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Philosophy,Mysticism,andTheOccult

Philosophy,Mysticism,andTheOccult
Acriticismofthemystic
1

Humanityneedsyoga,yes,butitmustbeayogathatisworkableundertwentiethcentury
conditions.Itneedsmysticalideals,certainly,buttheymustberealizableinLondonand
NewYork,notonlyinShangrila.Itneedsprofoundlytokindlethesparkofmystical
experiencewithindullmechanizedlives,butitdoesnotneedtokindlethehistorical
errorsandtraditionalexcessesofsuchexperience.Thereisneedformysticalpracticesto
spreadbutthereisnoneedformysticalabsurditiestospreadwiththem.Wepersonallydo
notwantthisrestorationoftheartofmentalquiettobeaccompaniedbyarestorationof
theartofoutofdateviews,blindsuperstitions,impracticableorunnecessarilyharsh
rules,andunethicalexploitations.Hencenobodyshouldbesofoolishastomisunderstand
thisefforttopurifyyogaasbeinganefforttodenounceyogaaltogether.Thatwouldbea
profounderror.
MuchofwhatIhavewrittenwillsoundlikeheresytotheunreflectiveamongthe
mysticallyminded.ButtheyhavetheirguidesandIdonotwriteforthem.More
intelligentmysticsoughtnottotakeexceptiontowhathasherebeenwrittenbutoughtto
probefearlesslyintothetruesignificanceoftheirownexperiences.Letitnotbesaidthat
theycannotbearthetruth.Inencouragingthemtoindependentorevenhereticalthinking,
andinpointingouttheperilsoftravellingdownamentalblindalley,Iseektoserveand
nottoharmthemysticallyminded.ThediscerningreaderwillseethatIhaveallalong
triedtoexplainmysticism.TheprejudicedreadermayhoweverseeerroneouslythatI
havetriedtoexposeit.IfIhavechallengedandcriticizedthevalidityofcertain
assumptionscommoninhalfbakedyogiccircles,ifIhaveimpartiallyshowedupsomeof
theinsufficienciesofyogaandmysticismaswellascorrectedtheircommonererrors,ifI
havecriticizedwrongmysticalattitudes,allthishasbeendoneonlytosaverightmystical
ideasfrombeingpervertedorlost.Iknowfrompersonalexperiencejustasmuchasmost
WesternmysticsandEasternyogisthevaluableandattractivebenefitsresultingfromthis
practice.Itisthisappreciationwhichhashelpedtosupportmeinundertakingthe
unpleasanttaskofpurifyingthetheoriesaboutit.Theweedingoutoferrorsfromsuch
theoriesisabetterservicetoyogathantheirsuperstitioussupport.Afterall,itisnotthe
manwhoflattersuswhenwearemakingmistakesbutthemanwhoiscourageously
outspokenandtellsusthebitterbutwholesometruthwhoisarealfriend.If,therefore,
thesecriticalstudieshavehelpedafewmysticstothinkclearlyabouttheirmysticism,
andtothinkofitintermsofthelargerbackgroundoflifeitself,thentheyhaverendered
themaservice.Iftheyhaveinfluencedsomereaderstothinkandrethinktheirmystical
beliefs,Ihaverenderedthemaservice,whethertheyareawareofitornot.Iftheyhave
persuadedotherreaderseventoconsiderthatthephilosophicalapproachtotheirown
experienceswillfulfilandnotdenytheirdeepestaspiration,thenIhaverenderedthema
service.
2

Idonotcriticizesuchmenandsuchpracticesforanyotherreasonthantheprotectionof
earnestseekers,andImaynotdesistfromdoingsobecausetheirpathisbesetwith
psychologicaldangers,fantasticexperiences,worldlyharm,andgrotesquebeliefs.An
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unhealthyinnerlifeisoftentheconsequence,onefilledwithstrangephantasmagoria.
Fromallthistheymaybesavedbywiseguidance,justastheymaybeplungedintoitby
thepseudoguidancewhichtheyusuallyfind.SofarasIamawareandIhavetravelled
thewideworldalltheavailableguidancewhichsuchseekersarelikelytoobtainwill
leadthemtoeverythingelseexcepttheonethingthatreallymatters,namely,fulfillingthe
realpurposeofourhumanexistencehereonearth,andnotanillusoryone.Wheresuch
guidanceishonest,sincere,andunselfishwhichisrareindeeditislikelytobe
imperfect,inadequate,andincomplete.Inthewrittenstatementsoftheseblindleadersof
theblind,asintheirutteredravings,thesagecanquicklydiscernbysuchsignsasthe
terminologyandsyntaxusedhowunregulatedandhowunbalancedistheircourseof
thoughtandexperience.Isetmyselfseriouslytoponderthequestion:"Howcanthese
earnestseekersavoidtheabundantdangersandsatanicdeceptionstowhichtheyare
exposed?"Hencemypublishedandprivatewarnings.
3

ItismostimportantthatImakeitclearthatIdonotteachtheerrorthatallmystic
experienceismerelyprivateopinion,judgement,orprejudice,solelypersonal
imagination,belief,orwishfulfilment,butratherthatIholdittobeaprivate
interpretationofageneralexperience,apersonalresponsetoauniversalevent.Onthe
firstanderroneousview,mysticismwouldmerelytellussomethingaboutthefeelings
andideasofthepersonhavingtheexperience.Onthesecondview,ittellsusallthis,
undoubtedly,butitalsotellsusmuchaboutsomethingwhichisitselfquiteindependent
oftheindividual'sfeelingsaboutmysticalrealityandthedivinesoulinhumanity.
Whereasthefirstviewdeniesanytruthtomysticalexperience,thesecondonevindicates,
evenifitqualifies,it.Thedifferencebetweenthetwoviewsismostimportant.Mystical
experienceemphaticallyreferstosomethingoverandabovetheprojectionofman's
wishesorthedrapingofman'sopinions.Whateverinterpretationheplacesuponhis
experienceorwhateverimaginationheprojectsuponit,thepossibilityofsuchexperience
isundeniable.
4

