Mishkan ha-Echad

Saturday, 6 September 2008

Mathers on the "Secret Chiefs"

"Concerning the Secret Chiefs of the Order, to whom I make reference and from whom I have received the Wisdom of the Second Order which I have communicated to you, I can tell you nothing.

I do not even know their earthly names.

I know them only by certain mottoes.

I have but very rarely seen them in the physical body; and on such rare occasions the rendezvous was made astrally by them at the time and place which had been astrally appointed beforehand.

For my part I believe them to be human and living upon the earth but possessing terrible superhuman powers.

When such rendezvous has been in a much frequented place, there has been nothing in their personal appearance or dress to mark them out as differing in any way from ordinary people except the appearance and sensation of transcendental health and physical vigour (whether they seemed persons in youth or in age) which was their invariable accompaniment. In other words, the physical appearance which the possession of the Elixir of Life has traditionally been supposed to confer.

On the other hand, when the rendezvous has been in a place free from easy access by the Outer World they have usually been in symbolic robes and insignia.

But my physical intercourse with them on these rare occasions has shown me how difficult it is for a mortal, even though advanced in occultism, to support the actual presence of an Adept in the physical body; and such meetings have never been granted to my own personal request but only by their own special appointment, and usually only for some reason of extra vital importance.

I do not mean that in such rare cases of physical converse with them that the effect produced on me was that of intense exhaustion which follows depletion of magnetism, but, on the contrary, the sensation was that of being in contact with so terrible a force that I can only compare it to the continued effect of that usually experienced momentarily by any person close to whom a flash of lightning passes during a violent storm, coupled with a difficulty in respiration similar to the half strangling effect produced by ether; and if such was the result produced in me, as tested as I have been in practical occult work, I cannot conceive a much less advanced initiate being able to support such a strain even for five minutes without death ensuing."

- S.L. MacGregor Mathers, Manifesto (1896)

It is very clear in this account that Mathers believed the Secret Chiefs to be "in the flesh", although one could argue that he could be posturing this belief, like the belief in Anna Sprengel. The physical meetings part seems somewhat ambiguous, since Mathers qualifies this statement by saying that the rendezvous was made astrally, which would mean it wasn't a physical meeting at all, and yet back-peddles again to speak of the immense strain of the rare physical meetings. It seems that we must be content with his earlier admission that he can tell us "nothing" about these Secret Chefs, and perhaps, in the end, they are meant to remain secret.
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