From a Talk by Robert Crosbie
Theosophy, August, 1922
Occult Knowledge means knowledge which is “hidden,” but it also means knowledge which is known. If it is knowledge that is known, there must be Those who know it; there could be no knowledge without the knowers of it. True occult knowledge can be obtained only by those who follow the path to it. That path was set down by Those Who Know; all who will may and can arrive at that knowledge. This is not a path open only to certain persons; it is open to every living human being, and limited only by the limitations we ourselves place around it through choice or through ignorance. Much is heard in the world today of what passes for “occult knowledge.” Much experiment goes on under that name in various directions: we have societies for psychical and psychological research, and there is much talk of psychic and astral “experiences” and “communications” with the dead. All these various methods of research are from below, upwards, and will never find the goal. Scientific methods, psychological methods, the methods of the Spiritualists, alike proceed from particulars to universals. Particulars are infinite, and those who follow that path will inevitably get lost in its infinite ramifications, with no real knowledge gained. The goal is to be found from above, below—from universals to particulars, and not the reverse.
The Path of real occult knowledge begins where all begin. It is the Path of all beings, and we need to see the reason why it is an open path for all. We find ourselves in the midst of a vast evolution, with beings of many grades still below us—lower in point of consciousness and intelligence than ourselves—as also we ought to see there must be beings above us far greater than we are. All these beings have sprung from a common Source; all differ seemingly, yet there exists, supreme in all, the same power to perceive, to know, to learn.
We have to understand the reason for the differences in beings and for our own limitations. Let us, then, seek out the beginnings of things—for everything that exists had a beginning, and, of course, everything that had a beginning will have an ending. If our beginning was with this life only, the end of this life would be our complete extinction; then we would have no concern with anything else. But there is knowledge that extends prior to this birth and beyond this life, and in that hidden knowledge we may get the clue to an understanding of not only our own natures, but the nature of all beings everywhere.
Our first firm basis is in the perception that all knowledge must lie in and be sustained by the common Source of which we are a part and an expression. That common Basis could not be any supreme Being, for “Being” means finiteness and limitation, and outside of it must still be that which is not contained. We have to go far back of all beings and creations and creatures to that Cause which lies behind all life, all consciousness, all spirit, all being. That is not different in any being. IT is the same in all, so must be the essential Divinity in all beings of every grade. There is one Absolute Principle which is the origin, the sustainer, the container, of all that ever was, is, or shall be. We call it a PRINCIPLE, because to name IT is to define IT, to limit IT, to belittle IT. To endeavor to give IT attributes of any kind is a limitation, and we must go back of all limitations if we are to understand the Omnipresent and Immortal in us and in all things.
Our search for knowledge is almost universally a looking for something outside. We are looking for information, for instruction, in the thoughts of other men, in the ideas of other peoples, which, in this school of Occult Knowledge, is not knowledge at all. The only knowledge we can have is that which we gain for ourselves, and within ourselves, as actual experience. External facts and information can never give us any understanding whatever of the higher, more divine parts of our nature.
There is no understanding, no explanation, of the mysteries of our own existence, on the basis of a single life. We have to go beyond that, back of that, to realize what evolution means. Evolution means an unfolding from within outwards. That is the way all beings grow—physically, intellectually, spiritually. The beings below us are unfolding; they are embryonic souls not yet arrived at the human stage of self-consciousness and self-realization, but they are on their way to where we already are. The same thing is true of all the beings above us. They have already passed through stages similar to ours. The inner part—the Enduring in every being—is illimitable, infinite, in its power of unfolding and expression, because it is the Immortal.
But, one may say, there was a beginning to this life. So, too, there was a beginning to this day, to this experience, to this collection of experiences, to this body. Yes; but in each and every case this beginning and those beginnings were the repetitions of other beginnings and endings—of what? Of experiences, of instruments, of perceptions; not of the Perceiver, the real being. This brings us to the perception of Law; the Law of Periodicity, of Cycles, which is illustrated in every department of nature. Our being here under evolution ought to show any intelligent person that no one has reached his present stage save through previous stages. That which pushes “us” on, that which is the basis of all the powers we show or express, is the Spirit in us, our real Self. The Spirit of man has all the powers that any Spirit has. That Spirit is universal, not limited to any one being or class of beings. In man it is individualized and is the true Ego in each of us. As such Ego we have the direction of that inflow of universal force which we call the Spirit, and we direct that power in various ways, some of which we call good, and others we recognize as evil; for it must be understood that neither good nor evil exist of themselves, but only as the results of action.
We have imagined that good and evil have come to us from others, but as directors of the forces of Spirit, as Egos, we can see there is nothing brought to us nor upon us except as we cause that operation ourselves. ‘We have often heard it said, “Whatsoever a man sows, that shall he also reap,” and we have perhaps believed it. But have we ever applied it in another way, that whatever we are reaping we must have sown?
