What We Are
A lecture by W E Butler called What We Are, which gives
a fuller account of how the school was founded, and of the purpose
of its activities by the late Walter Ernest Butler.
I want to talk to you on a subject which repeatedly
crops up in
various letters to me from would-be students and from others who
are interested in the occult.
They say, "What are your aims? What are
you? Are you simply a teaching group? Are you a lodge? Are you
an esoteric fraternity? What are you?" Well, that is quite
a legitimate question, and I want to try to answer it here. But
I better answer it by explaining to you how the whole thing arose.
In this case, the longest way around is, as is often the case,
the shortest way home.
Many years ago, more than half a century, I came
into contact with the man whom I regard as my first teacher in
esoteric matters: Robert King, or "R.K." as we used
to call him. During the time that I was working with him in those
early days, I was introduced to one person who was his particular
teacher. And before very long I was working with R.K. on various
esoteric work, under the guidance and influence of this particular
teacher. When, later on, circumstances moved me away from R.K.,
and I was on my own, this teacher informed me that I, too, was
one of his pupils; and for all the time which has elapsed since
then, he has been my guide, philosopher, and friend in the background.
Now I am not going to say who he is-or whom I
think he is-neither am I going into any esoteric explanations
concerning him; whether he is a master or an adept or what he
is. These titles mean very little. The proof of this pudding is
always in the eating. Many people can say "master" and
at the same time they are simply telling a lie. Many people can
claim to be gurus, to be teachers, but their teachings are very
poor; there is very little in them. Those who really know, do
not shout about it; and those who shout about it, do not really
However, it is from this man that I derive my
contact. He has given me a certain work to perform, and during
the last fifty years I have been doing that work. Not only in
speaking, in lecturing to various bodies of people, not only in
writing, but in other ways. For occultism is not a theoretical
thing; it must by its very nature be practical. And so every occultist,
worthy of the name, is constantly engaged in practical occult
When I joined the Fraternity of the Inner Light,
I told Dion Fortune of this present teacher I had and she was
very interested, and she made contact with him. As a result I
had certain, shall I say, privileges, which some of the other
members did not have. Not that I had done anything to earn them;
but I was able to effectively work in the Inner Light, and therefore
I did see a little more perhaps than some of the other members.
But at the same time, during the whole period
up to the death of Dion Fortune, I was held back. I was not encouraged
to do certain work. He said, when the time is right, you will
be able to do this work far more efficiently than you would be
able to do at the present time. But even then I did not know just
what this work was.
Then, shortly after the death of Dion Fortune,
I had been experimenting with writing. I never thought I could
write; but I tried, in the response to the wishes of some friends
of mine. And lo and behold-I found that I could write, to some
extent at all events. I am one of my own most severe critics in
this respect, because I know what writing should be, and I know
the best I can do, and the two are a good many yards apart. Nevertheless,
if no-one ever wrote because they were not up to standard, nothing
would ever be produced.
But this writing showed me that the teacher was
steering me onto a new line of work. I had done quite a bit of
talking and lecturing in various parts, on various platforms,
Theosophical, Spiritualist, call it what you will-all over the
place. But now, to write. I was always very mindful of that comment
made by one character, "O, that mine enemy had written a
book." Well, that old Biblical character (Webmaster: Ernie
was wrong here the actual words of the quote are by Percy Bysshe
Shelly from Peter Bell the Third, Part 6, Damnation: "O that
mine enemy had written A book!" -- cried Job: -- a fearful
curse,". Though it may be Shelley's translation of Job, Cpt
31, vv 35-37) had something, because once you write a book, you
are the target for all kinds of criticism.
Those who dispute our passage, those who get
in our way, those who hinder us, call out something in us. They
call out a resistance; we begin to fight against the disputed
passage, we want to prove ourselves. And therefore, those who
are very often thought of as our enemies, turn out in the end,
to be our best friends.
