The path to the Light
In this, the first article in our occult studies course we will discuss the path to the Light, sometimes called 'the way to Truth', or simply the 'way', in order to discover what it is and what it is not.
You can find full details about our occult studies course by clicking the link above.
At the end of the course you will have the opportunity to take a short test to measure your understanding of the subjects discussed. Should you wish to take this test we will email the correct answers back to you so that you will have a résumé of the complete course and a useful reference of everything you have learned.
We begin this course with the sublime words of J Michaud PhD—to whom we are greatly indebted for the teachings we shall put before you. Please read them carefully, for they sum up in one simple sentence what the path to the Light is and where it leads.
The glowing ardour of God's Love
Lights up the shining Rose upon the Cross
Of Man:—if he will hear the Message from
the Christ within.
Is 'the path to the Light' a philosophy? A religion? A way of life? Or is it gaining enlightenment, illumination, or finding and knowing God? It is all these and much more as we hope to show. We may put it another way by saying that there are two ways open to every one of us; one leading to the Light of Knowledge and Truth and the other to the darkness of Ignorance and illusion. You may say there is a third way, leading neither entirely to Light nor darkness, but a sort of dreary twilight. But we would hesitate to call this a path, for it implies that it has a destination and the only one we can think of is nowhere! What we can say is that many millions do drift along in just this manner as you will know only too well.
These two paths, one leading to the Light of Truth and the other to the darkness of ignorance, were well-known to the anonymous writers of the Dead Sea Scrolls, two thousand years ago, for in them we may read:
"God has appointed for man two spirits: the spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood. The spirit of truth springs from a fountain of light, but that born of falsehood springs from a source of darkness."
Two ways and two spirits
Here we have a concealed reference to the Higher and lower selves, which together with the true or Divine Soul, make up the triple constitution of man, as we describe it the column on your right. One self born of Light and Wisdom and the other born of darkness and ignorance. In this division we can find an explanation of the problem of good and evil. It also explains why a man or woman can present many different sides to their character at different times and under different circumstances, leading the observer to conclude they are dealing with two entirely different personalities. When people say a person 'is in two minds', or 'he is not in his right mind' they unconsciously echo this truth. Many inspired Poets have intuitively sensed these two selves in themselves and others. Shakespeare refers to them in a concealed manner when he writes:
"Two loves I have of comfort and despair,
Which like two spirits do suggest me still;
The better angel is a man right fair,
The worser spirit a woman colour'd ill.
To win me soon to hell, my female evil
Tempteth my better angel from my side,
And would corrupt my saint to be a devil,
Wooing his purity with her foul pride.
And whether that my angel be turn'd fiend
Suspect I may, but not directly tell;
But being both from me, both to each friend,
I guess one angel in another's hell:
Yet this shall I ne'er know, but live in doubt,
Till my bad angel fire my good one out."
This enigmatic Sonnet is well worth studying very deeply. Note especially the reference to the foul pride of the lower self. And how this 'woos' the purity of the Higher Self from the path to the Light. This 'wooing' can take many forms and is often so subtle we do not realise we have been led astray by the promptings of our lower self until it is too late. Pride has been called the 'Peer and President of Hell'. This is true. Do we not all know men and women who are filled with pride on account of their appearance, social status, cleverness, wealth, or the 'power' they think they wield over others? Such do not realise that the things they are so proud of will all be taken away from them by death. This must be clear to all seekers who acknowledge that Man is a spiritual being incarnated in a body for the purpose of evolution to a higher state. Note too what the Poet says further about 'one angel in another's hell' which he may not 'directly tell'.
Depending upon which of these two selves has the upper hand, so shall we gravitate to the Light, or to the darkness; the choice is always ours. Thus do all humans enter incarnation on this earth: partly sanctified by the Higher Self, partly cursed by the instincts of the lower self, as we may read in The Quest of Ruru by J Michaud PhD. The virtues of our 'better angel' or Higher Self are described very clearly in the 'community rule' of the Dead Sea Scrolls we quoted from earlier:
"a spirit of humility, patience, abundant charity, unending goodness, understanding, and intelligence; which trusts in God and . . . (possesses) an understanding of all things."
The lower self is its opposite in every way, for as we may read in the next verse of the same book, its ways are:
"greed, and slackness in the search for righteousness, wickedness and lies, haughtiness and pride, falseness and deceit, cruelty and abundant evil, ill-temper and much folly and brazen insolence . . . blindness of eye and dullness of ear."
