The Occult World - Alfred Percy Sinnett - ebook

"The Occult Word" is the first book published (in 1881) by A. P. Sinnett from the correspondence with the two Tibetan Adepts who were sponsoring the newborn Theosophical Society. Sinnett gives lengthy excerpts from such correspondence and also relates in detail many of the occult phenomena Mme. Blavatsky performed when she was in Simla (West Bengal, India). This book and his next ("Esoteric Buddhism", 1883) had an enormous influence in generating public interest in Theosophy.

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Alfred Percy Sinnett


Publication in electronic format based on the Fifth American Edition, 1888

ISBN 9788890787461    First Release

Special contents of this edition are Copyright © 2013 Loris Bagnara Editions

All Rights Reserved.

This publication is licensed to the original purchaser only and may not be published for proprietary use of any person other than the purchaser or his successor in title pursuant to the Terms and Conditions accepted either at the time of purchase or registration with the ebook distributor.


To one whose comprehension of Nature and Humanity ranges so far beyond the science and philosophy of Europe, that only the broadest-minded representatives of either will be able to realise the existence of such powers in Man as those he constantly exercises, to
whose gracious friendship has given the present writer his title to claim the attention of the European world, this little volume, with permission sought and obtained, is affectionately dedicated.
A. P. Sinnett


Preface of the Editor – (2013)

Preface to the American Edition – (1888)











Preface of the Editor (2013)

Alfred Percy Sinnett was a British journalist and occultist who played an important part in the affairs of the Theosophical Society during its first generation.

In September and October 1880, H. P. Blavatsky and Colonel Henry Olcott visited A. P. Sinnett and his wife Patience at Simla in northern India. The serious interest of Sinnett in the teachings and the work of the Theosophical Society prompted H. P. Blavatsky to establish a contact by correspondence between Sinnett and the two Adepts who were sponsoring the Society, Mahatmas Koot Hoomi and Morya. In these letters the Masters gave Sinnett the basic ideas of Theosophy on the constitution of man, the planetary chain, the world periods, life after death in Devachan and Kâma-loka, the progress of humanity, Buddha and Nirvana.

From this correspondence Sinnett wrote The Occult World (1881) and Esoteric Buddhism (1883), both of which had an enormous influence in generating public interest in Theosophy. In The Occult World, Sinnett gave lengthy excerpts from his early correspondence with Mahatma KH. Sinnett also related in detail many of the occult phenomena Mme. Blavatsky performed when she was in Simla.

In the Introduction of the First Edition of The Occult World Sinnett wrote: «I have over and over again received "direct writing" produced on paper in sealed envelopes of my own, which was created or precipitated by a living human correspondent».  He focused his attention on "adepts", whom he perceived as people who had found some unknown way of being in control of natural forces; however, with no comprehension of the "natural forces", "occultism" would always be a concept intrinsic to his metaphysical philosophy.

He referred to these adepts as the "Brothers" or "Mahatmas" and described them as a «wonderful fraternity of occultists». He realized Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky to be «the recipient of favours from the Brothers in reference to the greater phenomena» and he relied upon her opinions concerning the less obviously significant manifestations. Sinnett found Madame Blavatsky to have the ability of “psychological telegraphy” in relation to the Mahatmas.

He commented, «She made many friends, and secured some ardent converts to a belief in the reality of occult powers [...] other acquaintances, who, unable to assimilate what they saw in her presence, took up an attitude of disbelief, which deepened into positive enmity as the whole subject became enveloped in a cloud of more or less excited controversy».

An expanded Second Edition of The Occult World was published in 1882 with further additions, included in the 1885 American edition.

The present publication is based on the Fifth American Edition, 1888, from the Fourth English Edition with the Author's Corrections and a New Preface. With respect to that original edition, the text has been cleaned by some minor misspelling; the punctuation — sometimes confused — has been simplified; the quotations have been clearly highlighted and differentiated — where possible — from the main text; the original notes of the Author have been incorporated into the text, within in square brackets and in italics. This results in a text more readable and suitable for modern reading devices.


