The Occult Student
Hints and tips for the sincere seeker after Truth on the path to the Light
When we began this website more than seven years ago it consisted of our occult studies course, a few book reviews, one page of inspirational quotations and another of external links. Not much is it? Yet it is upon this modest foundation that we have continued to build our edifice of occult knowledge and truth, brick by brick, culminating in our present website comprising well over 170 articles, short stories and several complete occult and philosophical books.
Our work may also be regarded as the trunk of a tree, and our many articles the branches which stretch out from it in all directions, ever tending upwards to the Sun of Wisdom which was, and remains, the guiding Star of our labours on behalf of all sincere seekers after Truth. We could not have done any of this if we did not have a clear plan in our minds from the outset. So in this article we are once again extending the branches of our tree to tell you more about the occult student and occult studies. In our customary afterword we discuss one short quotation about the Path to the Light to uncover the hidden meanings it contains.
Occultism and the occult student
What is an occult student? The obvious answer is someone who studies and may or may not practise Occultism. But what is Occultism? The dictionary tells us it is "belief in or study of the action or influence of supernatural or supernormal powers." The Encyclopædia Britannica defines it as "various theories and practices involving a belief in and knowledge or use of supernatural forces or beings." There is not much wrong with either of these definitions though we would question the use of the word 'supernatural' in this context which, at least in the popular mind, implies something beyond or above the Laws of Nature. Whilst it is true that Occultism deals with forces and conditions as yet unknown to material science this does not mean that they defy the Laws of Nature. Unknown does not mean unnatural, much less supernatural. For this reason we prefer the word 'supernormal', for something can be natural without being normal in the sense of the ordinary or commonplace.
What about the 'occult'? Is this the same as Occultism? It may be. The word, as we point out on our homepage, simply means hidden; something which is not generally known. Doctors call blood that cannot be seen by the naked eye 'occult'. Astronomers say a planet or star is 'occulted' when it is hidden from view by another body passing in front of it. It is ironic that witchcraft and black magic—which are what most people associate with the word 'occult'—are now out in the open! Indeed, thanks to the many movies, videos, books and websites that deal with spells, rituals, witches, wizards, werewolves, vampires and demons, the average person, and even more so—the 'edgy', troubled teenager—knows far more about these subjects than their parents and grandparents did. This begs the question of whether they should be considered 'occult' at all. Semantics aside, the point we wish to make is that Occultism—and to some extent the 'occult'—is simply the study of that which is not generally known. This at once brings such subjects as metaphysics, esoteric philosophy, and even astrology and theology within its compass when they deal with matters which may be regarded as more or less unknown or supernormal.
We discuss what the 'occult' is and isn't in our Occult Faq, so will not repeat ourselves here, except to emphasise the point made earlier that the popular conception which associates the word with all that is evil is entirely wrong. Let us repeat: Occultism is the study of that which is hidden or unknown. To make this even clearer it should be obvious to all thinking occult students that any particular fact, property, law, quality or force must fall into one of three categories, and three categories only.
- Known to both occultists and scientists. The circulation of blood in the human body is an example of this.
- Now only known to occultists, but of such a nature that it may be understood later on by science. Telepathy and psychometry are examples of this.
- Known only to occultists, because it is of such a nature that it cannot be discovered by any of the present methods of science. The existence of the Spiritual Life Force in all living things is an example of this.
So we have now answered the question we posed earlier. An occult student is someone who studies the hidden laws and forces of Nature. He or she may also employ the knowledge acquired to produce supernormal—but not supernatural—phenomena, and then we are in the realm of practical Magic. But Magic again is simply the employment of the hidden laws and forces of Nature. There is nothing remotely 'supernatural' about such practises as hypnosis and suggestion, though the laws behind it and the forces it employs remain largely unknown. The same applies to natural healing, clairvoyance, clairaudience, divination, and a host of other supernormal powers which are relegated to the realm of make-believe and superstition by those who know no better.
