Greetings of Peace. This blog contains selections from my correspondence and other sources on a variety of subjects related to religion, philosophy, and spirituality. I hope that they may be of benefit to the interested reader. Concerning the title of the blog, read this entry.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Limitations of the Occult Perspective

I am new to this forum, but having browsed the message archives, I feel the need to endeavor to correct what I feel is a major oversight and error on the part of many participants who ascribe to the perspectives espoused by schools of popular occultism. There are many criticisms that can be proposed, but … I will limit myself to identifying a very significant limitation inherent in the occult perspective.

Occultism, particularly that which is referred to as the Western Esoteric Tradition but not excluding those movements deriving from Theosophy, perpetuates the notion that a dichotomy exists between mysticism (oftentimes identified with the teachings and practices of occultism) and orthodox religion. Outside the confines of that which blatantly refers to itself as occult, this perspective may be widely evidenced through the popular expression in which someone considers himself "spiritual" but not "religious", religion being stigmatized as something negative and even outmoded. At a popular level, this mentality reaches its crystallization within the new age movement as aptly represented by such modern self-proclaimed spiritual teachers as Eckhart Tolle and Ken Wilbur. In any event, all manifestations of this tendency reflect the inability to move past this stigma and thereby to see the origins of both a given movement and its content with a degree of objectivity capable of rendering visible such a blatant error.

A spurious re-creation of the Rites of Eleusis led by Aleister Crowley

An objective assessment of occult systems reveals a significant degree of eclecticism. Those disciplines that have not been fabricated, either entirely or partly, based upon extant records of ancient and defunct traditions, have on the contrary been extrapolated from the various religions. This "borrowing" is sometimes done haphazardly, at other times with great ingenuity, but in any event always partial and fragmentary due to the loss of the symbolism and congenial ambiance contributed by the all encompassing totality of a living religious tradition.

Orthodox religions are based upon the reality of Divine Revelation, which is to say that the Divine Principle exists and that it has revealed itself to humanity in various ways. Each revelation serves as the foundation for a doctrine concerning the nature and destiny of man, the origin and structure of the cosmos, and the proper conduct of man faced with the reality of the Divine Principle and of a superior destiny. Simplistically, each religion is susceptible to a two-fold definition in terms of its outer and inner qualities. The former or exoterism is characterized by the dogmatic theological teaching, popular worship, and ethical prescriptions conducive to a harmonious social order. The inner dimension, or esoterism, which corresponds precisely to our term mysticism when it is understood in this manner, consists of the metaphysical truth of which exoterism serves as the outward symbol. Spiritual practice, or prayer, is likewise susceptible to degrees of participation including the most outward performance of canonical rites and a full existential assimilation to the Divine Principle in quintessential orison.

… the mystical disciplines of several orthodox religions may be studied … to introduce you to many of the treasures of orthodox religion that may have been closed to you due to ignorance or misplaced prejudice gained from immersion in the teachings of popular occultism. Suffice to say that not all of these traditions and practices are accessible to the average westerner.

… a system of mystical practice … has its origins within the revelation of a particular religion through which it partakes of “vertical” continuity, while it has been passed down and inherited by its present expositor through the “horizontal” continuity of tradition. Both of these elements ensure the fidelity of a given formulation of esoterism to its divine origin while distinguishing it from modern fabricated practices which are subject to individual whim and therefore derived from caprice.

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