Lecture 9 - The Occult
Eric Butterworth cautions his congregants who are drawn to the occult to consider their motive. He opens in clip 172 by saying "the emphasis on the mystery and the masters leaves me less than warm, or I should say leaves me cold." The wraps-up his talk in clips 194 and 196 with more pointed cautions.
He says "The teachings of the occult have been here for a long time. I’m sure they’ll be here for a long time. They’ll be on the fringes. ... I personally, again, like to give the word of caution that one should first of all decide what it is he’s looking for. If he’s trying to find understanding of himself, then he’d best keep his approach simple. Maybe he’s trying to understand mysteries of the universe that he can look at without being too carefully involved with himself, then there are many different directions he can go."
170 Summary of previous talks
As we have said, the secondary title of this series could well be “There is Nothing New in New Thought”. We’re concerned basically with tracing the evolution of New Thought ideas. Perhaps secondarily we see that it also gives us an insight into sort of the history of the New Thought movement. We’ve considered roots in philosophy, roots in psychology, considered the transcendentalism of Kant as perhaps most succinctly articulated by Emerson. We’ve considered the New England mesmerist, Phineas Parkhurst Quimby, considered Mary Baker Eddy, Thomas T. Troward, the Fillmore’s in Unity. Last week we considered Emmet Fox and Ernest Holmes, and Religious Science. Today we’re going to deal with the occult teachings and teachers.
We’ve indicated several main sources of the influence out of which this New Thought concept has come into expression in our day. Certainly we stress the influence of Quimby’s revolution in mental science, also the transcendentalism of Emerson as being two major thrusts that have sort of come to focus in the modern day New Thought ideas. There were other influences, some of which were reflected in the amazing concepts of Emerson, and certainly in the teachings of some of the early New Thought teachers.
We’re going to try to bulk some of these together under the heading of the occult. This is a word that has many meanings, and I suppose in a sense our consideration tonight is a case of the fool that rushes in where the angels fear to tread. This covers a lot of bases, and I’m sure there’s a lot of emotion involved in some of the things that we’ll consider.
171 Eric defines the occult and occultism
Basically the word “occult” in a dictionary meaning would indicate hidden from sight, obscure, beyond the scope of understanding, or mysterious. The occultists, if we can generalize the term, believe that there are hidden teachings that have always been kept from the masses. Therefore, there are all sorts of secret orders and initiation rights and so forth as we are progressively indoctrinated in these higher teachings.
Occultism then is that which deals with the study of these teachings. It insists that there are esoteric teachers in the form of masters and adepts that are available to teach us. The occultists generally feel that there are intelligences in the universe that are as superior to man as man is superior to the black beetle. These masters and adepts are the custodians of occult sciences, and we must make contact with them for instruction. Almost invariably the occult teachings deal with some kind of psychic power or clairvoyance or kind of mediumship of one sort or another through which we contact these higher beings.
I might say at this time that we’re going to break the subject down to separate the one field of spiritualism, even though in a sense it would come under the heading of occult teaching, basically because next week we’re going to deal more with the paranormal and the psychic and so forth. It seems fitting that we deal with spiritualism in that context.
172 Erics personal reaction to ascended masters
The occultists usually work out some kind of a cosmology or a complete esoteric system of the universe. Usually it’s a very, very complicated graded hierarchy with various levels of initiations.
Let me say before I go any further that though I have found much that is helpful and interesting in certain occult teachers, I must say that the emphasis on the mystery and the masters leaves me less than warm, or I should say leaves me cold. This is in no way to deal derogatorily with the various occult teachings. It’s simply to indicate my particular state of consciousness, which may be less than high enough to grasp these higher bodies. I can say that through my years of truth seeking, which cover a pretty broad span of years, and I don’t want to act like a grey beard, but I have been exposed to many of the teachings and have given some time and thought and given a little research to most of them or all of them that we’re going to deal with tonight.
Therefore, I’m not simply speaking offhandedly in something that I don’t know very much about. I’ve come to the conclusion that for myself, that since I am a creative expression of the one Mind that I can have, what Emerson refers to as a "firsthand, an immediate experience with God," I believe that I have a master. To me the master is the Christ of my own being, which is simply the divine dimension of my own nature, and that I am forever in the presence of this master of my own being that is constantly seeking to reveal itself to me and through my as the next step in my unfoldment.
