CHAPTER THREE - INTUITION AND INTELLECT
The principle cause of our uncertainty is that our comprehension of the One comes to us neither by scientific knowledge, nor by thought, as the knowledge of other intelligible things, but by a Presence which is superior to science. When the soul acquires the scientific knowledge of something, she withdraws from unity and ceases being entirely one; for science implies discursive reason and discursive reason implies manifoldness. To attain Unity we must therefore rise above science, and never withdraw from what is essentially one; we must therefore renounce science, the objects of science, and every other right except that of the One. -- PLOTINUS, Ennead VI., 9, 4.
THE TWOFOLD MIND
ILLUSION is only then part of reality when it is recognized as illusion.
It is when we forget the element of relativity in our world-image and exalt
the latter to the stature of an independent reality, forgetting subsequently
that we have done so, that illusion begins. Then we begin to ask questions
which are born of illusion and permeated by it in every fibre, it is then
that we begin to abuse the nobility of our minds by applying the intellect
to the solution of such pseudo-problems. Then we, and our intellects with
us, are bound to our own world-image, become slaves of our own creation,
victims of our own error and henceforth our nature is twofold, on the one
hand our true being in the world of the Real, functioning freely with unclouded
vision, on the other hand our being externalized in our own world-image,
bound to its illusion and doomed to join in the danse macabre of our
phenomenal world. In that world, our own world-image, our thought is devitalized,
our method of knowing a clumsy process in which we study the shadow-play
surrounding us and learn to discriminate between its different features.
That uninspired and unproductive functioning of the mind in the bondage of
our own world-image I call the intellect, the free use of the living
mind in the world of the Real I call the intuition.
The difference between intuition and intellect is the difference between life and death; the intuition is immediate, certain, creative and progressive, the intellect is barren, sterile, indirect in its methods, uncertain in its conclusions and incapable of seeing truth. In the earlier stages of our evolution our way to knowledge is that of instinct, which Is unreasoning and direct in its knowledge. Thus primitive man knows the ways of Nature in a way we cannot rival, thus the animal knows instinctively things which it takes man days or often years to reason out. We need but compare the unerring certainty with which migrating birds find their home, a matter of square feet on the entire surface of our globe, to the clumsy methods which intellectual man needs to find his bearings-maps and compasses, sextants and intricate calculations, the movements of the heavenly bodies and landmarks on the surface of the earth, failing which he is helpless.
With the birth of the intellect instinctive knowledge disappears; the unconscious unity of life which made the instinct possible is temporarily shut off by the increasing sense of separateness and individuality which makes the birth of the intellect possible. When man no longer hears the voice of instinctive knowledge speaking to him from within, he must needs orientate himself by the laborious method of gathering facts about the world surrounding him and through analysis and discrimination of these, come to the knowledge of indwelling principles. The way of the intellect is thus a necessary stage, but there is no doubt that man’s knowledge in this period lacks creative life. His own world image holds him in bondage, imprisons the mind in its limitations and illusions. That imprisoned mind, or intellect is consequently ever subject to the great illusion of the world-image as an objective reality.
Yet there comes a time when the power of illusion weakens and the freed mind once again sees the Vision of the Real. With that the intuition begins to develop as a way of knowledge, combining in itself the directness of the instinct and the conscious knowledge, which the intellect gave. Instinct is an unconscious knowledge; primitive man knows, but knows not why, cannot express consciously, that which speaks to him from within. In the intuition there is the same flash of direct knowledge, but now the great structure of the intellect has been built up through intervening ages and by its means the intuitive knowledge can descend to our daily life in full consciousness. Without the at structure, without the intellect as instrument, the thinker within would not be able to interpret his vision in intelligible language to his fellow-men; the artist may be ever so great, but he needs an instrument to play on.
