You May Be a Member of a Secret Society and Not Even Know It

I spent my holidays reading a lot of esoteric literature. After polishing off Louis Bergier’s The Morning of the Magicians, I moved on to a cache of Rosicrucian literature in my collection, and then a book on Jungian symbolism. To top it all off, I started reading Manly P. Hall’s The Secret Teachings of All Ages.
Fantasy and Fantastic Reality

This isn’t a new habit for me, mind you: I’ve always enjoyed reading philosophical, magical and mystical texts. I’ve half-joked with friends that I’m some kind of amphibian: I need to spend a least part of my day submerged in the fantastic. This isn’t necessarily a healthy way to live, but to quote Shirley Jackson, “No live organism can continue for long to exist sanely under conditions of absolute reality; even larks and katydids are supposed, by some, to dream.”

There are rewards, too, though: Learning to safely entertain multiple contradictory ideas is one of them; developing a sense for symbolism and correspondences is another.

Angels and Daemons

I’ve been considering the practice and philosophy of magick as largely being a process of psychological development. I’ve seen some parallels between the Rosicrucian “God of Your Heart“, Aleister’s Crowley’s “Holy Guardian Angel“, and the daemons and muses spoken of by the Classic philosophers.

“Tell me about your Holy Mother”

All of these occult practices can be easily paralleled with Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow’s psychological concept of “Self-Actualization” and C.G. Jung’s “Individuation”. Crowley’s “Do What Thou Wilt” seems to me to suggest discovering what you true will is – essentially who you are inside – and acting on it. It’s not a license for licentiousness, but rather a mandate for self-discovery.

The outer lodge and Presbyterian Ladies’ Pot-Luck

Religions are rife with this kind of symbolism, but it seems that many people are happy when they’re not aware of it. They’re comfortable with the edicts of organized religion… the comfort of canon. Many of the religiously minded will live and serve and grow and die within this structure. That’s okay, I guess, but what if the process of spiritual (or psychological) growth is structured like a secret society? The Golden Dawn, perhaps the most famous magickal lodge in the Western tradition, famously had an inner order and an outer order. Only the most promising students ever learned that the inner order existed. Could the mainstream religions serve as that outer order, and the pure experience of mysticism something most people never even discover?

“Chances are you’re a member of a secret society and don’t even know it”

Lately, the concept of “The Invisible College” has been of great interest: What of those brothers and sisters in esoteric belief united in the effort to find and share enlightenment? Does this shared goal make them a secret society of sorts? Could the most secretive secret society be the one that doesn’t know it exists?

90 Comments on "You May Be a Member of a Secret Society and Not Even Know It"

  1. Ted Heistman | Jan 2, 2013 at 7:11 pm |

    “Lately, the concept of “The Invisible College” has been of great interest: What of those brothers and sisters in esoteric belief united in the effort to find and share enlightenment? Does this shared goal make them a secret society of sorts? Could the most secretive secret society be the one that doesn’t know it exists?”

    I think you are onto something…Seems like a very bullet proof organizational structure

  2. Ted Heistman | Jan 2, 2013 at 7:13 pm |

    The concept of the HGA has been a long time fascination for me.

  3. but the answer should ( for some is ) be simple…it is in at least two of the books you’ve read. Funny thing is that this remains invisible for the same reasons… and this is exactly the answer… but that’s just me. Igonore it..

  4. Calypso_1 | Jan 2, 2013 at 9:06 pm |

    Contrary to the lack of rumors pertaining to the existence of such societies within this site, if there were to be an allegedly secret society, some of you might be in it. Of course it would be up to you to know who you are. Quite understandably, I (we) would deny all knowledge of your knowledge of our knowledge.

    Further enquiries should be addressed to Camron Wiltshire.

  5. Could the mainstream religions serve as that outer order, and the pure experience of mysticism something most people never even discover?

    Perhaps religion can be perceived as for spectating and speculating, while mysticism may require a more active role.

  6. In MASKS OF THE ILLUMINATI, as you may recall, Robert Anton Wilson revealed the identity of the Most High Epopt as … Walter Mitty. Verbum sap.

    • Matt Staggs | Jan 2, 2013 at 10:11 pm |

      Gotta read that again.

