Preface to Self-Culture in the  Light of Occultism

(The Way of Self-Discovery)


by I. K. Taimni

MANY books have been written on the important subject of Self-Culture. Some of these books have been written by people whose outlook on life is coloured definitely either by materialism or religious orthodoxy, but practically all of them are based on the tacit assumption that we have to live only one life on this earth and should adopt such measures for self-improvement as will enable us to achieve whatever success or happiness is possible under the natural limitations of human life. Even those writers who discuss the subject against a moral or spiritual background leave the vital issues of life untouched and confine themselves generally to the small and restricted interests of one single life. No attempt is made to correlate man with the universe in which he lives or to indicate the nature of his ultimate destiny.

A narrow conception of human life such as this can hardly provide a satisfactory basis for a real science of Self-Culture. If we are to live on this earth only one isolated life of a few years, if the future of man after death is a dark or at best a nebulous thing, if there are no definite laws working in the realms of mind and emotions, if there is no definite goal which every human being can and must reach, then self-culture in the larger sense of the term becomes a meaningless and futile effort of man to reach a vague and unattainable ideal. What chance has the average man of today, burdened with his weaknesses and responsibilities, to rise to the high stature of perfect manhood exemplified in the lives of truly great men of the world? And even in the case of those who are placed in the most favourable circumstances for reaching this high ideal, what certainty is there that they will be able to reach it amidst the uncertainties of life? And if there is no certainty of achievement, if life in the case of the vast majority of aspirants is doomed to be cut short in the midst of the struggle to reach the goal, what is the use of striving for the ideal? The vague promise of reward offered by orthodox religions of the day in some kind of post-mortem existence may be sufficient to induce ordinary people to live a virtuous life but it cannot give them the tremendous urge and determination which is necessary for treading the long and arduous path to perfection.

The fact of the matter is that a real science of Self-Culture can be built up only on that comprehensive and direct knowledge of life as a whole which is found in Occultism and those who are not prepared to accept that such a knowledge exists and can be acquired are not in a position to tread that path which leads through many lives to the goal of Perfection and Enlightenment. It may be possible to follow an ethical code for leading a virtuous life, or to go through a course of training for developing one’s mental powers and faculties, or even to gain some kind of spiritual experiences, but these efforts must remain confined within the narrow and limited horizon of one brief and uncertain human life, unrelated to the larger and wider life of the soul of which a single human life is an isolated chapter.

It is not possible to deal in this book, even briefly, with that vast knowledge which goes under the name of Occultism, much less to give proofs for the many unfamiliar facts which are an integral part of this knowledge. But it would be only fair to the reader to give him some idea of the basic facts of Occultism upon which this book is based, and leave him to decide whether he can accept these facts as a basis for a comprehensive Science of Self-Culture. It is true that the effectiveness of the methods adopted in Self-Culture in no wise depends upon the truth of these postulates, just as our use of electric power does not depend upon the current theory of the nature of electricity. Still, it is hardly to be expected that a person will be prepared to take up the long and arduous task of completely changing himself unless he tentatively accepts the truths of Occult Science or is at least prepared to consider them as a reasonable hypothesis for practical purposes. The main ideas which are a part of Occult Philosophy and upon which this book is based are the following:

1. The manifested universe is rooted in an Eternal, Boundless, Immutable, Ever-Unmanifest Principle which is called the Absolute, Parabrahman or the Ultimate Reality. This principle transcends the power of human comprehension.

2. Consciousness and Power or Spirit and Matter are not two independent realities but two polar aspects of the Absolute. They are the first products of differentiation and the basis of Manifestation.

3. From this Triad proceed all the numberless universes which appear and disappear in an endless cycle of Srishti and Pralaya or Manifestation or Dissolution.

4. The innumerable Solar Systems which form part of the manifested universe are expressions of this Ultimate Reality, each Solar System forming an independent unit and yet remaining rooted in the Ever-Unmanifest Reality.

5. Every Solar System is a perfectly ordered mechanism which is not only governed by immutable laws of Nature but is the manifestation of a transcendent Intelligence which is called God or Logos.

6. The physical sun and the planets connected with it are the outermost or densest part of the Solar System, there being several invisible worlds composed of increasingly finer matter interpenetrating the physical world.

7. The whole Solar System with its planets, visible and invisible, is a vast theatre of evolution on which life in its various stages and innumerable forms is evolving to greater and greater perfection.