So much for the occult student, what of study? We, and several of our contributors, have discussed this at length in many previous articles (see full list at the bottom of the sidebar). Consequently, we will confine ourselves to emphasising the most important points. It should be obvious to all that nothing worthwhile can be achieved in life without effort. Yet many students seem to think this doesn't apply to occult study! One might as well expect to master the intricacies of particle physics in between TV breaks! Of all the excuses we've heard for avoiding serious study over the years, not enough time is by far the most common. If we drop our studies whenever work or relationships become difficult, hoping to pick them up again when we have "more time" and "things get easier," we will invariably find that things don't get easier and that there is never enough time. This constitutes a self-fulfilling prophecy which will always come true!
Let us speak plainly. There are only 24 hours in every day. No one gets one second more or less than anyone else. It is the use we make of these seconds that counts. We can choose to devote time to occult study, meditation and spiritual matters, or we can spend it playing with our mobile phone, down the pub or working our selves to death. The choice is ours. Earthly life is one long series of tests and trials, ups and downs, and no one can escape them. Poor health, financial losses and relationship problems affect us all. The wise learn from these difficulties and make time work for them.
Most of us have heard the saying "a busy man has time for everything," but few stop to think what this means. At first glance it seems like a contradiction. How can a busy man possibly take on any extra responsibilities? The answer, as usual, is simple, and therefore not obvious. There are many ways in which a busy man makes time work for him, but foremost among them are delegation, concentration and prioritisation. We can delegate any work to others we don't have to do ourselves. We can concentrate fully on each task, calmly ignoring all distractions. We can decide which things must be done now, which need not, and calmly complete each task before moving on to the next. The opposite to this method is doing a bit here and a bit there and never fully completing anything, whilst rushing around like the proverbial headless chicken and complaining to all and sundry of 'not having enough time'!
The student who learns the art of delegation, concentration and prioritisation will find that 'time' magically expands to allow him to conduct all his activities in an efficient, calm and masterly manner. The foolish, the inept and the lazy will waste every minute of every hour and sink under their own self-imposed burdens. If we wished to be unkind (which we hope we can never be accused of by our readers), then we might add that the excuse of 'not enough time' really means that we place a lower value on the particular thing, task or person we say we do not have enough time for!
As we have stated in many of our articles, Occultism is a practical science, by means of which we not only learn the fundamental laws and truths of the Universe, but employ them to improve our own life and that of others. We cannot do this merely by reading books, much less watching videos or listening to podcasts by some armchair occultist. We need to develop the powers now regarded as 'supernatural' which are latent in us all. The popular fads of 'Mindfulness', 'Positive Affirmation' and the 'Law of Attraction' employ these powers mostly unconsciously and accidentally whereas the practical occultist employs them consciously and deliberately. Despite these developments in what we might call 'consciousness training' we in the West still have much to learn about both the use and the study of the mind from the East, where meditation has been practised in a disciplined and structured way for thousands of years.
Rembrandt van Rijn — Philosopher in Meditation — oil on canvas, 1632
Meditation and Contemplation
At some point in their occult studies every student will come up against a mental barrier to further progress. A kind of impenetrable fog descends; what previously made perfect sense now gives way to confusion, frustration and incomprehension. Many stumble at this point and either give up their studies altogether or find a simpler path, sadly often one that leads away from the Light into twilight or even the darkness. Those who are made of sterner stuff will reach the realisation that the fault lies in them, not in their studies. The absolute necessity of pondering deeply on one thing at a time before moving on to the next will dawn upon them. The tool to facilitate this vital mental exercise is—you've guessed it—Meditation! We discussed this important subject in the penultimate article in our Occult Studies Course when we suggested a safe meditation exercise. If you have not read it we suggest you do so if you wish to reap the greatest possible benefit from this article.
Together with the realisation of our shortcomings will come understanding of the truth that "of the making of many books there is no end," as we read in Ecclesiastes 12:12. We quote this verse at the very beginning of our Occult Books section but have never received a single comment or question about it. Does that mean our readers understand what is meant? We'd like to think so! On the other hand, every day we receive emails from readers who are studying dozens of books simultaneously. Others recommend links to online sources with thousands of occult books available for download. No wonder so many occult students suffer from mental indigestion! We long ago stopped counting how many occult books—not reprints of old ones, but new works—were published each year, but it runs into many thousands.
