What We Are
By the late Walter Ernest Butler
I want to talk to you on a subject which repeatedly crops up in various letters to me from would-be students and from others who are interested in the occult. They say, "What are your aims? What are you? Are you simply a teaching group? Are you a lodge? Are you an esoteric fraternity? What are you?" Well, that is quite a legitimate question, and I want to try to answer it here. But I better answer it by explaining to you how the whole thing arose. In this case, the longest way around is, as is often the case, the shortest way home.
Many years ago, more than half a century, I came into contact with the man whom I regard as my first teacher in esoteric matters: Robert King, or "R.K." as we used to call him. During the time that I was working with him in those early days, I was introduced to one person who was his particular teacher. And before very long I was working with R.K. on various esoteric work, under the guidance and influence of this particular teacher. When, later on, circumstances moved me away from R.K., and I was on my own, this teacher informed me that I, too, was one of his pupils; and for all the time which has elapsed since then, he has been my guide, philosopher, and friend in the background.
Now I am not going to say who he is-or whom I think he is-neither am I going into any esoteric explanations concerning him; whether he is a master or an adept or what he is. These titles mean very little. The proof of this pudding is always in the eating. Many people can say "master" and at the same time they are simply telling a lie. Many people can claim to be gurus, to be teachers, but their teachings are very poor; there is very little in them. Those who really know, do not shout about it; and those who shout about it, do not really know.
However, it is from this man that I derive my contact. He has given me a certain work to perform, and during the last fifty years I have been doing that work. Not only in speaking, in lecturing to various bodies of people, not only in writing, but in other ways. For occultism is not a theoretical thing; it must by its very nature be practical. And so every occultist, worthy of the name, is constantly engaged in practical occult work.
When I joined the Fraternity of the Inner Light, I told Dion Fortune of this present teacher I had and she was very interested, and she made contact with him. As a result I had certain, shall I say, privileges, which some of the other members did not have. Not that I had done anything to earn them; but I was able to effectively work in the Inner Light, and therefore I did see a little more perhaps than some of the other members.
But at the same time, during the whole period up to the death of Dion Fortune, I was held back. I was not encouraged to do certain work. He said, when the time is right, you will be able to do this work far more efficiently than you would be able to do at the present time. But even then I did not know just what this work was.
Then, shortly after the death of Dion Fortune, I had been experimenting with writing. I never thought I could write; but I tried, in the response to the wishes of some friends of mine. And lo and behold-I found that I could write, to some extent at all events. I am one of my own most severe critics in this respect, because I know what writing should be, and I know the best I can do, and the two are a good many yards apart. Nevertheless, if no-one ever wrote because they were not up to standard, nothing would ever be produced.
But this writing showed me that the teacher was steering me onto a new line of work. I had done quite a bit of talking and lecturing in various parts, on various platforms, Theosophical, Spiritualist, call it what you will-all over the place. But now, to write. I was always very mindful of that comment made by one character, "O, that mine enemy had written a book." Well, that old Biblical character (Webmaster: Ernie was wrong here the actual words of the quote are by Percy Bysshe Shelly from Peter Bell the Third, Part 6, Damnation: "O that mine enemy had written A book!" -- cried Job: -- a fearful curse,". Though it may be Shelley's translation of Job, Cpt 31, vv 35-37) had something, because once you write a book, you are the target for all kinds of criticism.
Those who dispute our passage, those who get in our way, those who hinder us, call out something in us. They call out a resistance; we begin to fight against the disputed passage, we want to prove ourselves. And therefore, those who are very often thought of as our enemies, turn out in the end, to be our best friends.
Now that is true in occultism as in everything else, and I found, that when I had, as it were, served my apprenticeship to criticism, that I was better prepared to write more. I had learnt valuable lessons. I learned that much of the criticism was valid; and I had to swallow my pride and admit that much of what the critics said was true. Now, this bears upon my later work. Because, by disciplining myself with the regard to the standard of my writings, I began to be able to draw, shall I say, nearer, in some respects to the teacher.
Then came the time when certain people left the Fraternity of the Inner Light to form a definite publishing firm, Helios Book Services. And they started a Qabalistic course, and because the chief operator found that he was overwhelmed with other things which he had to do, the course was passed over to me. There were only a few lessons written and published, and I had to provide the rest. So I sat down and wrote about forty lessons, and those lessons form the bulk of the course which we are giving out at the present time.
But after I had been writing a while I discovered, to my great astonishment, that the teacher was playing an active part in it. He was telephatically influencing me so that I began in these lessons to give out some ideas of which I had previously been ignorant. It was not until well into the course that I realised the way in which the teachings were developing, and I was most interested to see how that development proceeded.