8. All this stupendous process is taking place according to a definite Plan present in the Divine Consciousness and controlled and guided by various hierarchies of Beings at different stages of evolution.

9. The evolution of humanity on our earth is guided by an Occult Hierarchy composed of perfected human Beings who have unfolded within themselves transcendent powers and faculties of which we can have no conception at our present stage. They are in constant and intimate touch with one another and with the affairs of the world and guide it according to the Divine Plan with consummate skill and wisdom.

10. Life evolves gradually stage by stage through the mineral, vegetable, animal and human kingdoms, the evolution being continued even after the perfection of the human stage has been reached.

11. Every human being is Divine in essence, contains within himself all the qualities and powers which we associate with Divinity in a germinal state and these are unfolded gradually, leading to an ever increasing perfection and explanation of consciousness which has no limit.

12. The unfoldment of these latent qualities and powers is brought about through the process of reincarnation, the soul incarnating again and again in different countries and under different circumstances to gain experiences of all kinds and then spending periods of rest on the superphysical planes to assimilate these experiences.

13. Not only the physical but all other aspects of human life are governed by natural laws operating in their respective spheres. This all embracing law of cause and effect which is generally known as Karma makes man the master of his destiny and the dispenser of happiness or misery to himself.

14. As the evolution of forms in the vegetable and animal kingdoms can be accelerated by utilizing biological laws, so the evolution of man can be greatly accelerated by the application of mental and spiritual laws operating on their respective planes.

15. The Science of Self-Culture is based on the application of these natural laws in their totality to the problem of human evolution and is therefore as certain and reliable in giving definite results as the laws working on the physical plane are in the field of modern Science.

These facts when studied carefully and in detail will be found to provide a comprehensive solution of practically all the deeper problems of life...

Some of the facts enumerated above may appear strange and unconvincing to those who read about them for the first time but they are not really so when we consider them carefully in their totality and examine the evidence that exists in their support. These facts when studied carefully and in detail will be found to provide a comprehensive solution of practically all the deeper problems of life - a solution which is inherently reasonable and in accord with present day knowledge. The reader may take them, if he likes, in the light of a hypothesis, provided he bears in mind the fact they are not a hypothesis in the same sense in which the word is used in Science. In Science the word is used for a comprehensive set of assumptions which are arbitrarily adopted for explaining a group of phenomena and for guiding further experimentation in that line. The doctrines of Occult Philosophy are not unproved assumptions in that sense. They are all matters of direct knowledge to the Occultists, at least to the more advanced among them, and are gradually verified by every candidate who treads the occult Path to Perfection. But to the newcomer they must remain unverified facts, although by studying thoroughly the literature of Occultism he can easily convince himself of their truth and inherent reasonableness. They can be verified and known to be true only by those who tread the path of inner unfoldment and themselves become Adepts in the Science of Self-Culture.

There are subtler worlds of progressively increasing splendour behind and interpenetrating the physical world...

Occultism is very frequently confused with magic and the occult arts like astrology, hypnotism and crystal-gazing, and since the latter are frequently associated with charlatanism, educated people these days have naturally a shrewd suspicion against all things which do not form part of the scientific knowledge of the day. It is true that much of the knowledge and practices that are advertised as Occultism either by societies or individuals are most spurious, but nevertheless, behind this pseudo-Occultism there lies a tremendous reality of which the ordinary man can hardly have any conception. There are subtler worlds of progressively increasing splendour behind and interpenetrating the physical world of which we are cognizant through our physical senses; and there are highly evolved human beings living in the world at the present time who have a thorough working knowledge of these worlds. These facts will naturally appear incredible to the man who hears of these things for the first time, but they are matters of ordinary experience to a number of people who are in touch with the Adepts of Occultism and have developed the necessary faculties for coming into touch with these worlds.

Those who are not obsessed with the materialistic philosophy of life and believe that man is an immortal being and his physical life is only a chapter in his long and continuous life on the superphysical planes, will be able to see how, if such superphysical worlds exist, knowledge concerning them must also be possible and there should be people who are in possession of such knowledge. As the religious and philosophical literature of some ancient peoples show, the advanced and cultured sections of such communities have been trying to peer into the deepest mysteries of life and also trying to evolve techniques for the solution of these mysteries for a very long time. There is also positive evidence for the existence of schools of Occultism and the imparting of occult knowledge concerning the deepest problems of life in the Ancient Mysteries. All these things point to the fact that genuine knowledge concerning the deepest mysteries of life is not only possible but available to some people.

