The Aims & Means of Adepthood
(William Wynn Westcott)
Among the objects for which you have joined the Second Order some are specially named by the Obligation which you have taken, and others are indicated by the documents which you have received on loan.
Speaking generally however, we may say that the main object is what is called the Higher Magic or the development of the Spiritual sides of our natures in contradistinction to the purely intellectual.
As regards Spiritual Development you promised in the Obligation to use every effort to purify and exalt the Spiritual Nature so that you may be able to unity yourselves with what the Hermetist calls his ‘Higher Genius’.
A second aim we may say is the extension of our powers of perception so that we can perceive entities, events and forces upon the super-sensuous planes.
Thirdly, and in connection with the other two, you are encouraged to practice the system of divination of which there are several but which are only aids to your intuition and methods by which the intuition may be developed and encouraged.
Fourthly, there is what may be called the procuring of the influence of Divine Powers through the peculiar modes taught in our Order and Vibrating of Divine Names.
There are then these four aims—Spiritual Development— extension of the powers of perception; learning the modes of Divination and becoming familiar with the vibratory mode of pronouncing Divine Names. To these may be added the practical study of the particular influences of colour and’ thus we are called Lords of the Path of the Chameleon.
Now as regards this Spiritual Development in the first place we mean by it that you perform or endeavour to perform the transmutation of the vital forces of life into higher currents of life or rather their transmutation out of the lower into the higher so that you can use them for the purposes of Theurgia. Transmutation of physical force is what is discussed in many of the old alchemical books. A large proportion of these books which have come down to us refer to purely physical processes. But there was an opposite pole of thought of which the language referred entirely to man and by transmutation was meant the directing of physical life and force into the channels of spiritual perception and the higher magical powers generally.
Secondly, as to the extension of our powers of perception beyond the plane of matter into the super—sensuous world, you must remember that the Theosophical view is the correct one and that our Thinking Personalities are incarnated into these material bodies and are acting therefore under the consequent disadvantages. It is because the mind is immersed in matter that its powers are so limited, and we can readily understand that a mind freed from constraints of the body would enjoy vastly enlarged powers. Thus, although our senses are the means by which we perceive; yet at the same time they necessarily limit the extent of our perception. It is therefore our material bodily organs which circumscribe as well as bestow. All of our five senses are capable of enlargement and development. It is however the sense of sight which we most commonly seek thus to develop. Having intellectually learned the laws which relate to sight and colour we are encouraged to practice Clairvoyance and to seek to see beyond material things into the plane most adjacent to us—the Astral, and then we seek to travel in the Spirit Vision through the confusions and the uncertainties of the Astral into the planes beyond.
One of the first of your experiences when practising in the Vault in the dark will be the appreciation of the minute graduations of light and darkness.
You will find it very difficult to get perfect darkness, but you will often find that there are certain days when you can get the Vault quite dark.
The cultivation of your sight will enable you to perceive the variations of colour and especially to note, observe, and fix in your minds, the contrasts of colour on which our Rituals place so much importance, and the flashing colours. Allied to this is the cultivation of View in the Mirror.
The ears also require to be cultivated until you obtain some success in what is called Clairaudience. This is sometimes easier than Clairvoyance but development in either direction implies great perseverance and must be carried out with energy and enthusiasm.
Among Theosophists the phenomenon which you hear most commonly mentioned in connection with Clairaudience is that known as the Astral Bell. This is almost entirely Eastern: if you find a Hermetist who can hear sounds that others cannot hear, they very rarely take the form of a bell.
Those who get a certain amount of Clairvoyance also often get the power of hearing sounds which the world cannot hear and it is often a definite sound sent for a definite purpose. Touch, also is a sense which should be cultivated. I will mention some examples of the way in which this sense may be trained, and by touch I do not mean simply the touch which comes through the fingers. One of the most elementary methods is the perception of magnetism. You will find that, with closed eyes, you can detect the presence of a magnet held near the skin, and that with continued practice you will be able to appreciate the difference between the North and South Poles of the Magnet.
You will find that the forehead is the best point upon which to experiment. We need not dwell upon the senses of taste and smell, but these can also be developed.
Theosophy tells us that corresponding with all other Septenaries in Nature there are also two more senses. I may say that the sixth can be called that of Astral perception, or the power of perceiving forces and entities on the plane next to the earth; and the seventh, of which, no doubt, some of you will get glimpses in due time is the faculty of receiving Knowledge from spiritual sources. There is no organ corresponding to these senses, so that, where necessary, we must utilise the organs which we already possess. Now by what means do the Adepts suggest that these powers may be obtained? It has been urged against us that, as a society, we do not preach the necessity for such strict purity of life as do the Theosophists. It may be true that we are not always preaching it, and as we do not hold public meetings, the same opportunities for doing so do not exist. If, however, there is one thing more than another which I would impress upon you as a social sin, it is that of hypocrisy. As to asceticism, the Hermetists have always taught that this necessary purity of mind should and can be combined with the absence of all ostentatious morality and of un-natural habits of life.
The Western Teachers have always recognised the fact that for so long human life has been so painful, that to most people these studies would be denied if they were to insist upon asceticism, and they have found by experience that a very considerable amount of success without attendant danger may be obtained by those who are willing to make strenuous efforts, without the aid of positive asceticism. It seems to me that the chief danger of asceticism in a city like this and at the present time is that even if we succeed, the extra advantage which we shall derive from totally abstaining from these things of the sense, will be counterweighed by a distinct and added danger of falling, on the other hand, into the Scylla of hypocrisy which I have mentioned. What is apt to happen is this,—that a man is liable to compare himself with his neighbours, and’ say how much better he is than others. Now self congratulation is second only to open hypocrisy, and we hold that it is just as harmful to spiritual progress. On the other hand if you make strenuous efforts to lead a moral life, if you do this while leading a pure life in the city, if you succeed in doing these things, you may depend upon it that your reward will be greater than his who removes himself from his fellows and shuts himself up in a forest. The reward of a man who can remain pure and yet live in the midst of a crowded city is greater than his who avoids the responsibilities of life by burying himself in a wilderness.