Now, basically, our course is not so much a technical course on the Qabalah-there are many books, there are many publications, there are many societies, too, which give out a more detailed Qabalistic teaching-but we were using the Qabalah as a means to an end. We were using it as a basic framework of the course, and in that course we were attempting to help our students to develop interiorly some of the powers which are associated with the Qabalah. And, as a matter of fact, we have found that a comparatively great number of our students have begun to make supernormal contacts of various kinds. They have found that there are powers within them which can be developed.
In our prospectus we always say that we do not claim to develop psychic powers. Neither do we, but we are aiming at something much deeper. However, as you aim at one thing, you very often hit another; and what we have done is to train the subconscious mind of our students in such a way that if the psychic powers are at all near the surface, they tend to come to the surface and to show themselves. And so it has been with a good number of our students.
In order that they should not come to any harm because of that, we have put in the course safeguards all along the line. You will not notice them particularly; they are hidden. But they are there. So it is a perfectly safe course for anyone to attempt-if they do what they are told. We do not take any responsibility for those egotistic so-called occultists, or occult students, who do not worry about any warnings whatsoever, but who go their way, doing their own thing and landing up in the same old troubles and difficulties that innumerable students of the Mysteries have landed in throughout the ages. These things are not fool-proof. We give the warning. Do what you are told. If any student tries to do something else, then he may, and probably will, be rather sorry for himself later on.
The contact, upon which our course is built, is an Egyptian contact. We do not say much about that. That is something which the student grows into in the course of his work. But it is generally an Egyptian school. That does not mean to say we all float about wearing the robes of Osiris or the robes of Isis. We do not make of it a silly mythological thing. But we do say, that the forces which are working in our course, are the forces which were also working in the old schools of Alexandria at the time when the Mysteries were just drawing to their close and the new teaching of Christianity was emerging as a power in the land. The teaching which was given in Alexandria in those days, was a composite teaching. Alexandria was a city which faced upon the world; East and West met in Alexandria. There the great schools were formed. And it is with that contact that we are concerned.
We work in the spirit of the old Mysteries of Egypt. Which, incidentally, does not conflict with what we also say about working in the spirit of the Rose-Cross, for the Rose-Cross Mysteries stem very largely from pre-Christian Egypt. But Christianity gave them a particular slant; it "baptised them into Christ" as they said in the old days: they were taken up into the very fabric of the new religion. And therefore, they are there in the Mysteries of the Rose-Cross; they are there as the fundamental teachings of both the pagan Mysteries and Christianity.
As the student proceeds in his studies, certain things open up for him. He may understand what is happening; or he may not. There are gleams which are given to him, lights in the darkness which he may follow. He is not bound to follow them; many do not. Many do not see them, but go through the course, as they have gone through many other courses perhaps; they come out at the other end; they say, "Well, it has been a good course, I have enjoyed it, and... good afternoon." While there are others, who have followed certain lights which are given them, and have found something much deeper in the course than the teachings which are cyclostyled and sent out to the students. And then they have found that there is a link there which they can take up; they can come into living contact with that old, old school which once taught in Alexandria, which still exists as a teaching power in the astral light; to which some of our students have gained access, to which many of our students can gain access, if they will do the work which they are given.
We cannot do more than that. We cannot tell a person, "Oh, we
guarantee to put you in touch with the Egyptian school," we cannot
tell a person that "Alright, tomorrow evening an ancient Egyptian will
call at your house and he will initiate you into the Mysteries." All
that is so much illusion, so much maya. We do not work like that.
The schools of the Mysteries do not work like that. But if the student
follows the teachings, then at one point or another,
pointers-signposts-will be observed, lights will be seen in the darkness;
and if those lights are followed, then they lead to something much deeper
than our course, on the surface, appears to be.
I will now speak of our hopes and our aspirations. First of all, may I point out that we are not doing this work for our own sake. We are doing it because it is a Work which has been given us to do, by Those who are our Superiors; by those Enlightened Ones under whom we work.
Now when I say that, you may think that we are claiming a good deal; well we are, we are claiming quite a lot, and we hope that you will take the claim in the spirit in which it is made.
It is not the pipe which should be proud because the water flows through it. The pipe does not produce the water; the water flows through it. And we are in the same position; we are giving out that which we have been given. And when we have done that, when we have tried to give it out in the most efficient way, then all our particular property in the matter is concluded.
But, what do we hope? We hope that among our students there will be those who can see below the surface, who will endeavour to gain some kind of contact for themselves, will follow some of those lights which are shown to them, and who will themselves come into conscious contact with the forces and the people who stand behind this school, and who direct it from the Inner Planes.
It is possible for any student, if they can follow out the instructions, to gain some measure of contact with our unseen helpers. Some measure, I say, because of course, depths of contact vary very largely with each personality. Some personalities are so impervious to these things that it needs an earthquake shock to get anything through. Others are so hypersensitive that they not only get a great deal through, but they also badly distort much that does come through. And between the two extremes we have to work. We follow the Middle Path.
