Four Kinds of Esoteric Sciences in Hindu Philosophy | Helena Blavatsky
Anton Levey once defined Occultism as a “Do it yourself God-kit,” leaving out the significance of ethics, self-discipline and morality. This is not what Occultism is once we explore it. This is to understand Occultism more fully as a Tree with Branches (Practices, Sciences and Departments), not a singular thing, a benevolent nor nefarious thing. People, especially the Christians during the sixties and seventies would rather had listened to Leveyan Satanism for ratings and heightening declining Church membership numbers, rather than listen to other occultists that had prepared and nurtured their work in the West before the red and black caped-clown costumes and sexual exploits.
Helena Blavatsky summed up four kinds of Esoteric Sciences in Hindu philosophy that is sufficient enough to explain the history and divisions of Occult Science:
- Yajnavidya. “knowledge of the occult powers awakened in Nature by the performance of certain religious ceremonies and rites.”
- Mahavidya. “the “great knowledge,” the magic of the Kabalists and the Tantrika worship, often Sorcery of the worst description.”
- Guhyavidya. “knowledge of the mystic powers residing in Sound (Ether), hence in the Mantras (chanted prayers or incantations) and depending on the rhythm and melody used; in other words, a magical performance based on Knowledge of the forces of Nature and their correlation.”
- Atmavidya. “a term which is translated simply “Knowledge of the Soul,” true Wisdom by the Orientalists, but which means far more.”
THE WORD OCCULTISM IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE
“In our highly civilized West, where modern languages have been formed, and words coined, in the wake of ideas and thoughts — as happened with every tongue — the more the latter became materialized in the cold atmosphere of Western selfishness and its incessant chase after the goods of this world, the less was there any need felt for the production of new terms to express that which was tacitly regarded as absolute and exploded “superstition.” Such words could answer only to ideas which a cultured man was scarcely supposed to harbor in his mind. “Magic,” a synonym for jugglery, “Sorcery,” an equivalent for crass ignorance, and “Occultism,” the sorry relic of crack-brained, mediaeval Fire-philosophers, of the Jacob Boehmes and the St. Martins, are expressions believed more than amply sufficient to cover the whole field of “thimble-rigging.” They are terms of contempt, and used generally only in reference to the dross and residues of the dark ages and the preceding aeons of paganism. Therefore have we no terms in the English tongue to define and shade the difference between such abnormal powers, or the sciences that lead to the acquisition of them, with the nicety possible in the Eastern languages — pre-eminently the Sanskrit. What do the words “miracle” and “enchantment” (words identical in meaning after all, as both express the idea of producing wonderful things by breaking the laws of nature [!!] as explained by the accepted authorities) convey to the minds of those who hear, or pronounce them? A Christian — breaking “of the laws of nature,” notwithstanding — while believing firmly in the miracles, because said to have been produced by God through Moses, will either scout the enchantments performed by Pharaoh’s magicians, or attribute them to the devil. It is the latter whom our pious enemies connect with Occultism, while their impious foes, the infidels, laugh at Moses, Magicians and Occultists, and would blush to give one serious thought to such “superstitions.”
This, because there is no term in existence to show the difference; no words to express the lights and shadows and draw the line of demarcation between the sublime and the true, the absurd and the ridiculous. The latter are the theological interpretations which teach the “breaking of the laws of Nature” by man, God, or devil; the former — the scientific “miracles” and enchantments of Moses and the Magicians in accordance with natural laws, both having been learned in all the Wisdom of the Sanctuaries, which were the “Royal Societies” of those days — and in true OCCULTISM. This last word is certainly misleading, translated as it stands from the compound word Gupta-Vidya, “Secret Knowledge.” But the knowledge of what? Some of the Sanskrit terms may help us.
There are four (out of the many others) names of the various kinds of Esoteric Knowledge or Sciences given, even in the exoteric Puranas. There is (1) Yajna-Vidya, knowledge of the occult powers awakened in Nature by the performance of certain religious ceremonies and rites. (2) Mahavidya, the “great knowledge,” the magic of the Kabalists and the Tantrika worship, often Sorcery of the worst description. (3) Guhya-Vidya, knowledge of the mystic powers residing in Sound (Ether), hence in the Mantras (chanted prayers or incantations) and depending on the rhythm and melody used; in other words, a magical performance based on Knowledge of the forces of Nature and their correlation; and (4) ATMA-VIDYA, a term which is translated simply “Knowledge of the Soul,” true Wisdom by the Orientalists, but which means far more.
This last is the only kind of Occultism that any theosophist who admires “Light on the Path,” and who would be wise and unselfish, ought to strive after. All the rest is some branch of the “Occult Sciences,”, i.e. arts based on the knowledge of the ultimate essence of all things in the Kingdoms of Nature — such as minerals, plants and animals — hence of things pertaining to the realm of material nature, however invisible that essence may be, and howsoever much it has hitherto eluded the grasp of Science.” (Studies in Occultism: The Sciences)