THE 1976 ADJUSTMENT
[Editor’s Note: This appendix to the 1976 edition of the Sabian Manual is published here for historical reference.]
When with January 1st of this new year a more satisfactory distribution was arranged for the author's hardcover books, the result was an immediate selling off of the basic stock of the Sabian Manual. An ultimate rewriting of this manual, originally issued for his students only, has long been necessary in view of the changing conditions of human society in general. To do so now however would not be too advantageous, with global transitions so very uncertain at this point. Currently the book has had supplementary mimeographed instructions for members of the Sabian Assembly, but that has not proved too satisfactory and something better should be provided. Complicating matters is considerable indication that in its present activities the Sabian Assembly may gradually swing back to the group-meeting pattern from the present student-afield one, or to what was its original form of discipline, still prevailing when the Manual was published in 1957. Any appreciable editing at this fluid moment in history might not hold as perhaps it should to the initial formulations actually first put together in the earlier Ritual of Living in 1930. That, as coincident with the discovery of the planet Pluto and probable first stirrings of the new great or Aquarian Age of mankind, suggests caution now in any too specific estimation of future trends.
In consequence it seems wise to reprint with only the slightest changes in the existing text but adding in, as an appendix, what points of interpretation or added explanation might well be stressed as needed help in understanding the Manual while the global shifts are so exceptionally significant in everyday living.
With the years there has been an increasing demand for information on the part of those more interested in learning something about the Sabian project than in gaining any detailed mastery of its procedures and materials. The Manual therefore, in the course of the explanation it provides, should meet the need for such an essentially classificatory description of itself. In other words, it should identify its proper place in the history of human thought. As perhaps being more than anything else a presentation and demonstration of a way of thinking, its possible contribution to man's intellectual developments is as an independent or free philosophy in distinction from (1) a religion or an association of the sort that above all else demands a blind faith in itself together with a strict obedience to the authority it may be able to establish for itself, or (2) an educational group making an equivalent demand of total acceptance by the mind rather than the heart and directing its efforts to conditioning its adherents into applying the presuppositions it has adopted as the fundamental substance of itself.
As necessary for a genuine freedom of heart and mind, the Assembly demands an absolute respect for personality as a key principle of its operation. It demands individual loyalty, irrespective of whether this may seem worthily directed or not, and repudiates not only (1) all forms of indoctrination in which man's free choice is denied complete full play and encouragement but also (2) all anarchistic neglect whether wittingly or unwittingly of every person's fundamental obligation to common roots in his culture or his normal relations with his kind. Individuality is taken at its best as always functioning in a most delicate and living balance within the virtually undefinable but yet universal complex of reality. It most importantly rejects the easy answers of popular metaphysical speculation.
To facilitate classification of the Sabian project in the history of philosophy, it might be helpful to borrow the simple system employed by some of the ancient Greeks to distinguish their various systems of thought from each other. They found it convenient to classify on the basis of what each thinker suggested might be that element of which everything would fundamentally be the product. It was an early employment of the principle of evolution, or the idea that all the endless varieties of everyday reality have developed out of one single original and simple something. With Thales this was water. With Anaximander it was an infinite atmosphere and with Anaximenes more specifically air. In a sense and along this line, with Heraclitus it was change or ceaseless activity, and with Pythagoras it was order or pure number. Here of course was no more than mental perspective, and in modern life a commonplace although popularly supposed at times to be a literal description of actualities. Thus the materialist sees everything evolving out of primitive or undifferentiated atoms, or the like, and the religious individual has great comfort in the conception of a divine energy that brings everything into being by magical fiat and thereupon remains capable of a continued control of all eventuality.
Here is the basic or overall metaphysics to which every human mind, in order to preserve its balance or even its sanity, must give some measure of acceptance. It is the womb of total self-existence. In the familiar terms of this sort of ultimate ordering, just what is the primary element out of or within which everything in a Sabian realization can be seen conveniently to have its being and development?
The answer is: consciousness.
