A Message on the Celestial Sanctum
I first read Raymond Bernard’s book, Messages from the Celestial Sanctum when I was sixteen years old. I read through its contents several times over the years, each time left inspired and ever so slightly confused, at the tales of communion with agencies and intelligences beyond this world – connecting us to an invisible brotherhood of perfect, or at least near perfect beings. Messages from the Celestial Sanctum first appeared in French in 1970 when Bernard was laying the groundwork for the establishment of his own Templar order that would take birth in CIRCES in 1988.
These “Masters,” who went by titles rather than names, were described as being a profound and regular contact in the life of devoted practitioners of the teachings, and the invisible guiding force behind the Rosicrucian Order (AMORC) and its Supreme and Grand Lodge Officers. A time was set for daily contact, 12:55pm Pacific Time to be precise, wherein members and officers alike could enter into meditative attunement with the force of insight and inspiration the Celestial Sanctum was said to both represent and actually possess. While not essential, detailed descriptions of the ‘Sanctum’ or Cathedral as it was known were given.
Like many dedicated members, and in this instance: pre-membership, I performed the meditations daily. While the descriptions given of mystical insight and meetings with ‘the Masters’ as described in Bernard’s book – an official AMORC publication, did provide me with discipline, practice, and preparation for experiences that would come, never have I nor many people to whom I’ve spoken, had experiences that were identical to those described by him. I mention this because there is a tendency in spiritual groups for their members to seek experiences that are identical to those described by their celebrity leaders, and this has a significantly negative impact on their personal realization.
The book, along with several smaller ones that would follow, would be the beginning of what Ken O’Neill, former Historian and husband of Donna O’Neill, Grand Master, described to me as, “The mytho-genesis of Raymond Bernard.” This myth was written in a series of semi-autobiographical tales wherein it is unclear to the reader what is factual and what is, to be kind, inspired instructional fiction.
This ambiguity only further solidified Raymond Bernard, Grand Master of the French Jurisdiction as a spiritual master of exceptional potency. Among his books were A Secret Meeting in Rome, The Cardinal in White, Secret Houses of the Rose+Croix, and others. Bernard would be appointed as an officer to the French Grand Lodge in 1956 and eventually serve as Grand Master until 1977. Later his son Christian would succeed him in this position.
CIRCES, or the International Circle of Cultural and Spiritual Research, appeared in an announcement in the French monthly “Le Monde Inconnu”(The Unknown World). The beginning of its activities was on 19th February 1988 and was Raymond Bernard’s spiritual brainchild for his post-AMORC period and had a particular “Knights Templar” orientation.
I briefly served as the representative for CIRCES as the “Dean of Rhode Island.” In the summer of 1990, I received a copy of Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke’s book, The Occult Roots of Nazism, in French, from Raymond Bernard in reply to a request for information about esotericism in Europe during the war years. However, I withdrew from the organization when I felt pressured to attend a conference in France to receive Templar initiation. At the time, my wife and I were both in graduate school and could not afford this expense, and the language of the invitation was that this was a ‘one time offer’ so to speak. Feeling coerced, I resigned. This appeared to have been a fortuitous experience, as CIRCES and its related bodies would quickly descend into a series of squabbles and schisms that I fortunately avoided and had no knowledge of until the writing of this essay.
This period, the late 1980s into the mid-1990s, was a fertile period in the spiritual and counter-culture environment. Desktop publishing made publishing magazines and newspapers easier. Software was replacing “cut and paste” and digital files were doing the same to photographic mock-ups. What once took days could be done in hours, if the platform was stable and files were saved properly. The explosion of services and products with the mainstreaming of the New Age Movement provided ample advertising and revenue opportunities. People were flush with cash even if they didn’t know it, and spiritual books store were popping up like magic mushrooms. The trade in the videotape market along with audio cassettes was a burgeoning black market operation in some places, foreshadowing the rampant pirating issues that authors and publishers would see by the early 2000s.