MysticismisaStepNotaGoal
Pointoutthatitistheseekingofexperiencesexclusively,makingthemcentral,thatI
criticizeandnotthevalueoftheexperienceitself.Experienceisnecessaryand
important.Buttheyoung,devaluingtheothercomponentsofthequest,aregoingto
extremesinseekingexperiencesalone.Forthen,intheendanymeanswilldo,sodrugs
andsex.Thesearemanifestationsoftheimpatientdesireforquickresults,resultsatany
cost,resultsheremeaninggettingexperiences,whichhasbecomesuchamaniatoday.
Thisimpatienceaffectsevenfoods,whereinstantprocessingrobsthemofnourishment
andruinstheirflavour.
Whirling,aspractisedsoartisticallybytheMevlevidervishesisanotherwayoflosing
theeverydayconsciousnessandgainingthemysticexperience.Itiscomparabletothe
moreelementaryformsofyogalikemantrammuttering.Butitsvalueisaslimitedasthe
latter's.Itgivesnowisdom.
Balancerequiresalltheotherquestcomponentsexperienceisthenputinitsproperplace
astheirassociate.Itthenbecomeshealthy,beingkeptinequilibriumbythem.Otherwise
thereisnodiscriminationbetweengoodexperiencesandevilones,noprotectionagainst
themisleading,thedangerous,ortheinsane.Cultsappearinginthelastthirtysixyears
haveemphasizedexperienceandwerebemusedbytherapturesofdrugsandsex.Gerald
HeardstartedTrabujoMonastery,whichcollapsed.D.Goddardtriedtostartthefirst
BuddhistmonasteryinVermontandfailed.HisfriendandneardiscipleAldousHuxley
wroteonmescalineallwereseekingexperience.
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Innonmysticcirclesamongtheyouthandyoungeradults,thesameoverconcentration
onexperienceoccurred.Inthiscaseexperienceofsexledtoanexplosionofhavingsex
continuouslyandpromiscuously.Ifbarewallsandamonasticcellappealtohimhemay
findpeacethere.Ifcelibatesingleexistenceappealswithoutexperienceintheworld,
theretoohemayfindit.
5

"Whydoyoucontradictyourselfbyadvocatingmeditationinyourearlierbooksandthen
criticizingitinTheHiddenTeachingBeyondYoga?"OneanswertothisquestionwhichI
amsometimesaskedisthatthereissomemisunderstandinghere.Itisnotmeditationbut
theabuseandmisuseofitthatwascriticized.Itisanecessarypartofthephilosophic
quest,butthisdoesnotmeanthatthelawswhichgovernitcanberecklesslyignoredby
thosewhothinktheirenthusiasmforitasufficientequipmentforit.Thelawoflifeis
rhythm.
6

Hemayangrilydissentfromthetruthofmyconclusionsbuthecanhardlycontesttheir
value.FortheyarenotformedfromanoutsideviewofboththeOrientandmysticismbut
fromaninsideone.
7

Thesecategoricalstatementsshouldputanendtoalldoubtsaboutmypresentposition.
Nothingwouldpleasemebetterthantolivetowitnessaworldwiderevivalinthe
practiceofmeditation.
8

IstudythevarioussearchesforGodinthedifferentreligions,thevarioustechniquesof
contemplationintheOrientalandEuropeanmysticalsystems,andthevariousideasof
metaphysicsintheancientandmodernphilosophies.Itisinevitable,therefore,thatinthe
pupilageinComparativeSpiritualCultureIshouldinvestigatecontemporarygurusand
theirmethodswhichcanbeproperlydoneonlybyputtingmyselfontheirlevel.Butthis
quitetemporaryandquitebriefactivitydoesnotinanywaymakemeafollower,disciple,
orbeliever.Toputsuchalabelonmewouldbeabsolutelyincorrect.Yetinthepastthis
iswhatunscrupulousgurus,ortheirassistants,haveactuallydone.Itisveryregretfulto
notearepetitionofthepractice.
9

Iamnotpreparedtocontinueasanagent,althoughhithertoanunwittingone,fortheir
exploitationofaspiringgullibility.
10

Insteadofabandoninganddecryingthebeatificexperienceofyoga,whichwasmylife
longstudyandwhichisstillmydailypractice,Ihaveactuallyputitonafirmerbecause
morephilosophicalpedestalthanbefore.Only,Ihaveenlargedthecommonconception
ofthisantiqueart,placingitinproperperspectiveasbeingastepforwardbeyondboth
materialismandreligionbutnotbeing,asordinarilyknown,thefinalphaseofmankind's
journey.Asidefromthisrevisionofgradeandtheconsequentrevaluationsarising
therefrom,extremelyimportantthoughtheybeinthemselves,Ihavenothingimportantto
retractfrompreviousstatementsonthesubjectbutonlytosupplementtheminthelight
ofaforwardadvance.
11

Nobodywhohashadsufficientexperienceoftheworldcandenythatthisisastudy
whichisinfestedfromfringetocorewithcranks,quacks,andcharlatans.Thankstothem
thewholestudyhasbeenbroughtintodisreputeamongwelleducatedpeople.Myeffort
topresentitinathoroughlyscientificandphilosophicmanner,tofreeitfromall
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superstitiousnonsenseandperniciouspractices,tobaseitonreasonratherthanonbelief
isinitsownbestinterestsandIclaimtoservemysticismmorefaithfullybysucheffort
thandothosewhoblindly,stubbornly,andfoolishlyallowittorotandperish.
12

ItisbecauseIhavetoolargeaconceptionofyogaandnotassomethink,toosmallaone,
thatIhavewritteninthiscriticalstrain.
13

Ithasbeenhardtospeakmywholemindonsuchunpleasantmatters.IfIhavemadelarge
reservationsandsaynomoredespitetheirimportanceitisonlyfromconsiderationof
theirunpleasantness.Buttolookawayandrefusealtogethertoseetheseunpleasant
featuresofmysticism,topretendthatithasnosuchdefectsatall,isasillymuddleheaded
procedure.Itiswisertolearnallaboutthemandfromthem.

