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A Treatise on White Magic - Introductory Remarks
a. Spirit, Life, Energy

The word spirit is applied to that undefinable, elusive, essential impulse or Life which is the cause of all manifestation. It is the breath of Life and is that rhythmic inflow of vital energy which manifests in its turn as the attractive force, as the consciousness, or soul, and is the sum total of atomic substance. It is the correspondence in the great Existence or Macrocosm of that which in the little existence or microcosm is the vital inspiring factor which we call the life of man; this is indicated by the breath in his body, which is abstracted or withdrawn when the life course is run.

What this something is, who shall say? We trace it back to the soul or consciousness aspect, and from the soul to the spirit (as we call the three aspects of the one breath) but what these words really signify, who has the courage to declare? We call this unknown something by differing names, according to our particular school of thought; we seek to express it in words, and end by calling it Spirit, the One Life, the Monad, Energy. Again we must remember that understanding as to the nature [24] of this one life is purely relative. Those who are engrossed in the form side of existence think in terms of physical vitality, of feeling, impulse, or of mental force and do not pass beyond that unified life-consciousness of which all the above are differentiations. Those again who are interested in the more metaphysical approach and in the soul-life more than in the form aspect express their concept in terms of soul manifestation and - passing beyond the personal selfish reactions of the body nature - think in terms of life, in terms of quality, of group will or power, group coordination or love-wisdom, and of group intelligence or knowledge, covering all by the generic term of brotherhood.

But even that is found to be separative, through the separation into larger units than the lower is capable of grasping. Therefore the initiate, especially after the third initiation, begins to think even more synthetically and to express truth to himself in terms of Spirit, Life, the One. These terms mean to him something significant, but something so far removed from the concept of ordinary thinking humanity that it is needless for me to enlarge further upon it.

This brings me to a point, that should be dealt with here, prior to any further expansion of our subject. In the Treatise on Cosmic Fire and in the above passage it frequently appears that teaching is carried forward to a certain point and then dropped with the statement that, owing to the point in evolution of the average man, his reaction to truth and the reaction of the disciple-student or the initiate will differ. This is necessarily so; each will read into the words his own state of consciousness; each will fail to interpret in terms of the more advanced reaction of those on a higher stage of the ladder of evolution. The average reader, however, objects to being forced to recognize wider points of view than his own, and the phraseology which says: "It is needless to enlarge on [25] this for it would only be understood by the initiate", serves only to aggravate him, tends to make him believe, that evasion is intended, and that the writer (having got out of his depth) is seeking to save his face by some such statement. Just as a scientific treatise would prove meaningless and a mere jumble of words to the average grammar school child, but would carry a clear definition and meaning to experts in the subject owing to training and mental development, so there are those to whom the subject of the soul and its nature as dealt with in such an instruction as this is as clear and lucid as current literature is to the average reader, and the best sellers, as you call them, to the general public. Equally, though fewer in number, there are those advanced souls to whom the spirit and its nature is also a rational and understandable subject, to be appreciated and comprehended through the medium of the soul and its powers just as it is possible to arrive at an understanding of the soul through the medium of the mind, correctly employed. On a lower level altogether, we know it is easy to understand the nature of the physical body through a study and right use of the desire nature. It is a form of pride, and a refusal to recognize one's temporary limitations that awakens in readers a dislike for phrases which aptly and truly say: "When you are further developed, you will understand the above." This should be made clear.

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