’Theosophist’ is here meant a human being who seeks a higher truth, while the latter of the titles is reserved for those who have consecrated their lives to follow the thread of the found truth through the labyrinth or worldliness and the layers of their own consciousness.
Members of the first group can be foremostly human beings, humane beings, who are guided forth (or retained) by their sympathies and antipathies, who live their lives in the world at times with joy and at times with suffering, but whose souls are still relatively at peace or striving for it. The latter, the occultists, are no longer human in the secular meaning of the word. An occultist has given an oath in his soul which he can not break, and this oath is: to always, in every moment, in every hour of waking, dream and seeming unconsciousness, follow first the truth, and to subordinate all experience and one’s whole existence to be weighed by the scales of truth. This does not make the occultist as inhumane nor, unfortunately, perfect right away; it does not destroy the living tissue of his psychology, but it places the whole world in a different light in his eyes. An outsider may or may not see the change in such an aspirant, but to himself the world is entirely different than to the one called a ”Theosophist” here, who despite his sympathies to the extrasensory reality, still in fact lives in the world and is paying attention to its so-called hard facts.
Thus one of the fundamental purposes for this writing is to present for the inspection of all readers this clear difference between striving for benevolence and the constant striving which demands all the resources of the soul. Both are excellent paths, both are in the end the same path, but let us note – these words can be seen in between the lines of this text – in to which position we are to settle, if we specifically seek initiation and the trial which inevitably belongs to it. Let us also take in to consideration the technical side, not as an ultimatum or as meaningful in itself, but as a sign of how demanding and how serious that deeper, hidden path is. Once this observation is done and done for good, a human being will find his own path. The rules of deeper esotericism are not there to obstruct, but to benefit him: they take shape (or perhaps it would be better to say: they are timed) according to him as much as he is taking shape according to them. But first an unconditional, absolute devotion to the principle is required.
The article here presented in cursive has been first published in the Lucifer periodical (IV, 348).
Important to Students
As some of the letters in the CORRESPONDENCE of this month show, there are many people who are looking for practical instruction in Occultism. It becomes necessary, therefore, to state once for all: —
(a) The essential difference between theoretical and practical Occultism; or what is generally known as Theosophy on the one hand, and Occult science on the other, and: —
(b) The nature of the difficulties involved in the study of the latter.
It is easy to become a Theosophist. Any person of average intellectual capacities, and a leaning toward the metaphysical; of pure, unselfish life, who finds more joy in helping his neighbor than in receiving help himself; one who is ever ready to sacrifice his own pleasures for the sake of other people; and who loves Truth, Goodness and Wisdom for their own sake, not for the benefit they may confer — is a Theosophist.
As previously noted, Blavatskys definition for a ”Theosophist” here makes them entirely something else than members of the Theosophic Society: a Theosophist is simply a candidate for the path of ascension; a seeker of loftier potential for spiritual evolution – a seeker of truth. Because this state of the aspirant is an important starting point for occultism, let us pay attention to the presented requirements one at a time:
1) Sufficient intellectual capacity
2) A leaning toward the metaphysical
3) Pure and unselfish way of life
4) Altruistic tendency
5) Capability for sacrificing for the benefit of others
6) Love for truth, goodness and wisdom as intrinsic values
The first point does not require remarkable intellectual gifts from the aspirant, but it requires the kind of intellect that is able to follow normal logic without being mislead by pseudorational suggestion. Intellect is not a paramount factor for a human being to live a good and beneficent life, but of course intellectual capability is necessary from the point of view of truth seeking.
The second point shows how the individual has his foot between the door leading to spiritualization and abstraction. If he does not experience any sort of need for metaphysical contemplation, he lives in a world where the spirit might not have a place, or where the expressions of this spirit have been already (and usually incorrectly) defined.
In the third point ”purity” and ”unselfishness” are presented together. This means the aspirant’s ways of life should not construct problems for his ability and will to help the surrounding world. If the lifestyle choices of a human being cause direct or indirect suffering, it is probable that he must fix those ways of life to be able to find a spiritual and holistic path of development.
The fourth and the fifth points are clearly connected. The difference is only that in the former point a human being works as an active helper and in the latter he is ready to postpone his own possible achievements and happiness, if the situation requires it. For different human temperaments one of these is easier to adopt, but a serious seeker needs both of them developed to a certain point.
The sixth point is the most important of all. If this true love and the inevitably consequent true and energetic striving for truth, truly right action and increasing of ones own understanding exists, the previous five points will also inevitably develop. These six points form the preliminary requirements, and cultivating them alone will lead a human being quite far.
But it is quite another matter to put oneself upon the path which leads to the knowledge of what is good to do, as to the right discrimination of good from evil; a path which also leads a man to that power through which he can do the good he desires, often without even apparently lifting a finger.
