Initiations

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The book explains in the simplest way, but one which reaches into the ultimate depths of the human soul, all the problems dealing with modern and ancient occult philosophy and spiritual searching, as well as social and political conundrums of this and probably also future periods. Translated from the french by the noted hermeticist and mystic Mouni Sadhu.

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I. A State of the Soul

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I WAS just entering my forties. The busy existence of a suburban doctor had not extinguished all the dreams of my youth. It was a beautiful time, in which I was free to abandon everything in order to find a rare book or to converse with a mystic.

My memories were always directed to my old friend Desiderius, dead these twenty years past, and to those unknown persons whom I had met at his funeral. So, every evening, when tiredness did not prevent me, I delayed sleep for some time and turned over the pages of the books, which my departed friend had left to me, especially the small black one. And always my eyes were attracted, without any apparent reason, to the names of Andréas and Théophane.

A banal accident interrupted the usual monotony of my days. My blundering maid-servant had made a hole in a magnificent embroidered silk wall decoration, which had been bequeathed to me by my late parents.

This splendid panel presented a bouquet of peach branches full of rosy flowers, mixed with snow-white cherry-blossom. The stems, leaves and ethereal petals stood out in relief from the background of the fabric like a multicoloured boss. The half-tints, the transparent shades, the exquisite combinations of colours—all were made with the easy tenderness of a pastel by La Tour.

 

II. Andréas

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WHILE I was occupied with my observations, a man came through the door clad in a long sleeveless tunic, like those worn by smiths. His appearance, the size of his torso, the thickness of his arms, all indicated extreme strength. His muscles were smooth, like those of Tartars; but in spite of that, his face was one of an honest Frenchman, perhaps a little severe, like an old soldier's.

It was only later that I was able to read goodness, fineness, intelligence and many other qualities from his face.

I was so sure that I was now dealing with a worker that I asked him: “Is Monsieur Andréas at home?”

“I am he,” he answered, both surprising and disappointing me at the same time, for he was by no means similar to the elegant young man whom I had seen long ago.

However, I said to him: “It so happens, that I have with me a damaged embroidery for repair. I have been sent to you because it seems that your wife is the only artist, who can do the work and make good the damage.”

 

III. Orientalisms

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STELLA had spread the table under an arbour. While waiting for lunch, Andréas invited me to drink a little white whisky diluted with water. He explained that this brand, made from grapes collected at night, was not harmful, because it did not destroy the fatty cells of the body, which might be of importance to a man of my constitution, not too rich in those cells. Smoking quietly, my host questioned me.

“Here are my points to be queried,” I told him. “I shall do my best to be as brief as possible. We can begin with the Buddhist philosophy. It claims matter to be indestructible and eternal. But why? From where come the movements which animate the world? Should we follow them or try to escape from them? Who instilled in us the desire to live, which we bear within ourselves? And who inspires the opposite desire in some of us?

“Being as we are, we have to fight against the magic power of our senses through our mind, which, nevertheless, is itself a function of the same forces, which we want to destroy. On the other hand, the arhats impose on the meditators an experimental procedure both positive and analytical. If the extinction of ignorance annihilates the power of the senses, then the disciple should preserve his consciousness after his death, in order to escape Karma and reincarnation. In other words, he must previously discover through his own intuition, the existence of the invisible universes, about which his rational meditations cannot give any proof.

 

IV. A Rickety Child

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SOMEONE called out from the street. Andréas went to see who it was, and then returned to me with the visitor. It was a simple woman carrying a sickly looking baby in her arms.

“Doctor, please look at the child and see what is wrong with it,” Andréas said to me. After examining the child I decided that it was rickety from hereditary alcoholism.

“I do not believe so,” said Andréas. “It must simply be a xiphoidan appendix.”

And actually the end of the sternum was bent inwards and quite soft. “I have something for bones, but I am not a doctor and have no right to prescribe medicines,” said Andréas.

“But I will immediately sign your order, if you wish!”

“Thank you very much Doctor, but I do not wish to involve you. Here we have something much simpler, which mamma can do as often as she wishes.”

He then placed the baby on a chair, and asked the mother to pass her forefinger along the little sternum.

“Do you feel anything?” he asked.

 

V. The Proletariat

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BUT during that lunch we were not left quiet for even three minutes. A procession of visitors continuously interrupted us. They were all workers, both men and women, who came running for advice, until the whistles of their mills and factories called them back.

I was compelled to note that, even if Andréas did not count many admirers among the intellectual or social élite, he had plenty of fervent friends among the simple people. Often the whole of his workshop was full.

Some bad rheumatism, a wound, a quarrel with the foreman, a dispute with the boss or union were the usual causes. And Andréas seemed to have knowledge of all these affairs.