Theextremesofmysticism
14

Whenmysticismbecomesabreedinggroundforridiculousillusions,thetimehasarrived
toprotectitagainstthemwhenitletsthemysticbecomeanindifferentspectatorof
mankind'ssufferings,thetimehasarrivedtomodifyit.
15

Thelackofaccuratefirsthandknowledgehasbroughtaboutasorrypictureofthesubject.
Charlatans,sceptics,pseudomystics,andimaginativedreamershavetogether
unconsciouslyconspiredtopresentmysticismalternatelyasprimitivesuperstition,occult
humbug,glorifiedconjuring,andsuperreligion.Suchisthefruitofthehazy
understandingaboutitwhichistobefoundinmostcirclestoday.Realmysticismisnone
ofthesethings.
16

Thegreatestdangerstotheaspirantcomefromthevotariesofamaterialismwhich
deceivesitselfintobelievingthatitismysticismwhenitismerelymaterialismvarnished
withmysticalpaint.
17

Themysticofthepastwastoooftenaphilistine,anticulturalandantiintellectual.Not
contentwithhisbiasforasceticismonthephysicallevel,hecarriedittothementallevel
also.
18

Suchamanmayseemtooutsiderstobenothingmorethanadreamingloafer.And
indeedhemightbe,formanytakethenameofmysticwhodonotknowwhattrue
mysticismis.
19

Itisagreatpitythatsuchanexcellentdisciplineshouldhavefallen,duringthecourseof
ages,intodisreputethroughhavingfallenintothehandsofthosewhodespisedcivilized,
selfrespectingsocietyandpreferredprimitive,halfanimalexistence,whorejectedthe
earningofanhonestlivelihoodinfavourofundignifiedbegging,whoexiledthefaculty
ofintellectinfavourofunthinkingadherencetoabsurdsuperstitions,whodidviolenceto
naturalfunctionsofthebodybyatrociousascetismandtradedonthegullibilityofthe
massesbypretendingtomarvellouspowers.
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20

Thepuritanicalviewoflifehasbeenmixeduptoooftenwiththereligiousview.The
philosopherisnotconcernedwiththat.Butithasequallybeenmixedupwiththe
mysticalview.Hereheisconcerned,enoughtodeclarethattheydonotnecessarilygo
together.
21

Thelackofasenseofhumourincertainmysticshasexposedthemtothechargeofbeing
superstitiousandcredulous.Ithascausedthewritingsofothermysticstobelaughedat,
theirideastoberidiculed.Thelackofaesthetictasteinstillothermysticshascaused
themtoofferfanaticaloppositiontothedecorationofroomswithpictures,ortothe
playingofmusicalinstruments.
22

Hissuperiordevelopmentasamysticdoesnottherebyendowhimwithsuperior
developmentasamanorbestowonhimalargercapacitytomakerightdecisionsthan
thatofothermen.
23

Thehistoryofmodernmysticismhasindeedbecomeahistoryofgradualdeclensionfrom
thefinedisinterestednessofteacherslikeEmersonandfromthefirmtruthsofmystics
likeEckhart.IspeakhereonlyoftheWest,oftheEuropeandAmericawhoseevidences
aremostreadilyavailabletoreadersbutIknowfromstudyandexperiencehowtruethis
isalsooftheOrient.
24

Theconventionalethicalcodeswhichregulatehumanrelationsaretranscendedonlyin
thesensethatanevenhigher,moreausterecodeisnowimposeduponhimfromwithin.
Thosewouldbemysticalsectswhichhistoryhasrecordednotinfrequentlyonesthat
claimawidermoralfreedomthanothersbecausetheyclaimtobenearerGod,andthen
proceedtoactionswhichbespeakthegratificationofunloosedbaserdesiresdeceive
themselves,betraymysticism,andleadothersastray.
25

Pseudomysticismtemptstheegointhemindorthebeastinthefleshwithitsdoctrineof
man'sdivinityrequiringnocontrol,nodiscipline,andnoobediencetoasceticrules.
26

Thepathsofmysticismarewaylaidwithdestructionforweakminds.Thelightistoo
strongfortheireyesandtheyemergewithegoismstrengthenedunderthecloudof
spirituality.
27

InanexhibitionofoldhistoricalpaintingsonceseeninAmsterdam,therehungonone
wallaportraitofSabattaiZevi,thewilddreamer,selfappointedMessiah,andfantastic
leaderofacultwhosecareeralongwithhisownwasabruptlyendedbydisillusionment
anddisaster.OntheoppositewalltherehungaportraitofBaruchSpinoza,philosopher
andethicist,whosecareerbroughtthefruitsofwisdomtohumanity.Theretheywere,
thesetwoportraitsfacingeachothertheoneatypeillustratingthedefectsofan
unbalancedandunphilosophickindofmysticismtheotheratypeofspiritualintuition
andrationalintellectactiveinman,yetbalancingeachotherandbenefitingeachother.
28

Sincemenareliabletoerr,andsinceeventhebestofmysticsarestillmen,wemustnot
betooawedbytheirattainmentstobelievethattheycouldnotmakesuchserious
mistakes.
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29

Inordinaryreligionandunphilosophicmysticismeveryoneisatlibertytobuilduphis
ownheavenandhell,tocreatehisownpictureofGod,andtoinventhisownmethodof
reachingGod,ashewishes.Whocandisprovehisstatements?Suchdisproofisutterly
impossible.Wemaydisbelievethembutwecannotdisprovethem,fortheydealwith
factorsbeyondourexperienceandhencebeyonduniversalverification.
30

Whyaresomanymysticsmediocritiesintheircareersandmisfitsinlifegenerally?Why
issomuchmysticalliteratureandhistoryanimaginativeprojectionofwishfulthinking
andrarelyrecognizableinitsalltoohumanmaterializationintheflesh?Hereisan
indicationthatsomethingiswrong.
31

Themonkwhogetstoowrappedupinhimselfandhismoods,toolockedupinsideother
worldlyexperiences,toocutofffromthefactsandrealitiesofeverydayliving,and
unabletotestbythemtheillusionsandhallucinationswhichhisimaginationproduces
andhismeditationconfirmsmaytreadtheedgeofaprecipiceoverwhichhemaytopple
intoinsanity.
32

ItwasnotlevityalonewhichmadeOscarWildesaythat"mostmodernmysticismseems
tometobesimplyamethodofimpartinguselessknowledgeinaformnoonecan
understand."Itwasnotironyalonewhichmadehimremarkofabookdevotedtosaintly
andasceticmystics,"Itisthoroughlywellintentionedandeminentlysuitablefor
invalids."
33

IwasstruckbythetruthofacriticisminJawaharlalNehru'sautobiography.Nehruwrote:
"Themystictriestoridhimselfofselfandintheprocessusuallybecomesobsessedwith
it."Nehruoughttoknow.ForhehasbeensurroundedbythesocietyofIndianmysticsfor
halfalifetime.
34