It is doubtful that a profane human being could understand a glimpse of the work that an adept invisibly does for the good of humankind and the whole world. He works primarily from the inner levels, and it is a rare case that his positive impact in the short or long term occurrences can be observed from any kind of signs. Blavatsky’s reference to the ”tree of the knowledge of good and evil” and thus also to the ”curse of God” (the trials) is good to be remarked here
Moreover, there is one important fact with which the student should be made acquainted. Namely, the enormous, almost limitless, responsibility assumed by the teacher for the sake of the pupil. From the Gurus of the East who teach openly or secretly, down to the few Kabalists in Western lands who undertake to teach the rudiments of the Sacred Science to their disciples — those western Hierophants being often themselves ignorant of the danger they incur — one and all of these “Teachers” are subject to the same inviolable law. From the moment they begin really to teach, from the instant they confer any power — whether psychic, mental or physical — on their pupils, they take upon themselves all the sins of that pupil, in connection with the Occult Sciences, whether of omission or commission, until the moment when initiation makes the pupil a Master and responsible in his turn.
This might help aspirants to understand why not just anyone could be accepted straight away for a direct connection, although every aspirant is noticed and payed attention to. Not only advice, but also inspiration and similar higher level impulses of teachings have to be given with the most careful consideration, and even after that it is possible, especially in the early stages of the discipline’s, that the teaching produce one-sided, painful and difficult results while the disciplines mind slowly opens to the wondrous holistic nature of life and the absolute truthfulness of abstract concepts as definers of outer reality. Thus only the individuals, whose potential for actual development, and the usefulness of further working on them can be seen as certain, are worthy to be taken in a circle of students: before such certainty, the outer world is one’s best teacher.
This seeming absolution given to the student from ”occult sins” comprises the effects, that his life as an occultist brings about as a vaster sphere than what he is capable of perceiving; the effects of the wing strokes of the butterfly of his soul, as it can be described. His teacher does suffer along, but does not answer for the errors the student himself understands to be at fault. But this is a very complicated matter. It is enough for us to understand that the students fumbling striving and burning pursuit inevitably produces notable effects all around him, and as long as he does just what he is expected to – tries to do his best by his own acquirements – he can not himself be responsible of matters, his capacity for reason can not yet be enough. For everything affects everything is a Hermetic axiom, and the student in the beginning of the path can not in any way possess the acquirements of the full understanding or application to the practice of this knowledge.
There is a weird and mystic religious law, greatly reverenced and acted upon in the Greek, half-forgotten in the Roman Catholic, and absolutely extinct in the Protestant Church. It dates from the earliest days of Christianity and has its basis in the law just stated, of which it was a symbol and an expression. This is the dogma of the absolute sacredness of the relation between the god-parents who stand sponsors for a child. 2 These tacitly take upon themselves all the sins of the newly baptized child — (anointed, as at the initiation, a mystery truly!) — until the day when the child becomes a responsible unit, knowing good and evil. Thus it is clear why the “Teachers” are so reticent, and why “Chelas” are required to serve a seven years probation to prove their fitness, and develop the qualities necessary to the security of both Master and pupil.
It is good to note the seven year probation. If we’re talking of an old student, the time of re-adaptation can start naturally from the moment when when manas-Ego i.e. the higher ability of the mind of a human being activates during puberty. If the aspirant doesn’t have a formerly consolidated teacher relationship, the probation starts from the moment when he himself seriously and consciously commits to the self-development process here described and starts to seek the truth from his heart and without conditions.
Occultism is not magic.
Blavatsky means that occultism – walking the path of ascension – is not in any direct connection to studying magical rituals or psychic abilities. Before quite lofty phases of development it is entirely possible that an occultist (i.e. his higher Ego) has not seen it necessary to develop any magical or psychic acquirements: occultism is a science of spiritualization, and when the necessary initiations have been taken, magical ability and psychic attainments can be harnessed quite easily. ”Occultism” is humanity’s process to find the great wholeness of nature, the theological name of God and whose action in the universe is Magic (Mahashakti, Magna Mater &c.) itself: but magic grasped as the performance of magic tricks, drafting rituals or activating psychic abilities is not occultism. Only if we understand magic in its true and sacred being, occultism and magic can be truly seen as one search for the highest form of existence.
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.
Here Blavatsky divides magic in a different way than is presented for example in Legifer & Clavis Magica. Her division is that of the old world, which suggests simply how black = evil, and white = good magic. In the context at hand, the division is excellent even though it stumbles in to philosophical problems quite easily in other contexts. Blavatsky emphasises the importance of intention, the end purpose: if intention is wholly pure, magic is divine i.e. sacred; if a twitch of selfishness reaches to influence the work, this lower impulse pulls the energy to the astral plane.