Biographical note on Alfred Percy Sinnett

Alfred Percy Sinnett was born on January 18, 1840, in London. His father was a journalist who died when he was still young, since in the 1851 Census he is listed as living with his widowed mother Jane, a writer who had published numerous books. Sinnett became a journalist himself at the age of 19, working on the staff of the London Globe. Later he went to Hong Kong, where he became editor of the Daily Press. He returned to England in 1868 and became a writer on the Standard. In 1870, Sinnett married his wife Patience Edensor. He is listed in the 1871 Census as a Journalist, living with his wife and her mother. In the same year, Sinnett and his wife moved to India where he took a position as editor of the Pioneer (the leading English Daily of India) in Allahabad.

The Sinnetts were living there in Feb 1879 when Blavatsky and Olcott, founders of the Theosophical Society, landed in Bombay. On 25 Feb 1879 a letter arrived for them from Sinnett as editor of the Pioneer expressing interest and a willingness to publish any facts. Sinnett then published some articles on spiritualism; he and his wife also invited these two strangers to visit and stay for a time at their home, but Blavatsky and Olcott did not reach Allahabad until 4 Dec 1879, where they remained for six weeks.  Sinnett and his wife became members. The subsequent publicity given to Theosophy in the Pioneer assisted its membership growth, but it would soon cost Sinnett his job.

In 1880 Helena Blavatsky and Henry Steel Olcott visited the Sinnetts at their summer-home in Simla. The Mahatma Letters, which generated the controversy that later helped lead to the split of the Theosophical Society, were mostly written to Sinnett or his wife, Patience. These letters were all published much later, after Blavatsky and Olcott were both dead.

In 1881, at Simla, Sinnett with Allen Octavian Hume established the Simla Eclectic Theosophical Society; Hume was it's president the first year, and Sinnett the second year.

In these years Sinnett wrote his first book: The Occult World, published in 1881 in London, and in 1882 in Boston; he wrote also a book, not published, referred to by Countess Wachtmeister as Memoirs which, at least in part, detailed the "Occult phenomena taking place in the presence of Madame Blavatsky [...]".

When Edward Maitland and Dr Anna Kingsfords anonymous book The Perfect Way, or the Finding of Christ appeared in Feb 1882, Sinnett wrote a book review of it for The Theosophist magazine.

Meanwhile, the proprietors of the Pioneer were becoming embarrassed by Sinnett's journalistic support of Blavatsky and informed him that his contract would not be renewed. There then followed an abortive attempt by Madame to raise funds to start her own periodical to be called the Phoenix.

After visiting Blavatsky at her new residence at Adyar in Mar 1883, Sinnett sailed for England. Arriving in London in April 1883, he joined the Theosophical Society there, then under the presidency of Dr Anna Kingsford. For a period, Sinnett was Vice-President of the Theosophical Society, but his independent views made it difficult for him to cooperate fully with other officials, although Sinnett's book The Occult World had attracted many individuals to the society. 

During his association with the society, Sinnett received a number of Mahatma letters, supposedly from the mysterious Masters who had directed the formation of the society. Sinnett's book Esoteric Buddhism, published in London in 1883, was said to have derived from communications from the "Master K. H.” on human evolution and cosmogony. One of the Mahatma letters comes addressed to him about the current controversy over who should be the President of the London T.S. This letter calls him the "Vice-President of the Parent Society”, which supposedly means he is next under Olcott.

It was in this period moreover that Sinnet became friendly with Frederic W. Myers, who (with Edmund Gurney and Henry Sidgwick) had founded the Society for Psychical Research a year earlier.

Constance Wachtmeister (who joined the Theosophical Society in 1881) stated that she met Blavatsky at the home of the Sinnetts in 1884 in London.

In the Summer of 1884, when Blavatsky was a guest in England, an American arrived who would be the cause of Sinnett's falling out with Blavatsky. Laura Holloway was a medium who had read Sinnett's work Occult World and wanted to become a pupil of the Mahatma Koot Hoomi. In a private séance, Laura was possessed by the spirit of Koot Hoomi who spoke to Sinnett directly for the first time, instead of through a letter. Williams says that Blavatsky was alarmed at this idea that someone else could possibly pull the strings and tried to corral Laura to her side, but Sinnett rebelled at this, realizing that at least some of the letters purportedly from the Mahatmas were really written by Blavatsky herself.