He knew the factories and their engineers, the small industrialists, the members of friendly societies and the secretaries of committees. He spoke all the slang and understood a mason, a mechanic or a fitter, as if he was a member of their crews. The ideas of all that environment were an open book to him. He knew how to touch the hearts and the hot heads; he foiled the plans of the ambitious ones, and he spoke with ease about their wives and children, as well as about the village parties. Quite a number of families were indebted to him for the fact that the father of the house came home on Saturday evenings steady on his legs and with his pay almost untouched.

 

VI. A Test of Vedanta

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BECAUSE of such a beginning, our meal was finished very late, and as I had some visits to make, I had to leave.

On my next call, Stella directed the conversation to thing metaphysical.

“Actually, my proper place is on the first floor,” she said smiling, “but I very much like to hear discussions about these things, although I am rather ignorant of them. You were criticizing the Buddhists, Doctor, on your previous visit, but does Brahmanism find more grace in your eyes?”

“I don't think that Buddhism would suffer much because of my criticism, and likewise Brahmanism because of what I will now express. However, I beg you for your attention.

“The Vedas teach that man contains within himself a representation of everything that exists in the Universe. In both exists a central pivot, on which different speed-multipliers gear the cog-wheels of both machines. This pivot in man is the Atman, the peak of the unconscious Highest. It carries along the mind. It seems that the latter can take into its possession some of the successive cog-wheels of the unconscious.

 

VII. The Brahman

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ALMOST two months had passed since my initial visit to Andréas, and right from those first weeks he had been sending me patients from his suburb. Although it was quite a long way to travel, I voluntarily occupied myself with his sick acquaintances, as this gave me the pretext to call on him again.

So, one morning, after having made my usual rounds, I again directed my steps towards his home. Turning a street-corner, I stopped opposite a laundry, which I patronized and also attended.

Of course, I knew its whole staff of female workers well, those courageous girls, who were frustrating their youth, risking anemia among the faint vapours of linen and the sickening heat from the iron stoves.

This babbling, arch little world, sincere in its harshness, cordially accepted me and therefore from time to time, I was entitled to chat with and buy the girls a few shillings worth of chestnuts. Last week they had told me that the apprentices’ holiday was approaching. So, this morning I walked up to the suburb of Temple and bought a magnificent marcasite ring, gold-plated and set with rubies made from glass, which the jeweller sold me for the ‘sacrificial’ price of only ‘a crown instead of a pound or so’.

 

VIII. The Durakapalam

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IT was not any new, questionable points which gave me trouble, but always the old enigmas, always the old antinomies. I repeated them to Andréas with a sickening persistence. He listened to me patiently, and as a kind of answer he told me some stories from his own eventful life. In general his conversation always included one or two words, which when said seemingly by accident, illuminated some problem from a different angle, which then broke my short-sighted logic.

Here is one of the most marvellous of those stories as Andréas conveyed it to me during the course of several visits.

“Before leaving Paris, I contacted and came to an understanding with some men, who corresponded with certain Hindus, so that everything was anticipated and provided for. Hence, on my arrival in India, I was immediately able to turn to the right people there.

“On disembarking in a small port of Malabar, I had to walk slowly through the township, clad as a priest of Siva, with a certain amulet around my wrist. Hardly had I passed through the Indian quarter, when a man belonging to a low caste came to me and let me recognize him. He then led me to the countryside from where a light cart transported us to the Ghats. From there we began climbing upwards until evening. The difficult route did not allow me to enjoy the freshness of the night, nor the serenity of the surroundings.

 

IX. A Brahmanic Evocation

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“YOU see, dear Doctor,” said Andréas to me, when I paid him a further visit. “We Europeans have not yet finished spelling the alphabet of Wisdom. Nor have the Easterners,” he added with a smile. “Even so, they seem to know much more than we do, but that is only because they spell a different alphabet.”

“A different alphabet you say?” I interrupted Andréas, being somewhat scandalized, because so far I had believed in the esoteric dogma which says that there is ONE science, ONE religion, ONE Power. “Then are there several kinds of Knowledge?”

“Certainly, Doctor! Take for example myself, who am not a great scholar at all, yet I know a dozen systems of chemistry, and still more of physics, as well as of psychology!” And Andréas continued to smile. At last, evidently trying to comfort me, he added: “Here you have another story.

“The Brahmans teach that cosmic forces are organized, each one forming a kingdom, analogous to the classes studied by natural history. They believe that magnetism is a world in itself, while electricity is another world, and so on. How can we verify this hypothesis? How to perceive, analyse, and use these unknown universes? Perhaps by inventing very sensitive apparatus, or educating our nervous system. Materialists would like to choose the first method, while mystics would prefer to use the second. My masters used both, because they always try to resolve the antinomies.