It is notable how the non-astral premise of this magic is characteristical to the approach of theurgy, whilst the matter is usually understood the other way around: many of those interested in magic are not able to think of the possibility of non-astral magic, the power of which does not base itself on the desires of the human being himself, impulses of feeling, fantasies of the imagination. But in reality the magic of the astral plane is at most only ”grey” in its quality, and can be used either for good or bad purposes: real pure magic does not require a connection to the subconscious, but the supraconscious levels of the psyche. Like Blavatsky presents, practicing witchcraft is easy: everyone can appeal to their own emotions and get their energy blazing by motivating their principle of desire, thus projecting their energy, made dynamic in this way, to their own purposes. But this is anything but treading the path of ascension: at best it is like running to the dessert table before the more nutritious food has been first relished, and in the worst case it directly withers the spiritual connection of the soul, which is the method treading the downward path. All of us interested in magical power and us who believe in it, let us ask ourselves: If such harnessing of the magical will-power for the ends of satisfying our own small wishes would not have a price, why wasn’t the whole world built already thousands of years ago on the foundation of such magic? Why hasn’t mankind built the whole of civilization on controlling demons and elementals, from whom we can ask anything? The answer is naturally: Because the execution of those requests does not come without a notable price of our own and shared development of the soul.
What are then the conditions required to become a student of the “Divine 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.
As stated: there is no true power without a sacrifice. Each millimeter of true progress must be bought with work, but ”true progress” is the kind which will never disappear from the human being. When the discipline has earned his powers by confronting his depths, those powers are his forever.
To give an approximate idea of the conditions under which alone the study of Divine Wisdom can be pursued with safety, that is without danger that Divine will give place to Black Magic, a page is given from the “private rules,” with which every instructor in the East is furnished. The few passages which follow are chosen from a great number and explained in brackets.
What has been said above are instructions for aspiring students, and from here begins the instructions for disciples themselves. Because these requirements come from a time and cultural atmosphere that diverge greatly from our own, their way of manifesting can be quite different; but the requirements themselves stay always the same.
1. The place selected for receiving instruction must be a spot calculated not to distract the mind, and filled with “influence-evolving” (magnetic) objects. The five sacred colors gathered in a circle must be there among other things. The place must be free from any malignant influences hanging about in the air.
[The place must be set apart, and used for no other purpose. The five “sacred colors” are the prismatic hues arranged in a certain way, as these colors are very magnetic. By “malignant influences” are meant any disturbances through strife, quarrels, bad feelings, etc., as these are said to impress themselves immediately on the astral light, i.e., in the atmosphere of the place, and to hang “about in the air.” This first condition seems easy enough to accomplish, yet — on further consideration, it is one of the most difficult ones to obtain.]
Places where disturbing or oppressive impressions can be sensed or where those can be expected are not suitable for occult work. Places where powerful negative emotions have been experienced are outright dangerous to the work: places of murders, suicides, madness, slaughter or places saturated with the effusion of despair or other so called sins, affect the tense occult process very harmfully. If such places are absolutely necessary to be used for one reason or another, their astral atmosphere must be first cleansed and won back little by little.
To the extent the instruction at hand touches the occultists connection to the esoterical teaching from the perspective of the world, the talk about a place set apart can be understood as a remark upon the students place of contemplation i.e. prayer. One is not only to naturally avoid the affect of wrong sort of magnetism to one’s home in general, but regarding disturbances, special care is to be taken with the place reserved for work – room, altar area or similar. If troubles come, they must be dealt with. The significance of ritual items of power can be surprisingly great in this sort of magnetic work, although the work is of course not to be layed down to depend on such items or to trust the power of them to be independent.
2. Before the disciple shall be permitted to study “face to face,” he has to acquire preliminary understanding in a select company of other lay upasaka (disciples), the number of whom must be odd.
[“Face to face,” means in this instance a study independent or apart from others, when the disciple gets his instruction face to face either with himself (his higher, Divine Self) or — his guru. It is then only that each receives his due of information, according to the use he has made of his knowledge. This can happen only toward the end of the cycle of instruction.]
The odd number of fellow esoteric students guarantees the dynamism of energy within the group: that the energy will not form in to such stabile structures, where learning would become more difficult rather then more easy. Although, or perhaps because, these days the individual way of everyone to see truth is emphasisedly dictated by oneself, it is extremely beneficent to create a group of students, where different temperaments, and different capabilities constantly challenge each other to interaction, to understand diversity and to holistic progress of the soul.
Once more it is good to remark the emphasis on the practical application of the received knowledge, which is the only thing enabling the attainment of higher knowledge.
If it would be necessary for one reason or another, that the student is to study alone, it would be good for him to strive to accomplish this point in an inner way: to a certain point harnessing to his use every archetype available to the consciousness, not only those that seem most sympathetic for his temperament.