Sinnett wrote a book called Karma published in 1885. That same year his wife as "Mrs A. P. Sinnett” wrote a book called The Purpose of Theosophy. He edited Incidents in the Life of Madame Blavatsky which was published in 1886 in New York and London. In 1886 he was stated to be at work upon another novel to be called United.

In 1890, with others, he was a director of the Hansard Publishing Union. In 1892 he wrote a book The Rationale of Mesmerism. In 1893 he wrote A New Theory of Stonehenge. The Black and White mocked him in 1893 for referring to a recently discovered process "psychometry” which purports to read the history of objects by touching them.

By 1887, Sinnett and his wife had formed associations with the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the pioneering ceremonial magic society. In 1896 the poet William Butler Yeats, a prominent member of the Golden Dawn, wrote that Sinnett was in charge of the order's neophytes. Sinnett was also friendly with the important occult and mystical writer Arthur Edward Waite, and with Mary A. Atwood, who sent Sinnett her library of alchemical texts.

Sinnett's wife Patience died 9 Nov 1908; thirteen years later, he died 25 Jun 1921 at the age of 81.

Preface to the American Edition (1888)

I VENTURE to think that this volume has acquired an importance that did not attach to it at first, now that subsequent experience has enabled me to follow it up with a more elaborate philosophical treatise. In the later work I have endeavored to set forth the general outlines of that knowledge concerning the higher mysteries of Nature which the following pages describe as possessed by the Indian "Mahatmas", or Adept Brothers. To that later work the reader whose attention may be arrested by the story told here must of course be referred; but meanwhile, the present introduction to the subject may be recommended to public notice now in a more confident tone than that which I was justified in taking up when it was first put forward. At that time the experiences I felt impelled to relate embodied no absolute promise of the systematic teaching accorded to me afterwards. Certainly those experiences in themselves appeared to me to claim telling. They seemed by far too remarkable to be left buried unfruitfully in the consciousness of the few persons concerned with them. It was true they elucidated no great principles of science; they merely suggested that for some of the abnormal phenomena which have arrested public attention during the last few years a more scientific explanation than those usually assigned might be possible. They afforded, if not absolute proof, at least an overwhelming assumption, that living men might actually develop faculties qualified to operate freely on that superior plane of Nature beyond the reach of the physical senses which, had been generally supposed accessible only to the spirits of the dead. But all was still shadowy and ill-defined. The story I had to tell revealed a magnificent possibility rather than a definite prospect. It would still, perhaps, have been an interesting story, even if the curtain had gone down upon the situation as I left it when these pages were first put together, but it would have been nothing then, compared to what it has since become.

Now the position in which the subject stands has altogether changed. The tentative communications addressed to me by my Mahatma correspondent in the first instance have paved the way for a long series of still more instructive and valuable letters. Assisted in other ways as well, my comprehension of occult philosophy advanced so far during the two years following the first appearance of this volume, that I was enabled to publish a more important statement, defining the outlines of that teaching, and exhibiting in a connected and intelligible shape the great esoteric theory of human evolution on this earth (and of the cosmogony on which it depends) with which the Adepts deal. The opening which presented itself to me in 1880 proved, in fact, no passing adventure, but the beginning of a new intellectual life. Attracted to it as I was at the time, I was certainly far then from divining the magnitude of the results destined to flow from it. But now that the proportions of the revelation I have thus been happily instrumental in procuring for the service of my readers have become apparent, I revert to the introductory episode of the undertaking with the certain assurance that I shall be engaging no one who will spare me his attention in any waste of time.

