THEOSOPHY, Vol. 44, No. 2, December, 1955
(Pages 66-71; Size: 17K)
THE STRAIGHT GATE(1)One has to grow into that state where he seeks nothing for himself, but takes whatever comes to pass as the thing most desired.MAGIC appeared in the world with the earlier races of men. The ancients knew more concerning certain sciences than our modern savants have yet discovered. Reluctant as many are to confess as much, it has been acknowledged by more than one scientist. In the remote past, for ages, every true religion was based on a knowledge of the occult powers of nature. Magic was considered a divine science which led to a participation in the attributes of Divinity itself. "It unveils the operations of nature," says Philo Judæus, "and leads to the contemplation of celestial powers." In later periods its abuse and degeneration into sorcery made it an object of general abhorrence.
Eminent men were called gods by the ancients. The deification of mortal men and supposititious gods is no more a proof against their monotheism than the monument building of modern Christians, who erect statues to their heroes, is proof of their polytheism. Americans of the present century would consider it absurd in their posterity three thousand years hence to classify them as idolators for having built statues to their god, Washington. So shrouded in mystery was the Hermetic Philosophy, that Volney asserted that the ancient peoples worshipped their gross material symbols as divine in themselves; whereas these were only considered as representing esoteric principles. Men possessed of such knowledge and exercising such powers as were traditionally attributed to the ancient Magi of all lands, acquired them by patiently toiling for something better than the vain glory of passing fame. Seeking it not, they became immortal, as do all who labor for the good of the race, forgetful of mean self. Illuminated with the light of eternal truth, the rich-poor "alchemists" of every age fixed their attention upon the things that lie beyond the common ken, recognizing nothing inscrutable but the First Cause, and finding no questions unsolvable. To dare, to know, to will, and remain silent, was their constant rule. To be beneficent, unselfish, and unpretending, were, with them, spontaneous impulses. Disdaining the rewards of petty traffic, spurning wealth, luxury, pomp, and worldly power, they aspired to knowledge as the most satisfying of all acquisitions. They esteemed poverty, hunger, toil, and the evil report of men as none too great a price to pay for its achievement. They who might have lain on downy, velvet-covered beds, suffered themselves to die in hospitals and by the wayside rather than debase their souls and allow the profane cupidity of those who tempted them to triumph over their sacred vows. The lives of Paracelsus, Cornelius Agrippa, and Philalethes are too well known to repeat the old, sad story.
It is admitted on all hands that from time immemorial the distant East was the land of knowledge. Not even in Egypt were botany and mineralogy, for example, so extensively studied as by the savants of Middle Asia. Even the magic of the ancient Chaldeans was but a profound knowledge of the powers of simples and minerals. It was only when the theurgist desired divine help in spiritual and earthly matters that he sought direct communication, through religious rites, with pure spiritual beings. With them, even those spirits who remain invisible and communicate with mortals through their awakened inner sense, as in clairvoyance, clairaudience and trance, could only be evoked subjectively and as a result of purity of life and prayer. But all physical phenomena were produced simply by applying a knowledge of natural forces, although certainly not by the method of legerdemain, practiced in our day by the conjurers. Baptista Porta, in his treatise on Natural Magic, enumerates a whole catalogue of secret formulae for producing extraordinary effects by employing the occult powers of nature. Although the "magicians" believed as firmly as the spiritualists in a world of invisible spirits, none of them claimed to produce his effects under their control, through their sole help. They knew too well how difficult it is to keep away the elemental creatures when they have once found the door wide open.
