Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
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 Task of a Probationer – also that of a Neophyte)
The onset of the dark season of winter Solstice must be what’s made my mind turn to secrecy. There is a sense, at this time, of approaching a mystery that’s hard to articulate (like all mysteries), and a concomitant feeling of that mystery disclosing itself to some extent.
I might as well be honest up-front: I think Crowley was wrong about secrecy in the mysteries. Truth is found within mystery, not despite it. And, there are 21 uses of the word ‘secret’ in The Book of the Law: Aiwass was not at all averse to things being kept from outsiders, viz:
I, 10: Let my servants be few & secret; they shall rule the many & the known.
I, 49: Hoor in his secret name and splendour is the Lord initiating.
II, 39: A feast for Tahuti and the child of the Prophet – secret, O Prophet!
III, 22: I am the visible object of worship; the others are secret; for the Beast & his Bride are they: and for the winners of the Ordeal x. What is this? Thou shalt know.
And so on.
But why do we use secrecy? Unlike the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn that Crowley joined, our Temple doesn’t conceal our existence; we’re on Facebook and we hold public events two or three times a year. We don’t hide that our rituals are derived from the HOGD originals, or rather from the Cipher Manuscripts, though with significant Thelemic revisions. And so on.
There are a couple of different aspects to this topic. One is that there can be practical reasons for not proclaiming openly a connection to a Thelemic fraternity. Only senior Adepti, that I’m aware of, ever do it anyway. It’s too easy for friends and employers to take offence, or use such an affiliation as an excuse to project their prejudices. It is useful, though, to proclaim it wherever there are receptive individuals or groups, and everyone needs to identify their own comfort zone in that.
But unless we actually want to alienate people, such proclamation can create barriers, not constructive communication. Often it simply isn’t relevant information. Most people couldn’t care less about our spiritual yearnings, and can’t interpret what they mean anyway. Crowley, I suspect, assumed that initiates of A.’.A.’. would be talking to intelligent, perceptive people, and that the numbers of such would increase as the Aeon unfolded. He wasn’t wrong, but I think he was over-optimistic on the timeline.
The other issue around secrecy is that any order, even if it draws its original rituals from Israel Regardie’s published work, has added and subtracted text. The subtle nuances of those changes are highly important.
And that, I think, is the nub of the secrecy issue.
The essence of a mystery school lies not necessarily in its teachings, which might be found in a dozen books. Nor is such a school of much use if we just gather and discuss our latest philosophical conclusions, since these will naturally change (if we’re actively doing the Work) every few months. The key thing with an order or temple is that it celebrates mystery through ritual, within the warded precincts of a sacred space, and thus eludes the thinking mind with its opinions and other distractions, in order to touch the Divine. The rituals, with their wording varying from one order to the next, help condition the tone of this sacred space, just as the continuing experience of that sacred space in turn feeds back into revisions of the text of the rites.
The A.’.A.’. works differently, given that it’s a chain system from teacher to student/teacher to student/teacher. Crowley and Jones were adamant, at least in the early days, that members not know of others’ involvement. In their system, the solo practitioner is required to view other A.’.A.’. aspirants as outsiders. (“Thus ye have star & star, system & system; let not one know well the other.” Liber L, I, v.50).
Maybe, then, I’m wrong, at least partly. Crowley did believe in secrecy. The A.’.A.’. Zelator ritual was supposed to remain unpublished, and certain other instructions and rituals remain confidential as well.
There is a point where the aspirant completes a significant portion of the inbound quest: at that point, Hadit is essentially functional within. Some people, as I’ve complained on my Warden’s blog, believe this marks the onset of K&C. It doesn’t, though it’s a good stage to reach. As a consequence of it, the urge to reach out to Nuit renews itself, and the two principles alternate at various times thereafter. At this point, secrecy becomes moot because any words that might describe the journey are too trite to convey much (oneness, nothingness, Light….), and the aspirant can thus declare the whole of the mystery while only being able to reveal it, in practical terms, to those close to realising it themselves.
But in the general run of lodge or temple work, secrecy is not an outmoded irrelevance, but a magical weapon just as much as the cup, the sword or the sceptres.
Love is the law, love under will,