...there has always existed on this planet a body of highly evolved Beings who have acted as the custodians of this occult knowledge and used it for the guidance and advancement of the human race.

From time immemorial there has always existed on this planet a body of highly evolved Beings who have acted as the custodians of this occult knowledge and used it under strict conditions for the advancement and guidance of the human race. Unknown and unrecognized by the outer world they have worked, age after age from behind the scenes, co-operating with natural forces and divine agencies, working for evolution, and using men and events in the world as their instruments for the fulfilment of the divine purpose. From amongst this august body have come the great religious Teachers in the various races at different times. By them have been directly inspired most of the beneficent movements in the world which have been slowly changing the different civilizations and taking humanity to higher and higher levels of evolution. All these Beings who constitute this occult body do not stand at the same level but form a graded Hierarchy, including within its ranks on the lowest levels their initiated disciples and on the highest Beings of such tremendous power and wisdom that we cannot even form any conception of Them.

All knowledge concerning everything which exists in the Solar System is in the possession of this Occult Hierarchy, though every member of the Hierarchy does not share all this knowledge. As an Adept advances in evolution and unfolds his faculties one after another, he comes into touch with deeper and deeper layers of the divine consciousness and acquires keener insight into the facts of existence and the subtler planes. Most of this knowledge which constitutes true Occultism is not like the ordinary knowledge of Science which can be formulated in language and communicated by one person to another. The lower aspects of it can be, no doubt, partially communicated in this manner but the highest aspects are beyond the reach of thought and it is only by direct experience that a person can contact them.

Every one must develop his own inner faculties and gain this knowledge from within.

It is necessary to realize that all knowledge exists eternally in the Consciousness of the Logos of our Solar System and as we develop our inner faculties we acquire the capacity to come into touch with it, through our different levels. We have, as it were, to tune ourselves in, through our different vehicles, to different levels of His Consciousness in order to come into touch with everything at the respective levels. It is because the knowledge with respect to the transcendent realities of life can be acquired only in this peculiar manner and its acquisition depends upon our power to respond to different kinds of subtler vibrations on the inner planes that it is impossible to communicate it to others and to put it in the form of a formulated scheme before the world like other scientific knowledge. Every one must develop his own inner faculties and gain this knowledge from within.

Not only is most of this knowledge incommunicable, but much of it that is connected with the higher worlds is also incomprehensible to the human intellect. Used as we are to facts and ideas of a world of three dimensions we cannot naturally understand the realities of worlds in which consciousness works in an increasingly larger number of dimensions, unless we can ‘rise’ to those worlds and ‘see’ things for ourselves. The more we penetrate inwards into the unfathomable depths of the Divine Mind, the more difficult it becomes to formulate the realities of those worlds in terms of mental concepts with which we are familiar and the greater is the necessity of the development of our own inner faculties and powers to understand those realities. That is why Lord Buddha when questioned about God kept silent and all true teachers of the ‘doctrine of the heart’ refuse to discuss the deeper mysteries of life with the uninitiated and the curious.

As we succeed in our efforts we shall be able to get direct insight into the deeper mysteries of life...

From what has been said above it should be obvious how little we can understand true Occultism and the nature and powers of the Adepts of Occultism. All that we can hope to do in studying this Sacred Science is to come into contact with the mere fringe of this limitless knowledge and with the help of this to start unfolding our spiritual nature and inner faculties. As we succeed in our efforts we shall be able to get direct insight into the deeper mysteries of life and acquire firsthand knowledge of those realities which academic philosophers mistakenly seek in the realms of the intellect, and orthodox religious people within the pages of a sacred book.

The real Occultist remains unknown and deliberately avoids the public gaze...

