THE MYSTIC AND OCCULT IN MAX HEINDEL’S WRITINGS
by Charles Weber
Two words regularly crop up in Max Heindel’s writings. They are at once complements and opposites of each other. Occult occurs far more often than mystic, and for good reason. Rosicrucian Teachings are principally occult and not mystic. Moreover, the Rosicrucian Fellowship was founded for the purpose of promulgating occult knowledge, as contained most completely in the Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception. The student may have experienced some confusion with the use of these two terms in Heindel’s oeuvre. By exploring that use in context we hope to bring clarity both to their intended meaning and to key concepts in the Rosicrucian Philosophy.
Etymology can shed light on the two terms of our study. Both refer to that which is hidden. Occult comes from Latin occultus, concealed, and the verb occulere, to cover over. Mystic comes from the Greek myein, to shut the eyes. In the ancient mysteries the candidate’s eyes were actually opened (either after long sensory deprivation to effect heightened impact of the mystical scene, or, more esoterically, the spiritual vision was opened). In common usage, occultism reveals the hidden while mysticism only refers to the hidden. Heindel retains this sense: Occultism is a rational presentation, a public showing of invisible or meta-physical truths. It identifies the causes for physical phenomena existing in the world of thought and, importantly, the path by which the invisible worlds can be consciously accessed and known. Mysticism describes the path of uniting with the first Cause of creation through faith, devotion, and love. Mysticism does not seek knowledge per se, it seeks God. It would surpass “mere” knowledge, however lofty. It wants total immersion in Divinity.
Mysticism, though having its origin in the revelation of higher knowledge in pre-Christian Mysteries (Greek, mysterion) of Asia Minor, Egypt, and Ancient Greece, during the Christian era it increasingly referred to a state of heightened subjectivity by which the religious seeker attained an ecstatic and ineffable union with the divine Presence. The content of this experience thus virtually defies transmission.
In occult experiences, on the other hand, the seer retains his ego-awareness when experiencing realities of the higher worlds and is able to give them a form that human reason can comprehend, without having to experience them first-hand. Therefore direct experience in the higher worlds is prepared for by studying the occult knowledge derived from those worlds.
Mystic knowledge cannot be taught in this manner; in fact, the term is somewhat of a contradiction, if we understand knowledge precisely as that which can be taught or verbally communicated.
Since the Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception (Cosmo) is the Rosicrucian Fellowship’s principal and first-published text, we shall consider it first. The word occult or its derivatives (occultist, occultism) occurs 145 times in the Cosmo, mystic appears nine times. Clearly Heindel was presenting occult, not mystic, truths, as the first and second editions of the book make clear, for its full title was Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception or Christian Occult Science. In the third edition, Heindel changed the title to Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception or Mystic Christianity. That the Cosmo is a presentation of occult, not mystic, Christian truths, is confirmed by both the book’s contents and by many statements made in Heindel’s other works, as this study will show.
What is happening here? Why the Cosmo’s title change? At this juncture we may surmise that Heindel was concerned about the book’s reception. Since occult had then, and today continues to have primarily pejorative connotations, Heindel’s concern may have been to disabuse potential readers of the book of their prejudiced understanding of the word until they could encounter the substance of the teachings where the use of the term would be self-explanatory and positive. However, the use of mystic may confuse some readers and give rise to the belief that the Cosmo is a treatise on Christian Mysticism, or is a mystical treatment of Christian truths. It is neither. Its purpose exactly reflects the reason for which Christian Rose Cross founded the Rosicrucian Order in the thirteenth century: to throw “occult light upon the Christian Religion and to explain the mystery of Life and Being from the Scientific standpoint in harmony with Religion” (518).
Is the Rosicrucian Fellowship student engaged in occult or mystic study? The Cosmo tells us. Its first sentence, in “A Word to the Wise,” begins with these words: The founder of the Christian Religion stated an occult maxim....” The second sentence begins: “All occultists recognize the far-reaching importance of this teaching of Christ....” In the third sentence Heindel writes that a “new philosophy” is being presented to the world—not a new theology! This is a body of occult facts, not a collection of creeds or avowals of faith for mystic affirmation. The first sentence of the Cosmo’s first chapter begins: “The first step in Occultism is the study of the invisible Worlds.” This study is made possible by the Cosmo. It is an occult study.
The Cosmo’s purpose is to shed occult light on “the World-Mystery” (248) so that, as the concluding sentence to the first two editions explain, “faith can be swallowed up in knowledge dedicated to the service of Humanity.” The mystic “feels rather than knows” (478). But the “main efforts” of the Rosicrucians “are expended in reaching the intellectually minded, for their need is greater” than the mystics’, who travel the heart path (478).
While the mystic intuits the truth of Christ’s teachings, “occultists recognize the[ir] far-reaching importance” (5) because they have definite knowledge that confirms their value. And Heindel is unequivocal in stating that his book merits serious attention precisely because “the only opinion worthy of the one who expresses it “must be based upon knowledge” (7). However, the Cosmo “is not considered by the writer as...the ultimate of occult knowledge” (8), but he gives it “in order that the heart and the mind may be capable of uniting” (18).
The Cosmo’s author has “an unswerving desire, a burning thirst for knowledge,” which is “the first and central requisite the aspirant to occult knowledge must possess,” but with this qualification, that “the supreme motive for seeking this occult knowledge must be an ardent desire to benefit humanity” (22). “Another prerequisite to this first-hand knowledge, however, is the study of occultism second-hand” (23). It is the purpose of the Cosmo to make that second-hand study of occultism possible. Occult science is the science of what occurs occultly insofar as it is not perceived in external nature, but in that region toward which the soul turns when it directs its inner being toward the spirit.
Heindel emphasizes the facticity of the Cosmo’s contents and the rigor and objectivity of his sources by using the term occult scientist(s) thirty times and occult science twenty-five times. The occultist (used twenty times) “knows” and “sees” what he is reporting on. “The occult scientist uses concentration in preference to prayer because the former is accomplished by the aid of the mind, which is cold and unfeeling, whereas prayer is usually dictated by emotion” (463). That is, concentration is more impersonal, and therefore more reliable. However, when emotion is replaced by a mystic’s “pure unselfish devotion to high ideals, prayer is much higher than cold concentration” (ibid).
Is the Rosicrucian Order mystic or occult? The formula for making the Philosopher’s Stone “is given in esoteric training and a Rosicrucian is no different in that respect from the occultist of any other school” (438); ergo, the Rosicrucian is an occultist. Or, again by deduction, if “To the Rosicrucians, as to any occult school, there is no such thing as empty or void space” (247), the Rosicrucians are an occult school. Heindel addresses his readers “as students of occult science” (249). “All occult schools are divisible into seven” (438) and each School or Order belongs to one of the seven “Rays” of Life. Individuals benefit themselves only if they unite with “one of these occult groups, the ‘Brothers’ in which...belong to his Ray” (438).
“The Rosicrucian Order was started for those whose high degree of intellectual development caused them to repudiate the heart. Intellect imperiously demands a logical explanation of everything.... Therefore the Rosicrucian purposes first to all to satisfy the aspirant for knowledge that everything in the universe is reasonable, thus winning over the rebellious intellect” (439), enabling further development whereby man may then pass “from faith to first-hand knowledge” (440). The Cosmo aims to be logical because “logic is the surest guide in all the Worlds”(440) and is also “the best teacher in any world” (203).
“The purpose of...all the occult schools...is to teach the candidate the art of Self-Mastery” (273). Therefore self-evaluation is critical to one’s development. The practice of correctly judging oneself “is perhaps the [Cosmo’s] most important teaching” (112). Self-mastery means to act creatively by using the knowledge of effects which follow causes. For example, the “advanced pupil of an occult school may commence to build his own body three weeks after conception in his mother’s womb” (128).
Occultism need not be thought of as synonymous with heartless intellectualism. Rather “the true and trained occultist” is inspired by devotion when contemplating the revelation of nature’s mysteries, as when chaos gives rise to creation (252).
Did Max Heindel consider himself an occultist? For the occultist there is no more question of believing in the Law of Rebirth and Consequence than is believing a rose blooms. “We do not say of these things that we ‘believe,’ we say that we ‘know’ because we see them. So the occult scientist can say ‘I know’ in regard to Rebirth, the Law of Consequence and their corollaries” (147). Facts relating to the postmortem life of the Ego “are beyond dispute or argument to the occult scientist.” They are as certain to him as are physical facts to the material scientist. According to Heindel the purpose of life is (1) to acquire “knowledge of the effects which follow acts” and (2) to develop will, “which is the force whereby we apply the results” of that knowledge (131).
The occult student returns to the school of experience on the physical plane with the ultimate goal of mastering “all the knowledge in the world of sense” (132). The occultist obtains first-hand knowledge of the supersensible world by developing (through concentration and retrospection) dormant faculties within himself (34). But “the first step in occultism is the study of the invisible worlds” (24).
Since “The Rosicrucian Fellowship is composed of students of the teachings of the [Rosicrucian] Order” (251), they must be students of occult science, since the Cosmo is “one of the first few fragments of Rosicrucian Knowledge being publicly given out” (ibid) and the Cosmo is a treatise on “Christian Occult Science”, as stated on the original title page. The title page was changed. The contents were not. And Christian Rose Cross “founded the mysterious [but occult!] Order of Rosicrucians with the object of throwing occult light upon the misunderstood Christian religion” (518). What was formerly a mystery becomes clear, logical and scientific by virtue of occult explanations.
In the short article “What is truth,” an addendum inserted in the Cosmo after Heindel’s passing, the writer refers to Plato’s “mystic intuition” that “God is Truth and Light is His shadow” (707). He also says that John the Evangelist “writes mystically” (708) in the first five verses of his Gospel. Both Plato’s and John’s writing remain mystical until they are occultly explained. Heindel the mystic writes of contemplating the progress of light from dawn to dusk, in which he sees “a something beyond description by human tongue, a something that can be felt by the soul” (709). The operative word here is felt, feeling. This is not to say the occultist does not have mystic feelings, but he can also understand the principles and powers by which he experiences light. The occult explanation is not equivalent to the experience. That is something unto itself, unmediated, subjective. It can only be known by a comparable experience.
Because The Rosicrucian Christianity Lectures (RCL) were written and hand distributed (in Columbus, Ohio, late 1908) before the Cosmo was published, though they did not appear in book form until after Heindel’s passing, they reflect the same zest, sweep, and some of the same information that is contained in that monumental work. In these twenty lectures the root word occult is used 62 times, the word mystic is employed 10 times. In Mrs. Heindel’s 1939 Forward, she states that the frustration posed by unexplained “mysteries” “have driven millions of souls to materialism and caused them to repudiate the Bible.” In these lectures Max Heindel explains “the why and the wherefore” of these mysteries—that is, he demystifies them, sheds occult light on them, and makes them reasonable. “Occult science commences its investigations at the point where material science leaves off” (30). It reaches “into invisible world[s] for solutions to problems” (29), asserting “an Invisible cause at the root of all visible phenomena” (29). By doing so in a logical manner “occult science resolves the riddle [read mystery] of life” (24), beginning with investigations of the fourfold ether (49). In particular does the “occult pupil” often begin his investigations by reading the reflecting ether (50). Ultimately “the occult scientist refers all causes to the Region of Concrete Thought” (105).
