PREFACE TO THE SECOND (REVISED) EDITION
AS the writers – rather than the authors – of this book, we propose – on behalf of a more ready apprehension of it, and the satisfaction of much questioning concerning it – to take occasion of the issue of this Edition to give a succinct account of its nature and import.
That which The Perfect Way represents is neither an invention nor a compilation, but first, a discovery, and next, a recovery. It represents a discovery because it is the result of an attempt – proved successful by the issue – to ascertain at first hand the nature and method of existence. And it represents a recovery because the system propounded in it has proved to be that which constituted the basic and secret doctrine of all the great religions of antiquity, including Christianity, – the doctrine commonly called the Gnosis, and variously entitled Hermetic and Kabbalistic.
In yet another sense does The Perfect Way represent a recovery, and also – for ourselves – a discovery, seeing that it was independent of any prior knowledge on our part. This is as regards Faculty. For the knowledges concerned,
although verified by subsequent research in the ordinary manner, were obtained solely by means of the faculty which consists in perception and recollection of the kind called intuitional and psychic, and therefore by the method which in all ages has been recognised as the means of access to knowledges transcendental and divine. Being fully described in the book (e.g. Lect. i. pars. 4-18; App. iii., part 1, etc.), this faculty needs no further definition here. It is necessary, however, to state this in relation to it: That the value of the recovery of the knowledges concerned, great as it is for the intrinsic interest and importance of subject, is indefinitely enhanced by the manner of its accomplishment. For, much as it is to know the conclusions of ancient wisdom concerning the most momentous of topics, and to recognise their logical excellence, it is far more to know their truth, seeing that they involve the nature and destiny of man in all time. It is this supreme question which finds satisfactory solution in the present case. Had the recovery been made in the ordinary manner, namely, through the examination of neglected writings or the discovery of lost ones, methods which, however successful would have been altogether inadequate for the results actually attained, – no step would have been gained towards the verification of the doctrines involved. Whereas, as it is, for ourselves, and for all those who with us are cognisant of the genesis of this book, and who are at the same time sufficiently matured in respect of the spiritual consciousness to be able to accept the facts, – that is, for all who know to be able to believe, – the book constitutes of itself
an absolute confirmation of its own teaching, and, therein, of the recovered Gnosis. For, being due to intuitional recollection and perception, – faculties exercised in complete independence of the physical organism, – it demonstrate the essentially spiritual nature of existence; the reality of the soul as the true ego; the multiple rebirths of this ego into material conditions; its persistence through all changes of form and state; and its ability, while yet in the body, to recover and communicate of the knowleges which, in the long ages of its past as an individualised entity, it has acquired concerning God, the universe, and itself. In respect of all these, the experiences of which this book is the result, – although themselves rarely referred to in it, – have been such, both in kind and quantity, that to regard them and the world to which they relate as delusory, would be to leave ourselves without ground for belief in the genuineness of any experiences, or of any world whatsoever. It is not, however, upon testimony merely personal or extrinsic that the appeal on behalf of this book is rested, but upon that which is intrinsic, and capable of appreciation by all who have intelligent cognition of the subjects concerned.
Especially is this book designed to meet the peculiar circumstances of the times, – so aptly described by Mr. Matthew Arnold when he says that “at the present moment there are two things about the Christian religion which must be obvious to every percipient person; one, that men cannot do without it; the other, that they cannot do with
it as it is.” In an age distinguished, as is the present, by all-embracing research, exhaustive analysis, and unsparing criticism, no religious system can endure unless it appeals to the intellectual as well as to the devotional side of man’s nature. At present the faith of Christendom is languishing on account of a radical defect in the method of its presentation, through which it is brought into perpetual conflict with science; and the harassing and undignified task is imposed on its supporters of an incessant endeavor to keep pace with the advances of scientific discovery, or the fluctuations of scientific speculation. The method whereby it is herein endeavored to obviate the suspense and insecurity thus engendered, consists in the establishment of these two positions: –
(1) That the dogmas and symbols of Christianity are substantially identical with those of other and earlier religious systems.
