Mishkan ha-Echad

Monday, 27 July 2009

Asceticism in the Golden Dawn, Part 2

Some time last year I made a post on asceticism in the Golden Dawn, which included sources primarily from the Cromlech Temple, with a small passage from Westcott from one of the Flying Rolls. Recently I was re-reading another Flying Roll, also by Westcott, which deals with the matter of asceticism much more thoroughly, further reinforcing the points made in the previous post.

"It has been urged against us that, as a society, we do not preach the necessity for such strict purity of life as do the Theosophists. It may be true that we are not always preaching it, and as we do not hold public meetings, the same opportunities for doing so does not exist. If, however, there is one thing more than another which I would impress upon you as a social sin, it is that of hypocrisy. As to asceticism, the Hermetists have always taught that this necessary purity of mind should and can be combined with the absence of all ostentatious morality and of un-natural habits of life.

The Western Teachers have always recognised the fact that for so long human life has been so painful, that to most people these studies would be denied if they were to insist upon asceticism, and they have found by experience that a very considerable amount of success without attendant danger may be obtained by those who are willing to make strenuous efforts, without the aid of positive asceticism. It seems to me that the chief danger of asceticism in a city like this and at the present time is that even if we succeed, the extra advantage which we shall derive from totally abstaining from these things of the sense, will be counterweighted by a distinct and added danger of falling, on the other hand, into the Scylla of hypocrisy which I have mentioned. What is apt to happen is this, óthat a man is liable to compare himself with his neighbours, and say how much better he is than others. Now self congratulation is second only to open hypocrisy, and we hold that it is just as harmful to spiritual progress. On the other hand if you make strenuous efforts to lead a moral life, if you do this while leading a pure life in the city, if you succeed in doing these things, you may depend upon it that your reward will be grater than his who removes himself from his fellows and shuts himself up in a forest. The reward of a man who can remain pure and yet live in the midst of a crowded city is greater than his who avoids the responsibilities of life by burying himself in a wilderness."

- N.O.M. (Westcott), Flying Roll No. XIX

I agree strongly with Westcott's views here, especially in regard to hypocrisy and how it is much more difficult (and honest and rewarding) to live with temptation and thus resist it than to remove oneself from temptation and pretend that one is resisting it.
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