The essence of the common definitions of consciousness is inward awareness, or an intangible something more than the purely private response of mind and body to an accustomed stimulus. In practical fact it virtually defies any definitive description, as for that matter do such terms as BEING or INFINITY or even SELF. These all identify what obviously and actually constitutes them, but without really revealing the nature of what that may be with any absolute preciseness. The value of this philosophical substream of consciousness, emerging in that role in Sabian analysis and exposition through the slow or step-by-step establishment of the project and its materials, is that its employment is equally acceptable to individuals whether leaning toward the materialistic or the transcendental extremes of their own personal metaphysics. Here then is no more than a designation of a given and illimitable relevance, or of a root concordance through which all things and all events have relationship of varying value with all possible phases of each other.
Consciousness so conceived becomes at long last the overall concept in the Philosophy of Concepts. Its elevation now to such a point of special primary in the Sabian exposition might seem to be a puzzling distortion of the very extensive consideration of the whole group of these conveniently pivotal terms during an earlier period in the gradual development of the Assembly's fundamental perspective. It might indeed appear to upset the 1001 Concepts, and also to invalidate the previous and much lesser role given to consciousness, as merely one of a particular eight-key designation, in both the original Key Truths of Occult Philosophy published in 1925 and the later refinement of this schematism in the subsequent Occult Philosophy issued in 1948 and presented as largely a complete rewriting and expansion of the preceding analysis. None of this is true in any respect.
The special emphasis of this now especially emphasized key truth of occultism, in what is a later stage in the gradual refinement of Sabian realization and method, is no more than a broader utilization of the basic insights. The book Key Truths was the foundational statement of what in due course came to be identified as Sabian philosophy, and this initial stage of the general project or vision was brought to an early climax with the publishing of the Ritual of Living five years later. The occult axiom was first given the form "consciousness is substance" and this was essentially identical with the present more narrowly defined "consciousness is substratum." Actually in presenting the original series, this one of the key concepts was clearly identified as more valuable than the others.
It is in such a fashion that the Sabian Assembly has continued to press ahead in its characteristically organic development. In 1929 the mandate from the Great White Lodge, that in the occult manner of explanation had charted the group enterprise in its formative California days, was to begin a new phase for the specific purpose of countering the troublesome overemphasis of the esoteric factors that had helped launch the project preliminarily in late 1922. This led to an objective culmination in 1948, with the far more sophisticated Occult Philosophy, in which the special axiom became "consciousness is reality." In the effort to give this latter of two related books on occultism an integrity of its own and the more exoteric ordering, the mandate was not carried out with too great nicety since the intention had been to let Key Truths go out of print and to discontinue its publication permanently. Consequently the axioms in Occult Philosophy were in part reconstructed.
Meanwhile what has become a very real problem during rather recent years, in the normal growth of the Sabian project, has been the increasing impossibility for many of the students in acolyte discipline to set up the five years of service as a definite monitor in consciousness except on a more and more meaningless basis. The earlier Sabian study groups had a ramification of practical functions over which a personal concern was quite easy to develop, and so to define very precisely. Every active member of the Assembly was charged to do something tangible and regular for the benefit of his fellows no less than himself. His required work in consciousness could be a sustainment of this. With so large a part of the Assembly's membership now consisting of students afield, more and more acolytes have been compelled to choose what for them may remain purely subjective matters for their support in discipline. Gradually this has settled down to a choice quite often of one of the Twelve Plans of Sabian integration, and unhappily it can soon become an ungrounded meditation of very little effectiveness.