However, Bernard and his son Christian, the family heir apparent to AMORC’s substantial organization in France and French speaking countries, became an enigma. Christian followed in his father’s footsteps and became Grand Master of the French Jurisdiction, and later, after the “Stewart Affair” (1990) became president of the Supreme Grand Lodge, or head of the worldwide organization.
During this time there were rumors that Christian and his father were not on speaking terms, although no reason appears to have ever been given. Many people expected Raymond to be AMORC’s chief-executive officer after the death of Ralph M. Lewis in 1987, however, in May 1986 he retired from the Supreme Grand Lodge. In July of that year, at the World Convention in New York City, an event I attended, he was among the main speakers.
In 1995 I attended my first alchemy conference hosted by The Philosophers of Nature (LPN-USA) and through the anecdotal stories told by Jean Dubuis, I began to see a different side of Bernard. While it was clear the two men were rivals, it was also clear that Dubuis did not trust the ethical direction AMORC was heading in at that time, particularly in France. It was not obvious what exactly was meant by his antipathy; however, it was clear that it had something to do with the massive organizational entity – and finances with it – that was built. Dubuis was very candid about his impressions of both Bernard the ‘elder’ and the ‘younger’ stating, “Christian was in the Martinist Heptad I was in charge of. He was not the best student.” Other Grand Lodge officers’ statements to me were more scathing in their assessments. Particularly after a photograph of the signed loyalty oath required of Grand Masters was published in the Rosicrucian Digest after his ascent to the position of Imperator.
Whatever the problem, it was clear to me as early as 1986 that neither Christian Bernard nor Gary Stewart were up to the task of running AMORC, and for completely different reasons: Stewart, at that time, was clearly ‘distracted’. Bernard was arrogant, entitled, and gave the impression that he believed it was his birthright to be the Imperator. Neither, it should be noted, gave the impression of any significant psychic or esoteric knowledge or ability. But what both had, and Bernard in particular, was public relations on their side.
A short description of an essay Raymond Bernard wrote, “The Egregore of the Rosicrucian Order, AMORC” (June 1978) appearing in the Rosicrucian Review (No, 106), states: “He defined Egregor as follows: ‘The combination of both terrestrial and supra-terrestrial entities to form a unified hierarchy moved by a compelling idea’ and went on to develop the application of this concept.” This could be one of the reasons that Dubuis was so emphatically against the notion of egregores, and why its emphasis became a dominant theme from 1990 onward. Dubuis’ concerns are mirrored in the statement by Vallee in his published journals, below:
Spring Hill, Saturday 3 January 1998
The mistake of occult groups isn’t to affirm knowledge but to institutionalize it. They try to use it operationally on the wrong level. In a recent interview Rosicrucian imperator [sic] Raymond Bernard finally confessed his extraterrestrial contacts (similar to the rumors that inspired the murder-suicides of the Solar Temple) were fictional. His experiences with an Unknown Superior called Maha, as I had suggested in Messengers of Deception were imaginary as well: proof that again the spiritual principles should not be exploited on the mundane level. (Note: At the time the Amorc Rosicrucian Order had threatened me with legal action. Believers have continued to spread the Maha story.) (Forbidden Science 4, The Spring Hill Chronicles, The Journals of Jacques Vallee 1990-1999 p. 400)
The aspects of “Messengers of Deception” that are most informative I have mentioned before and do so again here. I remember reading this event in Bernard’s book and having questions about it. This was also the case when I first read Vallee’s commentary on the matter.
From, Messengers of Deception:
“Look at what you have already found. You have here many [UFO] contactee stories that appear meaningless or foolish at first,” continued [Major] Murphy. “Yet they contain explosive ideas: political control from a so-called ‘high level’; social unification; resistance to nuclear energy; transcending traditional religions; elimination of the current financial system. Keep looking. You might find that most of the UFO groups, including the major civilian organizations, are influenced by some strange people. And the pattern of conditioning you have discovered in your computer studies of UFO sightings may turn out to be aimed at long term social changes?”