It is well to analyze why the indiscriminate use of the intellect in philosophy is so full of dangers. In so far as the intellect is enslaved by the illusion of the world-image as an external reality it does not doubt the objective existence of that world-image as a substantial outside world around us. This means that it accepts all the characteristics of our world-image as objective realities-the qualities of matter, the substantiality of objects, the objective reality of time and space, the diversity and separateness of manifested creatures, all these are elements, the objective reality of which is not doubted as long as the mind is enslaved by illusion. When, subject to illusion, never suspecting even its existence, man begins to ask questions concerning the great problems of life it is inevitable that everyone of these questions is asked from the standpoint of the world-image as external reality, that is to say, every question is permeated by that which we have found to be the fundamental illusion of our daily lives. Hence that illusion not only colours every question we thus ask, but is often the very heart of such a question. This means that, unsuspected by us, there enters into the very fabric of our philosophical questions and problems an element of illusion by which these questions become monstrosities, by which they are vitiated, incapable of solution since they are rooted in error.
All questions, for instance, which have to so with a beginning of time or a beginning of creation, show in the very nature of the problem they touch the unthinking acceptance of time as an objective reality and are consequently problems about which we may think for many years, but which we can never solve. In fact, if we do claim to have solved such a problem we stand condemned by our own claim. It is the same with regard to the unthinking acceptance of spirit and matter, or self and not-self, as a real duality. Endless theories have been advanced to reconcile these two, either by the elimination of one of them or by a kind of compromise in which both are seen as eternally opposite aspects of one great reality. However clever such solutions may be they one and all are doomed to be wrong, since they unquestioningly accept the problem as it is stated without first investigating whether it is not in itself the product of misconception. We might add many such problems and shall in later chapters have ample opportunity to show examples of such wrong questions which yet form the stock problems of philosophy. But at present it is necessary to see why the intellect is insufficient as a philosophical method and approach to truth.
The intellect, as the mind bound to illusion, can but work under the limitations of our world-image. The fundamental structure of that world-image is that of a duality, with myself on the one side and everything else on the other side-self and not-self. The intellect thus necessarily accepts the separateness of all things as a basic fact, accepts the ‘otherness’ of the world around me as undeniable and in all its cogitations can never free itself from the burden of that basic structure in which it is imprisoned. It is possible for the intellect to recognize theoretically the existence of unity, unity of life, unity of energy, or what else we may call that which unites all things, but even then separateness and multiplicity impress themselves so very much more forcibly upon the intellect, that the conception of a fundamental unity becomes but a pale shadow by the side of their varied and coloured interplay. The very methods of the intellect-distinguishing between one thing and another, analyzing a thing into its component elements, learning to observe the minutest differences between one case and another-all these point to separateness and multiplicity as the domain of the intellect. For its data the intellect has to rely on sense-perception and deduction from basic principles, out of these it builds its theories and systems.
In so far as science claims but to investigate and explore this outer world surrounding us, the intellect is a sufficient instrument for science, though even in the conclusions of scientific investigations the intuition plays a far greater part than we are apt to credit. Fundamentally, however, sense-perception, analyzed and co-ordinated by the intellect is the method of science and, since science does not concern itself primarily with the fundamental problems of life, there is no objection to be made against the important place the intellect takes in its work. It is only when we enter the domain of philosophy with is pursuit of ultimate reality that we must recognize the insufficiency of the intellect and consciously use the intuition as a way to knowledge. For in philosophy we have to do with those very relations of ourselves to the world surrounding us and of this world again to ultimate reality, about which the intellect is so confident, accepting them as they appear to be. By its acceptance of a dual structure of the world and of multiplicity as the character of this universe the intellect can never do more than see one thing or another as true. To it the world cannot be one and many at the same time and, even if it might theoretically recognize such a possibility, it cannot realize it as a fact. Consequently it can never recognize more than half-truths and will defend these with the uttermost vigour.
It is essential that in philosophy we should be aware of the method we use, aware of the organ with which we work in the realization of truth, and aware of both its possibilities and limitations. Intuition and intellect both have their place in the method of philosophy, both have their task and both have their limitations. The intellect, being the mind functioning in the limitations of the world-image, can and must serve as a technique by means of which the artist within, the intuition, can make visible his perception of beauty or of truth. The intuition, realizing truth in the world of the Real, is the true organ of philosophy, without its creative light the intellect would be but technique without inspiration, lifeless and barren. On the other hand, the vision of truth which is obtained in the world of the Real, and there alone, needs the technique of the intellect if it is to be conveyed in intelligible language to others or even to ourselves in our everyday consciousness. But we must realize the distinctive duties and functions of intellect and intuition. If we fail to do so we are apt to make of the intellect the discoverer of truth instead of the expositor, and of philosophy an intellectual game, lacking creative life.
