When we are considering such a vast and ramifying subject as the super-normal sciences, some schematic classification is necessary, for they range from psychism to ceremonial magic, and from the mystic’s Divine Union — to pacts with non-human entities, who may or may not be the Devil.
Our first task in such an undertaking should be to mark off our ground and differentiate it from the subject-matter of natural science and the ordinary workaday world. This is no easy task, for no hard-and-fast line can be drawn. Who shall say when shrewdness ‘becomes intuition, and – intuition becomes vision?
Neither can we satisfactorily leave to natural science the physical plane and the observations that are made through o the five physical senses, for the Unseen, which is the acknowledged. subject-matter of Esoteric Science, interpenetrates the material plane as intimately as water interpenetrates the strata of the earth.
The nearest approach to accuracy may be to say that occult science begins where natural science ends. This unquestionably is true as far as it goes, and is a useful practical definition; but, unfortunately, the boundary-line, though clearly marked, is not fixed, but resembles rather the line of demarcation between land and sea. on a falling tide.
Esoteric science must be distinguished from natural science by method rather than by subject-matter. It starts from first principles on the spiritual plane, and works downwards, through mind, into matter. Whereas natural science starts from the observation of phenomena on the physical plane and may—given as many eons as esoteric science has required for its development (which cannot | justly be denied it)—eventually work upwards through mind into spirit. Natural science starts with data and deduces therefrom the principles that explain them. Esoteric science starts with principles and looks for the phenomena which may be expected to ensue. The one is laboriously working out the correlation of units into an organic whole; the other is equally laboriously exploring the ramifications of primary principles. In the one, experiment must precede knowledge; in the other, knowledge must precede experiment.
But although it is impossible to plot on a map the exact line of demarcation between land and sea, nevertheless, no one standing on the seashore would have any difficulty in seeing it. So, although the clear-cut separation of exoteric from esoteric science is a thankless task, nevertheless, it is possible to indicate by a single word that which all its students will recognize as being the pursuit in which they are engaged.
What, then, shall this single word be? It must be a word whose significance shall indicate the subject under consideration, but which shall not have been appropriated to the description of a partial aspect of that subject.
Occultism will not do because it excludes the mystic; and mysticism will not do, because it excludes the occultist; neither is spiritualism a suitable term, for it has its definite connotation as signifying a particular aspect and method in these studies and cannot conveniently be extended without causing confusion.
Our subject is altogether in a parlous condition as regards nomenclature ; burdened on the one hand with a Sanskrit terminology which has been wrenched from its original significance by the usages of modern Theosophy, and on the other by a barbarous jargon derived partly from the Mysteries of Greece, partly from the Kabbalism of Israel, and partly from Medieval Alchemy, which employed bastard Latin to conceal its thoughts.
Two other sources of illumination are also available and throw much additional light on our subject—the voluminous literature of Christian Mysticism, and the equally prolific analytical school of psychology; to these we might perhaps add modern physics, whose findings are increasingly confirming what has hitherto been the exclusive preserve of occult cosmogony.
Each of these schools of thought has its own terminology and its own system of classification, and some effort must be made in the near future to correlate them all if esoteric science is to come into its own.
In the limited scope of these pages no such attempt can be made; and indeed, it is a work requiring the co-operation of specialists rather than the necessarily generalized knowledge of a single mind. We may clear the ground by a preliminary survey, showing the sub-divisions into which super-physical science naturally falls. None of these, however, are watertight compartments ; for the pursuit of any one of them a generalized knowledge of several others is essential, and although specialization is as necessary in this pursuit as in any other if any high degree of achievement is to be reached, yet that specialization should include a sound general knowledge of the whole subject, so that the work of other specialists may be appreciated and their special gifts utilized as occasion requires.
Since we have discarded: the word Occultism as a generic title for the field of our studies, we must endeavor to replace it by another. Our choice is limited, for the word chosen, as we have already seen, must convey an adequate mental picture to the outsider who looks up its meaning in a dictionary, and must not have been appropriated by any specialized school.
In its essence, the whole subject under consideration is the extension of consciousness to planes of experience which are not available for the physical senses, and out of that extended experience comes the whole gamut of supernormal experience. Might we not agree, then, to denominate the whole field by the term Illuminism and to subdivide it ‘primarily, into two branches—Mysticism, and Occultism? Into these two divisions it will be found that all the different transcendental movements can be assigned as their affinities lean towards the one or the other.
Let us now define further what we mean by these two terms.
Mysticism aims at the speediest possible attainment of the Divine Union of the soul with its Source. In order to achieve this, it eliminates all that causes separation. A cardinal doctrine in all mystic schools is that of Unreality. Whenever we find a school of thought which distinguishes sharply between the Unreal and the Real and seeks to eliminate the former from consciousness in order to possess the latter, we shall be justified in classifying it as an essentially mystical system.