      • Calypso_1 | Jan 3, 2013 at 12:20 am |

        I wonder what percentage of disinfonauts have read a RAW book while on a psychedelic? ; )

        • Why would they? I mean, they could attempt to.

          • Calypso_1 | Jan 3, 2013 at 12:36 am |

            I’m not sure I understand the question.

            Are you suggesting that such an endeavor is improbable?

            I personally know of at least a dozen individuals who have read the Illuminatus Trillogy whilst communing with Uncle Sid.

          • How did they sit still? For starters… let alone understand a single word. Seriously, books never entered the equation. I spent most of the time laughing my ass off.

          • Calypso_1 | Jan 3, 2013 at 12:56 am |

            I cannot equate for your own experience. As for mine own companeros, our endeavors were perhaps a bit more practiced.
            As to understanding…… : ) oh my – would like to buy a ticket?

  7. On the other hand, Vonnegut’s concept of the “karass” – a team organized by the Creator for a certain purpose, of which the members of the karass may well be completely ignorant – might be relevant here.

  8. But I think the key question is, “Who collects the dues?”

  9. All it takes to be a member of a society of like-minded individuals is to be active in reaching toward a common goal. Knowledge (or even self-knowledge) isn’t a necessary requirement — but can help in terms of communication and efficiency. And I can say it helps cut down on power squabbles and political infighting if even the members don’t realize it exists.

    • Calypso_1 | Jan 2, 2013 at 10:11 pm |

      Within the context of ‘secret’ societies would the membership need be of like mind or common goal? History shows well that the dynamics of oppositional forces are conductive to outside intentions, which is the crux of much conspiratorial conceptualizing. Need to know operatives need not know who they serve or to what end.

  10. BuzzCoastin | Jan 2, 2013 at 10:49 pm |

    “But ultimately the last trick has to be done by you.”
    Joseph Campbell
    The Power of Myth/Episode One: The Hero’s Adventure

    • Calypso_1 | Jan 3, 2013 at 12:30 am |

      Yes. Yes, indeed it does.

    • Matt Staggs | Jan 3, 2013 at 9:25 am |

      I love Joseph Campbell. “Hero with a Thousand Faces” was a game-changer.

      • Calypso_1 | Jan 3, 2013 at 9:54 am |

        That’s the stuff that should be taught in sunday school.

      • BuzzCoastin | Jan 3, 2013 at 10:09 am |

        I encounter Campbell about the same time I encountered The Course in Miracles, pretty interesting juxtaposition.

        Campbell naturally leads to Jung and Jung is an esoteric scholar of the old old school.

        But at the end of the day
        they can point just a way
        and it finally comes down to just hue.

      • mannyfurious | Jan 3, 2013 at 11:53 am |

        Hero with a Thousand faces is actually one of his least interesting books, for my money. His Masks of God series is a little dense and academic, but one of the most rewarding reads in “Western” lit.

  11. kowalityjesus | Jan 2, 2013 at 11:36 pm |

    “But, wherever a man goes, men will pursue and paw him with their dirty institutions, and, if they can, constrain him to belong to their desperate odd-fellow society.” -H.D.Thoreau

    • Calypso_1 | Jan 3, 2013 at 12:29 am |

      pawing men, dirty institutions, constraints?…I suspected not such a tawdry bent to your inclinations good sir.

      • kowalityjesus | Jan 3, 2013 at 2:23 am |

        its an individualist manifesto, a demeaning comment towards those who wish to profit off of another’s elevations. It may be a bit unexpectedly base, but I am yet an ideological chimera holding relics from many past paradigms. Hopefully I can learn to serve one master, to avoid perdition.

        • Calypso_1 | Jan 3, 2013 at 2:31 am |

          Chimeras are, at the very least, more than welcome.

        • Ittabena | Jan 3, 2013 at 4:52 pm |

          In keeping with the theme of the post… Is there not evidence enough that this is perdition, and paradise at the same time? Gotta go to work and sell unsuspecting folks High Fructose Corn Syrup. Hey, I educate who I can.

          • kowalityjesus | Jan 4, 2013 at 7:31 am |

            At thedrug store where I work, they are offering the equivalent of a $1 in-store coupon to buy a two liter of pepsi, but I still do not do it because the entire corn syrup mafia is a system of capitalizing on destroying top soil and commandeering subsidies. So jacked… one of the forces propelling the usa to its dooom.