Weappreciatethedangersandobstaclesthatbesetthemedievalsbutitmustbesaidwith
regretthatmanyofthembelongedtothe"MysticismMadeDifficult"school.
35

Thislackofbalanceshowsitselfintheidolizationofinertiawhich,regardedasa
regrettabledefectbymostnormalpeople,isregardedasamysticalvirtuebythese
supposedlysupernormalpeople!
36

Themysticsandyogiswouldhaveotherstoilandlabourtomakebreadanddrawwater
whiletheyprayandmeditate.Thisdistinctionwouldbeallrightiftheydidnotmakethe
mistakeofassertingthatthekingdomofheavenlayonlyattheendoftheirpath.
37

Iftheworldhasnoplaceformysticismthisisbecausemysticismhasnoplaceforthe
world.
38

Thosewholiketheatmosphereoflazinesswhichhangsoversomuchmysticalthought
andwritingarewelcometoit.
39
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Therightkindofmysticalexperienceenricheslifethewrongkindimpoverishesit.
40

Theycanseethetruth,butonlywithoneeyeatatime.
41

Becauseithasbeenadoptedbyfanatics,poseurs,andfools,thecontraryfactthatithas
alsobeenadoptedbyexecutives,geniuses,andhighlyesteemedpersonstendstobe
ignoredandoverlooked.
42

SirRichardBurtonwholivedlongintheOrientmetandstudiedtheSufis.Hecametothe
conclusionthattheextrememysticwasanearmadman.Thereissometruthinthisview.
43

Thepassagefromseeingvisionsfrequentlytobeingsubjecttodelusionsisnotalong
one,ifthepersonconcernedhasnotbeendisciplinedinthephilosophicmanner.
44

Thereisafoolishmysticismwhichignorantlyfollowswaysthatleadtomadness.Those
waysusuallystartwithfeelingastheessenceofthematterandseekthedeathofreason
becauseittoooftenrefusestogoalongwithfeeling."IamGodinabody,"poorNijinsky
proclaimedbuthegothimselfconfinedinamadhouseaswellasabody.
45

Themoreintelligentandbetterbalancedaspirantsshouldtrytoleadthemysticalthought
oftheircontactsintohigherpersonalchannelsorwiderusefulnessandawayfromthe
charlatans,thereclusesandescapists,theneuroticsandhysterics.
46

Mysticismmustbesavedfromthehotembracesofemotionallydiseasedneurotics,
intellectuallyunbalancedfanatics,andcredulouslynavesimpletons.Itwillfinditsbest
supportinthosewhoappreciateitwithoutlosingtheirmentalequilibriuminthosewho
showintheirownpersonsthatithasnothingtodowithhysteria,neuroticism,credulity,
sensationseeking,andpathologicalstates.Onlybyavoidingextravagantclaimsand
uncriticalappraisalscanitgettheattentionanddeservetherespectoftheintellectual
classes.
47

Atatimelikethepresentwhentheworldispassingthoughacriticalphaseofwholesale
reconstruction,everyopponentofreasonandproponentofsuperstitionisrenderinga
seriousdisservicetomankind.
48

IsitnotdelicatelyironicalthatShangrilashouldbemoreandmoregivingtheWesta
mysticismforwhichsheisfindinglessandlessuseherself?thatsheisfoistinguponus
asolutionwhichisincreasinglyfailingtosolveherownproblems?
49

ItisnotthatIcomplainoftheunintellectualatmosphereofmysticismorthe
unintellectualattitudeofitsEasternandWesterndevotees.Thefactmaybedeploredbut
itoughtnotbelaidasafaultagainstthosewhocannothelpit.Icomplainoftheiranti
intellectualatmosphereandattitude.
50

Thosemysticswhohastilyscornscienceasbeingantispiritualandcondemnmodern
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civilizationasbeingpromaterialistshouldstoptothinkhowmuchwiderserviceto
mankindmenlikeJesusandBuddhacouldhaverenderedhadtheradio,thenewspaper,
theinexpensivebook,thecinema,andtherailwaytrainbeenattheircommand.Letthem
considerhow,withtheairplanetotravelin,Jesuscouldhavebroughtthousandsof
disciplesineachEuropeanandNorthAfricancountryunderhisimmediatepersonal
influenceandBuddhacouldhavebroughthundredsofthousandsmorethroughoutAsia
underhisown.Theinventionsofman'singenuitycanbedirectedtogiveanupwardtrend
tohisspiritualevolutionjustastheyhavebeendirectedtogiveadownwardtrendtoit.
Alllifebearsthistwofoldpossibility.Wedonotrefuselightbecauseitalsobrings
shadows.Wealsoshouldnotrefuseinventionsmerelybecausetheyincreasethetempoof
ourexistencetooquickly.
51

Thosewhorightlyfearfanaticismorcharlatanrywillnotfindoneortheotherin
philosophy.Yettheywillnothavetogofartodosonofartherthanthereligiomystical
fringewhichhangsononesideofit.
52

Itisveryquestionableastowhetheraspiritualrenaissancewhichledusintothewakeof
fakemysticsandpseudoscientificoccultistswouldbeanybetterthanthefollowingof
hideboundreligionistsdrainedofthevitalityoftruthandreality.
53

Itiseasytoparadeincompetenceandinefficiencyasmysticalsuperiorityabovemere
earthlylife,andthusdeceivebothoneselfandothers.Itishardtotakeoneself
uncompromisinglyinhandandtriumphoverthesedefectsofone'sveryvirtues.
54

Thiskindofmysticism,whichstewstruthinthesamepotwithabsurdfantasy,may
attractthosewhoseekthedramaticbutoftenrepelsthosewhoappreciatethescientific.
55

Manysocalledspiritualpersonsofthismoderneraarerightlyregardedbysocietyas
neurotics,cranks,eccentrics,useless,orunpractical.Theyhave,however,feltgenuine
promptingsfromtheOverselfbutbecauseofthelackofproperinstruction,orbecauseof
thedefectofimproperinstruction,theyhavenotalsofelttheneedtointegratethis
promptingwiththerestoftheirlifeor,eveniftheyhavefeltit,theyhavenotbeen
shownhowtodoitsimplybecausetheirownteachershadnotsucceededindoingit
themselves.
56

