The Path – October 1886

POETICAL OCCULTISM: I — S. B. J.

SOME ROUGH STUDIES OF THE OCCULT LEANINGS OF THE POETS

I.

In the Bhagavid-Gita and the Upanishads it is held that:

Ishwara, the Lord of all things, dwells in the heart of every mortal being, and from that place causes the illusions of the world to appear to man as reality.

Light on the Path dwells upon the necessity of understanding your own heart: It tells us to seek for the source of evil there, where it lives, as fruitfully in the heart of the devoted disciple as in that of the man of desire, and that your heart is the profoundest mystery of all the great obscurities.

Longfellow felt this when, in The Beleaguered City, he sang: —

I have read, in the marvelous heart of man.
     That strange and mystic scroll,
That an army of phantoms vast and wan
     Beleaguer the human soul.

This verse occurs to him in connection with the old story that the City of Prague was once beleaguered by a vast phantom army, which camped down on the opposite bank of the river, and he likens the human heart to Prague. Here, in the city dwells Ishwara, who, while thus imprisoned, is beleaguered by the vast army — the phantoms of all the acts and thoughts of the person in this and other lives. Occultism declares with the poet, that the heart is a mystic scroll; it is a veritable field also, in which are sown many seeds that may lie unnoticed, not only during one life, but often for many many incarnations, but sure to blossom forth one day under favoring circumstances. And as they begin to grow, they evoke the phantoms of the deeds that sowed them, and those ghostly hosts sweep round the soul in its prison house.

In Resignation, Longfellow wrote: "There is no death! What seems so is transition."

This is one of the propositions of Occultism. The poet was writing upon the death of the physical body of a girl much beloved, and was considering the change which in common life is known as "death." But the followers of the Wisdom Religion know that this terrible change is not really death, is not in any sense the moment of decease of even the physical man. The visible being is a congeries of energies or elements which are by no means all dead when the person breathes his last, nor when the body is consigned to the grave. It is only the transition, as Longfellow says, of the informing spirit, to another sphere of action.

The same view is taken in the Atharva Veda, where it says, "Everything is transformed. Life and death are only modes of transformation, which rule the vital molecule from plant up to Brahma himself."

The occult philosophy considers as death, only that process, and period, of separation between all the various elements of one's lower human and animal nature; so that, in the case of suicides and other sudden and premature deaths, what occultists know as "death," extends over a long period of time. The moment called death by the world, is only the time of separation between the body and the life principle, which the Hindus call jiva; this is the moment when the transition begins.

Goethe was a profound student of occultism. Its influence is to be traced throughout his works, and a leading motive in many of his dramas is the dominance over the lives of men of that power which we call Karma. His masterpiece, Faust, upon which a library of commentaries has been written, can only be truly read in the light of Occultism. Faust comes to an end with the following "Mystic Chorus" sung by the assembled Hosts of Heaven:

All that's impermanent
Is but a likeness.
The Unattainable
Here findeth witness;
The Indescribable,
Here is it done;
The Ever-womanly
Leadeth us on.

A wealth of occult meaning is packed into these eight closing lines of the grand drama, which is designed to depict the course of the soul from Heaven, through earth, back to Heaven. All that is impermanent, or of the earth, belonging to the realm of matter, is but a likeness, or symbol, designed for the instruction of man, who must learn to read the lesson if he is to progress. The Unattainable in the desires of those on and of the earth finds witness, or comes to pass, in the realization of all aspirations in the life beyond. The indescribable is done there, because man in the flesh has no senses adequate to comprehend those things pertaining to a higher plane of existence. The Ever-womanly is that which makes progress of the soul possible — the feminine principle which attracts the masculine, or pure spirit, to its opposite pole and thereby causes it to manifest itself. It is by these successive manifestations that the individual is carried forward, enriched by the experience which only thus, through the attraction of the Ever-womanly, or eternal feminine principle, is attained. So the Ever-womanly, or that whereby God the spirit is made manifest in matter, is the means to lead the soul of man on its course through the grandest possibilities of the Universe to the most exalted heights of the Indescribable. Wordsworth, in his Ode on Immortality, says:

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting;
The soul that rises with us, our life's stay,
     Had had elsewhere its setting,
          And cometh from afar.
     Not in entire forgetfulness,
     And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory, do we come
     From God, who is our home.
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
     Upon the growing boy;
But he beholds the light, and whence it flows —
     He sees it in his joy.
The youth, who daily farther from the east
     Must travel, still is nature's priest.
     And by the vision splendid
     Is on his way attended;
At length the man perceives it die away,
And fade into the light of common day.

It is very clear here that Wordsworth is setting down the theory of "Re-incarnation." For he says the soul had elsewhere its setting; in order to set elsewhere, it must have had elsewhere an existence. He also refers, quite as curiously as do Whitman and Whittier, to a coming from the east, as if he had memories of a previous life in some oriental land where such ideas prevailed.

Shelley in Prometheus Unbound, sings:

     Man, O not men! a chain of linked thought,
     Of love and might to be divided not,
Compelling the elements with adamantine stress;
     As the sun rules, even with a tyrant's gaze,
     The unquiet republic of the maze
Of Planets, struggling fierce towards heaven's free wilderness.
     Man, one harmonious soul of many a soul,
     Whose nature is its own divine control,
Where all things flow to all, as rivers to the sea;
     Familiar acts are beautiful through love;
     Labor and pain and grief, in life's green grove,
Sport like tame beasts, — none knew how gentle they could be!

In the foregoing verses, the doctrine of Brotherhood is enunciated. Shelly refers to humanity as one, composed of its many units, — the one-life running through all; and also, in the first two lines, to the fact admitted by occultism, but sneered at by science, and dogmatic theology, that this "chain of linked thought," compels the elements, and actually affects the course and destiny of the world. That is, that the Karma of the physical world, indissolubly bound up in that of the individuals upon it, is moulded and concentrated by the force of men's thoughts and lives. To carry this out in one direction, we say that esoteric theosophy teaches that the inclination of the earth's axis is made greater or less by the influence of the wickedness or goodness of the people upon the earth, thus bringing down what the people call evils, such as glacial disturbances, cyclones, earthquakes and other vicissitudes of earthly life. However fanciful this theory may appear, it remains for us quite true; and as the scientific world has no reason to give for the inclination of the axis, or for the precession of the equinoxes, we are entitled to hold an opinion where they have none. For the devout Christian this theory ought to have merits, if he chooses to remember that Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed for their wickedness. They grew so horribly bad that fire was brought upon them either from heaven or beneath. If it ever happened, it must have been a cyclic disturbance. Science pooh-poohs it. Did it take place, then it was the culminating point for the dynamic power of the evil deeds and thoughts of the inhabitants.

In many places in the Christian bible, reference is made to the crying out to the Lord of the blood of the slain. Now as blood has no power to cry out, we must try in some way to make sense of these expressions, and the only way is by giving to the thoughts which produce deeds of violence, a dynamic power. It would then be easy to attribute to the blood the ability to cry out for justice, instead of saying that the deeds of blood require compensation.

But when blood is shed, elemental spirits pour in to the spot, drawn there by the emanations arising from it, and they become important factors in this supposed "calling out of the blood from the ground." Being strengthened by the human exhalations, they are a new force composed not only of the thoughts of the murdered, but also of the despair, hate and revenge of the slain. Science of course of this knows nothing, and cares less. She cannot tell how long this new force, thus compounded of elementals, blood, and the thought of slayer and his victim, will last. But the God of the Christians knew all about this. In Genesis, Ch. iv, Verse 10, He says to Cain:

"What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother's blood crieth unto me from the ground. And now art thou cursed from the earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand."

The blood furnishes the occasion, the thoughts of each give it force, and the elementals give it a voice to call on God.


The Path

THEOSOPHICAL UNIVERSITY PRESS ONLINE