Self-Reflection and the Path

by Mark Stavish

Edited by Alfred DeStefano III

Part One

Mouni Sadhu’s book, In Days of Great Peace, is essential reading for anyone on the spiritual path. In it, Sadhu describes his path from being a Martinist and ceremonial magician to a devoted disciple of the non-dual philosophy of Sri Ramana Maharshi, the famous Indian sage who emphasized the practices of self-inquiry and devotion. Sadhu’s journey is fascinating – one that seems almost idealistic, if it were not for the tremendous suffering he experienced in his lifetime. He served in the military in both the First and Second World Wars and lost his wife during the German invasion of Poland in 1939. During the inter-war period he studied Theosophy and even corresponded with Alice Bailey. This was followed by a deep study of Hermeticism for about five years – not a long period of time considering the depth and impact his writings on the topic have had. Nearly fifty years after their publication, Sadhu’s books The Tarot and Theurgy are in exceptionally high demand and are not simple “cookbook style” publications.

Yet he left Hermeticism behind for the following reasons.

After a period of successful public speaking and enthusiastic support for the works of the great occultists from the French Occult Revival Period of the Belle Epoch (1871-1914), Sadhu tells us:

“My activities with Hermetic occultism came to an end after performing a magical ritual as laid down by Eliphas Levi and Dr. Papus. Three of us prepared ourselves for twenty-one days. For the operation we chose a tower of an almost ruined castle in a remote area. The results were poor in proportion to the labour and time sacrificed. We succeeded, it is true, in obtaining some apparitions (spirits or elementals) in the smoke of incense and of special dried plants; also some audible phenomena and effects of perfume. But I was disappointed. The results could not possibly be tested scientifically and gave no ground for definite conclusions. Even the very impressions received, appeared different to each of us. Gradually I gave up the whole business of ceremonial magic.”

He then went in search of a Master, one whom he had heard and read about in the book by Paul Sedir, Initiation. This fantastic and dramatic story was translated by Sadhu into English, and more recently translated again by the British occultist Gareth Knight. I even quoted a section of the book at length in my own Between the Gates: Lucid Dreaming, Astral Projection, and the Body of Light in Western Esotericism.

As Sadhu found out, though – and as he hints at – the great adepts of the Western esoteric traditions are not easy to find. He continues:

“The period of Hermeticism, magic and Dr. Brandler Pracht [mental training exercises] was behind me. I visited France. In Paris was the headquarters of the Association of Spiritual Friendships (Amities Spirituelles) of France, founded by Paul Sedir, for twenty years well known as an occultist and mystic. His most mysterious book—The Initiations—made a good impression on me. He wrote plainly about his Master, and later about his personal experiences with the so-called ‘Master of Masters’, the very name of whom he never dared to pronounce. This organization, being semi-secret, advocated the most elevated and pure ideas that I then knew. But at that time (1935) Paul Sedir had been dead for thirteen years. I therefore sought the Great Master described by him, but was unable to meet him. Eventually I found some old members who knew Sedir and who could possibly show me the path. It was a hard task, for the Western Masters purposely use a policy different from their Eastern Brothers. They prefer to be and remain completely unknown to all except their true disciples, and their inviolable standards are very high. It is extremely difficult to be allowed into the presence of these great beings, and the silence of secrecy must be sworn and observed for life. I cannot therefore say anything more.”

This marks the turning point in Sadhu’s life, where he then travels to India to find Sri Ramana Maharshi and the Direct Path to Awakening.

The reason for this journey was something Sadhu himself had never planned for, the result of an unexpected event, one which he himself had resisted.

“Soon after my visit to France, family life, and later the Second World War, brought me to a period of darkness. I forgot all my previous endeavours. Not earlier than the spring of 1945 an elderly lady, with whom I sometimes spoke of Theosophy, lent me Paul Brunton’s A Search in Secret India. She literally forced me to take the book [italics added], for I was by no means eager to read it; but the last two chapters, where the author describes his visit to Maharshi, were decisive. At last I had found my true Master. This certainty came of itself and permitted no doubts. And then I realized why all my previous searching had been in vain. The occult ways mentioned before were only blind alleys. They could give me some help, but there was no vision of the true goal. Therefore of necessity, they were unsuccessful. Their exercises, concentrations and breath controls absorbed only time and energy.

They veiled the aim which I could not see in their shadows. On the path given by the Great Rishi the goal is visible from the first step. It is spiritualization of the man. The power of the spirit is unlimited. Now it was clear to me why the Vichara (self-inquiry) could replace the time-devouring training of occult practices. All that I had previously been striving after—concentration, meditation, breath and body control, a clear vision of reality, peace and bliss—all of them now came of their own accord, as ripe fruit falls from a tree.”

There are few among us who cannot say that they have never felt the way Sadhu had about his various efforts at both ceremonial magic and mental control. Tremendous time, resources, and energy are poured in – and for what? What do you really have to show for it? For each of us this answer will be different, but it is one that needs to be asked and answered honestly if we are to be working on the path that is best for us. For if one is truly engaged in what they are doing – be it manual, intellectual, creative, or psychic labor – concentration, absorption, and bliss come naturally and easily. It is only when we are not FULLY participating, or as some say, surrendering to the activities or experiences of the moment, that we feel the need to do more. In fact, we need to do less! We need to relax, let go, and fall into the moment, no matter what that moment is, because it is OUR moment, our life, our experience, and our creation. Spiritual disciplines can point us in a direction, that is, help us cultivate a variety of experiences to express our potential, but they still require our full participation. This participation is not a dispassionate mental calm that exists only in the blankness of our own mind or in the isolation of an ashram, but is instead a joyful and detached engagement – it is “riding the tiger,” if you will.


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One comment

  1. Angelynn Peth · · Reply

    Unsatisfactory results after 21 days of preparations as prescribed by Levi and Papus could lead any sane person onto another path, the effort must of been staggering. Papus’s perscribed theurgy in Martinist workings is labourous but does yield excellent results. I think this is because the egregore insists upon it and the efforts of many add to the end result. This level of preparation and expended physical and mental effort is essential to initiation and often lacking and it shows in the work as the new initiate and initiator progesses. Expending that amount of energy outside initiations and without a specific egregore and purpose would be exhausting physically and spiritually. As a student who has walked off on back to the path of ceremonial magic this work speaks to me on many levels. Vichara should be what I call my 40’s because it is appropriate to where I am finding myself after years of attempts within the constraints of initiatory schools and formal ritual. I look forward to reading this book.


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