I am bold enough to say this because the Mahatmas, or great philosophical teachers of Asia, into some relations with whom I was enabled to come under the circumstances described in the following narrative, have now surrendered to the outer world so much of the spiritual science they have hitherto jealously guarded, that the whole framework of their stupendous doctrine has grown intelligible. Fragments of esoteric truth — of that science of superphysical nature which the Adepts explore — have been thrown out into the world at large from time to time before now, but in puzzling and unattractive disguises. The esoteric doctrine is no new system of belief, but, on the contrary, can be discerned now as lurking in a good deal of old Kabalistic and Oriental literature, that very few ordinary readers could have made sense of without the help of the keys now put in their hands. But now at last the subject has emerged into the clear daylight of modern thinking, and the central principle of the sublime esoteric doctrine stands plainly revealed as one which harmonizes in absolute perfection with the preparatory conceptions of Nature that have been derived by physical science from the observation and reflection of the current century. Biology is the latest, and, in some respects, the greatest of the physical sciences; and as the corollary, the complement, the crown of the science of Life, we are now furnished, by the teaching that has come to us from the East, with the science of spiritual evolution. Without this it may now be seen by those who appreciate the necessity of this doctrine, — the manifest, inherent self-evidence of it when it is once fairly understood, —without it, the doctrine of physical evolution is a libel on Nature, a caricature of her grandest purposes. The great idea to which I am now referring exhibits the human soul as a continuous entity, subject to an individual evolution of vast duration, and developing on the spiritual plane of existence, as a result of its successive returns to Earth life. Mounting always upward, it has passed through the lower manifestations of the animal kingdom, and can never again revert to them; but as regards the future, it will not merely pass through a purposeless succession of human lives like those going on around us. It will advance and expand in its individual progress towards perfection, pari passu with that general improvement of physical types on Earth which is still going forward, though the short views of human nature afforded us by mere historic observation may not render this process of improvement as perceptible to uninitiated intelligence as it becomes to the psychic discernment of the Adept.

To comprehend the way the work goes on, we have to contemplate the operations of Nature on other planes besides those cognizable to the physical senses. And it soon becomes apparent that the physical life of the Earth is only one process of the long series over which the evolution of humanity extends. But — and this is one of the most admirably scientific and ethically beautiful of the ideas brought out by occult study — the physical life of the Earth is shown to be no incoherent episode in the experiences of a human soul, no futile incident in the course of a spiritual evolution, the major portion of which is accomplished in higher spheres of being. It is inseparably blended along its whole course with the spiritual growth of the soul. The Earth is shown to be no cosmic railway carriage which we enter for the purpose of accomplishing a more or less laborious journey, and the discomforts of which we may carelessly forget when we are able to jump out of it on reaching our destination. It is the home of our race for a long time to come, if not for eternity, and it is our interest, as well as our duty, to embellish and improve and ennoble it. «In my Father's house», says the old symbolical text, «are many mansions», and in this planetary house of humanity there are many more states of existence than the physical state. Some of these states may be far more enjoyable, for that matter, than the physical state as this is at present; and the esoteric doctrine shows us that the duration of the higher spiritual states, when each individual Ego passes each time into these, is enormously more prolonged than its physical states, but both kinds of existence are equally necessary in the whole scheme of things.

All these views, and the vast mass of explanatory detail which has since been furnished to the inquirers of the Theosophical Society, were still undeveloped for those of us who were pursuing the clue afforded by my experiences of 1880, when the present book was written. But I refer to them here because I want very briefly to indicate the direction which our later inquiries took when, our attention having been arrested by the strange and startling phenomena here described, it dawned upon us by degrees that the intellectual instruction the Mahatmas could give us, if they would, would be enormously more interesting than even the exhibition of their abnormal powers. The same considerations I hope will follow in due order, in the case of readers whom this volume may have the good fortune to attract. It has been sometimes argued in my hearing that it would have been better if the authors of this great new movement of spiritual thought — new for us, though so old in one sense — which theosophy embodies had furnished us with the results of their philosophical thinking without impairing the pure dignity of that exalted scheme by mingling it in the first instance with sensational displays of thaumaturgic skill. I am not inclined myself to quarrel with the order in which events were actually unfolded. Miracles, it is quite true, are illogical guarantees for theological dogma; but the manifest possession of great faculties and powers in other planes of Nature than those on which ordinary conclusions concerning her processes are formed, does certainly afford a presumption that persons so endowed may gather observations on those higher planes which it is well worth our while to correlate with our own. Meanwhile I do not put forward the narrative of occult phenomena, of which this volume largely consists, as a statement which in itself constitutes a foundation for the very stupendous edifice of doctrines which later opportunities enabled me to construct. But I know that the experiences I record in this book were neither futile nor fruitless in their effects on my own development; and in anticipation of events that may contribute in no small degree, in a near future, to give a great impetus to theosophic speculation in America, I venture to recommend this book with special urgency to the American public, in the hope that a reflection on their minds of the influence produced on my own, by the incidents described, may serve to attract a good many fresh explorers into the paths of study and meditation, in which I believe myself to have gained such inestimable advantage.

