Eastern Methods and Western Bodies
From Sane Occultism and Practical Occultism in Daily Life
Articles By Dion Fortune
Many people think that the East is the only home of occultism, but this is far from being the case. Every race has had, and still has, its traditional, guarded wisdom, revealed to the few and concealed from the many. Our own Western tradition traces its origin to Egypt, with tributaries from Chaldea, Greece, and the fierce Norse tradition. It comes down to us through the Qabalists and Alchemists, and it is alive and active at the present day.
Strange as it may appear, it is the Eastern tradition, its methods and terminology that are most generally known among us, and for two reasons. Firstly, because the Western Tradition has always been, and still is, very guarded and secretive in its methods; whether rightly or wrongly is a matter of opinion. There is much to be said both for and against secrecy in occultism. And secondly, the Theosophical Society, whose methods and contacts are Eastern, has for over fifty years of active propaganda work to its credit.
It may not unreasonably be asked why it was, if there were an active esoteric tradition in Europe, that Mme Blavatsky, the founder of the Theosophical Society, did not take her initiation in its schools instead of having to seek her Master in the East. The explanation is a simple ethnological one. The Russians, according to the old saying, are not the most Easterly of the Westerns, but the most Westerly of the Easterns. One has only to look at the portraits of Mme Blavatsky to see the Tartar blood to realize that her affiliates would be with the Light of Asia. The principles taught in all the great racial traditions are the same, but the different traditions have brought different aspects of esoteric science to a high degree of development according to the natural inclination of racial temperament. The pagan faiths of the West developed the nature contacts. Modern Western occultism rising from this basis, seems to be taking for its field the little-known powers of the mind. The Eastern tradition has a very highly developed metaphysics. We do well to study these different aspects where we find them in their highest degree of development. The Sacred Books of the East and the popular expositions there of are invaluable to the Western occultist. Nevertheless, when it comes to practical application of these principles and especially the process of occult training and initiation, it is best for a man to follow the line of his own racial evolution. It is very seldom that a European, living in Europe, is successfully trained by Eastern methods. If a man or a woman is able to go to the East and completely sink themselves in the Eastern group-soul it is possible for them to go a certain way in the Eastern tradition, but we have no record of any Europeans reaching the higher degrees.
The reason for the inadvisability of an alien initiation does not lie in racial antagonism, nor in any failure to appreciate the beauty and profundity of the Eastern systems, but for the same reason that Eastern methods of agriculture are inapplicable in the West-because conditions are different.
As has already been said, different schools develop different aspects of occult science. These aspects are developed not according to racial temperament, but also according to racial Darma, or duty. When a nation has a particular task to fulfil, the initiates of that nation give a lead along the destined lines. The esoteric discipline which enabled the Hindu race to develop the higher mind would not only have been inapplicable to the Anglo-Saxon race whose task it was to develop the concrete mind, but would actually have prevented that development from taking place because it is necessary to close down the higher consciousness if the lower consciousness is to be operated. The two methods would be mutually antagonistic and destructive, and yet they were right for those to whom they belong; nevertheless, each of the each races, different as is their destiny, can profit by the achievements of the other, for qualities and faculties once brought through into manifestation on this earth belong to humanity as a whole and from part of the common heritage to which each race in turn brings its gift Beauty from Greece, Order from Rome, Spiritual Philosophy from India.
There will always be individuals in every race who feel that their spiritual home is elsewhere, but they are exceptional. There will never be many Richard Burtons or Sundar Singhs in a race. For the most part they will be Smiths and McGregors and Murpheys. But although there will always be individual exceptions, no one seeking the Ancient Wisdom should be encouraged to follow an alien tradition unless he has a very definite bias in that direction, for even when there is a definite spiritual affinity with the East, the problem of training a Western body by Eastern methods presents many difficulties. The study of such books as those of the Swami Vivekananda, in which the Yogi methods are very plainly set forth, reveals the fact that the opening of the higher centres of consciousness according to the Eastern methods depends on the redirecting of the etheric currents in the physical body, and the concentrating of them upon centres known as charkas.
If we study the anatomy of the subject, we shall see that these charkas correspond with the endocrine glands, and that the changes in the consciousness are brought about by producing changes in the chemical composition of the blood by checking or stimulating the different ductless glands. Western physiology is beginning to wake up to the intimate connection between the ductless glands and the mind, and is studying them in connection with those changes of consciousness known as insanity, and there is no doubt at all as to the intimate connection between the endocrines (or charkas) and the mind. The ancient Eastern Tradition is confirmed in its doctrine by Western experimental science.