The tragedy is that most people are unable to discriminate between the life-giving bread of the intuition and the barren stones of the intellect; in their studies they consume with equal impartiality the one and the other and are as ready to condemn the work of the intuition as ‘merely intellectual’ as they are to worship the husks of the intellect as if they were the fruits of the intuition. The intellect is but a skeleton, but to many the rattling of its bones is as sweet a language as the voice of the intuition, they listen with equal reverence to both or else condemn both in the same breath. We shall find many such instances where either the intellect impersonates the intuition or else the voice of the intuition is confused with that of the intellect.
Yet there is far more of intuitive knowledge in the lives of all of us than we realize. How often, when meeting a person or entering a place, do we not have a flash of intuition which, with unerring certainty, leads us to the very heart of things and gives us a far deeper knowledge of the person’s character or that of the place than any lengthy process of reasoning or deduction from externals could ever give us. Our first impressions are often of that nature; before a person has even spoken we already know what they will mean to us, whether we like him or not, whether we trust him or would follow him as a leader. All this is intuitive knowledge, and, naturally, in the earlier states of the development of the intuition apt to be confused with mere prejudice. Yet it plays a far greater role in our lives than we realize. The same holds good for our scientific knowledge, even there it is the flash of intuition which will make the scientist see the truth which then inspires his further experiments. We shall come to realize that philosophy and also science, in so far as they have been truly constructive, have ever used the method of the intuition, through at times unconsciously, and that the intellect is largely but the technique by means of which the realization which the intuition gives is imparted to others of made clear to ourselves.
INTUITIVE KNOWLEDGE AND LOGICAL PROOF
There are two fallacies which at this stage we must face-the fallacy of
logical proof leading to truth, and the fallacy that the intuition had no
part to play in the truth thus revealed.
The logical method of exposition of any doctrine or theory is one in which each statement follows from the previous one in such a way that what is said in the later statement is contained in principle in the previous ones and nothing new is introduced without being properly linked up. Logic as such, with all its rules and principle in the previous ones and nothing new is introduced without being properly linked up. Logic as such, with all its rules and principles, is obedience to a law of mental cause and effect, the entire chain of reasoning being causally connected with certain premises or axiomata, which are thus worked out logically. Logic is the method of the intellect, it is intellectual technique and in itself always unproductive. It is essential, for without it we cannot explain to our ordinary consciousness the truth which the intuition may have seen, but logic never brings forth truth by its own power.
Mathematical reasoning is perhaps the purest example of the logical method; yet in mathematics nothing new is produced as truth and the conclusions to which we come are contained in the principles or axiomata from which we started, even though we may not recognize them there. These axiomata themselves are self-evident to us; we do not feel that they need proving and recognize them intuitively. Thus all mathematical proof is based on principles which cannot be proved and, since, when working on a mathematical problem we never contribute anything new, but rather develop in a process of argumentation certain conclusions from our principles, these conclusions ultimately rest on the intuition which accepted without proof the truth of the axiomata. Hence, if we accept different axiomata as true our mathematics and our conclusions are correspondingly different. Of this the new mathematics presents many examples and its conclusions are necessarily different from those of the Euclidian mathematics and the classical mechanics based on the latter. Hence also the difference between the new physics, based on the new mathematics, and the older physics.
As it is in mathematics so it is also in philosophy-according to the principles from which we start and which we assume as self-evident we reach certain conclusions which appear to be logically true, but which in reality are already conceived in the principles from which we started and which we recognized intuitively. Thus, in philosophy too, logic is the method of exposition and as such exceedingly valuable, but it does not lead to truth or produce truth; it is only the intuition which recognizes truth.
