and other essays
by Laurence J. Bendit

First printed 1973

The Theosophical Publishing House Ltd, London. England


Part 1 of 2    Click here for Part 2

Introduction 7
The Mysteries Today 13
The Need for Scepticism 20
The Perils of Spiritual Aspiration  24
Meditation in a Vacuum 32
Some Thoughts about the Masters 36
Yoga through Maya 46
No Accident     53
Those 'Dark Forces'    62
The Spirit in Health and Disease 70
'Memento Mori': An approach to Physical Death   76
The Incarnation of the Angels   83
More about the Angels   93
The Handing on of Power    102

Psychical Research, Parapsychology, Psychology and Religion     

Fifth Race, Sixth Race    117
A Madness that will pass   127
Love, Sex, Marriage    132
'I Myself' — Some reflections     142
'. . . And the powers latent in Man'     147





[Page 7] THEOSOPHY, the wisdom of the enlightened mind, is unchanging for ever. It existed before history began — for man was already an inhabitant of the earth — and it will endure long after history has ended as a record of events in time: when it will, in some form, remain as part of the heritage of the universe. It is the Pearl of Great Price of the Gnostic Christian, it is the Jewel in the Lotus, the Clear Light of the Buddhist, the Tao of the mind; it is known by many names, yet it is always the same Wisdom.

What changes, however, is the setting of the Pearl; the Lotus may fade and have to be renewed in a new bud; the one who has found Bodhi or Enlightenment may, if he has not attained liberation, have to reincarnate, bringing his Theosophy with him. Through the ages its doctrines have been passed from mouth to ear, from teacher to pupil, in such a way that the pupil became active of mind and so found his own Wisdom. Fragments have been written on papyrus, on palm-leaf, on parchment and hidden when persecution drove wisdom underground. Then, too, symbols such as those of the alchemists, the songs of poets and troubadours, the language of stonemasons became the vehicles of the hidden lore.

Then, some hundred years ago, more was set down than ever before, on western style paper, on western printing presses, and for the first time in history laid before a public which had become sufficiently educated to appreciate it if they wished; though they might not realize, even if their interest was caught, that the true Secret Doctrine would still remain secret until they found the inner key to it. These teachings, it may be surmised, were like seed waiting in the ground of the intellect for the fertilizing rain of a higher, intuitive, form of mind, to make them live and grow and acquire real meaning.

At every stage, therefore, the eternal Wisdom has been there for the one who sought arduously enough. The words, or the forms of genuine art which sometimes replaced words, were suited to their time. And the same applies today when, in the [Page 8] circles of the Society calling itself Theosophical, valiant students have told us, by way of sharing, not of dogma, what they discovered. They too did so in the language, and in tune with the times. But in the past few decades, mankind has undergone the sudden, or at least rapid change known as a Gestalt. Humanity has taken a rapid step forward in its mode of thinking, and this has served to 'date', not the principles expressed by older students, but the way in which they presented them. Science, art, philosophy, psychology, today are very different from what they were in the 'thirties. So it is scarcely surprising that the books we can label 'classics', implying that they have permanent value though their language is archaic, lend themselves to further comment in terms of modern culture; though it seems that the earliest writer in the modern movement, H. P. Blavatsky, despite her endless parentheses and out-dated polemic, and her exasperation with the limits imposed on her by the mentality of the time, stands out as the most modern of the group of herself and her successors. Indeed, one may say that one cannot really go back to Blavatsky for the simple reason that one's mind has to run 'like mad' if it wants to catch up with her!

In any case, one has to remember that H. P. Blavatsky was humble: she never, any more than others coming after her, claimed infallibility; and, indeed, she says outright that there are many errors and inconsistencies in her writings. This is obvious to anyone who tries to construct out of her writings a picture of the universe which is entirely logical. It is still more apparent in some of her more emotionally inspired sayings, as when she speaks of 'a courageous endurance of personal injustice', when, obviously, if the karmic law is true, there can be no such thing as personal injustice. Yet her work is monumental and will probably endure as scientific knowledge develops, when one finds that within the fetters of the older language she often seems to have anticipated things which the modern scientist is just beginning to discover once more. (One has to be careful, of course, here. It is so easy to pick on some ancient text and to say, 'Look: this was known long since', when more objective examination shows that the text meant nothing of the sort. I was once told that 'one can find everything in the Bible, even electricity': but I was not convinced.) [Page 9]

I feel that it is in no way to down-grade the older writers to reconsider some of their ideas. On the contrary, the aim of these essays has been to try and bring out the validity which one usually finds underlying some of the more conditioned and 'Victorian' expressions of what seem to be basic theosophical ideas.

If I have a fault to find, it is not with Theosophy in the last hundred years or so, but with the fact that what is popularly known as 'Theosophy' or 'Theosophical Teaching' has restricted itself largely to one strand of Theosophy in its original sense. My Oxford Dictionary defines this word as denoting 'Any of various ancient and modern philosophies professing to attain to a knowledge of God by spiritual ecstasy, direct intuition or special individual relations: which is good. But the Society seems to have concentrated mostly on one aspect of the theosophical fabric, i.e., occultism: facts, or supposed facts about the universe and man. True, it has brought in elements of other philosophies, but H. P. Blavatsky's books are much more 'occult' than anything else, and the other main contributor, after her, was the very personal work of C. W. Leadbeater. I am not criticizing these, so much as wanting to point to what seems to have been a restriction of 'theosophical' thought, so labeled, to smaller boundaries than the ancient and widest sense of the word. In particular, it has paid scant attention to modern depth psychology, whose best bases are directly in line with Theosophy. Indeed, it supplies an esoteric element, as regards individuals, which it would be difficult to find in 'occult' literature, in such a way as can be applied to our personal problems. Only too often does one hear that somebody is 'having trouble with Kundalini' — an occult force — which, translated into common language, boils down to him or her having a problem about sex, which could more or less easily be solved by taking a psychological look at oneself.

I should perhaps add that the commonly made distinction between occultism and mysticism scarcely holds good in Theosophy as defined in Oxford: it is an artificial division which becomes all the more blurred as one goes on.

Over the years, as the impulse came to me, I have written the articles assembled in this volume. Inevitably, since they were not written consecutively, they do not form a coherent [Page 10] whole, a text-book or primer. But their background is the same: what I have learned from older Theosophists, including the wise people who are not in the Society or even the movement labeled theosophical: many of them, though they might even repudiate the suggestion, are in the real sense Theosophists, people of insight and wisdom greater than the most brilliant intellect alone can give, greater also than any accumulation of book knowledge.

It is my hope that the thought embodied in these articles may serve for a while, but not for very long, as a stimulus to other students. For if we go on progressing as of late the world has progressed, it is to be hoped that in a few years what I have written may be healthily buried and dusted over with the past.

There is, however, another reason for reprinting these ephemeral articles which is that they may help to make a bridge between the Theosophy of the past century and that of time to come. Just as the methodology of science has, in the past century, given man the mental power of objectivity, it has served, and still serves, where method cannot be applied — i.e., in the realm of feeling values, and of what is aptly termed 'inner space', the realms inside the mind, and inside the dense physical world. So can we see a transition between the mental climate of the hundred-year old modern Theosophical Movement and what it is becoming today.

To go back to Colonel Olcott's Old Diary Leaves, and particularly its first two volumes, makes interesting reading. For the modern Theosophical Movement germinated in an atmosphere which would probably alienate many people today. The things recorded in the Diaries give us what cannot but be an authentic picture of it, as well as of the founders of the Society themselves. Olcott, an eminent New York lawyer was no fool, though he was a beginner in occultism; and, devoted as he was to H. P. Blavatsky, he shows us a picture of an amazing person who, however, was no saint. It is moreover, curious that her critics usually accuse her of sexual immorality — yet she was virgo intacta all through her life! It is worth noting also that not one of those who, in the past decades, have written about her whether to deify or vilify her ever knew her during her lifetime. They see the H. P. Blavatsky they want to see, not her as she was. Olcott lived very close to her, and what he tells us [Page 11] coincides with what others of her contemporaries say, and clearly shows his description to be authentic in very large degree. But physical phenomena of a kind rarely if ever found today, were rife, and seemed to serve as window-dressing for the more serious intent behind the movement. Olcott himself realized that the ability to perform psychic tricks had nothing to do with spirituality; but he curiously enough seems to class all the human or superhuman entities which played a part in producing phenomena, and those who conveyed through H. P. Blavatsky the material for her books, as Masters, Mahatmas or Adepts: yet it seems evident that there were very different grades among them. Moreover, what they taught was largely factual or symbolically factual about the universe and its contents.

Today what we ask (though there are still mental coelacanths among students of the occult) brings into play knowledge derived from worldly sources which was simply not available a hundred years ago. One is inclined to think how much Colonel Olcott would have benefited from our present-day knowledge about psychology and parapsychology, embryonic as these twin sciences still are: he would have escaped certain naïvetés apparent in his writings today. 'Inner space' is much more the concern of the student of the occult, in whatever form, today than remote facts about cosmic construction. Yet to ignore the latter would be to lose material which can, at some times and in some form, play into our own inner explorations.

Science, including that dubious branch, psychology, has thrown a bridge across the division between two levels of mind, and Blavatskian Theosophy has tried to add its quota on the level of science. It has had some success in keeping matters from deteriorating into a materialistic era. But we are now nearing the further end of that bridge, and need to be ready to explore the realms beyond it. A modern view of the older presentations may narrow the gap still extant between the end of the scientific era and whatever the future has in store for us. Hence these essays, as a very small share in the large contribution to this end which can today be found in many spheres of life.

In conclusion, I want to give my sincere thanks to Margaret Macdonald for collating and sorting a spate of papers, and for getting some coherence into them: a task of which I myself am [Page 12] incapable, partly because one can never truly evaluate one's own work, but partly also because this work had to be done in London while I myself am now living in North America.

I must also thank the editors of The Theosophist, The Theosophical Journal, The American Theosophist and Theosophia for permission to reprint various articles.

1972 L.J.B.


[Page 13] EVER since man became man, there has at all times been a direct road between him, at whatever stage of consciousness he was, and the deepest spiritual levels of his being. He has always, in theory, been capable of treading that road as a result of his unaided efforts, but he has also had the help of a more or less explicit philosophy of the facts concerning the universe, himself and the relation between the two. This is often referred to as the Mystery Tradition of Teaching and is a permanent heritage of mankind. Passed on in writing or by word of mouth, this perennial philosophy remains basically unchanged by time, but its expression has varied very markedly. Moreover, there seems always to have been a dual line of approach to the innermost. One of these was through meditation and contemplation and was subjective. The other, outward turned, gave rise to observances, rites, ceremonies carried out in action. The two were complementary and supplementary to each other.

In the West, Egypt and Greece stand out as two main civilizations in which the Tradition was organized into Mystery Schools, each with its own rituals, each with its own symbolism and pomp. Some of the ceremonies were public, as were the great processions in Egypt and those between Eleusis and Athens. They still exist in the West in such things as the rites of the Roman and other churches which have public displays and festivals. Behind the outer shows, however, there lay esoteric ceremonies open only to initiates of the proper grade. Freemasonry, in our time, is a survival of these, adapted and modernized.

There are, however, a number of enthusiasts today who are anxious to revive the ancient Mysteries of Greece and Egypt in their old form. But, apart from the decadence which led to their being eventually outlawed in Rome, there is an important question as to whether this recall of the past is healthy and suitable. Would any success be a forward or a retrograde [Page 14] step in the search for deeper understanding and greater awareness of the meaning of life ? This is the problem which prompts the reflections which — without claiming any authority other than my own thoughts — I want now to consider.

Greece, the most recent of the places where the Mysteries flourished on a great scale, lies over two thousand years behind us. Egypt goes much farther still. In the interval, man in general has made vast strides, none more rapid and extensive than in the past two centuries. The manasic (pure mental) principle has developed, hardened, become more positive than it ever was before in historical times. (If the myth of Atlantis is actually a fact, then it belongs not to history but to prehistory). Modern man is, therefore, very different from his forbears. Hence, what will be useful to him in furthering his evolution is something very different from what was of use in the days when man was not so manasic.

Ancient man (taking this to mean not the primitive but the civilized man of historic times) was collectively not intellectual and critical. He responded to feeling and intuition, he was much more 'psychic' and sensitive, if only in a passive way, than his modern counterpart. But this was counterbalanced by a much closer and more direct link with people who were much in advance of the ordinary, and whose function it was to guide, direct and rule from a standpoint of true spiritual eminence. We see today traces of this tradition in the place we, sometimes rather unwillingly, allow even today to crowned kings, to popes and bishops, as well as in the high-sounding titles — which once meant something — used for instance in Masonic bodies. It seems as if, in old days, there was a hierarchy in the Mysteries, which made an open and unbroken link between the deepest, innermost and most spiritual levels of life and the most mundane public festivals and religious rites open to hoi polloi. The highway between extremes was barred by gates of an initiatory nature which opened only to those who were ready to pass them, but nevertheless, it was well known that the Mystery path existed for all to follow if they would. The esoteric teaching and symbolism was the same from first to last. What changed was its interpretation, values, and the understanding of the disciple.

Things are not the same today. If there are genuine Mystery [Page 15] Schools, they are hidden and arcane. There are, it is true, many bodies which claim to be Rosicrucian or to belong to some esoteric tradition, but all of those which make their claims public are spurious. Even if they use genuine old rituals derived from papyri or manuscripts, it is most questionable whether they are in any way linked with the Temples to which the rituals belonged. Their position is as if, in the Catholic Christian churches, the Apostolic Succession which links the modern priest with the furthest origins of the Church were broken and not to be retrieved. Freemasonry seems to be the only genuinely descended semi-public organization, however emasculated its present-day forms. In any case, the average man today ignores, when he does not scorn, these bodies. And even the more studious usually fails to grasp the inwardness of what is presented to him in church, lodge or chapter.

In other words, it seems at first sight as if, with the disappearance of the true Mystery Schools, the Mysteries themselves had also died. But if we reconsider the matter, a different picture seems to emerge.