I’m also well aware of the fact that many of the students who, in one time or another, have listened to my exposés, have had other personal feelings about life, and I have had many, many people through the years tell me that they insist that they see a little man standing next to me, a man that almost invariably wears a goatee. He is my personal master, according to some. I don’t know. This may be true. I feel that if it is true, I waste an awful lot of time putting a lot of effort in myself. I should just let him take over. Again, this is just to speak lightheartedly about my own personal bent.
173 Manly P Hall as the most important chronicler of the occultI might add here as long as we’re thinking a little bit in terms of the occult, and it is an extremely interesting field of study, if one can get into it without losing is way, that we might add to our original bibliography one name that probably stands out as the most important chronicler of the occult, and that would be Manly P. Hall. Many of you I’m sure are aware of Manly Hall and of his work. He’s a brilliant scholar and teacher, writer, mystic in his own right, and one whom I sincerely believe to be one of the great minds of our modern age. He has established the philosophical research society in Los Angeles. I hesitate to even recommend a book of Manly Hall, because has so many, all the way from some things that are very down-to-earth and practical to some things that are very cosmological and abstruse, but if you’re interested, the best way would be to contact directly the Philosophic Research Society in Los Angeles and get a Perspectus. I see him as probably the outstanding chronicler of occult sciences and teaching.
There are many ways to deal with occultism, because its threads can be found in the cultures of east and west. It certainly is not in my consciousness to be able to determine where the ideas of occultism or where occultism, per se, began or where it leaves off. Since the metaphysical movement that we’re dealing with has become primarily a development in America, we’re going to limit our scope to those occultists who I feel have had an influence on American teachers and teachings.
174 Emanuel Swedenborg 1688-1772
First of all, we have to start somewhere. Let’s take a look at Emanuel Swedenborg. Swedenborg was born in Sweden in 1688. He was a professor of science turned philosopher, later theologian, a brilliant man on the quest for truth, seeking for the mystery of life.
He concluded that he could only know God through intuitive knowledge. This was a concept that was sort of a central feature of the transcendentalism of Kant. It certainly is easy to assume that Kant was strongly influenced, in this sense, by Swedenborg. A whole religion has grown up out of the influence of Swedenborg, the Swedenborgians. They have some very interesting modern day churches and some interesting theological concepts. Whether or not Swedenborg envisioned establishing a church, I don’t know. It is rather doubtful. That’s the thing that happens to those who seek for the truth. Quite often there is an attempt on the part of the followers to codify, to crystallize the five M’s again, the man, the message, the movement, the machine, and the monument, the same thing. Certainly that happened to Jesus. It is doubtful if he ever intended to establish a church, though a lot of Christian leaders would take me to task for that.
Anyway, this happened to Swedenborg. He developed a very complex cosmology. I might warn you. Somebody told me just the other day that they’d read about Swedenborg, and it sounded so interesting that he’d plunged into reading some things. He said it was the most confusing thing he’d ever read. He couldn’t figure out whether there was something wrong with him. I would say by way of a kind of a warning that Swedenborg is awfully difficult to read, and yet Emerson once write to Carlisle saying that the Swedenborgians would contribute more than any of the other sects to the new faith, which must arise out of all. Perhaps Emerson foresaw the development of this particular influence on New Thought in America, in which Swedenborg has had an influence, directly and in some cases quite often indirectly.
This is not to say that the works of Swedenborg bear very much resemblance to the new insight in truth. It’s a matter of fact if you start reading Swedenborg, you right away come to grips with some very orthodox Christian doctrines of guilt and sin, which seem very confusing and certainly very paradoxical to other aspects that you may find appealing.
175 Swedenborgs Doctrine of Correspondences
In his doctrine of correspondences, Swedenborg paved the way for the metaphysical systems of modern day to regard their teachings as scientific. He believed in a spiritual world and a natural world corresponding one to the other as cause and effect. It is probably true that Henry Drummond, who we referred to last week as having written his classic essay “Spiritual Law in a Natural World”, which we said was one of the early influences on Ernest Holmes, that Henry Drummond undoubtedly was strongly influenced by Swedenborg.
