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The Western Mystery Tradition

by Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki

In the late eighteen-hundreds Helena Petrovna Blavatsky introduced the West to the Mysteries of the East. In doing so she re-vitalised the way in which we in the west think about religion: she changed us for good. Theosophy became all the rage and group and societies sprang up all over Europe and England. A great deal of good came out of this because it made it obvious to those who thought deeply that the East held a lot of magical knowledge we had never heard about. It made the West hungry for more.

But it was not enough. There were those who, while they admitted the importance of what Blavatsky had done, felt that the West should seek out its own ancient ways of the higher Mind. They turned to Greece, to Rome, to Sumeria and of course to Egypt seeking to understand what the ancient believed in and how they worshipped. The East, they argued, has much to offer, but it most benefits those of Eastern descent. The romance of it all caught the imagination of many, but, as always, for some it was the research, the study, the serious side of it all that beckoned.

Slowly, gradually they began to unravel the long forgotten rites and beliefs of the Western Tradition. This was very different to that of the East. Thousands of years lived in a cold, harsh, and dangerous climate had made life a hazardous business. It made Westerners evolve in a very different way. They are people of action and intent, motivated to search and build and so their belief system needs a more postive approach and a philosophy to match. A more active discipline that emphasise the Westerners' need to overcome obstacles. Then the Golden Dawn burst upon the scene and within a few short years our world had changed beyond belief and would never be the same again. This lecture, however, is not about history, rather it is about the way of the Western Tradition itself, its many off-shoots, its ways of training, its beliefs and sources. However before one even begins to think about training it is important to know something of the subject itself.

With the possible exception of sex, the occult and all things pertaining to it must be the most misunderstood, misinterpreted and misjudged subject of our time. Bring up the word magic in casual conversation and 90% of the time your listeners will equate it with BLACK MAGIC, blood sacrifices, spiritual and moral degradation, ritual abuse of children and wholesale perversion. They will listen politely if they are British, with blatant disbelief if they are European and then mark you down as mad, bad, and dangerous to know.

Now while it is true that there will always be those who delight in the pain and humiliation of others, who seek not knowledge and wisdom but simply power over others, they form a very small part of the occult. What is more to the point, you will find an even higher percentage of such people in the orthodox religions and/or the ordinary walks of life. Those who rage hysterically against the occult are often to be found among those who support vivisection, commit incest, beat up their wife and families and run amok with guns. They forget the nine million men women and children who were hung, burnt, and tortured to death during the Burning times.

Most of these objectors see occultists as people who run around naked luring young and innocent youths and girls into lives of perversion. If only one tenth of this were true, virgins would be an endangered species and the rest of us would be dying like flies of exhaustion and double pneumonia. In Britain very few people go sky-clad or star clad for two very good reasons: 1) the climate, you would have chilblains and frost bite in very tender parts of your anatomy, and 2) there are very few places in Britain private enough to do such things. More often than not a group of Scouts or Guides will tramp past, or a posse of leather shorted tourists will decide to have their picnic in the middle of your circle, or , worst of all, a delegation of Japanese businessmen will appear and take photographs.

Remember that here we are speaking of The Old Religion, which is just one aspect of the Western Way. There are a few of them that still work in the old ways but most of them have long warm woolen wood cloaks in which to hold their rites, while the ceremonial magician often wears vestments that may have been handed down over a hundred years or more. The majority of occultists work actively with the Forces of Light and those great Beings responsible for the Cosmic Laws of the universe.

Those who today study the ancient mysteries practice the teachings of wise men and women who lived and taught when the world was younger and more stable. For the most part they are deep-thinking people who search for ways to bring the best of the old ways into alignment with the best of the new, in order to serve the needs of the future. But persecution is by no means dead. The modern occultist is still denied the right in many places to believe and to worship as they wish. This despite the UN charter giving all the basic right to worship as they please. The pyre and the rack may have gone, but the threat of publicity, the tabloid press, loss of jobs and social ostracism still pose a threat.

Despite this people still search for entry into schools such as the Servants of the Light because they hold an inner vision. They feel, and rightly so, that by entering one of the sacred contacted schools they will become part of the living tradition that has never ceased to practice the ancient mysteries.

