WESTERN OCCULTISM, VEDANTA,
ALL through the Middle Ages right on down to the present, an unbroken scream of occult tradition has flowed in the West. This occult tradition has branched out and taken many directions, yet all of them show a certain relation to each other. One branch of this tradition, the one which is extremely characteristic of Western occult tradition altogether, is the occult stream which usually calls itself, "Templar."
The content of this Templar tradition passed down through time contains both a theory and a practice ; but before one comes to the stage of practice, it is necessary to have acquired at least pare of the theory.
Now access to the theory is not an easy matter ; for it is not brought forth openly as a system of thoughts, but is hidden in a comprehensive symbolic system. This symbolic system is, in turn, stratified into four layers : first there is the picture ; this then corresponds to a. geometric figure ; the figure in turn corresponds to a speech sound, or to a letter of the Hebrew alphabet ; and, lastly, the sound corresponds to a number. Thus if we wish to understand a symbol, we first immerse our selves in a colored picture in which color and form are intended to express an occult 'configuration' ; that is, a group of faces. Here we have to exert all our capacity for keen discernment, all of our inventiveness, in order to extract content out of the picture. In principle the student should do this without aid, but in reality he will be helped. It is intended, though, to limit this
help to a minimum. After we have penetrated to a certain degree into the meaning of the picture, we are there introduced to the corresponding geometric figure which expresses the same 'idea'. After this -- a more difficult part of the work -- has been accomplished, one learns a letter' or a speech-sound, and a 'number'. The process here of penetrating to these three levels' has to be accomplished twenty-two times in order to learn the 'alphabet'.
After having thus mastered the 'alphabet', we then learn to 'read' -- which means, arranging the letters and joining them together. Now the so-called "higher instruction" begins. It is as follows : When the script is learnt, one receives a 'book' to read ; that is, it is then understood what the script was intended for. This book consists of fifty six symbols which are arranged according to a certain system that corresponds to the manner in which a man traverses four worlds.
Now these two stages of instruction -- the stage of learning the script and of reading the book -- correspond to a practical teaching. This practical teaching is also divided , here into grades : lower and higher. Now the content of this teaching is 'magic' which is also divided into lower or ceremonial magic and higher magic.
Ceremonial magic is used for two kinds of purposes. On one hand it is used to affect outer events by means of invisible forces ; on the other hand, to receive answers to questions put to the supersensible realm. This latter use is very characteristic. Through performing ceremonial magic, communications from the supersensible are made sense perceptible. Here it is not chat consciousness is raised to an experience of the supersensible, but rather, that the supersensible is brought down and made sense perceptible. Thus one is in a position to experience imaginations -- yet these are imaginations that are made perceptible through being materialized in smoke or steam.
Higher magic is primarily centered on the use of the relation of the four elements in man to the four elements outside of man. The forces of the Man, the Eagle, the Lion, and the Bull are brought into movement by the human ego with the aid of thinking, feeling, and willing ; so chat in the 'fire', 'air', 'water', and 'earth' of the objective elemental kingdom, appropriate effects are called forth.
Therefore we can characterize the essential aspects of the Templar occult tradition somewhat as follows : It is a grandiose system of symbolism, containing within it theoretical knowledge of the supersensible worlds and their deeper laws. This theoretical knowledge is applied in magic. The supersensible worlds are not seen, rather they become theoretically
known. But if one wishes to experience the reality of the supersensible which corresponds to theory, then one turns to magic which, however, does not present the supersensible itself, but only its effects. Yet these effects are of such a kind that they enable us co feel the reality of the supersensible hidden behind them. Thereby the 'theory' is confirmed by the 'experiment' -- which may well suffice for a typical European.
A typical Asiatic occultist would certainly reject, with a shrug of the shoulders, this method of coming into contact with the supersensible realm (and he really does do this). He turns to the supersensible with quite different demands than chose of the European. The European wishes co know the supersensible, but to know it in a way which suits his frame of mind ; namely, through knowledge of 'objective things' outside himself, in the same way as the outer world is known to him by means of the senses and through scientific theory. He muse have it before him as an object so chat he may master it with his ego. He is in the strongest measure careful of his ego. The supersensible may not enter into his ego as an overwhelming power, it may only enter in the form of theory. For with "theory", the ego remains free. But just theory is too bloodless, it is not reality. So reality
of the supersensible as a force is presented co him by magic -- in this way it cannot flow directly into his ego as content.
The Asian, on the contrary, does not at all strive coward objective knowledge. He yearns instead for a particular inner condition of his ego. What the European wishes to avoid -- the penetration into the ego of super-sensible reality -- the Asian yearns for. He has hardly any interest in objective things. He awaits nothing salutary from 'without'. But there is, in the subjectivity of his ego, what for him is worth striving for in the world. There, reality of cosmic spirituality can be experienced in its con tent, as it were, from within. The Asian yearns not for objective knowledge , but for subjective experience . To raise himself out of his present to a higher state of existence in his inner life -- chat is his striving. For his self his goal is another inner condition. And the stream of Asian (Indian) spiritual life, in which this attitude appears very clearly and is philosophically founded, is the Vedanta stream.
The Vedanta stream is in fact as characteristically representative of oriental occultism as the modern Templar stream is characteristically representative of occidental occultism. It, too, is the bearer of a tradition. But this tradition, in its essential qualities, is very different from the occidental tradition we described. It is not a system of symbolism bearing within it theoretical knowledge, but is a 'naked' theory, a logical system of abstract concepts. And as the student of the Western school must work his way through a system of symbolism in order to reach the theory, so the Vedanta student must work his way through the logic of the enormously enlightening thought system of the Vedanta.
