10 August, 2009

Considering Mystery Schools

This has been prompted by a post made by Frater Yechidah concerning the apparent death of the esoteric lodge system. Now, I'm a fan of the lodge system, yes, there are problems sometimes, but there are problems with every form of education depending on how its done and who's being educated.

One of my thoughts on this, though, is about mystery schools being mystery schools. Classically, there were a lot of different "mystery" things out there; schools, religions, whatever. These were interesting things, for instance, we know that they had oaths of secrecy, usually with dire consequences for violating them (which were actually meant to be carried out, unlike in Masonry today). Another interesting thing is that despite this we know about them. But its what we know about them that is interesting to me. This is to say we know very little about them. Various people from the time have written about their rituals and such, but rarely with any precision about what those rituals meant to the initiated; they were invariably written from the lay person's point of view and, I would imagine, probably mistaken in their interpretation. Some we know almost nothing about, Pythagoras's school took their oaths of secrecy seriously, the one person to violate their oat, revealing a mathematical equation, was put to death.

Now, lets compare this to modern mystery schools. OTO, BOTA, GD, AS, SOL, the abbreviations go on forever. We know all about these schools, much of their material has been published, they have web sites, they advertise (and always have). More or less, just about anyone can join. Yes, I know, some have interviewing processes and don't let just anyone in (I've been in Temples were applications were denied after all), yet some allow everyone in. Some branches of these have simply become businesses, others are power plays for the insecure. Its really not how it was supposed to be, I think. For those who think the lodge system is dying, take into consideration that the various GD orders today have many, many times the members of the original GD and its various off shoots.

Now, there are some schools out there that are not like this, they seem to be few and far between. I'm aware of a very few of them (because, you know, they don't generally advertise and their members keep their vows of secrecy. An amazing concept, I know!). Now, I don't dislike any of the above orders in a general sort of way, I've even been a member of at least one of them. But I have to wonder at what point quantity was thought to make up for quality.


  1. As a wise man once said, "by their fruits shall ye know them."

    There IS something archaic about the lodge system now, when so much magical information is readily available and when people crave more independence and informality. But in modern times it's so easy to forget that we need the guidance of other people, too.

  2. Sociologically its not really something that we can measure in terms of post-modern, modern or archaic really. The lodge system, when torn from its grandiose titles, is a hierarchy to be assailed just like a school system. Some schools are more mechanistic in their format and some are more expression focused usually because of the input of its leaders (principals and teachers etc.). The same could be said about magical systems.

    Lodges or temples provide a physical structure for people to develop their skills so that they might make them their own. Martial arts schools are the same, the school will have the practical traits of the Master in both philosophy and daily/weekly physical practice. Truth is you never learn exactly like the teacher because your body is different to theirs but repeated learning and provide understanding.

    The question "at what point quantity was thought to make up for quality?" is a very charged one. Realistically its rare that any school will find a diamond in the rough and sometimes its more about the student being pushed to be an alternative structure for others. To be honest standards will vary from time to time because when a student isn't a diamond in the rough and even if they are some polishing is still needed.