Heindel wrote that certain New Testament passages are easily understood when properly illuminated by “a knowledge of occult teaching” (327). In fact, the entire Bible is a “mine of occult information” (226). For instance, the life of Jesus can be examined in the light of “occult records” (243). He absorbed “an immense amount of occult knowledge” in the Essene library on the shores of the Dead Sea (244). His father, Joseph, “had devoted himself wholly to the occult path” (243) as we assume Mary had committed herself to the mystic path of perfect obedience and luminous devotion.
We sense deeply that the spiritual scientist in Heindel experiences a kind of intellectual wonder at the effectiveness of the Lord’s Prayer, which he twice calls a “formula.” This is the language of an objective occultist who yet enthuses about “the marvelous wisdom laid down in that simple formula” (308).
Heindel enters a caveat regarding the “intellectual occultist.” If the head or intellect rules exclusive of the feelings, he faces a grave danger (288). He “may end in black magic if he pursues the path of knowledge for the sake of knowledge and not for SERVICE. The only safe way is to develop both head and heart” (178). The occultist unfolds along intellectual lines, searching for truth by observation and discrimination. But “before his knowledge can be of the highest use in spiritual unfoldment, he must learn to feel it else he cannot live it. When he has done that, he is both mystic and occultist” (179). This is a key passage in Heindel’s writing. The exercise of retrospection promotes the ensoulment of occult knowledge. It develops a “power of devotion” and “supplies a feeling for truth which is beyond reason,” and is “of prime necessity to the intellectual Occultist” (181). On the other hand devotion for some “is the line of least resistance and they are apt to become mystic dreamers...dominated by emotion [and] may become subject to all sorts of illusion” (178).
Notwithstanding these cautions, it remains clear that the Rosicrucian student aligns himself with an occult order, not a mystic order, as evidenced in the statement, “The Rosicrucians, in harmony with other occult schools, divide each world into seven ‘regions’” (49). The student is told to sever his connection “with all other occult or religious orders” (italics added), excepting the Christian Churches and Fraternal orders (189). The purpose of this ruling is not to denigrate “all other schools of occultism” but to husband the aspirant’s energies and to give his endeavors unitary focus, thus optimizing his spiritual development.
As used by Heindel, the term occultism means the scientific study of spiritual reality. It can be understood as cognate with “the science of spirit.” It employs modern methods of investigation, as evolved in the physical sciences, to study conditions and occurrences in the spiritual worlds.
At times Heindel uses alternate terms to designate the Rosicrucian path, including:(1) Western Wisdom Teachings, which were “formulated by the Rosicrucian Order to blend with the ultra-intellectual mind of Europe and America” (Teachings of an Initiate, TI, 142) and (2) the “Western School of Occultism” (240). Occultism is apocalyptic. It uncovers hidden truths. Rosicrucian occultism imparts a new wisdom principle, which is the Mind of Christ, the source of apocalyptic wisdom. This new and true knowledge of the spirit points prophetically toward the future, toward divine becoming, toward Christ forming in each individual.
The pupil of this School of Occultism, the “intellectual Occultist,” finds the exercise of concentration most appealing for the development of spiritual sight, but it is also “of great value to the Mystic, because it develops the faculty he lack most, namely, reason” (181).
Echoing words in the Cosmo (438), Heindel writes that “no one can enter an occult school except the one composed of our brothers from the same ray or Star-Angel from which we have emanated” (171). In another echo of the first two editions of the Cosmo’s last sentence, “occult science” teaches us that we have it in our power “to hasten that glorious day when faith shall be swallowed up in knowledge” (24). Faith is the knowledge of things hoped for, until it is displaced or swallowed up by second-hand and then first-hand knowledge. The “occult scientist” is in the process of realizing Christ’s promise: seek and ye shall find” (31).
In these twenty Rosicrucian Christianity lectures the context of the word mystic contradistinguishes it from occult. Dreams are described as “mystic” (178), as is a parable before it is given an occult, or logical, explanation (187). Parsifal is described as a “mystic music drama” (192). The listener feels and intuits its truth, though he may not be able to articulate it. Parsifal himself represents the mystic whose feelings have become aroused and tempted: “One whose feelings are intense is very apt to make mistakes” (286). If the occultist’s nemesis is heartless reason, the mystic’s pitfall is given by Parsifal’s very name. He is pure, but a fool, ignorant. Knowledge is power, particularly self-knowledge, which Parsifal lacks. It is a “well-known fact [that] ultra-devotional people are exceedingly strongly sexed.” “Intense waves of feeling” can sweep them away” (288). Lacking knowledge of their lower nature, they are its pawns.
The word mystic takes on negative connotations when it is used in certain constructions. We are enjoined by Paul and Max Heindel to prove all things. For instance, a literal seven-day creation of the universe defies reason, and enforcing such a belief works “to the eternal mystification [bafflement] of man” (143). Elsewhere in the lectures Heindel states that the Parsifal legend “has its origins enshrouded in the mystery which overshadows the infancy of the human race” (195), a shroud the occultist attempts to remove, and shadows he seeks to dispel with the light of supersensible wisdom. The Star of Bethlehem is a “mystic fact,” but the mystery is solved and the facticity is established when an occult explanation is provided (257). Likewise is the “Mystery of the Hold Grail” opened to the understanding by revealing the occult ramifications of the use and abuse of the creative force. Those who were given spiritual truths in the form of myth, symbol, and parable in a prior life, as the Grail Knights were given “picture truths,” “have been prepared for the reception of these truths in an intellectual manner” in a subsequent life. So are concepts “given directly to the intellect” of students of Rosicrucian Teachings, for whom also a mystic preparation preceded this current occult revelation.
In the Rosicrucian Mysteries (RM), Max Heindel’s fifth book, dictated to a stenographer in 1910, the author gives an extreme definition of occultist, perhaps a reflection on his own single-minded pursuit of knowledge that culminated in his acquiring the teachings embodied in the Cosmo: An occultist is one who “pursue[s] the path of knowledge for the sake of knowledge, considering that an end in itself” (14). According to this definition, the occultist is perilously close to a black magician because his motive for gaining supersensible knowledge is not selfless. Mystics, on the other hand, “do not care for knowledge” but eventually obtain it as a result of their “inner urge Godward,” which causes them to imitate Christ in all their deeds (14). Though the mystic may err because of ignorance, his love will always mitigate his mistakes and expedite his reformation.
Rosicrucians aim to blend love with a “mystic knowledge.” In view of our preceding study, use of the term mystic in this construction is confusing because it is really employed as a synonym for “occult.” The Rosicrucian path, if it aims to blend heart and head, does not blend love and devotional knowledge (an oxymoron, to say the least). It blends love and occult/supersensible knowledge. In this instance, moved by a concern for protecting seekers from a misuse of his legacy of occult knowledge, and to “make the possession of higher powers safe” (15) through the inculcation of virtues traditionally associated with the mystic path, Heindel eliminates reference to the occult. We shall see this tendency arise from time to time and it does admittedly cause some ambiguity, because the word mystic is made to do the work of the word occult, as the context in these instances makes clear.
Heindel gets back on track when he uses an expression that first appears in the Christianity Lectures (pp. 20, 236): ignorance “is the only sin.” And applied knowledge is salvation (RM 26). Your standard Christian would reel upon encountering this assertion. For Heindel means occult knowledge, just as the title of the book Occult Principles of Health and Healing could not be changed to Mystic Principles of Health and Healing. In fact, what makes the Christianity Lectures “Rosicrucian”? Occult knowledge. Traditional Christianity designates the heart path and appeals to the mystic believer who gives assent to dogma based on faith and authority. Rosicrucian teachings provide occult facts that enable the mind to participate in the affirmation of religious doctrine because the intellect has been engaged. By the same token, to describe the Rosicrucian Fellowship as “An association of Christian Mystics” is to say it is an association of Christian Christians, or faith-based Christians. What distinguishes the traditional Christian from the Rosicrucian Christian is occult knowledge, not mystic belief, for that is precisely the ground for their differences. Belief does not suffice. The Rosicrucian student must know.
While the mystic may fly on the pinions of devotional prayer to the very bosom of the Father, the “occult viewpoint [on any matter] gives a deeper insight and wider scope for usefulness” (RCL 310). After all, it is the mind that distinguishes humanity from its younger brothers and in particular it is “the task of the Aryan races to evolve reason” (RCL 330). The mystic is under a certain handicap because he “cannot give a reason for his faith or explain to others so as to help them. He must develop the intellectual side of his nature, to be of the highest use in the upliftment of humanity” (RCL 179).
The research of occultists begins where the physical scientist finds his limit and is carried on by spiritual means” (RM 24, cf. RCL 30). While Heindel emphatically contrasts Catholic mysticism and scientific occultism, especially in Freemasonry and Catholicism, in Rosicrucian Mysteries he ironically acknowledges that the Catholic religion has “abundant occult information” (61). In this book the Rosicrucian mysteries are somewhat demystified, as the author recounts some of his experiences as an occult investigator, a term he uses eight times. This activity requires “an act of will” (68). In three additional instances, however, the author describes an occult activity which is performed by the “mystic investigator.” Here, mystic only makes sense if it is synonymous with occult. In the first instance, what the Apostle Paul calls Powers of Darkness “the mystic investigator of the Western World knows” as Lords of Mind (72). The mystic does not methodically investigate the Region of Concrete Thought, where the Lords of Mind have their first discernible presence. When technical terms are first introduced, they are usually paired with Rosicrucian terminology (Cosmo 190) or occult. Typical instances include: (1)“occult science speaks of the Earth Period as Mars-Mercury” (274); (2) Certain beings “sent to the Earth to help nascent humanity...are known to occult scientists as Lords of Venus and the Lords of Mercury” (272); (3) “occult scientists speak of the Sixteen Races” (231); (4) “In occult science this is called THE GREAT SILENCE” (122); (5) “the Western Wisdom school of Occultism” uses the term New Galilee (RCL 240); (6) finally, “the occult scientist calls the Globes of the Moon Period water” (ibid 213).
The next page (73) Heindel reverts to his normal distinction by saying that “The Western School of Occultism [the Rosicrucians] uses the term Archetypal Forces to identify certain celestial beings inhabiting this Region of Concrete Thought.
Conscious, willed investigation of the supersensible worlds to discover causes for physical occurrences is not practiced by mystics but it is routine for occultists. They are commonly directed to investigate childhood deaths to prove the reality of the laws of rebirth and cause and effect (RM 33). Even when the text of Rosicrucian Mysteries states that certain clairvoyant observations are “in line with the facts usually seen by mystic investigators” (103), it is occult investigators which is meant. The same applies to knowledge of the occult effects of burning incense. So that when one reads that “to the mystic investigator the matter is perfectly clear” (121), one understands that only the word occult makes sense in this context, since this is a scientific, not a mystic, investigation and it is the purpose of occult science, not mysticism, to make facts and truths “perfectly clear.” In contexts similar to the foregoing the normative term is usually provided: (1) “to the occultist the matter is plain” (1Q&A 193); (2) “a fact which is patent to the occultist” (ibid 205); (3) the writer intends to “turn the light of occultism and reason” on the doctrine of the cleansing blood” (RCL 242).
One further example of an ambivalent use of mystic in Rosicrucian Mysteries occurs in the phrase “horoscopic figure in mystic script” (141). Astrology, in Heindel’s own words is “an absolutely true science” (RCL 166), which makes scientific astrodiagnosis possible. Astrology is an occult science par excellence. A mystic science is a contradiction in terms. The use of symbols for planets and constellations no more makes them mystic than does assigning letters for elements in the Period Table of Elements, or Greek symbols (letters) for mathematical relationships, such as p (pi). A stage in Rosicrucian initiation involves learning the supersensible occult script, comprised of symbols—such as the two nontouching spirals in the correctly drawn Cancer glyph, which indicate the dying and new coming-into-being of plants, cycles of time, etc—that are connected with nature’s secrets. Referring to the caduceus or “staff of Mercury,” Heindel writes: “this occult symbol indicates the path of initiation” (Cosmo 412). The symbolic drawings and diagrams designed by initiates of occult science translate the realities of the higher worlds into forms that can speak to the human intellect and intuition.
