Secrecy in Initiatory Orders

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Secrecy in Initiatory Orders

Postby Forever93 » Thu Sep 15, 2005 11:07 am

All:

Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

In Jim Eshelman's talk on the Mystery religions and modern initiatory Orders, he discussed the reasons for secrecy. (In what follows, I should say in advance that I fully support the importance of secrecy in initiatory Orders, but for reasons other than the one outlined in the talk; I'm interested to more fully understand this particular insight). The main reason he gave was that this would create a specialized system of symbols, which -- although arbitrary in themselves -- would create a common system of magical working which would allow the initiates to better build a "group mind," building up their ability to move magical and initiatory force.

My question is, how does this support a need, or even a preference, for secrecy about those symbols? Would magicians not be able to form this same group mind with non-secret symbols? I'm thinking about the examples of the Golden Dawn system and of science. The GD system is now readily and openly available, and I don't see that this would limit the ability of post-Regardie magicians to work with those symbols either as individuals or in GD-based Temples to build up a "group mind" in working therewith. (I do not, again, say that it has not weakened the GD system of initiation in any way: I think that it's clear that part of the effect of an initiation is clearly weakened if one already knows what is coming (particularly if there are ordeals or challenges in the ritual), but this does not relate to this specific argument for secrecy).

By analogy with science: scientists of course need to develop a specialized vocabulary which is difficult for "non-initiates" to understand, because it would be too cumbersome to constantly have to say (eg) "the organelle in the cell that contains the genetic material" when one could just say "the nucleus," or for mathemeticians to spell out the operations that they want to use to manipulate numbers instead of using a series of (arbitrary, complex, and inherently meaningless) symbols. But certainly, scientists have no reason to keep these symbols secret in order to accomplish their aims of precise communication with their colleagues, leading to an expansion of knowledge.

Jim, can you further spell out your thinking here?

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Re: Secrecy in Initiatory Orders

Postby Jim Eshelman » Fri Sep 16, 2005 12:53 am

Forever93 wrote:My question is, how does this support a need, or even a preference, for secrecy about those symbols? Would magicians not be able to form this same group mind with non-secret symbols?

No, it wouldn't have the necessary characteristic of being bounded. Anyone knowing the particular usages, and having a fairly modest level of magical knowledge, would have direct access to that group mind. (One can, and does, erect external protections, but these are not as effective in the long-run if you have sprung leaks. That is, if you have given someone keys to your house, you can still stand at the doors and windows and fight them off, but it's a whole lot better - and more relaxing! - if they don't have keys to the house in the first place.)

That word "leak" is important. The working conditions being built are a containment which starkly differentiates what is inside from what is outside. It is disadvantageous to have "keys to getting outside" in general circulation.

I'm thinking about the examples of the Golden Dawn system and of science. The GD system is now readily and openly available, and I don't see that this would limit the ability of post-Regardie magicians to work with those symbols either as individuals or in GD-based Temples to build up a "group mind" in working therewith.

They could work with them in the sense that one could go to an exercise class and work with various techniques. But that's not an Order.

Think of intimate situations. Nearly all adult humans know the basics of how to employ the human genitalia and other body pleasure zones for sex. That's public knowledge and needs to be widespread. However, between two lovers who have grown familiar with each other, the particular secrets, personal preferences, subtles of individual response, patterns of employing imagination, distinctive style and intensity of tension and drama, timing, rhythm, and a hundred other things make things possible between them that would not be possible without this distinctive specialized knowledge.

And, other than for the sake of curiosity, this information usually wouldn't be of any particular use to anyone else. This isn't the same as specialized general and technical knowedgte that might be more broadly of use to the general population. For example, it would be helpful for many people to know what I know about the distribution of pleasure sensitivity at different points around the interior edge of the vaginal opening and what this discloses about nerve distribution and the PC muscle in a specific woman's body. With this information, one can learn very quickly certain things about which pleasure areas will be most excitable in her. This all makes for really lousy pillow talk, but can obviously be very useful for all involved. That's the "public knowledge" part. On the other hand, it doesn't do the general public any good to know what I've learned about a particular woman's body and its responses, or to know what I most like to do with that information, or to know... you get the point, I think.

