Silence, Secrecy, and the Golden Fruit
This is an attempt to carry over the off-thread discussion from the Minerval thread here: http://www.lashtal.com/nuke/PNphpBB2-viewtopic-t-1935.phtml
In that thread, quite a few questions and good points arose about the need and usefulness of Silence and Secrecy, both within and without the confines of any type of organization.
In the Class D A:.A:. Paper Liber CLXXXV - Collegi Sanctii, which depicts the Oaths and Task for each of the Grades up to and including Adeputs Minor, we find the following... "He shall everywhere proclaim openly his connection with the A.'. A.'. and speak of It and Its principles (even so little as he understandeth) for that mystery is the enemy of Truth."
The above statement is a part of the Task for every Grade from Probationer up to and including Dominus Liminis, at least (as it is written). It bascally asserts the Aspirant to Speak on the A:.A:. However, in many instances we may find this is not always the case. Just as "there is a factor infinite and unknown", one may find that "the A:.A:." does speak in mysterious ways. One of those mysterious ways is the elusive "Silence in Speech", which doesn't necessarily mean to shut up.
The Book of the Law states in Chapter III v.39. "All this and a book to say how thou didst come hither and a reproduction of this ink and paper for ever -- for in it is the word secret & not only in the English -- and thy comment upon this the Book of the Law shall be printed beautifully in red ink and black upon beautiful paper made by hand; and to each man and woman that thou meetest, were it but to dine or to drink at them, it is the Law to give. Then they shall chance to abide in this bliss or no; it is no odds. Do this quickly!"
In many other organizations and in Freemasonry, we find that secrecy can be a practice held in high regard.
The following is an excerpt from "The Golden Dawn FAQ (which can be found here: http://www.flashback.se/archive/gdfaq.html, with no copyright infringement as an issue, see introduction)...
"The issue of secrecy is an F.A.I. (Frequently Argued Issue) on the Usenet news group alt.magick, and for the most part, most of the original Golden Dawn "secrets" have already been (or are in the process of being) published. However, it still comes up often enough to address a few points. Why keep certain things secret, you may ask? Well...
(a) It is worth it *not* to have everything handed to you all at once.
Whether it is working out physics problems, or reading an Agatha
Christie mystery novel, skipping to the end for the "answers" can
take something away from the experience.
(b) Many posit the existence of a "Group Mind" which can develop in some
seriously-minded associations of individuals. "Secrecy" here (which
is sometimes termed "Silence" to differentiate it from a more widely-
spread hoarding of knowledge) is just an outgrowth of simple privacy,
committment, and integrity among a closely-knit group of people,
who don't want their business known by the entire world. Of course,
when their "business" begins to entail the propagation of a tradition
purported to be of benefit to all humankind, it becomes harder to
justify secrecy as a simple privacy issue.
(c) One must differentiate between information and knowledge. There is
a huge difference between the basic facts of a craft (which can be and
are set down in books) and the actual skills that people develop from
accumulated experience (which usually cannot even be expressed in
concise words, let alone written down). I think many would agree,
to use Colin Low's analogy, that a "Do It Yourself Brain Surgery" book
would be a bad idea. The knowledge isn't really a *secret*, but it's
certainly not available for everyone's immediate use, either.
All things considered, however, secrecy is something which should certainly
be left up to each individual. To quote alt.magick's resident terminator,
Tyagi Nagasiva (Tyagi@HouseOfKaos.Abyss.com), "There are very many good reasons for secrecy, and very few for requiring it."
As an addendum, a few useful definitions...
si·lence /ˈsaɪləns/ [sahy-luhns]
noun, verb, -lenced, -lenc·ing, interjection
1. absence of any sound or noise; stillness.
2. the state or fact of being silent; muteness.
3. absence or omission of mention, comment, or expressed concern: the conspicuous silence of our newspapers on local graft.
4. the state of being forgotten; oblivion: in the news again after years of silence.
5. concealment; secrecy.
–verb (used with object)
6. to put or bring to silence; still.
7. to put (doubts, fears, etc.) to rest; quiet.
8. Military. to still (enemy guns), as by more effective fire.
9. be silent! “Silence!” the teacher shouted.
se·cre·cy /ˈsikrəsi/ [see-kruh-see]
–noun, plural -cies for 2, 3.
1. the state or condition of being secret, hidden, or concealed: a meeting held in secrecy.
2. privacy; retirement; seclusion.
3. ability to keep a secret.