We have a craving to see our favourite beliefs logically proved; in fact, most of us are addicted to proof, it is for us the hallmark of intellectual respectability. A doctrine presented to us without proof is as a stranger without papers or introductions; we look at him askance and can hardly bring ourselves to accept him at his own value as a human being. He too must be ‘proved’ for us, he must be linked up in the chain of known quantities of which our conventional life is composed. A doctrine or truth, presenting itself without proof on the bare value of its own nobility it as disturbing a factor to the majority of men as would be the stranger without name or country. We are afraid of it; it is to us as an invasion from an unknown world. And such it is, it is an invasion from another world, from the only real world, the world of Reality; it is the vision of truth, or intuition, which, in that world, knows with lightning-like rapidity and with immediate certainty and which flashes down its message of truth into the dullness of our illusion-bound intellect. The intellect stands bewildered at such a visitation from on high. It is as if a God from high Olympus descended into a suburban drawing-room; consternation and a helpless impotence in the face of the unknown would follow. We should be afraid of the naked stranger who, from the world of divinity, descended in our midst and hurriedly clothe him in the garments of respectability and usher him into the world of convention as our cousin from abroad. Thus he is linked up with our conventional world, he is somebody’s son, he has a name and a country.
In the same surreptitious way does our bewildered intellect clothe the visiting stranger from on high-Intuition. When the intuition flashes down into our comfortable and well-ordered world of logic he is hurriedly clothed in the garments of logic before our neighbours have seen him and he is introduced to the expectant world as the logical offspring of premises well known to them. Then, and then alone, do we fell that we can safely accept him and shall not be compromised by our association with divinity.
There is not a philosophy of importance that has not known such visitation from on high, that is not rooted in revelation. When we read the lives or letters of great philosophers we find how in their youth, perhaps for many years, they thought about the problems of life, they felt the hunger, the yearning to know, they knew the craving for truth, and with every atom of their being strained towards the unknown. For years they read and studied, if not in the books of men than in the Book of Life, they gathered the raw material out of which the creative mind might build its structure. But the moment came for all of them that, for a brief moment, the veil was lifted and they had their revelation, they experienced living truth. Does not Nietzsche tell us how, when he walked in the woods of Sils-Maris, the heavens opened and the world of truth spoke to him with no little voice? In such moments, often when the intellect is disengaged and dwells but lightly on life, the vision of the intuition breaks like a flash of lightning upon the darkness of our mental life and we know with utter certainty.
Thus, in the domain of science, there was the moment of illumination in Newton’s life while he watched the fall of an apple and found what he had been searching for. No doubt his mind was not dwelling on great and weighty problems at the moment, possibly he was but remembering with contentment some small event of daily life and giving himself over to the serenity of the moment. But it is just in these rare silences of our busy lives that the intuition can speak to us; it is only when the illusion-bound intellect with its noisy self-assertion is quiet for a while that the voice of living truth can be hard. The moment of illumination may well be the outcome of years of mental search, calling forth, as it were, by induction a corresponding activity in the world of the Real, where the untrammeled mind sees the vision and speaks to the mind in prison. But it is always the flash of intuition that shows us the truth and co-ordinates our laboriously gathered intellectual material.
It would show a refreshing sincerity if, some day, we found ourselves able to acknowledge these children of ours, born of the vision of truth, without feeling the urge of respectability to provide them with a legitimate and inevitable outcome of logical reasoning. Instead of saying at the beginning of our exposition-this have I seen, thus do I know-we put on a false air of innocent ignorance and, after reasoning logically and profoundly through many hundreds of weighty pages, we bring forth as our conclusion the one thing at which we were aiming all the time and with well simulated surprise we stand amazed at the wonderful outcome of our logical reasoning. We have ‘proved’ our truth, no trace of the outlaw intuition can be found in our logical exposition; is it not clear that we started reasoning with an entirely unprejudiced mind and that our doctrine is the logical outcome of our intellectual penetration? We are like the conjurer who produces the rabbit out his top hat where he had it concealed all the time, yet it appears as the marvelous result of his magical passes and incantations. Thus our scientists and philosophers often sign their wearisome incantations through many heavy tomes and, like the conjurer, produce their little rabbit at the very end, whereas they had it in their pocket at the beginning of the first chapter.