Occultism, on the other hand, accepts the phenomenal as actual enough if not real, if we use the term ‘‘real’’ in its technical mystical sense as eternal and self-existing. The aim of the occultist is to organize and master phenomena and bring them into harmony with the eternal law of the Real.
The mystic discards the phenomenal universe and endeavors to escape into the Real; the occultist, even after he has glimpsed the Real, stops on in the world of phenomena and endeavors to bring it under the control of his will.
The occultist, while he agrees theoretically with the mystic’s proposition, prefers the terms ETERNAL and TEMPORAL to REAL and Unreal; for he maintains a thing may be theoretically Unreal, yet actually very much in evidence in all practical calculations made in time and space.
To this the mystic replies that the soul is best freed from the temporal by accustoming it to think of everything except the eternal as Unreal.
We might liken these rival schools of thought to two colonists, the one of whom escapes from the problems of residence in a tropical and savage land by taking ship and going home, leaving unsolved problems which do not directly concern him; while the other remains on and fights the tribes and builds roads and brings the ground under cultivation. In politics, the one is an Individualist and the other an Imperialist; in religion, the one is a Mystic and the other an Occultist.
There is much to be said for both points of: view; unfortunately, the difference between occultists and mystics are apparently irreconcilable, because they are a matter of temperament, Like the knights in the old story, they are fighting over a black and white shield, each seeing his side » of it and no other.
To argue with either of the combatants is a waste of time; let us see rather how this two-fold classification can be used to correlate the different transcendental movements and show their relationship one to another. We are quite aware that each one of them claims to have received its teaching direct from God, and heartily damns all the rest, especially such of the rest as are closest akin to it, but the unprejudiced onlooker, knowing something of the workings of the human mind, may perhaps be able to trace sources of inspiration. To say this is not to belittle the message which each founder of a school of thought may have brought to mankind. No man’s work is lessened by showing its derivations, for all work must necessarily be derivative at this late day of human history. Everybody is _ indebted to his predecessors, and it is only the egoistic or the ignorant who refuse to acknowledge it.
According to our classification as already defined, we would assign such religions as Buddhism and Christianity to the Mystic Path; together with such secondary movements as Christian Science and the crop of New Thought and Higher Thought schools which have sprung up like saplings from its root.
To the Occult Path we would assign such religions as Hinduism and Qabalistic Judaism, also such derivative movements as Theosophy, Alchemy, and Spiritualism.
Such a classification must be taken rather as an attempt to clarify understanding by examples than to be exhaustive. Probably few of those thus assigned will agree as to their inclusion in any classification; it being a peculiarity of inspired organizations to want to be regarded as a special creation, and their works as miraculous; but the — unprejudiced onlooker, if there is such a creature, sees them all as specimens in the natural history of the human mind.
Still less, we fear, will the examples we have cited like | the company to which they have been assigned. Rather will the lion lie down with the lamb than Christian Science _ and New Thought, or Theosophy and Spiritualism agree to _ be bedfellows. Nevertheless, the root-ideas of all of them are not original and can be traced back through many different enunciations into remote antiquity, as Mme. Blavatsky has so convincingly shown.
Having made our primary division, let us now seek a further classification which shall. enable us to understand the different tendencies of these two different Paths.
In Mysticism, whose method of approach is by feeling, rather than by knowing, we find two broad divisions into Nature Mystics and Spiritual Mystics. The Nature Mystics we may -most conveniently denominate Pantheists, for — they see the Manifestation of God in Nature and seek union with Him through a return to Nature. Of these are such of the ancients who sought identification by ritual and invocation with natural forces, and of the moderns, such thinkers as Walt Whitman and Algernon Blackwood. The Pantheists we may further subdivide into the Beauty and the Power Schools.
The Beauty School, of which Walt Whitman is an example, contact Nature by their love of her beauty, and never employ any ritual. The Power School, whose viewpoint is so well expressed in the works of Algernon Blackwood, seek to share in the functions of natural forces, and invariably use some form of ritual (using the word in its broadest sense as actions intended to be symbolic) in order to achieve their aim.
The Rettcious School of Mysticism seeks its God apart from Nature, and desires to know Him direct, at first intention, as it were, and deprecates all secondary expressions as idolatry. This School may again be subdivided into the Path of Service and the Path of Contemplation.
The Christian Science movement, to which we have already referred in connection with Mysticism, is somewhat difficult to classify at first sight, for it effects service through contemplation, and moreover contains a considerable admixture of occult practice, if not of occult principle. We may, however, most expediently assign it to the Path of Service, for it is essentially a way of redemption through works.