Of those ancient mysteries most used today the best known are the Eleusinian or Greek, the Egyptian, Celtic, and Qabalistic, as well as those pertaining to the mysteries of the great School of Alexandria and its wonderful library, deliberately set on fire - though more was saved than is generally known. These are the Traditions that have had - and still have - the greatest influence upon the Western world.

The Western mind inquires, dissects, experiments, probes and puzzles out the secrets of the world about it. It is not enough to know, they must also know Why and How, When and Where. Then comes a need to improve, change and adapt what they have discovered. In the East there is acceptance of the higher will, a way evolved over many centuries, a willingness to allow Fate to have the last word, something that is not acceptable to the West. Both ways are valid for those born to them, but when a choice of teaching is offered it is better to choose one's own racial type.

Sumeria, Chaldea, Egypt and Greece were the cradles of the Western Way. Greece was the birthplace of abstract thought, and philosophers like Thales of Miletus, Anaxamander and Anaxagoras taught a thought process that was excitingly new to Western minds. It opened a cosmic-sized pathway along which the curiosity-ridden mind of the West could travel. These new ways of thinking enabled the human mind to really see and understand the true nature of the world around and within him. From this sprang the first new mode of thought since the decline of the great Egyptian temples of learning. Once its value was recognised, its used was expanded and incorporated into the training of the neophytes and used to its full potential. In many ways our present position as we come to the end of both a century and an Age is analogous to what happened in ancient Greece. Our mental and physical capabilities have expanded so fast and so far that we do not always take enough time to consolidate them and are in danger of out-running ourselves. We are in the middle of learning how to think in new and sometimes very strange ways.

While the Greeks were learning to think around corners, the school of Alexandria concerned itself with the collection and preservation of what was ancient knowledge even then. Within its walls a cross-section of the finest minds of the time might be found. Herbalists from Cathay exchanged ideas with Therapeutoi from the Desert Peninsula and astrologers from Sumeria, white robed Druids walked with the dark-skinned priests of Nubia. The Rune Masters of the cold, far North taught their art to the shaven headed Egyptian priests from Heliopolis, and the scribes copied it all down. It was a place where the known and often unknown world sent its finest minds to both learn and teach. Such harmony between nations has never been surpassed, rarely has it even been equalled.

In the mist-wrapped islands of the far North there were other, older colleges of learning whose founding priests had come as survivors from the drowned lands of the West. Theirs was perhaps the most ancient of all schools; the primal source of the Mysteries as we know it - the fabled Atlantis. On the shores of Britain and the surrounding islands, once perhaps the furthest outposts of their empire, the Atlanteans raised places of learning to train those who proved themselves worthy of the teaching. It is from this time that so many of the legends and myths of the Celts have come down to us. There are still faint echoes of this ancient world, and it surfaces in our old customs and festivals. It was from this source that the Celts received their love of poetry and music.

All Western schools lay emphasis on personal effort, both mental and physica, as a means of obtaining self-knowledge. Time has not changed this aspect of the Western Mysteries. You will find no real school of the Mysteries that offers knowledge without effort - none, that is, that has anything of value to teach. In the East, humanity lived at a slower pace, in a warmer and more productive climate foodwise. A more introspective approach was taken which suited the lifestyle, but for the West a more active way was needed.

In our time the mind of humanity is stirring once more and preparing to make another leap of understanding of the cosmos in which we live and of ourselves, both mentally and physically. As a species we are changing, becoming taller, stronger and developing new areas of the brain. Once more men and women are beginning to approach the Pylon Gate of the Mysteries because those ancient priests had experienced the same kind of leap and left records and clues that can and will help us to make our own transit in the coming Age. Some look and pass on, others hesitate, enter, then retreat back to the safe, warm known world. But there are always a few who will enter and stay and find what they have been seeking within its walls. It is not always the same thing; each man and woman is different and find what it is meant for them to find, which is not always what they want or would like.

As we move towards the end of this century, material, teachings, knowledge that was prepared for us hundreds if not thousands of years ago, and hidden against the time when it would be needed, will come to light. Old manuscripts, reprints of books not fully understand when they were first written, a fuller understanding of facts, fables, myths long forgotten as well as new scientific discoveries that will underline them will come into the open. We are already finding material with which we may build a bridge across the gulf of time that separates one era from another .

