In one of Mr. Judge's articles, "Spiritual Gifts and their Attainment," St. Paul is quoted as saying that spiritual gifts include wisdom, knowledge, healing, faith, the working of miracles, prophecy, the speaking of divers languages; but the greatest of gifts is charity or love. No doubt this shows that one has made some progress in one's inner life, but this should not be the goal, nor should one begin with the aim of acquiring powers. It is not as if certain of these powers are not useful; they are. As H.P.B. points out, by using these powers an occultist can do the good he desires, often apparently without lifting a finger.
We therefore need to see the psychic realm in a proper context. Mr. Judge gives an analogy: suppose a traveller is going from one city to another and on the way he has to cross many rivers, and if his boat goes out of order then he may have to swim. Then he may have to pass a mountain and may be required to have engineering knowledge to dig a tunnel, etc. But all this is only incidental to his object and that is to reach the destination. So also the psychic powers which develop in a person who desires to live the spiritual life are incidental.
The very first verse of The Voice of the Silence states: "These instructions are for those ignorant of the dangers of the lower IDDHI" (Pali word for Siddhi). H.P.B. terms these powers as abnormal (and not super-normal). She differentiates between lower, psychic, mental energies on the one hand, and spiritual powers on the other hand. It is better to approach the psychic realm from above, i.e., instead of going after these psychic powers, one must live the spiritual life, and psychic would come as a kind of by-product. We must be aware of these powers so that in the course of spiritual development, when we develop the powers, we are not enamoured of them; we would not hanker after more and more of these powers. We must grasp that all that is invisible and intangible is not spiritual. The physical, astral and spiritual realms are thus described: "This earth, O ignorant Disciple, is but the dismal entrance leading to the twilight that precedes the valley of true light."
Our physical existence is described as something dismal, i.e., causing or showing gloom or misery. From this, one enters the twilight, i.e., the psychic or astral region. In the twilight, which is semi-darkness, one is not able to see clearly. One grasps what is there, but not in its entirety. This astral region is like the dream state. Just as in the dream state we can influence our dreams, e.g., if we want the tiger to go away it goes and if we want it to come forward and attack it will do so. So also whatever thoughts we have, exactly similar thoughts we attract from the astral light. The astral region is deceptive and illusionary. It is seemingly mysterious, elusive and fascinating. Mr. Judge compares it to the untrodden South American forest:
The astral plane, which is the same as that of our psychic senses, is as full of strange sights and sounds as an untrodden South American forest, and has to be well understood before the student can stay there long without danger. While we can overcome the dangers of a forest by the use of human inventions...we have no such aids when treading the astral labyrinth. We may be physically brave and say that no fear can enter into us, but no untrained or merely curious seeker is able to say just what effect will result to his outer senses from the attack or influence encountered by his psychical senses. (Vernal Blooms p. 79)
In her article "Occultism versus the Occult Arts," H.P.B. tells us that people confuse the occult arts with Occultism, or Gupta Vidya, or Esoteric knowledge. There is (1) Yajna Vidya, i.e., knowledge of the occult powers awakened in Nature by performing religious rites and ceremonies; (2) Maha-Vidya, the magic of the Kabalists, or Tantrika worship; (3) Guhya Vidya, which is the mystic power of sound, of chanted mantras, prayers and incantations; and (4) Atma-Vidya or knowledge of the Soul, which leads us to know the true nature of Self. Atma-Vidya or Occultism differs from magic and the secret sciences as the glorious sun does from a rush-light, writes H.P.B.
Psyche, in Greek, means emotional, intense, and not very wise part of our mind. The physical world is objective, but the astral is not, e.g., in a negative film, a person's black hair appears white, and white face appears dark. Then by correlating with the actual person we interpret and arrive at the truth. If we encounter these difficulties at the physical level, it is impossible for anyone except a trained seer to see the astral images correctly.
The third Hall is the spiritual Hall. One who wants to live the higher life, to acquire wisdom, is walking the path of Occultism or Chelaship. To offer oneself as a chela is easy, but to become an Adept or Occultist is the most difficult task anyone can undertake. The resolve to live the higher life brings to the surface all the inner hidden vices. The Chela's life has been described as a psychic resolvent which eats away dross and leaves only pure gold behind. All the latent vices and hidden passions come to the surface. If there is the latent germ of greed, lust, money-seeking, false speaking, then that germ is sure to sprout. If one thinks one can suprpress these passions and desires by a strong effort of will, it is like allowing fire to smoulder under a thin layer of ash; this will not work, it will burst into flames. It has to be extinguished beyond reanimation.
So H. P. Blavatsky advises that the ethics of Theosophy are more important than any divulgement of psychic laws and facts. Purify your moral nature before you enter realms where angels fear to tread. H.P.B. gives ample warning in the article "Chelas and Lay Chelas" and tells us what happened to some unprepared people, who attempted to walk the path of occultism and failed—one went insane, another shot himself, still another began to lead a corrupt and immoral life, etc. She says that most students are not ready for practical occultism, but they can study it theoretically and know about the problems involved.
The production of phenomena is not possible without the aid or disturbance of the elementals. Each phenomenon involves expenditure of great force and also brings about disturbance in the world of the elementals. These disturbed elementals enter the sphere of unprotected persons, especially those who are beginning to study occultism.
In all this, motive is important. "True Occultism or Theosophy is the Great Renunciation of SELF....Not for himself, but for the world, he lives." In one place Mr. Judge says that we are all magicians, in that we can use the power of imagination. "If I desire to influence your mind then I do not deal with your subconscious plane but firmly and kindly think of you and think of the subject I want you to think of. This must reach you. If I am selfish, there would be difficulty reaching you, but if it is brotherly, then it gets to your mind more easily." Elsewhere he says that if we think nothing can be done, then our subtle mind meets other minds and shouts into them: "Nothing can be done!" But if we sincerely and earnestly think Theosophy, and desire that others should be benefited by it, then to the minds we meet we cry "Theosophy," and "Help and hope for thee," and the result must be an awakening of interest.
As Light on the Path suggests, "That power which the disciple shall covet is that which shall make him appear as nothing in the eyes of men." There must be total effacement of personality.
It is in and through the incidents of daily life, in work well done, in duties thoroughly performed, that we today can most readily make progress in the higher life—slow progress, it may be, but at any rate sure. These are stepping stones to better things. We advance most rapidly when we stop to help other wayfarers. We receive most when we sacrifice most. We attain to the largest measure of Divine love when we most unselfishly love the brethren. We become one with the Supreme most surely when we lose ourselves in work for Humanity. (Vernal Blooms, p. 33)