Astrology for Heindel was a rich lode of occult information. It is also eminently an intellectual discipline (though certainly requiring a highly developed intuitive sense), requiring knowledge of astronomy, some basic understanding of the geometry of angles and logarithms (if one wants exact results and doesn’t have a computer program!). Astrology will become an accepted and routinely used science in the Aquarian Age. One appeals to the Aquarian by addressing his reason, not his emotions. “The Rosicrucian Fellowship advocates the study of astrology...by all its members (TI 128). If “the child is a mystery” (RM 142), astrology, the “stellar science,” helps to unravel much of that mystery. Parents “may obtain a guide to the hidden side of a child’s nature” through astrology, which reveals what is occult or normally concealed. “A good and careful astrologer will be able to reveal the character of a person accurately in 99 percent of all cases” (RCL 119). Let us recall that the mystic is “usually devoid of intellectual knowledge” (Cosmo 520) and would have little or no interest in learning an occult script in order to practice the science of astrology. The author of the Rosicrucian Christianity Lectures avers that “astrology is an absolutely true science” (RCL 166). Science studies the form and action of substances composing various worlds, sensible and supersensible. There is the mundane astrologer, whose calculations and interpretations do not require occult knowledge, and there is the “esoteric astrologer” (OPHH 30), who has occult knowledge and uses it in medical diagnosis, prognosis, prescription, and counseling.
Since their inception, Rosicrucians have had two purposes—those enjoined by Christ: to teach the Gospel of the New Age and to heal the sick. They can do both more effectively and scientifically because they are in possession of occult facts which connect material effects with their spiritual causes, thus enabling a true (spiritual) etiology of disease. To assist in that purpose the initiate founder of the Rosicrucian Fellowship employed the science of astrology. In fact, Heindel wrote in Probationer Letter No. 16 that “this science is the backbone of our teaching.” Such a teaching cannot be called mysticism, not if it purports to be scientifically based. And if the Rosicrucian Mystery Teachings aim to correlate scientific facts to spiritual verities” (Cosmo 521), those Teachings are no longer mysterious but intellectually cognizable facts, be they occult facts.
As an interjection, we make bold to characterize the course of this study as conforming to Heindel’s counsel which appears in multiple phrasings, particularly in the preface to the Cosmo and in the Rosicrucian Mysteries: The writer “would advise the student to accept nothing from the author’s pen without reasoning it out for himself” (RM 21). We are reasoning as we go.
In an addendum to the Rosicrucian Mysteries, written in 1921, most likely by Mrs. Heindel, the Rosicrucian Philosophy is called “Christian Mysticism.” This it is not, as a later passage regarding the correspondence courses implies: “Christ taught the multitude in parables, but explained the mysteries to His disciples” (153). This meat or “deeper teaching” is the occult knowledge contained in the Cosmo. Quite simply, mystical truth cannot be directly taught, it must be intuited. Further substantiation of this distinction made by Heindel will follow.
The text of Occult Principles of Health and Healing (OPHH) was based, according to its Forward, on investigation of the superphysical worlds by a “trained clairvoyant” to determine “the real causes of physical and mental disorders.” The health and healing of the human organism is considered “from the occult viewpoint” (ibid). The first sentence in the main text begins with the words, “Occult science teaches that man is a complex being....” The health and sickness of that complex being, occultly considered, is the subject of this book’s study. The science of physical medicine also studies human health and sickness, but with limited means. Occult science is more scientific, more logical than material sciences. Why? “Science merely states the fact, the occult scientist gives the [occult] reason” for the fact (Cosmo 356).
Heindel’s Ancient and Modern Initiation (AMI) gives an emphatic and unequivocal assertion on the “radical” (114) difference between the Christian mystic and the Rosicrucian occult forms of initiation: “[T]he Christian Mystic Initiation differs radically from the processes in vogue among the Rosicrucians, in which an understanding upon the part of the candidate of that which is to take place is considered indispensable” (108). However, at Gethsemane, the mystic also realizes the path that is before him. As a prelude to this distinction, Heindel describes the old initiations (both ancient and devotional Christian), making liberal use of the word mystic as a synonym for metaphorical or figurative, as in “mystic manna” and “mystic doctrine” (41), “mystic blood” and “mystic birth” (52), “mystic light” (56), and “mystic magnificence” (64). In the phrase “mystic but unmistakable language,” mystic means veiled or shrouded in mystery; therefore Heindel opposes the “but unmistakable” to nullify the impression created by the first term. In other words, the sense is clear to those who already know. When Christ uses the mystic or analogic term living bread to describe Himself, He is referring to the Ego (41). Why does He not simply say what He means? His disciples are not in possession of all the occult facts that would make a direct scientific statement meaningful.
In this book (AMI), among other texts, we encounter the key statement: “All occult development begins with the vital body” (55). Note Heindel does not say all mystic development begins with the vital body—because that would not be correct. The following critical passage explains:
The Christian mystic form of Initiation differs radically from the Rosicrucian method, which aims to bring the candidate to compassion through knowledge, and therefore seeks to cultivate in him the latent faculties of spiritual sight and hearing at the very start of his career as an aspirant to the higher life. It teaches him to know the hidden [occult] mysteries of being and to perceive intellectually the unity of each with all so that at last through this knowledge there is awakened within him the feeling that makes him truly realize his oneness with all that lives and moves,
so that he may become “a true helper and worker in the divine kingdom of evolution” (67). If the student is taught to know the hidden mysteries, they are no longer hidden, nor are they mysterious. It is a desire for more knowledge which brings most of the pupils to the Rosicrucian School (68).
Jacob Böhme and Thomas à Kempis followed the mystic path (68). Love is the governing principle of the mystic’s life, and thus all-embracing love “eventually generates in them a knowledge which the writer [Heindel] believes far superior to that attained by any other method,” evidently including the Rosicrucian (68). With respect to initiation, the mystic “is usually unconscious of trying to attain any definite object” (68).
We may understand Heindel’s typical use of the word “mystic” to mean parallel or like, but not identical with. This is because “in the spiritual worlds there is a different standard of reality” than in the physical world. So we use worldly terms (light, bread, blood) qualified by the word mystic to indicate similarity, but not identity.
“The Christian mystic....has no reason, but he has a much safer guide”—the interior voice (AMI 89), which is the gift of grace. But there are many kinds of voices. What is the identity of that voice? Is it reliable? There are “seducing spirits” (1Tim 4:1). There is a “spirit of error” (1Jo 4:6). John the Evangelist admonishes, “believe not every spirit but try the spirits” (1Jo 4:1). The Christian mystic, through the Holy Spirit (Jehovah) eventually “attains to whole wisdom of the world without the necessity of laboring for it intellectually” (99). But he must in time “learn how to acquire knowledge by his own efforts without drawing upon the universal source of all wisdom” (100, italics added).
For all the apparent appeal of the Christian Mystic Initiation to Max Heindel, he was unable to tread that path. He was something of a Christian mystic manqué. His sympathies lay with the mystic, the heart man, but he aspired to, he required, knowledge. His mind demanded it, with an intensity characterized in the story of the sage and his pupil in the Cosmo’s Introduction. And in fact, it was this “burning thirst for wisdom,” the “central requisite” which must be possessed by the aspirant to knowledge, which summoned the Elder Brother.
In Ancient and Modern Initiation Heindel provides the occult keys that open the understanding to the Christian mysteries. The “underlying mystical facts” of the stigmata are “as plain as daylight to those, like Heindel, who know” (117). The occult schools concentrate their efforts upon severing the connection between the physical and upper etheric bodies at the stigmatic points without producing the exterior manifestation that the Christian mystic cannot prevent because he lacks the requisite knowledge (118).
Another “occult key” to “the mystery of the crucifixion” is given by the initials INRI, “the symbol of the crucified candidate” (121). The mystic imitates the life of Jesus “who is his Teacher and guide to the Kingdom of Christ” (123). The Rosicrucian occultist is, at his peril, as a son of Cain and his progenitor, Lucifer, more independent and individual in his pursuit of the Kingdom. He seeks directly to conceive and nurture the Christ within through enlightened selfless service, using occult knowledge to improve the lot of his brothers and sisters.
How is the Rosicrucian occultist a son of Cain? Heindel traces the lineage of Christian Rose Cross through Lazarus to Hiram Abiff to Cain. The Masons also cite Hiram Abiff, the builder of Solomon’s Temple, as their spiritual ancestor. In fact, Heindel, though not a practicing Mason, described himself as “a Mason at heart and therefore frankly opposed to Catholicism” (Freemasonry and Catholicism, F&C, p 6). Why? “Catholicism is an activity of the Hierarchs of Water [who seek] to quench the spirits seeking [spiritual] light and [occult] knowledge and to inculcate faith in Jehovah” (11). Freemasonry “is an attempt by the Hierarchs of Fire, the Lucifer Spirits, to bring us the imprisoned spirit “light,’ that we may see and know” (11). To be sure, this is not the mystic’s objective. He seeks God directly through faith and has no desire for knowledge per se.
Heindel spiritually opposes Catholicism with the “weapon of the Spirit—Reason” and “firmly believe[s] it to be for the everlasting good of mankind that the Masons should win [‘the battle for the souls of men’—p 5]”(6). This is strong language. Given this assertion, it is disconcerting that Heindel should characterize Masonry as “mystic” (pp 5, 7, 8) and call it a “mystic movement” (14). This is a curious conjunction of terms because the “mystic Mason” endeavors to work on the temple of humanity at large and “he aims also to cultivate his own spiritual powers” (29-30). He strives for “positive Mastership through individual effort” (32), following the path of his ancestor Cain, who was governed by “divine ambition.” In him burned “the divine incentive to original effort” (36). Members of “mystic masonry” are those “who have the indomitable courage to dare, the unflagging energy to do and the diplomatic discrimination to be silent” (13). The traditional mystic can in no way be so characterized; in fact, he would be appalled to be described in these terms. From traditional quarters such “pretensions” might elicit the same term applied by some to occult pursuits—diabolical.
Since the mystic Catholic is counterpoised against the Mason, to call the Mason a mystic poses real semantic problems unless we know what Heindel intends. And for his meaning to be clear, the term must, as previously defined, mean metaphorical, or analogical. The Mason is not a literal builder but a figurative, a mystic, builder. He is an architect of supersensible structures comprised of materials of soul (desire) and spirit (thought) substance. He is making a temple for the spirit, a temple not made with hands. Yet it is related to good deeds because from them the soul body is created. Christian Rosenkreutz “founded the Order of Temple-Builders” to teach the aspiring soul how to make the “white stone” (41) by applying occult knowledge to human affairs. Or, as expressed in Mysteries of the Great Operas, “It is exactly the mission of the Rosicrucian Order, working through the Rosicrucian Fellowship, to promulgate a scientific method of development suited particularly to the Western people whereby this Wedding Garment [the soul body, Paul’s soma psuchicon—1Cor15:44] may be wrought” (124).
While the Sons of Seth purge themselves of the curse of selfishness through faith in Christ Jesus and by imitating his life (56), the Sons of Cain were given the Rose and the Cross to teach them to make the Philosopher’s Stone. They believe more in works than in faith (56).