176 Swedenborgs Metaphysical Bible Interpretation
He opened the door to metaphysical Bible interpretation through his idea of the literal interpretation of the Bible corresponding to the natural characteristics of men, but that in the historical narratives, the Gospels and the prophetic books, he believed there was an interior spiritual sense that is revealed to the person, the reader, the student when his spiritual side is opened, and that there is a metaphysical thread of meaning that runs through the whole. Obviously this has influenced many. We mentioned some time ago that this obviously was an influence of Mary Baker Eddy, certainly was an influence on Charles Fillmore, as he developed his own metaphysical interpretation, and the Metaphysical Bible Dictionary and so forth reflects a great deal of the thinking and the methodical metaphysical interpretations of persons and of places and of conditions in the Bible and so forth.
177 Swedenborg and other spiritual traditions
Swedenborg was probably the most important influence in the development of spiritualism, in theosophy, in anthroposophy, and at least in certain aspects of the Rosicrucian Order, though as we’ll point out in a few moments, the early beginnings of the Rosicrucian system are pretty vague and they’re hazy.
178 Helena Blavatsky 1831-1891 and Theosophy
Out of the hodge podge of occultists in Europe in the 18th and 19th century, as a starting point in considering at least some sort of a thread, we want to look at theosophy as founded by Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, who was born in Russia in 1831. As a child, Madame Blavatsky revealed psychic powers. According to her own story, she had superhuman and subhuman playmates as a child. As she grew older, the theosophists claim at least that her psychic powers increased. She developed what is called astral clairvoyance. She could see beings in the spirit world on the plane just beyond the physical.
Many, many claims have been made about her by her followers, such as her ability to materialize things at will and to move objects through the force of mind, phenomena that’s often referred to as telekinesis. She studied in India and Egypt, came to the United States in 1874 for the main purpose of defending the validity of spiritualistic phenomena. Along with Colonel Henry Steel Olcott founded the Theosophical Society in 1875. Colonel Olcott was the president, Madame Blavatsky secretary, William Judge as council, though it is obvious that Madame Blavatsky was the major force. The movement had a stormy history and has had. A lot of -cisms and offshoots and divisions and so forth, which is not necessarily to recount.
179 Three stage development of Blavatsky
Blavatsky herself seemed to have three stage development. First of all, as well said, she was working in defense of Spiritualism up until 1875. Then between 1875 and 1879, she turned around and was attacking Spiritualism, and yet rejected the doctrine of reincarnation, the doctrine which of course is held in anathema normally by spiritualists. Third, after her return from India in 1879, quickly there emerged the fully developed theosophical concept with karma and reincarnation as the central features.
In the beginning, the members of theosophy were all spiritualists. They were all attracted by Blavatsky and the expectation that she would demonstrate phenomena that they thought she could produce. Ultimately she became disinterested in phenomena. In her book Isis Unveiled, she presented a completely heretical view towards spiritualism. She claimed that spiritualists were dabbling with the teachings of intelligences with less wisdom than a child. She could lead them through her contact with the great masters to a high occult philosophy. Blavatsky’s book The Secret Doctrine is still the classic of theosophy, and for many, the final authority.
180 The cosmology of Theosophy
According to Madame Blavatsky, three fundamental propositions of theosophy are, first of all, an omnipresent, eternal, boundless, and immutable principle in which all speculation is impossible, since it transcends the power of human conception, and can only be dwarfed by human expression. It’s something that you accept on faith. Secondly, the eternity of the universe in total is a boundless plane, periodically the playground of numberless universes, incessantly manifesting and disappearing. Thirdly, the fundamental identity of all souls with the universal oversoul, the latter being itself an aspect of the unknown root, and the obligatory pilgrimage of every soul, part of the oversoul through the cycle of incarnation in accordance with psychic and karmic law during the whole term. It says that there are no privileges or special gifts possessed by man, save those one by his own ego through personal effort and merit through a long series of reincarnations.