Manas, in every sphere of life, functions both as a link and a barrier between inner, spiritual consciousness and that of the personality. It is the focus of selfhood and of the field of self-conscious awareness. It acts as a barrier when it ousts intuition and confines consciousness below, or outside itself, in the form of material, pragmatic, detailed knowledge. It is a link when, the intellect being given its proper place, it opens the way to non-intellectual, more-than-rational experience such as that which transforms intellectualism into intelligence — a quality often lacking in the so-called intellectual.

The duality of manas also shows in action when, at different times in human history, it swings between introversion and extroversion. We are now surfeited with the latter and its perilous technical achievements, and there is a marked tendency to turn inward and to seek out the meaning of things, no less scientifically, but in the subjective and not the objective field. The result is a tendency for the deepest intuitive thinkers to withdraw from ceremonies and rituals towards a more meditative, quietistic way of life. Otherwise said, it looks as if the modern Mysteries took place, not in outer ceremonies and rites, but in the rich inner world of the mind where myths and [Page 16] visions lead to intuitive insights, satori, Gestalts which are in effect initiatory and transformative to the one who has them. True, some will still take part in rituals and outer forms. But the emphasis nowadays lies more on the mythological, spiritual meaning embodied in them than on the forms themselves; for true and valid rituals are no more than the dramatic expression of myth and, when properly performed, bring with them from the archetypal, spiritual world, the powers which flow through that myth. The principal part of any rite, therefore, is now that which takes place within the mind, not outside it.

If this is so, it appears to contradict, or at least modify, some of the things which have been said about the 'Seventh Ray', often describing it as that of ceremonial. If this is indeed the 'Ray' which is coming into prominence today, when the tendency is to do away with outer ritual, it seems as if its quality were really that of the mental orderliness of what we call Culture (including science) in its true sense. The 'ceremonial' takes place as the mind becomes organized and ordered as a temple in which myth is played out and, as it is understood, enriches and enhances the spiritual understanding of the individual. This takes place in each one in an individual and unique way despite the common significance of any myth for all mankind. Conscious self-understanding is the dynamic quality which enables each person to tread the mythological ladder between heaven and earth. Man today, in contradistinction to man in ages past, is able to do things for himself and by himself which, in the past, required at least some help from wiser and senior spiritual teachers and gurus.

It looks as if the older ceremonial initiations at the hands of high-priests and hierophants helped the weakly developed manasic aspect of the disciple to overcome a gap in his make-up. His mind was not yet strong enough to do this for himself; and some wisely applied occult and magical lore was able to help him on his way. Yet even then it seems worth considering whether in the ultimate stages, when the disciple became in the full sense a member of what is known as the Great White Lodge, he did not have to take that step and initiate himself by his own unaided efforts. One can conceive of his progress as requiring less and less help from his teachers, as he comes closer and closer to the true and final event, when he stands on [Page 17] his own feet entirely and steps through the portal alone. The Initiation, when it comes, is the greatest of all Gestalts, a break-through in consciousness into a sphere hitherto only seen through some degree of veiling but now entered in full conscious perception and awareness.

Such a view calls into question the exact nature of the ceremonial initiations described in certain books. It suggests that they refer, not to the full Initiation, but to something less, however near it may approach to the Reality. For this Reality is something intimate, completely secret so far as any outer showing is concerned, an opening of consciousness from within. And it is something which none can confer on another, however exalted the giver may be. Nor can it be denied to the one who is ready, since it is something he does for himself. It says in the Book of Amos: 'Unto him that overcometh will I give a white stone; and in that stone a new name written, which none knoweth saving him that receiveth it.' The Giver, in this case, is God: the human spirit, the Atman. The 'new name' is the keynote, the mantram which expresses the man as reborn. The part italicized contains two significant matters: that the individual feels the expansion in himself, the other, that nobody in the outer world is held to be aware of what has taken place, and hence cannot tell him that he has reached this or the other stage on the occult path. It should be added here that sudden minor expansions of consciousness are frequent occurrences in daily life. Sometimes, moreover, they are part of a destructive process in the mind, a step towards unbalance and insanity, which is why so many would-be occultists claim to have become high initiates when they have in reality lost some of their balance and stability and, above all, humility. For, as it has been said, the true Initiate 'is as nothing in the eyes of men,' and only the quality of his life and personality gives any key to his stature.

One of the difficulties in making a real assessment of things today is that we are in a stage of transition between two human eras; and rapid movement inevitably leads to confusion. In the matter under discussion, the confusion has found expression in many of the descriptions of psycho-spiritual life, given as a [Page 18] result of psychic investigation. This is in no way to decry the value of these investigations. They were, after personal bias, often very strong, is discounted, a magnificent piece of pioneer work. Indeed, one may see them as laying a foundation for future research, using extrasensory perception as the means of discovery. But when most of this work was done, we had only a vague idea of the dynamic importance of myth — and its external expression in rituals. Annie Besant tells us that myth is truer and deeper than historical accounts whether about the universe or about man. She did not, however, realize as we do today, the power of myth itself as a channel of redemptive forces within the human mind. It took the genius of C. G. Jung to bring out this aspect of the matter and to show us both how it operates and how to make constructive use of what it brings.

In the psychic investigations even of some very competent people it seems as if actual events, physical or psychic, and myth, had not been fully differentiated. Objective ceremonies and events may well take place in the psychic realm, but that realm is also the one where dreams and visions and the expression of myth originate. If we study some of the descriptions of such matters — and the Wesak, as described by C. W. Leadbeater is an example — it is quite clear that it contains a reference to symbols which belong to the mythological level and which are to be found not only in the occult tradition, but also present themselves in the important dreams of the individual student of life. The question thus arises as to whether the ceremony described is one which actually occurs physically, or near-physically, or whether in fact Leadbeater did not, in the account of the Wesak, and elsewhere embody something very real but which took place only in the form of a symbolic dream.

As to this it would be foolish to dogmatize, and each one has to make his own judgement both about this and a great deal else. It is, however, a part of the whole question of the Mysteries today. Hence it is one which is important to the theosophical student who is not content to let others do his thinking for him. The latter may have been in order in olden days, before man had learned to think. It is today out of place — as much out of place as any revival of the Ancient Mysteries as such. Man has always needed the Mystery Tradition. He [Page 19] needs it today and he will need it tomorrow. It still exists; but unless we allow ourselves to be misled, it has to be sought in the right place and in the right form. Manas, pure mind, is the key today and Truth has to be sought through but not in it. By learning to use this mind properly we are led into the new world of intuition and direct apprehension of Reality which lives on the further side of it, and this is the realm of enlightened, personal intuitive knowledge.

This, it appears to me, are the Mysteries of Today.[Page 20]


RECENTLY published material has brought into the open several questions which many of the more critical older Theosophists have long been considering. Newer members may wonder whether there is any point in reviving ancient history; but it has happened, and from it we may learn something which is today of as much importance as it should have been yesterday and as it will be tomorrow. That is, the need for very clear objectivity and discrimination, particularly where revelation of occult matters is concerned.

It is useful, taking the material under discussion, to see how major mistakes can arise, however sincere and honest people may be. We have it forced on us once again that what those we used to call 'our Leaders' repeatedly told us (but we did not listen) is true: they were not infallible. They were, like ourselves, human, therefore imperfect. But, rather than consider what would be required for infallibility, it is perhaps more practical and useful if we look at the causes of the errors they — and we, in common with them — may make. For if we watch for the cause and understand its working, we are in a better position to judge both what we ourselves perceive, and what we hear from others.

Briefly, the source of error can be summed up in two headings: wishful thinking and the misuse of precedent in forecasting the future.

I. WISHFUL THINKING. We may, if we care to, use the term 'unconscious kriyashakti' for the creation of mental images. The energy known as kriyashakti can work from any level, through the feeling aspect of the mind. It can be in the octave known as Buddhi, when true creation takes place and true intuition enlightens us. It can also emerge at the Kamic or desire level, when the result is the creation of images based on what we would like to be told. Normally, the thought images remain within the field of the individual mind. But they can also, if powerful enough, become eidetic: that is, they become seemingly [Page 21] detached, figures existing in their own right, 'idols' (the word eidetic stems from the same root) and hence appear to be entities, superhuman, human or subhuman, 'elemental' or devilish, which come before the conscious mind as if from outside and perhaps talk or act as if they were 'real'. In all cases, however, they are in fact created by the one they come to: they are yourself, speaking to yourself, about yourself or about something which deeply concerns yourself.

This is the safe way of looking at all such things, whether they are perceived directly by oneself or whether they 'report back' indirectly through mediums, entities from outer space, or in any other way.

The cure ? Deep self-knowledge which, if it docs not eliminate the possibility of self-deception, at least shows us how it works, and hence enables us to discount it. But self-knowledge also helps us to realize that such seemingly eidetic and self-produced images may be in reality what they purport to be: a Master, a Teacher (other than the supreme teacher, our own inner selves), the soul of a dead person, an angel or an 'elemental'. But if we know ourselves we can apply to them certain tests, chief of which perhaps is that no spiritual being flatters our vanity any more than he talks down to us; while no 'devil' or 'black magician' can ever torment us unless we have something in us of the same evil quality he represents.

2. PRECEDENT. Historical time moves on, and human consciousness changes. Hence, to expect history to repeat itself exactly is fatal, especially when it comes to such a thing as the Coming of a World Teacher or Avatar. The whole purpose of such an Event is not to carry on an old tradition in its old form, but, on the contrary, in a sense to shock mankind into a new outlook. This inevitably makes the Teacher into a reformer and an iconoclast.

What little we know about Gautama and Jesus proves this. Gautama, the prince, threw up his royal future and became a wandering sannyasi. Jesus, seemingly born at the other end of the social scale, upset the Jewish pundits, who had a ready-made scheme of behavior for their Messiah. He refused to conform to it.

Why then expect any Coming today — if such was ever really intended — to follow a traditional line ? And when we hear that [Page 22] it was said that 'things went wrong', is his not repeating the same argument as the Pharisees and Sadducees used over Jesus? Certainly, the recent forecast was not fulfilled. But might it not be the forecast which was wrong ? That is a matter which cannot be judged today. In some centuries to come we may be in a better position to look back on present day events, perhaps to pick out an individual or individuals who originated a new step forward in human consciousness. Indeed, it might well prove that the plural, 'individuals' is the more applicable, for we are said to be entering the Aquarian era, one of whose features is team or group work rather than separate individual achievement. It seems possible therefore that, however outstanding one or two people may be, the actual 'Coming' is taking place, or will do so, in the form of a wide movement of intuitive thought occurring in many forms all over the world, in more or less pure and pristine form, but all with a common background. Thinkers, true scientists, philosophers who are not glamoured by words, artists — real ones — poets, musicians, theologians, psychologists may all be vessels of the new 'Coming' : there are some whom one feels one can pick out as having an outlook which is new and belongs to the future rather than the past, while others, perhaps more famous in their sphere, clearly belong to the past and the present only. (Though this choosing may be as much a matter of wishful thinking on my part as the expectancy of a repetition of past events by others.)

There is also another difficulty in using the past as a pattern for the present. It always happens that the Teacher becomes the nucleus of myth. We know practically nothing of the actual historical events in the physical life of Jesus, and perhaps the Gautama story may be just as unhistorical as his Successor's. In any case, the history has minimum importance compared to the myth, for (as Dr. Besant said and modern psychologists realize) myth contains far deeper reality than history. It represents the timeless truth and the spiritual heritage of man, whereas history is of the earth and of events in the physical world. What makes the teachings of Gautama or Jesus live is that they belong to this high spiritual level, cast into a form suited to the state of mind of mankind at the time the Teacher lived. It was this more than anything else which differentiated them from the thousands of prophets and yogis who lived at the [Page 23] same time. They started a chain reaction which established a new religion, taking man a step further in evolution. It seems that this was not sufficiently thought of when certain prophesies were made, myth being taken as history, at the expense of the deeper truth.

How then can we be sure of anything ? We cannot. We are in no position to be sure of anything except perhaps an inner sense of something which can never be expressed or named, even to ourselves. As to the things we read or hear or see, we can only try to judge as impersonally and as truly as we can, realizing always that we may, however hard we try, be deceiving ourselves. And if the great people who 'led' us were liable to be carried away by their own wishful thinking, how much more likely is that to be the case with us ?

This may seem to some to be a kind of nihilistic philosophy, which they are afraid to embrace because, they say, they would have nothing left. True enough! But if one once has the courage to question, to doubt, to shed one's preconceptions, there comes after a while a beautiful sense of relief, of lightness, of freedom, which no fixed creed can give. In the words of one of the happy songs in Dubose Heyward's Porgy and Bess, one finds then that

'I have plenty of nothin'

And nothin' is plenty for me.'

And this is a state of bliss where there is room for ever increasing vision and of certainty acquired by and for oneself, where personalities come in only as co-workers, co-students, not as god-like beings who turn out to have, if not feet of clay, at least the human weakness of an Achilles' heel. [Page 24]


'THE path of occultism is strewn with wrecks,' says H. P. Blavatsky and, in her translation of The Voice of the Silence, she warns against becoming ensnared in the psychic world, where Mara, the personalized arch-deceiver, reigns, and where there is a serpent hidden under every flower.

The first quotation is one with which it is easy to agree, for it is evident that the study of what we call 'occultism', without the urge to become spiritualized, is most dangerous. The student who wants to develop psychic powers, perceptive (psychism) or active (psychokinetic), is playing with fire and, sooner or later, is likely to be burned. This applies to such things as specific meditations involving concentration on breathing exercises, on certain chakras, especially in attempting to activate Kundalini, the Serpent Power; to the use of drugs; to dervish exercises and Hatha Yoga and so on; to trying to develop clairvoyance. These things may produce results of a sort. But unless they are firmly rooted in a quest for true enlightenment the student may find himself in the position of the traditional sorcerer's apprentice, who found himself trying to control forces he in his ignorance had unleashed but could do nothing about. It is not difficult simply to avoid these methods. It is less simple when we consider the one who, at the start of trying to find real enlightenment, adopts the path called 'occult' in a rather dubious distinction from that we call 'mystical'. The mystic is safe enough, except that he may wreck himself in an emotional cushion of sentimentality which he mistakes for true devotion. But the one who uses intellect rather than emotion may come up against hard obstacles which can do more serious damage than the soft devotional way and may, indeed, prevent him from making any further progress.