Moreover, there is a tendency of the typical mystic to devalue the physical world and to disparage the human physical body. He often seeks to deprive or severely limit it through harsh ascetic practices, and to escape it (ecstasis, literally, to stand beside or outside oneself) by cultivating states of heightened subjectivity. The occultist realizes that he has much to learn from being in the body and that it is to be transmuted into the soul body, which truly becomes the temple of the soul. This was the objective of the Rosicrucian alchemists,“deep students of the higher occult science” (Cosmo 438). Therefore, occultism does not disdain physical existence but seeks rather to understand and master it, even as did the master occultist and architect of the spirit, Hiram Abiff.
Man’s pilgrimage through matter has been undertaken “for the purpose of making him an independent creative intelligence.” The Rosicrucian is a pioneer in this respect because he uses his intelligence to advance his independence and creativity (RM 68). We recall Heindel’s quote from St. Paul framing the text of the first two editions of the Cosmo—to “prove all things” by the light of reason (obviously including Heindel’s Cosmo, since that was his intention for citing the passage) and to “hold fast to that which is good.” Reason and mysticism are immiscible because they operate on contrary premises, according to different principles, and for different results.
We must conclude that the term mystic, as used by Heindel to characterize masons and masonry, is a synonym for occultists and is not intended to equate them with the heart-centered, faith-led mystic of orthodox Christianity. This conclusion is confirmed by Heindel when he states that “Christian Rosenkreutz was given charge of the Sons of Cain who seek the light of knowledge at the sacred fires of the Mystic Shrine” (97). Mystic here means invisible or occult. And the author has given us, according to this book’s (F&C) subtitle, “an exposition of the cosmic facts underlying these two great institutions, as determined by occult [not mystic] investigation.”
The distinction we have discerned may become blurred unless we keep in mind Heindel’s dual use of the word mystic. Mystic employed as a noun refers to the faith-based aspirant on the heart path of love. Employed as an adjective, it designates a spiritual substance that is suggested by or bears some resemblance to a physical form or fact. While the candidate on the “head path” works out his own salvation through tribulation and “engage[s] in Mystic Masonry to consciously build this Temple of the soul,” the soul body (98), his “weaker brothers,” who commit to the “heart path” of mystic Christianity, rely as “an absolute necessity” on the cleansing blood of Jesus (98). In this passage, mystic carries a double meaning. Referring to the nature of the activity of the Masons, it means occult. Referring to the kind of mason mystic means symbolic. The builders signified are working with materials and forces related to the superphysical worlds, not with bricks and mortar.
Again, both the path of simple helpfulness and prayer (walked by the Sons of Seth) and the path marked out by “specific exercises given by the Rosicrucians” (94) can develop ability “to walk the skies with winged feet,” but they are distinctly different paths and Heindel has most consistently denominated them as the mystic and the occult paths.
This distinction is implicit in the following two sentences: “The Biblical and occult traditions agree with science” about original darkness (90) and; the Bible “agrees with the occult traditions in the main points” (92).The Bible presents spiritual truths in a mystical form; that is, metaphorically. The reader intuits the meaning as best he can. Occult science can more fully and specifically explain the Bible because it is in possession of supersensible knowledge that the human intellect can grasp.
Does Max Heindel’s major work, The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception itself, that eminently occult work, have mysteries? According to its author the “mystery hidden in every line” of the Cosmo, what it “preaches on every page [is] THE GOSPEL OF SERVICE” (Gleanings of a Mystic, GM, 135). A mystery signifies what is hidden, not overt. An occult writing is an uncovering of what is covert. When Heindel calls Wagner’s soul “deeply mystic” (GM 153), he means that the composer had a certain attunement to esoteric truths, but not a clear intellectual conception of hidden realities. Earlier in Gleanings Heindel is more admiring of Wagner. There he writes that the composer, “with the rare intuition of the master musician” sensed the mystery (31). He did not consciously perceive and realize the full significance of the connection between the death of the Savior and the regeneration of nature”; rather, he “unwittingly stumbled upon the key” to a sublime mystery” (154).
Terms such as mystic birth, mystic marriage, and mystic death must remain imprecise precisely because they pertain to mysteries. To repeat, mystic used as an adjective signifies that the spiritual occurrence is similar to the earthly event denominated by the noun it modifies. But some “are tired of parables and long to learn the underlying facts” (182). They “feel an inner urge to take the Kingdom of God by storm” (181). “The Rosicrucian Fellowship was started for the purpose of reaching this class.” The methods it employs “are definite, scientific and religious; they have been originated by the Western School of the Rosicrucian Order” (182). We do not wait, as does the mystic, but we willfully and intentionally set about to emigrate to the Kingdom of Heaven. We imitate our Elder Brother Jesus (170, 172) just as the Catholic, but more, we “exalt God in our own consciousness” (172), for “till Christ be formed in us” (in a mystic birth!) we will be blind to His presence (159).
The use of mystical in the sense of metaphorical is evident in the passage referring to the divine creative Word that “expires” at the Spring Equinox: “It dies upon the cross at Easter in a mystical sense” (GM 155). It does not actually die. A figurative death occurs.
Who is this mystic whose gleanings we are studying? The book’s title, Gleanings of a Mystic, was given by Heindel’s wife, Augusta. In the Forward she refers to the author as “the mystic” and immediately adds that these collected writings “contain some of his deepest thoughts, and are the result of years of research and occult investigation.” She adds that “The occultist has received much from the book entitled The Web of Destiny, which is a mine of mystical knowledge and helpful occult truths.” Are these synonymous terms? Which are which? Max Heindel does not refer to knowledge as mystic, but the term occult knowledge is used seven times in the Cosmo. He may have been a mystic, but his Gleanings and other books are the result of occult research, either his own, or, in the case of the Cosmo, the Elder Brothers’.
“Mind is the predominating feature” (117) of those who want to accelerate their soul growth by practicing the exercises of retrospection and concentration, thereby advancing “scientifically towards the goal of Initiation” (119) and becoming members of the Rosicrucian Order, which is an occult Order. “Please remember that if anyone offers to initiate you into an occult order, no matter if he calls it ‘Rosicrucian,’” his demand of an initiation fee stamps him as an impostor (20). In this same passage the writer says he received “The Light” in the “Mystic Temple” of the Rose Cross. Here mystic, as in many other contexts, means figurative. The Temple is etheric and cannot be seen by physical vision.
Were one to characterize Heindel himself as primarily a mystic or an occultist, a disservice would be done to the complementary side of his nature. Manly Hall, the author of a masterful compilation of the world’s esoteric teachings, preferred to call Heindel “America’s foremost Christian Mystic.” Hall was a student of the Rosicrucian Fellowship in the 1920’s. He wrote an introduction to what “may properly be considered as Max Heindel’s first literary effort,” a sixty-page essay entitled Blavatsky and the Secret Doctrine (DeVorss & Co.). “It was through the writings of Blavatsky that Max Heindel received in this life his first knowledge of occult sciences. He recognized gratitude to be the first law of occultism and his fine soul preserved to the end a beautiful spirit of gratitude for the inspiration and instruction he had gained from The Secret Doctrine, which, in the Cosmo, he calls “an unexcelled work” (512) and one of the “very valuable works on occultism” (270).
Hall describes the Cosmo as a “textbook of Christian Metaphysics” (10), a description that would give offense to most Christians due to its breadth and depth of occult knowledge contained therein. Elsewhere, calling Heindel “a pioneer in Christian mysticism” (14) and “the greatest Western mystic of the twentieth century” (19), hall uses the same expression Augusta Foss employs in referring to a body of occult truths. He says that Heindel “greatly increased his store of mystical knowledge” from what he knew as a member of the Theosophical Society between 1904 and 1905.
We repeat that a mystic does not have such knowledge as Max Heindel possessed. Heindel himself states that “The Mystic is usually devoid of intellectual knowledge” (1Q&A 290, Cosmo 520), particularly occult knowledge. Hall gives an altered and exceptional meaning to mysticism, whose “true purposes” are “to perpetuate, interpret, and apply the idealism of the race” (12). Such purposes presuppose the possession and use of advanced reasoning and analytical powers that are simply not part of the traditional mystic’s capability or concern. His example and work may have that effect over time, but it was not the product of a conscious intention.
We may surmise that Heindel was born with a strong mystic yearning for union with the one Life, but he wanted more, as his Cain-Seth, Freemasonry- Catholicism antithesis makes clear. He had to know. Specifically and fully. Faith did not suffice. He was grateful to receive explicit occult information. Yet he wanted even more than that. He wanted to experience occult truth first-hand. He wanted to stand in the supersensible worlds and identify the facts of metaphysical reality. This need is the engine that drives the occult inquiry: to dare all, to know all, to do all; but not to be silent—not Max Heindel. In his study of Blavatsky and The Secret Doctrine, Heindel calls the book “The greatest of modern works on occultism” (56). That was before he wrote the Cosmo!
Since mystic is etymologically and semantically associated and with mystery, it understandably retains connotations of nonspecificity and subjectivity, referring to what one experiences of a supernormal or meta-physical nature, but may not be able to conceptualize, objectify, or explain in the form of supersensible knowledge. The Rosicrucian Teachings presented in the Cosmo (and Heindel’s other writings) “make no statements that are not supported by reason and logic,” which therefore must be “satisfying to the mind, for it holds out a reasonable solution to all mysteries.” Therefore, what was once obscure or enigmatic is taken into the purview of spiritual science and made a legitimate subject of rational inquiry.
In one of his most informative statements about mysticism, and by association the mystic, Heindel writes that “the one great and absolutely essential idea which underlies mysticism” is that all structures, artifacts and ceremonials pertaining to the religious life are objectifications for what is interior—all “these things are within and not [essentially] without” (AMI 20). “This idea must be applied to every symbol and phase of mystic experience. It is not the Christ without that saves, but “the Christ within” (ibid). Thus the qualifying term mystic—as in mystic bride (16), mystic master (19), mystic Laver (21), mystic Temple (28), mystic marriage (34), mystic manna (41), mystic birth (52), mystic blood (52), mystic light (56), and mystic death (114)—always refers to an esoteric reality in the occult anatomy or spiritual consciousness of the individual soul. As St. Paul explains, the Old Testament Law of outward ordinances must become mystically inscribed on the heart as inner impulses and moral directives. Like the ancient Tabernacle, it is transferred “from the wilderness of space to a home in our hearts” (21).
A basic tenant of the Rosicrucian Teachings is that all occult development begins with the vital body (AMI 55, CL 276, GM 96, LS 182, TI 79), but in The Web of Destiny Max Heindel says “all mystic development begins in the vital body” (15). Is this another instance of the inadvertent conflation of the two terms? The Rosicrucian student is not primarily engaged in mystic development. In fact, the religion of those “who have true spirituality...is not based upon the emotional nature...but is rooted in the vital body, which is the vehicle of reason” (17). Therefore the student is directed to become observant and to draw conclusions from his observations; to reason from perceptual experience; to discriminate by separating out the essential from the trivial; to meditate on occult information such as is presented in Western Wisdom Teaching; to strengthen his ability to concentrate and perform daily retrospection, which will improve the memory and simultaneously purify the desire nature. By these exercises given in the “Western Mystery School of the Rosicrucians” (!) a viable soul body may be formed out of the two higher ethers of the vital body (18). Such exercises are not performed by the mystic Christian, who engages in devotional prayer, rather than concentration used by the occultist (Cosmo 463). When they do pray, “it is the practice of accomplished occultists to stand with bowed heads” (WD 132). Moreover, there are “occult reasons which make collective prayer inadvisable” (129).