          • When I started there two years ago we sold about a case of Mexican Coke (real sugar, old taste) a month, now we sell about four or five cases a week, and we now carry Mexican Pepsi as well. And all this is my fault entirely, he said proudly. I have my HFCS and Aspartame speeches down pat too…

  12. Everything’s a conspiracy and we’re all in on it.

  13. NathanSpeller | Jan 3, 2013 at 1:03 am |

    Excellent! love it, thanks.

  14. im sure most religions have a ‘veil’ between the masses and the elite, an inner and outer order. interesting point

  15. Ittabena | Jan 3, 2013 at 2:21 am |

    I am going to hazard a guess here Matt… Where you raised Catholic as well?

    The mind swims with your premise, but wait… What if we were all part of an even bigger and more ambiguous secret society? In this case the members would know, somewhere in the back of their minds, that they were a part, but would deny it even to themselves, and even to their own peril. Why would they deny this so stubbornly? Why, for little rectangular pieces of paper – whose value can be made to fluctuate wildly – called promissory notes! What else? The name of this secret society I cannot divulge, since I am one of the few these days that know they are a part, though I am sure you yourself suspect strongly already.

    And what if, just what if, the end of the Mayan Calendar was about our discovering this en mass. Sshh, I hear a noise outside… Gotta go, it is surely an other member. We didn’t have this talk.

  16. Deicidus | Jan 3, 2013 at 2:45 am |

    Welcome to the real Illuminati. Get to work, the world is about to implode :-).

  17. Deicidus | Jan 3, 2013 at 2:47 am |

    P.S. Here are some instructions. You can decode it with your crystal implant.

  18. kn0tzer033 | Jan 3, 2013 at 12:31 pm |

    A globally circumstantial initiation began long ago, Manly, Jung,
    Crowley and many others were the gate keepers of their respective eras.
    Now a whole summoned amalgamation of esoteric seekers and mystical
    navigators has emerged from them scribing what the exoteric religions
    condemned for centuries. Bringing about a potentially evolutionary
    cyclone of analysis and application. It is not a secret anymore.
    “Evolution is natural for the wise, and inevitable for the foolish.”
    Manly P. Hall

  19. lazy_friend | Jan 3, 2013 at 4:08 pm |

    If I knew about it, it would not be secret.

  20. BrianApocalypse | Jan 3, 2013 at 4:32 pm |

    Ever read some conspiracy theory and identified with the conspirators?

  21. as im tired of hearing the word, i will explain why, in hopes to garner rapport in the domain of opinions on the use of the word magic, or magic with a k, or however many other gay spellings there may be, the word itself is an extremely deceptive word and concept.
    the explanation is as follows.
    what is but what has been experienced. there is no such thing as magic,
    or magic with a k. there is only what is. the word magic seeks to
    pedestalize happenings deemed uncommon. the practitioner of reality’s
    avenues seeks to, through faith, depedastalize anything that seems
    unattainable. the use of that word by anyone has at its heart the intention to distance the perciever from the possibility of the percieved.

  22. emperorreagan | Jan 3, 2013 at 10:48 pm |

    Your mom is a secret society.

    (Infantile response of the day)

    • Matt Staggs | Jan 4, 2013 at 9:23 am |

      I’m imagining this in Napoleon Dynamite’s voice.

      • emperorreagan | Jan 4, 2013 at 3:49 pm |

        I did go to high school 30 miles from where they filmed that, so there’s a certain affinity.

  23. Anonymous | Jan 5, 2013 at 12:22 am |

    I always knew some “higher order” has been looking out for me all my life.

  24. sambacomet | Jan 9, 2013 at 12:08 am |

    This piece seems like just a bit of backgorund- a set up w/ no punchline. Like watching a stage hand set props on stage. Where’s the action?

  25. I love that Shirley Jackson quote.

  26. VaudeVillain | Jan 9, 2013 at 8:37 pm |

    On a humorous note, a few months ago I was informed by a (long) essay on a conspiracy theory board that I am part of the Illuminati. Not personally, mind you, but my entirely not secret semi-membership in an open group. An open group that enjoys trailrunning and drinking.

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