3. Before thou (the teacher) shalt impart to thy Lanoo (disciple) the good (holy) words of LAMRIN, or shall permit him “to make ready” for Dubjed, thou shalt take care that his mind is thoroughly purified and at peace with all, especially with his other Selves. Other wise the words of Wisdom and of the good Law, shall scatter and be picked up by the winds.
[“Lamrin” is a work of practical instructions, by Tson-kha-pa, in two portions, one for ecclesiastical and exoteric purposes, the other for esoteric use. “To make ready” for Dubjed, is to prepare the vessels used for seership, such as mirrors and crystals. The “other selves,” refers to the fellow students. Unless the greatest harmony reigns among the learners, no success is possible. It is the teacher who makes the selections according to the magnetic and electric natures of the students, bringing together and adjusting most carefully the positive and the negative elements.]
”Thoroughly purified and at peace with all” should not be understood as passive settling for, but active attainment of clarity: life in the world of forms in this black age is often hellish, and lazing on the clouds of the subjective world is not the right approach to it; but as long as there is hatred yet to be made abstract, bitterness, grudge, annoyance towards other’s assumed or real errings, ”to make ready for Dubjed” will naturally not come to a question. This ”Dubjed”, which can surely be also understood as a human being’s own psychic machinery, and which will come to bring up special capabilities in one form or another, is harmless only in the state where wisdom and mutual love can truly reign all action.
4. The upasaka while studying must take care to be united as the fingers on one hand. Thou shalt impress upon their minds that whatever hurts one should hurt the others, and if the rejoicing of one finds no echo in the breasts of the others, then the required conditions are absent, and it is useless to proceed.
[This can hardly happen if the preliminary choice made was consistent with the magnetic requirements. It is known that chelas otherwise promising and fit for the reception of truth, had to wait for years on account of their temper and the impossibility they felt to put themselves in tune with their companions. For — ]
As often noted, individuality is very important in the present age; but this individuality does not mean separatism in the wrong sense of the word. While seeking one’s individuality, one can long for deep solitude of the soul to truly pass to the innermost, and one must be able to hold one’s own unconditional individuality undisturbed even in the concrete communion of souls during the student period. This is of course quite different than communion in the profane circle of life can ever be, and every student within the inner group has attained his right to the student communion with certain progress in the path of ascension and the ”harmlessness” connected to it, as Bailey calls this ability. This ”harmlessness” does not mean powerlessness, colourlessness, or absence of opinion, but in this context it means that power, colour and opinion is never used without reason or to complicate fellow student’s work emphasising differently.
5. The co-disciples must be tuned by the guru as the strings of a lute (vina), each different from the others, yet each emitting sounds in harmony with all. Collectively they must form a key-board answering in all its parts to thy lightest touch (the touch of the Master). Thus their minds shall open for the harmonies of Wisdom, to vibrate as knowledge through each and all, resulting in effects pleasing to the presiding gods (tutelary or patron-angels) and useful to the Lanoo. So shall Wisdom be impressed forever on their hearts and the harmony of the law shall never be broken.
How can a student contribute to the birth of such a state? Actually in many different ways and constantly so. Once again, first comes intention: harmonizing the leading tone of one’s life to the wider process of the Great Work. For although this work is in a certain way the development of his soul to the great attainment, its potential gives the authority entitled, for the Great Work is also by the same token the development of the whole and a process shared with the whole world. To be faithful to oneself is to be faithful also to the wider harmony of the whole.
When we are to connect to this the active striving to understand and respect the fellow students (and naturally all beings), harmony and its expressions of naturally rising tones of love i.e. the vision of oneness can born. This inner accord, the flickers of which a profane human being doubtly even detects or understands to long for in its absence, is almost everything for an esotericist. His developed spiritual nervous system allows him to detect nuances of the soul that lifts joy as well as suffering to its higher potency, and within these higher experiences he can start to discern little by little the working, reacting and dynamizing elemental powers, ”gods” or ”angels”, that later on will be the mediators and co-workers of his conscious magic.
During the student period, these ”guardian angels” form in a certain way the genius loci of the group of disciplines, the spirit present at work, which is self-conscious although it is at the same time the guardian of the collective, and whose body, if we can use such a word, is the outcome of the emanation of the teacher’s and the students collective intelligence. To this shared whole belongs and is attracted to the entities who vibrate harmoniously with it, ”guardian deities” known to each mythological structure by different names, and who carry out their own important and beautiful parts, although invisible to us.
6. Those who desire to acquire the knowledge leading to the Siddhis (occult powers) have to renounce all the vanities of life and of the world (here follows enumeration of the Siddhis).