I have not found much to alter in the original text of this book, though I am glad to, take advantage of this opportunity to append some notes here and there, and amplify some passages. But important additions to its contents have been made from time to time, and now especially I am anxious to call the attention of American readers to the latest of these, which will be found in an appendix. It is possible that in America some persons, to whom the existence of theosophy as a new school of thought is not altogether strange, may have heard of it especially in connection with a correspondence which has attracted a good deal of attention in the spiritualistic press. The discussion to which I refer has borne reference to a manifest identity of language traced between a certain passage in one of my Mahatma teacher's letters and a similar passage in an address delivered a few years ago by an American lecturer. The explanation I am now enabled to give of the curious circumstances under which this state of things arose, constitutes in itself, I venture to think, not merely a complete refutation of some unfriendly theories which were started to account for it, but also affords a very interesting contribution to our acquaintanceship with the ways and faculties of the Mahatmas.



THERE is a school of Philosophy still in existence of which modern culture has lost sight. Glimpses of it are discernible in the ancient philosophies with which all educated men are familiar, but these are hardly more intelligible than fragments of forgotten sculpture, — less so, for we comprehend the human form, and can give imaginary limbs to a torso; but we can give no imaginary meaning to the truth coming down to us from Plato or Pythagoras, pointing, for those who hold the clue to their significance, to the secret knowledge of the ancient world. Side lights, nevertheless, may enable us to decipher such language, and a very rich intellectual reward offers itself to persons who are willing to attempt the investigation.

For, strange as the statement will appear at first sight, modern metaphysics, and to a large extent modern physical science, have been groping for centuries blindly after knowledge which occult philosophy has enjoyed in full measure all the while. Owing to a train of fortunate circumstances, I have come to know that this is the case; I have come into some contact with persons who are heirs of a greater knowledge concerning the mysteries of Nature and humanity than modern culture has yet evolved; and my present wish is to sketch the outlines of this knowledge, to record with exactitude the experimental proofs I have obtained that occult science invest its adepts with a control of natural forces superior to that enjoyed by physicists of the ordinary type, and the grounds there are for bestowing the most respectful consideration on the theories entertained by occult science concerning the constitution and destinies of the human soul. Of course people in the present day will be slow to believe that any knowledge worth considering can be found outside the bright focus of Western culture. Modern science has accomplished grand results by the open method of investigation, and is very impatient of the theory that persons who ever attained to real knowledge, either in sciences or metaphysics, could have been content to hide their light under a bushel. So the tendency has been to conceive that occult philosophers of old — Egyptian priests, Chaldean Magi, Essenes, Gnostics, theurgic Neo-Platonists, and the rest — who kept their knowledge secret, must have adopted that policy to conceal the fact that they knew very little. Mystery can only have been loved by charlatans who wished to mystify. The conclusion is pardonable from the modern point of view, but it has given rise to an impression in the popular mind that the ancient mystics have actually been turned inside out, and found to know very little. This impression is absolutely erroneous. Men of science in former ages worked in secret, and instead of publishing their discoveries, taught them in secret to carefully selected pupils. Their motives for adopting that policy are readily intelligible, even if the merits of the policy may seem still open to discussion. At all events, their teaching has not been forgotten; it has been transmitted by secret initiation to men of our own time, and while its methods and its practical achievements remain secrets in their hands, it is open to any patient and earnest student of the question to satisfy himself that these methods are of supreme efficacy, and these achievements far more admirable than any yet standing to the credit of modern science.

For the secrecy in which these operations have been shrouded has never disguised their existence, and it is only in our own time that this has been forgotten. Formerly at great public ceremonies, the initiates displayed the powers with which their knowledge of natural laws invested them. We carelessly assume that the narratives of such displays describe performances of magic: we have decided that there is no such thing as magic, therefore the narratives must have been false, the persons whom they refer to, impostors. But supposing that magic, of old, was simply the science of magi, of learned men, there is no magic, in the modern sense, left in the matter. And supposing that such science — even in ancient times already the product of long ages of study — had gone in some directions further than our much younger modern science has yet reached, it is reasonable to conclude that some displays in connection with ancient mysteries may have been strictly scientific experiments, though they sound like displays of magic, and would look like displays of magic for us now if they could be repeated.