Hemayfeelthetruthforhimselfbutbeunabletoexplainitadequatelytoothers.
57

Manymysticalcultspresentteachingswhichcontainsomesublimetruthsbutwhich,
becauseoftheirincompletenessortheirignoranceofothertruthsortheirwrongattitude
towardsthebody,donottendtowardsbalancedliving.Asaresult,whentheyover
emphasizetheparticularfeaturewhichmostintereststhem,theybecomeunbalanced.The
needtodayisforthebalancedmystic.
58

Theexcessiveselfcenterednessofasceticmysticism,itspassiveenmitytoanintegral
humanlife,itsunworthypraiseofpiousindolence,itsoysterlikeindifferencetohuman
interests,anditsnarrowdisparagementofthemarriedstatemakeitunfittobecomea
perfectidealsuitedtoourowntimes.Whatmodernintelligencecanacceptandwhat
modernheartcanapprovesuchanattitude?Asceticismisanimportantphasebutitisnot
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everything.

Philosophyattractsthefew
59

Thesmallestunderstandingofphilosophywillshowthat,althoughitholdsamystical
core,itisquitedifferentinapproachandatmospherefromthosemysticalcultswhich
breedsuperstitionandencouragecharlatanism.Theunderstandingenthusiastsand
uncriticalpanegyristswhoaretheprofessedfollowersofsuchcultswouldfeeluneasyin
thepurerandfinerairbreathedbythetruestudentofphilosophy.
60

Thecramped,ascetical,andintolerantvirtueoftheashramsisnotenough.Philosophy
prefersamorespacious,moregenerousandkindliervirtue.
61

Ifwetrytocomputethenumberofthosewhoarenotoverawedbytheprestige,the
success,andtheorganizationofareligion,sect,cult,orgroup,andwhoseektruthwitha
bettermeasurethanthesethings,weshallfindonlyasmallremnantisleftoutofallthose
whoprofessaninterestinthethingsofspirit.
62

Thosewhoaremakingadeterminedsearchfortruthfallintoaverytinysegmentof
humanity.Mostselfstyledseekersaremotivatedbyhalfhiddendesiresfordifferent
kindsofegosatisfactionratherthantheegolesstruth.
63

Theloftinessofthisteaching,isnottobemeasuredbythetrumperystandardsofrecent
socalledspiritualmovements.
64

Tostudyandunderstandthesesects,toexplaintheinnerdynamicwhichdrawspeopleto
them,isnotnecessarilytoagreewiththeirteachingsorcondonetheirpractices.
65

Letoutsidersnotblamephilosophyforshortcomingswhichexistonlyinuntrainedand
uninstructedfollowers.
66

Thosewhohavedeformedtheirmindsbyvehementfanaticismorbefuddledthemby
dangerousdrugswillfindthesanctityofphilosophyunattractive.
67

Mostorganizationstendtogivetheimpressionofcults,whicharetheveryantithesesof
ourobjectivesaswellasirreconcilablewiththeHiddenTeaching.
68

Itisregrettablethatasubjectsointerestingandformerlysuchalittlevisitedbyway
shouldbecomeinfestedwithmaniacalideasandshouldattractillbalancedpersonswho
falleasilyintosuperstition.Thehigherlevels,wherereligionmovesintomysticismand
metaphysics,needawellinformed,wellpoisedmindfortheirproperappreciation.
69

Thosewhoflocktothesecultsoftendislikephilosophy.Theyrightlyfearitsthreatto
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theirsuperstitiousdreamsandcorrectlycomprehendthatitwoulddestroytheiregoistic
fantasies.
70

Howmanywhohaveseenthefoolishnessofthesecultspardonablyreactagainstitby
rejectingthem,butunpardonablyrejectthewisdomwhichisovershadowedbyit.
71

Philosophymaynotappealtotheweakmindedfollowersofsuchcults,sinceitwould
forcethemtoacknowledgetheirdeficienciesandtosetaboutremedyingthem.
72

Whereisthespiritualmovementwhichhasnotdeterioratedintoareligioussect,with
passivefollowersandunquestioningmembers?
73

Nosectisimportantbuteverysectissignificant.Noneisparticularlyinfluentialbutall
areunquestionablyevidential.Fortheindicationhereofatrendtowardheterodoxyis
quiteplainanditscausequitemeaningful.

Distinguishingthespiritualandpsychic
74

Philosophyacceptspartofthetenetsofoccultismthepartwhichitsownseersandsages
havehandeddownanddoesnotdenythem.Butitplacesemphasisonthatwhichrests
onahigherlevelandwhichismuchmoresignificant.Itrefusestoallowitsstudentstobe
involvedinthepractices,thebypaths,andthedangersofoccultism.
75

Thepsychicalisconcernedwithimaginations,visions,voices,thoughts,andfeelings
whichoriginatebeneaththesurfaceoftheego'smind,whereasthespiritualisconcerned
withthehigherself.Thetwoarenotthesamebututterlydifferentinqualityand
character.Aspirantsoftenconfusethemalthoughthefirstisstillwithintherealmof
personalthingswhereasthesecondiswithintheimpersonal.Astillgreaterconfusion
concernsthemediumistic.Thisisthesameasthepsychicalbutinfluencedorpossessed
bywhatpurportstobesomeoneelse'sego,oftensomeoneunknownandusuallyunseen,
orevenbywhatpurportstobefromtherealmofthespiritualitself.
76