Reluctantly and screaming every step of the way, sceince is being forced to look at what they call The Paranormal, and admit its existence. They have discovered, as did the Egyptians 3,500 years BC, that the mind is an incredible tool that has in no way reached its full potential, The ancient search to Know Thyself has been resumed in earnest. When you come to the Pylon Gate you are answering the same call as did those young hopefuls who assembled outside the temples of On, Eleusis, and Alexandria, waiting and hoping to be chosen for training by the priests. Only the years stand between you; the urge to know is still the same, but we have no need to travel far from home and family: communications, e-mail, fax machines and so on mean we can search the libraries of the world for information. But - the need for dedication, time and study is still there, more so in fact. We also have the Qabalah with which to compare and file what we find.

The symbol of the Tree of Life is so wonderfully flexible that it can and does incorporate all tradition within itself. Though pertaining in its highest form to the purest mystical traditions of the Jewish faith, it lends itself without difficulty to the ways of all Western thought. To do justice to it requires a lifetime of dedicated work. The Western tradition does not use it or even fully understand it as do the learned Rabbis of the the ancient city of Sefat in Israel, but we do treat it with the respect it merits. In those Western schools where it forms the basis of the curriculum, great effort is made to see that it is not debased.

One of the first rules you learned in Alexandria was never to decry the faiths and belief systems of others. Share the teaching of your own path, and listen to the wisdom of a different way, but do not seek to turn anyone away from the path of their race. If they wish to change they must seek it for themselves.

The Western Mystery Tradition uses the Tree of Life for its capacity to hold, explain, unite, and expand the multi-patterned universe in which we live. Its study gives a firm foundation to Jew, Gentile, Christian, Craft, Orphic or Egyptian tradition.

The call that rings you to the Pylon Gate of the Western Way will also take you into dangerous, un-mapped and even lawless regions of the Inner Kingdom of the mind. Your first need is to reclaim that kingdom for your own and learn to rule it wisely and well. This is known as The Quest and it is the subject of many a myth and fairy tale all over the world. The Prize at the end of the Quest changes from from race to race, but it is always there for the seeking. The Western aim is the integration of the whole person, not a casting away of the physical, but a recognition of its vitality, its powers and potential.

This kind of knowledge and the wisdom that comes from the study, use, and practice of it is not something you can learn in a weekend seminar. It requires a solid basis of data, theory, and years of practice and constant updating. It must be pursued with the same dedication and determination and respect you would give to years of studying for a Ph.D. Only you can do the work; the teacher simply shows you how to use what you are learning. Asking questions is good, for a question is intended to obtain a clearer view of the subject; any school that does not encourage questions on the subjects it teaches should be viewed with suspicion. A student comes to a school like an onion with many layers built up over the years. Those layers have to be peeled off, and this is neither easy nor painless. It should be regarded in the same way as a Rite of Passage undergone in order to gain a greater sense of Self. Such a time marks the passing from one kind of existence to another and much wider one.

The Western Way is not meant to be exclusive, but rather it is for as many as will come seeking it. The values, ideals, and principles of the Western Mysteries may appear strange to some, for they are used to a world where everything must be seen to have a high monetary value in order to have worth. The Mysteries follow the law that stipulates that those who come to the Gate of the Mysteries are judged on their abilities and their capacity for hard work, not what they may or may not have in worldly wealth. In the old days on acceptance into the temple a neophyte stripped naked before the door and ceremoniously knocked for entrance. He/she was then bathed and given a coarse robe, sandals and a cloak, and fed bread, salt and wine and anointed with oil; thus the body and the soul were cared for and welcomed into the Temple. When you come to the Door in the modern world, this should be held in the mind as an example.

At this time, close the end of what is possibly the most momentous and most crucial century in the recorded history of humankind, we are reaching back into the past for clues to help us through the next decade, to unite the simplicity of the old with the impetus and knowledge of the new. If we succeed we might possibly make it to the next century. But such gifts of the mind as trained by the methods of the Mysteries are not to be had just for the asking, nor will all who come to the gate pass through to attain the high levels they hope for. We have become too used to the idea that what we want, we are entitled to have. Unfortunately this is not the way it happens.