It is very rare, even in science, that a discovery emerges from experiments which did not tend in that direction. Generally the intuition sees a possible explanation or theory and the experiments which afterwards prove it are but a testing out of the hypothesis or theory already present. Columbus knew that he would reach land sailing West and but proved it by his action.
Yet we must not ever disdain logical exposition and proof. They are valuable, they are essential for a full intellectual appreciation, but they are not productive. It is only when logic and proof claim that they have produced truth and proved that it cannot be otherwise, that we find quarrel with them, that it becomes necessary to put them into the humbler, though equally necessary, position which is theirs by nature. What we need to overcome is our unfounded suspicion of the intuition as the stranger from nowhere; we must begin to realize, especially in philosophy, that all man has ever thought of any worth in the history of philosophy, he has taught as the result of that inner and direct awareness of truth which we call intuition and not as the prodigious result of wearisome reasoning.
Oriental philosophy has never pretended that it obtained its results by logic and proof, but has ever plainly stated its doctrines, saying-thus I know. In consequence treatises like the Bhagavad Gita or the Tao The King consist of a number of aphorisms or philosophical axiomata which need to be thought and pondered over so that we may understand them fully in their context. A great advantage of this method of philosophizing is the extreme briefness of the books produced; compared to the ponderous tomes of Western philosophy the brief Eastern treatises are like a refreshing breath from heaven.
I do not know whether we should lose anything of real value by following their methods; as it is our logical reasoning, our proof and counter proof, never convince any one of a theory which he does not recognize within as true. A conclusive reasoning and apparently irrefutable proof may seem successful for the moment and leave us speechless and acquiescent, but when we come home we are as little convinced as we were before; all that has been gained was our temporary grudging assent for lack of a suitable counter argument. Hence the futility of debates; the nimbler wit and readier answer win the day rather than the greater wisdom.
It needs, however, the faculty of discerning and recognizing truth if we are to discriminate between living wisdom, even when coming to us in simple and unassuming garb, and a brilliant but empty intellectual scintillation, even though it appears in all the rich and ornate garments which clever argument and apt reply provide. There are but few in these days of worship of the intellect who are able to recognize the voice of the intuition, and yet, if the intuition is lacking, it cannot be replaced by the crutches of logic and argument.
To many the intuitive recognition of truth as the legitimate way to knowledge is associated with ideas of uncertainty and vagueness. They feel that when a doctrine is presented on the basis of logical argument and conclusive reasoning there is at least something to support it, and, even if the argument or logic may not quite prove the point, yet they provide us with a standard for our approval or condemnation. When, however, all that is presented to us is someone’s intuition that this or that is right, how are we to distinguish between a right and a wrong intuition, and how are we to guard ourselves against error? But, how do we guard ourselves against error at present, while the intuition is but disguised by reasoning and so-called proof? In philosophy especially we should by now be accustomed to the fact that there is not a doctrine or theory that was not proved at one time as conclusively as it was disproved at another. In reality, when we come to analyze it, we find our judgment at present to be as much an intuitive one as it would be if the doctrine were presented to us on its face value without the pretence of proof. What happens now is that we need not fear to acknowledge our beliefs because they are clad in the respectable garments of logic. It is fear that holds us back, fear to let go the one support which our intellect knows, --argument and logical proof. As the intuition becomes more widely recognized as a legitimate path to knowledge, the uncertainty which at present accompanies its occasional visitations will disappear; a new organ or function will ever be uncertain in its initial workings. It may reassure us, however, to realize that the greatest teachers of all times have ever presented their conclusions on their inner worth as intuitions; we do not find a Christ or Buddha proving conclusively that what he says is right, or reasoning out logically his doctrines. They can disdain to use such make-belief of proof and yet they spoke as no man ever spoke, and the hundreds of millions who have followed them have found sufficient conviction in their words through the very spirit of truth and spoke through them. It is only when that spirit is absent that proof and logical reasoning must fill the gap and disguise the emptiness within.
