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SRI RAM, N. THE OCCULT PATH.  In The Indian Theosophist, April 1989, Vol. 86, N°4, pp. 68-76.


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            The Occult Path and the Path of Life are one and the same. The word 'occult' means 'hidden'; that which is hidden in the depths of our nature. It is not something far-fetched ― a creation of fantasy ― for it belongs to the depths and not to the shallows of our own nature.

            Nowadays, psychologists speak of the subconscious and the unconscious. But when we speak of the Occult Path, we are not referring to the depths of the subconscious but to the depths of what might be called the superconscious. The question arises: what is the difference between the subconscious and the superconscious? Outside the field of consciousness all is dark, so that the distinction may seem one of words only. But there is, in fact, a very real difference.

            The subconscious holds those tendencies of our nature which have been generated by contacts in the field of sensation, so that all those habits of thought, emotion and action which have been formed in the past and which now form the foundation of our conscious life, belong to the subconscious. The subconscious tendencies are embodiments, in one way or another, of the different desires and attachments which have become habitual to us.

            The subconscious and the unconscious regions of man's nature consist largely of instinctive tendencies and automatic reactions to forces which we share with kingdoms of life much less developed than our own. The superconscious is the more spiritual part of man which has yet to be awakened.

The Path Lies Within

            The first point to realize with regard to the Path ― whether we call it the Occult, the Mystic or the Spiritual Path ― is that it lies within ourselves. Each individual has to tread it by using his own intelligence and judgement; he has to develop self-reliance and find his own way along it amidst the experiences of his daily life. The Path cannot be traced by us for another or by another for us; others may give us useful directions but these must necessarily be of a very general nature and each one has to find out what he himself has to do in each particular circumstance.

            In very truth, the Path stretches endlessly within each heart. Therefore, the heart must be open; it must be an avenue of development, narrow at the beginning but widening continually as one journeys further. The experiences possible to man in the field of consciousness are virtually boundless; he can go deeper and deeper into that field and never come to its end.

            It has been said that in the human stage man travels up to God and that when he comes to the end of that stage he attains union with the Divine nature. But this union is merely the fringe, a certain fusion between our human nature which we share with all other beings, and that Divine nature. And what do we find at the end of this journey to God? We travel in God, in the boundless extension of the Divine nature, the depths of which can never be plumbed and to which there is no shore. God is infinite; we begin to understand what this means when the flood of the Divine life flows into us and gives us an experience which is ever-deepening and ever-sustaining.

            There is an ocean of joy, of knowledge and of action to which there is no end. It is a state of wholeness, a state of consciousness in which one continues to know. It is not merely knowledge alone or action alone; it is knowledge and action and also being. Be-ing does not mean dull, prosaic existence but, in the region of human consciousness to which we refer, it is a richness of life, a fullness of experience which brings with it a feeling of utmost bliss and happiness.

            We said that the Path lies within the heart. Here, the word 'heart' denotes the seat of wisdom, the seat of Buddhi, or the Divine intuition; it does not refer to the physical heart but to that side of our nature of consciousness which has to do with feeling, emotion and the intuitive grasp of things. It is by inner knowledge that we progress in the spiritual realm. We can never make our way only by the mind, for this tends to be scattered and discursive and all that we observe with it alone is merely superficial. It is not by the use of the mind as we know it but through intuitive or inner knowledge that we have to make the journey. This is not knowledge at a distance whereby we see the outside of the object and infer its inner nature therefrom, but knowledge of the inner nature ― from inside the object, as it were ― merging with the life or consciousness which dwells within it.

Direct Knowledge Possible

            We may not yet have developed the skill in using it but such knowledge is possible to man, for the faculty exists in germ in everyone. Therefore, it is possible for everyone to rise to another level of consciousness where knowledge is no longer from a distance arrived at by comparison and reasoning but is direct, immediate and certain.

            It is said that the mystic is different from the occultist in that he feels more than he knows. But in order to feel the nature of a thing as it is, one has to attain to great purity of nature uncoloured by any kind of personal emotion for, if we cannot set aside personal reactions, it will not be possible to know the true nature of a person or a thing through feeling.

            In the realm of spiritual intuition or Buddhi, the distinction between feeling and knowledge disappears, so that to feel is to know. For you do not know a thing unless you can also feel its inward nature. You do not know a person, although you may study his features and his person in detail, unless you understand his inner nature and that can be known only through direct identification of yourself with him. The inner nature of each thing, whether it is a tree, an animal or a mineral, has many levels including the psychic and the spiritual. The spiritual nature is always pure and one has to go very deep inside in order to arrive at it.