With the Hindus such knowledge was and is more esoteric, if possible, than it was even among the Egyptian priests. So sacred was it deemed that its existence was only half admitted, and it was only practiced in public emergencies. It was more than a religious matter, for it was considered divine. The Egyptian hierophants, notwithstanding their practice of a stern and pure morality, could not be compared for one moment with the ascetical Gymnosophists of India, either in holiness of life or miraculous powers developed in them by the supernatural abjuration of everything earthly. By those who knew them they were held in still greater reverence than the magicians of Chaldea. Denying themselves the simplest comforts of life, they dwelt in woods, and led the life of the most secluded hermits, while their Egyptian brothers at least congregated together. To attempt to say whether these Gymnosophists were the real founders of magic in India, or whether they only practiced what had passed to them as an inheritance from the earliest Rishis -- the seven primeval sages -- would be regarded as a mere speculation by exact scholars. To these men no secret power of either plant or mineral was unknown. They had fathomed nature to its depth, while psychology and physiology were to them open books, and the result was that science of machagiotia that is now termed, so superciliously, magic.
In the Puranas are mentioned seven branches of knowledge. Out of the four there described, the highest is Atma-Vidya or knowledge of Atma, the Divine Self. This is the true Spiritual and Divine Wisdom, which can throw absolute and final light on all other teachings. Without the help of Atma-Vidya, those sciences pertaining to religious rites, to magical knowledge, and to Mantras or mystical incantations, remain no better than surface sciences -- geometrical magnitudes having length and breadth but no thickness. They are like the soul, limbs, and mind of a sleeping man: capable of mechanical motions, of chaotic dreams and even sleep-walking, of producing visible effects, but stimulated by instinctual not intellectual causes, least of all by fully conscious spiritual impulses. Atma-Vidya is translated simply "Knowledge of the Soul," true wisdom by the Orientalists, but means far more. All other arts and sciences may be mastered and results obtained, whether good, bad, or indifferent; but Atma-Vidya sets small value by them. It includes them all and may even use them occasionally, but it does so after purifying them of their dross, for beneficent purposes, and taking care to deprive them of every element of selfish motive. Atma-Vidya is the only kind of Occultism that any theosophist who admires "Light on the Path," and who would be wise and unselfish, ought to strive after.
The control of hidden forces is not easily obtained, nor can phenomena be produced without danger. In the view of the Theosophists the attainment of true wisdom, the Atma-Vidya, is not by means of phenomena but through the development which begins within. What is wanted is true knowledge of the spiritual condition of man, his aim, and his destiny. One must undergo a long preliminary training in knowledge, self-control, and the subjugation of the lower nature before he would be in any way fit for instruction on the higher occult planes. Examination of occult phenomena can only be carried on properly by a trained brain guided by a living trinity of spirit, soul and mind. Those who have trained themselves by a long course of excessively hard discipline, which reaches to the moral and mental nature and quite beyond the power of the average man of the day, can use the astral form at will, for they have gotten completely over the delusion that the physical body is a permanent part of them. And besides, they have learned the chemical and electrical laws governing in these matters. So-called miracles, when genuine, are always perfectly in accord with natural law, hence -- no miracles. The thaumaturgists of all periods, schools, and countries, produced their wonders because they were perfectly familiar with the imponderable -- in their effects -- but otherwise tangible waves of the astral light. They controlled the currents by guiding them with their will-power. Electricity and magnetism were unquestionably used in the production of some of the prodigies; but now, the same as then, they are put in requisition by every sensitive, who is made to use unconsciously these powers by the peculiar nature of his or her organization, which serves as a conductor for some of these imponderable fluids, as yet so imperfectly known to science.
ELECTRICITY -- mighty word, and still mightier symbol! Sacred generator of no less sacred progeny: of fire -- the creator, the preserver, and the destroyer; of light -- the essence of our divine ancestors; of flame -- the Soul of things. The electricity we handle is but the result of ordinary matter affected by something invisible, the "ultimate generating power" of every Force, the "one omnipresent influence." Hence it only becomes natural that one should believe as the ancients did: namely, that every Element is dual in its nature. Electricity, the One Life at the upper rung of being; and astral fluid, the Athanor of the alchemists, at its lowest: God and Devil, good and evil.
Thought is electricity; and it can be productive either for good or for evil in its effects. Thought has a self-reproductive power, and when the mind is held steadily to one idea it becomes colored by it and, as we say, all the correlates of that thought arise in the mind. Any evil or noble element of human nature converts itself, under "favorable" conditions into any other element however apparently remote. One of the first rules in the Brotherhood demands that those who start on their journey Eastward as candidates to notice and favor of those who are custodians of the mysteries, should proceed by the straight road, without stopping on every sideway and path, seeking to join other "Masters," and professors of the Left-Hand Science; that they should have confidence and show trust and patience, besides several other conditions to fulfill.