When – and to the extent – the time has come for the student to develop magical abilities, he consequently experiences the previous, worldly phenomenal correspondences connected to the Siddhis unnecessary. This can happen completely naturally and without special striving if the premises have been well executed. As Ervast emphasises in his own esoteric instructions, occultism must not incorporate forcing. ”Renouncing all the vanities of life and of the world” is not a violent, yanking process, but multidimensional and the culmination of lengthy work year after year, phase after phase, power after power, until all has been extracted out from the higher grades of adepthood.
7. None can feel the difference between himself and his fellow-students, such as “I am the wisest,” “I am more holy and pleasing to the teacher, or in my community, than my brother,” etc., — and remain an upasaka. His thoughts must be predominantly fixed upon his heart, chasing therefrom every hostile thought to any living being. It (the heart) must be full of the feeling of its non-separateness from the rest of beings as from all in Nature; otherwise no success can follow.
Because in a good student group there are represented many kinds of temperaments and different capabilities, it is a fact that between the representatives of different operation models or rays, is born the possibilities for conflict: precisely in these kinds of opportunities a real contact for learning is at its best. But to the extent that a student separates himself from his brothers, he fails in the constantly present trial and thus also separates himself from the Master, who although being his innermost self, manifests also through otherness in a paradoxical fashion. Pride, as a sense of self-worth and as a trust for justification of one’s own kind of striving is a glorious thing; pride as the despising of others is only blindness and an indication of the soul’s weakness.
The concentration of consciousness to the heart in the instruction is not only a metaphor, but literally comprehended matter. To the extent that we are talking about a truly esoteric group, the forementioned magnetic connection is a key and a guarantee for success: come conflict, and it can be solved by each one of the circle, and the most crucial thing in these moments of resolving is the focus on the hearts center and the buddhi-prânic energy working through it. Every student is naturally responsible only for oneself, and by working in oneself he also acts in the others by the forementioned principle of concord.
8. A Lanoo (disciple) has to dread external living influence alone (magnetic emanations from living creatures). For this reason while at one with all, in his inner nature, he must take care to separate his outer (external) body from every foreign influence: none must drink out of, or eat in his cup but himself. He must avoid bodily contact (i.e., being touched or touch) with human, as with animal being.
[No pet animals are permitted and it is forbidden even to touch certain trees and plants. A disciple has to live, so to say, in his own atmosphere in order to individualize it for occult purposes.]
Many students come to suffer unnecessary amounts from negative magnetism, the source of which is not in themselves, affecting them. This is of course part of the general effect of the black age, and before a rather late phase of development it is rather useless to try to detach from wholly. The matter is never-the-less good to be understood and when the time comes, it can be more and and more taken in to consideration: the more delicate the students own magnetism becomes, the more he suffers from the effects of coarse outer magnetism, which in itself teaches him precaution and towards naturally more individual habitat. At the end of one’s path, this will lead to the almost inevitable separation from the physical world, which we know the masters practice: they, whose thoughts and energy can influence everywhere without the need for outer action, keep the temple of their body away from the bounds of law of the profane world, and if they live beside the world, they do so unidentified and by following necessary precautions. For most of us, this is of course still so distant a state that it probably need not to be thought of that much; but never-the-less it is good to understand that during our time as a student, our sensitivity might begin to grow in the extent that we are to take it in to account little by little. When the achievements of love, peace and balance have been reached, an observation does not lead to paranoia, pride or annoyance, but is as natural as it is for everyday people to avoid passages in a stormy weather without good waterproof apparel.
The instruction that no one can eat or drink from the same cup with the student can be literal in later stages, but before such a stage it must be understood also symbolically: the cup or vessel is the outer being of the student, and his lower triad. Only he can use this lower triad, and he is to avoid relationships with human and non-human entities, who seek to ”eat from his cup” and to partake his energies in often regressive ways. This explanation would require yet new explanations, examples and possible exceptions, but as a rule of thumb can be presented as the avoidance of all energetic-astral connections, be it goetic communion or symbiotic connection to astral beings or emotionally subordinate relations to incarnated beings. A connection to truly archetypal powers is a different thing, and will not harm the student.
9. The mind must remain blunt to all but the universal truths in nature, lest the “Doctrine of the Heart” should become only the “Doctrine of the Eye,” (i.e., empty esoteric ritualism).