Intuitionneednotbetheonlymanifestationofthisdeeperlayerofmind.Thereareindeed
otherandstrangersignsofitsexistence,whichbelongtoaclassificationvariouslycalled
occult,magical,orpsychic.Theyincludethoughttransferenceandclairvoyance.The
historyofyogahasalwaysbeenassociatedwithstoriesofsuchthaumaturgicmarvels,
andfewadvancedyogisfailtomanifestthesepowersatsomeperiodorotheroftheir
careers.
Sucharesomeoftheextraordinarymentalpowerswhichmaybeunfoldedbyman,but
theyareofsecondaryconsequencetothesage.Heholdstoandvaluesmosttheremaining
constantlyfixedwithinthatuniversalbeingwhichtranscendsallformsandchanges.
Neverthelesstheaveragescientistwhousedtosneerattheirexistencehassincebecome
muchmorecautious,althougharemnantofmaterialisticscientistsstillcontinuetosneer.
Suchpeoplerepresentatypeofmindwhichdreadssuperstitiontothepointofmakingits
dreadasuperstition!Thesesupernormalpowersofthemindlosemuchoftheirmystery
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whentheirrationaleisunderstood.
Whentheentireworlditselfismentallyconstructedthatis,akindofmagicalshowwhy
shouldwebeincredulousofthepossibilityofmagicalpowers?Allofushavethese
powersinvestigialform.Evolutionwillmakethemgrowanyway,andeffortwillmake
themgrowmorequickly.Howeversurprisingtobeginners,theyarerealizablefactstoan
adept.
Telepathyisperhapsthefirst,simplest,andmosteasilyexplicableofthesepowers.
77

Whattheyseldomseeisthatspiritualilluminationandpsychicalerrorcananddoexistin
thesamemindatthesametime.
78

Alloccultandpsychicpowersareextensionseitherofman'shumancapacityorofhis
animalsenses.Theyarestillsemimaterialistic,becauseconnectedwithhisegoorhis
body.Alltrulyspiritualpowersareonafarhigherandquitedifferentplane.Theybelong
tohisdivineself.
79

Awitch'sbrewofmystery,compoundedofancientsorceriesandmodernpseudo
sciences,philosophicsmatteringsandmonstrousclaims,liesanddeceptionthat,stripped
ofallitshighsoundingverbiage,isafairdescriptionofoccultism.
80

Itisanerror,andonecommonlymade,toconfoundoccultphenomenawithspiritual
experience.Itistruethat,atcertaintimesorincertainphasesoftheinnerlife,thetwo
mayaccompanyoneanother.Buttheydonotdosoonequallevels.Spiritualexperience
certifiesitselfbutpsychicexperienceproveslittlebecauseitisalwaysopentodoubt.A
philosophermaybeandoftenisapsychic,butfewpsychicsareeverphilosophers.Wedo
notneedtobepurifiedtowitnessoccultphenomena,andthereinliestheirdanger.
81

Muchincorrectknowledgeistodayofferedtheseekerintentonanunderstandingofthe
psychicandspirituallawsoftheuniverse.
82

Confrontedbythediscoveriesofscience,theinventionsoftechnology,themarvelsof
Nature,andthemysteryofmind,onewouldbefoolishtoassertwhatispossibleandwhat
isnotpossible.
83

Amanwhoworksinascientificlaboratorycanprovideproofsforhisdiscoverieswhich
anyotherscientistinanypartoftheworldcantestandconfirm.Butamystic,aseer,ora
prophetwhocommunicatesarevelationofwhathehaslearnedbyintuition,vision,or
meditationcanprovidenosuchproofs.Hisaudienceiscompelledtotakehiswordswith
littledirectorimmediatemeansoftestingtheirworth.
84

Thefinishedproductofacarpenter'sworkcanbetriedinuseandtestedbyexamination.
Hischairscanbesatupon,histablelegsmeasured,andfaultsorinaccuracieswillsoon
revealthemselves.Buthowarethemystic'sintuitions,inspirations,visions,andteachings
tobeappraised,measured,testedwithcompletecertainty?Howmuchinthemcanbe
fullytrusted,howmuchsuspectedasbeingtheundivinepart?Themetaphysician's
conceptsandthereligionist'sbeliefscomeintothesamecategorytheycannotatoncebe
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checkedforfaults,triedbyresults,ormeasuredforaccuracy,whereasthecraftsman's
productionscan.Religion,mysticism,andmetaphysicscannotimmediatelyoffertheir
proofs,ifatall.
85

Therearecertainunusualoccurrenceswhichareoftenasourceofastonishmenttothose
involvedinthem,aswellastootherslearningaboutthem.Thepowerstobringtheseinto
beingaremuchsoughtafterinsomecirclesandaregenerallytermed"occultpowers."
86

Occultismisconcernedwiththeunseenworkingofnature,andwithphenomena,forms,
messagesofthenonphysicalsideoftheego'sbeing,includingvisionsandvoices
experiencedinwardly.ItisonalowerlevelthanpureSpirit,notdealingwiththebody
andnotdealingwithspirit,butsomewhereinbetween.It'seasytobeledastraybyit,
sinceitisclosetofantasyandimagination.Trytoavoidseekingit,butifitcomesby
itselftrytojudgeitcriticallyandunderstandit.Onthehighestleveltherearenooccult
phenomenawhichkeepyouinyourego.
87

TodayMechanicsruleswhereonceMagichelditssway.Wedonotdreamthatthereis
roominlifeforboth.
88

Asmuchnonsensehasbeenwrittenaboutthemysticandtheoccultasaboutpolitics,or
anyothersubjectwhereappearancesdonotcoincidewithrealities.

Thelureofoccultism
89

Wewerenotborntoperformmagicalstunts,norwereweborntobeabletoremember
pastlivesortoforetellthefuture.Wewerebornforonethingonlyandthatistodiscover
whatwereallyareinourdeepest,innermostbeing,notjustthecrestofit.
90

Philosophyrejectssuchpsychic,occult,mediumistic,ortranceexperienceswhen
imaginationrunsunbrakedintothem,oremotionheaveshystericallyinthem.Itisthen
timetostopthedangeroustendencybyapplyingafirmwillandcoldreason.Philosophy
welcomesonlyasinglemysticexperiencethatoftheVoid(NirvikalpaSamadhi),where
everyseparateformandindividualconsciousnessvanishes,whereasallothermystic
experiencesretainthem.Thisisthedifference.
91

Thespiritualists,theoccultists,andthepsychicgroupsarefarfromthepurestthought,for
theyarestillpreoccupiedwiththeegoandwithasubtlematerialismwhichsubstitutesa
subtlerbodyforthematerialonebutisjustasillusory.However,theyarestepsonthe
wayforspiritualchildrenstagestobepassedthroughandoutgrown.
92

Philosophyhasnouseforemptyfancies,notimeformereselfdeceptions.Thereforeit
refusestodallyinthisillusoryregionwhichtheinwardmovingmindmustcrossthrough
untilitreachessolidground.Itwillnotgiveitselftopsychism,occultism,orspiritism.
93