The first main difficulty he encounters, though it will remain with him until the end, is ignorance: false valuation of systems, rules and disciplines, delusions, illusions. The second is where that ignorance is of the tricks which the psychological, personal [Page 25] ego will continue to play on him, using the first, in this case self-ignorance, to get it way. For if we know and understand these tricks, we shall then find ourselves in control of the situation and able to take steps to add to the field where there is no place for ignorance of the facts of the world we feel to be outside us, and whence the deluding factors come.

'Mara' may be equated with what we nowadays call the ego: with a small initial letter, the psychological, personal center of our identity. It will be useful if we consider once again the nature and origin of this aspect of Self.

First, let us realize that the psychological ego is brought into existence by the true Self, the Atman, working through the other principle called Manas, or pure, unconditioned Mind — at any rate in this, our earth humanity. But the ego is not the Self. The Self represents something like the particle of matter which can produce crystallization in a saturated solution which otherwise remains liquid. The material waiting to be crystallized consists of past memories, associations, conditionings and all the rest of our experience, so that the ego we normally use and call 'I' or 'me' is a secondary, not a primary product of the evolutionary process: a thing which seems to be strongly emphasized by Krishnamurti.

'Crystallization' is not actually a very good analogy, for it suggests a static result. The ego is not static, but behaves like any animate being. It has not only its past to make use of, it has a faint degree of the numinous quality of Self, and it has a vigorous animal mental mechanism as its instrument. Its desire is to survive, to grow great, to acquire prestige and power: all of them are more or less directly derivations from the instinctive life of the pre-human animal. And the ego is a very wily beast who dwells at the psychic, not the spiritual levels, and may run riot there.

It does not, however, run riot so long as mankind remains in its first evolutionary phase, the 'Path of Outgoing', where the job of the ego is to develop its mental capacities and to dig firm roots into the soil of the mind it has inherited from its animal past. We need not, in this essay, go into that at length. But we must remember that a plant's quality is in considerable measure derived from the food it absorbs from its roots; and its ability to become fruit and flower is frustrated if it does not make use of [Page 26] its roots, the personality of body and psyche or mind. I use the word in the Blavatskian sense of feeling as well as thought and other attributes with which we need not here concern ourselves.

It is here that we can see the possibility of wrecking when a person, having turned the corner and entered the Path of Return to his spiritual roots, tries to mortify that personality rather than work it into its proper place in his whole economy. A rootless plant dies. To mortify means to kill. We need our personal qualities and our ego if we want to be there to develop our spiritual blossom.

But the fact that we need our 'lower self or ego and its aggregated appendages puts the aspirant in a dilemma: how far should he pay attention to personal needs, desires, instinctive demands? That is a question the answer to which he has to discover for himself. Indeed, it is basic to all forms of religious disciplines and practices. It is not easily solved, least of all by trying, as the older formulae had it, to 'kill out desire', to 'kill out the personality". The wise man does not kill — others, or himself. But he tries as it were to domesticate his animal nature, so that it becomes an asset, not a menace.

So we should try to understand this first peril of the real seeker. But as I have said, the ego is a wily creature and it finds all kinds of means to delay its 'domestication' by trying to make itself out to be what it is not: that is, it tries to make the aspirant believe that it is his true Self which is operating in his mind, whereas in reality he is under the dominance of nothing more than the little self. For it fears to be destroyed, like any other animal, and does not realize that being incorporated into a higher order of evolving life is not destruction but, in the true sense, alchemical transformation into something just as much alive but far better in quality.

To preserve itself, it plays up the ignorance of the individual about what is going on. The Deceiver makes him think that because he is now consciously working towards self-fulfilment he is 'not as other men': he is one better because he has a smattering of 'the Wisdom teaching' — which is a set of doctrines, not Wisdom itself. This is a fault often to be found among people who belong to this or that Fraternity or Order which has stated aims of a spiritual nature, perhaps disciplines and methods to hasten the supposed road to success.[Page 27]

One particular way Mara plays on us is connected with a matter of much concern to the occultist, and it may be well to digress and study this a little. That is the talk about initiation, pupilship of a Master and so on. One hears of people being initiated into this or that mundane rite, into a monastic or lamaistic order and so on. What does it really mean? Simply that a person is admitted, in order to begin to make progress. Maybe, in a Masonic Order, in an ashrama, in Christian or non-Christian monasteries and convents, certain ceremonies accompany the 'initiation', and these may be a reflection of something much deeper and greater than the mundane rite achieves. The latter is often referred to as becoming an Initiate of the Great White Lodge, entering the Path which leads to becoming an Arhat or Liberated Man, and eventually to the rank of Asekha which is the ultimate stage of humanity, whatever lies beyond.

The intelligent student will easily enough realize the reality-unreality of these physically performed rites. He will see, for instance, that if H. P. Blavatsky were — as is said, on rather tenuous grounds — an Initiate into certain Tibetan Orders, it is not that which gives her the spiritual stature which many of us believe she had. Even in mysterious and remote Tibet, there is, as Alexandra David-Neel tells us so shrewdly, a great deal which is, if not bogus, at any rate of only a psychic as distinct from a spiritual nature.

But we have also to reckon with the experiences of some people in the sleep state — in the land of Mara par excellence. There can be no question of brushing aside what some people remember, and saying, 'Only dreams'. For we know nowadays that a dream is always and invariably significant, even if its importance is negligible and superficial. These 'dreams' in any case are significant in that they made a more or less deep impact on the one who has them. It no more follows that because a person has had such an experience in the invisible, psychic world, that he is any more spiritually exalted than a Mason of high degree, or the Dean of a cathedral.

We can make a rough division in these experiences, because they are related to the overall personality of the dreamer. Some have deep experiences out of which they wake with the feeling that they have become promoted in the spiritual world. By and large these are people with a tendency to paranoia, [Page 28] perhaps even suffering from paranoid schizophrenia. There is one particular individual who couples his supposed spiritual greatness with an external growth from being plain 'Mister', through various intermediate aristocratic titles, to being 'Duke' — maybe he has now gone further, but he has faded from view. He is an example of the megalomania of the person who, rather than being promoted, is suffering from symptoms which herald breakdown into insanity, however harmless he may remain on the outside.

The other kind of person however is sane enough. He is serious in his search, well-meaning and will not — at first at any rate — become inflated with a sense of his self-importance.

Such people have undergone a real Gestalt, they have taken a sudden step in the right direction; it may be that they have become in the full sense pupils or Initiates of the Greater Mysteries. But it does not seem necessarily that this is so, and the fact that it has taken place during sleep does not automatically validate it as such. What then seems to be the case ?

At this point I pause to emphasize that I realize that I am on delicate ground, and that any explanation I give has to be tentative in the extreme. It is always a risk to speak of things one does not fully understand, but the idea of what may happen when one has such a dream experience as I have in mind may be of use.

There seems to be a considerable amount of indirect evidence that in the psychic (astro-mental) world individuals form into clans or groups, or perhaps even Orders. The Theosophical Society, with its many different members, is in the psychic world such an entity as I have in mind. It has a certain coherence at all levels. Another such entity seems to be referred to in a novel written by Monica Redlich, where the plot weaves round a place she called 'the College', which had tutors to teach students, and especially a Warden of numinous quality. The author 'discovered' this College while she was in Denmark during the German occupation, isolated from her kind, and quite out of touch with anybody of her sort; and she 'dreamed' it. It was only later that she found that some other people also knew the College both as a 'dream' institution and even in what seemed to be its three-dimensional special architectural lay-out.[Page 29]

This suggests that the psychic entity has its own various grades, perhaps its own 'initiations' which, valid enough within their own framework, fall below those adumbrated by C. W. Leadbeater in his schematized system in such a book as The Masters and the Path. These steps lead up to, but are preliminary to the entry of an individual into the Greater Mysteries of what is often called the White Lodge, that not of the Himalayas, or of Egypt, or anywhere else, but of the world as a whole.

The matter becomes further complicated when a person who has had such an experience is told, a few days later, that he has been given the rank of. . . , whatever it is. This information usually came from one of the senior members of his organization, thereby confirming the belief that what was felt or dreamed was — as indeed it was — important. It was clear that that senior (they all belong to the past) was cognizant in his own way of what had happened to the person concerned.

That the step designated or the new label given to that person was recognized, by some at least, as being at least one remove from the greater step, was, moreover, shown when someone whom I knew spoke of 'brevet rank' only. The term 'brevet rank' is one used in the British forces to designate, for instance, a captain, who, forced by the removal of the colonel of his regiment to assume command in emergency then serves as 'brevet colonel', but returns to his real rank when relieved of his duties.

It may seem that I am emphasizing this matter unduly, but it is highly important as showing how such an event plays straight into the hands of our friend the Deceiver — Mara, the personal ego. For some people, becoming proud of being thus singled out into an apparent elite, are led to behave as if they were 'special' and superior to others. A member of a rather exclusive community was once heard to say naively, 'We are not just ordinary members, we are a specially dedicated group'. One might ask: 'Dedicated to what?' And, while admitting the best of intentions, the answer ought to be, 'To my own complacency'. The Pharisee who thanked God that he was not as other men said the same thing. And the hubristic attitude denoted must inevitably divert the victim into a blind alley where little-I-ness flourishes at the expense of the quest for Truth.[Page 30]

I need scarcely add that, though I have been writing about events in circles known to me, the same phenomenon is not unknown in churches and other groups equally dedicated to the search for Truth. And, as a rider to the whole matter we can say that the person, whether or not he receives any intimation of spiritual rank, who genuinely seeks is humble both in his outer behavior and within his own secret mind. It has been said that the true saint would pass unnoticed in a group — save by those who have 'the eyes to see'. He would be the least self-important, obtrusive, or ambitious of men — or women.

Leading on from this, we find another snare. For the student may be told that his first task is to try and find his Master. This is a fine opportunity for Mara to divert the individual from his real task, which is the direct search for Truth. True, as Chogyam Trungpa, the Tibetan Tulku says, the personal ego makes a good starting point, since the search has to start somewhere, and where better than from where one is, and from one whom one considers as oneself? But the purpose of spiritual aspiration is to transform this little-self, not to encourage it by dangling before it the hope of reward or favor from a Master. Rather should we try to develop insight and vision, confident that if we can be of any help to the Masters they will find us out. It is simple egoism, despite the fact that devotion is of help to some, to try to obtrude ourselves before we are ready.

This theme could be vastly expanded. Endless are the ways in which Mara can wreck us, using nothing but ignorance of ourselves for its own purposes. If we understand ourselves, even in the murkiest parts of our personalities, we can avoid shipwreck or entrapment, but to do this requires that we know and accept ourselves fully. To try and repudiate even the ugliest side of our natures is equivalent to cutting the growing tip of a plant from its roots in the manured soil: there can be no hope of flower or fruit. We have to learn to know and to accept the whole of ourselves even if we distinguish between the roots, the stem, and the bud. To try to evade this acceptance is to play straight into the hands of the Deceiver. If I may be allowed the Irishism, the honest-to-God fraud and liar may be better than the pious self-deceiver. For the first, acknowledging to himself his dishonesty, can change at will, while the would-be-good not only has to undergo the humiliation and shock of [Page 31] seeing himself as he is, but finds it much more difficult to straighten himself out. We all of us indulge in the wish to see ourselves as better than we really are, and it is only when we stop doing so that the way opens before us. Even professions of humility may conceal ego-pride: we take pride in believing that we are humble, and so fall into the net which strangles.

In sum, we ourselves, as little egos, individuals at the levels of the personal, scarce-more than animal mind, are the Deceiver, Mara, the shadow, the Dark Forces, the black magicians of which some live in fear. It is we who are the wreckers on the Path of Occultism. Nobody else is to blame except ourselves; and this blame is due to ignorance, lack of clear vision both about our own selves and hence of the world in which we live.

Let us not, however, ever allow ourselves to be self-tricked into thinking that we have gone beyond that deceit which comes from our own minds. Even the greatest human beings make mistakes. We are warned that there can be a falling back, a wrecking, a failure, up to the very end of the human path. We need constant watchfulness and self-examination to work our way through the realms of delusion and illusion. Yet we can be certain that it is possible for the little-self to become the resplendent Self, the Augoeides or Shining Image which is pure Spirit. All we need to achieve this is to understand ourselves to the fullest degree.

[Page 32]


MEDITATION has become fashionable in the West. By this I mean all kinds of meditation other than the old established Christian. Most usually it refers to something based on Vedanta or Buddhist (Zenist) philosophy, with many variations from their original source. In the San Francisco area of the United States the Journal of Transpersonal Psychology recently listed no less than sixteen 'meditation centers'. Los Angeles could probably overtop that number, and if we were to lump together all the similar places in North America and Western Europe, We should probably find a hundred or more ashrams, viharas, retreats and other more or less organized institutions where meditational techniques are said to be taught.

Some of these are, certainly, entirely spurious and commercial, some superficial and inadequate. Some too would be definitely harmful, advocating the use of drugs, etc. But equally, a good many would be run by sincere, if not very well equipped, teachers and students who want to experience transcendental consciousness and are willing to work hard to attain it.

If, then, one inquires why people want to indulge in meditation, one may get a variety of answers. In some cases, it is simply a matter of doing what others do. More seriously, however, one may be told that it is in order to experience other states of consciousness, to develop psychic powers, clairvoyance, etc. Others still come nearer to the true purpose and will state that they want to find out more about the mysteries of life, to improve their own understanding, to reach Enlightenment. This is a good reason for embarking on what is at best a strenuous sort of self-discipline, sometimes involving the sacrifice of things which make life warm and comfortable — though that is not of necessity the case, but may be only a reflection of ideas of asceticism and mortification, usually of the wrong sort.

Then one meets people who, for decades perhaps, have [Page 33] already followed certain routines of meditation. These repay investigation in terms of how their work has altered them and increased their vision. Only too often the results are disappointing at least from the outsider's angle. For, though one does find people who, over the years, have genuinely matured and deepened their inner quality, there are many who have simply become older — and perhaps more mellow because of the polishing of time and the battering of life — but who are just as fixed and set in a limited field of vision as they were twenty years before. It is with these seeming failures that I am concerned in this essay. (I say 'seeming' because who can have the temerity to judge another, especially in terms of spiritual development? Yet it is obvious that failures there are.) It is as if their disciplines had not obtained a grip on their characters and thereby proved their effectiveness. My purpose is to try and see why this happens, and where, in general terms the fault lies.

