While the broad tendency of accredited philosophical opinion at the present time is directed towards the negation of intelligence outside the physical Cosmos, and would reject the conception of an immortal principle subsistent in human nature, the psychological facts of the day, imperfectly investigated as they are, seem to indicate in no uncertain manner that the age of spiritual speculation is passing, in the normal course of evolution, into an age of experimental knowledge concerning the things of the soul and the realities of the life beyond. The psychological experiments in question include the higher phenomena of mesmerism, hypnotism, clairvoyance, and that communication with disembodied intelligences which has been more or less certainly established by the agency of the spiritual circle. A portion of these phenomena are being to some extent seriously considered by the official representatives of physical science. Concerning all it may be affirmed that the overwhelming majority of persons who have sufficiently investigated the subjects have become convinced of their truth and reality. At the same time, there are distinct limitations to the knowledge which can be obtained from these departments of phenomenal psychology – limitations, in fact, which are well known to all advanced investigators. Under these circumstance, it is permissible to look in other quarters for an increased light, and with the desired illumination it is believed that the old Mystics were familiarized by other methods than those which are included under the term phenomenal psychology. From the standpoint of their philosophy, it is possible in this life and in this body to discern and know God I a spiritual but actually realizable manner, to partake of “the blessed manna of the philosophers,” and to enter into a transcendental communion with the hierarchies of superior subsistence.
The methods and processes to which reference has just been made are practically identical in all ages and nations. At certain periods, and among certain peoples, the investigation of psychic possibilities has been pursued further, and more spiritual knowledge has been attained and accumulated. An extreme interest has been manifested within recent years in much that pertains to Oriental mystic thought, and there are many who imagine that ex oriente lux is the sole maxim by which a student of esoteric science should direct his researches. But it needs only a moderate acquaintance with esoteric Christian literature to be assured that there is a pure well of living water of divine truth, far more easily attainable in the writings of the Western Mystics. The revival of physical research has, however, permitted this mine of wealth to remain practically untouched, though it is true that occasional papers on the Occidental doctrines of the life which is within life are scattered through the spiritual journals, that in France there is at least one periodical nominally devoted to Christian Theosophy, and that both here and in America there are many secluded students who seem to have attained to spiritual reconstruction, and to have beheld, in the words of Philalethes, Diana Unveiled.
It should be clear from the statements that have been already made that the subject of transcendentalism admits of a board separation into two main sections, the phenomenal and the noumenal, the exterior and the interior, the objective and subjective; these two sections may be conveniently denominated Transcendental Science and Transcendental Religion. The first division, the domain of experiments, phenomena, manifestations, includes all that we understand under the names of practical magic in the past and practical psychology at the present time. The Magnum Opus, the highest point and pitch of Transcendental Science, was the establishment of a direct correspondence with the hierarchies of supramundane subsistence. It is true that it included alchemy, the mystery of the sol chemicorum, which was such an investigation of natural secrets as would elicit a practical method for the conversion of certain substances, generally metallic, into gold and silver. Transcendental Science included also the entire scope of transcendental medicine, the search for an Elixir of Life, for the Universal Medicine, and the Renewal of Youth – conceptions which were understood by the magicians in a more or less literal sense. There was, finally, the evocation of the souls of the departed, which must take rank among the most important and fascinating achievements of ceremonial magic.
The successful conduct of these experiments revealed to the operator not only the vastness, the depth, and the height of the great world, but the infinite possibilities of that which was usually distinguished as Minutum Mundum – the little world of humanity, microcosmic indeed upon the physical or phenomenal plane, but co-extensive with all time, with all space, in its interior or noumenal part. Under the light of this revelation, the Magus passed into the Mystic, the field of exterior experiment was abandoned for that of interior research, from Transcendental Science he entered into Transcendental Religion. The same process is taking place at the present day. Modern psychological phenomena are to a large extent parallel with the historic prodigies – la belle et rouge Magic – of the elder world. And with us, as with the old magician, these phenomena are but the threshold of the true science, “the greater illumination” of Flamel; they are but outward signs to indicate the realities that are within. They are not the truth itself; they are finger-posts which point on the road, which point us one way, wherever they are situated, and that is into man’s own soul, which is the only path to the Absolute that we call God, in whom is life and truth, and whereby we can attain truth – truth whole and undefiled – because he who wins an entrance into the sanctuary of his own soul can enter also in the enjoyment of all knowledge, and the participation in all reality trough a consubstantial union with the Infinite.
There undoubtedly were many magicians in the past who never became Mystics, and fell short of truth and reality, though perhaps they could perform wonders, though they may have held converse with spirits, though some of them may have made gold, though they must have been well aware, by a close experimental knowledge, that they were immortal spiritual beings. Never for them did the “soul descend from the pyroplastic sphere”; never, like Elias, were they caught up to God. So also at the present epoch, in spite of prevailing indifference, in spite of enlightened unbelief, in spite of universal doubt and ever-multiplying difficulties in all matters of doctrine, there are many who, by entering upon another path, have come experimentally to know that there is another world, and that it is possible, under certain conditions, to have intercourse with the denizens thereof; many are acquainted with at least the elementary phenomena of trance and ecstasy, and other psychological mysteries. Yet these are not Mystics; they have not penetrated into the interior man; they are contented with phenomenal results; they do not know the truth – that truth and beauty “ever ancient and ever new,” which is the “desired desire” and the whole “treasure of philosophy.” To evoke Apollonius of Tyana is not to know God; to become convinced by undeniable experiment that genuine materialization occasionally take place at séances is to be assured of a fact in science, pregnant with solemn significance, if you will, but still only a fact in science, once more, it is a sign, or finger-post, which points in the right direction for those who have eyes to see. It is neither fitting nor possible that scientific facts should, as such, be erected into a religion. The evocation of Apollonius and the manifestation of John King may have occurred or not, but even if they actually took place, they cannot constitute in the past are in themselves a proper basis for a new departure in esoteric religion; and it is pertinent to draw attention to this, because there are tendencies in such a direction on the part of many earnest persons. No form of experimental psychology will directly lead us to the highest intelligence; none of them can plunge us in God. And if in our spiritual questions we fall short of God, then we fall short of the Absolute and the Perfect; we fall short of the end of Mysticism.