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Sophia Isis

East Meets West:

Towards a Global Mysticism
-Part 2


Judy Kennedy

A Little Bit of History

Spacer I need to remind readers that this is not a treatise on the similarities and seeming differences between the exoteric East and West -- the orthodox religions of the Judeo-Christian tradition and sects within the eastern traditions of Buddhism, Hinduism, etc. Scholars, transpersonal psychologists and spiritual teachers like Joseph Campbell, Thich Nhat Hanh and others have already done that. While I had to touch on that briefly in Part 1 to introduce the novice to the difference between exotericism and esotericism, this series is going to focus purely on the esoteric side of spirituality -- the esoteric orders behind the churches and the sanghas. Therefore, a little bit of history is in order.

"Isis Unveiled" - Occultists Come Out of the Closet

Spacer Around the turn of the century (last one mind you), actually it was exactly this time in the year 1900 -- September 9th, that the greatest natural disaster in the recorded history of humankind occurred: The 1900 Galveston Storm. A hurricane of mass proportions swept through the most advanced city in Texas at that time and killed 6,000 people. Elsewhere around the world, a storm of similar strength was wreaking havoc, however it was not people perishing, but ideas -- outworn concepts and old thought forms. Remnants of tribal consciousness were swept away in a flood that was to clear away the debris, making ground for the foundation of conceptual frameworks being driven by an impetus toward unity, world peace and transformation. In particular, we see spiritual movements beginning to embody approaches that emphasize the integration of the so-called spiritual and material worlds, in contradistinction to transcendence or a purely mystical psychosis that undervalues or ignores the realities of the physical plane of existence.

Spacer In the West, the Renaissance period and resulting industrial revolution had given rise to schisms between science and religion, mind and spirit. And for good reason. Sometimes a pulling apart or separation is necessary before a better grasp of reality or truth can occur. With each tearing down comes a rebuilding of a structure that is more sound, reliable and useful than the last.

Spacer In particular, these spiritual groups were building anew and cultivating a growing awareness of the importance of "spiritualizing" the mind so to speak. Recognizing the workings of the mind and the intellect as the greatest enemy against the spiritual evolution of humanity, they sought to make it their greatest ally. It was their position all along that the great spiritual teachers such as Jesus and Buddha had already done this, and they sought to elucidate how, publicly for the first time, to anyone who had ears to hear. Of course Buddhists had always been quite open in their teachings regarding the relationship between spirit and mind. But at the time, the East, particularly Tibet, was still a relatively insular society -- closed off to the rest of the world and barely touched by the industrial revolution. Therefore it was not subject to the waves of persecution suffered by the great spiritual iconoclasts of the West.

Spacer The Theosophical Society had been in full swing since the latter half of the 19th century as a major player in this trend. Madame Blavatsky, its most charismatic leader, wrote Isis Unveiled and The Secret Doctrine that were seminal in this regard. While Blavatsky’s work is more Eastern in origin than Western, she was still one of the first westerners to publicly proclaim the existence of the esoteric orders and an inner plane adepti. In this way, she did more to promote an open-minded investigation into all mysteries and the lesser-known aspects of spiritual reality than most. It was also about this time that the term "occultism" began to be used to describe the study of these lesser-known aspects of spirituality the so-called paranormal phenomena that resulted from their engagement.

Spacer The Theosophical Society had a mission statement of sorts with three primary aims:
Spacer (1) To form a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste, or color;
Spacer (2) To encourage the study of Comparative Religion, Philosophy, and Science; and
Spacer (3) To investigate the unexplained Laws of Nature and the Powers Latent in Man.
Spacer Prior to publishing this statement, part 3 actually read, "To make a systematic investigation into the mystic potencies of all life and matter, or what is usually termed occultism." There we have the true work of the Society. [1]

Spacer As explained in Part 1 of this series, things that are labeled occult or esoteric usually don't stay that way. Annie Besant, a student of Blavatsky’s who took over the leadership of the Theosophical Society after Blavatsky’s death in 1891, was gifted clairvoyantly. Fortunately, one of her clairvoyant visions was transcribed and diagramed for posterity. In later years, this diagram was determined to be an accurate description of what we know today (thanks to the electron microscope) as the structure of a subatomic particle even down to the quarks, the basic building blocks of all matter. [2]

Spacer Science tells us that humans are not using their brains to their fullest potential. Yet the brain is not the be all or the end all, but merely an instrument. Occultists are trained to develop and finely tune that instrument, which more often than not obviates dependence on artificial ones. Therefore some of their accomplishments appear to be supernormal feats. Yet on closer examination, if these phenomena are not already on the verge of being explained by the new physics and integrative medicine, they will be in the future. Until then, they will remain "occult" or hidden from ordinary view.