On that hypothesis modem sagacity applying modem knowledge to the subject of ancient mysteries, may be merely modem folly evolving erroneous conclusions from modem ignorance.

But there is no need to construct hypotheses in the matter. The facts are accessible if they are sought for in the right way, and the facts are these: The wisdom of the ancient world — science and religion commingled, physics and metaphysics combined — was a reality, and it still survives. It is that which will be spoken of in these pages as Occult Philosophy. It was already a complete system of knowledge that had been cultivated in secret, and handed down to initiates for ages, before its professors performed experiments in public to impress the popular mind in Egypt and Greece. Adepts of occultism in the present day are capable of performing similar experiments, and of exhibiting results that prove them immeasurably further advanced than ordinary modern science in a comprehension of the forces of Nature. Furthermore, they inherit from their great predecessors a science which deals not merely with physics, but with the constitution and capacities of the human soul and spirit. Modern science has discovered the circulation of the blood; occult science understands the circulation of the life-principle. Modem physiology deals with the body only; occultism with the soul as well — not as the subject of vague, religious rhapsodies; but it is an actual entity, with properties that can be examined in combination with, or apart from, those of the body.

It is chiefly in the East that occultism is still kept up in India and in adjacent countries. It is in India that I have encountered it; and this little volume is written to describe the experiences I have enjoyed, and to retail the knowledge I have acquired.


My narrative of events must be preceded by some further general explanations, or it would be unintelligible. The identity of occultism as practised in all ages, must be kept in view, to account for the magnitude of its organization, and for the astounding discovery that secluded Orientals may understand more about electricity than Faraday, more about physics than Tyndall. The culture of Europe has been developed by Europeans for themselves within the last few hundred years. The culture of occultists is the growth of vast periods long anterior to these, when civilization inhabited the East. And during a career which has carried occultism in the domain of physical science far beyond the point we have reached, physical science has merely been an object for occultism of secondary importance. Its main strength has been devoted to metaphysical inquiry, and to the latent psychological faculties in man, faculties which, in their development, enable the occultist to obtain actual experimental knowledge concerning the soul's condition of extra-corporeal existence. There is thus something more than a mere archaeological interest in the identification of the occult system with the doctrines of the initiated organisations in all ages of the world's history, and we are presented by this identification with the key to the philosophy of religious development. Occultism is not merely an isolated discovery showing humanity to be possessed of certain powers over Nature, which the narrower study of Nature from the merely materialistic standpoint has failed to develop; it is an illumination cast over all previous spiritual speculation worth anything, of a kind which knits together some apparently divergent systems. It is to spiritual philosophy much what Sanskrit was found to be to comparative philology; it is a common stock of philosophical roots. Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism and the Egyptian theology are thus brought into one family of ideas. Occultism, as it is no now invention, is no specific sect, but the professors of no sect can afford to dispense with the sidelights it throws upon the conception of Nature and Man's destinies which they may have been induced by their own specific faith to form; occultism, in fact, must be recognised by anyone who will take the trouble to put before his mind clearly the problems with which it deals, as a study of the most sublime importance to every man who cares to live a life worthy of his human rank in creation, and who can realise the bearing on ethics of certain knowledge concerning his own survival after death. It is one thing to follow the lead of a hazy impression that a life beyond the grave, if there is one, may be somehow benefited by abstinence from wrongdoing on this side; it will clearly be another to realise if that can be shown to be the case, that the life beyond the grave must, with the certainty of a sum total built up of a series of plus and minus quantities, be the final expression of the use made of opportunities in this.

I have said that the startling importance of occult knowledge turns on the manner in which it affords exact and experimental knowledge concerning spiritual things which under all other systems must remain the subject of speculation or blind religious faith. It may be further asserted that occultism shows that the harmony and smooth continuity of Nature observable in physics extend to those operations of Nature that are concerned with the phenomena of metaphysical existence.

Before approaching an exposition of the conclusions concerning the nature of man that occult philosophy has reached, it may be worth while to meet an objection that may perhaps be raised by the reader on the threshold of the subject. How is it that conclusions of such great weight have been kept the secret property of a jealous body of initiates. Is it not a law of progress that truth asserts itself and courts the free air and light? Is it reasonable to suppose that the greatest of all truths — the fundamental basis of truth concerning man and Nature — should be afraid to show itself? With what object could the ancient professors of, or proficients in, occult philosophy keep the priceless treasures of their researches to themselves?