Now that is true in occultism as in everything
else, and I found, that when I had, as it were, served my apprenticeship
to criticism, that I was better prepared to write more. I had
learnt valuable lessons. I learned that much of the criticism
was valid; and I had to swallow my pride and admit that much of
what the critics said was true. Now, this bears upon my later
work. Because, by disciplining myself with the regard to the standard
of my writings, I began to be able to draw, shall I say, nearer,
in some respects to the teacher.
Then came the time when certain people left the
Fraternity of the Inner Light to form a definite publishing firm,
Helios Book Services. And they started a Qabalistic course, and
because the chief operator found that he was overwhelmed with
other things which he had to do, the course was passed over to
me. There were only a few lessons written and published, and I
had to provide the rest. So I sat down and wrote about forty lessons,
and those lessons form the bulk of the course which we are giving
out at the present time.
But after I had been writing a while I discovered,
to my great astonishment, that the teacher was playing an active
part in it. He was telephatically influencing me so that I began
in these lessons to give out some ideas of which I had previously
been ignorant. It was not until well into the course that I realised
the way in which the teachings were developing, and I was most
interested to see how that development proceeded.
Now, basically, our course is not so much a technical
course on the Qabalah-there are many books, there are many publications,
there are many societies, too, which give out a more detailed
Qabalistic teaching-but we were using the Qabalah as a means to
an end. We were using it as a basic framework of the course, and
in that course we were attempting to help our students to develop
interiorly some of the powers which are associated with the Qabalah.
And, as a matter of fact, we have found that a comparatively great
number of our students have begun to make supernormal contacts
of various kinds. They have found that there are powers within
them which can be developed.
In our prospectus we always say that we do not
claim to develop psychic powers. Neither do we, but we are aiming
at something much deeper. However, as you aim at one thing, you
very often hit another; and what we have done is to train the
subconscious mind of our students in such a way that if the psychic
powers are at all near the surface, they tend to come to the surface
and to show themselves. And so it has been with a good number
of our students.
In order that they should not come to any harm
because of that, we have put in the course safeguards all along
the line. You will not notice them particularly; they are hidden.
But they are there. So it is a perfectly safe course for anyone
to attempt-if they do what they are told. We do not take any responsibility
for those egotistic so-called occultists, or occult students,
who do not worry about any warnings whatsoever, but who go their
way, doing their own thing and landing up in the same old troubles
and difficulties that innumerable students of the Mysteries have
landed in throughout the ages. These things are not fool-proof.
We give the warning. Do what you are told. If any student tries
to do something else, then he may, and probably will, be rather
sorry for himself later on.
The contact, upon which our course is built,
is an Egyptian contact. We do not say much about that. That is
something which the student grows into in the course of his work.
But it is generally an Egyptian school. That does not mean to
say we all float about wearing the robes of Osiris or the robes
of Isis. We do not make of it a silly mythological thing. But
we do say, that the forces which are working in our course, are
the forces which were also working in the old schools of Alexandria
at the time when the Mysteries were just drawing to their close
and the new teaching of Christianity was emerging as a power in
the land. The teaching which was given in Alexandria in those
days, was a composite teaching. Alexandria was a city which faced
upon the world; East and West met in Alexandria. There the great
schools were formed. And it is with that contact that we are concerned.
We work in the spirit of the old Mysteries of
Egypt. Which, incidentally, does not conflict with what we also
say about working in the spirit of the Rose-Cross, for the Rose-Cross
Mysteries stem very largely from pre-Christian Egypt. But Christianity
gave them a particular slant; it "baptised them into Christ"
as they said in the old days: they were taken up into the very
fabric of the new religion. And therefore, they are there in the
Mysteries of the Rose-Cross; they are there as the fundamental
teachings of both the pagan Mysteries and Christianity.
As the student proceeds in his studies, certain
things open up for him. He may understand what is happening; or
he may not. There are gleams which are given to him, lights in
the darkness which he may follow. He is not bound to follow them;
many do not. Many do not see them, but go through the course,
as they have gone through many other courses perhaps; they come
out at the other end; they say, "Well, it has been a good
course, I have enjoyed it, and... good afternoon." While
there are others, who have followed certain lights which are given
them, and have found something much deeper in the course than
the teachings which are cyclostyled and sent out to the students.
