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THE facts considered in the previous chapter, though they should make us exceedingly careful in weighing evidence, must not blind us to the fact that there are black sheep in every fold and that a fraternity which started out with the best of intentions may quite inadvertently, through the ignorance or imperfections of its leaders, begin to drift on to the Left-hand Path. Perfectly innocent people enter it when it is in process of drifting but not yet avowedly black, and may find themselves in waters that are unpleasantly dirty, even if not actually dangerous.

The esoteric dangers will be studied in detail in the next chapter, but we may very well consider in this place the exoteric dangers which may occur behind the Veil of the Temple, for human nature is much the same wherever we meet it, and shows little originality in choosing its road to the Pit. It might be thought that in such a book as this there were no need to touch upon these matters, but if this book is to serve the purpose for which it is intended, it is necessary to do so for three reasons; firstly, because the greater proportion of the students of esotericism are women, and even in these enlightened days they are usually ignorant of the life of the underworld, and a Black Lodge leads by a straight and narrow way into the land of apaches and demimondaines, quite apart from its other drawbacks. Secondly, a knowledge of these facts is essential for differential diagnosis. Thirdly, occult powers are not infrequently used to obtain purely mundane ends, therefore when the question of ordinary criminality occurs in connection with an occult organisation, the issue may be complicated by an admixture of methods that belong to another plane.

We must always remember that a lodge may not necessarily have been formed for the express purpose of evading the law; it may have started with a perfectly legitimate end in view, and have been exploited by evil-doers for their own purposes, for, owing to the secretive nature of its proceedings, the fraternity form of organisation lends itself to various forms of law-breaking.

One occult organisation is well known to have been involved in the drug traffic, another is riddled with unnatural vice. A third degenerated into what was little better than a house of ill-fame, and its head was an expert abortionist. Others have been involved in subversive politics. Those who join fraternities without properly investigating them and the credentials of those who are running them may find themselves involved in any or all of these things.

Behind the veil of secrecy, guarded by impressive oaths, many things may happen, and it is therefore essential to inform oneself most carefully concerning the character, credentials and record of the leaders of an organisation.

If these are not readily accessible, something is wrong. The Mysterious Stranger, who has just arrived from the East or the Continent, both rather vague addresses, is probably a fraud.

If difficulty is experienced in discovering the antecedents of an alleged adept, enquiries could be made of the well- known periodical, Truth, of Carteret Street, S.W.I. Truth was originally founded to expose abuses in financial and public life, and for this purpose keeps a "Black List" of individuals who are better avoided. It is fair and fearless in its methods, neither a persecutor nor a respecter of persons. It keeps a watchful eye upon the occult field and pillories charlatans, a task for which it should have the gratitude and support of all who have the cause of the Wisdom Religion at heart.

The commonest danger to which a person who gets into the company of undesirables is exposed, is to be induced to part with more money than is convenient by the time- honoured expedients of either swindling or blackmailing, the latter being by far the commonest form of unpleasantness in Black Lodges. The one and only remedy in all such cases is to place the matter in the hands of the police. Firstly, it is your duty as a citizen in order that others may not be victimised as you have been. Secondly, if you don't, your persecutors will not leave you until they have sucked you absolutely dry, and not even then if they can still find a use for you as a catspaw. A blackmailer is never got rid of by giving him money. It is merely an invitation to call again. Act quickly and firmly at the outset and you will soon be at the end of your troubles.

To demand money with threats is blackmail, and to coerce to any course of action by threats is also a crime. Any arrangements entered into, or documents signed in con sequence of threats are not binding. Threats need not necessarily be gross and open, such as the pointing of a revolver; anything which coerces you against your inclinations may be interpreted as a threat. For instance, supposing it were intimated to you, however tactfully, that if you did not subscribe to the funds of an organisation, your interest in occultism would be liable to be gossiped about, and possibly involve you in unpleasantness with your relatives, or your employers, this, in the eyes of the law, would be blackmail. Anything, in fact, which plays upon a person's fears is a threat.

Let us now consider what is the best thing to do if you are being threatened. It is seldom wise to answer threat with threat. The best thing is to reply that you will think it over and see what can be done, and then go straight to the nearest police-station and tell the whole story. You can be sure of the utmost courtesy and kindness, and that every effort will be made to help you, even if you have to admit that you have not been wholely blameless yourself. In coming to the police and telling them frankly the position of affairs you have, in popular language, "turned King's evidence," and the authorities will go a long way to protect anyone who does this.