It is for this reason that the student should aim to know internally, as part of himself, a few of those books which stand out as flaming torches of wisdom in a sea of muddy mediocrity and tedious repetition. Less is definitely more in this case! After having carefully read them with one's full attention, the student should strive to get that inner understanding which can only be achieved by meditation and contemplation. We would point out that these two words are not synonymous, though often treated as such. Meditation is seeking; contemplation is SEEING. What do we mean by that? Do we mean 'seeing' with our physical eyes or with our mind's eye, or both? No, we mean neither of these things. Let us explain. Meditation—at least in the early stages and for the beginner—is to a large extent an intellectual exercise. And intellect, as we discuss in our occult studies course, is primarily a function of the lower self or mind.
As our ability to meditate grows so intellect gradually gives way to intuition, which is a function of the Higher Self or mind. The main difference between intellect and intuition is this: intellectual knowledge is the fruit of analysis based on so-called 'logical' deduction and speculation; intuitional knowledge reaches us in a sudden flash of instant illumination. Some refer to this as a 'light-bulb' moment. Intuition neither needs nor requires rational 'proof' to support or justify its conclusions. It does not deal in doubts or queries or indulge in debunking or debating. When the voice of intuition speaks reason totters on its throne and falls. . . .silent. It is a voice of sweetness and peace whose coming fills the mind with Light and expands the heart with joy no words can describe. When that happens we behold the naked truth, unadorned and pure. This is SEEING; this is Contemplation.
Having now defined what meditation and contemplation are and the difference between them, the student should now be in a better position to succeed. It goes without saying that meditation must be preceded by complete relaxation of mind and body, only then can we hope to gain anything from our efforts. It is best to begin with a simple shape, such as visualising, say, a yellow triangle, or a blue circle, or a single raindrop, or a letter of the alphabet. Those who are not able to visualise well and are more susceptible to sound can think of a single note sustained by a piano, organ or violin, the wind sighing in a tree; falling rain. Those with a developed sense of smell may try to recall a particular scent, such as a freshly cut orange, a rose, hyacinth or other familiar flower. Others again—though this is not so simple—might choose a single word such as Love or Peace as a useful starting point for meditation. The important thing—the vital first step if you like—is to acquire the technique. From that point of view it doesn't matter what you choose to meditate on so long as you fix your whole attention upon it.
When the mind is fixed on a single idea or object steadfastly by the will, all the ripples of the mind will be reduced to a single ripple by the mere fact and effort of the concentration. The exclusion of all other thoughts and ideas will induce that Inner Stillness without which success is impossible. Once that has been achieved the mind will identify itself with and become the chosen symbol, and ideas connected with it will begin to flow into the consciousness. Some students may see related pictures—visual representations of the symbol if a letter or word was chosen. Others, having chosen a shape, may receive thoughts connected with it that explain or amplify its meaning.
At first there will be a sort of groping in the dark; a feeling of being held back by the senses. This is where a powerful will is needed to keep out all intruders, whether thoughts, or messages from the world via the senses, and to reduce all thought and feeling to the subject of the meditation. But it must be exercised peacefully and calmly. It is no good clenching one's teeth and mentally shouting "I will block out all thoughts—all distractions." This is not relaxation. It is stress and strain and will lead to frustration and failure. But if the student remains relaxed in mind and body, sooner or later a vague sensibility will arise, followed by its formulation as a definite idea, something new, but definitely pertaining to the symbol, explaining and identifying it; then perhaps an idea expressible in words. All these stages are analogous to an intellectual process; indeed, the exercise brings ideas not already present into our waking consciousness.
Once a measure of success has been achieved in this way, the student should find little difficulty in repeating the method with another symbol. But having once begun with a symbol, stick to it resolutely for that session to the exclusion of all else. Do not change it, nor be drawn off into sidetracks; this is important! With regular and consistent practice the student will learn how to extract the full meaning from any symbol. You may well ask at this point how long all this takes. We are tempted to ask you "how long is a piece of string?" It all depends on your innate abilities and effort! But six months is not too long a time in which to acquire the basic technique.