And then they have found that there is a link there which they
can take up; they can come into living contact with that old,
old school which once taught in Alexandria, which still exists
as a teaching power in the astral light; to which some of our
students have gained access, to which many of our students can
gain access, if they will do the work which they are given.
We cannot do more than that. We cannot tell a
person, "Oh, we guarantee to put you in touch with the Egyptian
school," we cannot tell a person that "Alright, tomorrow
evening an ancient Egyptian will call at your house and he will
initiate you into the Mysteries." All that is so much illusion,
so much maya. We do not work like that. The schools of the Mysteries
do not work like that. But if the student follows the teachings,
then at one point or another, pointers-signposts-will be observed,
lights will be seen in the darkness; and if those lights are followed,
then they lead to something much deeper than our course, on the
surface, appears to be.
will now speak of our hopes and our aspirations. First of all,
may I point out that we are not doing this work for our own sake.
We are doing it because it is a Work which has been given us to
do, by Those who are our Superiors; by those Enlightened Ones
under whom we work.
Now when I say that, you may think that we are
claiming a good deal; well we are, we are claiming quite a lot,
and we hope that you will take the claim in the spirit in which
it is made.
It is not the pipe which should be proud because
the water flows through it. The pipe does not produce the water;
the water flows through it. And we are in the same position; we
are giving out that which we have been given. And when we have
done that, when we have tried to give it out in the most efficient
way, then all our particular property in the matter is concluded.
But, what do we hope? We hope that among our
students there will be those who can see below the surface, who
will endeavour to gain some kind of contact for themselves, will
follow some of those lights which are shown to them, and who will
themselves come into conscious contact with the forces and the
people who stand behind this school, and who direct it from the
It is possible for any student, if they can follow
out the instructions, to gain some measure of contact with our
unseen helpers. Some measure, I say, because of course, depths
of contact vary very largely with each personality. Some personalities
are so impervious to these things that it needs an earthquake
shock to get anything through. Others are so hypersensitive that
they not only get a great deal through, but they also badly distort
much that does come through. And between the two extremes we have
to work. We follow the Middle Path.
And so we strive to produce people who are first
of all mature in mind, controlled in emotion, physically sound,
and balanced in temperament and in outlook. Now that is a real
For we start first with the physical world in
which we are. It is not the slightest use for a student to go
ahead on the inner planes without any regard whatsoever for the
physical world in which he has to live, that physical world into
which he came deliberately in order to accomplish a certain task.
He does not accomplish that task by running away from it.
And those students who think that they are going
to achieve spiritual altitudes by running away from life are just
as great fools as those misguided sannyasins-holy men-in the East,
who go up in the heights of the Himalayas and there meditate in
the forests away from humanity, only contacting it through their
chela who goes out with their begging-bowl to acquire alms.
But the true occultist, whether he be of the
East or West, having made his contact, turns out again to the
world and lives in the world. There are a certain number who do
retire from the world, but they have a very valid reason for doing
so, and that reason is not likely to be one which the average
student knows anything at all about.
To be unbalanced is a danger, and so many of
our students tend at the beginning to be a little unbalanced with
regard to this question of the material world. But we tell you,
from our particular point of view, that you must bring all the
powers of your occult training to bear upon your physical world,
upon the work which you are doing; upon your families, upon your
friends, upon everyone with whom you come in contact.
Now that does not mean getting along and lecturing
them on the beauties of occultism. Neither does it mean claiming
that you have the power to bring them to the place where you are-no-one
has that power. Everyone comes to the place where they belong,
and you cannot push them any further than the line or rather the
point at which they have reached.
It is as though you remove the shell from the
egg where the chicken is hatching, too early. The chicken could
not live because you let in light and air before time. So, in
this work you can let in light and air to the personalities of
some people in such a way as to do them harm. They`re not ready
for it yet.