The conjunction of the two terms mystic and occult can challenge our understanding of their respective domains, whose borders at times seem blurred and overlapping. For instance, “the mystic maxim ‘if thou are Christ, help thyself’” is taken to heart by the occultist who believes “we ought to guide ourselves without fear or favor from any spirit” (WD 36). This advice is not followed by the traditional mystic, who would not dare such independence, but is a docile affirmer of Christian dogma and looks to Jesus to save him.
In a section of The Web of Destiny entitled “The Occult Effect of Our Emotions”, the author’s inquiring mind is turned toward investigating the prior lives of several hundred persons in order to arrive at some basic principles regarding the operation of the law of cause and effect. From his youth Heindel had a practical, inquisitive cast of mind; he wanted to know how things work, what constitutes them, and why certain conditions must prevail for them to properly function. He was a ship’s engineer, he “electrified” Mt. Ecclesia, was learned (and self-taught) in hydrolics, desalination, printing, physiology, mechanics and other areas. He implemented his knowledge, grounding theory in practice. He may have possessed a developed intuitive sense, qualifying him as a mystic, but he was a practical mystic, seeking explanations for his insights. He cleared pathways to practice so that his wisdom and visions could be both useful and confirmed on the material plane. Solomon the mystic had wisdom. He could picture a temple. But he could not build it. Hiram Abiff could build this living temple of the soul, the soul body. He had the occult knowledge required to give form to the etheric structure.
The traditional mystic is not fascinated by the structure and processes of the physical world, or, for that matter, the supersensible worlds. God or Divinity is the sole object of the mystic’s attention and devotion. Since creation is the work of the Divine Mind and man is made in God’s image, using the mind to delve into the divine “mysteries” so that they dawn to understanding in the light of reason can be described as an act of piety.
While truths of the supraphysical worlds are not directly transmissible by physical plane languages, they can be symbolically or analogically presented. And they can be logically spoken about, because “nothing that is not logical can exist in the universe” (Cosmo 440). Spiritual realities as archetypes have their material counterparts, which may resemble them. The lower is like the higher. Thus Heindel writes that the Hermetic law of analogy is “the master-key to all mysteries” (WD 115). While the mystic may have certain beliefs, the occultist knows the reasons why those beliefs are (or are not) true and can enunciate them—logically or analogically—thereby enlightening others. Myth and poetry are particularly effective in the analogical presentation of spiritual verities. But they do not directly address the faculty of reason.
For Heindel and, he presumes, for students of the Rosicrucian Teachings, it does not suffice to be given exercises for soul growth and automatically perform them. The mind itself must be consciously engaged. It must know more than the how; it must know the why of what it does. The author of the Web of Destiny feels the need to study and deliberate on the “occult effect of the emotions engendered by esoteric exercises” (111). The mystic prays the “Our Father” with fervor. The occultist may do likewise. In addition, he needs to know that it is a petition to threefold God by the threefold spirit for the needs of the four lower human vehicles. Does he pray “better” for so knowing? Perhaps. At least his intellect is more apt to earnestly and fully participate in the prayer.
In her forward to Teachings of an Initiate, Augusta Foss calls the author “the Western Mystic” and then states that his last eight books “comprise the later investigations of this seer.” The occultist, like the scientist, investigates; the mystic does not. The occultist goes out to find, identify, and categorize; the mystic waits for inspiration, for the gift of spiritual understanding. The author’s wife is correct in saying that “seekers along [both] mystical and occult lines” will realize the value of his works. The mystic component is given by “words [that] reach to the very depth of the heart of the reader,” because they are the expression of “the heart throb of this great lover of humanity.” The other, occult, component of Heindel’s writing consists in the “wonderful truths he had garnered through his contact with the Elder Brothers” (ibid). The “heart throb” does not teach. It inspires, it can motivate, but it is not a seal on truth. One can be earnest and wrong. One can believe with all their heart and soul that a thing is true. That does not make it true. The fervor of faith has a long history of militant evangelism and “righteous” persecution. Heindel was aware of this abuse. It gave rise to his poem “Creed or Christ” which precedes the Cosmo text. He sought to appeal to the reason of his reader by explicating occult truths which can illuminate credal mysteries and resolve life’s enigmas. Lacking occult knowledge, the wisdom seeker is confined to mystical faith that hopes, often in the face of seemingly contrary evidence, that life is purposeful, God is beneficent, and the human spirit is eternal. Esoteric knowledge obtained by investigation in the supersensible worlds and communicated logically saves the skeptic and disbeliever from their ignorance and evangelizes their energies to living the life and preparing for first-hand confirmation of what their reason assents to.
Max Heindel had just such a salvatory mission: “It has been the writer’s work to investigate spiritual facts and correlate them with the physical in such a manner as would appeal to the reason and thus pave the way for belief....to give [occult] light to seeking souls on many of the mysteries of life” (TI 7). A mystery on which occult light is shed is no longer a mystery.
Max Heindel investigated. So should we. The unexamined life is not worth living. We are meant to know, for we are homo sapiens (L. sapere, taste, be wise), thinkers. What distinguishes mankind is mind. The word is derived from Sanskrit manas, and man, to think. The leader who guided the Atlantean survivors into the region of the Gobi desert is called the Manu. Ego identity first requires a mind. In some respects the mystic attempts to leap from the desire world into the world of life spirit, hurdling over the world of thought. Some of his flights are successful. But his abiding in that universal realm is temporary. For he is human, a mind bearer.
“If we do not investigate, how shall we know?” (TI 17). Here speaks an occultist. And here speaks an enlightened one: “When we consult the occult records we find an interpretation which satisfies the heart without doing violence to the mind” (19, 35). The terms of this sentence could as easily be reversed: The occult records satisfy the mind without doing violence to the heart.
Readers of this study may well ask themselves why they are (if they are) members of the Rosicrucian Fellowship, or at least why they are drawn to the Teachings disseminated by it. Heindel has an answer: “[B]ecause at some time we have been dissatisfied with the explanations of the problems of life given elsewhere” (TI 33). We want, even require and demand, explanations. Parables do not suffice. They are milk. We need meat. We want “knowledge of the Kingdom of Heaven” (33). However, we come to realize that knowledge by itself is not enough either. “Even the deepest knowledge along religious [mystic] or occult lines is not wisdom” (37). Only when knowledge has wed love does it transmute to wisdom, whose essence is the Christ principle” (ibid). Therefore the mission of the Rosicrucian Fellowship is to “promulgate a combined doctrine of the head and heart, which is the only wisdom” (ibid).
In the Aquarian Age “faith will be swallowed up in knowledge” (58), the exact words that introduce and conclude the Cosmo’s first two editions. In this Age “faith must be rooted in reason” so “both the mind and the religious instinct” are satisfied (56). As the herald of the Aquarian Age “the Rosicrucian Fellowship has been charged by the Elder Brothers with the mission” of leavening the world with “ideas” so that “conditions in the land of the living dead are not shrouded in mystery.” To the inquiring intellect, opaque mystery and ignorance are like a burial shroud that makes us blind sleep walkers on earth (58).
As elsewhere, the word mystic does double duty in Teachings of an Initiate and is used where occult would better suit the context, as when Heindel proposes to shed “mystic light on the [First] World War” (66-95). The seer explains current conditions by citing his “occult investigations” (68) into the conflict’s origin: The old Romans had become the British and the old Carthaginians were collectively reborn as Prussians (69). Though the “great majority of mankind....scarcely ever thinks of the problems of existence [and]...have probably never given the great questions of life...any serious consideration,” the occultist does—and must (72).
The only admissible reading of mystic in the title of this three-chapter investigation on the war is as a cognate for spiritual, intellectual, hidden, or the like—in fact, occult. For the author’s purpose is to bring occult facts to bear upon the evident suffering and travail the war unleashes, thereby justifying it in the sense that it is no longer irrational. Human behavior is often irrational. But the cosmos operates according to immutable logic, and occult knowledge confirms this wisdom. When we see that events have causes and that nothing is without a cause, that humans do and must experience the consequences of their own actions, then incentive can be given for altering human behavior, and the law of cause and effect, occultly considered, gives a powerful incentive for making the necessary changes that will improve the human condition.
Elsewhere Heindel uses mystic as a synonym for occultist when he states that “A Christian mystic takes a deeper and more far-reaching view” of Easter than most people” (108). Actually, it is the occultist, rather than the mystic, for whom this is true, as Heindel confirms. For whereas the mystic may have a flash of direct but ineffable recognition of the profundity of the Easter Mystery, the occultist author cites a profusion of theosophical references to elaborate the “more far-reaching view,” including Druids, Scandinavian Eddas, Indian Vedas, Egyptian Hermeticism, Greek Mysteries, and Native American serpent mounds (104-105).
Heindel wanted the mysteries opened up and spelled out so that spiritual causes could convincingly account for physical facts. This applies equally to soul development. The Rosicrucian Teachings present “the scientific [not mystical] method of spiritual unfoldment” (108). The Elder Brothers of the Rosicrucians have “originated a scientific method” to “develop the sleeping soul powers in any individual” (112). If the aim of the “Rosicrucian Mystery Teachings” is to “correlate scientific facts to spiritual verities” (Cosmo 52), it is clear that such teachings are designed to remove mystery. We enter not into the twilit crypt of a church where the mystic imagination can cut loose; we enter the high noon of clear intellect where reason brings light to what formerly was nebulous, hidden, or perplexing.
One would not call the Elder Brothers or, for that matter higher initiates, mystics, precisely because they are enlightened as to the mysteries of the spiritual world. However, one could well call them occultists.
A publicly taught religion suffices the needs of most people. The precocity of some demands a higher teaching and a deeper doctrine. The Brothers of the Rose Cross “sanctioned the launching of the Rosicrucian Fellowship to promulgate this teaching” (127). What is taught is occult knowledge. Mysticism can be left to the Churches, who have produced stellar mystics, including St. John of the Cross, St. Theresa of Avila, St. Francis, and hundreds more.
In his Groundbreaking address on Mt. Ecclesia in 1911, Max Heindel stated that the aim of the Rosicrucian Fellowship was to “meet inquiring minds with a reasonable explanation of the spiritual mysteries ...instead of responding with dictum and dogma not supported by reason” (TI 135). Often Heindel views “mystery” as the darkness to be dispelled, the riddle to be solved, the antagonist to be conciliated, the knot to be untangled. The Western Wisdom Teachings were formulated by the Rosicrucian Order to help demystify life by engaging “the ultra-intellectual mind of Europe and America” (142). Max Heindel, the purveyor of these Teachings, knows their value: “We have a philosophy that explains in a better manner than any other philosophy, the problems of life” (168) But will we practice it?
Finally, “It does not matter what we believe, but only how we live; it is not a question of faith, but of showing our faith by works” (ibid). With the occultist the emphasis is on knowing and doing. For the mystic believing in the providence of God to save one is paramount. Again, the Cain-Able distinction applies. Cain was dissatisfied with the given, inoculated with divine discontent. He sought to improve, to explore, to control, to increase yield, to master physical forces. Occultists, the sons of Cain, seek self-mastery to the point of being able to create their own physical bodies. Obviously this ability presumes knowledge of superphysical laws and processes and the power to control the energies they describe. “We each have within a latent spiritual power that is greater than any worldly power, and as it is unfolding we are responsible for its use” (178).