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exaggeratedasceticism."AllthatGodasksofthem,"writesThomasMerton,"istobe
quietandkeepthemselvesatpeace,attentivetothesecretworkthatHeisbeginningin
theirsouls."
94

Youmustlearntodiscriminatebetweenwhatispsychicandwhatisspiritual.Youwill
tendtolosepowerifyouyieldtothatpopularhankeringafterpsychicandoccult
experiences.Itisfascinatingtohavepsychicclaims,sensationalexperiences.Keepthem
intheirplace,however,whichissecondandsubordinate.Theyhavenothingtodowith
theQuest,whichistoleadyouabovetherealmofmindintospirit.Mindgoesdowndeep
intothesubconsciousandtheOvermindtherepsychicandoccultexperiencestakeplace
notinthenormalmind,certainly,butintheregionoftheplanetarymind,theOvermind.
Occultexperienceswillnotgiveyouanymorepeace,orreality.Doyouwantthese?
Thendonotoveremphasizeyouroccultexperiences.Justobservethem,butattachlittle
importancetothem.Theimportantthingistoarriveatthatstateofbeingwhichnever
changes,whichiseternal,whichisGod.
95

Themysticisonaloftierplanethantheoccultistandpsychic.Thevarioussystemsof
occultism,theosophy,andpsychismareallobjectivetothetrueSelfofman,andhence
distracthimfromthestraightandnarrowpath.Yettheyareusefulandnecessaryfor
thoseegoisticandoverintellectualizednatureswhocannotaspiretotherarefiedreaches
oftherealTruth.Everythingincludingthefascinatingsystemsofknowledgeand
practicethatcompriseancientandmodernoccultteachingswhichdistractsmanfrom
becomingthetrulyspiritual,distractshimfromtherealpath.Onlywhenallobjective
thingsandthoughtshavedisappearedintothesubject,theselfortheseer,canman
achievehishighestpurpose.Allotheractivitiessimplycausehimtostrayfromthe
highesttruth.SoIhaveabandonedthestudyandpracticeofoccultism.Ihavegivenitup
unwillingly,forthepoweritpromisesisnottobedespised.YetIrecognizethatmypast
isstrewnwitherrorsandmistakes.Iimaginedthatagreatpersonalexperienceofthe
psychicandmysterioussideofNaturewouldbringmenearerTruth.Asafact,ithas
takenmefartherfromit.OnceIenjoyedfrequentglimpsesofagreatblissandintense
stateofsamadhithenIwasunfortunateenoughtocomeintocontactwiththeosophists
andothersofthatilkwhosubtlysupplantedmyrealinwardhappinesswithintellectual
systemsandtheoriesuponwhichIwasthenceforwardtoponder.Alas!Iwastooyoung
andtoogreentoknowwhatwashappening.Theblisswentbeforelongthesamadhis
stopped,andIwascastupontheshoreoftheFinite,anunhappyandproblempuzzledbit
ofhumanwreckage!Nopromiseofwonderfulinitiationsatsomefuturetimewilllureme
totrustmylifeintothecareofasocalledguruwhoiseitherunabletoorunwillingto
givemeaglimpseoftheGodconsciousnessheclaimstopossess.Iamnotinclinedto
followatrailwhichmaylandmesomewhereoutinthemiddleofthedesert,bereftof
reason,hope,andfortune.
96

Atitsbest,psychismleadsusintohumanfanciesabouttheholyatitsworst,tothevery
lairofthedevilish.Thespiritualalone,initstruesense,canleadusintotheveritably
holy.
97

Theessenceofthematteristhatthehigherultramysticexperiencesarenotconcerned
withpersonalclairvoyantvisionsorclairaudientvoicesbutwiththeraisingof
consciousnesstoanimpersonaltranscendentstatewhereinnoneoftherelative
phenomenaofaspacetimeworldcanenter.
98
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Thequestisnotjugglery.Themostbreathtakingfeatoftheconjurerwillnotprovethe
leastinsignificantofspiritualtruths.
99

Peoplespendhalftheirlivesindarkenedroomstryingtoestablishcommunicationwith
the"spirits,"withdubiousanddebatableresults,whenonetenthofthetimedevotedto
tryingtoestablishcommunicationwiththeirOWNdivinespiritwouldbringindubitable
anddelightfulresults.
100

Therearecountlessthousandswho,weakinfaithandlackinginintuition,mustperforce
seekamidexternalthingsforproofofthesoul.Spiritualismclaimstogivethisproof.
Thereare,ofcourse,thosewhobelievethatthespiritualistshavemisinterpretedtheir
experiences.
101

TheseventhchapterofTheWisdomoftheOverselfcontainssomematerialwhich
generallyanswersthequestionsoflifeafterdeath.Itisquitetruethatspiritualismhas
servedtheusefulpurposeofprovingtheexistenceofanafterlife.Neverthelessitisa
dangerousmattertoexperimentwithpractically.Itisfarsafertolimitinvestigationtoa
studyofitsliterature.Morespecifically:(1)Thequestofpsychicexperiencesisdefinitely
astumblingblockonthetruepathduringtheearlierstages.Theyarealmostsuretolead
thenoviceastray,maycausehimtowastevaluableyears,andwillsometimesharmhim
invariousways.Mostattemptstoestablishcontactwiththeastralworldwilleitherendin
failureanddeceptionorpsychicinjury.(2)Astralprojectionisneitherwrongnorright
butitshouldnotbesoughtforitsownsake.Itdevelopsnaturallyofitselftoonewhois
highlyadvancedonthetrulyspiritualquest.Butifnovicesprematurelyseekittheyare
likelytoharmthemselves.Intheenditwillbefoundthatspiritualismisonlyastepping
stonetothehighermysticalphilosophy.Itisofuseasahalfwayhouseformany
Westerners,butoneshouldnottarryheretoolong.Thehigherandlowerteachingsare
likeoilandwater.Theycannotbemixedtogetherandonedayyouwillhavetomake
yourchoicebetweenthemifyouwishtoprogressandnottoremainstagnating.
102

Theseoccultauthorscataloguesuchaformidablelistofnecessaryqualificationsthatitis
likelytodetermostpeopleratherthanattractthem.Onewonderswhetherthewriters
havesucceededinfulfillingtheirownstandards.Itisgoodhowevertorememberthat
therearewaysnotsosteepastheirs,thatthereareeasierpathsinexistenceinotherlands
thanthatofoccultism.Genuinemysticism,truereligion,orrightphilosophy:anyofthese
canconductonetothegoalwithlesstroubleandlessdangerthanoccultism.
103