4. the habit or characteristic of being secretive; reticence.
se·cret /ˈsikrɪt/ [see-krit]
1. done, made, or conducted without the knowledge of others: secret negotiations.
2. kept from the knowledge of any but the initiated or privileged: a secret password.
3. faithful or cautious in keeping confidential matters confidential; close-mouthed; reticent.
4. designed or working to escape notice, knowledge, or observation: a secret drawer; the secret police.
5. secluded, sheltered, or withdrawn: a secret hiding place.
6. beyond ordinary human understanding; esoteric.
7. (of information, a document, etc.)
a. bearing the classification secret.
b. limited to persons authorized to use information documents, etc., so classified.
8. something that is or is kept secret, hidden, or concealed.
9. a mystery: the secrets of nature.
10. a reason or explanation not immediately or generally apparent.
11. a method, formula, plan, etc., known only to the initiated or the few: the secret of happiness; a trade secret.
12. a classification assigned to information, a document, etc., considered less vital to security than top-secret but more vital than confidential, and limiting its use to persons who have been cleared, as by various government agencies, as trustworthy to handle such material. Compare classification (def. 5).
13. (initial capital letter) Liturgy. a variable prayer in the Roman and other Latin liturgies, said inaudibly by the celebrant after the offertory and immediately before the preface.
14. in secret, unknown to others; in private; secretly: A resistance movement was already being organized in secret.
[Origin: 1350–1400; ME secrette < OF secret < L sécrétus hidden, orig. ptp. of sécernere to secern]
—Synonyms 1. clandestine, hidden, concealed, covert. 1, 2. private, confidential. 3. secretive. 6. occult, obscure, mysterious.
—Antonyms 1. open, manifest.
So... any thoughts? 😉
Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law
thanks for starting the new thread, azidonis. there's a lot in here to think about. i have a lot of casually connected thoughts on this.
back in the day (and i mean waaaaaaay back in the day) liber AL vel Legis was only handed to you once you made zelator.
weird, ain't it?
i mean, i think it's weird. after all "the Law is for all," right?
it's a funny thing about crowley. he was all about tossing the secrets of the golden dawn out to the four winds for any and all to benefit or no, but he had a real hard time applying that attitude to thelema on some planes. old habits die hard, i guess.
in terms of the vast majority of "thelemic secrets" that i'm privy to (which is not really as interesting and as cool as it might sound to some folks - no pretense here!), i don't really see the point of keeping them secret.
take liber C, for a Classic Example. i don't see why that stuff shouldn't be out there. crowley found it out on his own anyway, it's openly published in places and The Beast Himself says that the secret itself is next to impossible to misuse. i'd add on to that and say without the proper training and background, the material as it's written is next to incomprehensible! i'd go even farther and say that if you've got the proper background for the terms to make sense, well, you've done your effing homework so Have At and Good Luck!
that said, i swore oaths that i'm bound to until released from them, and i take that seriously. as should we all, really - as always, this is just what i think. a magician Has to be able to count on their word as truth. i'd argue that breaking an oath like that is an expression of "ethical insanity" and should be avoided at all costs. i'd go even further and say that keeping that kind of oath can be a really, really, really important ordeal to go through over the course of your initiation and critical to your development as a magician.
intentional lies are quite another matter - all things under will, including truth.
like i said, though, i think the "vast majority" should be open. there are a few sex magick rituals that are explicit enough in language such that if the american effing media got ahold of them the whole thing would blow up like yosemite sam in a cargo hold with a match. i sure don't want to deal with that level of crap - not at this point in america's cultural initiation, anyway.
on a whole 'nuther plane, i'm all about keeping the initiation rituals secret. when the OTO stuff was published, motta went ahead and wrote new ones for SOTO. good on him! back when i was involved with the caliphate, it was all in transition. some were using the published ones (right out of that book, apparently!) and some were using new ones. good on 'em for writing new ones! 'bout time! well done!
motta's argument at the time was that since the riutals had been published, the sanctuary had been violated and something new had to be created immediately. me, i wouldn't take it quite that far. i Would (and do) say, though, that there's no point walking into an initiation if you know exactly what's going to be coming at you. i firmly believe that one of the most important things to conquer as a magician is Fear, and one of the most basic expressions of fear is "fear of the Unknown." if you're so scared of initiation that you're gonna cheat... hah, well, you won't get initiated on most planes so you'd have been better off staying home and watching reruns of "barney miller" or something.