“…Look for other unexplained effects which follow a similar modus operandi; things that have a strong symbolic content, but don’t seem to make sense. Things that academic science refuses to study, but which make a subliminal impact on the public. That’s the level where the manipulators will do their work.” (p.170-171)
“Beyond the attention of academic science, below the dignity of official history, there are groups, cults, and sects that serve as ‘leading indicators’ of mass movements.” – Jacques Vallee, Messengers of Deception (p. 166)
Major Murphy states, “I am not suggesting that secret agents are going around the world giving these thousands of people individual suggestions to see UFOs. As we found out then we began developing the science of propaganda during the last war [World War Two], you don’t need to do all that. A few well-placed stories, a well-planned program publicizing sensational incidents, will do marvels. These [UFO] contactees are being manipulated. And I think we should not look in outer space for the Manipulators.”
“The best place to start looking for them is among some of the occult groups. Such organizations are an ideal place for a clever individual to exercise his influence because they are ignored by intellectuals, by those who call themselves scientific investigators. They are afraid of looking silly if they join…what will the Dean say when he finds out!”– Jacques Vallee, Messengers of Deception (p. 166)
“If we are not dealing with space visitors at all, but with powerful imagery projected in order to alter individual belief systems, then the dream-like, hallucinatory nature of the experience begins to make more sense…. We already have human technologies that are both physical and “psychic” (in the sense of influencing the consciousness of an observer). An example of such a technology is given, very simply, by your television set. There are no questions that it is physical…But if you turn it on, it will begin to control your awareness in peculiar ways. … Based on what you can observe, you have no way to know the truth, even if you have a Nobel Prize in physics. …In some respects, I think UFOs are similar to television sets. They are physical objects, the products of technology, but they are also something else: tools of a major cultural change.” (p. 67-68) Jacques Vallee, Messengers of Deception
This cultural change has always been a part of AMORC’s mission, and they make no mystery of if: The Creed of Peace, Roerich Peace Flag, Medifocus, and more recent statements from Christian Bernard and other officers affirm this. However, this change becomes a murky affair when we are faced to confront the purported relationships Raymond Bernard developed with various political leaders of former French colonies in Africa and the Caribbean. “Baby Doc Duvalier,” former dictator of Haiti, has been photographed sporting an AMORC ring, said to have been given to him by Bernard the elder. This membership was confirmed for me around 2007 when two employees of the US State Department were on a conference call with me. One of them was familiar with the security arrangements at that time, which allowed him visual confirmation.
Several central African heads of state are also on the list of well-known associates – and from a different line, Manuel Noriega, former head of military intelligence and eventual de facto ruler of Panama from 1983-1989 whose desk sported an array of AMORC paraphernalia after his capture by United States forces.
I remember asking some Grand Lodge officers about this, and after a brief period of reflection, was told, “I do not know if they joined under their own or another name, or if they joined at all. Assuming they did, then maybe it is better they be within our fold than another. Maybe something good can come of their affiliation.”
Reasonable enough, however, years later I have to laugh out loud when I remember the big deal that was made of membership: how the impression was given that one might be turned down if found “unworthy.” It was if some cosmic background check was going to be performed. In truth it was nothing of the sort. Oddly, Joseph Lisiewski told me, and later reported in his biography on Israel Regardie, that Regardie was denied membership when he applied under his real name, only to be accepted when he reapplied using a different name.
What I wondered off and on across the decades is to what degree the egregore of AMORC influenced these rulers for the better, if at all, or if they in turn influenced AMORC’s egregore for the negative? This is a serious question, as when we change the people in an organization, we effectively change the organization – that is why the much ignored Masonic injunction, “Guard ye well the Western Gate” has come back into vogue in some fraternal and esoteric circles.
Unless you have had the direct experience, it is difficult for the average Western reader to grasp the degree to which magic, and the particular fear of black magic, grips many countries in Africa and elsewhere. I have been routinely woken at night by phone calls from Africa from individuals seeking help. Until recently I had an extensive set of files on reported used of black magic and its outcomes. The information was sent to me from various people all looking for protection from these people who they considered their mortal enemies. This is where egregores enter the picture, as many people have joined AMORC simply so they can avail themselves of an actual or perceived psychic protection. Again, this is difficult for many to grasp who have not had first-hand experience with it.