            The Path, in its true sense, has nothing to do with psychism. Seeing forms and colours invisible to others, or hearing sounds which they do not hear is irrelevant as far as treading the Spiritual Path is concerned. Man has various faculties which, in most of us, have not yet been developed but which will necessarily be unfolded and used in the course of our evolution. These abilities, however, do not solve those personal problems which arise out of our relations with others; they do not give rise to true, deep contentment; they do not bring the experience of peace or the exaltation of pure joy. On the other hand, they might well distract us and, if they are prematurely developed or forced, we may not be able to employ them to our own and to another's true benefit.

Mystic and Occultist

            The difference between the mystic and the occultist maybe said to lie in the former is negative or more sensitive, while the later is positive ― both terms to be understood in their highest sense. The mystic corresponds to the introvert and the occultist to the extrovert. But to be open inwardly is not to be closed to others while to turn outward is not to be closed inwardly.

            In life we have to realize certain things and this realization has to be implemented by action. Both realization and action are necessary, for if one acts without true comprehension ― without realizing the nature of the ground on which one acts or the reasons for these actions ― one merely acts mechanically, doing the same things over again. What is achieved by such action is very superficial and of temporary effect only. There has, therefore, to be a deep realization of the truths which are to be expressed in action for if there is only realization without action that realization cannot be very deep. When realization is vital ― charged with a living quality ― it will inevitably result in action. If a truth which you cherish in your heart has not force and vitality enough to be manifest in your behaviour, in your conduct and in your relationship with others, it is anaemic, vague and inert. In fact you do not have a true realization at all. Action is, of course, not confined to the physical plane, for there is action at the levels of feeling, emotion and thought. Thinking and meditating in a purposeful manner, directing the thoughts towards certain ends is as much 'action' as activity on the physical plane.

            There is another distinction between the occultist and the mystic. The former exemplifies the truth that knowledge is power and he uses his knowledge for the attainment of chosen goals. But if he is also treading the Spiritual Path, these ends must be beneficent, aimed at helping others on their upward way. The mystic, however, is turned inwards and is largely occupied with the experiences within himself. There are dangers on both Paths. The occultist may be tempted to take delight in using his powers to dominate others while the mystic may tend to become highly self-involved, having inner sensitivities which do not, in the long run, help either himself or other people. At a lofty stage these two paths merge into one another because whatever understanding is gained is not for oneself alone but is willingly shared with others, though never imposed upon them.

            Further distinctions are sometimes made between the Paths of Action, of Knowledge, Devotion or Love, but the differences appear only in the initial stages. Eventually all must merge into one. All distinctions vanish when we go deeply enough inwards to find that which is seeking to blossom within ourselves. At any given moment we find ourselves in a definite position ― in some situation, in some relationship, in some course of action ― and from that moment we have to proceed to the next. What we call the Path is really the all-round development of man, for every side of his nature has to be perfectly fulfilled. He needs to have a capacity for love and sympathy; he needs knowledge which is total and deep; and he also needs the power of effective and disinterested action born out of his understanding and comprehension.

            If we are to live our lives intelligently we have to make our own way as we go. The Path cannot be hewn for us by somebody else though, as already indicated, another may express in a general way where it does or does not lie. He may warn us of dangers, of treacherous terrain and false trails. But no other person can give us the experiences which are so exactly fitted to bring about that expansion of life and that self-development which, for us, is indeed the Path. That is why it is said that we cannot travel on the Path unless we become the Path itself for it is a transformation, a flowering of oneself. Everyone has to come to the truth by his own way; he has to live his own life and make discoveries through his own experience.

Discrimination Necessary

            What is most necessary on the Path is discrimination at all times between the true and the false. You may think that a certain pleasant track will lead you towards your goal but afterwards you find that it was a blind alley. But if the traveller has within himself a degree, however germinal, of inner knowledge of the good, the true and the beautiful, he will be able to find his way eventually. A person who had never, in all his life, been shown kindness or the value of truth would be unable to distinguish kindliness from harshness, truth from falsehood. But, in fact, every person has a ray of light within which enables him to make these distinctions. The moment one pronounces something beautiful or ugly, a sense of the beautiful is indicated by that judgment. That inner sense of goodness, truth and beauty is capable of growth and itis through this that we have to find our way. One may argue, draw diagrams and plot courses, but real advancement is made by following a certain unerring instinct, a sure way which is indicated from within.