Is it in the methods proposed by such teachers of Vedanta as Patanjali or Shankaracharya, or of the Zen and Taoist masters, of the purer forms of Buddhism? The answer is negative. There is nothing wrong and much that is right in what they teach. But when we dissect and analyze such things as Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, it becomes evident that they can be equated with the asanas of Hatha Yoga, if we take them alone and out of a context which I will discuss later. The asanas are, if applied with discrimination, excellent hygienic exercises. They strengthen and restore physical health. But the exercises of Patanjali may be taken to represent the same kind of gymnastics as the physical asanas, moved up to the psychic or mental level. They limber up the mind as the physical exercises limber up the body, but they may do nothing more, and may fail to touch the spiritual level. In that sense, they may act in a vacuum, no matter how many hours are spent in following them out. The students may indeed find that they see lights, moving shadows, realize other states of consciousness, float free from the body (spiritualistic mediums do the same), possibly have rudimentary extra-sensory experiences; or they become overstrung, have headaches, sudden accesses of fear, loss of control of their emotions, and all the rest of the signs that they are doing things wrong. Moreover, previously latent neurotic and even psychotic symptoms may be brought to the surface and become [Page 34] exacerbated where previously they were only in the background of a student's character.

I may add that if anybody takes up the practice of yogic methods 'for kicks', and the excitement of what he may experience, he will find it much easier, despite the heavy dangers and permanent damage which may result, to use drugs: he will at least meet with new vision, however spurious, and save all the time he would spend on meditation before he reached the same kind of thing. The yoga practices are much safer; and, moreover, can be abandoned at any time without bad after-effects, whereas drugs are apt to leave permanent scars.

If I am right in suggesting that mental or physical yoga out of context is, at best, useless, at worst, damaging, we need to see what is required for them to do what they are designed to do: a side of things taken for granted by teachers from ancient times as much as by those today like Krishnamurti or the late Aurobindo Ghose, or some of the Tibetan Rimpoches (who, thanks to Chinese Communism in Tibet, are now known to the Western world by being exiled from their own land). This background tells us that the serious student, if he is to become a successful yogi, has first to be animated by a great love for his fellows and a desire to help them at whatever the cost. With this as the background to his life, he can go in for whatever discipline or non-discipline seems to him best, in order to become really useful, through understanding and illumination.

Put in other words, for meditation to be really fruitful demands of one a total committal of oneself to the work of finding Truth: not a conditional, partial committal, setting aside certain aspects of life or of one's character to be dealt with 'some other time', but a total dedication even of the ugliest and most murky aspects of oneself to the great work. If one holds anything back, one may perfect the mental machinery required to refine and transform one's character, but it is comparable to a polishing wheel which is not able to touch the object to be polished, and is left spinning in the void.

It is here that meditation — and, indeed, all religious practices — fail, whether they be sitting in meditation, trying to reach what can only be a simulacrum of samadhi — the kind of trance in which one sees many Sadhus in India. Spinning a [Page 35] Tibetan prayer-wheel or telling the rosary of Catholic Christianity with a mechanical mind is just as useful and much easier.

I have used the phrase 'meditation in a vacuum'. To make it effective, that vacuum has to be filled, and that which fills it has to be one's personal self and the accumulation of mind — thought and feeling — that has gathered round it. The point of attack of religious practices is none other than what we usually call ourselves, our little-egos; and the whole purpose is to transform this little-ego and this little mind so that they become consciously part of the universal Self and the universal Mind. Many people earnestly try; but when they become aware of sides of themselves — and some refuse to see them, either deliberately or from instinctive reaction of concealment — they stick fast. This is where yoga disciplines become a trap, a blind alley, a groove in which a fixed attitude of mind can run in circles around the very thing which needs to be altered. The discipline is not of necessity wrong, it is the use we make of it.

How many of us dare even contemplate such a total committal ? Only to think of it needs courage. To do it requires much more — endless endurance, disappointment and self-humiliation, in addition to the virtues spoken of in connection with the great Quest: to work with the same enthusiasm without hope of reward or 'gaining merit', yet as if one's goal were spiritual or material riches; to become non-reactive to personal slights, and all the rest of the qualities of the genuine seeker. This is no light thing to go into. It is better to draw back than to deceive oneself that any external discipline can get us to the goal of Enlightenment without paying the price of suffering, doubt and, often, of realizing our mistakes and stupidities face to face. Only so can meditation and other religious practices be anything else but waste of time and energy: a will-o'-the-wisp and a glamour leading us away from rather than towards ultimate Truth.[Page 36]


NOBODY can belong in the Theosophical Society or any of the splinter groups which have broken away from the parent body, or in the wider Theosophical movement which includes many people, without sooner or later hearing about those commonly called the Masters. We are told that they were the prime movers in the origins of the Society, that they were the authors who at least inspired the writing of the Mahatma Letters, that they have on occasion sent messages to the Society. There are several books of a highly personal nature which tell us how they are envisaged by the writers. And, most pertinent of all, that if we are true seekers after truth, we shall become their own direct pupils or disciples.

The idea is an inspiring one. Logically it seems probable that there are indeed human beings who have reached the far end of human evolution, who are very much wiser than we are, people to whom the deeper secrets of the universe are, if not an entirely open book, at least one with many open pages. Even if we have no direct and personal experience of them, the feeling that they exist, that they were once like us, and that we can become like them, can be a great incentive to our aspirations, But unless this idea is constantly examined, re-valued, scrutinized in the light of our own personalities, it can also become a serious bar to further progress and insight into the mysteries of life. It is for this reason that I shall now raise questions and make comments, not with the idea of denying anything which has been said, but in order to encourage my fellow students to ask themselves questions which need to be asked and frankly answered. I may add that for my part, whatever doubts I may have about the details of what others, probably wiser than myself, have said, I have none whatever that the basic principle that there is an 'occult hierarchy' made up of various grades of highly developed people, is an ineluctable fact.

We can begin our questioning at the roots. How do we know that such exalted beings had anything to do with the foundation [Page 37] of our Society and Movement? How, moreover, do we know that they inspired, if they did not write, many of the 'Letters', some of which seem extremely trivial or verbose?

To the first proposition there is no answer save to point to the effect which resulted from bringing to the Western world many ideas which it tended to deride or ignore in favor of either materialism or the emotionalism of Spiritualism in certain of its aspects. There seems little doubt that it has been considerable. One can nowadays mention such ideas as Reincarnation and Karma, the sense of the spiritual base of man's being, and other ideas of the same kind, in conversation without being thought quite mad. It does not follow that our interlocutor will accept the ideas, but his mind is sufficiently used to them for him to listen even if he smiles at us in a superior way if we become dogmatic and try to convert him: always a great mistake, and a give-away of our own uncertainties about what we think we firmly believe.

I have asked various people the question whether, as is sometimes said, the Theosophical Movement has had any influence on modern thought. And even people who were neutral or perhaps highly critical of developments since the early days, usually agree that it has. Which does not prove that there were spiritualized Beings behind the movement. Other movements, Mormonism, Christian Science and so on, make similar claims. They too have spread in the last decades, and made many disciples. We today have to keep our minds open on that particular question.

As to the Letters: there are certainly gems of wisdom among them. But, as one finds diamonds mixed in with clay, so it seems, we need to study them carefully and try to see what 'feels' right, without referring to the authority of others, but to that point in ourselves which it should be our task to develop as the focus from which to orient ourselves and our lives. This focus is most important from any points of view. For as we learn — often the hard way — to refer to it, it serves to develop our knowledge of ourselves, seeing the kinks and quirks, the roughnesses and evasions in our characters. Thus, eventually we become our own authority, the judges of what is our own truth. We no longer depend upon others, and then find ourselves let down because what they tell us shows up as a [Page 38] distortion of a great fundamental principle. It is important, moreover, because of what it becomes in our lives and in our ideas of what we call a Master. But before we go on to that, it will be useful if we consider what we mean when we use that term.

It is not one I myself like: it suggests the old-fashioned school atmosphere, where there were two camps, masters (or mistresses) and pupils, with a gap between them. Yet if we consider other words, these too present difficulties. If we speak of a 'Mahatma', we find that this term simply means a 'great spirit'. And one who knows India well tells me that it can be applied to a master-cook as much as to a Rishi or spiritually developed Being. 'Rishi' means 'seer' and does not of necessity indicate more than a person with some degree of true vision. 'Saint', thanks to the Roman Church perhaps more than any other Christian sect, has lost any meaning, while 'Elder Brothers' verges on the sentimental. So perhaps the common term 'Masters' is the simplest and presents the least difficult and I shall continue to use it.

If I am asked to define what I mean when I apply that term to a person, I have to fall back on certain principles derived from depth psychology of the spiritually oriented type. To talk in terms of Initiations and the like, and of a Master as having taken the Fifth Initiation, means very little to most of us, especially as this word 'Initiation' has been so badly misused, and, like 'saint', has lost its deep meaning.

It is widely accepted that the man (including woman, of course) who is really seeking for truth must perforce grow in vision, in wisdom, in insight into the mysteries of 'being' and of its extension into the realm of 'existence' or 'standing out' from pure 'being' into the more material worlds where maya or 'conditioned reality' holds sway. As he progresses, his awareness becomes more and more perfused with a level deeper than that where the personal mind lives in maya. This level, which has characteristics of its own, is known to the mystic, the seer, the true saint. It is that of the Real, the Spirit, of God — it has endless names. As this goes on, the individual changes, his personality becoming increasingly a reflection of this inner Reality. Putting this in other words, he begins to show in his personal life a reflection of the greater Archetypes or divine Ideas on which the manifested universe is founded.[Page 39]

This progress is apt to take place in steps, small or great, when a 'breakthrough' takes place suddenly and quickly into a new level of insight into deeper reality than before. Each of these Gestalt, to give them their technical name, is indeed an initiation: the beginning of a new phase of life. It is to the greater steps no doubt that occultists refer when they talk of initiations, but it is essential that we should realize what the term implies.

We can reasonably, even when our own experience falls far short of it, assume that there comes a time when the consciousness of a person makes a final break-through which carries him over the frontier between mankind-on-earth, as we know him, and a kingdom which lies beyond. As evolution undergoes a major transformation when the vegetable becomes animal, the animal man, so would man pass over into a further stage of what has been called, by Nietzsche 'Beyond-Man' or 'Superman'. A Master, by definition, is one who, if he has not altogether passed beyond mankind, is at the very far end of the range of evolution of man.

This is looking at the matter in terms of evolution, of biology, and, since man's development is less biological than psychological today, of mental unfoldment. Another way of looking at the matter is that shown us by modern psychological knowledge.

This knowledge shows us that when a person reaches a certain stage, the ancient wisdom stored in traditional myth now begins to flow into his consciousness, not through tradition and religious forms on the outside, but from within himself. Myth becomes personalized without, however, losing its universality in symbol of meaning. His wisdom develops henceforth as he dedicates himself, as it were, to living his own myth dynamically and consciously. If he is a Christian, he enters the stage in which he himself is the infant Jesus and starts on the path which leads from the birth of a new level of spiritual consciousness in the stable, to the culmination of the Resurrection and the Ascension into Nirvana. I put it this way to indicate how universal myth becomes that of the individual personality, keeping its general symbolism while having separate meaning and presenting itself in different forms to each one of us.[Page 40]

At the same time, certain generalizations can be made about the kind of symbols one is going to encounter at various stages of the journey. I will not go into these, since they can be studied at length in many books belonging to the general Jungian school of psychology, especially perhaps in P. W. Martin's Experiment in Depth, Ira Progoff's writings, as well as those of others like-minded. In this paper I want to pick out one image only: that of the Sage.

This Sage is sometimes called the Wise Old Man, the Wizard, the Sibylline, oracular Woman, seen in dream or vision, expressed sometimes in poems or other art forms. In all cases the impact on the one who 'meets' this image is profound. If one sees the connection between one dream and the next, one realizes that the same Archetype seems to manifest in different guises. I myself — and I am bound here to bring my own experience into the picture — know the Sage as a hermit in the hills, a ragged, dirty beggar in a street, a Chinese merchant selling me certain symbolic cloth which I could only have if I agreed to accept certain traditions, as a majestic, royal figure, and in other less well defined ways, including simply a voice which seemed to speak from within myself. All of them usually said something which showed me some blind spot in myself. One of the characteristics of the Sage was always that he never flattered me, but never made me feel a fool or a knave: he met me 'man to man', his greatness being felt all the more for the sense of equality he conveyed.

In this context, what is the Sage ? The Master X ? If I wanted to flatter myself, I would say 'Yes': my little personal, psychological ego would then feel important, having received the immediate attention of a great spiritual Being. But in fact, what I was meeting seems to me to be simply my-Self: that inner Ego, to use the theosophical nomenclature, more or less disguised.

The point of telling this is to state my own idea of a Master: that he is a man (or a woman ?). We never hear of a Master in a feminine body, but unless there is some profound reason behind this, I cannot see why, if they have bodies, this should not be female as well as male. This would keep a balance in the higher ranks of mankind between the two polar forces whose personality embodies without hindrance some aspect of the [Page 41] Archetypal, divine Mind. He would, in psychological terms, be fully conscious at the personal, existential level; there would be no automatic unconscious to cloud his clear vision: he would be the incarnation of a divine principle, an avatar, even if we use this word in a limited sense.

If this picture is anywhere near correct — and I realize on what dangerous ground I am treading: my own prejudices come into the picture just as much as those of others who have spoken about Masters — then a Master is something far greater and more magnificent than the insipid pictures we have been given of them: Victorian clergymen, old-fashioned aristocrats, military commanders, recluse hermits and the like, uttering what on analysis are not usually much more than pious platitudes. Granted that the burning devotion of those who have painted these pictures, whether in words or on paper and canvas, shows through, the result belittles what I believe we should look for when we think of the topmost ranks of our humanity.