Thereisaproblemofmentalunbalanceandpartialinsanityinthemodernworld.
Philosophyoffershelp,asitaimsatsecuringcompletesanitywhereasmostotherguides
catertounbalance.
104

Thereissomethingwhichmightbecalledthehigherspiritualismwhichisonahigher
levelaltogetherthanordinaryspiritualism.Thishasbeenfoundbyanexhaustivestudy,
bothpracticalandtheoretical.Thehigherspiritualismstandsmidwaybetweenthelower
kindandmysticismproper.Bymysticismismeanttheendeavourtobecomepossessed,
notbyanydisembodiedhumanentity,butbythedivineSpirit,beitnamedGod,Soul,
Christ,Allah,Atman,orsomeothernamewhichhasbeengiventothatwhichmanknows
tobetheDivine.Inthegroupofthosewhobelongtothishigherspiritualismcanbe
includedsuchmenasStaintonMoses,whoeditedLight,theleadingspiritualistjournalin
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London,andAndrewJacksonDavis,thefamousAmericanclairvoyant.Theirwritings
wereadmirableandmuchinLifeandItsManifestationsisreminiscentofthemintone,
idea,andatmosphere.
105

Occultorspiritisticpracticeswhichhaveservedtheirpurposeinconvincingtheirstudent
thatmaterialismisfalse,shouldbeabandonedifhewishestomakethebestuseofhis
limitedperiodonearth.Whensuchapointhasbeenreached,heshouldturnhisthoughts
inthedirectionofseekingtheOverselfalone,orhislifeperiodwillbewasted.
106

Ifphilosophydeniestheauthenticityofmanyoccult,psychical,andreligiomystical
experiences,itdoesnothavetodenythattheydidoccur.Thatneednotbeindispute.But
thedangeroftakingfancyforrealityandawaystationfortheterminusisveryeasyto
fallintoandmustbepointedout."Bewarethemwhoperceivethedeepreality,"warned
theBuddhainastatementwhichrecallsforusthewarningofJesusaboutthestraightness
ofthewaytotruthandthat"Fewtherebethatfindit."Theprudentseekerwillbeonhis
guardnottosuccumbtothetemptationofdallyinginegoflatteringthrills.
107

Whyshouldwesurrenderthesimpleclarityoftrueselfknowledgefortheinvolved
obscurityofoccultism?
108

Philosophicspiritualismdoesnotgofarenough.Inspirationderivedfromanyindividual,
disembodiedandangelicthoughhemightbe,isnotasfineasinspirationderivedfromthe
unindividuatedSoul,whichthebestmysticsseek.Itisastepintherightdirection,
though.
109

Itisasnecessarytoavoidpitfallsofsuperstitionononesideasthoseofpsychismonthe
other.
110

Everythingthatstimulatesustofollowthequestisworthencouragingifitsdemeritsbe
nottoolargebuteverythingwhichparalysesthisaspirationisrenderingadisserviceto
humanity.
111

Theoccult,andindeedallextraordinaryhappenings,attractsafarlargeramountof
interestthanthemystical.Forherethephysicalsensescomeintoplayandfind
satisfactionwhereasinthemysticalonlytheintuitiveandtheemotionalfacultiesare
engaged.
112

Themajorityareseekersafteroccultism.Theythirstforpowersthatwillgivetheman
advantageoverothers.Theyseektoinflatetheiregoswhereasthetruedisciplesseekto
flattenit.
113

Excessiveaddictiontosupernormalmysticexperiencesorbizarreocculttitillationsleads
towrongviewsanddrawstheseekertoawronggoal.Thedignityofquietphilosophical
studyoftenappearstoprovetoofrigidforthosewhorevelinsuperstitionandwhoseek
thegaudycaricaturesoftruthratherthantheausteretruthitself.
114
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Manypeopleyearntoescapefromtheworldofthefleshmanyseekforpsychicworlds
fullofmagicalhalfshadowsmanymindsareturningintothenarrowlanesofthought
andwideroadsofstudyindicatedbythesignpostsofoccultismanditskindred.
115

Manyarecalledonthespiritualtelephoneexchangeoflife,butfewgetaclear
connection!
116

Psychicalderangementsarecommonenoughtokeepthespecialistsbusy.Mentallyupset
personscropupeverywhere,evenonairplanes.Wehaveseeninsanityappearinhigh
placesandcollectmanyfollowers.Ifanythingcangivesanity,itisthecalmandbalance
ofphilosophy.Butunlessitishiddenbehindmagicandoccultism,thosewhoneedit
mostareleastattractedtoitandleastfitforit.
117

Itisnotapathsuitedtoneurotic,weak,mentallyodd,andemotionallysickpersons.Such
peopleareoftenattractedtomysticalmovementsandideasbuttheyshrinkfrom
philosophictruthanddiscipline.
118

Historyshowsthatwherepeoplehavehadtheopportunitytoimbibethehighesttruth,
theystillpreferredoccultsensationalismtoit.
119

Allthisinterestinandpursuitofoccultismismerelyanenlargementoftheego'sordinary
sphere.Whyshouldateacherofphilosophycatertothat?
120

Howmanypersonshaveimprisonedthemselvesintheirownmentalcreationsorauto
hypnoticfabricationsattheverymomentwhentheyhadthechancetoexperiencethe
Spiritinallitspurity!Thiscouldnothavehappenedhadtheybeenpreparedincharacter
andpurifiedinintellectbyphilosophy.Withoutthissafeguard,theegointervenesand
corruptsthetruthandkeepsasmuchofitsillusionsasitcanholdontounderthat
dazzlinglight.
121

Philosophyisnotforthethrillseekerstherearecultsandgroups,"isms"andpractices
whichwillbetterexciteandsatisfythem.Evenonahigherlevel,themystic's,thereis
stillasearch,alonging,for"experiences."Inmostcasessuchexperiencesaredesiredas
escapesfromtheego'stensionsandburdens,itsinsignificanceorenvironment.
TheNotebooksarecopyright19841989,ThePaulBruntonPhilosophicFoundation.

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