[From The Word, 1:4, January 1905; T. Subba Row (1856-1890) was a noted Brahman scholar and theosophist; author of Notes on the Bhagavad-Gita and other writings.]
There is no difference between ancient and modern occultism. So far as I know all real "occultism" is founded on the same principles though the terms in which they have been expressed have varied in different ages.
By occultism I understand that science, or rather wisdom, that gives a true and accurate explanation of the workings of the laws of nature, together with their application, throughout the universe.
Since all truth is one, its teachings must necessarily accord with all the proved facts of science whether ancient or modern. It must further explain all the facts of history, or the laws that govern the relation of men to each other; all mythologies, and the relation in which man stands to the rest of the universe.
It is, in fact, the science of the origin, destiny, and powers of the universe, and all things therein.
The salient point of difference between occult and modern science is that the former works by using the forces and materials of nature in their natural condition, while the latter makes use of them in a limited and separated condition on the lowest plane of their manifestation.
For instance, the occultist uses the invisible forces of nature themselves when he wishes to produce currents of heat, electricity, and the like, as elements in their higher and more spiritual forms, while the scientist is obliged to have recourse to materials as light, water, etc., and must first split these up, as they exist on the lowest material plane, into what are called primary substances before carrying out his experiments.
The occultist looks upon all nature as a unity, and attributes all diversity to the fact that this unity is composed of manifestations on different planes, the perception of which planes depends on the development of the perceiver.
He believes that the one law pervading all things is development by evolution, to an almost infinite degree, up to the original source of all evolution — the divine Logos: hence that man, as we know him, is capable of almost infinite development.
He also believes in the absolute original unity of all forms and modes of existence, and that all forms of matter are interchangeable, just as ice may be converted into water and vice versa. While scouting the idea of miracle, he believes that the developed man may attain additional faculties of perception and action, and thus be able to control the elements . . .
Believing that nature and its laws are one, the occultist knows that all action contrary to those laws will be met by opposing forces and destroyed, hence the developed man must, if he would attain divinity, become a co-worker with nature. This he must do by training himself into conformity with nature. This conformity with nature will lead him to act invariably with benevolence to pursue unswervingly the highest good, for what is called good is but action in conformity with the one law. Hence occultism gives a rational sanction for right conduct such as is offered by no other system, for it erects morality into a cosmic law, instead of basing it on superstition. Moreover, the realization of the unity of nature leads the occultist to recognize that the same one life that pervades all, is working within himself also and he is thus led to find in "conscience" not merely a criterion of right and wrong, but the germ of a higher faculty of perception, a light to guide him on his way, while in the will he recognizes a force capable of indefinite increase and extension.
All mythologies are pictorial representatives of the laws and forces of nature, as creeds are but partial expressions of the universal truth and, by intuitive study of the oldest of these, occult knowledge can be attained. This knowledge in its purity has been handed down from time immemorial from teacher to pupil and carefully guarded from abuse by a refusal to impart it until the candidate has actually proved himself incapable of misusing and misunderstanding it, for it is obvious that in the hands of an evilly disposed or ignorant person, infinite harm might result from its use.
The current account of experiments in thought-reading, psychometry, clairvoyance, mesmerism, spiritualism, etc., will show that there are reasons for believing that unsuspected powers and faculties are latent in man.
The "marvels" of the occultist are the result of scientific cultivation, and the attainment of perfect control over such powers. . . .
This secret wisdom is the foundation of all ancient philosophies and religions, whether Indian, Egyptian, Chaldean, Zoroastrian, Grecian, etc. Its traces are to be found in every age and country; there can be no greater mistake than to suppose that its reality is dependent on any single authority. Its initiates and adepts form an unbroken succession from the earliest appearance of man on this planet; their organization is today practically what it was thousands of years ago, and what it will be thousands of years hence. At the present time it is creating more stir in the public mind than it has done for some centuries, and many are fancying that it is some new thing. This is not so. As at some portions of the year the daylight lasts longer than at others, so the divine light of wisdom is more broadly diffused in some cycles than in others.
To those who have eyes to see, a brighter light has arisen; but the light will not cease to shine because few heed and many even scorn it, while others again misrepresent and try to persuade themselves and others that it is but darkness upon all.
(From Sunrise magazine, October 1978. Copyright © 1978 by Theosophical University Press.)
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