Oxford Mission Shots at Occultism
Supplement to Theosophist, January, 1884
Out of the clear sky of a correspondent’s remarks on the comparative merits of Buddha and Christ, the thunderbolt has been hurled against Occultism by the Indra of the Epiphany. The startled Theosophist but meekly enquires how his humble self could be suspected of intrusion in such sublime regions as the arena of discussion of our contemporary’s correspondent—”A. B. C.” In the meantime, however, as Great Indra threatens to bring his Meghâstra into play, it is necessary to avert the impending downpour by pointing out its unseasonableness. It is but proper that the misconceptions, so unmistakably glaring, should be, if possible, removed. The Epiphany thus begins what is meant to be a reply to its correspondent’s remarks:—
“I never grumble when Theosophists tell me that in order to experience the power of the invisible worlds vouchsafed to them I must first practice Yogi 1. It is quite clear to me that there is a power working in them, to be attained only by certain processes. The only questions with me are (1) is the power of a kind worth attaining? (2) what is the nature and source of the power? (3) what is the trustworthiness of its result? To these questions I answer something as follows. 1. The power of supreme wisdom or of working what men call miracles is to my mind worthless compared with the power of love. I must learn to love, to labour for others, to desire their good more than my own, before I can be fit to be trusted with occult powers, which at present would only tempt ME to pride, and be ill-used. . . .”
The erudite critic is manifestly unaware of the fact that the true Yogi does not study Occultism for the purpose of acquiring powers. In his onward spiritual progress toward deliverance from the shackles of Maya, the Siddhis come to him of themselves. There can be no psychological perfection so long as the Ego is in the least affected by the trammels of Avidya, and these Siddhis, however high they may be, are yet within the domain of illusion. Every student, even a tyro, of occultism knows that the acquisition of Brahma-Vidya is dependent entirely upon the development of a feeling of universal love in the mind of the aspirant. For his final goal, the attainment of Mukti is the very identification of the Jivatma with Paramatma, the Universal Spirit, which manifests itself in ALL—which can never be accomplished except by one’s putting one’s-self en rapport with Nature through a cultivation of the feeling of unselfish Philanthropy. It will thus become apparent to a mind free from preconception that the Yoga Siddhis are only the accessories of Brahmavidya, i. e., Esoteric Theosophy, the acquisition of which is guided only by unselfish philanthropy and universal love. The misconception in the above extract is evidently due to the Reverend writer’s confounding the path, pursued by a real Yogi, with that of ordinary jugglers and sorcerers. While the powers of the former are psychological, those of the latter are physical, pure and simple. If the writer had carefully studied the important articles in the Theosophist on this subject and various other publications on Rosicrucianism and Esoteric Theosophy, before hastily penning his remarks, the present controversy would have been saved. He says that he must “labour for others and desire their good” more than his own. The true Yogi replies:—”We postulate that the good of others is our own, since we are a part of the integral whole, and therefore it is not logical or wise to think of mere relative good to others.” When the student has once realised this important fact—and until he has, he is not a fit student—where then is there room left for “pride” from which the Reverend writer shrinks with such pious horror? Self-conquest is the first step on the ladder of Brahmavidya leading to Nirvana or Mukti. If it is thoroughly comprehended that Avidya in every shape is to be got rid of, and if the way to achieve that object is found to be as stated in the preceding remarks, the basis on which the Reverend gentleman has raised a structure of fears concerning Yoga is necessarily removed, and the whole edifice thus must tumble down. One or two more points may also be noticed, with advantage. He says:—
“The trance consciousness in me may be the gateway to imperfect and distorted visions, the creations of brain in an unnatural tension, and not free from its own preconceptions.”
Precisely so: this is just what the occultist guards himself against by first passing through the process of unlearning before beginning to learn. He rests neither upon the deductive nor the inductive method solely, but employs both before accepting any fact. More than this: he practically and experimentally demonstrates to himself the truth of the conclusion he arrives at, before taking them as final. Human will is merely the manifestation of the Divine Will or rather Paramatma. But its action or expression depends upon its associations and the medium through which it has to act. It is all these disturbances or the veils of Maya, that the occultist guards himself against in his studies, and it will be admitted that this mode of procedure is a purer source of knowledge than any other where the counteracting influences are allowed their full sway. In conclusion, the Reverend gentleman adds:—
“. . . . His (Buddha’s) noblest merit is that he never claimed to be God. If Christ did so claim to be without being so in reality, He must have been one of the world’s least souls, its most deluded Prophets. Do you believe this?”
Before answering this query, it is essential to enquire whether Christ’s Divinity is to be assumed on blind faith, or is the reason of the reader appealed to above? In the former case, silence is gold, but in the latter, the question becomes serious. In the first place, we defy the Christians to point out to us one sentence, one word, in the Four Gospels proving in plain and unambiguous language that Christ ever claimed or declared himself to be God. On the contrary—”Why callest thou me good? There is none good but one, that is, God” (Matt. XIX 6)—is a rebuke showing plainly that Christ, far from considering himself God, looked upon any attempt to attribute Divinity to him as blasphemy; no amount of ecclesiastical sophistry can successfully distort the meaning. “I and my Father are one,” is entirely weakened by “I ascend to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” Moreover, the present writer very much doubts whether Christ, even if he did claim to be God, could ever have claimed divinity, as generally understood, if he was, as he is represented. What was there more, indeed, in Christ, not possessed by Buddha? Nay, the impartial student, whether Occidental or Oriental, must admit that in moral grandeur and unselfish philanthropy, Buddha is unequalled, at all events not inferior to Jesus. The whole question of divinity must, therefore, rest either upon their personal claims and powers, or those of their later followers, namely their respective clergy. Pride is inconsistent with genuine greatness, and humility is the essential qualification of a true philosopher. In this respect too, Buddha shows his superiority in not claiming divinity which might more appropriately be attributed to him by his unphilosophical followers than to the Galilean Prophet by his. As regards their respective powers, or (so-called) “supernatural” gifts, the question can very well be decided by those possessed by their respective followers at the present day. The readers of Esoteric Buddhism and the Occult World need, of course, no further dilation on this point.
Before concluding, an instance of the wonderful argumentative powers of the learned writer in the Epipheny may as well be noticed. While admitting the philosophical force of the defense of Vedic Pantheism and Idolatry by Babu Ishan Chandra Ghose, he remarks:—
“. . . It may be very true that a mind capable of grasping only one million out of thirty-three millions of idle personifications would have a very complex idea of God. But we would ask for an honest and candid answer as to whether the uneducated masses do not rather worship one or a few of these personifications. The Rishis made the analysis: what idol-worshipper, except an educated one like yourself, ever makes the corresponding synthesis?”. . .
The fallacy of this argument is self-evident and needs no comment. The Babu may well retort by asking in his turn how many Christians, even of education and culture, understand the teachings of their religion in that high sense, put upon them by the philosophical few? The perversions and misconceptions that a religion suffers at the hands of its ignorant followers are no argument against the religion itself. The vices and superstitions of the lower order of the Hindus do not injure their philosophical faith any more than the following incident degrades the high moral worth of the teachings of Christ. Only the other day the papers published the account of an English husband having sold his wife for a quart of beer!! And the parties to the contract, witnesses and all, were so strong in a sense of their innocence, that each and every one acknowledged the fact freely in open court. The excellence of a religion depends upon its intrinsic philosophical value and its moral influence upon its followers. It is only Statistics and History that can show which Faith has acquitted itself most honorably of its task.
1. The learned Editor of the Epiphany probably means Yoga. Yogi is the person who practices Yoga.