The path is dangerous and difficult enough without fact and fiction becoming so intertwined that it is difficult to separate one from the other. The power of the egregore is subtle and powerful, like the whisper of a potential lover in one’s ear in the dark of night. The images and desires it can arouse can dominate our psyche, and block out anything else, turning us into loyal soldiers in the army of “Light.” But then does that not also require our participation on some level? Of course, it does, and realizing that is also part of the journey. As we enter the second half of the year 2020, we are bombarded by highly refined and selected messages from various sources using all the media at their disposal to hold us in the grasp of their egregores.
It is critical that we recognize that fact, take time to disengage, and put our trust in the only thing we can truly, or should ever trust completely – our own inner nature. Organizations, Orders, societies, and esoteric movements are ideal for passing on information and methods and have and will continue to serve an important purpose. However, it is up to each of us as individuals to not place our trust in ‘the Order’ or ‘the Masters’ or ‘the egregore’ and only in our own realization and abilities that come from that and that alone.
To put in in another framework, one can be a fabulously skilled artist, athlete, scientists, craftsman, or performer of any kind. Our skills are learned from someone, refined in their performance with others, but at the end of the day, they are our skills and abilities. While we were dependent on others to learn them, we are not dependent on others for their refinement, nor continued expression and use. At some point we must learn to walk on our own, and in that way, are of the most use to ourselves and others. It is this point that is most important: we must learn to walk on our own; any organization, esoteric or not, is not concerned with us as individuals, but as members. Once our membership expires or, such as in higher education, we graduate, organizations must turn their attention to the next source of income to be able to sustain themselves for another generation. This is natural and to be expected, but often clouded by the high idealism many spiritual, political, and socially oriented movements advocate.
Practice is a means to an end, not an end in itself. Organizations are a means to an end, not an end in themselves. When practice or membership become the dominant factor in our life, rather than its knowledge and experience enhancing all areas of our life, then we must change our priorities immediately.
An example of the differing priorities practitioners and organizational leaders face is clearly exhibited in the course that the Self-Realization Fellowship (SRF), established by Paramhansa Yogananda in 1920, a contemporary of AMORC. In his autobiography, The New Path – My Life with Paramhansa Yogananda, Swami Kriyananda states:
“Trained as I was in Master’s [Yogananda] teachings, and familiar with the clear insights they offered as correctives to the confused thinking of our age, I determined to vie people an hones basis for spiritual faith. … My new way of thinking was directed toward attuning myself to people’s needs, rather than the institution’s demands or expectations of me. This approach, unfortunately, set me at odds with the senior nuns in Master’s work, whose concern centered entirely on the needs of the organization itself. [Sister] Tara insisted that, in every situation, the first question we ask ourselves be, “What is best for the work?” To me, the work itself meant addressing the needs of those who came to use for help. … My own conviction, however, backed by his frequent, and fervent, declarations, has always been that he came to effect fundamental change in the whole of society: in the way people live, think, work, and worship. His women disciples saw his mission in terms of their control over it. I myself saw it in terms of the inspiration we could share.” (P.510-513)
I recently read what may very well be an applicable analogy to esoteric organizations as well those so dismissively referred to as “mundane.” It is also fitting to the current revival of interest in the “favored son of Providence” – H.P. Lovecraft. It states: to know the inner workings of how your organization really works is like an initiation into a Lovecraftian horror. The profound realization that plans are made, actions taken, but that no one seems to really be in charge, – and what we mean is ultimately responsible for everything within the organization. Everyone has grown comfortable assuming that someone else is taking care of things – only to realize no one is – and somehow things continue to function. Maybe that is the real beauty and even humor of it all: often no one person, being, or entity is in charge and things still more or less function.