sometimes, if you try to cheat, you won't get initiated on any planes at all! ohhhh the stories i could tell, heh heh heh... i don't think i'm breaking any oaths to tell this one little tale in general terms. there was this aspirant who came to us that had managed to get ahold of a traitor to the society before their initiation who gave the aspirant the lowdown on the ritual. the aspirant shows up, all full of themselves and chortling up their sleeve on account of their "special knowledge," but they still didn't pass!!!!!
i wish i could tell it exactly how it happened! the whole story is really a riot. i'm giggling like a schoolgirl here just thinking about it and my officemate is starting to give me the hairy eyeball... to this day i don't how my brothers and sisters kept a straight face through that.
all that aside, the A.'.A.'.? i've never understood the secrecy of some of the lineages and i probably never will. of course, i don't really have to - it's not my problem, after all. in my own lineage we take the "proudly proclaim" portion of the show pretty seriously - or at least the folks who i actually know are members do, anyway. there's probably dozens, if not more, that i never have and never will meet.
the way i see it, liber AL vel Legis is quite clear. "He must teach." i don't think that just applies to the scribe. that said, everybody speaks in their own way, and while just so happens to be in harmony with my will to go around and Speak To Anyone, that's not necessarily going to be the case with everybody. i do think, though, that denying your affiliation to the order after signing an oath like that is an expression of the Ethical Insanity i referenced above.
one final thing before i pretend to work for a while... as far as "half known and half concealed" go? i really wish that the practice of "blinds" in public rituals would be just totally eliminated. it's a load of crap, in my opinion. it's a public ritual or it's Not, you know? i don't see the sense in making something public if you're going to make it so that it's impossible to perform as intended without special instruction.
Love is the law, love under will
First, thanks for citing Liber CLXXXV. I've been looking for the place where AC says "mystery is the enemy of truth" and there it is! 🙂
My browser included the comma in the URL; I've included a space above to fix it. I'm glad people remember the old GDFAQ. The secrecy bit took many iterations to get right. FYI, the latest version was v5.1, from 2003; it was hosted on Mitch Henson's website for a while, but I'm not sure if it's up on the web anywhere now. The email addresses for me (the author) in prior GDFAQs no longer apply...
About the rituals being "half known and half concealed," the interpretation that "clicks" the most with me is that of our old friend Aum418, who suggested this refers to the rituals being in the language of symbols, which are kind of half conscious and half unconscious.
Still, though, for some of the more famous secrets, some very concrete, non-symbolic claims seem to have been made (i.e., the IX degree amrita can extend life, cure your psoriasis, etc). I think there's certainly room out there for more lucid descriptions -- even if it's just the "plane of discs" aspects, to use LIHF's term.
My personal interpretation of the Shinx's power (To Be Silent) is to be open to all speech.
Not to necessarily talk about things, but to accept all questions and answer them as honestly as possible.
Though you are taking a risk if you are Discordian :X
(sorry, have been reading up some... its on the mind)
Orders and their secrets, are a different story.
They are meant to be a stabilizing influence, uniting you to the group.
You do not really gain anything by knowing what happens before hand.
All you need to know is that all the members have gone through this.
The silence in regards to membership - that is a personal affair. I think it should be optional.
Of course,one of the greatest follies a magician can commit (in my mind) is to make his word untrue (it would create a lifeless shell).
Silence (as in no speech) (especially in a 'Thelemic' context) could also be taken as actions speak louder than words. You can go on and on about something, but it is no replacement for experience and doing.
Good thread. I have tons to say (as usual LOL) but will keep this brief, and I think it's the crux :
From my couple decades of experience as a self-initiate, non-joiner, ... I can say that talking about it just isn't worth the hassle. Usually even with fellow practitioners. Every practitioner (esp in the modern/western world) has SUCH a different background/practice/philosophy that there is usually little common foundation to start from. Any fruitful discussions usually just serve as a way to 'get acquainted' and find out what type of path each other are on. I've mentioned my involvement in the occult to a small handful of people in my life, and they are close close friends who still don't quite get what I see in it. Even my practice partner (tantrica/domme/scarlet woman/wife) isn't where I'm at, and I only speak to generally guide her along to the realizations that are possible. She has her own path, and we share the practices that we share, and the rest is our individual path.
Anyone outside my circle of friends and family is either a practitioner and I don't know it, so I don't blab; or they aren't, so I don't blab. It doesn't help anyone to go proselytizing. There is such a hyuuuuuuge ramp to even establish a language to start talking about it with.