Becoming accepted as a disciple one must leave all worldly means that do not belong to his esoteric way of life anymore. All sorts of societal organizing, politicking, psychological manipulation, the playing of sociological games – even with good intentions –, family relations and generally no system basing on the forms of the outside world, should be let to steal his attention anymore. This is because those two things, the esoteric and exoteric model of world building, happens, so to speak, in a different part of the brain, and attention focused to one of these will take focus from the other. It is not a matter that the outer side should be somehow smothered: if we would strive to do so, the smothering effort would specificly direct our concentration to that part of our brain where the struggle would take place. Instead, all outer legalities should be left once and for all as secondary, recreational side matters. They can be objects of harmless interest only to the extent that the student knows that they are in by no means able to compete or reach the same line with the deeper, esoteric way of understanding reality. If this is kept in mind, ”empty esoteric ritualism” can also be avoided, that is the regrettable erring where the letter deadens the original meaning, and a certain operating model becomes the purpose instead of a tool. Tools can be always thrown away and changed to others as long as the original idea is clear as a diamond.
As with all other teachings, here the primary importance is to distinguish the instructions original idea from the wrong, premature or exaggerated applications. The student who is shaping oneself as someone who is never interested of anything, a cold ascetic who is seemingly living a lofty life, is rarely moving to the most useful direction in ones path. But it is quite more often, especially these days, that the holistic growth of the soul and all the forms holding truly magical meaning, belonging to ”the world” through which the student can benefit oneself and the whole, is what needs tending. But when doing so, it must be always taken care that the striving for wisdom comes first and leads all action, and that the leader is never a wordly fascination, however great the outer potential looks like.
10. No animal food of whatever kind, nothing that has life in it, should be taken by the disciple. No wine, no spirits, or opium should be used: for these are like the Lhamayin (evil spirits), who fasten upon the unwary, they devour the understanding.
[Wine and Spirits are supposed to contain and preserve the bad magnetism of all the men who helped in their fabrication; the meat of each animal, to preserve the psychic characteristics of its kind.]
Once again it must be emphasised that when the striving is true and the ideal followed is right, these life choices will become as much a consequence as the cause: in a certain phase the student does not want to use meat sustenance, he is not able to enjoy wine, and he has not a single reason to seek tranquility from drugs, the danger of which is great.
This is an ideal state, which we students have to always keep at the back of our mind, but at the same time it is good to remember the often noted fact that many great teachers have either eaten meat or enjoyed wine or done both: there are no absolute rules. But this attitude of the teachers must not be taken as ones own hobbyhorse to justify the lazy lack of striving – we can rarely know even each others secret, psycho-energetic reasons for the lifestyle choices of these kind, not to mention the deep reasons for certain lifestyle choices of occult teachers. We must not go from where the fence is at its lowest, but rather find our own way of life with steady consideration and the best possible striving.
11. Meditation, abstinence in all, the observation of moral duties, gentle thoughts, good deeds and kind words, as good will to all and entire oblivion of Self, are the most efficacious means of obtaining knowledge and preparing for the reception of higher wisdom.
I’d fancy to say that of the six points presented here, three can be understood as inner states of mind and three as action patterns harnessing them in to use: meditation, abstinence and oblivion of self are to be taken as a soul’s approaches to life, and these three blossom the best precisely as beautiful thoughts, fulfilling one’s duties and good deeds. According to our own nature, we can give emphasis either to the inner or outer way to approach the same things, but both triads applied in a right way will develop forth the other. If not, our intentions have something to be fixed.
Sure it is not wrong to think of meditation as an outer, technical event or abstinence as isolation of the body and the mind from all material impressions, but these kinds of technical approaches don’t reach the core of the matter: they can be of noticeable benefit in perfecting the outer process, but just as well can be used for enabling seeming attainments while the fundamental misunderstandings of the mind live as strong as before, or rather fortified as the personal sense of power increases. The inner striving is always the most important; outer mechanics are sometimes beneficient.
12. It is only by virtue of a strict observance of the foregoing rules that a Lanoo can hope to acquire in good time the Siddhis of the Arhats, the growth which makes him become gradually One with the UNIVERSAL ALL.
Despite that the student has to develop first and foremostly his heart and only secondarily the differentiating capabilities of the mind, every prerequisite has to be fulfilled to the letter before the final attainments. Nevertheless the gospel side of it is that when the path there has been treaded in a proper way, meeting the requirements ”to the letter” will be pure joy and not forceful.
The ”oneness with all” mentioned in the instruction is not to be understood as destruction of personality: on the contrary, personality and individuality will be enriched in an almost incomprehensible way by each step the soul takes towards absolute consciousness. In the same way a true artist is more multidimensional by his nature and less narrow than his less creative brother who has not abandoned as many opportunities for the outer life to devote oneself to the service of his art, similarly an adept and a master of the occult science who might seem sometimes cold in the outside are vastly more creative and individual than the sorry profane human, who imagines merging with the absolute divinity would dissolve his personal characteristics. Yet still the latter is in a way right: for as long as his nature is not inured by love and individual striving, it will dissolve in its contact with the great divine solvent. The demanding nature of this process, the forge-flame of adepthood is the reason for it to be truly few instead of many, who are even theoretically ready to walk the Path.