            We can never progress by the mind alone without that inner guidance, because the mind is so liable to go astray. If we use the mind by itself to form conclusions we are very likely to come to the decisions which are most convenient for ourselves alone. Our beliefs and ideas may arise from our own wishful thinking, built up out of certain forces in our subconscious. Thus a wealthy man will probably be found on the side of the capitalists while a poor man is likely to belong to the Socialist party. They do not usually support the party of their choice out of impersonal considerations of economic systems and having the welfare of all at heart. People generally decide these matters according to their own predilections and prejudices and afterwards they find arguments to support the policy or the thesis they have adopted.

            The mind, by itself, cannot take one to the truth. This does not mean that the mind is not of value, but it has to become an instrument for a superior intelligence. That higher intelligence resides in everyone although in the vast majority of people it is still undeveloped. The causal body is said to grow by incorporating various elements out of the experiences gained on earth; that which is of value is assimilated to the nature of that immortal, imperishable Self and that which is worthless is rejected. In that Higher Self ― the Ego ― there is a certain instinct by means of which this separation is affected (realized). Thus, within our own selves resides that power of discrimination which enables us to discern the true from the false, the beautiful from the crude and ugly, that which is beneficent from what is harmful.

            It was said of the fabled swan that it could separate pure milk from watery admixtures. The 'milk' is that which is needed for the nourishment of the Divine Soul while the 'water' represents material experience. The mere experiencing of pleasure or pain will not of itself make us grow; we have to digest the experiences and transmute them into the qualities of wisdom and truth. The swan is a symbol of spiritual intelligence, the principle in man by means of which he can unerringly separate the true from the false. It is that intelligence which we have to develop in journeying on the Occult, the Mystic or the Spiritual Path. We have seen that discrimination is needed for the safe treading of the Path from its beginning to its end ― if there is an end. At every point in our lives we are called upon to decide. These decisions should be spontaneous, arising from the deep centre of our being and not through the force of automatism in the material nature, so that our actions are not decided and determined by the thoughts and desires of the passing moment. This would merely be the product of the currents of thought moving inside oneself, setting up likes and dislikes which act and react in spite of ourselves. On the other hand, action through intuitive understanding is of a different kind. In it there is no uncertainty, for it is not action arising from the past but from the Divine principle in one's nature which unfailingly indicates the way.

True Basis for Action

            When a man arrives at this stage he acts out of pure comprehension and not because he is driven by forces pressing upon him from without. Most people are attracted or repelled by the things around them and they are moved strongly or feebly by the force of external circumstances. For the most part we react to things but call this reaction action. But the true basis for action is not personal want or desire but a true comprehension or realization of the essential unity of life ― what is good for you is as important as what is good for me. When there is this realization there is no longer any distinction between my own advantage, my good, my advancement and my happiness and the happiness and advancement of all. If we have the attitude of desiring what is good for all, we will be able to meet each situation and understand it completely because our understanding will not be prejudiced by our personal wants and desires and our actions will be born out of that understanding. Such action is right action and it will arise spontaneously. That is the true way of making progress in the spiritual life.

            Most of us can begin only in a small measure. But when we pay attention to this side of our nature, when we have the desire to advance along the right way; if we encourage it, we will find that our intuition of what is true, good and beautiful becomes a more reliable guide. At the moment it may be almost unknown to us; perhaps, occasionally, we hear its whisper or we become aware of an almost imperceptible sign from within. We must listen to these signals when they occur. The little book, At the Feet of the Master warns us that if we do not pay attention to each word ― if we miss a single hint ― it is lost forever for the Master does not speak twice. This does not refer to any outer Master, but to the Master within ― the inner guide, the spiritual intuition or intelligence. When an indication, however small, comes to us, if we do not acknowledge it the channel will become blocked by a natural process. Therefore if we would develop this inner sense we must acknowledge it and then, following its lead, put into action what we understand to be right, good and worthwhile.

            It is only as we practise the truth that we find in our own hearts that we will be able to arrive at a fuller disclosure. When we refuse to act, the stream, as we have said, is blocked and there is no further flow until circumstances arise which give a shock, as it were, and, once again, the way is open.

            We have to listen, then, for the direction from within. When we are prompted as to what is the good and the right thing to do, we must carry this suggestion to its logical fulfilment in action. In this way we shall find that the inner voice will speak to us more plainly and will prove a sure guide to take us further on the way. (Reprint: The Theosophist, April 1979)
(N. Sri Ram. The Indian Theosophist, April 1989, Vol. 86, N°4, pp. 68-76)



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