Note once more the reference to pride! The truly good man or woman is ever humble, for they know that whatever virtues they possess are the gift of God. But there are other vices mentioned in the above quotation which are just as bad, or worse than pride. Such are 'blindness of eye' and 'dullness of ear', for these prevent us from catching even the slightest glimmer of Truth. There are very many such afflicted seekers as we discuss in our article on losing your way.
We hope that we have now answered the question we posed at the beginning; namely, what is the path to the Light? It is the path we walk when we turn our face to Heaven and beseech God to enlighten us with His Love and Wisdom. To tread that path requires compassion, patience and love; and a willingness to share even our last crust with those who are in a still worse condition, or seem to be. Sophistry, distrust, suspicion, intellectual cleverness and other worldly 'wisdom' are useless to the seeker who invokes the tolerance of the higher powers, who are only too well aware of his own many failings, but regard them with indulgence; knowing how weak the human Mind is, and how easily it is led astray. As long as we remain selfish, unfriendly, doubting, and are unwilling to give and lose freely without afterthought, we cannot make any spiritual progress; for we judge others whilst we ourselves are full of blemishes.
H. P. Blavatsky describes the path to the Light most truly and eloquently when she says:
"There is a road, steep and thorny, beset with perils of every kind, but yet a road, and it leads to the very heart of the Universe. I can tell you how to find those who will show you the secret gateway that opens inward only, and closes fast behind the neophyte for evermore. There is no danger that dauntless courage cannot conquer; there is no trial that spotless purity cannot pass through; there is no difficulty that strong intellect cannot surmount. For those who win onwards there is reward past all telling—the power to bless and save humanity; for those who fail, there are other lives in which success may come."
You can read our analysis of the hidden meanings concealed in this important teaching about the Path in the afterword to our article about The Occult Student.
Becoming aware of your Higher Self
In H. P. Blavatsky's The Voice of the Silence (reviewed on our Books page) we may read: "the mind is the great slayer of the REAL." Like so many occult sayings, this has more than one meaning. As we have discovered earlier, "God has appointed for man two spirits"—the lower and Higher Self in our terminology (see right). Consequently, we can interpret this verse as referring to either the lower or the Higher Self. The lower self 'slays' the REAL by convincing us that all that we experience by means of our physical senses and intellect is the only 'reality' we can ever know. It is only by such means as constant study, meditation, intuition and spiritual exaltation that we become aware of our Higher Self. Only then can we begin to perceive the grand Spiritual Truths of Life and by means of them learn to 'slay' the illusory 'reality' of this world. Each 'mind' or 'self' is thus the 'slayer' of the other. The lower self (or mind) slays Truth; the Higher self (or mind), slays illusion. Blavatsky describes the beginning of this awareness in the same book when she writes:
When to himself his form appears unreal, as do on waking all the forms he sees in dreams;
When he has ceased to hear the many, he may discern the ONE—the inner sound which kills the outer.
Then only, not till then, shall he forsake the region of the false, to come unto the realm of the true.
Before the soul (Higher Self in our terminology) can see, the Harmony within must be attained, and fleshly eyes be rendered blind to all illusion.
The nature of Illusion
What does Blavatsky mean by 'illusion'? Does she mean that the material world as we experience and realise it is not there? Or that it is not 'real'—as almost every 'occult' teacher and teachings state with the greatest gusto, without explaining what they may mean by the words 'real', 'reality', etc. No, she and we mean neither of these things. The material world is very 'real' indeed as anyone who has ever stubbed their 'illusory' toe against an equally 'illusory' stone will know to their cost. When occultists state that the material world and everything in it, is an 'illusion' it simply means that we do not see material things as they really are. We see the appearances they cast in our minds by means of the perception of our physical senses, rather like a reflection seen in a mirror. It seems real enough to us but we know it is an illusion because we have learned what a mirror is and understand the physical laws behind such phenomena. In the same way, only those who know (or have been taught) the Spiritual laws can explain what things—material and spiritual—truly are.
Even science admits that it does not really know of what material things consist in their ultimate essence. It can merely describe the material constituents of a thing, be it a man, a plant, or a speck of dust. But it cannot tell you what these things are, notwithstanding its very great progress over the last few centuries. Centuries during which it has probed and prodded matter with a variety of tools and instruments culminating in the present huge cyclotrons, or particle accelerators, such as the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN, in Geneva. In machines such as this atoms, once thought to be the ultimate building-blocks of matter, are smashed to bits by other 'bits' with ever more exotic names, and the smaller 'bits' which result from all these experiments keep on multiplying with no end in sight...