Upon this superstructure, a tremendous edifice of dogma, I guess we’d have to say, has been built, explaining everything in the heavens above, the earth beneath, and in the waters beneath the earth, and always capable of diagramming and black board illustration. Any of the works on the occult usually come replete with all sorts of diagrams and pictures and various weird forms showing the various dimensions of life and the dimensions of the universe and so forth.
181 Theosophy teachings on thought
Strangely enough, in the midst of this very complicated cosmology, we come across an idea, which is the heart and soul of New Thought today. It is the simple idea that "thoughts are things," and that it is possible to influence another person by one’s projected thoughts, even through great distances. The earliest theosophical books, even those that antedate Blavatsky by many, many years have references on this power of thought. It certainly could be that this concept has had a strong influence upon the new thought ideals as we have experienced them today.
182 Reincarnation the choice to accept Nirvana and become a master
Theosophy teaches that man is a spark of God, a fragment of the life of God, which at one stage of its evolution individualized as a human ego, as a son of God made in his image. He progresses through many reincarnations toward the realization of his true nature. The very first thing I think we realize is that in theosophy, reincarnation is carried to the ultimate, in a system of unfoldment. May persons that are curious about reincarnation as a principle and about their own past or future incarnations and so forth, quite often find solace and inspiration, if not confusion in analyzing the various ramifications of it through theosophy.
It describes how a person reincarnates either as a man or woman, and yet during any incarnation, he usually associates with many known previously in a different relationship. The process of reincarnation continues until one’s karma permits him to attain to a superhuman state when he may direct his own destiny by making the supreme choice whether or not he wants to accept Nirvana. Nirvana as a basic concept in Hinduism and Buddhism variously means the state of bliss or a place or condition of rest and peace where a person does not go out again in a further reincarnation. Simply according to the way the fundamentalist Christians would put it, sits on his pink cloud and whiles away the time throughout eternity. That’s a very crude expression of Nirvana. He has the choice of whether he will accept this phase of his ultimate unfoldment, or whether he chooses to return close to this world to help mankind. He then, if he makes this choice, becomes an official member of the Great White Brotherhood of the masters and the adepts.
The theosophists believe that these masters, who are those to whom we make contact and from whom we receive the great wisdom and the mysteries of life, have been historical persons who have finished their earthly evolution, and who have acquired power over space, time, mind, and matter. Among them are the classic religious figures, such as Confucius, Buddha, Jesus, Abraham, Moses, and of course they usually add Madame Blavatsky. Theosophy aims to be non-sectarian and the ground of every religion. They sometimes are difficult for the Christian-oriented person to accept, basically because they place the Buddha one initiation higher than Jesus normally in classic theosophy.
183 Leadership splits after Blavatsky
At the death of Madame Blavatsky in 1891, the leadership passed to what were then the co-leaders William Judge and Annie Besant. Immediately there was a personality clash, as so often happens in organizations of this kind. Judge accused Mrs. Besant of too much emphasis on Hindu thought. Annie Besant reproached Judge for trying to create a Blavatsky sect, and they split into two groups worldwide.
184 Order of the Star in the East and Jiddu Krishnamurti 1895–1986
Many of you may well be aware of the last aspect of a very interesting story that can only be told in the history of Annie Besant’s relationship in theosophy, because in 1910, Annie Besant organized what was called the Order of the Star in the East. The goal was to prepare the way for the coming of a new world teacher, a new Christ of our age. They had a very bright idea. They selected a young Hindu boy selected to be its head. He was subjected to many years of intensive training, spiritual and physical in every way, totally surrounded by things spiritual, things metaphysical and so forth. The idea was that he would thus ultimately develop a preparation of consciousness so that he would provide the vehicle for this very high adept of the ages to come and be embodied.
The name, I’m sure you recognize. The boy’s name was Jiddu Krishnamurti. Many of you have read Krishnamurti in modern times, and he has no relationship whatever with theosophy today, but he was the young lad that received this type of instruction. When he came of age, of course he, like so many teenagers who mature and kick up the traces and have to get out on their own, he immediately dissolved the order and abandoned theosophy, and went out on his own. The whole project went down the drain, with the exception that Krishnamurti, as a result of all of this training, went on to become in his own right a very important influence an independent teacher, and I think one who has certainly brought a lot of light to the world because of his unique, almost non-doctrinal position, in terms of truth that seems to bear a little bit of the influence of east and west in perhaps the best of all. Krishnamurti certainly has been one of the great thinkers of recent years.