Yet we should ever recognize the value of logical reasoning and intellectual proof as a technique of communicating to our fellow-men that which we know within. It enriches the doctrine we bring forward and links it up to all that is familiar and known to us, when it is presented, not as a naked fact, in the domain of science this will ever be the appropriate way of presenting a doctrine or truth, since there the experiment which corroborates the assertion constitutes the proof; in philosophy such experimental proof is but rarely, if ever, possible.
SCIENCE AND PHILOSOPHY
It is essential that we should understand the respective domains of science
and philosophy. Science investigates the world as it appears in our world-image
and is not especially concerned with the relation of that world-image to
some ultimate reality or the way it is produced in our consciousness. Thus
science does not deal with the world of the Real so much as with the appearances
or phenomena in our consciousness. It is satisfied to accept this world-image
of ours as an independent reality and to forget or even to deny its
vital relation to our consciousness. The result is that science to a large
extent is still subject to the limitations of our world-image and shares
in its illusion. It does not deal with things as they are so much as with
things as they appear; its laws are the shadows of living truth.
We must not make the mistake of confusing the domains of science and philosophy, however much they are mutually illuminating and supply one another deficiencies. Philosophy deals with the ultimate principles and realities which are the eternal foundation of our world, science deals with the multitude of phenomena in which these principles appear to us; philosophy deals with the why, science with the how; philosophy searches for the ultimate nature of being, science is concerned with the functions and workings of this world of forms surrounding us. If science deals with the form-side which our world-image presents, philosophy deals with the life-side to be approached in and through our own consciousness. Introspection is as much the method of the philosopher as observation of outer phenomena is that of the scientist. Thus the two, dealing respectively with phenomena or appearances without and with the realities or final principles within, are supplementary and equally necessary to a full understanding of the world.
It is only a childish intolerance which, on the one hand, would make the scientist disdain philosophy as vain speculation, or on the other hand cause the philosopher to look down upon the work of the scientist as dealing merely with the unreal. For the knowledge of ultimate reality the scientist will ever have to run to the philosopher as much as the philosopher will have to apply to the scientist for information and knowledge concerning the manifold details of the world of appearances and the way in which things work. Thus we need philosophy for the ultimate answers; science for detailed knowledge and control of natural forces; and it would be equally wrong to ask of philosophy the exact temperature under which at certain pressure water boils as it would be to ask science the meaning of evil or the relation of this world to its ultimate Cause. Philosophy again is as powerless to produce a motor-car or a telescope as science is when asked the purpose of life, the relation of time and the eternal, or the measure of freedom of the human will. Mutual contempt of philosophy and science is as harmful as it is unfounded, but we must ever be on our guard against asking of one a question belonging to the domain of the other. A scientific answer to a philosophical question will necessarily be unsatisfactory and beside the point, just as a philosophical solution to a scientific question would be empty of meaning and scientifically valueless. We honour both best by understanding their respective spheres of knowledge and by co-ordinating them to their greatest benefit, never by confusing their respective tasks.
In mediaeval times science and philosophy were one in a confusion detrimental to the development of both; since the time of Bacon science and philosophy diverged more and more until in the nineteenth century they seemed mutually exclusive; now, in the twentieth century they are to be co-ordinated, no longer confused as in the Middle Ages, but seen in a unity in which each has its own task and function, well defined and distinguished from that of the other.
OCCULTISM AND MYSTICISM
It is interesting to see how the essential difference and mutually supplementary
character of philosophy and science are evident also in their respective
extensions into mysticism and occultism. It is in modern Theosophy that we
find the clearest presentation of these two, especially of the latter-occultism.
The claim of occultism is that this physical world is not the only world which can be investigated scientifically; it teaches that there are worlds of subtler matter which can be explored scientifically by those who have developed the faculties of perception in those worlds, what we might call the occult senses, such as clairvoyance at different levels, clairaudience and other similar faculties.