In ordinary life knowledge is potential power and the more experience we acquire the greater becomes that potential. But there is “the still deeper viewpoint of the occult scientist” (181) that pertains to “the sacrifice of life for the purpose of gaining power” (182). Such a practice constitutes white or black magic, depending on whether the sacrifice is another’s life or power, or one’s own. In his day Heindel may have been so sensitive to the specter of negative occultism that he deferred more frequently to the word mystic to convey the sense which occult properly imparts. Indeed, he says as much in Letters to Students: the average man and woman “look askance at occultism” (224). However, occult is, in itself, a neutral term. It is the purpose and motive for which esoteric knowledge and occult power are used that determines their moral value.
Thinking as an intermediate means of knowing (short of immediate intuition) is destructive—it breaks down tissue in the brain. In fact, “there is always the taking of life in whatever direction we go after knowledge” (186). The point is to be as harmless as possible, and yet as wise as serpents, as wise as Lucifer. Isn’t this our dilemma in a nutshell? The Lucifers, humanity’s benefactors in some respects, have foisted this challenge on us—this blessing and bane. Since Lemuria the Lucifer Spirits have “worked on us through the spinal cord and the brain” (199). If they permeate our thoughts, it is for us to become conscious of their influence and to control our thinking and our desire nature. Today, when the word occult is used, most people think of black magic.
“At the present time, the sacrifice of life in obtaining knowledge is unavoidable; we cannot help it” (187). “The occultist...is amazed sometimes at the vast loss of separate life that is...sacrificed to no good purpose”: be it in slaughter houses; laboratories that turn out cosmetics and household products and pharmaceuticals after dosing animals to death on them; factory farms; abortion clinics; or execution chambers.
It is, however, “a beautiful feature of the Rosicrucian exercises [of retrospection and concentration] that they not only give us spiritual knowledge, but they fit us for having that knowledge” (187). They are spiritually enlightening and morally transformative. Thomas à Kempis has described the right use of knowledge as “only a mystic can do” (188). The motive for seeking knowledge should be “only as a means to the living of a better and purer life, for that alone justifies it” (189).
Heindel seems to moderate his view on the Catholic-Masonic polarity in his later writing, implying more of a rapproachment and assimilation. In the article “Journey Through the Wilderness” (TI), Heindel admits that the papacy’s authority for interpreting Scriptures has some basis because all but one Pope have had their clairvoyant powers unfolded (191). They had occultly seen and heard, so their pronouncements were the “result of an understanding obtained by means of spiritual vision,” as were Heindel’s himself (192).
Regarding the Scriptures, not only do the four Gospels contain formulae of initiation, the Old Testament also is “a wonderful book of occultism” (193). Does Heindel intend this term in contradistinction to the word mysticism? Definitely, and in an evaluative sense. The entire Bible is only truly open to those who have the right to know [and] can unveil what is meant and understand the underlying facts” (193). The mystic may sense or feel the inner truth but it remains mystical. One can truly know the four Gospels only when the mystical mist is dispelled and the clear truth is discerned. “Likewise in the Old Testament we find great occult truths that become very plain when we can look behind the veil that blinds most of us” (193).
“For the present [many of us] must forego occult sight in order to master the conditions of material evolution....But we of the Western World are now on the occult arc [as in earlier times we were on the mystic—or involuntary—arc]” (193).
Man is the thinker. “It is thought that moves everything, and when we look upon the hidden or occult side of effects, we get a far deeper understanding of causes” (200). And our destiny is to understand, to know—by thinking. So the pot of manna in the Ark in the ancient Tabernacle signifies the Ego, the Human Spirit (166, 200) to which all humanity has access and will use creatively when Aaron’s Rod is acquired, which is the serpent power or life force that is lifted up in the wilderness of the physical body to become the Tree of (Regenerative) Life.
The words mystery or mystical appear in the title of three of Heindel’s shorter works: The Mystical Interpretation of Easter (MIE), The Mystical Interpretation of Christmas (MIC), and The Mystery of the Ductless Glands (MDG). The Mystical Interpretation of Christmas is subtitled “Showing the Occult Significance of the Great Event.” This conjunction of the two terms again raises the issue of the meaning the author assigns each. If his interpretation is “mystical,” does this mean it is not rational? If the writer is disclosing the occult significance of Christmas, we assume he is approaching his subject scientifically and making an appeal to our reason. A sense of the distinction is given in this text by the phrase “mystic experience,” which points to the subjectivity or personal response to the event. Still, one aims to interpret objectively, not subjectively. The illumined mystic sees and feels the Christmas Spirit months before Holy Night, but the occultist can explain, as Heindel does, what is actually taking place during this same time. Likewise, when the cross is described as a “mystic symbol” (31), we may not know what it means until occultism explains the symbolism based on occult knowledge.
Inasmuch as the ductless glands are foci for vital body processes, they are “intimately connected with occult development” (MDG 9), not mystic development! “Occult science” (22) sheds light on the mystery of, or removes the mystery from, the esoteric significance of the ductless glands. We must consider this an advance, for we gain useful knowledge, and applied knowledge, in Heindel’s words, is the only salvation. And the only sin is ignorance (RCL 20, 236). Is this simplistic? Are there no other sins? Most certainly, but they can all be accounted for by ignorance; that is, if we really knew, in advance, the consequences of intended wrong-doing, we would refrain from such action. What is our retrospective lament on viewing past inappropriate behavior? “If I had only known.”
In her forward to Heindel’s Letters to Students (LS), the author’s wife calls her husband a “mystic and occultist” (7). Was he? Here is how he characterized himself: “mystics usually stand aloof from their fellows and the world looks askance at us and our beliefs” (46). Us means Heindel regarded himself as a mystic. Aloof he may have felt, but involved in, engaged with, and committed to his fellows he was in deed. Recall that Heindel also describes himself as “a Mason at heart” (F&C 6), which is set in opposition to the mystic perspective because the latter is faith-based, not knowledge-based. Were one to assess the relative weight Heindel assigns the mystic as versus the occult perspective, as measured by the frequency of their occurrence in his writings, the occult viewpoint predominates—with a 15 to 1 ratio in the Cosmo, a 7 to 1 ratio in Questions and Answers, Vol. 1, a 6 to 1 ratio in Christianity Lectures, and a 5 to 2 ratio in his Letters to Students, the latter a highly revealing statistic because it is in his letters that he is most earnest, intimate, and heartfelt. As he acknowledged, his “nice little sermons” from the heart contain “a great deal of occult knowledge” that will benefit the student” (181).
Some of Heindel’s letters describe “the trials that beset the occult student” (175), a number consider the “occult side of the [First World] war” (143). A series of lessons dealt with “The Occult Effect of the Emotions” (163). As the Forward to this collection of letters states, Max was continuously “giving out occult information to his students,” his “occult students” (225), not his mystic students. And whereas the term mystic is sometimes used where occult would be equally satisfactory, the reverse is never true. Mystic could not be substituted for occult without contradicting the intended sense. An instance of the former equivalence is the use of “mystic reason” (65) to explain the use of bell, book, and candle in Catholic liturgy. Occult more favorably couples with reason than mystic, which does not traffic in reason nor supply explanations. For example, in accounting for the great decline of faith in recent years, Heindel gives not only the “occult reason”, but, to emphasize the facticity and clarity of his viewpoint, he qualifies the first term and proposes to give the “occult scientific reason” (2Q&A 524). Which is to say, when seeking an esoteric explanation, the inquirer does not ask for a mystic answer, which could be more confusing than clarifying.
As the material scientist observes and analyzes forms and processes in the physical world, the “occult scientist easily finds the [deeper or spiritual] answer in the memory of nature” (Cosmo 396).On the face of it, the term mystic masonry (74), which occurs elsewhere in Heindel’s writings, seems an oxymoron. But he is referring to the symbolic or figurative building engaged in by the Mason. who is concerned with occult development, as in “All occult development begins with the vital body” (title to Letter No. 74). The mystic mason is both building his own etheric temple and, as a prospective living stone, positioning himself in the temple of humanity, the church (ecclesia) of Christ.
For this writer, perhaps the most puzzling occurrence of the term mystic is its use in the Fellowship’s subtitle (as it were), “An Association of Christian Mystics.” It is puzzling because the Fellowship is Rosicrucian and the Rosicrucian path of initiation is the occult, not the mystic, path, as Heindel repeatedly says. We will cite a few examples. While the mystic and occult initiations are “exactly opposite” (2Q&A 228), the Rosicrucian initiations endeavor to blend the two with “perhaps” “a little more stress” laid on the mystic side (ibid 229). This passage would seem to warrant the use of the term mystic to characterize Fellowship students, rather than as occultists. But Rosicrucian Philosophy is a “school of Occultism” (ibid 68). “In occult orders, like the Rosicrucian,” musical “keys” or incantations are used. “The Rosicrucians are the special messengers of Christ to the Sons of Cain,” representing the occult path, while Jesus is the special messenger to the Sons of Abel who walk the mystic path” (ibid 447). Are Fellowship students engaged in mystic development? Not primarily, not if they are walking the head path of knowledge and intellect. The Rosicrucian Fellowship is a preparatory school for the “occult order” (502) of the Rosicrucians.
Since “it is necessary to be an occultist in order to study the unexplained laws of nature and the powers latent in man, the Rosicrucians recommend that all thoughts be centered upon living such a life and practicing such exercises as will develop the latent powers in each pupil” (1Q&A 359). Clearly, these are not instructions for mystic development. In fact, knowledge is of little or no concern to the mystic, who is usually “devoid of intellectual knowledge” (ibid 290). In the second Letter to Probationers (March, 1911) Heindel advises his students to “give up other occult [not mystic] schools if you aspire to discipleship among the Rosicrucians.”
If the Fellowship student belongs to an association of Christian Mystics “Jesus is his Teacher and his Guide to the kingdom of Christ.” He is “dependent upon the blood of Jesus” (AMI 122-123). But this is not the case. The Rosicrucians and Freemasons teach the candidate “to work out his own salvation,” which is “the positive method” (LS #29). “The Christian Mystic form of initiation differs radically from the Rosicrucian Method, which aims to bring the candidate to compassion through knowledge [the occult path] and therefore seeks to cultivate in him the latent faculty of spiritual sight and hearing at the very start of his career as an aspirant to the higher life” (AMI 67). “Christian Rosenkreutz was given charge of the Sons of Cain, who seek the light of knowledge....[and are prompted] to work out their own salvation” on the occult path; while “the cleansing blood of Jesus is an absolute necessity to millions of weaker brothers” who tread the mystic path of faith (F&C 97-98).
To become a Probationer of the Rosicrucian Fellowship, the student is advised to “sever his connection with all other occult” orders (Cosmo 530). Mystics do not affiliate with occult orders. As previously mentioned, “the mystic is usually devoid of intellectual knowledge”, but Rosicrucian Mystery (!) Teachings are designed to appeal to the intellect by correlating scientific facts to spiritual verities, opening up a materialist perspective, through reason, to spiritual comprehension. Then the heart may be able to believe what the intellect has sanctioned (Cosmo 520-521). It is clear that for the more intellectual humanity of the modern era, the emphasis is on rational understanding.
If the Fellowship were an association of Christian mystics, wherein would they differ from Roman Catholicism? It is abundantly clear from the foregoing quotes and references that the preponderant emphasis of the Fellowship teachings is occult: It is Western (Rosicrucian) wisdom whose primary text is The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception. In the Cosmo Heindel asserts that the two classes of Egos, the esoteric Christians [mystics] and the pupils of all occult schools, are both trying to develop the open heart (303), but, to repeat, “the Christian Mystic initiation differs radically from the processes in vogue among the Rosicrucians in which an understanding” is “indispensable” (AMI 108).