What complicates the proposition here is the curious pseudo-literacy coming to characterize modern times. Words are beginning to have a tangibility of idea over and above the fact of what they designate or endow with a name. They are reified. Their repetition would then be felt to be an activation of whatever they represent, forgetting that anything of consciousness must have some manifestation of itself outside of mind to constitute any reality of a sharable or common and valid sort. A much more commonsensical and deeper grasp of the nature of WORK IN CONSCIOUSNESS is becoming a vital necessity at this point in the Assembly's progress. In consequence, as possible approach to the needed perspective, it can be suggested that true meditation is like the phenomenon of the old-fashioned whip top that is kept spinning by the regular flip of the end of a lash in the hand of whoever spins it. This parallels the rhythmic pulse that is the basis of livingness per se. In the Orient for ages such a needed rhythm of power-of-the-self has been cradled or magnified by supportive muscular stability or control to gestate the dynamic of the desired more spiritual end in view, but in modern and especially Western lands the phrenetic accentuation of all life provides the needed factor in much the same way. That is, gestates the strong foundational or psychological self-effort. Repetition of word as image or idea must give way to the faithful reiteration or rhythm of concern
An illustration of the potency that can be developed in self-rhythm is provided very handily by children whose exceptional need for attention, even of the slightest sort, is almost a first necessity of any healthy ongoing during the immature years of dependence on their elders. The latter have their reward in a perpetuation of their flesh and blood. Growing up, each child will find other reassurances of life to serve the same purpose, but to some extent such a personality support is always needed at core and as a result man anthropomorphizes and courts by his worship the sustainment of a sort of whip-top flip of a divine parenthood or something like it. In lesser dimension this psychological symbiotic relationship continues in many variant forms. Thus for no more than the friendly pat or affectionate poke more or less casually through the days of their camaraderie, a man's dog will fight to the death in protecting him. The lady rests, since she is very tired, and when her beloved life-companion passes through the room and brushes back her hair with his hand she smiles without waking and sleeps on all the more wonderfully. The sending of flowers, or the thoughtful telephone message and everything of this general order, are illustration of the whip-top phenomenon in the deeper nuances of consciousness. The technique is increasingly disciplined sentiment.
Work in consciousness is thus infinitely more than the mere shuffling of word or idea in the mind, although all too frequently this is what it has been threatening to become. The maintaining of creative concern in Sabian discipline must avoid the purely mechanical motions to which virtually anything is so easily reduced, as the Buddhist prayer wheel or most dramatically the performance of even sacred rituals by rote. When an acolyte chooses something for meditative support that he cannot comprehend in a genuinely creative envisionment, or as what cannot be a soul-stirring challenge in some phase of his life, his effort will be futile and he may soon feel ever more empty for his pains. There must be somewhere, in his selection of an area of interest, a definite tangibility over which to be concerned to a really vital extent. It must be legitimate, in the sense that he has full respect for personality, and so is not attempting to live the life of somebody else without permission to do so in the particular detail. He cannot employ occult persuasion to compel action by his fellows according to his conception of matters, which of course is black magic. But when he elects participation in a healing ministry, to give aid in consciousness to individuals in misery and difficulty who ask for it, the activity of course is white magic.
What each of the Twelve Plans represents is a phase of Sabian activity into which it is possible to focus an endless occult concern. Most simply this could involve assistance in the conduct of meetings, or any tangible detail of the group enterprise, as in preparing materials or editing them and distributing them in literal actuality since in such a case the help can be objectively grounded as was particularly possible in the earlier years. But it can be a sustainment of intangibilities, as in the whip-top operation of genuine concern without any necessity of actual personal contact or physical participation. Necessary however is the essential sentiment, and that can be built by imaginative rehearsal of the idealized potentials of whatever subjective contribution can actually assimilate into the rhythm of the enduring substance of something. Needed of course is a thoroughgoing acquaintance with the common functions thus given the private and secret but effective strengthening.
Originally the Twelve Plans were no more than a preliminary classification of perspectives, given a convenient statement before the pattern of possible strands of collective integration had begun to have any formulation in actual practice. This was very much before any possible thought of shaping them so that an individual assimilation into their potential development could become an esoteric involvement in the acolyte and legate procedures. They now have been restated in a perhaps more rhythmic form, to facilitate such a ritualistic use of them, and this represents the only actual reediting in the main text of the Manual for the 1976 reprinting. The letters of imprimatur, as originally assigned, are maintained as no less correctly indicative of the threads of invisible sponsorship in the Sabian vision. The new acolyte has had the benefit of his approximate initial two years in the discipline to note which of these threads in the group's fundamental division of labor may seem to have special application to his case. If one or several of them have been marking his progress, or indicating the lessons he may have been studying and so on, they might give a subtle mark of occult rapport on which to count if for discipline purposes he chooses a Plan for his accentuated creative concern.