There is nothing improbable or impossible in an extension of sense-perception beyond the limits of our normal five senses. It is common knowledge that even within the range of the usual senses there are appreciable differences with regard to the limits of perception; some will hear a more rapid vibration of the air as sound, or see a more rapid vibration of the ether as light than others. And apart from the greater sensitiveness in ordinary perception there is the evidence of so-called transposition of the ordinary sense-functions to almost any part of the body. Thus Richet tells in his work Thirty Years of Psychical Research (p. 186 ff.) of the case of a person who, in a state of hypnosis, had the faculty of sight temporarily localized in the finger-tips, so that she could read a page of print with the hands instead of with the eyes. This and similar experiments point to the possibility of sense-perception without the use of the ordinary five senses, and to the existence of a sixth sense not dependent upon the physical sense-organs.
We ourselves, in ordinary life cannot fail to come across instances, where a knowledge of events is obtained when there is not sense-evidence whatsoever to provide it. The knowledge of the illness or death of a friend far away, of an accident or catastrophe taking place at a distance, or even of an event to take place in the future, is thus obtained by means of an inner sense which transcends the five physical senses. Finally there is the evidence of those who claim to have developed consciously senses not normally developed in man, but presumably capable of development by those who follow the necessary training.
Only with a more widespread development of occult faculties can occultism become science, the science of worlds of matter subtler than the physical. Meanwhile we must classify whatever is produced along line of occult investigation as belonging to the domain of science rather than to that of philosophy. Like science occultism is the investigation of an outside world or of outside worlds in their multiplicity of forms and colours, presented in dimensions of time and space. As such it is the observation and investigation of a world-image; as ordinary science explores the physical world-image so does occultism attempt to explore an etheric, astral or mental world-image. It, therefore, has the same possibilities and limitations which science has, it leads to knowledge of the how not of the why of things, it leads to knowledge and control of the outer worlds, not to knowledge of ultimate principles.
Occultism, as little as science, has an answer to give to ultimate questions; it may show us the working and functioning of things-the how-somewhat further than ordinary science can, it may show the way things appear in a world-image beyond the merely physical world-image, but essentially it is not the task of either science or occultism to answer final questions. To expect such things of them is to misunderstand their mission and their possibility; we do not expect an electric lamp to produce music or a piano to give light. Each has its own power and value and it would be ignorance on our part and not unsufficiency on theirs if we expect the wrong thing from them and they fail to supply it.
It is important to understand this, especially where in modern theosophy the claim is so often made for occultism that it offers a philosophy and answers the problems of life. It does not offer a philosophy of life any more than science does, and if we expect occultism to answer fundamental problems we misunderstand its function. Occultism offers an extension of science into subtler worlds, mainly the world of emotions and the world of thought, but is investigations are investigations of a world-image, not experience of reality.
This does not in any way belittle the scope of occultism, it merely corrects a misunderstanding which lead us to absurdity. We shall, in later chapters, have occasion to point out various instances where the interesting and valuable products of occult investigation are mistaken for philosophical truths and presented as answering ultimate questions. This confusion is detrimental to the development of occultism, since, thus, claims are made on its behalf which it can never fulfil. Occultism has no more an answer for such problems as the nature of evil, the freedom of the will, the justice of life or the relation of consciousness to matter, than science. If we would pursue these metaphysical questions we must follow a different line.
Just as in modern theosophy we find occultism or psychism presented as an extension of science so do we find a philosophical mysticism presented as an extension of philosophy. The fundamental doctrine of theosophy, that of the unity of all life, belongs to this domain of philosophical mysticism; no clairvoyant investigation at whatsoever level can ever observe the unity of life.
In its philosophical mysticism theosophy transcends intellectual speculation and leads to the experience of reality. In this it shows its kinship with Neo-Platonic mysticism; Plotinus too proclaimed that it is possible for philosophy to be more than an intellectual structure, that it is possible to experience as inner realities those things which ordinary philosophy would present as intellectual beliefs. Thus he says, (Ennead VI., 9,4.).
Plato says of Unity that it is unspeakable and indescribable. Nevertheless we speak of it, we write about it, but only to excite our souls by our discussions, and to direct them towards this divine spectacle, just as one might point out the road to somebody who desired to see some object. Instruction, indeed, goes as far as showing the road, and guiding us in the way; but to obtain the vision of the Divinity is the work suitable to him who desires to obtain it.