Where the student arrives at through this work, and what it actually consists of -- this "working his way through" the Vedanta -- is in fact the requirement that he reach a simple synthesis , that is, that he begin with a plurality of thoughts and come to one thought at the end. This one thought, as the final synthesis within which the whole Vedanta philosophy is contained, is the well known basic maxim : Atman and Brahman are one.
In this condensation of the whole system into one point, the student passes over into Yoga: to the practice. "Yoga is bringing to rest movement of thought formation" (Yoga citta vritti nirodha) --as it is formulated in the monumental definition of Pantanjali. From many thoughts we proceed -- through synthesis -- to one thought, which then we let fall also. This concentration on the one thought, and then the subsequent dropping of this thought, is practical Vedanta, Jnana Yoga. In order to facilitate this process, breathing exercises are used (which in modern Vedanta are regarded merely as a secondary aid). Furthermore, in order to help in this letting-go-of-the-thought, mantrams are used ; and the most 'Vedantic' of such mantrams is the syllable "om" (Aum). Thus, in speech-sounds is embraced the above basic maxim of essential identity between inner and outer being. Yet the concentration is carried further, moving to the resonance -- the soft reverberation in the heart -- of the "m" sound with which the syllable "om" ends. Then comes a stillness, a void. In this stillness, in this emptiness, the inner sun of the self rises. This is experienced in unspeakable bliss. This is the Vedanta, the "end of knowledge", no longer as theory, but as experience. This experience has three qualities : it is a higher existence than the usual ; it is a spiritual light experience in greatest clarity ; and it is an experience of deepest bliss. Sat, Chit, Ananda -- these are the states of chinking, feeling, and willing which are striven for in the Vedanta stream. Questions, sufferings, and desires melt like snow in the light of this state. The human being is at peace.
What is going on in the world and the preoccupations of mankind do not concern such a man. He cares neither for magic nor science ; for everything exists solely so this state of liberation' can be attained. Swami Vivekananda, at present (1930) the most significant representative of the Vedanta stream, once made a rather drastic, but highly convincing, remark about his relation to the world : "The world is like a dog's curly tail -- however often one uncurls it, it always rolls itself up again." For him the world is only there as a school for the inner life. When one has learned from life what it can teach, one then turns his back to it. The world is there for human kind. The enlightened one has as little responsibility towards it as one who wakes in the morning has cowards his dreams of the night.
Whereas the Western occultist strives to transform his theoretic knowledge of the spirit world into magical operations on the outer world ; the enlightened Vedantist, in contrast co him, actually has nothing to do with what 'remains' of the outer world. Another difference, highly characteristic of the two streams, is that .while the Occidental has a comprehensive theoretic knowledge of a manifold spiritual world with its nine hierarchies ; the Oriental has the experience of a unified world of World Spirit, of Brahman, with whom he becomes one. The Oriental experiences the spiritual world subjectively -- he enjoys it in too large a measure to have knowledge of it. So it happens chat this spirit world presents itself to him, as it were, as a unity, while in reality it comprises hoses of spirit beings. Although the Occidental knows the spirit world, because he does not experience it, his knowledge is merely theoretical.
Rudolf Steiner's Anthroposophy is a spiritual scream which can be described as neither "Occidental" nor "Oriental" in the sense of the above considerations, for what is characteristic of the Anthroposophical spiritual direction -- what is conspicuous in it, if I may say so -- is the striving towards a cognitional experience of the spirit world. It is neither just a philosophy which leads over into mysticism, nor just a theory which leads over into magic. It is rather a way to an experience of the spirit world which is as real as the Vedantic experience, yet is as objective as are the spiritual phenomena brought down into the material realm by the Western magician. The two paths which proceed out of theory -- one into mysticism and the other into magic -- are here not pursued ; but theory itself, or more correctly thinking, is lifted up onto a higher level. Anthroposophy thereby becomes the mysticism and magic of thinking. Inasmuch as thinking -- through meditation -- gains an inner power, it becomes creatively pictorial. Inasmuch as the picture making thinking gains here the strength to disregard the pictures, it becomes a sensitive membrane for revelations from the spirit world. In Imagination, thinking becomes magical , in Inspiration it becomes mystical. Yet this "magic" is not a case of making things sense perceptible, rather it happens within the spirit world. And this new "mysticism" is not egotistical, for it has freed itself from merely subjective experience - it is objective. In Anthroposophy, the egoism of eastern mysticism and the materialism of western occultism are overcome. By this means the anthroposophical spiritual researcher can experience the manifold spirit world, instead of the formless one of the Vedantist. Thereby he can learn to know this spirit world just as objectively and consciously as the sense world is known. Anthroposophy is the redemption of Western occultism from materialism, and of Eastern mysticism from egoism. It fulfills the profoundest inner yearning of East and West.
It seems to me to be extremely important that the mood which can stream through insight into the significance of Anthroposophy for mankind should increasingly and more strongly permeate th6 General Anthroposophical Society, especially those who publically represent it. Thereby an intimate, deep note of conciliation would come into the whole life style' of this Society -- which could be a blessing not only for the spreading of the Society into the East and West, but also as a highly enriching attitude for every individual in his struggle to solve life's riddles. Such a conciliatory attitude in no way contradicts the necessary courage to stand as fighter for the truth against enemies (including "occult" enemies) in the West and East. This should be obvious. Whoever has an open heart for spiritual movements foreign to him, will truly have an open eye also for opposing forces within those movements. We should not fear to delve into strange spiritual streams with our whole being, for in this way one becomes an Anthroposophist.