What is the Place of the
Western religions have
generally been opposed to the occult. They have been against
divinatory methods like astrology and have oppressed or even
executed occultists as witches. They often see occultism as the
working of the Devil. The Pagan traditions that such religions
originally supplanted used the occult, and discrediting the occult
was part of the strategy for overcoming these older traditions.
Sanatana Dharma or the
universal tradition accepts all valid forms of knowledge. It
recognizes the occult as a subtler realm of Nature. Beyond the
physical, the realm of gross form, it says that there exists the
astral realm in which various spirits, gods and angels exist, and
through which we can develop various extrasensory powers and
experiences. Knowledge of this subtle realm is part of life and can
be explored. It is nothing either to fear or to be in awe of.
The occult is one of the
doors to the spiritual life as it takes us beyond the limitations of
the senses and the materialistic idea of reality. Yet occult
knowledge, though it can help direct us toward spiritual knowledge
should not be confused with it. Spiritual knowledge is knowledge of
the Self, who is the Supreme Divinity beyond all worlds.
Occult knowledge is subtler
than the physical science but still limited to the manifest realm.
The occult planes include subtle realms of illusion and magic. We
must be careful in our examination of them just as we have to be
careful in dealing with chemistry, nuclear physics or other subtle
aspects of science. We should explore them with the help of devotion
to the Divine and awareness of the higher Consciousness and not lose
sight of the fact that they are only another aspect of who we really
are. Such an examination of subtle realms was an integral part of
the Raja Yoga system of Patanjali.