So you have to balance your enthusiasm with discretion
and discrimination. It has been said that discrimination is the
first virtue of the Path. There will be those to whom you can
speak freely, and whom will take what you give them as a starving
man would take manna in the desert.
There are others to whom you may speak who will
be repelled, who will think only of the worst side of the subject
as they have read it in the media, or heard it on television,
or gained it in some other biassed way. They will simply import
all the things they have heard and place them upon the idea which
you are putting forward, the result being that you do not help
them very greatly.
But you need not argue with these people, you
need not get hot and bothered about them, you need not go to extreme
lengths to try and force the truth into their thick heads, because
it will only come out again. You might just as well give them
your point of view if they ask for it. If they say they will consider
it, let them consider it. But do not on any account, try to force
your occult knowledge upon any person whatsoever. If you do, you
are committing the sin of breaking a boundary.
You may give out what you get. You may give out
teachings, and those who are ready for them will at once assimilate
them. Others will be repelled; others will not take much notice.
But never, never attempt to force these teachings upon any human
I hope I have made that quite clear, because
it is one of the most important points in all schools of occultism
of the Right-Hand Path. It makes it difficult sometimes, because
when we see someone whom we could influence quite easily to take
the right line by using the occult powers, we must not, we may
not under any consideration use those powers for that end, for
we should be breaking the boundary of another personality.
Unfortunately, the brethren of the Shadow have
no such inhibitions. They can and they do break boundaries, and
this is how you can tell one occult school from another. If you
find an occult school which interferes with the personalities
of its students, which gives them minute instructions to do this
or not to do that, which governs their lives to a great extent,
then steer clear of that school.
No coercion of any kind is in the right way as
far as the Right-Hand Path is concerned; and you do not want to
touch the Left-Hand Path if you can help it. If you do, you will
reap sorrow. Much sorrow. Of course, to some extent everyone does
touch the Left-Hand Path-we are all human-but to do it deliberately
as an occult student is asking for trouble. And you get it.
But what is the purpose really? Why are these
great spiritual centres, these great teaching centres? What are
they after achieving, what do they want to do? What is the object
of all these different schools of occultism? What do they really
They aim at developing human beings to a point
at which they can consciously cooperate with the forces of Light
and of evolution. And that is something big. Because when they
can do that, they begin to move into new dimensions of space,
of time, of consciousness. They begin to bring out from within
them that which they really are. They begin to be gods. "Know
ye not that ye are gods, Sons of the Most High?" So says
the Bible, and it is quite true. But we are gods not in the making;
we are gods in the unfolding, or the unveiling. For within us
is that spark of Divinity which already is. We do not become gods,
we are gods.
All men are spirits; all men are gods now. But
it does not yet appear, in us, that such a god exists. Our consciousnesses
are not yet developed to the point at which that god can become
manifest; but very gradually that god within us is becoming manifest.
It is an evolutionary manifestation, even as we believe the Eternal,
the Logos, working through all matter, is gradually expressing
Himself, until finally the Earth shall be filled with the knowledge
of God, with the power, the ambience, the radiance, the very essence
of the Eternal.
And so we are part of that great scheme. And
each one of us who is following the esoteric path is as one climbing
a mountain-side, roped to others below. We can only go forward
if we lift others up; and the fact that we go forward is because
others beyond us are lifting us up too. We are all helping each
other in a great chain of lives. And those who are above us have
to a greater extent evolved their minds, their consciousnesses,
to a point at which more and more fully the indwelling Light is
shining forth. They are becoming Gods made Manifest in the Kingdom
of Earth. Do not forget that: all these things happen in Malkuth,
in the Kingdom of Earth.
Now that is important. If we think of ourselves
as advancing, we must always think of ourselves under the two
modes of advancement: we go forward to gain power; we look back
to give it out. To use another metaphor, unless we can leave the
sanctuary where we have received the power, and come out through
the outer gates and outer court into the world of men, and give
out that power to those who need-then we are not occultists, whatever
we like to call ourselves.
