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Occult Science - An Outline

Chapter I

The Character of Occult Science

An ancient term — “Occult Science” — is applied to the contents of this book. The term is likely to evoke the most contrary feelings among the people of our time. To many it will be downright repugnant, calling forth derision, a supercilious smile, even contempt. A way of thought — they will opine — which thus described itself, must surely rest on idle dreams, and the mere arbitrary play of fancy. Its claim to be a science can only be a blind, behind which is the wish to revive all manner of superstitions, justly eschewed by those who are familiar with the scientific spirit, the quest of genuine knowledge. Others are differently affected. They feel that what is signified by this term will bring them something unattainable in any other way, something to which they are drawn — according to their disposition — by a deep inner longing for knowledge or a refined curiosity of soul. Between these two sharply divergent opinions there are a multitude of intermediate views, implying conditional rejection or acceptance of the diverse things which people think of when they hear the term “Occult Science.”

For some people, undeniably, it has a magic ring because it bids fair to satisfy their craving for information, inaccessible by straightforward methods, about something “beyond our ken” — something mysterious, nay perhaps vague and confused. Or there are those who do not want to meet the deepest longings of the soul with anything that is capable of being clearly known. In their conviction, beyond what is knowable there must be something more in the world that eludes our knowledge. It is a strange contradiction, which they fail to notice. Precisely where the deepest yearning for knowledge is concerned, they would set aside clear knowledge and want to cherish what is incapable of discovery by natural and sound research. Whoever speaks of “Occult Science” will do well to bear in mind the likelihood of misunderstandings due to the efforts of such champions, who in reality desire, not a true science but the reverse.

The contents of this book are addressed to readers who will not let their openness of mind be impaired because, for a variety of reasons, a word tends to awaken prejudices. Of knowledge claiming to be “occult” in the sense of secret — accessible only to a few, by special favor or good fortune — there will be no mention here. The reader will do justice to our use of the term “Occult Science” if he considers what Goethe had in mind when he spoke of the “manifest secrets” in the phenomena of Nature. Whatever remains “secret,” that is to say unmanifest in these phenomena when we apprehend them only with the outer senses and with the intellect that is bound to the outer senses, will here be treated as the subject-matter of a supersensible way of knowledge.1

Needless to say, for anyone who will admit as science only what is manifest to the senses and to the intellect that serves them, what is here named “Occult Science” can be no science. Such a man, however, if willing to understand his own position, should candidly admit that his categorical rejection of any kind of “Occult Science” springs not from reasoned insight but from an ipse dixit, due to his own individual feeling. To see that it is so, he need only reflect how sciences arise and what is their significance in human life. How a pursuit comes to be a science cannot in the nature of the case be ascertained from the subject-matter to which it is devoted, but only by recognizing the mode of action of the human soul while engaged in scientific endeavor. What is the attitude and activity of the soul in the elaboration of a science? — this is the thing we must observe. If one is used to apply this mode of activity only where sense-data are concerned, one easily slides into the idea that sense-data are the essential factor. One misses the real point, which is that a certain inner attitude of the human soul has been applied to the revelations of the senses. For we can go beyond the self-imposed limitation. Apart from the special case to which it is here applied, we can envisage the character of scientific activity as such. Such is the underlying idea when in this book the knowledge of non-sensible World-contents is spoken of as “scientific.” The human mind here sets to work at these World-contents, as in the other case it does at the World-contents given to Natural Science. Occult Science seeks to free the scientific method and spirit of research, which in its own domain holds fast to the sequence and relationship of sense-perceptible events, from this restricted application, while maintaining the same essenti