185 Rudolph Steiner 1861-1925 and Anthroposophy
The leader of the German section of theosophical society was a man by the name of Rudolph Steiner, who rebelled against the formation of the Order of the Eastern Star to promote Krishnamurti as the new messiah. He thought the whole thing was ridiculous. He refused to go along with it. When Steiner expelled the members of his German section of theosophy for belonging to the order, Annie Besant cut him off and cancelled his charter. In 1912, Rudolph Steiner founded the Anthroposophical Society, which has become a great influence in Germany and in other parts of Europe, and has centers in the major cities in the United States, and is quite active here in New York City. Some of you probably have had some relationship with the works of the Anthroposophical Society.
Rudolph Steiner in his own right was a very brilliant man. He not only was a great philosopher and teacher. He also was an educator, had some very interesting concepts relative to education, a concept which probably today would be referred to as the education of the whole person. He’s been quite successful, he and his followers, in the development of educational systems through the Waldorf School, the Steiner Schools and so forth, which are very interesting, and which certainly do some splendid work, not with the idea of indoctrinating students with theosophy, but with a very holistic approach to the educational process, which I think is quite good.
186 Max Heindel 1865-1919 and Rosicrucian Fellowship
Another person that comes in here, and in breaking away from theosophy is a man by the name of Max Heindel. Any of you who’ve had any relationship with the Rosicrucian Order would recognize Max Heindel, who developed the Rosicrucian Fellowship in Oceanside California. The interesting thing is this is not to say that the Rosicrucian Order is an offshoot of theosophy, because it really isn’t. Max Heindel broke away from theosophy and developed the Rosicrucian Order, but actually the Rosicrucian Fellowship is a kind of secret brotherhood perhaps closely resembling Freemasonry that probably has origins way back in the middle ages.
Its past is very vague, and it probably has sort of common roots with Masonry. The founder of the Order is purportedly Christian Rosenkreuz. I say “purportedly”, because in the 17th century, a pamphlet appeared published by a particular man whose name I can’t recall claiming that this was the work of Christian Rosenkreuz, who had written it in the 15th century. We only have that word that this is what it was. The pamphlet then outlined some of the ideas and revealed some of the cosmological concepts of the Rosicrucian Order. It was an attempt to establish a Christian fraternity, a kind of spiritual alchemy in which man’s material nature may be spiritualized. The adepts from which Rosenkreuz supposedly received his divine knowledge of ancient wisdom appeared to be the same masters of the Great White Brotherhood that we find in theosophy. Both seemingly show the influence of Mahayana Buddhism.
187 Alice Bailey 1880-1949 and the Arcane School
There are other splits from theosophy, and one especially that may ring some bells with some of you who’ve been on the trail, on the quest of truth here in New York City. A very important split from theosophy was Alice Bailey’s Arcane School. Alice Bailey was born in Manchester, England in 1880. She was a clairvoyant from early age, and she had many confusing mystical experiences, and so made the rounds in trying to find answers. She was involved in spiritualism and various other concepts. She was introduced to theosophy through some friends. Three beliefs gave her an immediate satisfaction. The first was the idea of a divine plan, according to which humanity was slowly returning to God. The second was the view that a hierarchy of masters led by Christ was working to fulfill the plan that actually replaced the concept of Christ and his church. The third was the doctrine of karma and reincarnation, which she felt offered her a solution more acceptable to her personal problems than she had found elsewhere.
Anyway, Alice Bailey married Foster Bailey, at least she became Alice Bailey when she married Foster Bailey. He became the national secretary of the Theosophical Society, and she was the editor of the sectional magazine, “The Messenger”. She became more and more critical of the policies of the society under the direction of Annie Besant. Very soon Annie Besant dismissed the Baileys. This led to the founding of the Arcane School here in New York City in 1923. The Arcane School had and has a little different wrinkle, which makes it a little bit more acceptable, perhaps, to the Christian-oriented people. They do not demand obedience to any master, but emphasize following the master in one’s own heart, which is somewhat like the idea of the Christ within. The stress all the various related occult doctrines, including a heavy emphasis on astrology, which I think we could say is another field of the occult. It believes that we’re about to enter the Aquarian age, as distinguished from the former, the Piscean age. There are many interesting teachings and concepts the Arcane School has worked basically through correspondence courses and has reached a lot of people. Alice Bailey died in 1949. The movement was led by Foster Bailey, and more recently by Mary Bailey.
