William Q. Judge on Eastern Occultism in Theosophy versus Western Occultism
The theosophists were trying to explain in their time, that the history, nature and implications of Occult Philosophy are far more than what was being introduced to Western thinkers, and certain fundamental elements of Occultism should direct its development and influence.
It is not for the sake of division, that Judge and Blavatsky made the criticism, such as this:
“’Ceremonial Magic’ according to the rules mockingly laid down by Eliphas Levi, is another imagined alter-ego of the philosophy of the Arhats of old. In short, the prisms through which Occultism appears, to those innocent of the philosophy, are as multicolored and varied as human fancy can make them.
Will these candidates to Wisdom and Power feel very indignant if told the plain truth? It is not only useful, but it has now become necessary to disabuse most of them and before it is too late. This truth may be said in a few words: There are not in the West half-a-dozen among the fervent hundreds who call themselves “Occultists,” who have even an approximately correct idea of the nature of the Science they seek to master. With a few exceptions, they are all on the highway to Sorcery. Let them restore some order in the chaos that reigns in their minds, before they protest against this statement.” (BLAVATSKY, STUDIES IN OCCULTISM)
In The Vahan (Vol. 1., no. 12., 1891. pg. 5), William Q. Judge answers why H.P.B. criticizes Western Occultism, elaborating on the history of Western systems being too corrupted through its syncretism with the Jewish and Biblical tradition, hence the limitations.
The Christian Kabbalists for example must adhere to the Bible, and reduce all their knowledge to special interpretations, or as far as the Bible permits them. This is a very important statement to understand the value the Theosophists provided. Judge says that, “the history of Western Occultism shows it to be nothing less than a pot-pourri of individual research and speculation, which disfigured the original truths almost beyond recognition.” The main reason for the criticism is given in the article in The Vahan.
“It was thought by H.P.B. that true Eastern Occultism was the primeval system and hence better than the Western. For the Western is all overgrown with the weeds sown by Judaism in the beginning and mediaeval Christianity in the end. So it will be found that although at bottom Western Occultism has the same doctrines as the Eastern, a vast mass of rubbish has to be carried off in order to get at the truth. Anyone who will dive into Rosicrucianism will find those difficulties.” (William Q. Judge)
The Vahan (Vol. 1., no. 12., 1891. pg. 5)
“Query.—How is it that H.P.B. so severely criticizes the Western systems of Occultism and yet admits in some of her writings that they lead to the same end as the Eastern systems?
Ans.—H.P.B. knew that the system was based upon the primeval revelations given to the early races of mankind, and that it had been carefully guarded and taught only under correctly strict conditions, which were actually part of that revelation. Thus it has remained pure and undefiled and is felt as such by all aspirants to its mysteries. On the other hand, the Western systems reached the Europeans through the Egyptians and more especially through the Mosaic channel, by which the primal truths became coloured and distorted, a fact due first of all to the corrupt motives which induced to their study, and secondly to the faulty interpretations given to the traditions by individual writers. The history of Western Occultism shows it to be nothing less than a pot-pourri of individual research and speculation, which disfigured the original truths almost beyond recognition. The Jewish tradition, which is the basis of Western Occultism, is full of national egotism. The Jews claim to be a chosen people, and to this all their Occultism is subservient (…)
By W.Q.J.—It is very true that all systems of Occultism lead to the same end, since all must be based on similar principles however distorted some may be in practice, but the road by one will be more difficult than by another until the real highway of Universal Occultism is reached. It was thought by H.P.B. that true Eastern Occultism was the primeval system and hence better than the Western. For the Western is all overgrown with the weeds sown by Judaism in the beginning and mediaeval Christianity in the end.
So it will be found that although at bottom Western Occultism has the same doctrines as the Eastern, a vast mass of rubbish has to be carried off in order to get at the truth. Anyone who will dive into Rosicrucianism will find those difficulties. It must always be borne in mind, too, that H.P.B. in speaking of Eastern Occultism had in view the real thing and not the many systems in India which would juggle the student quite as much as the things in the Western schools. Speaking for my own beliefs, I do not think Western Occultism is worthy of the name and is only a hodgepodge that produces confusion when the mere outer crust of virtuous living is mastered. It leads to saintliness but not to that higher knowledge which must be added to the good in order to make them also the wise.”
Query.—Is it well to talk about Occultism to the ordinary enquirer into Theosophy?
Ans. (W.Q.J.)—It is better not to do so. Ordinary enquirers may be attracted to Theosophy because of its mysterious appearance, but that is no reason for giving them what they demand. For surely later on they will find that the pursuit of the mysteries and the occult is hedged about with many difficulties and that it demands an acquaintance with every other philosophy that ought to have been offered to them when they first enquired.
Furthermore it is not the many who are fit for Occultism, but rather the few, and those soon will find their way into the path no matter how they may have approached it. Enquirers will then be directed to this philosophy and the ethics of the Theosophical system, as true Occultism springs from philosophy, and its practice is alone safely possible for those who have a right system of ethics.”