Here we must sound a note of caution. Until the student is quite certain that he can meditate on any symbol, object or subject he might choose whilst successfully excluding all distractions, sticking to one only might become a habit which ties him to it, without which he could do little. So after the method we have described has been well and truly established, the student may with great advantage combine symbols, such as a triangle and a square (with the former set above the latter), or a triangle inside a circle, or two interlaced triangles forming a six-pointed star.
Hint and tips
As promised, we will now conclude this article with a few hints and tips, as well as 'do's' and 'don'ts'. Whether the student works entirely on their own or within the curriculum of an established occult order, group or school, the qualities and qualifications needed to progress upon the path are the same. Success depends on a wide variety of many different factors, some of which we discussed in the afterword to the final article in our series of Astral Conversations. If you have not read it now is the time to do so if you wish to benefit fully from these concluding remarks. Even if you have read it we still suggest you revisit it to refresh your mind on what makes a good or bad occult student.
Apart from determination, patience and courage—which we discuss in several of our articles and stories—there are a number of qualities which we would consider to be absolutely essential. At the top of the list we would put Compassion, for as we may read in the Bible, "And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing." (1 Corinthians 13:2). The dictionary tells us that Charity is: "benevolent goodwill toward or love of humanity." What is this if not compassion? In Goethe's Faust, the eponymous scholar refutes the allegation of pride hurled against him with the moving words: "Why have I sought my path with fervent care if not in hope to bring my brothers there?" The compassionate student is tolerant of the faults and weaknesses of others precisely because he recognises them in himself. He does not condemn, much less judge, knowing that at some point in the past he has been just as ignorant, foolish, dogmatic, bigoted or fanatical. On the contrary, the compassionate student looks only for the good in others, seeking to draw it out with kind words and deeds and ignores the bad. But he does so without subscribing to the modern fallacy that the criminal is not responsible for his offences because his upbringing, or illness, or some other vapid excuse made him the way he is. This is mawkish sentimentality not wise compassion. Another vital skill the student needs to succeed is the ability to concentrate. We will now give you a simple exercise which, with minor modifications, anyone may practise almost anywhere at any time. It is taken from The Quest of Ruru by J Michaud PhD, in which we may read:
One day his Master gave Ruru a great Test, and, placing in his hands a cup filled to the brim with water, he ordered him to go to the lotus pool, walk ten times round it without spilling a single drop, and return to the hermitage. He also told Ruru that if he failed: then his stay with Narāda would end, for the failure would prove that Ruru lacked the necessary concentration for the higher Occult Studies and Initiations. Aghast at the difficulty of the task, and terrified lest he should fail, Ruru commenced the Test, and, focusing all his will-power on the trial, compelling his hands and feet to obey him to the end, he completed the circuit successfully. When he returned to his Master after a long time, without a single drop being spilt, Narāda asked him: "Did you notice how lovely the lotuses looked in the pool today as you walked around it?"
"Nay, Master, indeed I did not, for I was too intent on avoiding the spilling of a drop of water, lest you should dismiss me."
Narāda replied: "Because your whole attention was fixed upon your task, it was impossible for you to notice aught else. In the same manner you must in future practice the concentration and other exercises I will give you; for unless you turn your mind away from all outward contemplation you cannot have any intuition of Truth. Once you have learnt to do this, your intuition can never again be entangled in the web of illusion; and the worlds of Actuality will be open to you for ever. This is my first lesson for leading you to the Path of Salvation."
The minor modifications we mentioned earlier are using a glass for the water and substituting your back yard or garden for the lotus pool. Our third tip is physical and mental cleanliness. There is more in the old adage that 'cleanliness is next to godliness' than most people realise. Devout Muslims, as many of you may know, practise ritual purification before prayer, as do orthodox Jews and the adherents of many other faiths. The student who does not keep him or herself clean without is in danger of becoming dirty within. We would like to tell you a short story in connection with this.