Spacer Albert Einstein said, "It is possible that there exist human emanations which are unknown to us. Do you remember how electrical currents and "unseen waves" were laughed at? The knowledge about man is still in its infancy." [3] And do you know what one of the most magical and occult things is to me these days? This damn computer I’m typing on. Hell knows I can't explain how it works. I just know it works, and that's good enough for me. If I wanted to know how it worked, I'd study computer science. And in the old days, if you wanted to know how telepathy worked, you'd study occultism. However, today the lines between the two are becoming blurred. Why are the lines becoming blurred? Because both approaches to life and problem solving, from occult science to the mundane, end and begin in the mind - the one field of mind -- awareness or consciousness. And modern science for the first time is asking the same question that occultism has explored for centuries: What is the nature of mind?

Spacer Believe it or not, it was mundane science that unexpectedly crossed this chasm of seeming separateness and reluctantly reached out to embrace its long lost sister. For centuries, science in general subjugated pure reason and creative insight to the crippling superstition of absolute objectivity. Quantum physics proved there was no such thing. We cannot observe reality without changing it. As Gary Zukav states, "We cannot eliminate ourselves from the picture. We are a part of nature, and when we study nature, there is no way around the fact that nature is studying itself." [4]

Spacer Being objective means being unbiased, having no prejudices -- that there's an "out there" to be observed, totally separate from the observer, right? Well the problem that went unnoticed for three centuries, according to Zukav, "... is that a person who carries such an attitude certainly is prejudiced. His prejudice is to be "objective," that is, to be without a preformed opinion. In fact, it is impossible to be without an opinion. An opinion is a point of view. The point of view that we can be without a point of view is a point of view. The decision itself to study one segment of reality instead of another is a subjective expression of the researcher who makes it. It affects his perceptions of reality, if nothing else. Since reality is what we’re studying, the matter gets very sticky here." [5]

Spacer As it certainly did when Madame Blavatsky tried to explain this to the public in the inadequate language of her day: "...matter is spirit at the lowest point of its cyclic activity" and "spirit is matter on the seventh plane." [6] Or as the ancient Hermetic Axiom puts it, "As above, so below." And as the great heart sutra goes, the prajna paramitra mantra of Tibetan Buddhism: "Form is exactly emptiness; emptiness exactly form." Today, this is best explained by Einstein's field theory of gravity and quantum field theory. They both show that particles cannot be separated from the space surrounding them. "The distinction between matter and empty space finally had to be abandoned when it became evident that virtual particles can come into being spontaneously out of the void, and vanish again into the void, without any nucleon or other strongly interacting particle being present. . . Here then, is the closest parallel to the Void of Eastern Mysticism in modern physics. Like the Eastern Void -- the "physical vacuum" -- as it is called in field theory -- is not a state of mere nothingness, but contains the potentiality for all forms of the particle world. These forms, in turn, are not independent physical entities, but merely transient manifestations of the underlying Void." [7]

Spacer So does this mean that all opposites as we have come to know and love them, are not real and serve no true purpose in the scheme of things? Not exactly. It just points to the fact that there is something beyond all that -- something that operates beyond the bounds of dualistic thinking. Yet it is in the mind where we must realize this truth. As the Tibetan Djwal Khul reminds us in Alice Bailey’s Esoteric Psychology, "It is in the realm of so-called mind that the great principle of separateness is found. It is also in the realm of mind that the great at-one-ment is made." [8] This takes us back to Zukav who quotes Carl Jung: "The psychological rule says that when an inner situation is not made conscious, it happens outside, as fate. That is to say, when the individual remains undivided and does not become conscious of his inner contradictions, the world must perforce act out the conflict and be torn into opposite halves." Wolfgang Pauli, the Nobel prize-winning physicist who was also Jung's friend, similarly states, "From an inner center, the psyche seems to move outward, in the sense of an extraversion, into the physical world." Zukav concludes that if these men are correct, "...then physics is the study of consciousness." [9]

Spacer Now you know why occultism -- that has always had for its primary subject the study of consciousness - has also been called metaphysics. This is where they finally meet. And now these days, we have the ridiculous term, "New Age." This stuff is not "New Age." This stuff has been around for millenniums. This stuff is Ageless Wisdom. It was with the Druids; it was with early Egyptians. It was taught to Jesus by the Essenes, and to the Jews in the form of the Mystical Qabalah. We find it in the shamanistic practices of indigenous peoples all over the world -- from the Native American Indian and Australian Aborigine to the ancient Mayans and their unknown ancestors. The Buddha finally found peace in its limitless light, and in sharing its mysteries began the great Eastern lineages that continue to this day. We find its hidden treasure buried deep within folklore and myth -- both ancient and contemporary. The sacred story and its secrets are even revealed to us in literature and modern movies for those who are receptive to its symbolism.