 

X. Comforts

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ANDREAS was absent on one Sunday when I went to see him and I had to wait for several hours. So, in order to make me more patient, Stella showed me the whole of the inside and backyard of the shop. There were cartons filled with engravings, furniture with drawers full of knick-knacks and glass-cases packed with rare objects. She displayed her embroidered laces from France, Geneva and Honiton for me. Then she showed me turquoises which became green after being macerated with pieces of roots from ash-trees; rough opals in wooden bowls; tarnished pearls awaiting attention; the frame of an Irish crowth* drying in the sun, which was being restored according to old miniatures, and still thousands of other curiosities.

“You cannot imagine how patient, careful and even punctilious Andréas is,” said Stella. “Here is a violin case. He cut it from a log, taken from an old pear-tree, which, for several months beforehand he had subjected to the action of the sun, using a system of lenses for that purpose. For varnish, he first prepared a special resin from the maritime pine tree, and, as far as I can remember, covered the case with at least twenty layers of it. Here is a cauldron, bought in a suburb: from it he will make a Tibetan vase. These pieces of ivory have been soaking in these bottles for months, so that they will get the right colour.”

 

XI. The Spiritualist

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JUST as I was about to communicate a part of my reflections to my companion, who was putting his workshop in order, Stella announced that dinner was ready. During the meal I heard quite a number of people come into the shop. When Andréas and I joined them, I was quite surprised to recognize among the fifteen or so visitors, some faces already familiar to me from the schools and societies of neo-spiritualists. And so I found myself greeting an old doctor, a magnetizer; another, a younger man an astrologer and homoeopath; a cabinet-maker of Picpus, famous in his suburb for the healing of fractures and sprains; a typographer, a liberal and mystic; a craftsman saddler, a disciple of Boehme; a captain in retirement, who was a president of a group of spiritists; an electrician, a follower of Kardec; a bookseller; agnostic bishop; a pharmacist who was a Hermetist; a pastor still a young man with blond hair and a clean look, and an old republican, a Fourierist of 1848. In the eyes of all of them I could see sincerity, ardour and conviction.

 

XII. The Magnetizer

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SOME days later, when I went back to see Andréas, I found him talking to a magnetizer, who had come from the country. His cures did not please the group of doctors in his town and he had even been called before the police-court. This pleasant man was very angry and did not cease to hold forth against those ignorant in methods of treatment, who take so much from poor, sick people and who heal so little. He insisted on quoting stories to support this and to show their keenness for profit, their lack of devotion, intolerance, and so on.

Andréas tried to calm him and said: “At this moment you are acting just like those speakers in the Masonic Lodges, who, because some priests don't appear to be too worthy, include the whole body of clergymen in their condemnation. I am not a church-goer and I don't have unlimited confidence in official science; but I do know that there are good people everywhere. I know some priests who are worthy of admiration, as well as some doctors. Similarly, every organization, speaking generally, has a fair number of misers, egoists and ambitious people. You say that doctors make people pay them too much. But that isn't correct in relation to doctors in the country or in quarters: their six or seven years of study have cost them dearly; they have had to pay for their diplomas. They also have to pay licences, maintain a certain standard, as well as support wives and children. What right have you to demand a kind of self-denial from them, which even one man in a thousand doesn't possess?”

 

XIII. The Unity of the Spiritualists

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WHEN I returned to Andréas, there was a young tradesman, a saddler, enquiring after the proper means to use so as to achieve unity among the different spiritualist schools, during the famous Congress, about which we spoke previously. Andréas tried to inject some reality into the noble utopias of the enthusiastic mystic.

“Firstly,” he said, “modern spiritualism is still in a sketchy state: even its vocabulary has not yet been established. In every school a technical term can take on a different meaning. The same idea has been given various names, and so earnest prior study is necessary in order to know where one is.”

“Perhaps a dictionary could be published?”

“Yes, if you could find a spiritualist with sufficient authority for everyone to accept his definitions. Otherwise, your dictionary will represent only one school.”

“But what if a doctrine could first be fixed?”

“Go from your room and visit some of the groups of spiritists, magnetizers, astrologers, occultists and theosophists, and bring me back the elements of the body of your doctrine! Nevertheless, all of them claim that they are tolerant. But in every one of those schools, their ‘tolerance’ consists in showing that all the others do not possess more than a part of the truth, while the school in question alone embraces the whole. Even so, this multiplicity of theories is only natural, necessary and useful. Truth has innumerable faces, and one has to know all of them. Further, unity in Nature can flash forth only from multiplicity. Finally, a conflict of ideas and feelings alone can create true tolerance.”

