If jnani is a path of enquiry, then its central question is, who am I? As the occult presents some possible answers to that question it is worth investigating. The subject of the occult is a tricky one, partly because the term has different connotations for different people. It is defined here as dealing with any aspect of the disembodied life, including spirit worlds, the panoply of deities, angels, fairies, goblins, devils, demons, etc.; the range of supernatural phenomena usually referred to as 'miraculous', and paranormal gifts such as clairvoyance, prophecy, telekinesis and so on.

What then is the relationship between jnani and the occult as defined here? If jnani is about a particular route to the transcendent, i.e. the loss of false notions of the self, does the occult help provide true notions? If jnani is about dis-identifying with the manifest world, either through via positiva or via negativa, then is the occult a helpful context for this? If jnani is about the question, who am I?, then does the occult provide an answer this?

'Encounters with the occult may arise in the spiritual life. All the great teachers seem to warn against the occult as a distraction from the transcendent, but perhaps the best advice is simply to ask oneself the question : which is my real interest?'

This section is intended to help the seeker delineate the occult from the transcendent. The occult seems to offer the same or a similar goal because it involves the transcendence of the physical body, eternal life (in the spirit world) and the possibility of evolving into higher and higher beings, either as an individual or as a race.

One might assume that the occult tends to be a preoccupation amongst the more credible of personalities, and therefor associated with bhakti individuals and traditions. The surprising fact is that reference to the occult is widespread in the jnani traditions, though this may be partly due to a greater literature, or a greater tendency of the jnani to seek knowledge and explanations. It is also surprising how many scientists, who, despite publicly holding materialist beliefs, are privately both credulous and fascinated with the occult (in Newton's time his scientific and occult interests were not seen as contradictory). Some scientists of today hold an irrational hostility to the occult, irrational because the broader evidence is substantial. The Buddha seems very clear on the subject however : disembodied beings may spend aeons in either heavenly states as a reward for personal sacrifice and exemplary behaviour, or equally long periods in tormented states as a result of bad actions. Eventually however, all souls are reborn in the human form, that unique form given the unique potential for liberation, denied to both animals and gods.

So what does it mean to live in the spirit world, to have access to it from this one, or to be granted occult powers? One could see this simply as an extension of the manifest world, with all the potentials for joy and suffering that so-called 'normal' reality possesses, but with a wider scope. As a clairvoyant once remarked: 'just because a spirit is without a body, does not mean it is any smarter than when it did have a body.' The Buddha's point is reiterated : the human embodied form is the most precious, so use the opportunity wisely.

In the rest of this section we will look in more detail at what the occult entails, and why it is helpful to see it as a separate kind of spiritual life to that of the transcendent.