Intellectual philosophy may come to the conclusion that there is a world
of reality of which our everyday world is but the image produced in our
consciousness; philosophical mysticism goes one step further and claims
that it is possible for man to enter the world of reality and experience
living truth. Again, not content with recognizing, as some philosophies
do, that in our normal consciousness we are subject to illusion, philosophical
mysticism claims the power for man to conquer this illusion and establish
himself in Reality. Thus, where philosophy believes, philosophical mysticism
experiences, it transcends belief in being.
In this way philosophical mysticism is as legitimate an extension of ordinary philosophy as occultism or psychism is of ordinary science. It is interesting to see how the evolutionary tendencies of modern philosophy are towards this philosophical mysticism, even though it may not be mentioned by that name. The recognition of the intuition in Bergson’s philosophy as a method of knowledge beyond the intellect; the impatience with intellectual systems of philosophy into which life is expected to fit and the attempt at a philosophy which is creative, vital and based on experience, such as we find in the work of Count Keyserling; the interest of many philosophers in the new mathematics, so evident in Bertrand Russell’s work; and finally, a definitely mystical philosophy like that of Ouspensky in his Tertium Organum, all these are signs of the gradual evolution from a merely intellectual philosophy into a philosophy of intuition and experience.
In modern theosophy it is through its aspect as philosophical mysticism that we must approach ultimate questions. The doctrine of theosophy with regard to the illusion or maya of the phenomenal worlds, its teaching that the goal of life is the attaining of ultimate reality which can be reached by a process of inner realization, above all its doctrine of the unity of life and of universal brotherhood, all these belong to theosophy as philosophical mysticism. As such it truly offers a philosophy of life; as such it lead to the experience of the mystery of life, as such it may help us with regard to problems such as that of the ultimate justice of life, the origin of evil and suffering, or the relation of life to form or of soul to body. But as such it does not and cannot ever answer questions with regard to the detailed forms of our world-image, whether physical, emotional or metal; this detailed knowledge, as well as the knowledge of the way in which things work, belongs to science and its extension-occultism.
In theosophical literature there is as yet no clear understanding of and discrimination between these two aspects of its teaching-the occult-scientific and the mystic-philosophical, and consequently we often meet with philosophical heresies on the one hand, where the results of occult investigation are produced as the answers to philosophical questions, and scientific heresies on the other hand, where questions which can only be answered by a precise and scientific occultism are answered by philosophical or mystical statements. The result is that the true values of theosophy are obscured both in the eyes of the scientist and of the philosopher, and that the progress of theosophical investigation is impeded.
It is curious to see how through history the scientific and the philosophical type and also the mystic and the occultist have misunderstood and even opposed one another. The age-long struggle between religion and science is rooted in their misunderstanding, a misunderstanding accentuated when religion becomes a dogmatic orthodoxy and science an equally dogmatic materialism, such as they were a century ago. In principle we find the antithesis of the two types already in the disapproval on the part of Plotinus, the philosophical mystic, of the writings of the Gnostics, whose tendencies were definitely in the direction of occultism. In more recent times we find a similar, though more open, warfare between the philosophical mysticism of the Cambridge Platonists of the seventeenth century and the occultism of the Rosicrucians and Alchemists of that period. When we study the series of polemical pamphlets interchanged between Henry More, the Platonist, and Thomas Vaughan, known as Eugenius Philalethes, the famous Rosicrucian, we are struck not only by the misunderstanding of each other’s methods and contributions to knowledge, but by the ill concealed bitterness and the mutual contempt which even the titles of their pamphlets manifest. Yet both were men of understanding nobility of character and erudition and, seeing the extent of their antagonism, we can well imagine what would happen in the case of lesser representatives on both side.
We must learn to see the two-philosophy and science-as well as their extensions, mysticism and occultism, co-ordinated in a higher unity without confusing their characteristic methods and aims. The methods of science and occultism will ever be accurate observation by means of our senses and the intellectual elaboration of these sense-data; the method of philosophy and of philosophical mysticism will ever be that of the intuition or realization in consciousness. And it is that method of realization which we shall have to use in our exploration of the world of the Real.
Contentspage of The Conquest of Illusion