OCCULTISM : ANCIENT AND MODERN
The term ‘occultism’ is a derivative of ‘occult’ which has its origin in Latin word ‘occulere’ meaning ‘conceal’. Madame Blavatsky brought currency to this word in her articles and books, using it in identical meaning with ‘Adhyatma Vidya’ in India. She, in her essay ‘Practical Occultism’ even suggests that ‘it is easy to become a theosophist’ but ‘it is quite another matter to oneself upon the Path which leads to the knowledge of what is good to do, as to 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’. This long descriptive statement is her explanation to the term ‘occultism’. She raised the status of ‘occultism’ to a stature of ‘Wisdom’ (Jnana) in the East and to that of ‘Science’ in the West. She began mentioning terms ‘Occult Wisdom’ and ‘Occult Science’ too often in her writings. Many times she refers in her ‘The Secret Doctrine’ to ‘Occult Philosophy’ as an expression of the accumulated wisdom of the ages.
She refers to Occult Sciences as the science of the secrets of nature – physical, psychic, mental and spiritual. She identified ‘Kabbalah’ in the West as the occult science while in the East she refers to those ‘mysticism, magic and yoga philosophy’ which constitute the ‘seventh darshana, there being only six darshanas in India known to the world of the profane.’
It has come to mean ‘Atma Vidya’ in India which is a comprehensive term for all knowledge about manifest and the unmanifest. When the term was introduced in the West, and references to Hermes, Kabbalah and the modern neo-Platonism were drawn in explanations, the learners started dividing the theme into ancient and modern occultism and wondering how they could be fused. When a reference was made to T Subba Row to explain what ‘modern occultism’ is, he wrote a short letter in reply. This letter contains lot of information worth noticing and fit to be kept on record for all time.
T Subba Row asserts that there is no difference between ancient and modern occultism. Occultism is ‘founded on the same principles’ but is ‘expressed in varied terms in different ages.’ His explanation of the term, precisely, is: ‘It is the Science or Wisdom giving a true and accurate explanation of the workings of the laws of nature, together with their application, throughout the Universe.’ ‘It is the science of the origin, destiny and powers of the universe, and all things therein.’ ‘Occultism again is a term derived from ‘occult’ which is identical in spirit and letter to the term ‘Seer’(darshi) or Yogi(mystic).
An occultist uses ‘the invisible forces of Nature’ to provide currents of heat, electricity etc. ‘as elements in their higher and more spiritual forms.’ The scientist on earth has to split these ‘elements’ to the lower material plane and make ‘primary substances’ of them for his experimentation. For an occultist all nature is a ‘unity’. This unity is ‘composed of manifestation on different planes; the perception of which planes depends on the development of the perceiver.’ Thus we see that this unity is made up of the constituents at various levels/planes, not a ‘make-believe’ but an inherent root or source of all. This primary understanding of the term ‘unity’ is necessary for one to move further into the matters of spiritual/divine import, particularly the energies at work.
An occultist believes that all things in manifestation develop by ‘evolution’ and this is ‘the law pervading all.’ Divine Logos is the original source. Human, a lower expression, has ‘almost infinite development’ as his/her capacity. This is vouched as an Eternal Truth. Man, in the course of his development attains additional powers (faculties) of perception and action. He becomes capable of controlling elements. All the powers attributed to ‘personal god’ gradually become tools to him for employment and utilization.
An occultist believes that Nature and its Laws are One. All action by men and women of the world ‘contrary to these laws’ will get destroyed by nature. A developed man or one who would aspire to attain divinity must therefore ‘become a co-worker with nature’. All action in conformity with the One Law alone sustains and brings good to humanity. Men and women of the world should work ‘unswervingly’ for the highest good.’
Occultism gives ‘a rational sanction for right conduct’. No other system offers this sanction, Subba Row is affirmative, when he says, ‘morality is a cosmic law’ but ‘not a superstition’ or super imposition by man.
Realization of the ‘unity of nature’ is fundamental knowledge needed to an aspirant. Then he easily responds to the idea that ‘one life pervades all’. This ‘one life’ is working in men and women of the world, within and without. Within it is called ‘conscience’ (Antaraatma), which discriminates right from wrong, but also is the seed of ‘a higher faculty of perception’, ‘a light to guide’. This gets reflected as ‘Will’, a force capable of indefinite increase and extension (Itcha-shakti). This seed is the Jnana (shakti solidified) and as is propelled by Itcha, modifies itself into Kriya-shakti. Itcha, Jnana and Kriyashaktis are interrelated and intertwined energies (forces) in men and women of the world. They have their root in the original source.
Forces of nature have been personified in the mythology. They thus become ‘partial expressions’ of the Universal Truth. An intuitive study of the mythological accounts will pave way for attaining occult knowledge, which is ‘Paramparagata’, handed down from a generation to the later since immemorial times, from Teacher to pupil, carefully guarded against distortion and is ‘pure’ in its essence and form. This occult knowledge is passed on from Teacher to the pupil only after a strict examination as to the ability of the latter so that there could be no harm or ill-disposition at his hands.
There are certain higher faculties of mind, called in general extra-sensory powers, known available with some, such as thought-reading, psychometry, clairvoyance, mesmerism etc. A taste and witnessing these make us believe that there could be many ‘unsuspected powers and faculties latent in us. These can be scientifically cultured and a perfect control over them attained by an occultist. Attainment of such powers will help us become ‘free from ordinary cares of life, and immunity from anxiety’. They tend to raise the mind above the plane on which material things affect one’s equanimity and with such equanimity alone ‘the pursuit of occultism become possible’.
Occultism is the Secret Wisdom and is the singular foundation of all ancient philosophies and religions over the world. It is ‘Sarvadesa-dasa-kala Jnana’, wisdom that is relevant to all space, all states of mind and all time. The Initiates and Adepts of occultism form as ‘unbroken succession’ and is called the ‘occult hierarchy’ (Mahi-Peetham in India). Its throne is stated to be never vacant, suggesting that spiritual guidance is available to all eligible.
Because of the currency brought to the term ‘occultism’ in the theosophical literature, more particularly by Madame Blavatsky and T Subba Row, it was fancied to be a theme of altogether modern invention. A nation or a generation of men and women, here and there, may close its eyes to the subject ‘divine light of wisdom’ or attempt to misinterpret/misrepresent that; but it ‘will not cease to shine’ with its full splendor and glory all the time and over all space.
Dr N C Ramanujachary