The Choice of a Path

The Mystical Qabalah

1. No student will ever make any progress in spiritual development who flits from system to sytsem; first using some New Thought affirmations, then some Yoga breathing exercises and meditation-postures, and following these by an attempt at the mystical methods of prayer. Each of these systems has its value, but that value can only be realised if the system is carried out in its entirety. They are the calisthenics of consciousness, and aim at gradually developing the powers of the mind. The value does not lie in the prescribed exercises as ends in themselves, but in the powers that will be developed if they are persevered with. If we intend to take our occult studies seriously and make of them anything more than desultory light reading, we must choose our system and carry it out faithfully until we arrive, if not at its ultimate goal, at any rate at definite practical results and a permanent enhancement of consciousness. After this has been achieved we may, not without advantage, experiment with the methods that have been developed upon other Paths, and build up an eclectic technique and philosophy therefrom; but the student who sets out to be an eclectic before he has made himself an expert will never be anything more than a dabbler.

2. Whoever has any practical experience of the different methods of spiritual development knows that the method must fit the temperament, and that it must also be adapted to the grade of development of the student. Westerners, especially such as prefer the occult to the mystic Path, often come seeking initiation at a stage of spiritual development which an Eastern guru would consider exceedingly immature. Any method that is to be available for the West must have in its lower grades a technique which can be used as a stepping-stone by these undeveloped students; to ask them to rise immediately to metaphysical heights is useless in the case of the great majority) and prevents a start from being made.

3. For a system of spiritual development to be applicable in the West it must fulfil certain well-defined requirements. To begin with, its elementary technique must be such that it is readily grasped by minds that have in them nothing of the mystic. Secondly, the forces it brings to bear to stimulate the development of the higher aspects of consciousness must be sufficiently powerful and concentrated to penetrate the relatively dense vehicles of the average Westerner, who makes nothing whatever of subtle vibrations. Thirdly, as few Europeans, following a racial dharma of material development, have either the opportunity or the inclination to lead the life of a recluse, the forces employed must be handled in such a way that they can be made available during the brief periods that the modern man or woman can, at the commencement of the Path, snatch from their daily avocations to give to the pursuit. They must, that is to say, be handled by a technique which enables them to be readily concentrated and equally readily dispersed, because it is not possible to maintain these high psychic tensions while living the hard-driving life of the citizen of a European city. Experience proves with unfailing regularity that the methods of psychic development which are effectual and satisfactory for the recluse produce neurotic conditions and breakdowns in the person who pursues them while compelled to endure the strain of modern life.

4. So much the worse for modern life, some may say, and adduce this undeniable fact as an argument for modifying Our Western ways of living. Far be it from me to maintain that our civilisation is perfect, or that wisdom originated and will die with us, but it appears to me that if our karma (or destiny) has caused us to be incarnated in a body of a certain racial type and temperament, it may be concluded that that is the discipline and experience which the Lords of Karma consider we need in this incarnation, and that we shall not advance the cause of our evolution by avoiding or evading it. I have seen so many attempts at spiritual development that were simply evasions of life's problems that I am suspicious of any system which involves a breach with the group-soul of the race. Nor am I impressed by a dedication to the higher life which manifests itself by peculiarities of clothing and bearing and by the manner of cutting, or omitting to cut, the hair. True spirituality never advertises itself.

5. The racial dharma of the West is the conquest of dense matter. If this were realised it would explain many problems in the relationships of West and East. In order that we may conquer dense matter and develop the concrete mind we are endowed by our racial heritage with a particular type of physical body and nervous system, just as other races, such as the Mongolian and the Negro, are endowed with other types.

6. It is injudicious to apply to one type of psycho-physical make-up the developing methods adapted to another; they will either fail to produce adequate results, or produce unforeseen and possibly undesirable results. To say this is not to condemn the Eastern methods, nor decry the Western constitution, which is as God made it, but to reaffirm the old adage that one man's meat is another man's poison.

7. The dharma of the West differs from that of the East; is it therefore desirable to try and implant Eastern ideals in a Westerner? Withdrawal from the earth-plane is not his line of progress. The normal, healthy Westerner has no desire to escape from life, his urge is to conquer it and reduce it to order and harmony. It is only the pathological types who long to "cease upon the midnight with no pain," to be free from the wheel of birth and death; the normal Western temperament demands "life, more life."

8. It is this concentration of life-force that the Western occultist seeks in his operations. He does not try to escape from matter into spirit, leaving an unconquered country behind him to get on as best it may; he wants to bring the Godhead down into manhood and make Divine Law prevail even in the Kingdom of the Shades. This is the root-motive for the acquisition of occult powers upon the Right-hand Path, and explains why initiates do not abandon all for the mystic Divine Union, but cultivate a White Magic.

9. It is this White Magic, which consists in the application of occult powers to spiritual ends, by means of which a large proportion of the training and development of the Western aspirant is carried out. I have seen something of a good many different systems, and in my opinion the person who tries to dispense with ceremonial is working at a great disadvantage. Development by meditation alone is a slow process in the West, because the mind-stuff upon which it has to work, and the mental atmosphere in which the work has to be done, are very resistant. The only purely meditative school of Western Yoga is that of the Quakers, and I think that they would agree that their path is for the few; the Catholic Church combines Mantra Yoga with its Bhakti Yoga.

10. It is by means of formula that the occultist selects and concentrates the forces he wishes to work with. These formule are based upon the Qabalistic Tree of Life, and whatever system he may be working, whether he be assuming the God-forms of Egypt or evoking the inspiration of Iacchus with chant and dance, he has the diagram of the Tree at the back of his mind. It is in the symbolism of the Tree that Western initiates are drilled, and it supplies the essential ground~plan of classification to which all other systems can be related. The Ray upon which the Western aspirant works has manifested itself-through many different cultures and developed a characteristic technique in each. The modern initiate works a synthetic system, sometimes using an Egyptian, a Greek, or even a Druidic method, for different methods are best suited for different purposes and conditions. In all cases, however, the operation he designs is strictly related to the Paths of the Tree of which he is master. If he possesses the grade which corresponds to the Sephirah Netzach, he can work with the manifestation of the force of that aspect of the Godhead (distinguished by the Qabalists by the name of Tetragrammaton Elohim) in
whatever system he may select. In the Egyptian system it will be the Isis of Nature; in the Greek, Aphrodite; in the Nordic, Freya; in the Druidic, Keridwen. In other words, he possesses the powers of the Sphere of Venus in whatever traditional system he may be using. Having attained a grade in one system, he has access to the equivalent grades of all the other systems of his Tradition.

11. But although he may use these other systems as occasion serves, experience proves that the Qabalah supplies the best groundwork and the best system upon which to train a student before he begins to experiment with the pagan systems. rhe Qabalah is essentially monotheistic; the potencies it classifies are always regarded as the messengers of God and not His fellow-workers. This principle enforces the concept of a centralised government of the Cosmos and of the grip of the Divine Law upon the whole of manifestation-a very necessary principle with which to imbue any student of the Arcane forces. It is the purity, sanity, and clarity of the Qabalistic concepts as resumed in the formula of the Tree of Life which makes that glyph such an admirable one for the meditations that exalt consciousness and justify us in calling the Qabalah the Yoga of the West.