Why then isn’t the Fellowship called an association of Christian occultists? Perhaps because the word for many has strongly negative connotations. Perhaps because, in spite of his own calling and emphasis, Heindel would prefer that it have a mystic identity. The Fellowship’s founder increasingly gravitated toward the mystic or heart side during the ten years after the Fellowship was inaugurated in 1909. At the outset he was searching high and low for an occult explanation to life’s mysteries. Theosophy was not the answer, certainly not the full answer. The Rosicrucian Teachings were, and are. And they are Teachings. Mysticism is not taught. Nor do mystics typically seek occult knowledge. Heindel did.
One would naturally expect frequent reference to the word occult in Occult Principles of Health and Healing (OPHH). It is used 28 times. Mystic occurs three times. The contrast is yet greater than the ratio indicates because the occult perspective is always assumed when the author explains the invisible causes of diseases and their relation to occult anatomy. Therefore, when Heindel employs the term seer, occultist could as readily be used because he sees superphysical objects as the scientist sees (with the aid of microscopes, telescopes, and cat scans) physical objects—objectively, and at will. As Heindel explains in Teachings of an Initiate, the Elder Brothers of the Rose Cross “lift[ed] the healing art from the sands of experiment to the rock of exact knowledge” because they live consciously in the World of Thought, the world of causes (146). Three characteristic instances of occult in OPHH follow. “[T]he seven roses upon the cross of the body are intimately connected with the occult development of humanity” (32). It is an “occult maxim that a lie is both a murder and a suicide in the desire world” (61). “From an occult standpoint it is desirable to live as long as possible.”
The reader of Rosicrucian Fellowship literature has reason to be occasionally perplexed by the way in which the two terms of this study are used in the various books. For example, in the book being considered (OPHH) the author begins the last paragraph on page 47 with the familiar statement that “the Western Wisdom School teaches as its fundamental maxim that ‘all occult development begins with the vital body.’” (See also LS #74 and 2Q&A #161.) The two higher ethers constitute the soul body which is “the vehicle of intellect.” Then the paragraph concludes with the same statement, with one word changed: “This is the reason the Western Wisdom Teachings says that all mystic development begins with the vital body.” But if the student is building the soul body, the vehicle of intellect, he is engaged in occult development. For this reason Heindel writes that “no occult development is possible until the third part of the silver cord connecting the mind to the liver has been developed,” enabling the Ego to consciously leave its dense body in its soul body (2Q&A 429-430). The mystic does not take this path.
One would expect the two volumes containing Heindel’s answers to student’s questions to have many references to the occult because intelligible information pertaining to the higher worlds is being sought.
In Rosicrucian Philosophy in Questions and Answers, Vol 1 (1Q&A) occult is used forty times, mystic is used six times. The author dictated the text of this book to a stenographer in 1910 as he read questions from slips of paper submitted during his earlier lecture tours. We learn that the Bible translators “possessed no occult knowledge” (40), but the occultist “has the key” to the Bible’s meaning (149). In “pearls of occult truth are hidden what are often hideous garments” (156). All occult schools are divisible into seven, one for each class [or Ray] of Spirits (47). In answering one question on the rejection of Cain’s offering, Heindel narrates part of the “legend of the occult free masons” (175). The reader is told that “The feasts of the year have the very deepest occult significance” (178). This is Heindel’s earliest description of events for which he later gave a “mystical” interpretation (Easter and Christmas). As observed when studying these two events, mysticism does not give interpretations, certainly not scientific explanations as Heindel does in both of these short studies. Moreover, “occult tradition” requires Easter to be held on a specific day which is spelled out (2Q&A 449).
What are “blind laws” to the materialist the occultist sees as great Spirits (1Q&A 179). Heindel is implying here that the occultist possesses esoteric knowledge because he sees and hears in the invisible worlds. Then he processes his supersensible visions and auditions with logic and reason and articulates his conclusions. Higher “senses or [clairvoyant] faculties are the means of investigation used by occultists. They are their ‘open sesame’ in searching for truth” (Cosmo 34). In reference to the “music of the spheres,” Heindel says “the occult scientist hears it” (Cosmo 122).
We have previously traced the etymology of occult. The root of this word is Latin cultus, which means care or cultivation, and derives from colere, meaning to till or cultivate (the earth). The original meaning of cult is “a system of religious worship or ritual.” When it became expedient to conceal or obscure that system, it was occulted or hidden. What is spiritual is by its very nature hidden or occult. When Max Heindel seeks to reveal facts pertaining to the spiritual worlds, his explanations are occult and yet they are accessible to reason. They are not perceived but conceived. For instance, it is “patent to the occultist” that wars serve a positive purpose of cleansing the blood of the races (1Q&A 205). This action can be seen and proved by the occultist. His explanation gives the results of his first-hand investigations.
In the second volume of Questions and Answers, compiled by Mrs. Heindel and copyright in 1947, occult is used sixty times and mystic twenty-four times. In her prefatory remarks, Mrs. Heindel writes that the book contains “much valuable occult information.” Again we cite a few of the more notable instances of the two terms in context.
One who has esoteric understanding of the significance of the initials INRI has the “occult key to the mystery of crucifixion” (256). Mysteries remain obscure, mysterious, until, as His disciples told Jesus, one can speak plainly, rather than figuratively, about a matter. Heindel usually implies, and sometimes explicitly states, that the occultist is in possession of positive clairvoyance and clairaudience. For instance, the “occultist sees” blood as a gas inside the body (257). “In occult orders, like the Rosicrucians,” musical “keys” or incantations are intoned at each degree. Such key “are used in all occult orders and for all occult purposes” (284). Heindel quotes a statement that appeared in The Theosophist, the official organ of the Theosophical Society, written by its editor Annie Besant, that the Cosmo “clearly represents a definite occult tradition” (461).
While the Catholic Church serves the need of mystics by appealing to devotion and faith, the ritual they observe is “occultly inspired” (534) by an “occultly informed Catholic Hierarchy” (537) which was in possession of “occult facts” (536).
If the Rosicrucian initiations “endeavor to blend the mystic with the occult” by “directing attention to the Christ,” “a little more stress is laid perhaps upon the mystic side” because Christ is the embodiment of the Father’s love for his children, humanity (229). And since Christ Jesus is the ideal of the Fellowship student, “perhaps” this point alone would explain Heindel’s calling the Fellowship “An Association of Christian Mystics.” The fact remains that the Teachings are fundamentally occult in nature. For example, when “the light of occultism” is directed on the problem of sorrow, it becomes “one of the strongest rays of hope to the one who is blessed with this knowledge” (73). Moreover, precisely because the occult student has chosen consciously to pursue the straight and narrow path to the Kingdom of Heaven, he may expect an acceleration of trials and may regard them as a “sign of progress and a cause for great rejoicing” (LS #72, “The Reason for the Trials That Beset the Occult Student”).
The truths of the Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception are described as “mystic teaching” (89). Again we encounter a substitution for the more common and fitting occult, since the teachings can only be called mystic in that they are not obvious. But their clarity and intelligibility more correctly identify them as occult. Likewise, the term “mystic reason” (276) couples antithetical concepts. And the “mystic significance” (337) of Jesus apparently eating fish and honey is really an occult significance, for which Heindel gives an occult explanation. Rasputin’s “mystic overlordship of the imperial mind” (509) is better described as “occult” because knowledge and will were used in exerting this influence. Mystics do not control others in this “magical” way. As Heindel says, the “true mystic” will “look to the God within and pour himself or herself out in voiceless adoration” (560).
Mystics, “led by the devotion to Christ, simply follow the dictates of the heart in their work of love for their fellows” (GM 17). On the other hand, “mind is the predominating feature” of Rosicrucian occultists, who practice the exercises of retrospection and concentration to advance “scientifically toward the goal of initiation” (GM 19).
“Students of the occult philosophies [as Western Wisdom Teachings] ought to familiarize themselves with the astronomical facts so that they may be able to give an intelligent reason for their beliefs” (2Q&A 356). Mystics cannot give “intelligent reasons” for their beliefs because their beliefs are not based on reason but faith, or even indubitable intuition. They may know, but their knowledge is not in a transmissible form. Heindel firmly states that our duty is to “give a reason for the faith” which is within us, as St. Paul exhorts us to do (TI 34).
Christ’s injunction to His disciples was to preach the Gospel and to heal the sick. This, not surprisingly, is also the Rosicrucian Fellowship’s mission. The teachings of occult Christianity could have been given without a permanent location, but the Fellowship’s healing mission required an actual site for a healing Temple, a Healing Department, and, at least as originally conceived and used for a period of time, a healing facility, called the Sanitarium, which opened in 1939. Heindel enunciated occult principles of healing in many forms, including books, lectures, and letters. He knew that the Rosicrucian Teachings themselves have a salutary effect on those who try to understand and use them. “The study of the highest philosophy will always tend to better one’s health because...the more we know, the better we are able to cope with all conditions” (1Q&A 286).
Heindel regarded astrology as critical to effective healing. In fact, “this science is the backbone of the teaching” (Letters to Probationers 35). Obviously mystics do not teach astrology. Holy mystics, such as some of the saints of the Catholic Church, possessed healing powers, but these were gifts of the Holy Spirit and were not the result of the systematic application of physical sciences and occult principles. Heindel believed that “all methods of healing are adequate only to the degree that they take into consideration the stellar harmonics and discords expressed in the wheel of life—the horoscope” (TI 159). The Rosicrucian system of healing is based on “a knowledge of the planetary disharmonies which cause disease and the correcting influence” (TI 160).
For Heindel knowledge is absolutely therapeutic. The imperative in the old mystery schools to “Know Thyself” is the Rosicrucian student’s first priority. Knowledge and health are intimately related: “Disease is a manifestation of ignorance, the only sin, and healing is a demonstration of applied knowledge, which is the only salvation” (TI 131-132). These are categorical terms!
Heindel’s enthusiasm for astrology knows no bounds. It “helps as nothing else can in the development” of the supreme virtue of love (RM 61). This is certainly not a sentiment or proposition advanced by a mystic. Astrology teaches understanding and understanding promotes fellow feeling and forgiveness, as in “to know all is to forgive all.” While the material astronomer regards the zodiacal constellations as aggregates of chemical elements, “to the occultist the twelve signs [star clusters] of the zodiac are the visible vehicle of the twelve Creative Hierarchies” (RCL 170). Ordinary humanity directs prayers to God which “at the present time are mostly selfish and ignorant.” If they are answered, it is generally by invisible helpers. The “occult astrologer, however...addresses the ambassadors of the star-Angels directly and obtains his desires more easily” (1Q&A 324).
We are now in a position to conclude our study of Heindel’s thought relative to his own mystic and occult tendencies and his writing on these two life orientations. That both are vital approaches to the one Reality is shown by the Rosicrucian symbolism that is depicted on the cover of most editions of Heindel’s books published by the Fellowship. The two streams of evolving humanity are designated by the lamp and the heart. The creative power of the occultist ascends directly to the head where the intellect is developed. The creative force of the mystic ascends through the heart. The head path is considered positive (nine rays issue from the lamp) and masculine (right side), while the heart path is negative (the heart is shown emanating eight rays) and feminine.
