Mishkan ha-Echad

Wednesday, 3 September 2008

My Views on the "Secret Chiefs"

The Secret Chiefs are one of the most controversial topics within Golden Dawn circles today, and were the focus of much debate and furore in the original Order and its offshoots some 100 years ago. Mathers brought the term into the Golden Dawn when he established the Inner Order, claiming to have contacted the Secret Chiefs of the Third Order (thus giving him primary authority). However, it wasn't readily apparent whether these were actual people (whether incarnate "Masters" or not) or discarnate entities, although some of the language used to describe them (including their questionable ages) seems to intimate that they were allegorical constructs, like much of Rosicrucian teaching (and very similar to the fanciful tales of Christian Rosenkreutz himself). However, this did not stop many Golden Dawn members from looking for the Secret Chiefs in the flesh, most notable of which was Felkin, who, like the others, came back unsuccessful. It must be noted that Felkin also believed the Vault of Christian Rosenkreutz was a real construct, and also searched for that, so he can hardly be judged as the most critical of minds on such matters.

The way I consider the "Secret Chiefs" at present is that they (and other astral masters) are personifications of the Current of the group in question (in this case, the Golden Dawn). There is a definite "sentience" to a magical Current, which means that there is definitive Briatic consciousness, for want of a better term. However, we would project our own Yetziratic personae onto that Briatic consciousness, and the Current would actively facilitate this. Thus, the heart of the message is transmitted, but the vessel of it, the form it takes (including language choice and grammar) is dependent entirely on the receiver. This explains why grammatical errors of old English and the like show up in channelled works.

So, the Secret Chiefs are, in a sense, metaphorical. They are a way of describing what is a somewhat abstract form of contact with the Current, a kind of magical "collective consciousness", to borrow Jung's terminology. Indeed, I believe the older Rosicrucian groups originated the term "Secret Chiefs" (roughly in the 1700s, from the German unbekannte Oberen), and, like most elements of Rosicrucian teaching, it is meant to be allegorical, not literal. However, there is a reality behind the allegory - except it is much less fanciful, and anyone with a true connection and a receptive vessel can establish this contact with the Current - otherwise known in personified form as the "Secret Chiefs".


Peregrin said...

Hi Dean,

Thank you once again for your posts and views. Here are a couple of my own :)

When looking at the original Golden Dawn view of the Secret Chiefs it is obvious how influenced Mathers and others were by the Theosophical Society’s conception of ‘the Masters’. The confusion and blurring of boundaries between these beings being physical or non-physical stems from the descriptions and experiences of the Masters by TS folk like Olcott and in particular, Leadbeater. It is not in vogue these days, as it was back then, to have physical Masters (often from ‘the east’) appearing and guiding all over the shop, so we don’t. Though there are of course plenty of traditional accounts of beings who are both non-physical and occasionally (and sometimes scarily) physical - the Faery.

I agree with your understanding and views here. However, I would like to add some food for thought.

How do we decide if a phenomenon ‘is’ or ‘is not’ an individual being or person? For example, we can experience inner plane teachings from an individual teacher. The same inner teacher and the same ‘personality’ can be experienced in pretty much the same manner by different people separated by thousands of miles and a hundred years. And in my experience most inner teachers have a stronger personalities and more developed senses of self than many ‘real’ physical people I know, particularly members of fundamentalist religions. The ‘meeting’ of many inner plane teachers is something so real and palpable that it is never forgotten, unlike the meeting of many ‘real’ people.

However, we do not describe physical human beings, regardless of their lack of individuation as ‘personifications of the group in question’, mostly because they have a physical body we can touch and taste (if we were so inclined). From a technical esoteric perspective though until individuation dawns, we are simply personifications of the combined egregores of our culture, society and karma. And from a Buddhist perspective no one actually exists from their own side; we are dependant on the perceptions and interactions of others for our existence.

Given all this, these days I accept the ‘reality’ of the Secret Chiefs as much as the ‘reality’ of the clone-drones from the various political parties hawking for my vote in the last week. Thanks :)


Sincerus Renatus... said...