This brings me to the main point of this essay: the relation between such a person as a Master and ourselves, little, struggling, human entities. We are told that they will accept pupils into a personal relationship with themselves. I do not deny this, though I cannot easily accept the scheme found in such books as The Masters and the Path as more than an imperfect outline: it may be absolutely correct, but equally it may err in detail even if it rests on a basic reality.

If we understand the truth of what we know today about mythical archetypal images, it shows us how easy it is to confuse such an image as the Sage as our deeper Selves, and the actual objectively existent person we call a Master. It would take very great insight to become clear as to how much, if at all, a certain Master played into the symbolic Sage: he may very well do so. But what matters is not the exact mechanics by which the image of the Wise Man is produced as what we do with what we are given by that image. Do we learn the lesson, or do we preen ourselves that we are among the chosen few? And this is the most serious form of self-deception which can take place, since it strengthens the hold of the personal ego on our minds, whereas the whole process of spiritual development is to weaken that hold in favor of the deeper Self of which the personal ego [Page 42] is a dim and shadowy reflection, nourished from 'below' by the instinctive or kamic aspects of our personalities.

That personal ego, the center of self-identity in our ordinary minds, is a tricky factor for the would-be occultist seeking real spiritual awareness. It is only as we learn to see its game, self-preservation and self-aggrandizement, with open eyes, that we can gradually cope with it. We have, as it were, to beat it at its own game: that game being, not like poker where bluff and deceit are the main weapons, but chess, where every move is open and can be studied in clear consciousness. If we do not see what trick the personal ego is up to, we are inclined to believe that we have removed him out of our way, only to discover that he has sneaked back center-stage without our knowing it. Those misguided people who tell you they are 'liberated' or 'saved', whether because they are followers of Krishnamurti or of Jesus, are an example of egoism run riot in almost every case. They do not know themselves as egos, hence they do not know themselves as Selves.

Unless we can reach some degree of self-knowledge, it seems unlikely that, however good our intentions may be, we are likely to enter into a deep relation — which, I believe, operates through the true Self, not the personal ego —  with any genuine Master. Indeed, we are quite likely to be deceived by some individual who is not genuine but, for one reason or another, impresses himself on others by claiming, directly or indirectly, to be what he is not.

Once again psychology teaches us something of how this can happen. We human beings have a great power of projection of our beliefs and emotions on to others. We invest people and objects with the idea of what we want them to be — or not to be. Falling in love, when it is said the lovers are blind to one another, is such an example: they see only what they want to see, not the objective person. Where a Master is concerned, it is an easy enough thing when one has read and thought about them, for us to wish to find the one we feel is 'ours', to meet him in the flesh if possible. And there are times when it is difficult to know whether, in refusing to accept a certain person or a certain message, one may not be simply shutting one's eyes to an opportunity which will not come again.

I think some principles may help here.[Page 43]

First, let us realize that there are individuals in the world who, perhaps as a result of misdirected studies of the Occult, have become powerful 'magnetic' personalities. This power is not necessarily good. Or, more accurately, the power is neither good nor evil, but it can be used for evil ends. Hitler, Mussolini, Lenin and other dictators were people of immense personal power. So are some of the fanatical Gospel preachers who purport to convert people to the true faith. Sensitive individuals, who do not know themselves, tend to become spellbound by such personalities. They do not see what they are doing or where they are going: which does not mean that they are not essentially good and well-meaning idealists.

Some of the individuals who are neither politicians nor missionaries turn their attention to the occult. Some are deliberate frauds, who discover that they can, as it were, hypnotize others to become their followers and to keep them in relative luxury without having to do more work than play on their credulity. Some are paranoid schizophrenics who believe themselves to be high initiates and even Masters. They too are often powerful, but they do not set out to be deliberately dishonest. Let me say now that I personally have heard of no less than four individuals who claim to be the Comte de Saint Germain, also known as the Master Rakoczy. One was a crazy medical doctor; one — the only one I saw directly — a little runt of a man who radiated some kind of power; one claimed to be a high Mason and to have a doctor's degree of some sort; another sent mysterious messages through an intermediary and induced a friend of mine to travel to Paris to meet him and to return to England as his only chosen representative, to cause trouble in theosophical circles.

In all cases, a number of people, some of whom one might think ought to have known better, 'fell for them', to use the colloquial phrase. And it was clear that one of the principal reasons for their doing so was flattery, a suggestion that they were people greatly privileged, and that was because of their own spiritual stature. Their personal egos were titillated and inflated, and they lost all sense of proportion.

There is only one safe course, I believe. That is, so to study oneself — as both the Delphic Oracle and other sound schools of spiritual study advised — that one gets to know oneself through [Page 44] and through. This will help us to realize when our emotions and not our intuitions are involved either in a school of thought and teaching or with an individual. Moreover, it will teach us that we have in us a point of reference, by whatever name we call it, whose mandate or direction we should learn never to ignore. And if we do ignore it, to be prepared to take the consequences of our mistake. It is better so than to allow ourselves to become, in our turn, glamoured by things which flatter our little selves, however subtly.

To conclude, I shall let myself dogmatize and say that the only person likely to be a true Initiate or in any other way on the Occult path is one who is not interested in 'where he stands'. He will neither want nor make use of any label he may be given, realizing that occult advancement, despite what we have been told, can never be given prematurely nor refused when one is worthy of it. We advance ourselves by our own efforts only. We should suspect anybody and everybody who offers us a 'label': it cannot be genuine.

I believe in a saying attributed to Lao Tse who, whoever he may have been if he ever existed as a man, said that the right person will achieve his goal even if he goes at it by wrong methods; but that the wrong person (i.e., the self-seeker) will never achieve his goal even if he uses the right and best methods of yoga and self-discipline.

One is perfectly safe, whatever mistakes one may make, provided one is seeking truth at all costs. The traditional 'wrecks on the Path of Occultism' are those who, however subtly, are seeking self-aggrandizement rather than impersonal Reality.

As a final word let me emphasize that 'belief in the Masters' is not the mark of a Theosophist. Many people believe in them, but a Theosophist is a seeker after truth, not a believer in any doctrine. There is no harm in deifying a Master if one wishes to do so, provided one does this on a pragmatic basis, as a useful means to help us towards our ends. A Master, however magnificent and exalted, is not God: but, speaking with all respect, one can use him or the image we build of him as if he were a god, if not God. To do this we need constantly to remind ourselves that what we are seeking is Absolute Essential Truth, which cannot be encompassed by any human or superhuman [Page 45] being. If we know what we are about, I believe we shall then step by step discover for ourselves the truth about Masters.

At the same time, there is a tendency, and a healthy one at that, for many people to avoid personalizing: the Supreme God, Brahman, Tao, cannot be personalized. And it may suit our temperament better to eschew any formal idea about Masters and make our aspirations towards Truth, Love, Beauty, Wisdom directly and in general terms. In any case, we should not, as some wrong-headed theosophical 'teachers' advocate, make our quest one for a Master or guru. We should seek beyond even them. And we can leave it to the one who is our true Master, apart from the one who resides inside ourselves as our true Self, to seek us out if he wishes. Nobody will be missed who can be of use to him when he is impersonal and a genuine Theosophist, in whatever form this may be.[Page 46]


IT may seem trite to begin an article by reminding ourselves yet again that the word 'Yoga' means 'yoking' or joining together things separated. 'Religion' means the same, with the additional suggestion that the separate things have already been united and have to be once more brought together into a unit. As we shall see, that which we call maya is the conception of things paired and separated; so that if we bring these together this is an act of Yoga as genuine and deep as anything achieved by any other form of Yoga.

First, however, we should try to understand the meaning of this Sanskrit term, maya. It is often translated merely as 'illusion' or 'unreality', in contradistinction with 'Reality' or 'the Real', 'the True'. To think in terms of 'illusion' is, up to a point, valid; but to set this against another conception, that of 'Truth', is in itself a mayavic way of looking at things. While it may serve a limited purpose, the duality implied is itself 'illusory' and hence untrue in any absolute sense. It is only relatively true.

Which tells us what maya is: relative truth; and this, in turn, raises the question of the nature of relativity. For where things are related there has to be duality: one thing can only be related to some other thing, it cannot be 'relative', unless it has something to which it is related. In other words, the field of maya is that of polarity, of 'the pairs of opposites'. And where poles exist there is, of necessity, a field of force between them. This is the basis of the manifested universe. Hence, maya and manifestation are synonymous.

The Chinese have characterized the situation in the Taoist philosophy, where the poles are called yin and yang, or, in more specific terms, the opposites of male and female, good and evil, light and dark, the real and the unreal, and so on indefinitely. In terms of this essay, the yogic act is when we integrate these opposites through bringing into play the Tao which may be said to act upon the field between the poles. Tao-in-action [Page 47] (Teh) can probably be equated with the Vedantic idea of tapas, 'the eternal divine dynamist' as it is called by Sri Aurobindo Ghose. It integrates them into something else which we call the Real (if we think of rera or objects, hence of the material world) or Truth (if we think in terms of the conceptual, non-material). It should again be noted that the very division in our minds between the material and the conceptual or abstract is itself a polarized conception: which brings us to what may be the key to the whole mystery of maya.

For it suggests to us that, if we assume for the moment that there is an objective world, self-existent, created by an Intelligence which we name 'God', and a subjective world, within our minds, created by ourselves around our sense of self-identity, our egos, it would appear that maya really lies in the field between this objective world and the inner, psychic, mental one. In other words, it clothes our mind much as our physical clothes surround us and protect us against the elements, as well as hiding our nakedness.

Thus maya, not surprisingly, since it is dual in its essence, serves a double purpose: that of protection and that of concealment. But if we think of these roles in any particular field, we can conceive of them as playing hide-and-seek with one another. Protection becomes concealment when it hides us from an overdose of Reality, and concealment becomes protection when it prevents us from knowing everything at once and being overwhelmed by that knowledge before we are ready for it.

This play on words is deliberate and intended to point to the thing which concerns us, which is the mind through which we acquire our view of things. For if we realize certain things about Mind, we find the clue to how we can find Reality by using 'illusion' itself. First we have to recognize that the way we perceive the world is a very partial, limited picture of it in its Real state. Our senses are limited (not only do we not perceive ultra-violet light or infra-red rays with our eyes, but we think that our hands rest on solid wood or stone when in fact they rest on what is largely empty space with tiny particles of 'matter' with vast distances between them; and so on). In other words, our world-picture is not that of things as they are, but only of things as we are capable of perceiving them: the picture is a [Page 48] convenient fiction we carry in our minds; and, fortunately, for normal living, most people have a very similar fiction in theirs, or at least, one created ('fiction' means 'a thing made') sufficiently like our own for communication between one person and another to be possible.

This conception that our Welt-Anschauung is a convenient fiction has first to be, in however small a degree, realized and felt to be more than an intellectual concept by the would-be maya-Yogi. Many people touch Reality at 'peak moments' when they find themselves confronted with Something they know is Real and transcendental; and the experience stays with them after it is over. As I have already suggested, the contrast between ordinary living, with a mind functioning at the level of maya and this peak experience is itself a polarized one, but it gives us the clue we need. For if we cultivate the sense of what we have seen, giving it value in the mind, it begins to grow and expand. We become actively Religious. (I use the word in its true sense, and do not refer in any way to organized religions, with their creeds, catechism and rituals. The latter may serve a purpose still, but they are not essential to true Religion.)

It is now that we can start on a form of Yoga — or Religion — in which we learn how to make use of maya instead of being enslaved and made use of by it. This is not done by repudiating the realms of 'illusion and unreality'. To pass healthily 'from the unreal to the Real' we must carry the 'unreal' along with us. If we do not, we lose touch with the earth on which we should be firmly standing, and become the kind of person who is 'so spiritual' that he is useless in society, if not actually obnoxious because of his inability to live a normal life.

What changes is the attitude towards the 'unreal' world. For something in us, if it does not always succeed, begins to make us feel the realm of unreality as being a playground where our child-minds can grow. Just as modern education of children makes increasing use of play and enjoyment in teaching the young, so can we begin to enjoy ('find joy in') the realm of maya. (Is this why Shiva, the Creator-Destroyer, 'danced'? And why Krishna played with the Milkmaids, emblems of the Earth-Mother, maya?) If we can, from the background of the sense of Tao, or Reality which we have [Page 49] experienced, allow ourselves to play the divine game in maya, life becomes interesting and fruitful; for we gradually withdraw from self-involvement in many things which previously seemed to be of vital importance. We may still take part in these things, but we become less perturbed if they do not go right, or delighted if we get what we want. Our values change and we begin to learn what is worth while and what is not. These things will depend on our individual patterns in life, so need not be listed, but it is clear that the person previously engrossed in being rich or prominent in society or in acquiring power is likely to discover the futility of living for these things. But, if he is sound, he will also see to it that he earns his living in an ethically justifiable way, that he is or remains socially acceptable and does not offend others without good reason, and so on. Clearly, a sense of humor and the ability to laugh at one's antics is a very great asset, if not a necessity. (It should, however, be a sense of how funny oneself and others are, without bitterness or cynicism: one should laugh with and not at oneself or others.)

This attitude of non-involvement in maya is, at its root, the same thing as discovering Truth or Reality, according to which way one looks, towards the abstract or the material. When we eventually achieve it, it probably represents the mokska, liberation or enlightenment which makes one a true Initiate or Arhat. But even on the way, many things become enjoyable. At the same time, increased enjoyment, at the mayavic level, also calls for the balance of increased pain. The way is not all roses. In any case, roses have cruel thorns but the Yogi will take these thorns as part of the pattern. The more light he has in one aspect of his mind, the darker the shadows in those parts which are not illumined.

In other words, the Yogi as it were invites pain as well as experiencing joy. In Gurdjieff's school, that word 'invite' is used in a way which can be misinterpreted as masochistic, courting suffering as something of an end in itself. This would be to make the same mistake as is made by many pseudo-Yogis and ascetics of every faith. What should happen is to allow the suffering resulting from our present ignorance, from our past acts, to make their full impact on us so that we do not resist that impact. Indeed, it might be said that the impact of [Page 50] Karma causes pain only because we resist and try to repress this impact, not because it is painful in itself.

