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The Method of the Mystics (1)
THE solution of
the religious problem offered by the method of the mystics appears to be that
which is destined to triumph in the present age. This is no new method, but one
that has been in the world, obscurely and secretly, from the very dawn of
religious thought, having its representatives and exponents in the ancient
systems of both East and West, Buddhist, Alexandrian, and Christian.
consists in regarding the exterior and phenomenal presentation of religion as
but the scaffolding necessary to the construction of the edifice – its mythologic scenery, to use Professor Tyndal's
expression – and not the religion itself. The true faith is interior and
spiritual, and has for ages been in the course of elaboration within and by
means of these exterior appliances. Representing an eternal verity, and based
in the spiritual
consciousness, it is independent of letter and form, tradition
and authority, and superior, therefore, to all assaults of intellectual
criticism. What this age is witnessing is the removal of the now superfluous
scaffolding, and the disclosure, in all its finished perfection, of the true
Catholic Church of the future.
between exoteric or popular religion and mystic or acroatic
religion may be thus defined. In the former, sacred personages and occurrences
are understood in the physical and obvious sense, as phenomenal and relative,
and related to particular times and places, and dependent for verification upon
In the system
of the mystic, on the
contrary, sacred personages and events denote principles
and operations which
affect the spiritual Ego, and are to this what physical
transactions are to the
material personality. As these principles and operations
belong necessarily to universal experience, they are unrelated to times,
places, and persons, and are to be sought, not on the historical plane, but on
that of the mind and spirit; not, as the Buddhist would say, in the
"worlds of form," but in the "formless worlds."
symbols of religious verities have their true and legitimate use in leading the
soul to the apprehension of that which they imply.
regarded – as the popular religionist regards them – as themselves
essentials and coefficients in spiritual processes, they become
delusion. The essential is related to the essential, the
corporeal to the corporeal.
The things of
God are similars to themselves; the things of Caesar are
similars to themselves. To God belong the things of
God; to Caesar the things of Caesar. The redemption of the soul cannot be effected by means of coin on which is stamped the image and
superscription of the physical.
No events occurring
in time, no acts of an historical personage, can
"save" our souls.
and acts must be translated into spiritual verities, and realised
individually and experimentally, if they are to have any
efficacy for the spiritual selfhood. (2)
The method of
the mystics consists, then, in transmutation, or the conversion of the terms of
the outer into the inner, of the physical into the spiritual; of the temporal
and phenomenal into the eternal andnoumenal.
In them the key
of the Scriptures, and of the functions and sacraments of religion, is
found in the alchemic secret of transmutation. All the
metals, says the
alchemist, are gold in their essence, and by an application
of theDivine art can be made to appear in their
essence. But the uninitiate judge superficially and
reject as dross that which the adept knows to be gold.
Gold is the
alchemic formula for spirit; and as the precious metal lies concealed under
the semblance of the baser, so the true secret of all
sacred Scripture – its
spiritual significance – is hidden under the letter in such
wise that, though invisible to the vulgar, it is evident to the eye of the
therefore, the invariable rule of his order, and applying to the text of sacred
tradition the "universal solvent" formed by the two words
now and within, the mystic sees in the exposition of
revelation, from Genesis to the Apocalypse, the history, not of past events in
the external and sensible world, but of the soul, and of operations in
perpetual process in the sphere to which the soul – whether universal or
individual – belongs.
by Edward Maitland, of the Lecture given by Anna Kingsford, on
(2) In a note
to "Asclepios on Initiation," in The Virgin
of the World. Anna
"Mankind necessarily passes through the stage of nature-worship before
becoming competent to realise the celestial order and
the being of the heavenly Gods. For before the empyrean can
be reached by the human intelligence, it must traverse the spheres intermediate
between earth and heaven.
Thus the images
of the Gods are worshipped before the Gods themselves
are known; nor are these images necessarily of wood or stone.
personalities are eidola (idols) reflecting the true essentials, and having, as
it were, a portion of Divinity attached to them and resident in their forms,
but none the less are they images, and however powerful and adorable they may
appear to the multitude who know not divine religion, they are to the Hermetist but types and persona of essentials which are
eternally independent of manifestation and unaffected by it.
The signs of
the truly Divine are three: transcendency
of form, transcendency of time, transcendency
of personality. Instead of form is Essence; instead of time,
instead of persons, Principles.
Events become Processes; and phenomena, Noumena.
So long as the
conception of any divine idea remains associated with, or dependent on, any
physical or historical circumstance, so
long it is certain that the heavenly plane has not been
reached. Symbols, when
they are recognised as
symbols, are no longer either deceptive or dangerous;
they are merely veils of light rendering visible the
'Divine Dark' towards which
the true Hermetist aspires.
Even the most refined, the subtlest and most
metaphysical expression of the supreme Truth, is still symbol
and metaphor, for
the Truth itself is unutterable, save by God to God.
It is Essence, Silence,
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