Whenever I'm in a conversation (here on Lashtal, the only place I talk with anyone - and I don't know anyone here!) with a newbie who is looking for guidance, I'm honestly at a loss. Where was I at 25? What was I doing? Would it help them? Only if they are where I was, which isn't the case. So - I can only suggest books, yoga, meditation. The rest has to just come to you when you open the door.
Just like all good things. Open the door and stop wanting. It's all there for the experiencing.
"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 se 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.
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.
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
Good topic. A few thoughts FWIW.
In terms of secrecy, I think one should bear in mind a big difference between what it means in the context of OTO and A:.A:. As I understand it, OTO is a social, public organisation, whereas the A:.A:. is an organisation in which the teaching is one-to-one.
It's clearly the case that the OTO, working with dramatic group initiatory rituals, has to keep those rituals secret otherwise they lose their effect (if the candidate knows what's going to happen, there's no drama). So in that case secrecy about the rituals is crucially important and absolutely necessary for the OTO to function. As Motta said somewhere, this is why if the rituals of an organisation like the OTO are published openly, it virtually destroys the order (at least in that form). The group then has to devise new rituals that will be a surprise to candidates.
The A:.A:. on the other hand: while it does have some secrets, they're not crucial to the A:.A:.'s functioning, because it works on the principle of experimentation. It's meant to be a scientific sort of thing - anybody can have a go at the experiments, it's just that you're better off getting the knack from someone who's already done them. Same as science: everything's open, published, but you'd be best advised to go to University if you want to learn how to do the experiments properly, or be taken seriously as a contributor to science.
However, the "results" of A:.A:. work are "self secret" , in that they're private. You can say of the mystical practices that "you become one with the Universe", but what the hell does that mean to someone who hasn't "experienced" it? Nothing - or stuff they might make up in their heads based on study and philosophy.
IOW, "a nod's as good as a wink to a blind horse." And that means it's best to be circumspect when talking about the results of the practices, otherwise the whole thing becomes like a Theosophical lecture with tea and biscuits afterwards, and people "wander in the wonderland of the Supernals" (AC's comment to LXV somewhere) - better to just do the work and not worry about the result. (Hmm, where have we heard that before? 🙂 )
Which brings us to silence. Silence, on the other hand, has a superficial meaning that's connected with the necessity for secrecy on the OTO side, but has absolutely nothing to do with the A:.A:. (quite the opposite - you can advertise it openly, talk about it, etc.), apart from the common sense point in the last paragraph. The deeper meaning of the requirement for silence, however, is ultimately the silence of the chatterbox mind that normally occludes reality. (And to save confusion I should note that this means more than a mere absence of thoughts.)
(On reflection all this may be too biased towards mysticism, but that's all I know so I can't really say much on the magickal side of things. And on further reflection and checking this for errors I realised I'd forgotten about the A:.A:. periods of silence. I think this is pragmatic - it's just meant to give those who have been involved in the publishing of materials and advertising of the A:.A:. and Its principles a chance to get on with their own work. Since up to now this has usually meant pretty much everyone involved in any given A:.A:. it's been necessary. I envisage a time when there are enough people to be able to "rotate" duty, periods of silence won't be necessary. I don't think there's anything particularly mystical about it - although there may be something magickal about it, and if there is I retract this explanation.)
Incidentally, I should say, something that interests me about dramatic rituals is that they seem to be very ancient, and they seem originally to have been meant to induce an NDE through fear, shock, etc., etc. I suspect that the original meaning of baptism, for instance, was that it was meant to induce an NDE through near-drowning.
Bringing someone close to death is probably the quickest way to shoot them right out of their box. There was a wonderful rationalist mystic who sadly had his Parinibbana recently called John Wren-Lewis, who wrote a truly amazing account of his mystical experience, and several essays with insights arising therefrom, most of which are readily available on the web. He had his enlightenment through an NDE as a result of eating over-dosed poisoned sweets offered to him on a bus in India by a prospective thief. Fortunately his wife was able to get him to a hospital, but he very nearly died. When he came to he had a unitary experience that stayed with him permanently. His experience is all the more remarkable in that he pretty much despised mysticism before it. Anyway, his extraordinarily simple and elegant hypothesis (which is quite naturalistic, him being a rationalist and humanist) is that something happened in our evolutionary past that, for one reason or another, makes our adaptive self (the ordinary sense of self that protects the body and brain from the vicissitudes of the world) hyperactive from what should be its normal condition. What happens with an NDE is that the adaptive self simply gives up - and what's left, what's revealed is ...
