Occultism and Brotherhood

By J. P. Brakel
[Condensed from an address delivered at a General Meeting of Het Theosofisch Genootschap, (Pasadena) held at Apeldoorn, Holland, on September 26, 1987.]

A direct connection between occultism and brotherhood may not be clear at first. On closer inspection, however, the connection is very clear. If the occultist is not an altruist — one who is mindful of the interests of others -- then there is great danger. What lives in the heart of the occultist? Is he concerned with getting power and advantage over others? Or is he convinced that the great problems can be solved only by people working together unselfishly? In this case, the way is open for the natural development of our higher faculties so that man becomes a comfort to his fellowman instead of an affliction.

How can we make the right choice from the multitude of things being offered? It is obvious that we have to make the choice ourselves and not let it be made by some "spiritual" adviser. We have to consult our own feelings. Our intellect can help us in this, but our intuition can help us even more. What really matters is which part of us is active in the making of our choice. If it is the lower, the choice will be made for limited ideas without universal thoughts or vision, directed at the emotional and material realms. The higher intuition shuns sectarianism and is not bound to the narrow thought-patterns of the brain, but seeks the life-giving breath of spirit. When this choice is sustained a person may in time become a true occultist, for pure intuition is impersonal and serves as a safe guiding principle to the awakening soul. From that level of consciousness come the higher impulses that move us to consider the interests of others and to go about our daily lives with a certain dispassion, enabling us to accept with good humor the sometimes unintentional mistakes of others (think of commuter traffic as a very practical example!). This is brotherhood in action. Perhaps it sounds exaggerated to say that brotherhood cannot become a part of daily life until we try to become occultists. On the other hand, it is impossible to be an occultist without putting brotherhood into practice.

This is not mere sentiment or theory; it has to do with living, day to day and moment to moment. We need only look around us to know that a radical change in thinking is needed to alleviate the suffering in the world. The doctrine of the Buddha could play a leading role in this: nonviolence and compassion for all that lives. I think that is the most essential message of occultism. It is the way of the heart, without neglecting the intellect.

"Occult" means "hidden," and the ancient wisdom has in this sense been hidden for ages — not hiding what humanity has a right to, but simply protecting it from misuse. The gaining of knowledge always results in expansion of power, and the candidate must undergo a long process of training to make him fit for the responsibility of safely carrying more knowledge. The great danger is selfishness, as A. P. Sinnett was told by K.H., his spiritual mentor:

Perhaps you will better appreciate our meaning when told that in our view the highest aspirations for the welfare of humanity become tainted with selfishness if, in the mind of the philanthropist there lurks the shadow of desire for self benefit or a tendency to do injustice, even when these exist unconsciously to himself. Yet, you have ever discussed but to put down the idea of a universal Brotherhood, questioned its usefulness, and advised to remodel the T. S. [Theosophical Society] on the principle of a college for the special study of occultism. This, my respected and esteemed friend and Brother — will never do! — The Mahatma Letters to A. P. Sinnett, p. 8

Occultism has a long history and has always fascinated people. It is the inner urge to search for the unknown depths which every person feels he has within him. But how difficult it is to distinguish between true and pseudo-occultism. If we can get in touch with our higher self, the immortal part in us, this will have a salutary effect, providing new insight and inspiration and at the same time giving us access to the door of the Mysteries. If we do not succeed in getting in touch with that inexhaustible inner source at our disposal and instead come under the influence of the lower self, we will have to repeat continually what we do not want to learn, just as we do in a bad dream. If we try to escape, we often end up in a labyrinth whose exit is hard to find. H. P. Blavatsky put it succinctly:

the practical cure for it lies in one thing. It sounds very simple, but is eminently difficult; for that cure is "ALTRUISM."H. P Blavatsky to the American Conventions, 1888-1891, p. 18

From this we can conclude that universal brotherhood comes first and only then does the study of occultism follow. The need is to become an instrument that does not endanger anything that lives.

We live in a time when science and philosophy are getting closer. Just as we are now in a position to record millions of pieces of information in a few centimeters of space and hold them ready for immediate use, so in another discipline we are penetrating further and further into what we might call the human chip. We are discovering that it is capable of much more awesome achievements, because the information stored in the DNA is practically inexhaustible. Invisible to the naked eye, it is the core of every living cell.

This is not to say that the inner nature of man can be discovered within the realm of physics, though it is certain that an age full of surprises is coming, and the technical expertise of today is just an introduction. But what good is it to make a faultless journey to the moon or spend our vacation on an island in the universe, if we are unable to recognize a brother in our fellowman here on earth? What good is expertise if we are unable to offer a helping hand to a fellow pilgrim who has wearily fallen along the way, or if we are not willing to forget that we have been wronged?

All of that is much more important than technical progress, for we will have to pull together on this earth, age after age, to make this a world in which human dignity can be fully developed. Then there will be respect not only for human life but for all lives. Something Plotinus said contains the essence of what it's all about: "The calling of man is to bring the divine in him in harmony with the divine in the universe."

As soon as brotherhood takes on a deeper meaning, we will stop abusing the planet. We will stop chopping down vast expanses of forest, injuring the lungs of the earth with, in the long run, serious consequences for everything that lives and breathes. We have gradually come to know that there is an all-pervading pulse perceptible throughout the universe, extending even to the so-called inert kingdoms where life can scarcely be perceived. Everything breathes in and out, and in this universal process of continuous exchange are endless possibilities for growth which in the lower kingdoms occurs more or less automatically; in the higher kingdoms it becomes increasingly conscious and voluntary, as with man. Then the question may be asked: in our day-to-day lives, what are we making available from minute to minute for the purification of the thought-atmosphere? Each of us can answer this only for himself.

Another need closely related to brotherhood is for a better division of material prosperity on this earth. Every person has a right to reasonable living conditions, but even more important is spiritual prosperity the well-being of the total person, both inward and outward.

It is obvious that we have entered a new age that is gaining strength daily. As a child grows to maturity, from unconscious to conscious awareness, so also is the course of humanity as a whole. Our consciousness is like a web. The slightest touch causes a vibration that is felt throughout the entire network. On a universal scale, this means that everything is interconnected and nothing can happen that is not perceived or felt in all corners of the universe. In the human world everything we think and do is felt all around us, and we carry a great deal of responsibility for one another.

Just as in the sciences there is a growing recognition that everything is interrelated and nothing completely isolated, so there is a breaking through of light in our thoughts, the light that illumines the inner man and makes him realize that he is an indispensable connection in the cosmic web. Knowing that, we had better stop fighting one another and, for the prevention of indescribable suffering, not put off recognizing that brotherhood is a universal fact.

(From Sunrise magazine, April/May 1988. Copyright © 1988 by Theosophical University Press.)


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