Now, it is no business of mine to defend the extreme tenacity with which the proficients in occultism have hitherto not only shut out the world from the knowledge of their knowledge, but have almost left it in ignorance that such knowledge exists. [See Appendix A.] It is enough here to point out that it would be foolish to shut our eyes to a revelation that may now be partially conceded, merely because we are piqued at the behaviour of those who have been in a position to make it before, but have not chosen to do so. Nor would it be wiser to say that the reticence of the occultists so far discredits anything we may now be told about their acquirements. When the sun is actually shining it is no use to say that its light is discredited by the behaviour of the barometer yesterday. I have to deal, in discussing the acquirements of occultism, with facts that have actually taken place, and nothing can discredit what is known to be true. No doubt it will be worth while later on to examine the motives which have rendered the occultists of all ages so profoundly reserved. And there may be more to say in justification of the course that has been pursued than is visible at the first glance. Indeed, the reader will not go far in an examination of the nature of the powers which proficients in occultism actually possess, without seeing that it is supremely desirable to keep back the practical exercise of such powers from the world at large. But it is one thing to deny mankind generally the key which unlocks the mystery of occult power; it is another to withhold the fact that there is a mystery to unlock. However, the further discussion of that question here would be premature. Enough for the present to take note of the fact that secrecy after all is not complete if external students of the subject are enabled to learn as much about the mysteries as I shall have to tell. Manifestly, there is a great deal more behind, but, at all events, a great deal is to be learned by inquirers who will set to work in the right way, and that which may now be learned is no new revelation at last capriciously extended to the outer world for the first time.

In former periods of history, a great deal more has been known about the nature of occultism by the world at large than is known at this moment to the modern West. The bigotry of modem civilization, and not the jealousy of the occultist, is to blame if the European races are at this moment more generally ignorant of the extent to which psychological research has been carried, than the Egyptian populace in the past, or the people of India in the present day. As regards the latter, amongst whom the truth of the theory just suggested can easily be put to the test, you will find the great majority of Hindus perfectly convinced of the truth of the main statements which I am about to put forward. They do not generally or readily talk about such subjects with Europeans, because these are so prone to stupid derision of views they do not understand or believe in already. The Indian native is very timid in presence of such ridicule. But it does not affect in the slightest degree the beliefs which rest in his own mind on the fundamental teaching he will always have received, and in many cases on odds and ends of experiences he may himself have had. The Hindus are thus well aware, as a body, of the fact that there are persons who by entire devotion to certain modes of life acquire unusual powers in the nature of such as Europeans would very erroneously call supernatural. They are quite familiar with the notion that such persons live secluded lives, and are inaccessible to ordinary curiosity, and that they are none the less approachable by fit and determined candidates for admission to occult training. Ask any cultivated Hindu if he has ever heard of Mahatmas and Yoga Vidya or occult science, and it is a hundred to one that you will find he has-and, unless he happens to be one of the hybrid products of Anglo-Indian Universities, that he fully believes in the reality of the powers ascribed to Yoga. It does not follow that he will at once say "Yes" to a European asking the question. He will probably say just the reverse from the apprehension I have spoken of above, but push your questions home and you will discover the truth, as I did, for example, in the case of a very intelligent English-speaking native vakeel in an influential position and in constant relations with high European officials, last year. At first my new acquaintance met my inquiries as to whether he knew anything about these subjects with a wooden look of complete ignorance, and an explicit denial of any knowledge as to what I meant at all. It was not till the second time I saw him in private, at my own house, that by degrees it grew upon him that I was in earnest, and knew something about Yoga myself, and then he quietly opened out his real thoughts on the subject, and showed me that he knew not only perfectly well what I meant all along, but was stocked with information concerning occurrences and phenomena of an occult or apparently supernatural order, many of which had been observed in his own family and some by himself.

The point of all this is that Europeans are not justified in attributing to the jealousy of the occultists the absolute and entire ignorance of all that concerns them which pervades the modern society of the West. The West has been occupied with the business of material progress to the exclusion of psychological development. Perhaps it has done best for the world in confining itself to its specially, but however this may be, it has only itself to blame if its concentration of purpose has led to something like retrogression in another branch of development.

