You actually want to know how to distinguish gold from copper pyrites1—"fool's gold" they called it in '49 California—no! I wasn't there— or "absolute" alcohol and—Liqueur Whisky from "alki" (commercial alcohol—see Jack London's The Princess, a magnificent story—don't miss it!) and Wartime Scotch as sold in most British pubs in 1944, era vulgari.
One pretty good plan is to take a masterpiece, pick out a page at random, translate it into French or German or whatever language you like best, walk around your chair three times (so as to forget the English) and then translate it back again.
You will gather a useful impression of the value of the masterpiece by noticing the kind of difficulty that arises in the work of translation; more, by observing the effect produced on you by reading over the result; and finally, by estimating the re-translation; has the effect of the original been enhanced by the work done on it? Has it become more lucid? Has it actually given you the information which it purported to do?
(I am giving you credit for very unusual ability; this test is not easy to make; and, obviously, you may have spoilt the whole composition, especially where its value depends on its form rather than on its substance. But we are not considering poetry, or poetic prose; all we want is intelligible meaning.)
It does not follow that a passage is nonsensical because you fail to understand it; it may simply be too hard for you. When Bertrand Russell writes "We say that a function R is 'ultimately Q-convergent α' if there is a member y of the converse domain of R and the field of Q such that the value of the function for the argument y and for any argument to which y has the relation Q is a member of α." Do we?
But you do not doubt that if you were to learn the meaning of all these unfamiliar terms, you would be able to follow his thought.
Now take a paragraph from an "occult teacher."
What's more, I'll give you wheat, not tares; it seems terrifyingly easy for sound instruction to degenerate in to a "pi-jaw." Here goes!
To don Nirmanakaya's humble robe is to forego eternal bliss for self, to help on man's salvation. To reach Nirvana's bliss but to renounce it, is the supreme, the final step—the highest on Renunciation's Path.2
Follows a common-sense comment by Frater O.M.
All this about Gautama Buddha having renounced Nirvana is apparently all a pure invention of Mme. Blavatsky, and has no authority in the Buddhist canon. The Buddha is referred to, again and again, as having 'passed away by that kind of passing away which leaves nothing whatever behind.' The account of his doing this is given in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta; and it was the contention of the Toshophists that this 'great, sublime Nibbana story' was something peculiar to Gautama Buddha. They began to talk about Parinibbana, super-Nibbana, as if there were some way of subtracting one from one which would leave a higher, superior kind of a nothing, or as if there were some way of blowing out a candle which would leave Moses in a much more Egyptian darkness than we ever supposed when we were children.
This is not science. This is not business. This is American Sunday journalism. The Hindu and the American are very much alike in this innocence, this 'naiveté' which demands fairy stories with ever bigger giants. They cannot bear the idea of anything being complete and done with. So, they are always talking in superlatives, and are hard put to it when the facts catch up with them, and they have to invent new superlatives. Instead of saying that there are bricks of various sizes, and specifying those sizes, they have a brick and a super-brick, and 'one' brick, and 'some' brick; and when they have got to the end they chase through the dictionary for some other epithet to brick, which shall excite the sense of wonder at the magnificent progress and super-progress—I present the American public with this word—which is supposed to have been made. Probably the whole thing is a bluff without a single fact behind it. Almost the whole of the Hindu psychology is an example of this kind of journalism. They are not content with the supreme God. The other man wishes to show off by having a supremer God than that, and when a third man comes along and finds them disputing, it is up to him to invent a supremest super-God.
It is simply ridiculous to try to add to the definition of Nibbana by this invention of Parinibbana, and only talkers busy themselves with these fantastic speculations. The serious student minds his own business, which is the business in hand. The President of a Corporation does not pay his bookkeeper to make a statement of the countless billions of profit to be made in some future year. It requires no great ability to string a row of zeros after a significant figure until the ink runs out. What is wanted is the actual balance of the week.
The reader is most strongly urged not to permit himself to indulge in fantastic flights of thought, which are the poison of the mind, because they represent an attempt to run away from reality, a dispersion of energy and a corruption of moral strength. His business is, firstly, to know himself; secondly, to order and control himself; thirdly, to develop himself on sound organic lines little by little. The rest is only leather and prunella.
There is, however, a sense in which the service of humanity is necessary to the completeness of the Adept. He is not to fly away too far.
Some remarks on this course are given in the note to the next verse.
The student is also advised to take note of the conditions of membership of the A∴A∴
(Equinox III (1), Supplement pp. 57 - 59).
So much for the green tree; now for the dry!
We come down to the average popular "teacher," the mere humbug. Read this:—
"One day quite soon an entirely different kind of electricity will be discovered which will bring as many profound changes into human living as the first type did. This new electricity will move in a finer ether than does our familiar kind, and thus will be nearer in vibration to the fifth dimension, to the innermost source of things, that realm of 'withinness' wherein all is held poised by a colossal force, that same force which is packed within the atom. Electricity number two will be unthinkably more powerful than our present electricity number one." (V.S. Alder, The Fifth Dimension, p. 132)
Exhausted; I must restring my bow.
Love is the law, love under will.
1: If Homer can nod, so can Crowley. The mineral called "fool's gold" is actually iron pyrites, not copper. It has a brassy look, and that might account for this error – WEH.
2: Liber LXXI (Blavatsky, The Voice of the Silence &c. with a commentary by Crowley), Part II ("The Two Paths"), s. 42 (the section numbers are due to Crowley. See Equinox III (1) or IV (1) – T.S.