The union of the head and heart signify the Perfect Man (Human) and it is the ideal of the Rosicrucian Fellowship, as it is the purpose of Heindel’s central work, the Cosmo (18), to promote this union. Even so, its author stated that the publication of this book “marked a new era in so-called ‘occult’ literature” (RM 11). And the Fellowship teachings are preponderantly occult, intended for the intellectual needs of the Mercury (hermetic)-oriented seeker after wisdom. While the Cosmo is not “the ultimate of occult knowledge” (Cosmo 8), it is the most comprehensive volume of occult knowledge specifically formulated for the developmental needs of Western humanity. Heindel himself sets the keynote by defining “the first and central requisite the aspirant to occult knowledge must possess—an unswerving desire, a burning thirst for knowledge” (Cosmo 22). This burning thirst characterized the author’s own quest for the teachings embodied in in the Cosmo. However, “the supreme motive for seeking this occult knowledge must be an ardent desire to benefit humanity” (22).
The Cosmo is “only for the [then-1910] few” who, have “freed their minds from the shackles of orthodox science and religion” and are ready to accept its truth “until they have proven it wrong” (RCC 514). Those who free their minds in pursuit of truth will find it, and that truth will make them free. For it teaches them “how to escape [all forms of] restraint by mastering self” (TI 143).
For the occultist, it is not enough to say, as does the mystic, that he believes. He must know, and he will know—“there can be no question” (Cosmo 47). When Carl Jung was asked why he believed in the human soul, he replied, “I don’t believe, I know.” The occult path is often characterized as cold and heartless. Yet most who pursue it sooner or later realize that they are seeking to fulfill the First Commandment of the Christ—to love the Lord God with all their mind. The mind is given humanity to know the deep secrets of God and in so doing to better give God glory. Knowledge may puff up, if it is personal knowledge. But wisdom, by its very nature, is mind identified with living truth. It is soulful participation in the being of celestial beings, who are expressions of the “thoughts” of God. As Max Heindel writes: “Wisdom, wisdom everywhere! So grand, so great that one who looks with an observant eye is filled with amazement and reverence” (Cosmo 79).
While mystics obtain their clairvoyant faculty as a gift from Jehovah, “trained occultists” acquire their extrasensory powers “by their own will” (RM 74). Speaking of his fellow occultists, Heindel writes “self-mastery is our goal, and not mastery over others” (RM 74). This is the motto of the ethical occultist.
The mystic is a poet. He lives and comprehends intuitively, unmediated by sequential reasoning. He knows analogically, in a fell swoop. The archetypal mystic bypasses the Holy Spirit and on Seraphim wings flies directly to the heart of God, to the center of universal Love abiding in the World of Life Spirit. At the same time, the mystic path is fraught with its own perils. Since the heart-based aspirant is steeped in emotions and is both subject to great temptations and lacking in knowledge, he is prey to every kind of illusion and deception.
The mystic ignores and even seeks to escape the conscious personal self, which attempt often results in his becoming more (not less) involved in subjectivity. He may also try to dissociate himself from the dense physical body through various ascetic practices in an after echo of his Eastern mystic brothers. But the occultist subdues and uses the personal self as a tool. Self-mastery is his goal, not self-cancellation (Cosmo 273).
It was Fellowship practice during Heindel’s tenure to hold weekday classes for intellectual nourishment and Sunday evening addresses devoted to the heart’s development through ardent exhortations, which were meant to apply to the speaker as well as his listeners. In other words, Heindel’s vehemence on certain points stemmed from their personal relevance to his own experiences— be it Eastern breathing methods (he tried them); to the evils of a carnivorous diet (he partook of meat until his mid-thirties); to conservation of the sex force (which up to a crisis point of radical conversion, again in his mid-thirties, he did not observe).
Heindel was a man of action. And his actions were informed by what he knew, and suffered from what he didn’t know. To know, first-hand, was a driving force in his life. He was a pioneer, an explorer; he needed to get to the heart of a matter, to master a skill (be it printing, or navigation, or mechanics); to know the principle behind the manifestation—be it gravity, electricity, harmonics, the physics of light and color, crystallography, cryogenics, etc. After all, he was a self-confessed spiritual son of Lucifer, Cain, and Hiram Abiff. He was an epigeneticist, a creator. For him it did not suffice to have Solomon’s wisdom that can draw the blueprint, conceive the archetype for the Temple, but cannot build it with earthly materials. For that the wisdom of Solomon had, reluctantly, to defer to the practical expertise, the “masonic” experience, of Hiram, the master builder, the architecton. There is, in other words, a wisdom that is not from above, that does not pre-exist but must be generated by applying knowledge to human experience in the physical world. The striving to know is not an end but a means to do better, and to do better for others. Here the heart directs the action; it is not a doing for self.
In view of the foregoing observations it may have occurred to many readers of this study that Max Heindel and St. Paul have more than a little in common, including: a radical conversion to the occult Christian path; an intense desire and a tireless zeal to serve the Lord Christ; the attainment of initiate status, the compelling need to bring the esoteric truth of the Gospel to as many people as possible; and the commitment to making manifest “the mystery which hath been hid from the ages and from generations...which is Christ in you” (Col 1:26-28). The old man is to be “renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him: where...Christ is all, and in all” (Col 3:9-11).
Paul sought to make public his own special knowledge in a clear manner that appealed to reason. He was disseminating a new teaching; so was Max Heindel. Since many others were issuing teachings purporting to be true, Paul adjured his listeners to “prove all things and hold fast to that which is good.” These very words enveloped the text of the Cosmo’s first two editions: “Prove all things” placed as an epigraph and “hold fast...” functioning as a postscript.
One can prove the Teachings, both Paul’s and Heindel’s, because they are logical, even if they are occult. In other words, according to the world’s thinking they may be foolishness, but as esoteric doctrine, they are wise. Through his occult transmissions, Heindel made possible the fulfillment of the words “It is given to know the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven” (Matt 13:11). Like Paul he would say “I would not, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery” (Rom 11:25).
The frequency with which the two terms occult and mystic are used in Heindel’s complete opus fairly reflects the emphasis he placed on the twin aims of the Fellowship and its Teachings, and, indirectly, the Rosicrucian Order itself, as they pertain to the head and heart involvement in spiritual development. Simply from the quantitative point of view, the overwhelming emphasis in Heindel’s writing is one knowledge intended for implementation—on working truths. The Teachings are a form of spiritual pragmatism. Occult knowledge can be shared and disseminated. Mysticism cannot, not directly, except in figurative forms such as poetry, myth, painting, and music. This does not diminish the importance of the mystic venture. But its light is obscured to others who want to participate in the mystic experience. While the heart’s wisdom and the mind’s clear knowing are both essential for fully developed spirituality, in the Aryan Epoch emphasis is placed on the cultivation of reason and the unfoldment of the mind’s potential, which is directed toward the attainment of uttering the Creative Word.
The Rosicrucian Teachings are particularly earmarked for the disaffected thinker, the rationalist beleaguered by the meager offerings of theoretical materialism. When the alienated mind is re-engaged and open to cosmic the truths enunciated in Western Wisdom Teachings, the blocked heart may also be engaged and a working love for all creation will manifest as the spontaneous desire to improve the lot and advance the cause of the four life waves evolving on Earth.
The Aquarian Age, of which the Rosicrucian Fellowship is the herald, “will bring out all the intellectual and spiritual potencies in man which are symbolized by that sign” (RM 12). The watery Piscean mysticism will be increasingly supplanted by the dry, objective occultism of Aquarius. An impersonal love will succeed a love at once sacrificial and intensely subjective. Love is not a feeling as commonly understood. Feelings are not reliable guides to truth and certainty. “Pythagoras demanded that his pupils study mathematics because he knew the value of raising their minds above the sphere of feeling, where it is subject to delusion, and elevating it toward the Region of Abstract Thought, which is the prime reality” (RM 83).
When the mind is trained in abstract thought it is elevated “above the sordid things of concrete existence, helping the imagination to soar beyond the hampering toils of self-interest” (Cosmo 202). The Region of Abstract Thought is “beyond the influence of Feeling and the mind is directed upward towards the spiritual realms and liberation” (ibid). “[T]he twin feelings, interest and indifference, obscure the Truth and bias us....[Therefore] remembering that logic is the best teacher in any world, it is certain that the individual who succeeds in entering into the superphyscial World by means of such studies in abstract Thought, will not become confused, but will be able to give a good account of himself under all circumstances” (Cosmo 203-4).
In answering a student’s question, Heindel wrote that “it is necessary to be an occultist to...study... the unexplained [mysterious] laws of nature and the powers latent in man. Therefore, the Rosicrucian recommend that all thoughts be centered upon living such a life and practicing such exercises as will develop the latent powers in each pupil so that he may see and know the invisible worlds whence came the causes we see manifested here (1Q&A 359). Here is an explicit statement concerning the Rosicrucian path, which is in some ways opposite from the mystic path, for it is a knowledge path, ensouled knowledge. When the Rosicrucian student “has become capable of reaaching the consciousness of the inner worlds,” he attains to at least a partial realization of the mystic’s goal, for “the unity of life” is seen by him as a fact, as is universal brotherhood (ibid).
In Mysteries of the Great Operas, Heindel explains that modes of artistic expression, including myths and allegorical pictures, work on the human subconscious. “Particularly in Europe, we find still the atmosphere of mysticism brooding over the land. There, people love the ancient myths which speak to them in a manner incomprehensible to the Westerner” (73). We recall that the Elder Brother told Max Heindel that he would want to rewrite the cosmo once he left the mystical environment of eastern Germany and re-entered the United States. Indeed, “in the etheric atmosphere of the Pacific Coast these mythical pictures have almost faded away” (73). The intellectual needs of the contemporary Western human who aspires to higher knowledge are best served by the logical presentation of occult truths. Mystical truths are obscure, impressionistic, allusive, and virtually antithetical to scientific formulations, whether they refer to visible or superphysical reality.
There are those who feel that the explanation of a thing demeans or destroys that thing. Many people do not believe that the deep longings of their souls can be answered by anything that can be clearly understood. Their convictions lead them to conclude that beside what can be known in the world there must always be something that defies cognition. While in absolute terms this feeling may have some merit, it acts as a deterrent and impels the “subjectivist” reject what is known by occult scientists as irrelevant, misleading, or sinister. Occult science is not a “hidden” science but one whose object of inquiry is concealed. It is a science of revealed mysteries, and therefore a systemmatic body of knowledge of the supersensible worlds. As Heindel writes, “It is thought that moves everything, and when we look upon the hidden or occult side of effects, we get a far deeper understanding of causes” (TI 195).
Let us recapitulate our study by quoting a key passage from the Cosmo: “The Rosicrucian Order was started particularly for those whose high degree of intellectual development caused them to repudiate the heart. Intellect imperiously demands a logical explanation of everything—the world mystery, the questions of life and death. The reasons for and the modus operandi of existence were not explained by the priestly injunction not to seek to know the mysteries of God” (439). To this priestly injunction the mystic is obedient. Not so the occultist. The world mystery will be resolved. The reasons for existence will be explained. The intellect will find answers, occult answers to its questions. The Rosicrucian Order has made this possible, this occult revelation—and more, has advanced the ability to prove the truth of these occult facts by providing exercises and describing a way of living that enable the student to enter the spiritual worlds at the earliest time in their development consonant with safety.
In conclusion, knowledge, as desirable, indeed essential, as it may be, is not the Rosicrucian student’s final goal. Rather does higher knowledge fit the student to better serve his spiritual Self, to further the well-being of others, and to fulfill the Father’s will through Christ.
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