It is possible even there to commit many sins which you would not like to confess!
The next principle which we formulate is the necessity for studying and doing all Hermetic exercises from a positive point of view. We look upon the negative attitude of simple abstinence from sin and exertion and effort, in which are comprised to a great extent the methods of the East, and we think that this is an error of judgment and of practice.
I am sure that any attempt at a negative attitude is a mistake. Many persons are, I am sure, deterred from taking up Theosophical studies more closely by the sense of coldness, and an apparent want of human sympathy, which is sometimes exhibited and felt in Theosophical Lodges. Theosophy itself teaches that we should give ourselves up to humanity, and yet their private lodges are often marked by the absence of that enthusiasm for their work which should distinguish them.
The Hermetists have always been noted for their social relations, and this is, I believe, in every way compatible with the strictest purity of life. We believe that a harmonious whole is thereby produced and one likely to lead to success in practical magic.
The next point of importance which is insisted upon in our Obligation and Rituals and put forward with great solemnity in the Vault itself is the extreme necessity for refraining from judging other people. This does not mean that you are not to condemn sin, but it means that you are not to go out of your way in condemning the sinner. It does not imply that you are to condone faults, but it does imply that you are not to endeavour to seek grievances against your fellows, or seek to rule or supervise them, unless you happen to be in authority over them. Very few people are in this position of being rulers. Such have to bear the Karma of occasionally judging their fellow members. It is at any rate a duty which falls upon some of us. You must however, avoid the opportunity of thus judging others until the obligation is thrust upon you.
The opportunity and the act should both be avoided as far as possible. Thus the Ritual says ‘therefore art though inexcusable, whoever thou art, who judgest another’.
Let me now say a word about the risks of negativity. It seems to me that the negative attitude and the negative constitution required to be checked and controlled. Firstly because we do not progress under these conditions, and secondly because they carry with them definite risks to ourselves are those from elemental forces which may attack us.
So long as you lead an ordinary life you are safe from the assaults of influences beyond the material world of your brother men; but as soon as you get outside of that world and put yourself in a position to seek out occult mysteries, you bring yourself under the action of forces of which you know very little or nothing. The only way to avoid being controlled by such forces, to which you have rendered yourself liable, is to preserve what we call the positive attitude, which is the extreme contrast to what is called mediumship. A medium is one who cultivates negativity and such a person is therefore one to be avoided. The condition we want you to cultivate is that of positivity. I could give you a very good example of a person who is negative and who has got into trouble almost entirely through that.
The next thing which we are taught and enabled to practice is Divination. There are at least three distinct systems suggested to you, but they are all of them methods whose routine may be superseded, when you get on far enough. The first of these systems is that of Geomancy and there is also that of Astrology. It will be noticed that the lectures of the First Order give brief outlines of these systems, but there is no direct encouragement to perfect yourself in them.
The third system which is virtually introduced and taught in the Second Order is that of the Tarot.
This goes very much deeper than either of the other two and gives results which are more true because its points of contact with the world, with man, and the influences which surround him, are more numerous. The fact that this is more complicated gives you more of such points of contact than either of the other two systems. With a properly conducted Tarot process and with a cultivated intuition you can obtain almost anything you wish for, but as the process is so complex it is a most difficult system to learn, but having once grasped it you can get results which are most amazing. When you have mastered the first six manuscripts of the Order and are familiar with the Rituals of the Pentagram and Hexagram, and have made your Implements, the Tarot is then suggested to you as a desirable system to learn. Moreover its study is so enticing that you would be apt to neglect those things which should precede its practice. By these systems of divination you are really inducing and cultivating the intuitive power. Now in order to get success in Divination it is necessary to cultivate the Will. First you want an intellectual knowledge of the subject. Then a cultivation of the intuitive power is necessary, and finally you must develop the Will. You must have a steady will or else your intuition will be of little avail. Now this cultivation of the Will should be a process which is continually going on. There are fallacies which exist in connection with the Will. A person may say to you, I am extremely interested in all these studies and I am always willing and endeavouring to succeed in them, and he will say to you that he is thinking of the Tree of Life or of some other occult subject while he is doing his accounts or interviewing his wife. Now I am sorry to say that I have to tell such a person that he is on the wrong tack. If you want success you must will only one thing at a time. The habit of doing two or three things at once is fatal to the Occultist. The Will which is necessary is an undivided Will and its cultivation must be continued at all times.
It is therefore necessary to get into the habit of never Willing more than one thing at a time. Never allow your Will to be mixed up with any desire. The Will which is divided is not the Will which can be of any use to you. It is quite impossible to Will strongly to see an elemental, for instance, unless you are able to think only for that moment.
A fixed concentration of mind must be encouraged if you want to have success. We often get strange demonstrations of the strength of the Will. I will give you an example. We continually find that if we turn round in the street to look after someone whom we have just passed, that person is also turning round to look after us. If however, you deliberately try to do this you will probably fail, and the point is that in this latter case your mind is divided between the will to succeed, and the desire to show your power, and the Will is thereby weakened.
The other two principal items are the Vibration of the Divine Names and the properties of colour, but as these ought to be demonstrated in the Vault, I will not go into them today.