There is a school of Philosophy still in existence of which modern culture has lost sight. Glimpses of it are discernible in the ancient philosophies with which all educated men are familiar, but these are hardly more intelligible than fragments of forgotten sculpture, — less so, for we comprehend the human form, and can give imaginary limbs to a torso, but we can give no imaginary meaning to the hints coming down to us from Plato or Pythagoras, pointing, for those who hold the clue to their significance, to the secret knowledge of the ancient world. Side lights, nevertheless, may enable us to decipher such language, and a very rich intellectual reward offers itself to persons who are willing to attempt the investigation. For, strange as the statement will appear at first sight, modern metaphysics, and to a large extent modern physical science, have been groping for centuries blindly after knowledge which occult philosophy has enjoyed in full measure all the while.
Owing to a train of fortunate circumstances, we have come to know that this is the case, we have come into some contact with persons who are heirs of a greater knowledge concerning the mysteries of Nature and humanity than modern culture has yet evolved, and our present wish is to sketch the outlines of this knowledge, to record with exactitude the experimental proofs we have obtained that occult science invests. Its adepts with a control of natural forces superior to that enjoyed by physicists of the ordinary type, and the grounds there are for bestowing the most respectful consideration on the theories entertained by occult science concerning the constitution and destinies of the human soul. Of course people in the present day will be slow to believe that any knowledge worth considering can be found outside the bright focus of European culture. Modern science has accomplished grand results by the open method of investigation, and is very impatient of the theory that persons who ever attained to real knowledge, either in sciences or metaphysics, could have been content to hide their light under a bushel.
So the tendency has been to conceive that occult philosophers of old — Egyptian priests, Chaldean Magi, Essenes, Gnostics, theurgic Neo-Platonists, and the rest — who kept their knowledge secret, must have adopted that policy to conceal the fact that they knew very little. Mystery can only have been loved by charlatans who wished to mystify. The conclusion is pardonable from the modern point of view, but it has given rise to an impression in the popular mind that the ancient mystics have actually been turned inside out and found to know very little. This impression is absolutely erroneous. Men of science in former ages worked in secret, and instead of publishing their discoveries, taught them in secret to carefully selected pupils. Their motives for adopting that policy are readily intelligible, even if the merits of the policy may seem still open to discussion. At all events, their teaching has not been forgotten, it has been transmitted by secret initiation to men of our own time, and while its methods and its practical achievements remain secrets in their hands, it is open to any patient and earnest student of the question to satisfy himself that these methods are of supreme efficacy, and these achievements far more admirable than any yet standing to the credit of modern science.
For the secrecy in which these operations have been shrouded has never disguised their existence, and it is only in our own time that this has been forgotten. Formerly at great public ceremonies, the initiates displayed the powers with which their knowledge of natural laws invested them. We carelessly assume that the narratives of such displays describe performances of magic. we have decided that there is no such thing as magic, therefore, the narratives must have been false, the persons whom they refer to, impostors. But, supposing that magic of old was simply the science of magi, of learned men, there is no magic, in the modern sense, left in the matter. And supposing that such science — even in ancient times already the product of long ages of study — had gone in some directions further than our much younger modern science has yet reached, it is reasonable to conclude that some displays in connection with ancient mysteries may have been strictly scientific experiments, though they sound like displays of magic, and would look like displays of magic for us now if they could be repeated.
On that hypothesis, modern sagacity applying modern knowledge to the subject of ancient mysteries may be merely modern folly evolving erroneous conclusions from modern ignorance.
But there is no need to construct hypotheses in the Matter. The facts are accessible if they are sought for in the right way, and the facts are these. The wisdom of the ancient world — science and religion commingled, physics and metaphysics combined — was a reality, and it still survives. It is that which will be spoken of in the teachings of the Church of Illuminism as Occult Philosophy. It was already a complete system of knowledge that had been cultivated in secret, and handed down to initiates for ages, before its professors performed experiments in public to impress the popular mind in Egypt and Greece. Adepts of occultism in the present day are capable of performing similar experiments, and of exhibiting results that prove them immeasurably further advanced than ordinary modern science in a comprehension of the forces of Nature. Furthermore, they inherit from their great predecessors a science which deals not merely with physics, but with the constitution and capacities of the human soul and spirit. Modern science has discovered the circulation of the blood, occult science understands the circulation of the life-principle. Modern physiology deals with the body only, occultism with the soul as well — not as the subject of vague, religious rhapsodies, but as an actual entity, with properties that can be examined in combination with, or apart from, those of the body.
It IS chiefly in the East that occultism is still kept up — in India and in adjacent countries. It is in India that we have encountered it, and the Church of Illuminism is set up to describe these experiences to you and to retail the knowledge acquired, if you so seek it.