188 The Great Invocation from the Arcane School
The Arcane School says that the messiah of the new age is the Christ who, with his disciples, the masters, and at this point they lose me, because the disciples are masters of other ages, and not the disciples that we know in the Bible. How that change came about, I don’t know. The Christ thus with his disciples will approach closer to humanity and appear on the physical plane. Alice Bailey apparently, as she would put it, received directly from Jesus Christ The Great Invocation, which was to be directed toward high spiritual sources, no matter by what name they may be called. She felt that this invocation was a preparation for the reappearance of the Christ. She stressed the idea that she strongly believed that where Jesus Christ gave originally the Lord’s Prayer, that this great invocation was an update on the Lord’s Prayer for this particular age.
The Great Invocation supposedly was given at the time of the first full moon in June 1945, and so the Arcane School has placed a great deal of emphasis upon the special prayer and meditation times at the first full moon. We might just read here the great invocation, and obviously as I say, it’s not intended to be just read as a performance, but actually to be repeated by a group and is done so. As a matter of fact, many of the followers of the Arcane School have devoted much time and energy in spreading this great invocation through letters to editors of newspapers, magazines, television, radio stations. It has had pretty wide dissemination. This is the way it goes:
“From the point of light within the mind of God, let light stream forth into the minds of men. Let light descend on earth. From the point of love within the heart of God, let love stream forth into the hearts of men. May Christ return to Earth. From the center where the will of God is known, let purpose guide the little wills of men, the purpose which the master’s know and serve. From the center which we call the race of men, let the plan of love and light work out, and may it seal the door where evil dwells. Let light and love and power restore the plan on Earth.”
That’s the great invocation.
189 The Astara Foundation founded in 1951
Other offshoots of theosophy, which I think we might suggest a few, simply because they indicate some of the evolution of these ideas and of the interaction between the concepts of what we call truth and of the theosophical idea which have had a mutual influence. The Astara Foundation, this is a group that’s had pretty rapid widespread growth. It apparently began in 1951 in California by Robert and Earlyne Chaney. It combines the features of spiritualism and those of theosophy and of the Arcane School and of Christianity in a rather strange putting together of the whole.
They call it Christian because they consider Jesus as the leading master of the hierarchy. They have a kind of messianic message and zeal, believing that they are the herald of the new age messiah, and that if a world catastrophe comes, and apparently they suggest that it will, that the Astarians, as they call themselves, are to be among the elect who will survive to form the new civilization when the master Jesus will reign supremely on Earth, which sounds strangely reminiscent of the concept of the fundamentalist Christians, such as Billy Graham and various other evangelists, with a little more of an occult twist.
190 Guy and Edna Ballard and the I AM Movement
There is another movement that some of you who’ve been around in the metaphysical field for a while may recognize. That is the I AM movement and the Ballards. Actually, this was a very widespread movement. It had tremendous growth. As a matter of fact, as a youngster I had made the rounds in many of the various interesting occult, New Thought, and various other related forms of teaching in Southern California, where most things have a great flourishing. I attended a number of the meetings with the Ballards in those days. They’re very colorful characters, both of them apparently actors and actresses, and put on a great performance, and really had a marvelous thing going for a while. The Ballards played upon communication with one particular master. They came out of the theosophical stream and shared much of the concepts, but they dealt with one master. That was Saint Germaine.
They popularized a brand of theosophy that was very appealing to many New Thoughters. There was a time when most of the people involved in the New Thought stream somewhere had gotten excited about or got into the I AM movement, or at least read a lot of things about it. Unfortunately the ambitions of the Ballards led to a great deal of adverse publicity, some of which many of you have read in the papers, much of which may have been false. Who knows? Somehow it killed the movement, and it has faded about as fast as it came up. That, too, was an offshoot of theosophy.