 

XIV. Uncertainty

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CIRCUMSTANCES were such that I was able to return to Ménilmontant only after long weeks of delay. This interval was alive with difficulties: business, friendships, relatives, all become sources of disappointment for me. I accidentally heard some malevolent stories about Andréas, and some apparently respectable people complained about him. My doubts returned again. Because I never dared to ask him about Desiderius, my confidence in him was weakened, so much so, that I decided some day to go and take back my embroidery, in order to sever relations with him.

However, I did not judge Andréas, as some obscure premonition warned me not to do so. I knew how worldly handling can misinterpret everything, but still I wanted to crase any thought of him from my memory. The illogicality of these impulses threw me off balance: at that time I still had not had much experience about the purgatory of the human soul.

Yet, when I arrived there, the very sight of that small house was sufficient to restore serenity in me. Stella received me with her usual charming cheerfulness and showed me her work.

 

XV. A Mental Vision

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ON my next visit to Andréas I found him ready to leave. He invited me to accompany him, rather asking as if I would be useful to him. His courtesy, exquisite as it was in all its forms, seemed to flow spontaneously from him like a fresh spring. And a special charm appeared in his attention towards his guests.

St. Francis of Assisi must have had similarly attractive manners. Andréas really loved his visitors, and those of them, to whom he rendered the greatest services, observed with confusion that he behaved himself towards them as if it was he who was indebted to them. It was in this way that I recognized what is meant by a truly humble man.

“I am going to Plaisance to see a sick person,” Andréas told me. “Aren't you afraid of this trip?”

“Oh, no!” I answered. “I like to walk; but wouldn't it be better, in order to save your time, to take a cab or use the circular railway? But he said that he would prefer to walk, in fact, through the years, I never saw him using any of the city's conveyances. Perhaps he imposed this fatigue on himself as a kind of penitence. And perhaps, thanks to his power of attention, he used those hours of walking for mental work. Anyway, I often noticed that he seldom chose the shortest route.

 

XVI. In Plaisance

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I WAS prevented from answering Andréas, as we started to cross the boulevard of St. Michel; but on reaching the Luxembourg, I immediately renewed our conversation. “I realize everything you teach me,” I said. “However, I cannot yet be convinced.”

“You are right, Doctor,” exclaimed Andréas, “we are being given a judgment, an analysis and we have to use it.”

“Let me state precisely. Here is what I cannot explain to myself. Providence is just and good, isn't that so? Why therefore does it allow men to invent methods injurious to evolution?”

“Certainly, what you now put forward is a hard problem,” answered my companion with a grave nod. “You should be decentralized mentally,” he added after a moment of deliberation.

“I don't understand,” I replied, “what is meant by to become decentralized.”

“Yes! That is true! I have a bad habit of using absurd comparisons. You know, understanding works like an algebraic system, or an epure of descriptive geometry, but then there are also differential calculus and superspace.”

 

XVII. A Man Attached to the Earth

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TWO months earlier I had received an order for a large work dealing with a certain point of pathology from a society of scientific publishers, and I had sent off my manuscript some days ago. Now, on returning from a walk along the Rue du Château, I found in my mail a letter from the editor announcing the return of my manuscript under some unimportant pretext. This was the first disappointment. Fortunately, my days were too filled with work to allow me to be disturbed by the fact. Two weeks later, while passing the School of Medicine, I saw a new book, treating of the same subject as had my own. I turned over its leaves and found that it was a copy of my own work, except for some insignificant changes in it. My former disillusionment now became true and simple indignation.

I was due to lunch with Andréas that morning. I had then not decided whether to speak first to my publisher, or file a law suit. I caught a bus and arrived at the lake Saint-Fargeau rather late.

 

XVIII. The Mummy

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ON a beautiful autumn morning, Andréas and I were walking along the admirable Voltaire's embankment, whose noble charm and good taste are only apt to be appreciated by fervent Parisians. At that season, old aspens along the bank cover it with their leaves, reddened by the first frosts; the long grey silhouette of the Louvre, the dome of the Institute, the lordly mansions, the outline of the Place Dauphine all located themselves gracefully in the perspective of the delicate light. And the sun, on the right, left in far off shadow the spire of Sainte-Chapelle and the towers of Notre-Dame Cathedral. A right intellectual landscape, beautiful with aristocratic elegance, and vibrating with everything that the ages and generations have impressed upon it by their ardours, sorrows and thoughts.

Andréas smoked in silence, his eyes fixed on the pavement. Then he suddenly turned around before the window of an antiquary, facing the old house of the gentleman-painter the Marquis Desboutins.

 

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