There is another point here, a psychological one. Human beings, for the most part, are instinctively silent about what they hold to be most sacred, and the relationship is reciprocal. One way to create a context for sacramentalizing something is to contain it in privacy. "Sacred and secret" pretty much go together. This is one of the details of maintaining and fortifying a Group Mind.

I think that it's clear that part of the effect of an initiation is clearly weakened if one already knows what is coming (particularly if there are ordeals or challenges in the ritual), but this does not relate to this specific argument for secrecy).

Agreed on both counts. There are many things I have been willing to share with someone that I know will never approach any of this work simply because the information will have no "spoiler" effect on them.

By analogy with science: scientists of course need to develop a specialized vocabulary which is difficult for "non-initiates" to understand, because it would be too cumbersome to constantly have to say (eg) "the organelle in the cell that contains the genetic material" when one could just say "the nucleus," or for mathemeticians to spell out the operations that they want to use to manipulate numbers instead of using a series of (arbitrary, complex, and inherently meaningless) symbols. But certainly, scientists have no reason to keep these symbols secret in order to accomplish their aims of precise communication with their colleagues, leading to an expansion of knowledge.

Again, I agree completely. Hence we have public discussion of, say, the language of Qabalah.

But - back to the lovers mentioned above - there are other places where a distinctive and private language can accomplish remarkable things, and where there is power and efficacy arising specifically from the very fact that the "language" is not shared by anyone else.
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Yours in L.V.X.,
Jim Eshelman
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Secrecy

Postby DavidH » Fri Dec 02, 2005 8:37 am

Another few comments on secrecy.

1) First of all, secrecy of ritual is important. When I took the first initiation into TOT it was the most powerful ritual I ever experienced and had a lasting impression to this day. I knew nothing about it beforehand. Since then I have taken a few other initiations and none have come close to the TOT. One initiation since was done after I read some comments that "gave away" some important parts of the ritual. When I actually went through it, much of the power was lost because of this prior knowledge, hence secrecy of the ritual would have been a benefit to me.

2) In the past, and maybe in our future, there were persecutions against masons and other people involved with the esoteric. The Martinists in France wore masks to hide their identity because of this, although it had esoteric meaning as well.

3) Being ready. Like any subject, you shouldn't be looking at the advanced material before you are ready. Secrecy of certain symbols, etc. helps protect the person from getting confused or overwhelmed before they are ready.

4) And to reiterate what Jim said, Secrecy helps make something sacred. There is a reason so much importance is put in "setting things apart" such as using "virgin" items, placing them in special silk, etc. All these things let us know that this is sacred. Keeping something secret helps give it power.
In LVX,
David

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Postby zain » Sat Dec 03, 2005 1:47 pm

*oomph*

Perhaps I am a rogue but I feel that secrecy is the enemy of truth.

Who watches the watchmen?

True initiation comes from within and cannot be stopped without serious self-injury.

The law is for ALL and even were we all to publish the lot, the real secrets would remain so for those unable to comprehend them. That does indeed seem to be the fashion and distracting from the real light seems to be missing the point.

I've always resisted organisations that play such games of eliteism. It's just more reindeer games, like patriotism. Ways for certain groups to lord it over others and hoard treasures for themselves.

The real truths are more simple than all the hullabaloo, it really makes me wonder why everyone bothers with things that have no real relevance to daily life, light, love and liberty.

Information wants to be free.

Sorry for not worshipping the cocks out there but my reverence is reserved for whom it is truly due. I am ever the sword in her hand.

The law is for all, so what are ye who claim to promulgate it going to do about it? Obscure it with intellectual eliteism? Seems like black brother work to me, I'd love to find I was wrong but such is my feeling.

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Postby zain » Sat Dec 03, 2005 1:49 pm

abrogate \AB-ruh-gayt\, transitive verb:
1. To annul or abolish by an authoritative act.
2. To put an end to; to do away with.

To whom, exactly? To whom, exactly?

*blank stare*

Get on with it!
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Postby Jim Eshelman » Sat Dec 03, 2005 6:15 pm

zain wrote:The law is for all, so what are ye who claim to promulgate it going to do about it? Obscure it with intellectual eliteism?

Who said anything about intellectual elistism? That isn't the level.