So I think this was discovered early on by human beings. (I actually think that our adaptive selves became hyperactive during the major bottleneck that was discovered in our evolution, coincident with the explosion of a "supervolcano" about 300,000 years ago. It may be that only the most paranoid and toughest survived those hard times, and we all inherit some of that paranoia.) Perhaps a return to sanity was easier for people then than it is for us - just a ritual involving fear of death, or NDE, and one was fully human again.
Unfortunately, or fortunately, depending on how you look at it, you can't nearly drown someone or bury them alive nowadays to bring them to enlightenment. You have to make do with something which symbolises it (sprinkling them with water, or putting them in a coffin for a few minutes).
They were made of sterner stuff in the old days. 😀
However, with the right preparation, and someone who's sensitive to drama, and can enter into a role, perhaps something might happen even with the symbolic re-enactment of death.
GG, your explanation of the 'hyperactive adaptive self' I found highly insightful, thanks. I'm going to look up more on that guy and that experience. One of my favoritce niches of understanding is human origins, esp. as they may relate to the spiritual/psychic state of humanity. ( I think they hyperactivity may have been installed through a suddenly-narrowed genetic field selected and adapted by aliens several hundred years ago .... maybe ).
But also, to your final point about initiations and their .... drama/danger/extremity.... this is a point that nowadays means it's tougher for an organization to do these things, lest they be called cults or torture groups or whatever. Which is more fodder for types like me (self-initiates) that refuse to join anything, and don't want to take anyone's instructions on 'trust', or be a part of a secret anything.... other than a relationship or relationships, which themselves are often secret, out of psychological/interpersonal interests. In other words, I take my initiations from my interactions with others, whether they know it or not. The secret society is between my ears. And I can come as near death as I want without being able to sue anyone for it.
If you're interested in that line of thought, I highly recommend a book I recently bought called Archaeologies of Consciousness: Essays in Experimental Prehistory. Sort of like Time Team on acid (literally 😆 )
D'oh! Thanks for this, George. I'm sure Crowley alluded to this somewhere, but this is the first time it clicked for me. This interpretation of the 4th Power of the Sphinx fits the Occam's Razor criterion quite well, IMHO!
Must... resist... making... waterboarding joke...
Seriously, though, this brings to mind AL I:38 ("...but he may make severe the ordeals.") Didn't Crowley's commentary on this verse mention wanting to get away from the "schoolboy pranks" of Masonic initiation "ordeals" and get back to something more powerful? Admittedly, the published OTO ordeals (especially for the Man of Earth degrees) don't seem all that more powerful than those of Masonry ("ouch! my thumb!?"). The few illictly circulated A.'.A.'. ordeals seem to get a bit closer to this, at least in intent.
The five dollar bill associated with the Master Mason initiation is a point of secrecy in initiation that if it were known in advance would not instill the ethical language to the soul which it is intended to instill. That said, there are places where silence should seem necessary.
On the other hand, there are places where speech appears required. The Eighth Task of the Probationer above quoted states that the aspirant is to speak openly of the Order and the Principles of the Order. Nowhere is that saying to speak openly of the activities of the Order.
"What is the Order?"
"Oh, I'm glad you asked. It is an alleged ancient lineage of initiated Masters and Students. It studies and practices mystical, and sometimes magickal practices designed to elevate individuals to higher planes or states of consciousness."
"Oh? And what are its principles?"
"These vary somewhat from person to person, lineage to lineage, and might appear to 'change' from initiatic level to level - but basically, every free man and woman is deserving of the strengths and benefits of 'godhead' (so-to-speak) and the attainment of the individual is of supreme importance."
"Why the secrecy behind it then, if you are so willing to speak on it?"
"Because revelation is key. No point handing you Saint John's head on a silver platter if what you really want to know is how the cycle of the seasons condition society - you need to go discover Saint John for yourself to understand what I am saying. That way, you might truly come to understand. And if you don't? It would have obviously done more harm than good to have explained it to you. And if you do? You will be richer from the experience for it."
"Because metaphoric language is more powerful than simple straight talk?"
"You aren't far from the truth."
"The method of science, the aim of religion."
A little warning I often give. Dictionaries exist to record usage of a word, not a definitive meaning.