On April 26, 2018 we posted and essay entitled, “Gresham’s Law and Esoteric Movements” which addressed the importance of leadership in spiritual movements and groups. In the opening paragraphs of the essay I stated:
“It’s all about leadership. Leadership means upper management, and by this I do not mean some ‘invisible masters’ or ‘unknown superiors.’ I most certainly mean those who are entrusted to formulate, communicate, and direct the vision – mission statement if you will – of the organization. This organization can be a small study group of less than a dozen members or it can be a multinational order, or a group of any size in between. At the end of the day, it all comes down to management: in fact, good management is a sign of spiritual illumination. Read that again and let it sink in. Good management is a sign of spiritual awakening, particularly on ‘the level of Chesed’ for those who like qabala-speak.
Thus, when I am informed of problems in various groups it is easy to see who and what the problems really are: management. Now, this does not mean they are solely responsible, as the members of the body play a role as well. However, it is management that sets the tone, communicates the mission, and keeps everyone on track. They are also the gatekeepers in both its positive (expansive) and negative (restrictive) aspects. Leadership demonstrates the effectiveness of the most basic goals of spiritual practice: insight and problem solving. Because at the end of the day that is why people undertake the path: to gain some insight and to solve their problems.”
The critical statements being the following, “… it is management that sets the tone, communicates the mission, and keeps everyone on track…Leadership demonstrates the effectiveness of the most basic goals of spiritual practice: insight and problem solving.”
Setting the Tone and Solving the Problem
The tone set by the surviving fractions of one of the groups discussed in the original essay mentioned have one important item in common: they agree about politics, left of center, so-called liberal, progressive politics to be exact. Now this is important, because here we have a small group of people who were once close friends who cannibalized their occult order over an issue, while at the same time clearly and vocally proclaiming possession of a superior spiritual and political view to those who held differing philosophical beliefs. Well, if the solution to differences of opinion is to have a relatively amicable divorce, to their credit that appears to have been achieved. But is that what these would be enlightened leaders would advocate in the mundane arena, for individuals or the nation? Is that how you solve the problem? Break it up and create smaller and more ideologically rigid echo chambers out of lodges and communities? Even more importantly, this problem is not unique to the groups alluded to in the article, but has become all too commonplace in the ‘spiritual community.’
I have also met more than one group that has advocated a more democratic and inclusive attitude towards leadership than has been traditionally seen. While it sounds good, I need only look to a Unitarian-Universalist Church I am familiar with to see the tragic failure in that model. It is nice to have a place for everyone, but not everyone gets to sit at the big table, for “many are called but few are chosen.” To be clear about this, is it in my best interest or that of the group – be it a church, lodge, or coven – to have someone as their spiritual leader who has known psychiatric problems, suffers from substance abuse, or other forms of addiction? There may be a place for them in the group – just as there may be a place for me in a minor league baseball team – that of batboy or towel holder – but it is foolish to think that your leader’s problems will not become the problems of the group at some point. This is only compounded by the psychological health of the leader and those around him or her, and intensified when undertaking esoteric work and ritual magic in particular.
The Law Is For All
The law of personal freedom maybe for all, but access to a group is a privilege that comes with responsibilities, it is not a right. Those responsibilities are amplified as a leader, and with it, one’s freedom of action is increasingly limited so as to keep the group on track. Decisions must be made, and decisions made by committee or consensus are often the worst as they reflect the lowest common denominator of agreement rather than a genuinely dynamic vision and actualization of individual and group potential.
Why this is important is because we are seeing an increasing amount of divisiveness within esoteric movements, a division focused around political ideas and not esoteric philosophy. In fact, some of the most bizarre and dangerous occult ideas are freely accepted, as long as those individuals or groups expounding them publically adhere to the proper “Left of Center” political theories. Recent efforts to purge various organizations and movements of those who do not pass the ideological litmus test are ongoing and show no end in sight. This amounts to psychological, spiritual, and organizational suicide.
It is possible that such self-destruction, or ‘salve’ is built into the equation, as it is the ‘coagula’ that is the difficult part – just ask any practicing spagyrist or alchemist. When I recently mentioned to George Hansen, author of The Trickster and the Paranormal, that the average life span of the various groups I have been involved with was twelve years (see: “Spiritual Organizations and Lessons Learned in My Ill Spent Youth”, January 4, 2017; and “The Death of a Friend,” May 13, 2018), he replied that this was near miraculous.
As was pointed out in a previous post, “Politics and the Paranormal,” Hansen states:
The groups discussed above consciously attempted to engage paranormal powers and supernatural beings, and dramatic phenomena were reported by SORRAT, Psi Tech, and Kubler-Ross’s group. All share clear anti-structural and trickster characteristics. Psi, disorder, lowered sexual inhibitions, and deceptions were present. The groups display a pattern of decent through the archetypes – from Apollo, characterized by order and structure; through Hermes, the trickster; to Dionysus, dangerous license and sensuality (these are living examples of Hermes serving as midwife to the birth of Dionysus). In addition, the phenomena led the groups to make bizarre claims that provoked ridicule and brought discredit upon them. Thus the trickster appeared and marginality was induced again and again. (170)
The pattern of initial growth, internal discord, stagnation, and decay for any one organization, or even several, would not be unusual, but the pattern is universal in psi research. Many other groups and laboratories outside of the U.S. could be given as illustrations. I know of no counter example. Those groups that attempt to scientifically study paranormal phenomena by directly engaging and interacting with them, tend towards disruption, encounters with fraud and trickery, and loss of institutional affiliation and support. The research activities have never produced the growth that a normal business or scientific discipline might expect. … The pattern suggests that large structured institutions are inimical to direct attempts to engage psi. The consequences for parapsychology are profound. (208-209)
“..but the pattern is universal in psi research” and we could say in esotericism as well. So then, is there a solution? Possibly, and like any good medicine it will not taste very good to those in the positions of leadership who are drinking it rather than ‘drinking the Kool-Aid’ that had brought them, all in the name of idealism, to stagnation or the brink of collapse.