We cannot, by ourselves, gain perfection. "Selfish
salvation there is none," says the Roman-Catholic Church.
It is quite true. Always, every step we take, we lift up the whole
world. "I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me"
said the Christ, and it is quite true for us too: for as we are
lifted up, so we too draw up with us those with whom we are in
contact, and that lifts the whole level of the world a little
higher. Matter itself is lifted up by our endeavours. Something,
something of consciousness, comes a little more fully into manifestation,
even in the mineral life of this world, when we advance upwards.
So we are the Rescuers of Matter. And it does matter, to us and
to the world, what we do. "No man liveth to himself alone;
no man dieth to himself alone." And what we do affects everyone
I do want to get that clear, I want to get that
home to you in whatever language or lack of grammar I have, nevertheless
as forcibly as possible, that that is what we are aiming at. We
are not trying to make an open school of the Mysteries where people
can, as it were, gain a degree in occult science and stick it
on the wall, but we are trying to establish the spiritual Power
here in this twentieth-century world in such a way that it may
lift up a little of the heavy burden of the sin and the suffering
of the world. For the occultist is not separate from the world,
he is part of it. And he must, as he lives, affect that world
for good or for evil.
In the beginning of the Gospel of St John, it
says, "the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness
cannot overcome it." Imagine a million and million of miles
of space. Dark, dark space. But in that million of miles of dark
space you light one small candle. And it shines in the darkness.
And all the millions and millions of cubic miles of space cannot
extinguish that one little candle. The darkness cannot overcome
the Light, but the Light always will overcome the darkness. And
that is the promise for us for the future; the Light shines in
the darkness of this world, as it always has been shining throughout
the Ages. It is within us and without us, and we have to work
upon ourselves in order that that Light may shine forth and so
reinforce the Light which shines around us, until everyone is
aware that the inner Light in ourselves and the outer Light around
us are aspects of the One Light in which the whole universe is
bathed; of which indeed the whole universe is a manifestation.
And we are trying to help our students to gain
a little more knowledge of the Light, by working in the power
of the Great Light which lights all manifestation.
"Know this, O Man, sole root of fault in
Thee, is not to know Thine own Divinity". And so the mystic
is seeking to unite that inner divinity of his with That from
which it came. "The Ground of the Soul" that point is
sometimes called in mysticism, that Point in ourselves where we
are open to God, where is That within us which is of God. So it
might well be said of us, "Ye Gods and Sons of the Most High,"
for there dwells God. Not a part of God-you cannot have parts
of an Infinity. All the Power, all the Presence of the Omnipotent,
Omnipresent Eternal Being are there within each one of us. The
whole lot, everything.
Here we come into contact with something which
we cannot define. We cannot put lines around it at all. The darkness
cannot comprehend it-again you get that idea of getting around
it. You just cannot do that. Our finite minds can only think in
images, in symbols, and those images and symbols are in themselves
but shadows of any image or symbol which you may ever devise.
The mystic reaching upwards to God in that way
does not worry about the phenomena. He simply goes ahead. And
so, for the mystic, the retreat from the things of the world is
not only logical but is absolutely necessary. But even as you
go up to the Throne, even as you advance in the mystical state
until you do open up yourself to that Fullness of the Divine pleroma
within you, yet if you are truly seeking the Will of God, then
you must, of necessity, come down into the physical world to do
the Will which you have glimpsed on the mount. So the mystic,
if he is a true mystic, will always return to the world in order
to help it.
Now I think I have covered most of the points
which I wished to cover in this little talk. I have left lots
of rough ends because I have never believed in doing all the work,
and I must not do your thinking for you. You must do your own
thinking. Never rely on anyone else permanently. It is very handy
sometimes to rely on somebody, whether it be on the physical or
the superphysical planes; to lean back for a while and let them
take the load; just so that you can get your breath again. Then
you got to start again, on your own.
But we are not alone. Around us are our comrades
of the Unseen, and within us, the presence of the Eternal God,
in Whom we live and move and have our being; to Whom we aspire,
and in Whom we find our true Peace.