There was once a small boy who was dressed in his Sunday best by his mother, because she wanted to take him to visit a relative. As it was a fine day, the lad waited by the garden gate while his mother got herself ready. As he stood there, along came a ragged urchin who beheld the boy in all his finery and scornfully called him a sissy. Of course, the lad was not going to stand for that, so he opened the gate, rushed out, and punched the urchin on the nose. The urchin retaliated and in a very short time, the boy had his nice suit torn, his face blackened and there was a hole in his trousers at the knee which was bleeding profusely, causing still further havoc to his appearance.
Then the urchin ran away, and as the boy stood there, still sobbing with rage, along came an ice-cream van. The boy, forgetting the mess he was in, went indoors to ask his mother for money to buy some ice-cream. She gave him one look, and said; "Just look at you! You're in no condition to ask for anything; go away and don't come near me until you're clean and respectable again!" Long afterwards that little boy realised the great lesson his Mother had taught him. When we ask God for help we should first take a good, hard look at ourselves, for we may not be in a condition to ask Him for anything. Let us first cleanse ourselves inwardly from our own faults, and come to our Lord in a clean condition, for to approach Him in any other way shows lack of respect at best, which will be noted!
Our fourth tip is to get into the habit of regular introspection and self-examination. This will cause all mental and bodily pains to cease, for you will dwell in Light and Life when you have thoroughly examined all your faults and weaknesses and conquered them. This leads naturally to our fifth hint: arranging your thoughts and desires methodically, so that the light of Truth may illuminate them. This brings freedom, and with freedom comes happiness and contentment. Our final suggestion concerns the meditation method discussed earlier. When meditating upon a subject, trace it right back to its first source and cause, and bring it into relation with all other things. One thought will lead to another until the complete picture stands before you. This brings complete knowledge and this knowledge will be complete in itself. Now a few 'do's' and 'don'ts' as promised.
Raphael — Detail from Scuola di Atene (School of Athens) — fresco in the Vatican, 1509-1511
Do's and Don'ts
DO dwell constantly on Peace, Beauty, Love and Truth; that is, on all elevating and positive things. If you can do this the negative conditions which depress and sadden all of us from time to time will wither and die for lack of nourishment.
DO LAUGH at life and especially at yourself. Laughter is the best tonic we know for invigorating both mind and body. Within the Higher Realms laughter reigns supreme and makes heavenly music, bestrewing yet brighter light all around, as you can read in Vision 6 of The Golden Star by J Michaud PhD.
DO make all your friends feel that there is something good in them and encourage them to let it out.
DO forget the sorrows and mistakes of the past. Always look towards the future when you will reach your heavenly Home and have done with the illusions of earth for ever.
DO HAVE FAITH in God that all that happens to you is for your ultimate good. If you do this sorrows and disappointments will lose much of their power over you.
And now a few 'don'ts'.
DON'T DOUBT. The occult student must never doubt. Doubt is a negative condition that will obstruct the way to liberation and prevent the entry of truth.
DON'T BE JEALOUS. The jealous person becomes a prisoner of their lack of goodwill and understanding. Lacking confidence in their own ability to achieve the same success or wealth as those they envy they unwittingly draw even greater misfortune and failure towards themselves.
DON'T BE ANGRY. If you are angered by someone or something, suspect yourself first. For what we see in others is usually a reflection of what is in us.
DON'T HATE. Those who give way to hatred will lose all Peace and Happiness. When they have lost these blessings they will thirst in vain for Love. Without Love they will slowly die inside for want of the rays of that kindly Sun of Goodwill that should shine from the hearts of all men and women.
One final tip. The most important attribute the occult student should seek to acquire is Wisdom. For as we may read in The Quest of Ruru, "Wisdom is always the best friend in every exigency; more even than valour, for this slays itself in the end." As Wisdom is the greatest virtue, so is ignorance the worst vice which can only be overcome by Wisdom.
© Copyright occult-mysteries.org. Article published 28 October 2019.