Moreover, even the atom, which not so long ago was confidently thought by science to consist of a solid 'bit' of 'something' (the nucleus) around which revolved one or more other 'bits' (electrons) is now shown to be mainly...empty space! Of course, this 'space' cannot really be 'empty', but what fills it, whether we choose to call this mysterious something 'energy', 'force', 'motion' or even, as one famous scientist of the 19th century suggested, "an empty shadow of my imagination", 'IT' remains as elusive and imponderable as ever. Max Planck, the Nobel Prize winner in physics, ably articulated the impasse these researches have led science into, when he said: "There is no matter as such. All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particle of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together." Had that enlightened scientist named this mysterious force 'Spirit', his statement would have been in perfect accord with the Ancient Wisdom.
But when we hear such 'eminent' scientists as the late Carl Sagan, stating that: "Matter is composed chiefly of nothing", we part company with these modern 'sages' and say with Plato, Socrates and the great Minds of the past that ex nihilo, nihil fit—"out of nothing, nothing comes". This brings us back to where we began when we asked "what do we mean by illusion?" We hope that it will now be clearer to you that we cannot hope to discover what material things are by smashing their constituent atoms to bits. We might just as well tear a flower to pieces and hope in this way to discover what it really is. All we shall end up with is...lots of the little material 'bits' we mentioned earlier; the spirit of the flower escapes us. You can read more about matter and atoms in our article on Why matter matters.
The path of Wisdom
In J. R. R. Tolkien's famous mythic masterpiece, The Lord of the Rings, we may read that "he that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom." To see material things as they ARE and not as they appear to our material intellect and physical senses, we must rise above the material world and enter the domain of Spirit. And to rise above is to take the path of Wisdom, which is not of earth, but of the Heavens, where dwell the hosts of Shining Ones who have done with illusion and now dwell in the glorious Light of Truth.
To see beyond or through the illusion of the material, we must learn to see with the eyes of our Higher Self. The Hermetic Teachings confirm this when they tell us that: "first thou must tear to pieces, and break through the garment thou wearest, the web of Ignorance..." Hermes here refers to the lower self, or physical body, senses and intellect which truly envelop the Higher Self with a 'web of ignorance'. And this is the only mind that is active in most human beings. Hermes goes on to say: "Therefore doth it (the lower self) labour to make good those things that seem, and are by the senses, judged and determined; and the things that are truly, it hides, and envelopeth in much matter...that thou canst neither hear what thou shouldst hear, nor see what thou shouldst see." Thus he confirms the same teaching given by H. P. Blavatsky in The Voice of the Silence, quoted earlier.
But we should not expect wisdom or the higher knowledge to fall into our lap like ripe plums. Nor has any genuine teacher ever explained all the permutations of the laws and principles of occult science to his students. The reason for this reticence (when it is not due to ignorance in the case of lesser teachers or charlatans) is explained very clearly in The Quest of Ruru:
"If we make the Path too easy by straight away explaining every point to the Neophyte, he does not acquire any merit, and, moreover, he would not be able to understand; no matter how many times his Teachers should patiently unravel the Laws by means of words. He who does not know error cannot appreciate Truth. And only the Mind itself can have conception of that which cannot be seen, heard, felt or spoken. But in order to obtain that wise conception there must first be a dwelling and searching in the dark of ignorance and pain: for those are the greatest teachers of all."
No genuine seeker will disagree with these true words. We may add that we do not know a single wise man or woman (and we know many) who has not been through this process, for we learn most from our mistakes and not our successes. So, be thankful for your errors and past ignorance which have led to your present apperception of Truth, and be compassionate and understanding towards those who may lack this knowledge. Explain to them, if the opportunity arises, that we must all walk the path to the Light on our own two legs and that there are no "short-cuts" to occult knowledge. Work hard for your OWN liberation and enlightenment, so that the veils of the great illusion will be rent asunder for you, and you will SEE the material and spiritual, as they truly ARE in all their Divine Simplicity, Truth and Beauty.
In our next article we shall examine the dangers for the unwary and uninstructed seeker who enters what has been rightly called the Occult Jungle.
Published 14 December 2012 — © Copyright occult-mysteries.org. Updated 31 January 2021.