And so we strive to produce people who are first of all mature in mind, controlled in emotion, physically sound, and balanced in temperament and in outlook. Now that is a real programme.
For we start first with the physical world in which we are. It is not the slightest use for a student to go ahead on the inner planes without any regard whatsoever for the physical world in which he has to live, that physical world into which he came deliberately in order to accomplish a certain task. He does not accomplish that task by running away from it.
And those students who think that they are going to achieve spiritual altitudes by running away from life are just as great fools as those misguided sannyasins-holy men-in the East, who go up in the heights of the Himalayas and there meditate in the forests away from humanity, only contacting it through their chela who goes out with their begging-bowl to acquire alms.
But the true occultist, whether he be of the East or West, having made his contact, turns out again to the world and lives in the world. There are a certain number who do retire from the world, but they have a very valid reason for doing so, and that reason is not likely to be one which the average student knows anything at all about.
To be unbalanced is a danger, and so many of our students tend at the beginning to be a little unbalanced with regard to this question of the material world. But we tell you, from our particular point of view, that you must bring all the powers of your occult training to bear upon your physical world, upon the work which you are doing; upon your families, upon your friends, upon everyone with whom you come in contact.
Now that does not mean getting along and lecturing them on the beauties of occultism. Neither does it mean claiming that you have the power to bring them to the place where you are-no-one has that power. Everyone comes to the place where they belong, and you cannot push them any further than the line or rather the point at which they have reached.
It is as though you remove the shell from the egg where the chicken is hatching, too early. The chicken could not live because you let in light and air before time. So, in this work you can let in light and air to the personalities of some people in such a way as to do them harm. They`re not ready for it yet.
So you have to balance your enthusiasm with discretion and discrimination. It has been said that discrimination is the first virtue of the Path. There will be those to whom you can speak freely, and whom will take what you give them as a starving man would take manna in the desert.
There are others to whom you may speak who will be repelled, who will think only of the worst side of the subject as they have read it in the media, or heard it on television, or gained it in some other biassed way. They will simply import all the things they have heard and place them upon the idea which you are putting forward, the result being that you do not help them very greatly.
But you need not argue with these people, you need not get hot and bothered about them, you need not go to extreme lengths to try and force the truth into their thick heads, because it will only come out again. You might just as well give them your point of view if they ask for it. If they say they will consider it, let them consider it. But do not on any account, try to force your occult knowledge upon any person whatsoever. If you do, you are committing the sin of breaking a boundary.
You may give out what you get. You may give out teachings, and those who are ready for them will at once assimilate them. Others will be repelled; others will not take much notice. But never, never attempt to force these teachings upon any human being.
I hope I have made that quite clear, because it is one of the most important points in all schools of occultism of the Right-Hand Path. It makes it difficult sometimes, because when we see someone whom we could influence quite easily to take the right line by using the occult powers, we must not, we may not under any consideration use those powers for that end, for we should be breaking the boundary of another personality.
Unfortunately, the brethren of the Shadow have no such inhibitions. They can and they do break boundaries, and this is how you can tell one occult school from another. If you find an occult school which interferes with the personalities of its students, which gives them minute instructions to do this or not to do that, which governs their lives to a great extent, then steer clear of that school.
No coercion of any kind is in the right way as far as the Right-Hand Path is concerned; and you do not want to touch the Left-Hand Path if you can help it. If you do, you will reap sorrow. Much sorrow. Of course, to some extent everyone does touch the Left-Hand Path-we are all human-but to do it deliberately as an occult student is asking for trouble. And you get it.
But what is the purpose really? Why are these great spiritual centres, these great teaching centres? What are they after achieving, what do they want to do? What is the object of all these different schools of occultism? What do they really aim at?
They aim at developing human beings to a point at which they can consciously cooperate with the forces of Light and of evolution. And that is something big. Because when they can do that, they begin to move into new dimensions of space, of time, of consciousness. They begin to bring out from within them that which they really are. They begin to be gods. "Know ye not that ye are gods, Sons of the Most High?" So says the Bible, and it is quite true. But we are gods not in the making; we are gods in the unfolding, or the unveiling. For within us is that spark of Divinity which already is. We do not become gods, we are gods.
All men are spirits; all men are gods now. But it does not yet appear, in us, that such a god exists. Our consciousnesses are not yet developed to the point at which that god can become manifest; but very gradually that god within us is becoming manifest. It is an evolutionary manifestation, even as we believe the Eternal, the Logos, working through all matter, is gradually expressing Himself, until finally the Earth shall be filled with the knowledge of God, with the power, the ambience, the radiance, the very essence of the Eternal.