Spacer Still, I like the term occult because even with the advent of the new physics, it appears to remain "hidden" from the masses in its purer forms. It also alludes to the fact that it is more of a science than a faith. This is the difference between the pure occultist and the pure mystic. "When the scientific temperament approaches the Unseen, it chooses the Occult Path of development, and when the artistic temperament approaches the Unseen, it chooses the Mystic Path; one progresses through right knowing, and the other through right feeling, and both meet in the end," says Dion Fortune in her ground-breaking treatise, The Esoteric Orders and Their Work. However, this was more true yesterday than today. [10] As stated in the beginning of this article, since the turn of the 20th century, the trend has been towards integration -- balance -- like the holistic merging, interdependence and cooperation that results when both hemispheres of the brain are acting in harmony. But what good is that harmony if we don't do something with it ? Therefore in occultism, the emphasis is on practical application of this Ageless Wisdom to make the world a better place for self and others. As Lama Surya Das says, "Reality, after all, is spiritual enough. Spirit is meaningless without being grounded here and now in this plane of existence." [11]

Spacer Buddhism teaches that wisdom without compassion is just as sterile and ineffectual as love without truth. And this too is acknowledged by Fortune: "We might speak of the mystic art and the occult science and in so speaking we are reminded that every art is based on a science, and every applied science partakes of the nature of art. The highest development is attained when the mystic has the knowledge and technique of an occultist, or when the occultist is at heart a mystic. The mystic can then express the teaching of the spirit in terms of the intellect and so render them available for those who have no higher consciousness than that of the mind; and the occultist who shares in the things of the spirit will have that element of devotion in his nature which is so often lacking in those in whom the intellect is dominant. Without this element the final synthesis is impossible; he will only be as the exoteric philosopher who follows an ever-receding horizon, because he only studies phenomena by means of the effect they produce on the senses. Noumenal consciousness, which is the ultimate aim of the esotericist, is only possible to those who can actually unite with that which they wish to know. . . To this all paths lead, and in this all aims find their realization." [12]

Spacer On that note, Carl Jung eloquently adds: "Science is the art of creating suitable illusions which the fool believes or argues against, but the wise man enjoys for their beauty or their ingenuity, without being blind to the fact that they are human veils and curtains concealing the abysmal darkness of the unknowable." [13] Then why all the stigma attached to the occult, other than the fact that in general, most people fear the unknown? Well, as Dion Fortune explains, "An immense mass of verbiage has gathered around the Sacred Science since Madame Blavatsky drew back the curtain of the sanctuary, and the Theosophical Society sought to popularize the ancient Mystery-teaching. Imagination, freed from the bonds of proof, has had free rein, and scoffers have found ample material that was legitimate game for their comments. The pseudo-occultism of the present day, with its dubious psychism, wild theorizing, and evidence that cannot stand up to the most cursory examination, is but the detritus which accumulates around the base of the Mount of Vision. All such worthless rubbish is not worth the power and shot of argument; in order to form a just estimate of the Sacred Science we must study originals, and try to penetrate the minds of the great mystics and illuminati whose works bear evidence of first-hand knowledge of the supersensible worlds." [14]

Spacer And this is why, as all true Gnostics or those who know proclaim, that the only real proof of anything comes from the integrity of one’s own experience. We are given the tools and the means by which we can realize this Great Work or "dharma" as it is called in the East -- and demonstrate the underlying principles of this Ageless Wisdom in the ordinary trials and tribulations of our everyday lives. And this is the only confirmation that we need. It works -- and that's all we need to know. How, exactly is this Great Work done in the East and the West and exactly why is it being done and who exactly is doing it and where exactly is it all leading to, will be explored in Part 3.

Judy Kennedy, aka Wayward Muse
Spacer This article was originally published on September 10, 2000 at
Spacer Author retains full copyright.

[1] Clayton Matthews. Secret Psychic Organizations, Sherbourne Press, 1969, p. 98.

[2] From a paper entitled "Quarks, Occult Chemistry and the String Model" presented at the 1980 United States Psychotronics Association by physicist, Robert Beutlich.

[3] Mikol Davis, Rainbows of Life, Harper Colophon Books, 1978, p. 37.

[4] Gary Zukav. The Dancing Wu Li Masters: An Overview of the New Physics, Bantam Books, 1979, p.31.

[5] Id., p. 30 (emphasis added.)

[6] Alice A. Bailey. Esoteric Psychology, Vol. I, Lucis Trust, 1936, p. 17.

[7] Fritjof Capra. The Tao of Physics, Bantam Books, 1975, p.209.

[8] Bailey, p. 16.

[9] Zukav, p. 31.

[10] Dion Fortune, The Esoteric Orders and Their Works, 1928, reprinted by Llewellyn Publications, 1971, p. 138.

[11] Lama Surya Das, Awakening the Buddha Within, Broadway Books, 1997, p. 233.

[12] Fortune, p.139.

[13] Davis, p. 45.

[14] Dion Fortune, Sane Occultism, Samuel Weiser, Inc., 1967, pp.7-8.

East Meets West: Part 3

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