Occult law prescribes silence upon the knowledge of certain secret and invisible things perceptible only to the spiritual mind (the sixth sense), and which cannot be expressed by uttered speech. This is the doctrine of the heart, which is the spiritual consciousness of the Ego -- not perceived by the brain consciousness until right thought, and the right actions which sooner or later follow it, attune certain centers in the brain in accord with the spiritual vibration. Our real life is not what we take it to be, it is in the fiery depths of the heart. Remember that your truest adviser is to be found, and constantly sought, within yourself; one should find out his spirit-will and ignore a little the mental attitude one takes. The main point is to free the mind from the power of the senses and to raise a current of thought to the exclusion of all others. "The patient dwelling of the mind on a single thought results in the gaining of wisdom, and it is thus that the true Occultist is developed."
We are talking of a problem whose implacable front yields to nothing but force, and that force must be directed with knowledge. On the threshold of all these laws and states linger forces and beings of an awful and determined character. No one can avoid them as they are on the road that leads to knowledge, and they are every now and then awakened or perceived by those who, while completely ignorant, still persist in dabbling with charms and necromantic practices. We must not break the silence of the future, lest we raise up unknown and difficult tribes who will not be easy to deal with. The best advice is, do not try to open up communication with beings on other planes. It is not time, and danger lies that way, because of the power of creating one's own images, and because of the power and disposition of the dark forces to simulate beings of light, and render futile your efforts to reach the goal.
Evil, in human nature, denotes only the polarity of matter and spirit, a struggle for life between the two manifested Principles in space and time, which principles are one per se, inasmuch as they are rooted in the Absolute. In Kosmos, the equilibrium must be preserved. The operations of the two contraries produce harmony, like the centripetal and centrifugal forces, which are necessary to each other -- mutually interdependent -- "in order that both should live." If one is arrested, the action of the other will become immediately self-destructive. It should be understood that not even the greatest of Yogis can divert the progress of Karma, or arrest the natural results of actions for more than a short period, and even in that case, these results will only reassert themselves later with even tenfold force, for such is the occult law.
Harmony comes from a balancing of diversities, and discord from any attempt to make harmony by force. We are in Kali Yuga, and its fatal influence is a thousand-fold more powerful in the West than it is in the East. The inner eye, the power of seeing, looks deeper into the source of a man's knowledge and takes it at its true value. How can it be thought possible for a man to enter the "straight gate" when his daily thoughts are bound up with worldly things, desires of possessions and power, with lust, ambition and duties, which, however honorable, are still of the earth earthy? The aspirant has to choose absolutely between the life of the world and the life of Occultism. It is useless and vain to endeavor to unite the two, for no one can serve two masters and satisfy both. It would be a ceaseless, a maddening struggle for almost any married man, who would pursue true practical Occultism, instead of its theoretical philosophy. For he would find himself ever hesitating between the voice of the impersonal divine love of Humanity, and that of the personal, terrestrial love.
There are "natural-born magicians"; mystics and occultists by birth, and by right of direct inheritance from a series of incarnations and æons of sufferings and failures. These are passion-proof, so to say. No fires of earthly origin can fan into a flame any of their senses or desires; no human voice can find response in their souls, except the great cry of Humanity. These only may be certain of success. Not so with those who have to carry yet for several incarnations the burden of sins committed in previous lives, and even in their present existence. For such, unless they proceed with great caution, the golden gate of Wisdom may get transformed into the wide gate and the broad way "that leadeth unto destruction," and therefore "many be they that enter in thereby." This is the Gate of the Occult Arts, not that of true Occultism -- practiced for selfish motives and in the absence of the restraining and beneficent Atma-Vidya.
THE ASTRAL BODY
[Part 1 of a 7-part series]
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