Do not be deterred by the fact that you cannot bring forward any additional testimony in support of your statement. The police may tell you that there is not sufficient evidence for them to apply for a warrant; nevertheless, they will make enquiries, and the very fact that the police are making enquiries will be sufficient to frighten black mailers out of their wits and probably out of the country, nor will they usually stop to make the threatened disclosures en route, but will "go while the going is good." Moreover, your complaint will go on to the police records, and a watch will be kept; in due course another complaint may be made, or, for all you know, may already have been made, and then the net begins to tighten.

Always remember that the blackmailer has a great deal more to fear from exposure than you have; for whatever unpleasantness may be in store for you, he has to look forward to a long term of penal servitude, and possibly the dreaded "cat" if the case is a bad one. A timely reminder of this fact works wonders with prospective blackmailers.

Nor need the fear of exposure of your own shortcomings deter you. The nature of the charges brought against you by the blackmailer will never be mentioned. It is not you who are being tried. Neither will your identity be disclosed. You will be referred to as Mr. A. or Mrs. B. Far from being treated as an evil-doer or having the finger of scorn pointed at you, you will find that you are looked upon as a person who is performing a public service and every effort will be made by those in authority to smooth your path. A determined effort is being made at the present time to stamp out this abominable crime, and judges are giving exemplary sentences and protecting prosecutors in every way in order to encourage them to come forward.

But quite apart from any form of coercion, unwary persons may, while filled with enthusiasm or glamoured by the new revelation, part with considerably more money than they can comfortably spare; they may even literally lay their all upon the altar, and then, disillusioned by subsequent events, greatly regret having done so. In many such cases a competent solicitor can secure a refund. The courts do not look with favour on excessive contributions to "movements."

It goes without saying, that no rightly conducted organisation would consent to augment its funds at the expense of the ruin of one of its members. It must, of course, equally protect itself against capriciousness and spite and the machinations of the kind of mentality that tries to buy influence by subscriptions. It has always been our custom, in the Fraternity of the Inner Light, to insist that any woman who proposes to give a large donation should consult her financial adviser before doing so. For one reason or another we have refused upwards of twenty-five thousand pounds during the last seven years. Nor have we had any reason at regret having done so. The strength of an occult organisation does not lie upon the physical plane.

It is well known that there are various drugs which can be used to exalt consciousness and induce a temporary psychism. It may not be equally well known that most of these substances come under the regulations of the Dangerous Drugs Act, and that to obtain them from irregular sources, or even to be found in possession of them save for a legitimate purpose, is to render oneself liable to prosecution, and in this case too the authorities are exceedingly alert and the magistrates exceedingly drastic.

All initiates of the Right-hand Path agree in declaring that to exalt consciousness by means of drugs is a dangerous and undesirable proceeding. There may be research workers who for legitimate reasons wish to undertake experiments, but I cannot conceive of any legitimate reason for introducing a neophyte to the drug habit. In any case, if such experiments are undertaken, they should be conducted under the supervision of a qualified medical practitioner who will be in a position to prevent catastrophe or deal with it should it arise. The drugs that alter consciousness also affect the heart, and hearts are not always all they should be. More over, the composition of rare drugs is not standardised and varies enormously; they are liable to contain various impurities, and samples may turn out to be unusually toxic. The unpleasantness of having upon one's hands an unexpected and unaccountable corpse is only exceeded by the unpleasantness of becoming the corpse oneself, either of which eventualities may happen when people begin to experiment with the drugs that "unloose the girders of the mind."

The morals of mankind in general leave much to be desired from the point of view of the purist, and the occult organisations, occupying as they do, the sea-coast of Bohemia, leave more than usual. A few of the best, maintaining that occultism is essentially a religion, uphold a high standard; the remainder are blest with a kaleidoscopic collection of soul-mates. This need not concern us here. If people choose to kick over Mrs. Grundy's apron-strings, that is their affair. Nor need we at the moment consider the occult abuses of sex-force, which will require detailed consideration in their proper place. All we need consider in this chapter is the purely normal form of loose living which is camouflaged under a pretence of occultism. Of this I have seen numerous cases. The head of one group systematically seduced his pupils under the pretext that it was part of their initiation, and the group accepted the situation in a spirit of the purest self-sacrifice. Several others sailed unpleasantly near the wind, with the result that "crushes" and the subsequent nervous breakdowns were very prevalent. It ought hardly to be necessary to say that such methods form no part of the Right-hand Path.

It is amazing to what an extent women of the highest ideals and of good family and wide culture can be induced to accept such theories and practices. The danger of membership of such a group to young girls or unsophisticated women can readily be imagined.

I have often been accused of being narrow-minded in my attitude towards groups in which such happenings are allowed to go on, but the cost in human suffering is so great and the general demoralisation so sordid that tolerance comes perilously near to cynicism.