The whole matter of transcending maya clearly depends on our use of Mind. Basically, pure, unconditioned Mind, or Manas, is our instrument, as human beings, for evolving to the point where we have completely 'de-conditioned' it. Here pure Manas, unclothed in maya, comes face to face with Truth and knows itself to be that Truth.

It is, however, not only Truth but, it creates maya. It lives and evolves in, by, and through maya. But maya is now its plaything, something which, since it is self-generated, it can learn to manipulate but not be ruled by. A scientist 'rules' matter and energy by understanding their laws. His mind is the instrument he uses as his scepter. Similarly, the maya-Yogi can, by using his manasic principle, become the ruler of the worlds of illusion and relativity. But this depends on his mind being, as it ultimately has to be, uninvolved in the light-and-shadow play of the world perceived as maya. If we assume that such a true world exists, the principle of seeing it directly is simple enough: to do away with the veil between us and it. This is the implication in all true Yogas. Patanjali speaks in terms of 'stopping the modifications of the thinking principle' (i.e. of conditioned manas], the Taoist in terms of finding the Tao behind all yin-yang phenomena, the Tibetan Buddhist of seeing 'the Clear Light'. In all cases, it is not the world which has to change, but the picture of it within our mind. Hence, we need to learn how to use this mind in a new way.

We are so used, in the West, to seeing life in terms of causality: a certain thing becomes the cause producing certain effects. The effect then becomes the cause of some further effect, and so on in an endless chain towards the future. But equally valid is it to think of an indefinite regress into the past, where certain effects are seen from the stand-point that they are the result of some antecedent cause, leading step by step back in time. The chain seems to have no beginning and no end: which, indeed, is the truth of the matter, unless we are willing to think that beginning and end emerge from and return into timeless Infinity; that is, into something beyond our comprehension. But if we take each unit of cause-effect as a kind of quantum similar to the quantum of energy conceived by [Page 51] physicists, we can learn to think of this quantum as a unit of Reality, the Reality or Tao including the opposing pair of both cause and effect. Tao as it were stands between the two, in the 'field' between the opposite poles, bringing them together into a new synthesis.

Granted that this is a mental exercise, it represents something more than a piece of clever gymnastics. For as we learn to think of everything in daily life in these terms, the mind itself changes. It is a very simple exercise; or, perhaps, an exercise in simplification, whereby three are reduced to one, yin-yang into Tao. But the very simplicity is what makes things difficult. For, life after life (if the maya of successive lives has validity) we have trained the mind in the direction of complexity, of the accumulation of knowledge and experience, and in finding new ways of making use of them. We now have to put on the brakes and in fact to reverse this process: we have to be 'converted'. Instead of separating things into contrasting pairs, we need to bring them, or allow them, to come together, to make enemies into friends and partners, and that not merely in cases selected according to our prejudices and feelings, but in every single case.

What is called for is a complete reorientation of our minds, and it is little wonder that so often the seeker feels he is being destroyed, that he 'unknows', that he is passing into dark night. But if he is dedicated to finding the Truth, he will find himself helped by the very laws which he has followed in building up the structure he has to change. For one of these laws is that of attraction between opposites, not, as at a certain level, of separating pairs: which is something which his mind has done but which, below and above the intellectual level, acts in reverse. We may call this attraction polar — as in the case, say, of electrical charges — but in a more general sense, love. It may be facetious to speak of the love of a positive ion for a negative, yet there is a serious undertone to the whimsy; while the polar attraction of a human being inhabiting a male body for another human being in a female one is colloquially called love even in the absence of more than animal instinctive factors.

If, then, we can intellectually see the nature of mayavic polarity, and add to this the willingness to de-polarize our minds in terms of love, we shall be on the way to finding our goal.[Page 52]

What is de-polarized is maya, the de-polarizing force is love, and the effect of love is to bring us face to face with the great Tao which is Truth.

Love, however, is not intellect but an aspect of intelligence. It is of intellect, looked at in one (mayavic) way, that it is said that it is 'the killer of the Real'. Properly used, however, it is also the revealer of the Real (I use this word as equivalent with Truth). The proper way is to use this mind to doubt everything, to realize that all intellectual concepts are of only relative validity, even to the conception of a Master, a Teacher, to Gautama Buddha and Jesus, however great our reverence for them. Even they are only relative, and one must pass beyond even the greatest Teacher; for, while he incarnates the Truth, he is not himself Truth. It is a hard discipline in that sense. But, as in all mayavic situations, it sets against itself faith, belief, devotion, a sense of the validity in all things and people so that the two are balanced. And when this balance is found, Mind, at the center of equipoise, is free and the end of Yoga has been achieved. We know the inner meaning of the word 'One'. [Page 53]


IN the minds of some people the world they live in is a place of disorder where events take place disconnectedly and fortuitously, without relation to one another. Life to them is 'a tale told by an idiot' and there is no pattern or design in it. Others, on the other hand — and they include both modern scientists and intuitives — have a sense that perfect order reigns, that the universe is ruled by absolute laws, and that it is only our ignorance which makes us see it as chaotic, purposeless, a place where the word 'accident' denotes the occurrence of an event unpredictable and meaningless.

These wiser people would use 'accident' in its original etymological sense as 'something which takes place', even if we do not know why. Moreover, the term includes both pleasant and unpleasant occurrences, not merely those which are painful, despite the tendency to think that the pleasant things of life are those which we deserve, the nasty ones strokes of fate, divine punishment and the like.

It is only one step further to see that behind the 'accidental', the 'chance event', the 'indeterminacy', the 'randomness' there is a definite pattern: cause, followed by effect. These laws, in the West, are thought of as taking place along the time-track where something from the past produces the present effect, and what we see happening now will, later in time, result in something else. It is a perfectly valid point of view and is embodied in the usual concept we have of the law of Karma. It serves to explain, or to rationalize, if not explicitly to make clear, the routine of our lives. Maybe, for most purposes and in practice, this suffices; which is why the philosophy of what we call rather inaccurately the Aryan culture, both Indian and Western, had adopted it.

But if one wishes to understand, and to find meaning, it is not enough to speculate or to see life in these terms alone. We need to add to this causal, time-track point of view, another one, which, as it were, cuts across the time-track at right angles, at a [Page 54] point which we call 'now'. That is the Taoist, ancient Chinese, approach to life. Obviously, if we concern ourselves only with the immediate moment, we can also get into difficulties, such as not thinking of the needs of our larder for the next meal or learning from experience so that we may successfully avoid past errors and dangers. A combination of the two philosophies, however, opens the way to a very practical means of at once dealing with events and understanding their significance. It is as if a painter, working on a flat surface, brings together both horizontal and vertical lines, and what emerges is a complete pattern. And if he is successful, a magical act occurs, in that his two-dimensional picture is perceived as if it were three-dimensional. Houses, painted flat, appear as solid blocks, streets recede into the distance which is not on the canvas and so on. The magic takes place through the perceiving mind; and, though the three-dimension picture is illusory in one sense, it becomes very much a real thing when our minds get to work on it.

The picture in the mind may be 'illusory'. But if we learn how to use 'illusion' or maya properly, once the mind gets to grips with it, it can reverse the movement and begin to modify the picture itself. This is a provocative thought, yet it represents the very thing which makes Man different from the lower animals: he has, however limited it may be, a certain degree of freewill, of freedom of choice, within a given situation, and the more he learns about an event, the greater seems to be the room for manoeuver which this freewill gives. The will, in our case, operating through Manas, pure Mind, is the operative force.

To understand this, let us consider the principle known as the Law of Karma — cause and effect, with particular reference to the human race. This Law is said, in the Vedantic tradition, to be carried out by certain highly developed Beings known as the Lipika, who may be equated with the idea of the Recording Angels. But they not only register events in the cosmic memory, they may also be thought of as in constant action. In line with the evolution to which they belong —  the devic or angelic —   their task is to operate Law, without deviation. In this sense they are the agents of a seemingly rigid and inflexible set of rules. Mankind, on the other hand, in this, our system, seems to have as its task the bringing about of seeming deviations in the [Page 55] Law: its freewill brings into play a new factor which modifies the overall pattern of any situation in which Man is involved; which is why Karma seems to be unpredictable and even, at times, erratic. It is not so in reality, but only seems to be because we do not as yet see a whole event in depth, but only parts, or superficial aspects of that event.

It will make matters clearer if we think of the Lipika, supposing them to be cosmic self-existent entities, as working on the principles of a computer with constant feed-back — cybernetics in which the computer instantly balances itself in a perfect pattern belonging to the fleeting instant of any and every 'now'. In this way the time-track cause of a piece of immediate pattern is modified by any new force brought into that pattern at the moment of the event: notably where human freewill enters into play. So Karma is not a once-and-for-all determinism, but something which is constantly being modified. This modification takes place at the instant in which an event or accident occurs, neither before nor after. And yet, while, clearly, forces arising from the past play into that moment, they may themselves be affected by teleology (things arising from the future), which also plays into the immediate present. And then we have the important thing already mentioned, the human faculty of choice or freewill, arising not from past or future, but from the other dimension of every 'now'. So we may say that every instant of time is three-dimensional — in the way we see our picture, transformed by magic from a flat canvas into a solid and 'real' object. The three dimensions are past, future and freewill, coinciding 'now'.

This brings us to a consideration of the structure of an event or, in the literal sense, accident. For such an event takes place within the framework of the Law and, if we allow ourselves to think from a human point of view of what happens, it is clear that every event is a most complex affair, an assembly of many items at a place which is 'here' and at a moment in time which is 'now'. First, as I have said, we have the past of the individual involved in the event. Then, his dharma or teleology: what he essentially is. Then we have the mind, and the will working through that mind, at the exact moment of the accident. But the hard-worked Lipika have also to bring together at the here now [Page 56] point other individuals, objects, weather, perhaps cataclysms like earthquakes or tidal waves and so on. Moreover, these have to make a pattern of absolute perfection in which every factor is balanced up with every other. It is a staggering picture when one sits down to think of it. And all the more so when we realize that the same principles have to operate everywhere, in every 'here' and all the time throughout the Manvantara or duration of our world system.

Nothing is left to chance, nothing can happen which is outside the Law — or so we think and feel if we have once experienced from within such a view of the universe, whether as visionaries or as intelligent scientists. In other words, we live and move in a perfectly self-balancing machine where everything is in a sense predetermined: all but one thing, which is the individuality of man; and this can change and re-balance the action of the machine as he uses his mind intelligently within that machine. (Note that I restrict myself to thinking of the human kingdom in relation to the devic, and do not attempt to go outside it: some people assert that Karma applies to animals and even plants. Others, of whom I am one, use the term Karma as applying only to the field centered round an individuality or ego.)

Looked at in this way, Karma is realized as a dynamic, moving, ever-changing resultant of many forces impinging on that evanescent moment of time we call the present. The pattern for that moment, however, is invalid for the next infinitesimal 'now', and is related to it only in terms of a process which is continuous and unfolding from one purely hypothetical beginning — in modern terms, a 'non-beginning' — to an equally hypothetical 'non-end'. But Law governs the whole, both in its infinitesimal small divisions, the successive 'nows' and in the overall non-beginning and non-ending process which we call evolution.

Why speak of 'non-beginning' and 'non-ending' ? I suggest that this is because what seems like a start or an end lies in the timeless, spiritual realm of Tao, Spirit, Essence or Being. From there it emerges in terms of polarity, of the 'pairs of opposites' which constitute maya, the habitat of our human minds as at present constituted, and in which we live and can learn to live consciously and with intelligence.[Page 57]

This long introductory section of my essay is likely to appear very theoretical to the reader. But if he grasps the principles, he will find that it has a practical application to his own, and indeed, to everybody's life. Basically it is important to combine the notion of events along the time-track with the fact that it is the immediate moment which counts — the cross-section on the time-track. This gives significance less to what happened in the past or will happen in the future than to the compound pattern of this very moment: a pattern which is different immediately after.

C. G. Jung speaks of this, telling a story of an eminent professor trying to obtain from a student a definition of Tao. After vain attempts to explain in words, the young Chinese took the professor to the window and said: 'What do you see in the street?' The professor enumerated what he saw: a cat on a wall, a man walking, a car passing. 'That is Tao', said the student. A moment later he again asked the professor what he saw. The pattern had changed, the car had vanished, the cat was moving, new people had come into sight. 'That too is Tao', he was told. The student should have added that it was the level of Tao which is capable of being known and expressed, the trans-section of time which is, to the Taoist, the vital and existential moment. It is not the Supreme Tao which is beyond all expression or definition. But that is beyond the scope of this essay.

The point of view, the state of mind, however, is the key to the understanding of life and its endless succession of events. Most of the latter are comparatively unimportant and can be passed over; though it is well always to hold the idea that, however slight, there is meaning in everything which happens to one. One does not, however, have to set to work to try and understand trivialities in depth in the way one should try and penetrate into the significance of things which make a definite impact on one. 'When the pupil is ready, the teacher appears.' The 'teacher' can, to the one who is truly alive, be every moment, every incident in his life.

The impact may come, apparently, from outside oneself, or it may come from inside the mind. An 'accident' is the result of external forces striking on one and causing pleasant or unpleasant feeling. A dream, a vision, a sudden insight or Gestalt [Page 58] is the subjective event corresponding to what we call accident in the objective world. Both have more or less meaning to the individual to whom they occur. That meaning can be found, or at least sought by using certain techniques. These techniques will vary with the individual, but, basically, they start at the same point: the firm intuition that nothing is fortuitous or without significance. This needs to be coupled with the sense that whatever happens at a given moment, in whatever manner, can serve as a lesson, teaching us something about ourselves as people still embedded in the maya which is the field of experience.