As I said, astrology would perhaps naturally fit in as an occult teaching. It is dealt with in so many different contexts, and is related to so many different fields, and has been around for such a long time, and has so many apologists for it on so many different levels of consciousness, and also that there’s so much emotion attached to its involvements that I prefer, even if it’s a cop out, to eliminate it entirely from the study tonight. This is not to say that I have any strong feeling for or against astrology, but I prefer to just kind of leave that alone.
192 Swami Vivekananda 1863-1902 and the Vedanta Society
There were some direct influences from the east that I think would have to be bulked into the occult, though sometimes organizations and movements that seem to be a part of the occult seem also to sort of move out of it, because they tend to become a little more pragmatic in their approach. I think we have to consider Swami Vivekananda, who came to Chicago in 1893 for the World Parliament of Religions, and remained long enough to found the Vedanta Society. The Vedanta Society was probably the first important incursion of Indian-oriented concepts into America and it had quite an expanse, and I think still has a great influence. Many of the early students of truth got into Vedanta and shared some of the concepts. I’m sure some of the ideas from Vivekananda and from his so-called Master Teacher, Ramakrishna, have had a great influence in the development of modern New Thought.
193 Yogananda 1893-1952 and the Self-Realization Fellowship
Another figure is Yogananda, who came to America in 1920 to found the Self-Realization Fellowship. I’m sure some of you have read his colorful story, Autobiography of a Yoga. Very interesting man. I remember meeting him and hearing him many times in the early years. I suspect that he, as much as anyone else, maybe more than anyone else, is responsible for the great interest in yoga in America, both the teachings and also yoga exercises and so forth.
Beyond that, without getting too much involved in it, we all well know that there are every size, shape, and form, and variation of Indian-oriented teachings in America. I only quote my friend Swami Rama who says that he has come to realize that Americans are the most gullible people in the world, that they will accept anyone with a beard, and a robe, and a turban. He claims that many of the eastern teachings in America are what he calls them fakes and probably would not even be acceptable in India. Who’s to say which. The fact is that there’s been a strong influence of eastern teachings. I simply outline here and mention Vivekananda and Yogananda because these were probably the two that have played the greatest role.
194 Cautions from Eric about occultism for New Thought
Just to kind of sum up a little bit, without giving the impression, certainly, of being too judgmental to it all, New Thought in general and the new insight that we deal with certainly here at the center, in which many of us have been involved in, puts the emphasis on the individual’s unique relationship to God, the one presence and the one power. Instead of emphasis on a cosmology or involvement with masters in the past and future eras of development, the new insight, as we deal with it today, normally places the emphasis on the now and on personal growth today. The emphasis is essentially on the pragmatic. I think this is a very important point that normally in modern New Thought, one is asked less to believe than to test the principles and experience.
Much of the occult teachings is based upon, first of all, the fact that you accept certain things on faith. This is the way it is. In the modern new insight and truth, we’re simply dealing with certain fundamental principles. If they work, fine. If they don’t, then they’re not worthy to be considered. “By their fruits ye shall know them,” as Jesus said. Also in the modern New Thought movement, I think generally there is an attitude of leaving the student open completely and entirely to outside involvement with any kind of teachings, and especially the occult teachings. Then it is probably true that many, quite a large percentage of so-called truth students have some kind of involvement with occult idealisms, and probably find some personal satisfaction and some personal fulfillment through it, and this is great.
I believe personally that one should exercise a great deal of judgment. It is so easy to become involved in the mechanics of esoteric studies to the extent that one forsakes the needs of today, that he gets so involved in the various stages of ultimate evolution and the cosmology and all these past incarnations and so forth that he loses the awareness that life is a now experience, and he has relationships today that are very important, which is reminiscent of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s thought about a man whom he says "rose to the empyrean heights and dove to the unfathomable depths, but never paid cash" [TruthUnity note: This reference to Emerson can not be confirmed, but the quote is also given in Spiritual Economics, Chapter 9, The Money Enigma and in James Dillet Freeman's The Household of Faith, They Say and Do Not.]. I think that says it all, that it is very possible to get so involved in this type of thing that one loses the awareness of today’s experience and of the need to work out his salvation through developing his consciousness and his thoughts right here and now today.