These twelve extracts are taken from amongst some seventy-three rules, to enumerate which would be useless, as they would be meaningless in Europe. But even these few are enough to show the immensity of the difficulties which beset the path of the would-be “Upasaka,” who has been born and bred in Western lands. 3
The demand of these requirements is truly important to be noted in the present times, where following individual dreams and choosing individual approaches is more and more emphasised everywhere in the culture.
All Western, and especially English, education is instinct with the principle of emulation and strife; each boy is urged to learn more quickly, to outstrip his companions, and to surpass them in every possible way. What is miscalled “friendly rivalry” is assiduously cultivated, and the same spirit is fostered and strengthened in every detail of life.
Fortunately since the days of Blavatsky there has been made progress from such encouragement towards separatism, thus such rivalry doesn’t form as strong a general mood in the Western education as one and a half century ago. Little by little the outer separatism is changing towards the emphasis of co-operation and individuation in its true inner meaning, to which its lower correspondence, described above, is a preliminary and clumsy step towards. But this is a topic of its own.
With such ideas “educated into” him from his childhood, how can a Westerner bring himself to feel towards his co-students “as the fingers on one hand”? Those co-students, too, are not of his own selection, or chosen by himself from personal sympathy and appreciation. They are chosen by his teacher on far other grounds, and he who would be a student must first be strong enough to kill out in his heart all feelings of dislike and antipathy to others. How many Westerners are ready even to attempt this in earnest?
This is one example of how the present day problems in initiation trials, even regarding their completely outer aspects, are much more psychological than in former times. Humility is no more required in the sort of form where the student should abandon all their own judgement and to obey the teacher automatically, but in the way where he is able to connect their own individualized being as a part in the delicate machinery of energy formed together by their invisible master and visible co-students. The great gallantry of the present time is that this cooperation can be done by positive pride and not only by negative humility. This might not make the process any easier, but the allowance of individualism, and the emphasis on it, is at least better in harmony with the voice of the heart of present day aspiring students, parting them the knowledge that nothing should be killed even though everything must most seriously be refined and handled by wholesome striving. The metaphors of killing this or that component, often coming forth from Blavatsky and her teachings, is still of the language of the old world, through which must be seen the inner meaning as often noted.
And then the details of daily life, the command not to touch even the hand of one’s nearest and dearest. How contrary to Western notions of affection and good feeling! How cold and hard it seems. Egotistical too, people would say, to abstain from giving pleasure to others for the sake of one’s own development. Well, let those who think so defer, till another lifetime, the attempt to enter the path in real earnest. But let them not glory in their own fancied unselfishness. For, in reality, it is only the seeming appearances which they allow to deceive them, the conventional notions, based on emotionalism and gush, or so-called courtesy, things of the unreal life, not the dictates of Truth.
Before the time comes for the student when for him and his surroundings there is more benefit to separate ”even from magnetism of those most close to oneself”, the aspirant must fulfill many other preparations. This isolation of one’s own magnetic circle is an essential part of the work, but before the time comes, it need not be thought of very technically. Instead the philosophical, ethical and magical factors entwined to the matter at hand can be a very beneficient object of deep contemplation.
The notion of avoiding especially sexual contact is a matter that has been much dealt with elsewhere. Let us still emphasise that it is unnecessary to form a problem towards ”touching the hand of one’s dearest”, because there are extremely few students who are truly in such a technical phase. For most aspirants a more timely instruction is to avoid decentralizing one’s magnetism by sexual relations with different partners.
But even putting aside these difficulties, which may be considered “external,” though their importance is none the less great, how are students in the West to “attune themselves” to harmony as here required of them? So strong has personality grown in Europe and America, that there is no school of artists even whose members do not hate and are not jealous of each other. “Professional” hatred and envy have become proverbial; men seek each to benefit himself at all costs, and even the so-called courtesies of life are but a hollow mask covering these demons of hatred and jealousy.
For a student who works in the world and is in contact with wordly laws in certain kind of work and study groups, it is good to notice a factor mentioned here and its truly gloomy existence in the society’s supposedly higher and respected sediments. That a person respected by society gives one’s support for wrong separatism is not an indication that it should be accepted. This under the surface bitterness and pettiness can be detected particularly clear in the kind of academical, political or similar circles basing on separating intellect, the pseudo neutrality and separation from the feeling principle of which makes them actually exceedingly vulnerable to all kinds of secretly born affects and prejudices. But undoubtedly most occultist aspirants know these regrettable facts without special instructions.