The Law of Periodicity, of Cycles, being universal, must apply in every particular to every particular being. That is justice. If Law is not universal then this is not a universe of law, but of chance. If it is a universe of law, then our very conditions, our possessions, our intelligence, our beliefs, everything that comes to us, comes as the result of our thought and action. As we are reaping at any time, so we must have sown at some time. As we are sowing at any time, so we must reap at some time. Our birth, our circumstances, are reapings. Our attitude towards them, our use of them, are sowings. We are born into any body, any conditions, as the result of our past sowing—our past lives. This is justice, and it alone explains the differences between people.
We are responsible beings, and the feeling of responsibility is the first step towards selflessness. The thought that Law is imposed upon us by any being or beings, is destroyed by the recognition that Law is inherent in ourselves: as each one acts—that is, affects others—so is the re-action upon himself.
The differences between people, and the contradictions in ourselves, are in the fundamental ideas held; for as a man thinks, so he acts. If he thinks this is the first time he has been on earth, that it is the only time; if he believes that some being brought him here, governs him while here, is going to take care of him when he dies—if he has those ideas, he will act in accordance with them, and will receive the inevitable reaction.
But if we see that the Spirit is behind everything, that all Law is the action of Spirit, that we are Spirit, we shall have a true perception of our own natures. We will begin to think in ages, instead of the days of one short life; the basis of our actions will be those Eternal verities that have been proven again and again by Supermen—those Beings above us who once passed through our stage, and who are now the Knowers of the Eternal. They hold this knowledge, and that which has been given out by Them as Theosophy is a statement of a portion of Their knowledge. It is as much as we can assimilate, or understand, or use.
So, being Spirit, and acting under the Law of our own Being, we grow to realize what the whole Universe means: that the Universe exists for no other purpose than the evolution of Soul—the embryonic souls below us, the partially developed souls here among us, and the perfectly developed souls above us—all climbing the great stair of development, of Self-evolution. No one can force us up the stair. We may go on and on, remaining on the same level for myriads of lives; we may go lower; but if we are ever to make the ascent from Man to Superman, from Soul to Great Soul, we ourselves must fulfill the conditions that will enable us to do so.
Along these lines lies Occult Knowledge. There is such a knowledge, and it is far beyond what we call reason; for reason is merely working from premises to conclusions, whereas real knowledge is direct cognition. We do not reason about the things we know. We do not have to reason about all the knowledge we have attained in the past; when we are on the plane of Knowledge, we know without any reasoning whatever. This goes far deeper than most people imagine. It is possible for the human being to reach that stage where by looking at anything he can tell the whole nature of it—from its origin, all the processes through which it has passed, all the incidental relations it may have had. This is direct cognition—Occult Knowledge. It is to be gained by the recognition and conscious use of the powers of the Inner Self. It cannot be gained by reasoning, nor by the inferences reached from looking at things from outside and judging from what we are able to perceive; it is gained by what we call the Intuition—the acquired knowledge of all the past. Occult Knowledge enables one absolutely to determine what is the nature and essence of anything regarded.
True and full Intuition can come to us as a steady light only through our doing away with the false ideas that we now hold and employ. What is required is a correction of our basis of thinking. Theosophy gives us the true basis for right thinking, and so for right action. The consistent and persistent effort to think and act from the right basis draws out a certain power in ourselves, and that power manifests, first of all, as the power of concentration—the ability to hold our mind upon a single subject or object to the exclusion absolute of every other thing.
How many of us have that power? I venture to say, not one. We have no stability of mind, and we must get that. But the power of concentration cannot be used if we imagine ourselves to be changeable, perishable beings. We think that in order to “develop,” we must change. It is not true. We need to change our fundamental ideas, our minds, our modes of thought, our instruments. That is where the development comes. If we are ever going to learn to concentrate, we must concentrate from the basis of the steady point in us, the Perceiver, the Spirit, our real unchanging Immortal Self. We cannot come to or connect with that Power in ourselves unless we realize that all life is One, that all beings like ourselves are moving on the same path. In that way we realize Universal Brotherhood in a spiritual sense: Altruism should actuate us in every thought, word and deed.
If we consider these things we shall see how far away we may be from making a beginning in the direction of Occult Knowledge. A beginning has to be made, and the sooner we start the better. It calls for the arousal of the Spiritual Will. Will is not a thing in itself, a power in itself. The will is consciousness in action, as distinguished from consciousness inactive. As soon as we think or desire in any direction the ‘will” works. That will is weak or strong according to our idea of ourselves, our thoughts, our desires, our aspirations, our considerations of our weaknesses, our limitations. If we realize that we are Spiritual beings and think and act in the right direction, at once the Spiritual Will begins to work, the power of Concentration is strengthened, the feeling of responsibility grows, the whole nature begins to change, to be transformed—the Great Transition is going on.
These are the Eternal Verities that we ought to grasp. We ought to grasp them first and apply them in ourselves and to ourselves, and then we will find that these ideas are true, because their truth is realized—has become as evident to us as the sun in heaven.