The story of P.F. Case and his "secret chief" of the Third Order - the Master R. - is quite a interesting story. On one hand he claimed to have received "the Book of Tokens" from him through the oija board (as well as some contents of his lessons) but on the other hand he clearly states in his lessons that he also met Master R. in the flesh. He also says that they (i.e. the secret chiefs) live a full life in our world, i.e. that they doesn't scorn the benefits of material life as would be expected. Paul Foster case actually states that his first contact with Master R. was through a telephone conversation. Later they met in a fashionable restaruant in New York (if my memory serves me right).

Interesting paradox i would say. Personally i project my idealisations on the Geheime Oberen to be masters in the flesh with more than average powers (some would call it superhuman). They have become more than humans, but this doesn't mean that they necessarily must be ascended masters on the inner planes.

However, I also believe that "the current" of a tradition, its egregore, have a briatic aspect as you say which can tap into the ocean of archetypes and eternal wisdom, i.e. "the angelic realm". Perhaps even collectives - egregores - have a "holy guardian angel" like individuals do?

But I believe we must separate the guardian angels from the secret chiefs. The german rosicrucians believed that the Geheime Oberen consisted of a secret collage of Adepts that some day would show up and lead their organisation. It's easily discernable when studying these conceptions in the Stricht Observance and the Gold- √ľnd Rosenkreutz. This concept was one of the reasons of the downfall of both organizations.

The notion of ascended masters has theosophic connotations. We must not forget that Blavatski had a huge influence on the chiefs of both the original G.D. and the later S.M.


Frater Yechidah said...

Ave Peregrin,

Thanks for the comment. I look forward to some updates on your own blog :)

There was, without a doubt, an influence from the Theosophical Society on the Golden Dawn idea of the "Secret Chiefs", although it seems that the original Rosicrucian idea of the latter may have influenced the former too. I'm wondering if the SRIA has any teachings on the Secret Chiefs, as much SRIA material appears to come from the Gold- und Rosenkreutz Order.

There are traditional accounts for gods pulling the Sun cross the sky in a chariot, but there is no reason for us to take this literally. Likewise with accounts of the Fae/ry, although the latter beliefs come from a time period closer to our own.

The issue of whether or not we can decide if the expression of the Current in this form is a personification or an actual being is, in my mind, undecided at present, although I lean more towards the personification side. This doesn't mean that people can't interact with the SAME personification, however, as, at the end of the day, it's the same Current. However, there is a fine line between a sentient egregore and actual astral/spiritual beings, and the jury's still not out on this matter in relation to the Secret Chiefs. Part of the ambiguity about their nature is probably part and parcel of the "secret" element of their name.

I like your thoughts on humanity being personifications of the "egregore" of its surroundings. In some ways this is true. I think the Buddhist perspective here would be very helpful for understanding the Secret Chiefs.

Thanks again for the comment :)


Frater Yechidah said...

Ave S.R.,

Thanks for the comment :)

You make some good points about "Master R." I think there may be some truth to the "received" nature of certain texts, but there's probably some embellishment of details too, such as the phone call thing, unless Case met someone later who he believed to be R (in much the same way Mathers thought Horos was Sprengel).

I think "ideally" many people want to believe that the Secret Chiefs are in the flesh, as that means communication with them is easier (and it also affirms our goal of becoming "more than human", as you mention). I've experienced connections to egregores, including reception of material (rituals, documents, diagrams, etc.), and these have occured in a variety of ways, including angelic entities, abstract Current constructs, and so forth, but never any "Masters in the flesh", unfortunately. Admittedly I have limited experience, and I cannot base the truth on my experiences alone, but thus far I see no justification for the "in the flesh" perspective other then it being idealistic. However, this does not invalidate your view, as many of the original Order members believed likewise.

Thanks again for sharing your vies :)


Vick D'Mental said...

I find your views lucid and worthy of suggesting to others when considering the Secret Chiefs.

Having dealt with persons who have claimed to either be in contact with or even BE Secret Chiefs I have formed a hard-and-fast rule: What claims to be an ascended master or to know an ascended, isn't or doesn't.

If we are pressed to consider a living entity to fill the role of a Secret Chief it would probably suit our purposes to look towards those individuals who have transformed the world in some drastic and tangible way through inspiring a revolution in art, science, music, mathematics, religion, philosophy, or literature. But this should only be the case if we are pressed to make our Secret Chiefs flesh and blood. Then the question begs itself, "Who was more significant to the advancement of mankind: Aleistery Crowley or Albert Einstein?"

My answer keeps a full head of hair!

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