(2) That the true plane of religious belief lies, not where hitherto the Church has placed it, – in the sepulchre of historical tradition, but in man’s own mind and heart; it is not, that is to say, the objective and physical, but the subjective and spiritual; and its appeal is not to the senses but to the soul. And,
(3) That thus regarded and duly interpreted, Christian doctrine represents with scientific exactitude the facts of man’s spiritual history.
It is true that many men renowned for piety and learning – pillars, accounted, of the faith – have denounced as in the highest degree impious the practice of what they call,
“wresting Scripture from its obvious meaning.” But their denunciation of impiety includes not only the chief of those “lesser lights,” the Christian Fathers and Jewish Commentators, but also those “two great lights,” Jesus and Paul, seeing that each of these affirmed the mystic sense of Scripture, and the duty of subordinating the Letter to the Spirit and seeking within the veil for the meaning. The fact is, that in their use of the term “obvious,” the literalists beg the questions involved. Those questions are, – To what faculty is the sense of Scripture obvious, – to the outer or the inner perception? and, – To which of these two orders of perception does the apprehension of spiritual things belong? Nothing, assuredly, can be more obvious than the “impiety” of setting aside the account which Holy Writ gives of itself, and ascribing to it falsehood, folly, or immorality, on the strength of outward appearance, such as is the letter. (1) To those whom this volume represents, it is absolutely obvious that the literal sense is not the sense intended; and that they who insist upon that sense incur the reproach cast by Paul when, referring to the veil which Moses put over his face, he says: “For their minds were blinded; for until this very day at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remaineth unlifted. Even unto this day the veil is upon their hearts.”
We will endeavor briefly to exhibit the principles of this conclusion. The first lesson to be learnt in the school of philosophy is the truth that the mind can apprehend and
only which presents itself mentally. In other words, the objective must be
translated into the subjective before it can become pabulum for the spiritual
part of man. Truth is never phenomenal, but always metaphysical. The senses
apprehend and are concerned with phenomena. But the senses represent the
physical part only of man, and not that self-hood which the philosopher intends
when he speaks of
that so long as we regard religious truth as essentially constituted of and dependent upon causes and effects appertaining to the physical plane, we have not yet grasped its real nature, and are spiritually unconscious and unilluminate. That which is true in religion is for spirit alone.
necessary subjectivity of truth was affirmed also by Kant, who
regarded the historica1 element in Scripture as indifferent, and declared that
the transition of the Creed into a purely spiritual faith would be the coming of
The reason is that matter and its attributes constitute but the middle term in a series, the Alpha and Omega of which are spirit. The world of ultimate effects, like that of ultimate causes, is spiritual; and no finality can belong to the plane of their middle term, this being a plane only of transition. The absolute is, first, pure, abstract thought. It is, next, a heterisation of that thought by disruption into the atomism of time and space, or projection into nature, a
process whereby, from being non-molecular, it becomes molecular. Thirdly, it returns from this condition of self-externalisation and self-alienation back into itself, resolving the heterisation of nature, and becoming again subjective and – as only thus it can become – self-cognisant. Such – as formulated by Hegel – is, under manifestation, the process of universals; and such is, necessarily, the process also of particulars, which are the product of universals. Wherefore man, as the microcosm, must imitate, and identify himself with, the macrocosm, and subjectivise, or spiritualise, his experience before he can relate it to that ultimate principle of himself which constitutes the ego, or selfhood.
Such a view of religion as this, however, is obviously incomprehensible save by the educated and developed: its terms and its ideas alike being beyond the capacity of the generality. This book, therefore, and the work which it inaugurates, are addressed to the former class; – to persons of culture and thought, who, recognising the defects of the popular belief, have abandoned, as hopeless, the attempt to systematise it and to relate it to their mental needs. There never can be one presentation of religion suited equally to all classes and castes of men; and the attempt of the Church to compass this impossibility has, of necessity, resulted in the alienation of those who are unable to accept the crude, coarse fare dealt out to the multitude. Enacting the part of a Procrustes in respect of things spiritual, she has tried to fit to one measure minds of all kinds and dimensions, in total disregard of the apostolic dictum: – “We speak wisdom among the full-grown. (...)
But not unto you as unto the spiritual, but as unto the carnal, unto babes in Christ, feeding you with milk, not with meat, being not yet able to receive it.”