It may be useful at this point to describe some conjectural event and how it could be thought about by a philosophically minded person. Let us suppose that he is walking along a street and a child drops something from a balcony which hits and injures him. The Western scientist, if he could collect sufficient data, would tell him that it was sheer bad luck, chance, which put him into a certain position at the time the child dropped the object. He might tell him that the probability of his being there just then were so many millions against. But, if our individual takes the next step, he will perhaps say, 'Karma': the result of past actions in the present moment. This is coming nearer to the heart of the problem. But the one who is seeking meaning and understanding will still not be satisfied. For, while accepting the idea of cause and effect, he will want to see why the effect had to emerge at that particular moment in time." The scientists' diagnosis of 'chance' he will dismiss as quite false: there is no element of luck or chance in the juxtaposition of himself in that street and the time when the child dropped something from on high. It is only seen as 'chance' because of ignorance of the laws which govern all things. But he still needs to understand why the event should take place at the time it did, perhaps also at the place it happened, because all these things make a pattern: they are synchronized at a given spot in space as well as time.

Some of the results might show in external events: injured and taken to hospital, the victim of the accident might meet new people, which in turn might lead to a new phase of daily life and so on. But this might well not be everything, in that in his own personal development it was a moment when things [Page 59] had to change. In other words, there must also be something in his subjective mind which coincided with the external event; and, to make the best of it, that is, to understand fully what he should do, he has to try and become conscious of what is or was happening in that realm of the mind we call the unconscious: to make conscious things of which he was previously unaware. Such understanding may not take place immediately, but when an incident 'stays with one' and cannot be left among the dead, photographic pictures in the memory-album, but is emotionally tinged when remembered, the key still has to be found. It may take several years to do this, at times, and it may then be discovered that the memory of the incident becomes linked with other aspects of the unconscious mind which at first seemed to be on a quite different stream of activity.

I will give an account of an actual case reported to me. It is too involved to do more than summarize it, but it may illustrate my thesis, which is that even a minor event, properly and fully understood, may through its psychological ramifications, teach one something of importance about oneself. My friend found himself on one occasion precipitated into a situation where he was entirely innocent, but he received the blame for certain actions for which others were responsible. The 'guilty' parties were present, but ignored by the angry people who turned on him. Outwardly, he behaved perfectly well, did not try to defend himself, and even went out of his way to put matters right, doing more than he needed to have done. But the incident penetrated into him and stirred up feelings which came to the surface at moments when he was relaxed, say, half asleep. For months on end he forgot the whole thing, but evidently the matter was not disposed of. Being of a philosophical turn of mind, he set to work to try and understand what had happened.

First he told himself that, obviously, something in himself had, as it were, removed the anger of those other people from its legitimate target. Something in himself had, obviously, transferred the anger of the people concerned onto himself. He had attracted it, it had not just happened by chance. But why ? What was there in himself to have done this ? And when he worked sufficiently long, rehearsing the event and trying to explore his feelings both immediately before it and during and [Page 60] after, he gradually uncovered a pocket of suppressed and unconscious feeling which had lain latent in him from time immemorial. Moreover, he found that other kinds of feeling linked up with the basic one which seemed to have unchained the event, making a complex of primitive emotion of which he had not previously been aware. At this point, it was as if becoming conscious of the matter, this awareness served as a surgeon to drain the abscess in his mind, and the whole matter faded as an emotion-loaded memory.

This case, in which some of the techniques of depth psychology were used, had followed its course to its conclusion in open understanding. The pattern of unconscious — and in this case the word 'subconscious' might properly be used, seeing that they belonged to a more primitive level than normal consciousness — forces which had evoked the 'accident' became clear, hence, no longer dangerous. But it is not always so easy, as, for instance, in my own case where I was delayed for eight hours on a journey for no apparent reason except the whim of a minor official, then reached my destination precisely as I had intended. Apart from not feeling resentful about the official, I still have not found out why this happened, though I am sure that it did so for a purpose.

In general, therefore, the one who is seeking wisdom will never accept the idea that life is meaningless, that things happen which have no purpose. At worst, this purpose remains obscure; but, often, if the mind is alert and vigorous, but not tense and inclined either to hold onto or to reject events, whether subjective or objective, that purpose may be discovered, much to the benefit of one's character. Everything has meaning, everything is purposeful to the spiritual aspirant, even the most painful 'accident', even that which gives pleasure; even the most murky and squalid internal surge of emotion, passion, desire. All of them are part of life; all of them, if they are understood, become assets, forces which will add to one's stature as what the Chinese philosophers describe as 'the superior man', i.e., the enlightened one, not the conceited one.

I commend to the reader the little book, Meditation in Action, by Chögyam Trungpa Rimpoche, and especially his chapter on 'The Manure of Experience in the Field of Bodhi' — the latter meaning 'enlightenment': for here he points out that one [Page 61] cannot grow flower and fruit without earthy decay and fertilizer. The student who professes to be above the earth, above instinct, above the compost-heap of personality-desires is likely to remain sterile and to wither at the growing tip. The wise one will use his god-given power of understanding to integrate his life as a whole human being living in his environmental context. This context is himself, the mirror image of his inner being, brought into existence by maya. One may even question which, the inner or the outer, is the reality, which the reflected image, only to discover that both are equally real and equally unreal; while both together are the Reality of himself as of the world 'outside'.

To see this, however, means that in consciousness of selfhood we have to be operating from that of the Essential or Higher Self, the Tao which integrates both higher and lower, inner and outer. For from this level comes understanding of the immutable yet infinitely flexible Law in which accident or chance are seen as mere fictions of the human mind.

To learn this we need to assemble ourselves, so to speak, at the crossing-point between the time-track of causality, and the immediacy which sees this point as the dynamic focus of consciousness and life. Already the existentialist thinkers have tried to do this; but without the sense of the spirit or Tao, they fall into a dismal greyness and sickness of mind. But if one adds to this attitude a clear intuition of purpose and meaning, every event, however painful or, for that matter, enjoyable, becomes part of a pattern and a perfection which, however seemingly flawed in its expression in the world of time, is, in its essence, perfect and complete.

If we learn to think and feel in this way, if we can gather ourselves up in the moment, we shall then find that Nirvana is open before us. The only difficulty is to become simple and clear enough to understand. Knowledge and erudition will not do what is needed. Only the 'unknowing', the discarding of mental furniture is, as the mystics have seen, the key to the child-like simplicity which opens the gate we aspire to enter. [Page 62]


ONE cannot for long move in circles where Occultism is studied without hearing about 'black magic' (the word 'black' having no connection whatever with the color of anybody's skin), the 'dark forces' and so on. Indeed, there are some people who live in perpetual terror of being controlled, obsessed, possessed by these powers. They see a black magician — or a communist, fascist, Jesuit, capitalist or any other suitable peg for paranoid ideas — behind every bush and under every stone. And if some movement starts up which is original and creative, though they have no idea what it is all about, they denounce it glibly as 'black' and advise or command people to shun it. So fantastic does the matter sometimes become that it will be well to examine the question directly and to try and get it into its proper proportions.

In principle, it is clear that there are powers in the world which we can call 'dark' or 'black'. They are essential to manifestation, since they represent one pole of the polarized world of the created universe. Without shadow light is invisible and unintelligible. This is a point accepted in every deep and truly religious philosophy, and perhaps best expressed in the notion of the Tao which becomes active and manifest through the polarities of yang and yin But when we come to calling one good and the other evil we are concerned with something which has been created by the mind of man. In subhuman evolution there cannot be said to be good or evil. It is only when man comes into the field of the created universe that such an idea arises; and, basically, the 'good' is that which runs concurrently with the evolutionary trend, the 'evil' is that which tries to retard it. In the case of the human being, that is good which enlarges him, makes him more aware, more individually unique, more conscious of himself in relation to his environment. Evil is what slows, or works counter to this.

With these ideas in mind, we may now look at the 'evil' forces which surround us: for, just as the good surrounds us, [Page 63] so, out of an absolute necessity, must its opposite. We need, however, to try to understand how both of them operate and affect us.

Among occultists, people easily and somewhat glibly label certain things 'white' and good or 'black' and evil. And, since Occultism traditionally thinks much along the lines of energies manipulated by means of ritual forms, as well as by the power of the will working through the human mind, 'black magic' is conceived as consisting in attempts to harm or frustrate people or groups of people by the conscious use of subtle, invisible, forces. The concept is true enough: it does occasionally happen that an individual is attacked frontally by psychic means. A study of witchcraft, ancient or modern, shows us that it does happen that people become bewitched, victims of a more powerful individual's machinations. But not only is this rare, it is in reality a very minor danger, even if it should be that one is attacked in this manner; for if one keeps one's head and balance of mind, any such attack, even if it bruises, cannot do much harm. On the other hand, fear, panic and things of that sort may result in real damage: the fear doing much more harm than the actual attack.

How to defend oneself against any such unlikely possibility? The occultist naturally thinks first of counter-magic: the use of words of power, of prayer, amulets, charms, magnetized jewels. And they may be useful but they have to be looked on simply as first aid in case of emergency. When a crisis is passed, a real and lasting remedy has to be found and in this, as in medicine, the weakness which allows the attack has to be discovered. In medicine it is well known that certain microbes or viruses can exist in the body and cause no harm, yet in other cases, or when the state of mind of the individual changes, they may cause acute disease. So is it with the subtler and hidden factors of which we are speaking. The truth that 'no harm can touch the pure in heart' means exactly what it says: but which of us is 'pure in heart' and without not only weaknesses of character of which we are aware, but also of an unconscious 'shadow' of which we are not aware.

It is through this primitive 'shadow' in ourselves that we can be hurt by psychic attacks of the kind mentioned. The logical conclusion to this proposition is clear: to get to know oneself, [Page 64] to bring the 'shadow' into the light of consciousness, and the breach through which we can succumb is healed. Counter-magic, mantras, exorcisms, then become entirely unnecessary —  if they were ever needed.

The last sentence is important: the need to defend oneself in this manner is extremely rare, and if one has an alert, fearless, highly aware mind, it is unlikely that they will be of any value as weapons of defense. There is no need for people to try and build a psychic fortress round themselves or their society or group if they are sufficiently alive to themselves. But there is a further side to the matter, in that in the vast majority of cases, proper understanding of the situation will show that there has never been any question of some Satanist doing anything to one, the 'black magician' is a projection of one's own mind. The qualities unacceptable to us as outer personalities having become personalized as 'thought-forms' and projected out of the field we like to consider as ourselves, can then behave as if they were separate entities.

Psychiatrists are constantly hearing of such cases. Commonest of them and the most obvious are where a frustrated woman feels herself to be under attack by 'Mr. X', who may or may not be some man she has met. He worries her by making sexual suggestions, arousing in her feelings of which she is ashamed. The obsessing entity is merely her own repressed instinctive desires, projected onto the image of ' Mr. X'. There are endless other varieties which show precisely the same process. The student of the occult readily enough shelves his responsibility for what is happening to him onto another person. In one case at least, the blame was put onto one he considered to be his own Teacher!

This is not the place for deep discussion of psychiatric matters. But the one who fears 'black magic' would do well to study what depth psychologists have to say about the extraordinary way in which the human mind can trick the conscious ego (the personal center) by dramatization and projection. As one learns to understand this side of things it becomes clear what a minor factor is in reality involved in all the talk of attack from outside oneself. Further, it shows the immense harm which well-meaning friends can do when they encourage people to believe that they are attacked by elementals, magicians, [Page 65] etc from outside themselves. In exorcising, in providing charms and the like, they reinforce the notion that the individual is a victim of others. He is not taught that he is responsible for himself: that it is he who provides the opening by which such entities — if they should exist — can enter and take possession of his mind.

This favorite topic of some students of the occult, however, does nothing to discount the general principle that, just as we see forces we may call 'white' working to forward the evolution of man, there must, logically, be counter-forces trying to oppose them. There can, logically, not be a saint or Master without an anti-saint or anti-Master. And if we look objectively at the world, the principle is seen to refer to fact as well as being theoretical. I myself think that the present day is one where there is great danger from these regressive forces: but not in the manner I have just discussed, of external attack on individuals. This is far too crude a way of doing damage, and on too small a scale to be worth what must be considerable expenditure of energy.

If, then, I imagined myself as an opponent of progress, I would virtually discard any such ideas as frontal attack. For there are much better ways of working, the most effective of which seems to me to be by a subtle distortion of truth, sufficiently hidden to let the poison into the minds of people, as it were, unperceived until it is too late. Ninety per cent of truth containing ten per cent of poison serves as an effective 'fifth column' to penetrate the collective mind, and that of the individual who is still — as we all are — carried by this collective mind; drifting with it without knowing we are drifting, or, even if we sense the drift and try to swim, still having to contend with that part of us which is not yet objective and free from the mass. (Again, depth psychology has much to tell us about this subject, which is too complex to enter into here.)

I can perhaps best exemplify the kind of thing which happens by a personal example. I was in contact with a group of which I was highly suspicious. One of its chief speakers, in a talk, put forward a point of view about life and about one's relation to it of which I could almost entirely approve. My doubts were aroused when he asserted that every student of occultism must have an active sex life, and that if he or she did not find it [Page 66] within marriage, he should find it outside: a common gambit from this kind of guru. Sex is, indeed, normal, but only in the right context, and it is not a necessity for spiritual self-realization.

In spite of my doubts I nevertheless persisted, if only out of curiosity, in going to meetings. Coincidently with that period of my life I became involved in a personal problem and could not see my way through it. Then, during one of the lectures, I suddenly thought, 'This room feels as if it were full of fog,' and I began to think positively. My problem vanished: unknown to myself I had allowed myself to be influenced, against all my conscious judgement. I had been trapped by my own lack of mental clarity, my confusion as to myself.

This illustrates what is going on all around us today, and it is far more of a danger than any activity of the kind we usually call 'magic'. It is magic, and occasionally it seems probable that it is deliberately and consciously used, by such monsters as Goebbels, whose technique for inducing psychosis in Germany can only be described as the work of genius, however hideous. On a lesser scale, the Goebbelses are always with us. Their means are many: advertising is one, the insidious appeal to women to become sexually 'glamorous' (glamour is a word which connects with falsehood and unreality), the endless things which suggest false values, which try to drag people back from human behavior towards animalism, and so on. Moreover, the profit motive, though good up to a point, becomes distorted when it goes too far. (A learned occultist once remarked to me that 'Money-making is the black magic of today': and how right he was, and is! For money is equivalent to power in the modern world, and the 'black magician' always seems to be a power-seeker.) One could enlarge on this theme indefinitely: for most of our values, including those of idealists are only too often distorted, confused and falsified.