Such an inner unfoldment is possible because the Adept of Occultism possess not only a comprehensive knowledge of all the secrets of Nature but also of the practical Science of Self-Culture. Any one by making himself proficient in this Science can gradually unfold his inner faculties and verify, one by one, all the facts of Occultism. The elements of this Science of Self-Culture have been made known to the world at large in order to give everybody a chance to tread the Path to Self-Realization, but the more advanced knowledge of Nature’s mysteries which confers powers on the Initiate is imparted only to trusted pupils of the Adepts, who have shown through a long period of probation and testing that they are utterly devoted to the interests of humanity and are incapable of being corrupted and of using the knowledge for their own selfish purposes. That is why all people in the world who are attracted to Occultism for selfish reasons, even when this selfishness is of a subtler kind, are ruled out from Their help. They cannot but remain in the outermost court of the sacred temple in which a superficial acquaintance with Nature’s secrets and acquisition of some of the less important powers of the soul is all that is possible. It is only those who are prepared to give up all selfish aims and approach the Path of Occultism with a pure heart and a clean life that can be admitted into the inner secrets and can wield that power of the Atma which makes them mighty on the inner planes and yet appear ‘as nothing in the eyes of man’. For, the more an Adept recedes into the inner recesses of his soul and gains a fuller knowledge of the realities of life, the more he rises above the petty and sometimes childish desires which make ordinary men seek power, temporary fame and popularity in the passing shadows of life. That is how the real Occultist remains unknown and deliberately avoids the public gaze while the pseudo-Occultists who are still full of the lower desires vie with one another in attracting the attention of their followers, and the world at large.

And because all true Adepts of Occultism keep hidden from the vulgar gaze of men their knowledge and power, men wonder whether there is anything real in Occultism or all this talk of the subtler plane and superhuman Beings is mere moonshine. But those who have real knowledge of these things deliberately let the world remain in its ignorance and incredulity regarding the tremendous potentialities which lie hidden in man and in Nature. For as long as human nature is what it is as at present and selfishness, prejudice and unscrupulous aggrandizement are the ruling passions of men, it is well that they should remain ignorant of these mighty forces and tremendous possibilities to which Occultism opens the door. Any one who watches what is taking place in the world at present and sees how grossly the knowledge of the physical plane forces is being misused by unscrupulous people and nations, will realize at once the wisdom of keeping from an undeveloped, and in some ways still barbarous, humanity the knowledge of Nature’s finer forces. These forces are far more powerful and potential for doing harm and therefore infinitely more dangerous.

It should not, therefore, be difficult to understand that the part of the Occult knowledge which is found in books and is accessible to the common man is the outermost and least important part, and behind the symbolism and veiled references that we find frequently, there are tremendous realities of which no one in the outer world can have any conception. Still, this little knowledge which has been given out is sufficient for any one who is an earnest seeker of Truth to provide him with a satisfactory clue for the understanding of life’s problems and to enable him to take those preliminary steps which lead to the Path of Occultism. For, the real life of Occultism begins only when a man comes into direct touch with these realities which are present within him, and he depends more and more upon the unfoldment of his own inner faculties and powers and less and less upon instruction and guidance from without.

With this short preface the reader is left to decide whether it is worth his while to go through the book, and after reading it to take the further step of adopting the philosophy and technique of Self-Culture contained therein for embarking on the voyage of Self-exploration and Self-Realization.

The book has been divided into three parts. Part I deals in a general way with the theoretical basis of the Science of Self-Culture which has as its ultimate aim the discovery of the Reality hidden within the heart of every human being. Without at least a general knowledge of the relation of man to God in Whom he is rooted and to the universe in which he evolves, he cannot tackle the various problems of Self-Culture intelligently and systematically.

Part 2 deals with the problems of self-discipline and Self-Culture which are involved in making the vehicles of the aspirant efficient instruments for the expression of the Divine Life and Consciousness on the different planes. Without understanding these problems and taking the necessary steps to bring about the required changes in the vehicles it is very difficult, if not impossible, to tackle the problems of Self-discovery and Self-Realization. It is only when the vehicles have been adequately purified, harmonized and brought under the control of the Higher Self that the spiritual faculty known as Buddhi begins to irradiate the mind and the Atma can function through its vehicles on the lower planes.

Part 3 deals with the problems of Self-discovery and Self-Realization and the techniques which are involved in them. It does not seek to give a detailed knowledge of these techniques which has to be acquired from technical treatises or other sources. Its purpose is merely to give the aspirant a general idea of these problems and to prepare his mind for the more intensive study and practice of these techniques.

Chapters in Parts 1 and 2 are mostly a reproduction of those which appeared in the first edition of the book. Part 3 contains some new chapters which have been added to make the book more comprehensive in scope and to serve as a sort of introduction to The Science of Yoga. Some of the Chapters in part 3 have appeared in The Theosophist in the form of articles.

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