It may not generally be realised, but there is just as much danger of corruption in a Black Lodge for boys and youths as there is for women. There have been a number of cases so flagrant that the police have intervened, both here and abroad.

In ancient times, and among primitive peoples, human sacrifice was a common incident in connection with occult practices. It is not unknown in Eastern Europe even at the present day. The nursery story of Bluebeard has its origin in the practices of the infamous Gilles de Rais, Marshal of France and comrade of Joan of Arc, who slaughtered innumerable children and youths in connection with his magical experiments. I have never heard of a case in England, but there have been at various times some curious killings reported from the United States which look suspiciously like ritual murders, but in the absence of adequate information it is impossible to come to a final conclusion upon them. There recently came into my hands, however, a book upon magic published for private circulation, in which the statement is made that the ideal blood sacrifice is a male child.

The charge of revolutionary activities is one that has been frequently made against the occult movement. There are certain things, however, which must be borne in mind when assessing the truth of this charge. Firstly, the occult movement is not a homogeneous whole. It is totally unorganised and unregulated, and may best be likened to the state of England before the Norman Conquest. Conditions in the various groups and associations vary widely, and what is true of one may not be true of another. There can be no doubt whatsoever that various organisations at various times have been implicated in politics, as witness the Theosophical Society's association with Indian political movements; but we must bear in mind that one generation's revolutionaries are the next generation's reactionaries. After all, politics are a matter of opinion, and even the people we disagree with may turn out to be right in the end. I, personally, am of the opinion that an occult fraternity is extremely ill-advised to concern itself with politics for reasons which I have stated in another of my books, Sane Occultism, and which I will not enter upon now, as they are not relevant to these pages. But as folk from time immemorial have banded themselves together for political action we cannot very well take exception to what the law permits. People who join an organisation established for political work join it with their eyes open and presumably for the purposes for which it was founded. Grounds for objection arise, however, when an organisation is founded for non political pursuits and subsequently the leaders, without consulting, or even informing their supporters, take up political activities on their own account and use their organisation for the purpose, thus involving their followers without their consent in whatever complications may arise, and using money contributed for a specific purpose for ends other than the donors had in view.

It may be wondered what use, at the present day, revolutionaries could make of the occult organisations. Within my personal knowledge they have used, or attempted to use them, for the purpose of getting letters to people whose correspondence is being watched, and I myself once received a request to allow a person who had been deported to return to the country under an assumed name and reside in one of our community houses as a member, and was offered some hundreds of pounds for so doing. Needless to say, the correspondence was sent straight to the authorities.

The problems which we have considered in this chapter are not peculiar to occult fraternities, but are common to any organisation which does not discriminate as to its members. The organisations which advertise must perforce take all comers and sort them out in the light of subsequent experience, and some of these experiences can be very queer indeed. One cannot blame an organisation that picks up an occasional black sheep, one only takes exception if it retains an accumulation of them.

A lodge of dubious whiteness can be readily recognised by the type of people who belong to it, who may best be described as the seedy adventurer type with a sprinkling of smart society folk who often have a taste for crude flavours in the way of sensation. The really Black Lodges are as carefully guarded as the high-grade White Lodges, and no outsider can gain entrance to them. The serious student of Black Occultism is out for knowledge and magical experiment and he is not going to waste his time on a tyro. Those who choose to graduate into a Black Lodge after serving their apprenticeship in the Outer Court of a White Lodge do so with their eyes open, and experience must be their teacher. One cannot feel that they deserve much sympathy if the experience is a painful one. The person I am out to help is the person who is a victim, not the one who is hoist with his own petard. The man or woman who, rejecting the steady grade of the Way of Initiation, chooses to go up with rocket had better come down with the stick.

Any request for a large sum of money should always be regarded as a danger signal. It is one of the strictest conditions of initiation that occult knowledge may never be sold or used for gain. I know of an occultist who charges £300 for one of the initiations he confers; and he will give it to anyone who has got £300. In my opinion, the person who pays out £300 for such a purpose deserves the kind of initiation he is going to get.

It is also a bad sign when an occultist makes free with signs and wonders before the uninitiated. No genuine adept ever does this. The person who reads your past incarnations, describes your aura, rolls up his eyes, twitches, and gives you a message from your Master as soon as he is introduced, is a person to be avoided.

The more I see of the occult movement, the more I am amazed at the things people can say and do and "get away with." The average person is out of his depth when he deals with psychic matters. He usually goes through three phases. Firstly, he thinks it is all superstition and fraud. Secondly, his scepticism being breached, he will believe anything. Thirdly, if he ever gets as far as thirdly, he learns discrimination, and distinguishes between the Black Fraternities, the White Fraternities and Fatuous Fraternities.

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