The Chemistry of the Invisible
Occultism is exactly what he has said: it is the knowledge of invisible forces and the power to handle them. It is a science. It is altogether a science. I always compare occultism with chemistry, for it is the same kind of knowledge as the knowledge of chemistry for material things. It is a knowledge of invisible forces, their different vibrations, their interrelations, the combinations which can be made by bringing them together and the power one can exercise over them. It is absolutely scientific; and it ought to be learnt like a science; that is, one cannot practise occultism as something emotional or something vague and imprecise. You must work at it as you would do at chemistry, and learn all the rules or find them if there is nobody to teach you. But it is at some risk to yourself that you can find them. There are combinations here as explosive as certain chemical combinations.
Occultism and Science
Science itself is in its own way an occultism; for it brings to light the formulas which Nature has hidden and it uses its knowledge to set free operations of her energies which she has not included in her ordinary operations and to organise and place at the service of man her occult powers and processes, a vast system of physical magic,—for there is and can be no other magic than the utilisation of secret truths of being, secret powers and processes of Nature. It may even be found that a supraphysical knowledge is necessary for the completion of physical knowledge, because the processes of physical Nature have behind them a supraphysical factor, a power and action mental, vital or spiritual which is not tangible to any outer means of knowledge.
[SABCL, 18: 652]
Occultism is associated in popular idea with magic and magical formulae and a supposed mechanism of the supernatural. But this is only one side, nor is it altogether a superstition as is vainly imagined by those who have not looked deeply or at all at this covert side of secret Nature-Force or experimented with its possibilities. Formulas and their application, a mechanisation of latent forces, can be astonishingly effective in the occult use of mind-power and life-power just as it is in physical Science, but this is only a subordinate method and a limited direction. For mind and life forces are plastic, subtle and variable in their action and have not the material rigidity; they need a subtle and plastic intuition in the knowledge of them, in the interpretation of their action and process and in their application,—even in the interpretation and action of their established formulas. An overstress on mechanisation and rigid formulation is likely to result in sterilisation or a formalised limitation of knowledge and, on the pragmatic side, to much error, ignorant convention, misuse and failure.
Aim and Process of Occultism
But if it is to fulfil itself, the true foundation, the true aim and direction, the necessary restrictions and precautions of this line of inquiry have to be rediscovered; its most important aim must be the discovery of the hidden truths and powers of the mind-force and the life-power and the greater forces of the concealed spirit. Occult science is, essentially, the science of the subliminal, the subliminal in ourselves and the subliminal in world-nature, and of all that is in connection with the subliminal, including the subconscient and the superconscient, and the use of it as part of self-knowledge and world-knowledge and for the right dynamisation of that knowledge.
Even now, the experiences of Western occultists and those of Eastern occultists offer great similarities. All who set out on the discovery of these invisible worlds and make a report of what they saw, give a very similar description, whether they be from here or there; they use different words, but the experience is very similar and the handling of forces is the same.
This knowledge of the occult worlds is based on the existence of subtle bodies and of subtle worlds corresponding to those bodies. They are what the psychological method calls “states of consciousness”, but these states of consciousness really correspond to worlds. The occult procedure consists then in being aware of these various inner states of being or subtle bodies and in becoming sufficiently a master of them so as to be able to go out of them successively, one after another. There is indeed a whole scale of subtleties, increasing or decreasing according to the direction in which you go, and the occult procedure consists in going out of a denser body into a subtler body and so on again, up to the most ethereal regions. You go, by successive exteriorisations, into bodies or worlds more and more subtle. It is somewhat as if every time you passed into another dimension. The fourth dimension of the physicists is nothing but the scientific transcription of an occult knowledge. To give another image, one can say that the physical body is at the centre—it is the most material, the densest and also the smallest—and the inner bodies,more subtle, overflow more and more the central physical body; they pass through it, extending themselves farther and farther, like water evaporating from a porous vase and forming a kind of steam all around. And the greater the subtlety, the more the extension tends to unite with that of the universe: one ends by universalising oneself. And it is altogether a concrete processwhich gives an objective experience of invisible worlds and even enables one to act in these worlds.
All these regions, all these domains are filled with beings who exist, each in its own domain, and if you are awake and conscious on a particular plane—for instance, if on going out of a more material body you awake on some higher plane, you have the same relation with the things and people of that plane as you had with the things and people of the material world. That is to say, there exists an entirely objective relation that has nothing to do with the idea you may have of these things. Naturally, the resemblance is greater and greater as you approach the physical world, the material world, and there even comes a time when the one region has a direct action upon the other. In any case, in what Sri Aurobindo calls the overmental worlds, you will find a concrete reality absolutely independent of your personal experience; you go back there and again find the same things, with the differences that have occurred during your absence. And you have relations with those beings that are identical with the relations you have with physical beings, with this difference that the relation is more plastic, supple and direct—for example, there is the capacity to change the external form, the visible form, according to the inner state you are in. But you can make an appointment with someone and be at the appointed place and find the same being again, with certain differences that have come about during your absence; it is entirely concrete with results entirely concrete.
But for this, you must live these experiences yourself, you must see them yourself, live them with sufficient sincerity and spontaneity in order to see that they are independent of any mental formation. For you can do the opposite also, and deepen the study of the action of mental formation upon events. This is very interesting, but it is another domain. And this study makes you very careful, very prudent, because you become aware of how far you can delude yourself. So you must study both, the dream and the occult reality, in order to see what is the essential difference between the two. The one depends upon us; the other exists in itself; entirely independent of the thought that we have of it.
Requisites for Practising Occultism
To be able to enter the “earth-memory” consciously, a discipline is needed.1 What discipline?
A discipline much more difficult than the discipline of yoga! It is an occult discipline.
First of all, one must learn to go out of one’s body consciously and to enter into another more subtle body; to use one’s will to go where one wants to go, never to fear and sometimes to face unexpected and even terrible things; to remain calm, to develop the mind’s visual sense, to accustom one’s mind to be altogether peaceful and quiet…. You know, the list is long and I
could continue like this for hours!
Generally, when you want to study occultism, the first thing that the Master does is never to speak to you about it, never to explain it to you, precisely because of this ridiculous phenomenon of the mind which begins to “think” about it and brings you “experiences” which have no value: they are mental formations which make a plaything of you, that is all. They have no reality.
In any case, before entering upon this study, one must have, as I told you at the beginning, a very great self-mastery, must have attained a kind of abnegation, a self-forgetfulness, an egolessness, a disinterestedness and sense of sacrifice which enables one to practise this without any danger. For, if you keep all egoistic or passionate movements, full of desires, you are sure, in the practice of this science, to meet with accidents which may have fatal consequences. As I said at the beginning, the absolutely indispensable condition is to have an intrepidity which does not allow any fear to enter into you. For this has been very often said, and it is quite true, that when you enter the invisible realm, the first things you meet are literally terrifying. If you have no fear, there is no danger, but the least fear puts you into danger. So, before anybody at all was allowed to practise this science, for a very long time, sometimes for years, the novice was submitted to a discipline which gave him the assurance that he could practise it without experiencing the least fear and without any danger.