In the East the spirit of “non-separateness” is inculcated as steadily from childhood up, as in the West the spirit of rivalry. Personal ambition, personal feelings and desires, are not encouraged to grow so rampant there. When the soil is naturally good, it is cultivated in the right way, and the child grows into a man in whom the habit of subordination of one’s lower to one’s higher Self is strong and powerful. In the West men think that their own likes and dislikes of other men and things are guiding principles for them to act upon, even when they do not make of them the law of their lives and seek to impose them upon others.
It is quite uncertain if during the current age the geographically more Eastern growth environment can give anymore safety from the possibilities for negative inspiration of the ”new eras” doctrine of separatism. In good as well as bad, the age of emphasising the personal is upon us.
Let those who complain that they have learned little in the Theosophical Society lay to heart the words written in an article in the Path for last February: “The key in each degree is the aspirant himself.“ It is not “the fear of God” which is “the beginning of Wisdom,” but the knowledge of SELF which is WISDOM ITSELF.
This same instruction also belongs to all whom are left pondering the Star of Azazel’s direct help to their own lives. No one and not any teaching authority can digest sustenance on behalf of their proteges; it can give some sort of proposals or impulses, but it is a personal matter of everyone how these impulses are followed.
How grand and true appears, thus, to the student of Occultism who has commenced to realize some of the foregoing truths, the answer given by the Delphic Oracle to all who came seeking after Occult Wisdom — words repeated and enforced again and again by the wise Socrates: — MAN KNOW THYSELF.
This has been repeated so often that it is easily passed as a cliché – which is once again an example of how seeming unveilings begin to easily form their own exoteric shell around the inner meaning. What does self-knowledge mean and how is it attained? Whatever the student is to answer this, it is probable that even if he tries his best, the answer can be further improved. Who has truly passed through every dim room and secret pathway of the soul of oneself, already knows the secrets of Satan and God.
Chelaship has nothing whatever to do with means of subsistence or anything of the kind, for a man can isolate his mind entirely from his body and its surroundings. Chelaship is a state of mind, rather than a life according to hard and fast rules on the physical plane. This applies especially to the earlier, probationary period, while the rules given in Lucifer for April last pertain properly to a later stage, that of actual occult training and the development of occult powers and insight. These rules indicate, however, the mode of life which ought to be followed by all aspirants so far as practicable, since it is the most helpful to them in their aspirations.
At this point the forementioned requirements in the article seemingly – and only seemingly – fall down just like that. Yet this matter has already been illuminated.
Often the outer requirements begin to appear more clearly as technical in a later stage where the probationary stage has been gone through and a human being has found their individual truth: but the time will come and it is good to start preparing mentally. ”Being a student of the occult is a state of mind”, is a sentence one’s insight on should be as clear as possible. The titles used in the article like aspirant, student, discipline, upasaka, lanoo, chela, etc., that seem to be used as synonymous to each other, can in certain contexts actually point to subtly different kind of divisions by fields of operation and grades, which can be useful to take notice of.
It should never be forgotten that Occultism is concerned with the inner man who must be strengthened and freed from the dominion of the physical body and its surroundings, which must become his servants. Hence the first and chief necessity of Chelaship is a spirit of absolute unselfishness and devotion to Truth; then follow self-knowledge and self-mastery. These are all-important; while outward observance of fixed rules of life is a matter of secondary moment.
This hardly requires commenting anymore, except maybe the notion of how the giving of such absolute regulations, the last word being ”the non-compliancy of the regulations” is a common way in practically all the deepest traditions. Such a custom, which first kind of presents the perfect model and after it obligates the student to always build more on the foundation of the inner rather than the outer conviction, is the highest method: this is raja yoga, which includes and uses on its own loftier needs all the other, outer means. Nothing is absolute, all is necessary; nothing is necessary, but all is absolute – these kinds of seeming paradoxes challenge the student to search and find their own path which, as seen in the very end, is almost inevitably formed as near perfect manifestation of the originally portrayed model structure. But it varies how each one will reach this point.
The considerable demand of occultism, and on the other hand the necessitated calm, happy and creative state of mind must be accomplished together. Too much endeavour will break, or the worse, will pervert the process; too much trust and spiritual sloth will cause the passing of great opportunities and all the later problems to oneself and one’s environment following it. Let us seek balance between the opposites and, when necessary, from the state of their equal presence.
- The original article can be found for example from the following address: https://www.theosociety.org/pasadena/hpb-sio/sio-prac.htm ↩
- So holy is the connection thus formed deemed in the Greek Church, that a marriage between god-parents of the same child is regarded as the worst kind of incest, is considered illegal and is dissolved by law; and this absolute prohibition extends even to the children of one of the sponsors as regards those of the other. — Author’s note ↩
- Be it remembered that all “Chelas,” even lay disciples, are called Upasaka until after their first initiation, when they become lanoo-Upasaka. To that day, even those who belong to Lamaseries and are set apart, are considered as “laymen.” – Author’s note ↩