Applied Occultism boasts a vast and ancient history, for it is the heart of all true religions and philosophies. It is the motivating power behind the words of World-Teachers and inspired or illuminated men; and it is the core of Theosophy, the modern presentation of an ageless wisdom. The truths of occultism have been available always to people of every age, although necessarily veiled by secrecy in dangerously dogmatic periods. Today there is an almost unequalled spiritual liberty which allows mankind to pursue truth freely, unhindered by traditional doctrines.
In Studies in Occultism, H. P. Blavatsky writes:
Will these candidates to Wisdom and Power feel very indignant if told the plain truth? It is not only useful, but it has now become necessary to disabuse most of them and before it is too late. This truth may be said in a few words: There are not in the West half-a-dozen among the fervent hundreds who call themselves "Occultists," who have even an approximately correct idea of the nature of the Science they seek to master. With a few exceptions, they are all on the highway to Sorcery. Let them restore some order in the chaos that reigns in their minds, before they protest against this statement. Let them first learn the true relation in which the Occult Sciences stand to Occultism, and the difference between the two, and then feel wrathful if they still think themselves right. Meanwhile, let them learn that Occultism differs from Magic and other secret Sciences as the glorious Sun does from a rush-light, as the immutable and immortal Spirit of Man — the reflection of the absolute, causeless, and unknowable ALL — differs from the mortal clay — the human body. — p. 21
This passage points up the sharp distinction between Occultism and the occult arts. Succeeding leaders of the Theosophical Society have given added warnings of the dangers confronting the student who confuses these two terms. Occultism is Altruism, the science of right living. It is an awareness of the Reality behind and hidden within manifested life. Inner development, inner realization, are states of consciousness; they cannot be sold or purchased.
In our time, particularly, we are faced with an increasing interest in the occult arts. People are offered, for a price, certain powers guaranteed to bring material gain; perhaps more money, a better job, or power over others. Students of the occult sciences assume they are becoming Occultists — usually because they have not been told differently. Perhaps the greatest single danger connected with the occult arts is a growing appetite for the sensationalism of psychic phenomena. Held captive by the fascination of this aspect of Nature, the opportunities for spiritual growth which daily life offers slip by the student. This hunger for sensationalism has no place in the life of the true Occultist, for in its highest and strictest interpretation Occultism per se can be practised only by those who have mastered life, men and women of high spiritual standing whose selfless devotion and service make them Helpers of Humanity.
Because Occultism is a spiritual art, its application demands a certain amount of study, a knowledge of the teachings to be made manifest in life. Such a study will strengthen the student's concentrative ability and prepare him to explain his beliefs coherently to others. One might say that study is a method of concreting intuitive thought. Still, hand in hand with learning walks the power of application, each supporting the other and maintaining balance. The student who retains this inner equilibrium also gains confidence, in himself and in others.
There are examples in daily life. The individual who wins respect and confidence in any capacity is one who has learned to apply his knowledge expertly and whose interest and enthusiasm urge him on to greater accomplishments. Just so in Occultism, the student enlarges his understanding by practical application and gradually becomes skilled in the science of right living. Even a brief review of the world's sages and seers would reveal a study in Applied Occultism, for their lives illustrate the occult teachings and serve as examples for all who would follow the pathway to Truth.
Occultism, or Theosophy, teaches that man is a spiritual being in whom burns the flame of Divinity. Man is also mortal, which results in his duality. Life's purpose is the merging of the human with the spiritual, a continual transmutation of the lower by the higher. All life flows from a single spiritual source, making the universe a unit of interdependent, inter-acting parts. Nothing is separate and all things work toward the same spiritual destiny.
Included in this synthesized statement of the doctrine of non-separateness is that of Brotherhood, undoubtedly the most basic for the would-be occultist, since its violation is in direct opposition to Universal Harmony and Unity. As Plotinus stated, "When thou reverest the soul of another, thou art revering thyself." The constant practice of Brotherhood is the only way to Self-Knowledge. Almost everyone agrees that the idea of Brotherhood is magnificent, but the instability and insecurity of world affairs, the outbreak of war, the constant bickering among nations and among the peoples within each nation, make the idea of a practised Brotherhood seem wholly impossible. One is inclined to look at world affairs and then put Brotherhood into the background until things look more promising.
There will never be a Brotherhood of mankind without effort and leadership, for it involves a transition of character and the acquirement of a set of values quite foreign to the limited sphere of human values. Individuals with the courage and will to practise Brotherhood in small ways, in the family, among friends and acquaintances and in the community, could establish the starting-point for a reformed and more harmonious world. Small kindnesses, forgiveness, sympathy and understanding will mature quite naturally into greater expressions of these qualities. These simple yet difficult rules are Applied Occultism and constitute the only means for a spiritual and peaceful world.
Each man has the power to direct his own evolution. Because man is a thinker and a creator, within him lie salvation or destruction. In any one life a man may go forward, stand still, or go backwards, according to the thought-world in which he has his existence. Yet there is nothing except man's own lower nature to bar his spiritual progress, provided his aspirations lie in that direction.
Occultism does not change with the passage of time, for Truth and the way to a realization of Truth are ageless. Today the Ancient Wisdom is given more freely than has been possible for many long ages. The mysteries of Nature are before the public eye in the form of teachings which explain true Occultism. A comprehension of these teachings will unlock the door to man's inner nature. With its application come the qualities of compassion, gentleness, justice and non-retaliation, the only gifts which lead to the Heart of the Universe.
The Theosophical ForumTHEOSOPHICAL UNIVERSITY PRESS ONLINE