In fact, it is painful to realize that the emotional relationship that has been actively cultivated over years, and in some instances a decade or more, is in reality just one-sided; that we cannot really count on the organization or its members in times of duress and personal struggle; and that requests for assistance are not met with material aid but polite and well-meaning platitudes and maybe some prayers or periods of meditation on our behalf. This is not to dismiss these forms of metaphysical intervention, simply to point out, this is no different than what one gets from nearly all religious or spiritual organizations. In the end, we are left to solve our problems on our own and this may or may not involve those with whom we are associated. Our associations MAY give us a contact or connection, or some material benefit in the moment of need, but that is not its purpose – training us to be self-reliant is. Self-reliant means to be responsible, and we can only be as responsible as we are free – free of external obligations and conditions, as well as internal ones.
There is also the reality of idealism being a poor substitute for living. Many idealists are miserable people because they have failed to achieve their goals – that is, the salvation, perfection, or enlightenment of humanity and the establishing of some Utopian ideal – be it large or small. In his book, People in Quandaries, Wendell Johnson wrote:
“It is neither an index to human nature nor an accident of chance that most, if not all, so-called maladjusted persons in our society may be viewed as frustrated and distraught idealists. Distraught because they are frustrated, and frustrated because they are idealists, they are a living testimony of the price we pay for the traditions we cherish, and for the aspirations which those traditions encourage, together with the restrictions which they tend to enforce. It is not that this idealism is always immediately apparent — on the contrary, it is rather likely, as a rule, to elude the superficial observer.
Quandaries, then, are rather like verbal cocoons in which individuals elaborately encase themselves, and from which, under circumstances common in our time, they do not tend to hatch. The peculiar structure of these cocoons appears to be determined in great measure by the structure of the society in which they are formed — and the structure of this society has been and continues to be determined significantly by the structure of the language which we so unconsciously acquire and so unreflectively employ. Simply by using that language and by living in terms of the basic orientation which it represents and fosters, we tend to cultivate the idealism and so to suffer the frustration and demoralization which are so conspicuous in the lives of people in quandaries.” We could easily replace “verbal cocoons” with specialized language and terms, and “society” with movement, organization, or group – the effect would be the same.
Language shapes our thinking and perception of ourselves, others, and the cosmos. Change our language, and we change our self-perception. This is well known by advertisers, politicians, psychotherapists, and at one time, to esotericists of all stripes. Control the language, and you control the self-perception. Control the discussion, what can and cannot be discussed, and you control the people involved. Hence the use of family terms to reframe relationships in various organizations. One is a “Brother” or “Sister,” and the leaders is a “Mother” or “Father.” The group as a whole is considered a “family’. This is not inherently good or bad, simply a way of changing how people in the group relate to each other. Any moral judgment is a matter assessing the outcomes of the framework and not the framework itself.
I was once asked by a member of a spiritual movement, and this could easily have been any number of similar organizations, or even churches or political movements, about leaving the group. His reasons were simple, “I like the people and practices, but do not feel a strong connection to the overall organization. It was really my local lodge that I loved and adored. It is gone and I want to move on. It is like an old girlfriend from high school or college. I can’t seem to let her go after investing all these years into the relationship.”
I replied, “The key word is ‘investing’. That means you expected a return. What was that return? Did you get it? If so, then good. If not, then that is fine too, so move on.”
We talked some more about how to break the pull of various egregores. In the end, my friend was able to create a healthy distance from his esoteric group and the sense of loss that accompanied it when it shut down after decades of operation. This allowed him to move on to more fulfilling activities. To show his gratitude he made an annual donation to a group several hours away as his way of saying ‘thank you.’ After a few years, he packed up all his organization specific regalia and stored it away for good, eventually burning it on one Summer Solstice. The prayers he recited were simple: “Thank you for all you have given me, and all I have learned, and now I reclaim my powers invested into you, and claim them for myself, to the glory of the gods and the benefit of all creation.”
He now is his “own man” in the true sense of the word, and is happy, successful, and nearly a household name to many of you. In the end, we must stand on our own, and in doing so, become a powerful pillar and example for others as we journey on the Path of Return.