As most psychic research is limited to exploring the realms of the ‘lower astral’ or ‘Yesod’ if you will, it is no surprise that those involved would be unstable after a given period of time of repeatedly focusing their attention there, and that any organization around them would dissolve. For organizations to be stable over the long-term they need to be functioning with the qualities of Hod (ability to think and analyze), and Netzach (social harmony around a central point), which means they must survive the crises of the ‘Lighting Stuck Tower’ in their growth period. It also means that they need at their head someone who can, even if only temporarily, truly be aware of and express the qualities of Tiphareth (harmony and spiritual insight) – and thereby bring balance to the structure.
In a recent conversation with a student of several orders the following points were brought up about the changes that were occurring in various groups as well as general themes across the occult community.
Comments on Leadership
The practice of Western esotericism in all of its forms is the essentially the study of nature, thereby making each of us a ‘philosopher of nature.’ In Martinism and others movements, the Book of Nature is our study and our guide; therefore, we must seek to conform our microcosm to the macrocosm of nature, instead of attempting to force the universe to conform to our ideals. In nature there is no democracy, only the alpha leader. While many see this as an error, or an ancient relic no longer needed, it is in fact a reality of nature. To do otherwise is to go against nature. In short, it is an attempt to ‘fix’ nature of a perceived error, rather than to find a deeper understanding of the way things naturally operate.
If centralized power is the problem then checks and balances – the power of Mars and Saturn if you will – need to be added, and not attempting to remove the power of the solar king. In fact, esoteric groups that do otherwise are reenacting the error of the Catholic Church when it denied that the sun was at the center of the known solar system and insisted that the earth was the point around which the planets rotated. The same is taking place here: the culture of the earth, the Little King, is being used to replace the culture of the Solar King, and eclipse it with the Lunar darkness of unresolved psychic pathology. One problem is traded for another, and nothing is resolved.
If the goal of esoteric leadership is to imitate nature then to fail in the above is a significant error which cannot be ignored, and all insights will be filtered through this error making them impotent or destructive. Such oversight demonstrates a lack of understanding of the tradition its leaders and governing bodies claim to be preserving or in contact with. Thus, the notion of being ‘a fully contacted order’ is further degraded in importance.
If we are not to imitate nature, and can rule by consensus, then we are relying on the ‘innate’ or even ‘collective’ wisdom of the decision makers. Since this is not different than any one individual’s ability, it is a statement that no single individual demonstrates significant wisdom to be recognized as worthy of leadership and the trust that goes with it. If this is so, then there is no reason to join the organization – if it claims guidance from invisible intelligences. If there is no special guidance at work, or it is and cannot be recognized or understood, one is better off alone, or seek a different association to join.
If an organization is simply educational that is fine, but that is not what we are talking about when we engage in various esoteric affiliations, complete with initiations, lodge meetings, and special teachings. There is the stated or implied notion of a connection to the invisible that can speed up the individual member’s learning curve through psychic means and affiliation – and that this higher level of insight is demonstrated by the leadership on a recognizable level. There is what is commonly called an egregore at work, and if so, we need to see that this egregore is helping and not hindering our individual unfoldment.
If special contacts do not exist, or exist but are not understood, then again, there is no reason to affiliate with an organization that makes claims to them but works against the natural order of hierarchy – the natural order of any egregore.
The positions stated above are certain to raise the hackles of more than a few, and of course are good reason enough to follow a solitary path or to affiliate with loose association of fellow travelers. However, that does not work well for everyone, and many desire and require the training and experience that an esoteric or magical order can provide. What then is the solution for those who are teetering on this abyss of organizational destruction in the name of modernity?
The solution for the most part is simple: it is Mars, Geburah; it is purification through singular focus. Know your true purpose, values, ideals, and goals as a group, state them clearly, and stay focused only on them. It is vital not to let ‘mission creep’ allow you to wonder from the narrow path of esoteric training for the purpose of individual development and Illumination.
You may help the world indirectly through your Work, but it is not the purpose of esoteric organizations or movements to take on the role of political action committees or social service organizations. Nor is it their role to take on the transient and passing values of the world and act as if that is what ‘nature intended.’ The role of esoteric groups is singular and simple – teach, practice, and demonstrate the effectiveness of its philosophy and methods – a philosophy rooted in the study and understanding of Nature, so that the lives its students live may be the ‘Light to the World.’ In ‘qabala speak,’ that is what distinguishes an Adeptus Major from an Adeptus Minor – strength and courage in action.
For more information on egregores see:
Egregores – The Occult Entities That Watch Over Human Destiny
For more information on problems on the Path see:
Pathology of the Sublime – Problems and Solutions on the Spiritual Journey