Jacolliot, a French writer, who has dealt at great length with various phases of Spiritism in the East, was told by one who must have been an adept to judge by the language used:

You have studied physical Nature, and you have obtained through the laws of Nature marvellous results — steam, electricity, etc., etc. For twenty thousand years or more we have studied the intellectual forces; we have discovered their laws, and we obtain, by making them act alone or in concert with matter, phenomena still more astonishing than your own.

Jacolliot adds:

We have seen things such as one does not describe for fear of making his readers doubt his intelligence [...] but still we have seen them.


Occult phenomena must not be confused with the phenomena of spiritualism. The latter, whatever they may be, are manifestations which mediums can neither control nor understand in a scientific sense. The former are achievements of a conscious, living operator comprehending the laws with which he works. If these achievements appear miraculous, that is the fault of the observer's ignorance. The spiritualist knows perfectly well, in spite of ignorant mockery on the part of outsiders content to laugh without knowing what they are laughing at, that all kinds of occurrences distinctly outside the range of physical causation do constantly take place for inquirers who hunt them with sufficient diligence. But he has never been able to do more than frame hypotheses in respect to the hidden laws of Nature by virtue of which they have been produced. He has taken up a certain hypothesis faute de mieux in the first instance, and working always on this idea, has constructed such an elaborate edifice of theory round the facts that he is very reluctant to tolerate the interposition of a new hypothesis which will oblige him to revise his conclusions in some very important particulars. There will be no way of avoiding this necessity, however, if he belongs to the order of inquirers who care rather to be sure they have laid hold of the truth than to fortify a doctrine they have espoused for better or for worse.

Broadly speaking, there is scarcely one of the phenomena of spiritualism that adepts in occultism cannot reproduce by the force of their own will, supplemented by a comprehension of the resources of Nature. As will be seen when I come to a direct narrative of my own experiences, I have seen some of the most familiar phenomena of spiritualism produced by purely human agency. The old original spirit-rap which introduced the mightier phenomena of spiritualism has been manifested for my edification in a countless variety of ways, and under conditions which render the hypothesis of any spiritual agency in the matter wholly preposterous. I have seen flowers fall from the blank ceiling of a room under circumstances that gave me a practical assurance that no spiritual agency was at work, though in a manner as absolutely "supernatural" in the sense of being produced without the aid of any material appliances, as any of the floral showers by which some spiritual mediums are attended. I have over and over again received "direct writing", produced on paper in sealed envelopes of my own, which was created or precipitated by a living human correspondent. I have information, which, though second-hand, is very trustworthy, of a great variety of other familiar spiritual phenomena produced in the same way by human adepts in occultism. But it is not my present task to make war on spiritualism. The announcements I have to make will, indeed, be probably received more readily among spiritualists than in the outer circles of the ordinary world, for the spiritualists are at all events aware, from their own experience, that the orthodox science of the day does not know the last word concerning mind and matter, while the orthodox outsider stupidly clings to a denial of facts when these are of a nature which he foresees himself unable to explain. As the facts of spiritualism, though accessible to any honest man who goes in search of them, are not of a kind which anyone can carry about and fling in the faces of pragmatic "sceptics", these latter are enabled to keep up their professions of incredulity without the foolishness of their position being obvious to each other, plain as it is to "the initiated". However, although in this way the ordinary scientific mind will be reluctant to admit either the trustworthiness of my testimony or the conceivability of my explanations, it may allay some hostile prejudices to make clear at the onset that occult science deals with no guesswork concerning the post-mortem intervention of human beings in the affairs of this world. Its methods are as precise, and its mental discipline as rigid, as those of the laboratory or the university lecture-room. Wedding with theosophic research, spiritualism itself might guard itself from all those hasty inferences which have done so much to turn large sections of the cultivated people against it, and if they will but take the trouble to approach the subject from the point of view of occult science, students of physical Nature will be enabled at last to handle the phenomena of spiritualism freely, to consider them apart from the theories to which they have prematurely given rise; and thus relieved of the repugnance they feel for them at present, to bring them within the area of that which they at last will willingly recognise as true scientific generalisations.