For these, then, – the uninstructed and undeveloped, – the Church must continue to speak with veiled face, in parable and symbol. Our appeal is to those who, having. attained their intellectual and spiritual majority have put away childish things, and who, accordingly, – instead of being content with the husk of the letter, and ignoring the spirit for the form, or limiting it by the form, – are impelled by the very necessity of their nature to seek behind the veil and to read the spirit through the form, that “with unveiled face they may behold the glory of the Lord, and be transformed into the same image.” They who are thus ripe will in these pages learn what is the Reality which only Mind can apprehend; and will understand that it belongs not to the objective and phenomenal plane of mundane history, but to the subjective and noumenal plane of their own souls, where seeking they will find enacted the process of Fall, Exile, Incarnation, Redemption, Resurrection, Ascension, the coming of the Holy Spirit, and – as the sequel – the attainment of Nirvana, the “peace that passeth understanding.” For those thus initiated the mind is no longer concerned with history; the phenomenal becomes recognised as the illusory, – a shadow projected by the Real, having no substance in itself, and an accident only of the real. One thing is and abides, – the Soul in man, – Mother of God, immaculate; descending – as Eve – into matter and generation; assumed – as Mary – beyond
matter into life eternal. One state, supreme and perfect, epitomises and resolves all others; – the state of Christ, promised in the dawn of evolution; displayed in its process; glorified at its consummation. To realise the assumption of Mary, to attain to the stature of her Son, – these ends and aspirations constitute the desire of the illuminate. And it is in order to indicate them anew and the method of seeking them intelligently, that this book is written.
This preface may – it seems to us – fittingly conclude with a token of the estimation The Perfect Way has won from persons specially qualified to judge it. The following is selected from numerous communications to the like effect, coming, not only from various parts of the world, but from members of various nationalities, races and faiths, and showing that our book is already accomplishing far and wide its mission as an Eirenicon.
The veteran student of the “divine science,” a reference to whom, as the
friend, disciple, and literary heir of the renowned magian, the late Abbé
Constant (“Eliphas Levi”), will be for all initiates a
sufficient indication of his personality,
(1) thus writes to us: –
the corresponding Scriptures of the past, the appeal on behalf of your book is,
really, to miracles: but with the difference that in your case the miracles are
“And here, apropos of these renowned Scriptures, permit me to offer you some remarks on the Kabbala as we have it. It Is my opinion, –
“(1) That this tradition is far from being genuine, and such as it was on its original emergence from the sanctuaries.
“(2) That when Guillaume Postel – of excellent memory – and his brother Hermetists of the later middle age – the Abbot Trithemius and others – predicted that these sacred books of the Hebrews should become known and understood at the end of the era, and specified the present time for that event, they did not mean that such knowledge should be limited to the mere divulgement of these particular Scriptures, but that it would have for its base a new illumination, which should eliminate from them all that has been ignorantly or willfully introduced, and should reunite that great tradition with its source by restoring it in all its purity.
“(3) That this illumination has just been accomplished, and has been manifested in The Perfect Way. For in this book we find all that there is of truth in the Kabbala,
supplemented by new intuitions, such as present in a body of doctrine at once complete, homogeneous, logical and inexpugnable.
“Since the whole tradition thus finds itself recovered or restored to its original purity, the prophecies of Postel, etc., are accomplished; and I consider that from henceforth the study of the Kabbala will be but an object of curiosity and erudition like that of Hebrew antiquities.
“Humanity has always and everywhere asked itself these three supreme questions: – Whence come we? what are we? whither go we? Now, these questions at length find an answer, complete, satisfactory, and consolatory, in The Perfect Way.” (1)
As the secrecy originally observed is, even were it still desirable, no longer practicable, we have added our names to the title-page.
(lxxiii:1) See further as to this The Bible’s Own Account of Itself, by Edward Maitland, Second Edition (1905), Preface.
(lxxviii:1) The reference is to Baron Giuseppe Spedalieri, a native of Sicily who resided at Marseilles, and who, Edward Maitland says, was “the ripest living veteran of spiritual science in Christendom” (Life of A.K., vol. ii., pp. 31, 32, 168, 169; Story of A.K. and E.M., p. 189).
(lxxx:1) This judgment is irrespective of the mode of presentation, for any defect in which the responsibility rests with ourselves.