What has become another very real problem, in the continuing activity of the Sabian Assembly during the past decade or so, is the matter of the neophyte and other forms of pledge to which signature is asked in the administration of the discipline. These were shaped for the earlier and general situation when the predominant group meetings of a local sort were possible, and as already noted there seems to be the possibility of a turn back to that pattern if perhaps in quite modified form and therefore no reason for radical change in the long-established practices. What might be a most unhappy move would be to substitute procedures more suitable at this time but proving to be so only very briefly. Rituals traditionally gain their power as they survive in a rewarding use, and to modify them at intervals could encourage a gradual dilution of their effectiveness.
A temporary solution of this problem for a number of years has been to give each new member of the Assembly the mimeographed sheet explaining the present manner of interpreting the pledged obligation. The essence of this special instruction is that the aspirant, when unable to meet any of the literal discipline requirements in the changing world, should on honor work out action and attitude that in his own judgment amounts to a fair and adequate substitute since in SABIAN PROCEDURES, The Nature of Sabian Authority in the main section of this text it is pointed out that all activities in the Assembly must be autonomous, and that they must have "every liberty of modification and non-conformity.” There are suggestions throughout the Manual's presentation of various ways in which the rituals may be employed. The whole Solar initiation is made up of options that can be taken from the very beginning, such as studying astrology or ignoring it and in due course entering into the acolyte work or refraining from doing so. Other special activities are always open to participation.
Actually there are no usually fixed requirements of performance, in any part of the Sabian discipline, that cannot be altered by the aspirant who feels himself unable to conform to some particular detail. But while he is told that he may prepare a procedure for his own use to further the goals of the group effort, he is warned that such a course means that he may ultimately become the loner and thereupon have little or no real part in the everyday or common fellowship. His special way of going in no way means the least exemption from the living obligations as a whole to the group of which he makes himself the exceptional part, since without overall conformity to them the larger entity will forfeit its special existence. Thus he is expected to understand that while everything put down in this Manual and elsewhere in Sabian materials is fundamental suggestion, rather than exaction to be accepted without question, such policy nonetheless is designed to develop the individual's immortal potential and to dramatize the cardinal initiate personality on which the overall vision must rest. In other words, as a person he thereby gains additionally for himself and what is thus gained in the fellowship must be shared ultimately with his fellows in one fashion or another.
Moreover, nothing can be permitted in any particular case that is wholly objectionable to the others among whom there must be the overall rapport to enable all to function collectively. There are established standards of the culture, and the prevailing legal strictures that may actually be enforced in any given political or socioeconomic entity. While reform and change are needed in human life, they properly come most successfully and enduringly through compatible association. Differences must be dramatized sufficiently to arouse at least a general interest since then they made a broad contribution to all. Indeed, a Sabian member of marked capacity as a leader might develop a considerable subgroup of those who have special areas of concern in which to specialize themselves within the larger teamwork and so increase a worthwhile and wider benefit. This in the new Aquarian Age is the pattern of total cosmic reality, with the expanded interweavings ramifying endlessly on every level.
A third major problem in retaining for now the main text of the 1957 Manual is the matter of the recommended reading for the aspirant's background realization. Some of the books at present suggested are difficult if not impossible to get on loan or by purchase. The Hidden Way Across the Threshold for all its beauty is hopelessly outdated, and is no longer really worth attention. Any attempt to solve the difficulty by revision of the listings when the Manual is reprinted would be defeated in these modern times because of the continual changes in the occult and allied literature even in a single year or so. These recommendations in consequence will be omitted in the book's future revisions, and in the meanwhile a frequently updated small brochure will be printed for use throughout the group as soon as it is possible to prepare it. It will be known as Collateral Reading tor Sabian Students and will be reasonably comprehensive with brief accounts on each entry and selective listings of (1) general material in which there is common Sabian reference, (2) material good for supplementing Sabian studies and (3) material of parallel or widely general interest but not recommended for reasons that will be given.
To be noted is that now the Sabian Book rather than the mimeographed Sabian Fundamentals is given to each newcomer as he makes his affiliation with the Assembly. The latter however is available by purchase.