To Mr. PAPUS, Director of Initiation.
Author of the Methodical Treatise on Occult Science.

Preface

Sir,

Before delivering to the public your methodical treatise on occult science, you have kindly submitted it to my judgment, asking me to tell you what I think of the general spirit of this book and that of your other works, in the case where your opinions do not seem to me contrary to the idea I have of the conditions and requirements of philosophical science in the present state of human thought.

I have no reason to refuse myself to the satisfaction of your desire, provided you allow me to fix with precision the limits and the intention in which I am pleased to grant it to you.

I do not believe in the existence of an occult science distinct from the ordinary science freed from the conditions imposed on it, and which ought nevertheless to be regarded as the origin, the source, and the permanent basis of all our knowledge. This idea, although it has found in the past and which it still counts in the present of many partisans, is absolutely irrational, that is to say, anti-scientific. It is a pure idol whose worship belongs to fabulous times.

But if, under the name of occult science, you hear of the first efforts and the first discoveries of science, of those discoveries which are based on analogy rather than on reasoning and analysis, the intuition which man has of the universal order of nature, and by the similarity of the laws of the universe with those of his own thought, I entirely give you reason. These laws, of which we speak, are always the same, have been suspected, and, if we may so speak, demanded before being proved. Then tradition took possession of it and passed it on from century to century in its own name. Thus the highest antiquity possessed true notions of physics, astronomy, natural history, agriculture, metallurgy, mathematics, architecture, chemistry, and medicine itself. It is thus, a memorable example among all, that the Pythagoreans have recognized the rotation of the earth and other planets, not around the sun, but around a central fire.

All the laws of thought, like all the laws of nature, exist at once, one in thought, the other in the universe, but more or less developed, more or less clear and always united, always mingled between, in proportion to the knowledge of which they are the object.

What must be repudiated absolutely is a way of understanding the progress which tends to destroy the unity of the human mind and that of humanity itself. It is this idea dear to the positivists, sustained as a dogma by Auguste Comte, that the human mind is first absorbed entirely by theological conceptions, that of theology it passes to the metaphysics which invades it in turn, and that it is only in modern times, doubtless from the nineteenth century, that it rises to the possession and even to the notion of science.

By claiming for ancient science, by attesting the knowledge and fruitful experience of the most remote ages of our species, you have, sir, done justice to one of the most important errors of positivism, one of the most obstinate of the modern spirit. I only regret that, as guardians of the science of antiquity, you usually cite writers whose erudition is more adventurous than solid.

But you do not only take under your protection the science of the ancients, you also believe in the existence of a hidden meaning, or, to use your language, an esoteric sense of facts, venerated texts of religious books, and of nature itself taken in its entirety and in its details; in a word, you are a defender of mysticism. You must know that I am not a mystic, although I have written the book of Kabbalah. But mysticism has always inspired me, from my earliest years of reflection, and inspires me today especially, in a very advanced age, with the deepest respect, I will even dare to say a worship mingled with tenderness. It is, in my opinion, an eloquent and absolutely justified protest in principle against all systems which shrink intelligence and bring the soul down from its original height. These systems, I need not name them, they reign almost as masters in the time in which we live; they reign chiefly on the spirit of youth, which, not daring to choose between them, nor to admit them all, at the same time, because they contradict each other, is reduced to a kind of speculative nihilism. Fortunately, the heart, in these new generations, is better than the head, and partially neutralizes the effects of bad doctrines. But what is the heart if not one of the forms, at least one of the elements of mysticism, that is, the spontaneous and, to some extent, irresistible sense and intuition of consciousness? “God sensitive to the heart:” what a profound meaning in this word of Pascal! It is because, if God does not touch us, does not penetrate us, he is not the secret engine of our thoughts and actions, he is not what the Bible calls the God so well living. It is reduced to an algebraic or logical formula such as Herbert Spencer's Unknowable, Hartmann's Unconscious, or even the postulates of pure reason invented by Kant.

Yet the more or less vague, more or less floating, protest against atheism, positivism, and pessimism seems insufficient. We do not know God, and if I can speak thus, one does not possess it and one is not possessed by it, so long as one does not go to the bottom of things, of which he is not only the author, and the legislator, but the supreme reality, the last essence, in which it resides and which it envelops by enveloping ourselves. It is in these depths that you and your collaborators of the Initiation, calling to your aid all the forms of mysticism, those of the East like those of the West, those of India like those of Europe, You like to spoil yourself! These depths have their darkness and their dangers: I would not be sincere if I told you that you always succeed in avoiding them and that in particular human freedom is never compromised with you nor the demands of life and science properly so called. But I much prefer these audacious speculations to the myopia of positivism, the nothingness of atheistic science, and the more or less hypocritical despair of pessimism. They are, in my eyes, an energetic call to the seriousness of life, to the awakening of the sense of the divine. They represent a salutary revulsion for the human soul, numb, threatened with extinction.

I can, therefore, only engage you, under the reservations I have just made, to persevere in the course which you so vehemently pursue, that in spite of your youth you have already acquired so much authority.

My intention is to follow you there with an ever growing interest.

Ad. FRANCK.

Paris, 13 February 1891.