But here comes the rub from the point of view of the seeker after initiation. The endocrine balance in different races differs profoundly. It is this difference which produced the different racial types; this is proved by the fact that if we get a disturbance of the endocrine balance in childhood, we shall get a Mongolian, or even a Negroid appearance in a child of pure European stock. Stuck a child, however, will be a diseased and sub-normal individual, because the other endocrine secretions have not been modified proportionately, as they are in the case of the normal Chinese or Negro, whose endocrines are balanced according to type. It is quite true that other branches of the Aryan stock are nearer akin to us than these other root-races, but the pigmentation of the skin, and the structure of the skeleton reveal fundamental variations. We have only to realize the difference in resistance to shock between the Hindu, the Anglo-Saxon, and the Negro, to realize that different initiatory methods would have to be used with them. The Hindu dies readily from shock, pure and simple. The Anglo-Saxon will be upset by it, but he is exceedingly unlikely to die of it. As for the Negro, he is practically immune. It follows therefore that the methods to which the sensitive Hindu will respond will, under normal conditions, have as little effect on the other two as water on a duck's back, and the methods which suit the Negro would shatter the white man.
In order to become a suitable subject for Eastern methods, an Anglo Saxon has to undergo a long period of sensitisation. At the end of that period he may be fitted for an Eastern initiation, but he is quite unfitted for a Western life. In very few cases is a successful issue arrived at.
The Western initiatory method consists in strengthening not sensitising the candidate, and then concentrating the subtle forces by means of a ritual. A man thus trained, far from being unfitted for the struggle for existence in the rush and drive of modern life, has acquired stamina quite out of the ordinary, and is distinguished by his powers of endurance and ability to control the reactions of his body, resisting cold hunger, and pain in a remarkable degree. This, of course, is equally true of the Eastern Adept; he also has dominion over the elements in his own nature. There are many well-authenticated accounts of the feats of endurance of those trained in the Ancient Wisdom of the East. There is nothing in the occult discipline, rightly applied, which is going to make invalids or nervous wrecks of its students; it is, apparently, the application of methods designed for one type of physique, social organization and climate, to individuals of another racial and social order which gives such unsatisfactory results and produces the weedy-looking neurotics so common in esoteric circles.
Whatever argument may be adduced concerning the brotherhood of man, experience proves that the spiritual methods of one racial type seldom suit another. If the ethnological map of Europe be compared with the map showing the distribution of the different religious systems, it will immediately become apparent that the boundary lines are identical. Catholic Christianity coincides with the geographical distribution of the Latin races; protestant Christianity coincides with the Nordic populations. In neither Asia nor Africa is the missionary's convert considered a desirable employee. 'A native converted is a native spoiled,' is a proverb is two different continents.
Such observations as these confirm the tradition that the Great White Lodge gives to each race the religion suited to its needs. It is the esoteric and mystical side of each religion which forms the initiatory school of its race. Unless a man has had the elementary training of a tradition he is unlikely to profit by its advanced work. To grow up under the discipline of exoteric Christianity and then suddenly go on to a school of esoteric Buddhism without first being received into the Buddhist faith is like working for the intermediate B.A. and then wanting to proceed to the final B.Sc. Still more do such considerations apply to the Hindu esoteric tradition, wherein the greatest importance is attached to physical considerations, such as heredity, diet, and contacts. To take up Yogi systems while disregarding these things is mere occult amateurism; no Asiatic would take such a person seriously.
The Eastern guru is especially at a disadvantage in dealing with Western woman because the Eastern and Western attitudes towards woman differ so widely. Equally is he at a disadvantage in counselling his male pupils concerning such matters as marriage and their relations with women in general. The management of the sex forces is an exceedingly important thing in occultism, and attitudes towards sex in the East and in the West are poles asunder. The Eastern teacher may be able to instruct his pupils in philosophy, but he can give little practical help in matters of ethics, for the subtler aspects of the inner life of a race are a closed book to an alien.
Equally do these considerations apply to Western occult systems transplanted to America. They never strike their roots there, but remain superficial and academic. There is a certain aspect of occult work which has to make use of the magnetism of the land itself. Native systems of magic are built up on the basis and have a technique, and therefore fail to complete their operations; or, alternatively, should they succeed in contacting the elemental forces of the land, experience much difficulty in keeping them under control and returning them to their proper place when the operation is finished.
American occultism will never come into its own until it ceases to import its systems from Europe and India, but goes back along the line of its own tradition, picking up the aboriginal contacts, and daring to bend them to its own evolutionary purposes. It must seek the contacts of the Sun temple of Atlantis through the Maya tradition. Egypt has no message for the United states. American can learn esoteric philosophy and science from the Western tradition, just as Europeans can learn from the Eastern tradition, but the initiatory forces cannot be conveyed across the Atlantic or the Pacific. Some day there will come an American who will pick up the ancient Maya contacts, adapt them to modern needs, and express their forces in an initiatory ritual which shall be valid for the civilization to which he belongs.
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