In medicine it is increasingly recognized that disease represents an exaggeration of a normal process. It is not the process but its exaggeration which does the harm. In society the same principles hold. For pride in one's nation, self-regard, the acquisition of the means to live, the cultivation of the body so that it is not only healthy, but also looks as beautiful as it can be, are all worthy motives; but only provided they [Page 67] keep within bounds. In the Buddhist Eightfold Path, for instance, 'right livelihood' is prescribed: not poverty so that one has to sponge on others, not millionaire luxury, are held to be consonant with the search for truth. The consumption of clean food, physical culture to keep the body in trim can all be implied in the same way, but not cranky exaggeration. But what do we in fact see ? Invitation to become rich, to learn to dominate others, ambition for public position, inflated sexuality through constant attention to one's appearance and clothes and so on. Advertising is surely one of the dubious practices, as used especially in affluent countries like the United States, where riches and luxury are held to be equivalent to being a successful human being. This theme has been discussed over and over again and I need enlarge on it no further, save to suggest that here we see the corrosive influence of any 'Black Lodge' on our humanity.

It is, however, worth touching on a more debatable aspect of the present scene, which is where 'progressive' movements arise. Prominent among these we may take that usually labeled as the rebellion of the young people, the 'hippie' and so on. The older, more conservative people reject this and regret the old patterns which are being broken up. The younger, feeling only the need to move on, move without quite knowing what they are aiming at, full of Utopian ideas which cannot possibly work out in any 'new society'. Clearly, the war between the old and the new is playing straight into the hands of the destructive forces, and all the more so because both sides have so much that is good in them. One may say that 'white' and 'black' forces are working in both camps. The conservatives suffer from the darker ones when they condemn the rebels wholesale, yet represent stability which could lead to 'evolution, not revolution'; while the rebels against the Establishment represent the forward movement of consciousness, but are apt to be misled by the wrong leaders, who advocate all kinds of undesirable things like drugs, free sex regardless of love and the rest of the things which confuse and so may destroy. (One need not take unduly seriously the 'black masses' and other showy things which some groups practice: they are, despite all that one may dislike, more theatrical than anything else, in most cases.)[Page 68]

How then is the individual to try to find his way in this conflict? One can only lay down some general principles, as each one of us suffers from his own individual blindness, and each one of us is sure to be touched as it were by contagion by the general chaos of thought.

First, to condemn wholesale and to try and fight directly is ineffective. This does not, however, mean that one should not use judgement and discrimination. On the contrary, the clearer the assessment of things, the more effective the judgement: provided that it is an intelligent assessment, and not based on emotional reactions.

Second, the individual who can make a true judgement will, by the very fact that his mind is clear and objective, be a power in the community which those living in confusion are not. For we must never forget the power of thought and feeling, not only on oneself, but on others. We dwell in a world where telepathy is constant and no rare phenomenon. But it usually operates behind consciousness and so we are surprised when, in our waking lives, it may suddenly and momentarily become conscious.

Third, how do we develop the power of true judgement? Only by recognizing those things in our minds which stand between us and truth: that is, not only conscious bias of any kind, but, deeper, the unconscious 'shadow'. The same principle applies here as it does in Science. For if a scientist wants to use a certain instrument, he first has to determine the margin of error it can introduce into its workings. After that, within certain limits, he need not try to correct the error, but, being aware of it, he allows for it in his calculations and so gets a true result. In the same way, if we know that we have an inclination — let us say towards being British, or American, Indian or Negro — we can still discount this bias when we begin to use the higher reaches of our minds without trying to eliminate this bias from our personal preferences. Though it would be ideally best if we could do so.

The key, then, is, as always, to know oneself: which has been said so often and in so many eras, certainly from Greek times to modern times, and especially in theosophical circles, where it has been very much overlooked in favor of more exciting pursuits of psychic powers and other things such as magical [Page 69] practices and rituals. For self-knowledge, in depth, and not only superficially, becomes not only a safeguard against all forms of 'dark forces' but also makes us effective citizens among our fellows, hence workers in the cause of true progress. There is no need for fear of the dark forces except in so far as we have darkness in ourselves and it should be the main task to lead ourselves 'from darkness into light'. Nobody but ourselves can do that leading.[Page 70]


'I WAS so much hoping I could have spiritual healing and not go to an osteopath. It would be so much cheaper,' said a patient who had come for diagnosis by a competent clairvoyant.

I mention this to indicate the confusion of mind in which the whole matter of 'spiritual' healing, and even the idea of 'spirit', exists in the ideas of many people. One finds what is at best spiritualistic healing taken to be genuine spiritual healing; and I say 'at best' because so many spiritualistic healers produce no results, are self-deceived and, without intending to, deceive others; and because they have not the least idea of the meaning of the word 'spiritual'. It is not the same as 'psychic', which refers to another and much more personal level of the human being. It is because of this that I have chosen this subject so as to try to make things a little clearer.

Basically, every student of what some people call 'the wisdom' must sooner or later find himself in broad accord with the general principles adumbrated in such books as those of classical Theosophy, Huxley's Perennial Philosophy, and Saint Paul, who says that man consists of body (soma), soul (psyche, which is also called mind), and spirit (pneuma, Essence, or nous]; and this is the way most people would see things. The esotericist differs in that when he begins to penetrate into the human being, he is bound to reverse the order while preserving the triple categories. He realizes that man is spirit, and that, for evolutionary purposes, he has, attached to this Essence, a personality, which consists of mind, or psyche, and body. Body is cogged into the physical world and its rigid space-time continuum. Spirit exists out of this continuum, hence the extraordinary difference in consciousness which man has in what the late Abraham Maslow called moments of 'peak experience', or transcendence. Mind or psyche lies between the two, so that one experiences space-time in the flexible, plastic form we [Page 71] know best in dreams, and also in some extrasensory experiences, where the plasticity is apt to prove very confusing to both the sporadic experiencer and to the professed and not properly trained 'psychic'.

It is against this background that we can consider the subject of this essay on health and disease. At this point I should like to ask the reader to place a hyphen in his mind in that word 'disease', for it covers not only ill-health within the body but all forms of unease between oneself and one's environment, in social relations and everything else that is uncomfortable. Health, on the other hand, means an integration, a 'wholeness', a 'holiness', in the individual from moment to moment.

It was C. G. Jung who first put forward directly the principle that all our problems — all our dis-eases — are the result of maladjustment to our spiritual being. Each of us, for the most part as yet only in the spiritual super-consciousness, knows the path we should tread. If we feel disease, it is because somewhere we are going astray. This may be between ourselves and others, or it may be in our bodies. In both cases, the unease is both a signal to ourselves, a warning light, and a kind of riddle which contains its own answer. That answer is how to return to health, to find 'healing' in so far as we have not already damaged the physical body beyond repair — for this life-time.

Healing is basically the result of putting right our wrong relation to our body, to other people and — I will not go further into this than to mention it — to our own complicated minds, with their emotions and instincts at war with one another and not properly understood and accepted by what we call 'I' or 'me'. The process is one of reorganization, reintegration of things which have come apart. The healthy person finds his environment a happy one — even if it is not perfect — and, while minding his own business, calling on him to improve it. But he is healthy also in his organism at the physical level. As he is not yet perfect, from one moment to the next something may hit him: some unpleasant adventure, some virus or microbic or metabolic disease. If he is spiritually aware even to a small degree, he will look for the cause within himself, not blame fate or others, or accident. The word 'accident' means 'something which happens to one' — whether pleasant or unpleasant — from outside the field of what one calls 'oneself'. But he may not [Page 72] be capable of doing anything about it without help from others. From this he learns, if need be, that no individual exists otherwise than in the context of his fellows and, beyond them, that of the whole of life. Retreat into a hermitage, an ashram, into meditation of the kind practiced so widely today may be useful for a time provided it is not an attempt to escape from living, but it needs to be followed by a commonsense return to contact with one's fellows. Moreover, it means also a proper and commonsense relationship to the physical organism, which has to be fed, kept clean, and otherwise treated with the love — and, I hope, respect — one feels for one's animal pets. One cannot be spiritually healthy if he neglects or suppresses any single part of his total make-up as a human being.

I should add parenthetically that exaggerated attention to health, diet, self-adornment and beautification is in itself a sign of disease. One can be obsessed by one's body, and this is on a par with the people who make too much of their dogs or cats, to the detriment of the pets as well as to themselves.

Passing on from these generalizations, let us consider what healing or therapy means. For details of methods, as well as an elaboration of principles, I recommend the book produced by the Medical Group of the Theosophical Research Center in England, The Mystery of Healing, now available in Quest Books. Far more important is the principle of healing itself, in general, that is, the realization that restoration of health is a permissive, not an active thing. Whatever the external methods used, whether psychological, chemical (pills or medicine) or manipulative, nobody and nothing heals a person otherwise than by releasing the things which have prevented him from healing himself. In other words, if there are vital energies pent up and causing disease by their being so pent up, the external factors used or applied result in release of these forces, and health returns to the extent that physical laws allow damaged tissue to grow again, to be absorbed or resolved.

This brings us to the question of the place of the healer (and under that title I include doctors, dentists, vets, and all who have, as it were, made it their life's work to treat the sick). I do not include those who call themselves 'healer' out of [Page 73] vanity, just as some preen themselves on being 'psychic' and 'so sensitive', but only those who are genuinely trying to do something for others, not to acquire a reputation or court publicity or raise money.

At first one might feel inclined to say, 'If a person suffers, it is his Karma, and one shouldn't interfere'. But a little more insight shows us a principle long since known to the Taoists, in particular, and which Dr. Carl Jung has called, in Western language, 'synchronicity'. This tells us that the immediate situation, the 'now', is the crucial point in all one's actions, mental or physical. One has to do the right thing, appropriate to every 'now'. Couple that with the idea of the unity of everyone with the whole of humanity, already expressed, and it follows that at any 'now' there is a proper action towards those in one's immediate environment.

This means that if a person is in distress, the one brought into the picture, or who sees it for himself, has a part to play in the whole cross-section of that moment. If a person is ill or hurt, a trained 'healer' — provided he does not rush in uninvited, or without sufficient knowledge — has his role to play, and will do what he can for the other person. He is in the other's momentary world-picture, but so is that other's existence part of his own momentary view of things. So it is karmically right that the two world-pictures should interact at that moment. In short, it is not interfering with Karma to help a person in difficulties, provided the proper mutual consents are given, verbally or tacitly.

The spiritualized healer will never wantonly rush in and mind more than his business, unless in some way invited to do so. Nor, however, will he stand back when his services could be of value, whether or not he expects to get paid for them on however small a scale. Spirituality asks no return.

From this we can draw a slight picture of true spiritual healers. For there is no doubt that such exist, and, moreover, that they sometimes work miracles. But they are humble, unobtrusive people who claim nothing and may assert that it was Christ, or perhaps some other great Being who used them; they are more likely to say nothing, lest they give the impression that they believe themselves to be special people, chosen for the work. One who fits into this category is a doctor among my [Page 74] friends who has a true charismatic power which his sensitive patients feel; but his methods are those of straight orthodox medicine, applied with a discrimination which many of his colleagues lack. To meet him one would scarcely notice him more than anyone else in the room, and it is perhaps only in private, and with certain people, that he is willing to talk of such delicate matters as his philosophy of spirit. He is and works under the banner of Christianity, but he may quietly admit that his skill comes from the far past and, if pressed further, that he believes himself to have been trained in the Aesculapian Schools of ancient Greece. Humility is a marked characteristic of this man — as indeed of all truly spiritualized people.

I have drawn this picture to show a contrast with the self-advertising, crowd-attracting 'healers', if only because, when one seriously investigates their work, one finds endless disappointment. True, there may be some temporary and showy results, largely due to suggestion, but they do not last. If one should find anything really strange to have happened, it is probably in the minute proportion of the medically verified miracles at Lourdes: one in every few millions of the pilgrims who have been going there over many decades.

If one is seriously in search of the spiritual outlook, and wishes for help of the deep and right kind, he needs to develop the right attitude of mind. The woman whose comment stands at the head of this article evidently had no clue to the truth. She wanted something for herself, as cheaply in terms of money as possible. She may be an extreme case, but many are in some degree like her. This is the reason why the true cure is rare; however saintly the doctor or healer, he can only evoke the true healing power from a patient whose attitude is somewhere oriented in the right direction. The Roman Church insists on confession before being able to absolve a penitent. Crude as the idea has become, it suggests that people have to mean seriously to change themselves before the absolution can be effective. The same principle applies to the sick person. Self-seeking stands in the way of the deep spiritual transformation which brings about real cure. It is true that a bottle of medicine may 'cure' [Page 75] certain symptoms, but others will replace them and need more superficial treatment. On the other hand, it may be a touch of spiritual insight which persuades a person to use common sense, take a simple remedy or have an operation or anything else when needed. There is nothing highfalutin — about spirit. It stands for common sense as well as uncommon sense.

In conclusion, we may go still deeper, if briefly, into the question of health and disease. I suggested earlier that there were occasions when one might consider disease as a problem containing its own answer. Nowadays, a number of medical philosophers are telling us what we call and feel as disease may in reality be itself a healing crisis. The word 'healing' here needs to be taken in very wide and long terms. Not only may a fever or a skin eruption be a crisis of elimination of some chemical or viral toxin, but even so dread a state as the schizophrenic breakdown is now seen as at least potentially therapeutic. As the child with measles develops immunity to that disease, so the schizophrenic may so change inside that he emerges from the ordeal not a wreck but a new man, more integrated to his own deeper nature, more spiritualized.

And this applies also to death: physical death may result from the release of the healing forces inside a patient. It is not then a tragedy but a triumph for the healing powers. Everybody must die physically sooner or later, but few — especially the bereaved — see death in its true colors. Moreover, even Theosophists who use ideas of reincarnation as a comforting thought, often fail to learn the lesson of how to prepare themselves to die. They want their little egos to persist. Even people of great insight sometimes wish to let go of their bodies but feel that somehow they have not learned the proper knack, the proper mental attitude which will allow them to do so. But the more we learn the laws of the spiritual life, the easier should be our progress, not only through a lifetime, but also through the transition between one incarnation and the (probable) next.

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