And so we are part of that great scheme. And each one of us who is following the esoteric path is as one climbing a mountain-side, roped to others below. We can only go forward if we lift others up; and the fact that we go forward is because others beyond us are lifting us up too. We are all helping each other in a great chain of lives. And those who are above us have to a greater extent evolved their minds, their consciousnesses, to a point at which more and more fully the indwelling Light is shining forth. They are becoming Gods made Manifest in the Kingdom of Earth. Do not forget that: all these things happen in Malkuth, in the Kingdom of Earth.
Now that is important. If we think of ourselves as advancing, we must always think of ourselves under the two modes of advancement: we go forward to gain power; we look back to give it out. To use another metaphor, unless we can leave the sanctuary where we have received the power, and come out through the outer gates and outer court into the world of men, and give out that power to those who need-then we are not occultists, whatever we like to call ourselves.
We cannot, by ourselves, gain perfection. "Selfish salvation there is none," says the Roman-Catholic Church. It is quite true. Always, every step we take, we lift up the whole world. "I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me" said the Christ, and it is quite true for us too: for as we are lifted up, so we too draw up with us those with whom we are in contact, and that lifts the whole level of the world a little higher. Matter itself is lifted up by our endeavours. Something, something of consciousness, comes a little more fully into manifestation, even in the mineral life of this world, when we advance upwards. So we are the Rescuers of Matter. And it does matter, to us and to the world, what we do. "No man liveth to himself alone; no man dieth to himself alone." And what we do affects everyone else.
I do want to get that clear, I want to get that home to you in whatever language or lack of grammar I have, nevertheless as forcibly as possible, that that is what we are aiming at. We are not trying to make an open school of the Mysteries where people can, as it were, gain a degree in occult science and stick it on the wall, but we are trying to establish the spiritual Power here in this twentieth-century world in such a way that it may lift up a little of the heavy burden of the sin and the suffering of the world. For the occultist is not separate from the world, he is part of it. And he must, as he lives, affect that world for good or for evil.
In the beginning of the Gospel of St John, it says, "the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness cannot overcome it." Imagine a million and million of miles of space. Dark, dark space. But in that million of miles of dark space you light one small candle. And it shines in the darkness. And all the millions and millions of cubic miles of space cannot extinguish that one little candle. The darkness cannot overcome the Light, but the Light always will overcome the darkness. And that is the promise for us for the future; the Light shines in the darkness of this world, as it always has been shining throughout the Ages. It is within us and without us, and we have to work upon ourselves in order that that Light may shine forth and so reinforce the Light which shines around us, until everyone is aware that the inner Light in ourselves and the outer Light around us are aspects of the One Light in which the whole universe is bathed; of which indeed the whole universe is a manifestation.
And we are trying to help our students to gain a little more knowledge of the Light, by working in the power of the Great Light which lights all manifestation.
"Know this, O Man, sole root of fault in Thee, is not to know Thine own Divinity". And so the mystic is seeking to unite that inner divinity of his with That from which it came. "The Ground of the Soul" that point is sometimes called in mysticism, that Point in ourselves where we are open to God, where is That within us which is of God. So it might well be said of us, "Ye Gods and Sons of the Most High," for there dwells God. Not a part of God-you cannot have parts of an Infinity. All the Power, all the Presence of the Omnipotent, Omnipresent Eternal Being are there within each one of us. The whole lot, everything.
Here we come into contact with something which we cannot define. We cannot put lines around it at all. The darkness cannot comprehend it-again you get that idea of getting around it. You just cannot do that. Our finite minds can only think in images, in symbols, and those images and symbols are in themselves but shadows of any image or symbol which you may ever devise.
The mystic reaching upwards to God in that way does not worry about the phenomena. He simply goes ahead. And so, for the mystic, the retreat from the things of the world is not only logical but is absolutely necessary. But even as you go up to the Throne, even as you advance in the mystical state until you do open up yourself to that Fullness of the Divine pleroma within you, yet if you are truly seeking the Will of God, then you must, of necessity, come down into the physical world to do the Will which you have glimpsed on the mount. So the mystic, if he is a true mystic, will always return to the world in order to help it.
Now I think I have covered most of the points which I wished to cover in this little talk. I have left lots of rough ends because I have never believed in doing all the work, and I must not do your thinking for you. You must do your own thinking. Never rely on anyone else permanently. It is very handy sometimes to rely on somebody, whether it be on the physical or the superphysical planes; to lean back for a while and let them take the load; just so that you can get your breath again. Then you got to start again, on your own.
But we are not alone. Around us are our comrades of the Unseen, and within us, the presence of the Eternal God, in Whom we live and move and have our being; to Whom we aspire, and in Whom we find our true Peace.