Thursday, January 22, 2009

What is a Mystery School?

In an earlier post, I said that a mystery school was a support group for recovering materialists. While true, that description is not precise enough. Mystery schools are strictly for the hermetic path of recovery, that path that emphasizes balancing the different components of the personality using symbol systems with an eventual goal of realization of Unity Consciousness. There are support groups for people on the mystic path, but they go by different names: churches, ashrams and the like.

That said, there are many mystery schools, but this is my favorite. So what can you expect from a mystery school? A good mystery school will provide the following:

  1. lessons explaining the group's doctrine

  2. a knowledge base or reading list

  3. the opportunity for group work

Do you need a mystery school? Strictly speaking, no. You can learn everything you need to on your own with a suitable reading list and sufficient dedication. Also, mystery school or not, there's a lot of work that you'll have to do by yourself. However, a mystery school is helpful in that they can point you in the right direction, and provide support from the other members. So here's how to decide: if you know, or can determine, which books are worth reading, and have enough time and energy to devote yourself to the study of those books and the exercises therein, you don't need a mystery school. Otherwise, give it a try, at least for a little while.


Sasha Chaitow said...

A word of dissent if I may! You use a key phrase: "if you know or can determine which books are worth reading..."

The trouble is that with such a plethora of books out there it is not always easy to be clear on something like this, and also that the guidance and initiatory system found in (all Western) mystery schools is structured very carefully for a reason. While I would agree that if one reads long and widely enough on matters esoteric, and keeps one's eyes and ears open, many of the experiences to be gained through initiation are very likely to come one's way, there is an ever-present danger of confusion which can on occasion be dangerous in a number of ways.

Secrecy in mystery schools is there for primarily two reasons. One is because an experience cannot be truly communicated, as it is on an inner level and so personal that a description does not communicate its full nature. The other relates to mental stability. The root of all initiation is self-knowledge. For some this is an easy concept, for others it is akin to death and the start of a number of difficult realisations. Undertaken without the "safety-valves" of the degree system it can have adverse effects, to the extent of making the individual quite delusional. While reading is one of the best ways for more enlightened and stronger individuals to seek out an esoteric spiritual path uasing their own judgment as a guide, it engages only the intellect UNLESS that individual is aware of and able to engage their other spiritual and mental faculties. THe difference is the same as that between reading sbout fighting in close combat, a near-death experience, or even skydiving - and actually doign so and retaining the memory of those experiences through all the senses. An experience cannot be internalised and assimilated until it is... experienced. While life can provide those kinds of "lessons" to awake and aware individuals, it is not a rule of thumb, and not everyone is at the same level of awareness, whether due to cultural conditioning, maturity, or simply intellectual capacity. Mystery schools (or at least the reputable ones) provide a safe and gentle way in with support and safety-nets along the way. Plus there's something to be said for the shared group consciousness - known as the egregore - which is a further consideraiton on a subtle level.

Just my two cents...

Larry Coleman said...

Sasha, thanks for the comment. It's good to know I'm not totally alone in the desert. :-)

This is a very good point that actually raises another. Sturgeon's Law (90% of everything is crap) applies to mystery schools as well, at least if the history of the Golden Dawn is any indication.

What you've said about the reasons for secrecy is absolutely correct, and is why I'm a B.O.T.A. member.

Feel free to chime in with dissent any time you want. It will probably be better than the article you're responding to!

Sasha Chaitow said...

QUOTE: "Sturgeon's Law (90% of everything is crap) applies to mystery schools as well, at least if the history of the Golden Dawn is any indication."

At the risk of opening myself to a barrage of hate-mail, I'll second that! Which is why I think sorting the wheat from the chaff is an initiatory experience all by itself! (Plato thought so too!)

Glad you don't mind me leaping in, keep it up!

Sasha Chaitow said...

P.S. Where would a good mystery school be without internal politics...

Larry Coleman said...

Sasha, thanks again for your comments. I wouldn't worry too much about a barrage of hate mail. My membership number with B.O.T.A. is in the very low five digits. Most of them have come tried other things first, so I'm sure they'll understand. And if you anger a few Golden Dawn members, is that really such a bad thing?

As for sorting the wheat from the chaff, I still think that anyone who can do that can also do the same with the available literature. Let's argue about that some more.