This is not to say that the occult teachings do not have a lot of validity. Certainly they are very eclectic. There’s no question about it, as we see the evolution of Madame Blavatsky, we see how she had a wide variety of sources, most of them from the east, much of them emphasizing Buddhism and Hinduism, and putting together some of the concepts of Christianity, and some picking up some of the idealisms of Tibet, and of the far east, China, and so forth in no way makes this erroneous. It simply is an awareness certainly that certain aspects of truth have existed throughout all eternity. There are many, many ways to get to the heart of the real insight or the mysteries of the wisdom of the universe. One is obviously left free to his own devices.
195 George Gurdjieff 1866-1949 and Ouspensky
There are some others that we could have considered, and I’m sure many of you feel that we’ve left out important figures. You might be thinking, for instance, of Gurdjieff and perhaps his most important student, Ouspensky, who probably is best explained today by the British mathematician, J. G. Bennett. This is another interesting study, a concept that is also very eclectic, very complicated to read, I might add, though I’ve found a great deal of interesting reading in Ouspensky, especially in his work “Tertium Organum” and his “New Model of the Universe”, works that I found very, very inspiring many years ago. These two are teachings that would have to be considered occult, and that deal with the cosmological approach to the universe. Ouspensky probably puts it together more in a sort of a mathematical idiom, and therefore it has become quite interesting to scientists, different people I know. Gustav Stromberg, the great scientist and astrophysicist who was quite interested in Ouspensky, and also in the works of J. G. Bennett. Again, there’s so many that we can deal with that perhaps we’re just skipping across the surface.
196 Eric reflects on how to approach the occult
The teachings of the occult have been here for a long time. I’m sure they’ll be here for a long time. They’ll be on the fringes. There are many sources and many different directions to go. I personally, again, like to give the word of caution that one should first of all decide what it is he’s looking for. If he’s trying to find understanding of himself, then he’d best keep his approach simple. Maybe he’s trying to understand mysteries of the universe that he can look at without being too carefully involved with himself, then there are many different directions he can go.
Quite often one can get so involved in seeking to know the universe before he knows himself that it becomes more an escape rather than as a growth process. This, again, is a personal feeling. So much for our consideration of the occult. I’m sure that there would be many, many questions, and probably would be here for the rest of the night if we got involved in them. I’m sure a lot of the questions I wouldn’t even be able to field. Maybe the best answer is to say, “No questions tonight, please.”
197 Divine love flowing through me Blessing
All right, let’s take just a moment, if you will, to bless and consecrate our gifts of love. We like to think of the idea of giving as not just a matter of sense of obligation and putting our little bit in the collection, but we like to think of it as a very important aspect of the spiritual flow. Take whatever it is that you seek to symbolize your faith and your commitment. Hold it in your hand. Get the feeling that it is the means by which you are giving way and opening out the unfoldment of the inner spiritual flow as we affirm together for this gift. Divine love flowing through me blesses and multiplies all that I give and all that I receive. Do we know that together? Divine love flowing through me blesses and increases all that I give and all that I receive. May we really be aware of this ideal. Get the sense of a beautiful, prodigal flow of life and substance and inspiration, and that as you give, you receive immediately, instantly, fulfillingly, heaped up, pressed down, running over. We give thanks for that.
198 Meditation on The Great Invocation
All right. Let’s go on our way this evening. I would like you to get still for just a moment. Maybe it might be fitting if we would consider The Great Invocation that we referred to earlier (see Alice Bailey). It is, I think, an inspiring thing, a rather interesting thing, and perhaps do it more in a meditative consciousness. For those of you who may be acquainted with and certainly have memorized the great invocation, perhaps quietly to yourself you may go along with me. Let’s just get into this consciousness.
From the point of light within the mind of God, let light stream forth into the minds of men. Let light descend on Earth. From the point of love within the heart of God, let love stream forth into the hearts of men. May Christ return to Earth. From the center where the will of God is known, let purpose guide the little wills of men, the purpose which the masters know and serve. From the center which we call the race of men, let the plan of love and light work out, and may it seal the door where evil dwells. Let light and love and power restore the plan on Earth.
We accept this flow of consciousness. May we go forth under its influence. Amen.