But Thelema is inherently elistist. As Soror Meral (rightly) insisted over and over, the true Thelemite is an aristocrat - of the spirit.

The Law is for all, but very few are capable of grasping it. So, what are we going to do? The same thing we've always done: Raise people to be capable of understanding it.

I also think you didn't read - or, at least, didn't understand - my original remarks above. Things that are actually of universal value aren't what we keep secret. In some senses, the things that most need to be kept secret are the things that are the most arbitrary. They are the mechanisms of a specific system of training, a particular group, which bind and ward and filter the collective psychic functioning of that vehicle. If we wanted to keep the universal matters private, we wouldn't have a public discussion forum :wink: :lol:
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Jim Eshelman
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"Success is thy proof: argue not; convert not; talk not overmuch!" - CCXX 3:42
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Postby RegentLynx » Sun Dec 04, 2005 8:11 pm

I for one can personally attest in regards to T.O.T. that I was equally regarded with respect whether within the Order or without the Order. In all my interactions with the Officers of T.O.T. after my resignation from said Order I was always accorded the same respect as I was while an active member of said organization.
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Postby Jim Eshelman » Sun Dec 04, 2005 9:01 pm

That's really nice to know :)

Not surprising - but a really nice confirmation. Thanks. 8)
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Postby jw. » Wed Sep 26, 2007 5:58 am

I think the concept is more like temple building- anyone can construct their personal temple using the publicly known instructions. If I were raised protestant, maybe my temple comes out like a chapel in the end. If you see my temple and build something like it inside and out, you may have a chapel at the end, but is it your temple? Do the arches and rows of pews serve your personal ideology of worship? Someone with an intimate relationship with the both the builder and the temple-building process is in a unique position to comment on this.
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Postby Marcel » Fri Jan 04, 2008 3:01 am

"Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law."

Being very much a Lodge guy myself i am also a firm believer in Initiation.
In my eyes there is a big difference between keeping things private to acomodate futere Initiates into whatever Mysteries a Lodge might provide, and being secreteve about things in general.

When i got my Minerval and Man of Earth Degrees (i got the I:st the day after) i was affected fully despite having been Initiated into no more than 11 Orders (including Esoteric ones) of all kinds before that.

Despite the fact that i was fully aware of how Lodges (Magical or no) in general function the detail of the Ritual at hand where still unknown.


The way i see it Initiation to a large extent (even "non Mystical"...if there is such a thing) takes place at Neschama level, above the abyss if the tree is applied to the Psyche, and thus hidden to Ruach.

Hence you walk in blindfolded (and in some Orders tied) into a world largely unknown to you, in wich you can hardly act.

The Lodge / Temple room with its officers / furniture and so on can be symbolically applied to your psyche, Esoterically to Cosmology and on a lot of different stratas.

In my eyes it matters not (to much) if the Mysteries are screemed out in open. They can not fully be taken in without Initiation at some (not necessarily official) level.

A Mystery is a Mystery and must be experienced, it cant be told.
Besides, Orders often rewrite Ceremonies and in other cases have several versions of them (like Masonry).

Still, the element of surprise, of being unable to perform or say whats expected is taken away as well as the altered state of mind if the Ceremony is known beforehand.

One part of me think it´s good the GD material is out there, another think it´s deplorable. Yet a third will always think it´s not the same to do the LVX signs without prior Initiation into the GD. The symbolism might be there but the conection to the 5-6 Degree is not.

In short, if there was an Order created that tought only GD material exactly as it´s published but had worked out a formula by wich to Initiate original to themselves (= a Degree system and Rituals that was theirs but compatable to the material) i think its members would benefit.

The big secret after all is Initiation, not some strange "new and unknown" thing tought AFTER Initiation (in most cases).

I also think a successful Initiation goes on indefenetly in the Initiates life.

In short, even if you learn nothing new on a rational level becoming a Master Mason, you still benefit from having the Degree of Master Mason incorporated into your psyche.

Transmission, succsession, liminality, if thats not enough reason to get Initiated i dont know what is.

"Love is the law, love under will."

PS: Nota bene, i´m not saying Orders are for everyone. "Do what thou will".
"Every man and every woman is a star" and thus has a path peculiar to it self...even regarding Initiation. DS
"Be thou Hadit, my secret centre, my heart & my tongue!"
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