Some minds are peculiarly adapted to working in such ways, but it is a talent like music, singing, being able to paint or write or sew. It requires certain gifts, an ability to imagine things visually so well that the everyday world seems strangely unreal when you return to it. A lucid and adaptable memory that can supply information rapidly, concisely and cross index items with ease and correctness. A mind that is encyclopaedic in its ability to store information of all kinds, with insatiable curiosity. Total dedication to the study, sometimes to the exclusion of all else. A certain dramatic flair for ritual, a love of silence and loneliness for what it can offer to the still mind.

But unless you try, you will never know if you could have succeeded. If you do try, the least of your rewards will take you far beyond what you would have been. Your concentration and ability to cope with Life's storms will be increased, you will be able to cope with situations others find impossible. You will have more ability to control your environment and your life and will enjoy it more.

Some of those who do pass through may go a certain way and decide to go no further: this is enough for them in this lifetime. They may return to it in another time and go on from where they have left off. We say in the Mysteries that it takes three lifetimes to make an initiate.The first when you come to it new and uncertain, touching the edges so to speak; the second where you enter the Mysteries and go as far as you can or wish to go; the third life you progress rapidly to where you stopped last time and go on from there.

What does such a training offer a candidate? A priceless gift, that of knowing yourself. To many who seek immediate power over others this seems like a big let down. But the wise ones of ancient times knew very well that the love of power can corrupt even the finest and most dedicated. They always trained their pupils to look first of all at themselves, to know and be able to assess their best and worst traits and talents. This is a long and tedious job, it takes years and often the impatient ones leave because there is no excitments, no battle on the astral, no moments when they are THE MIGHTY MAGICIAN THAT CONQUERS ALL. If that is your airm, forget the Mysteries, train as an actor, become a writer of fantasy books, become a dreamer, you will do better that way.

Some people dream of doing great things; wise people stay awake and do them.

If you cannot control yourself, you cannot control others well and wisely, or your environment.

The Magi of the West aim to lift physical matter to the higher levels of spirituality, not to abandon it . To study and practice the Western Mysteries does not mean you have to abadon the orthodox faiths of your upbringing. All faiths truly based on the Light are part of the greater whole. But you will alwys reach a deeper level of understanding with regard to that faith, because your perception of its underlying principles will have been brought into a much sharper focus.

Those new to the Mysteries are at first filled with enthusiam about all of this. They want to tell everyone about it. This is understandable; you are like those that were called to serve the Saviour of thePiscean age, you become evangelistic, the spreader of good news. But you will meet with doubt, hostility and even at time violence. The age of persecution is not yet past. We have been fortunate for many years in being tolerated but our beliefs are not yet fully accepted. But the pendulum is always swinging and it may yet fall back to outright condemnation of our ways and when that comes it will be a great testing time. You may well find yourself nailed to an emotional cross.

As you go deeper into the Mysteries, the world in which you once lived will be turned upside down. This is made clear to everyone who enters a contacted school. The Inner Plane Teachers accept nothing without testing it, sometimes almost to destruction. You will be called upon to accept any changes in your life, if not right away then certainly within the year. This does not mean you have done anything wrong; you are simply being cleared of all that has become un-necessary in your life and in your way of thinking. It is the first part of the cleansing of the Channel of Light you were intended to be. For those who are destined to become channellers of the Teacher themselves this is even more traumatic and far reaching. In actual practice there are no absolutely clear channels, we all have areas of blockaege in our mental and spiritual make-up.

Many students who enter our school give up by the fifth lessons of the main course. It is not exciting enough fo them, they are frightened by the amount of change occurring in their lives, or they find the work too difficult. Of all these, about one third return, often years later, having adjusted their lives, or arranged it so that the dues of the Hearth Fire have been met, or simply because they have grown up enough to cope with it.

This kind of training is long, hard, arduous, demanding, time-consuming and at times dull and boring to boot. Endless repetitions are required, not so much for memory as for the purpose of getting you to react the the same experience on different levels of understanding. but the personality sees this as the same thing and hates it. But there are good times as well as bad, the elation of finally understanding something you have been working with for months. Realisation when you pick up a book and are able to grasp every nuance of what the author is saying. Long conversations with friends of like mind and training. Or simply understanding the universe around you and knowing that you are part of it and it is a part of you.

Every day brings unseen advances more control over one's mind and emotions. A stronger, better character emerging out of the old one. Better, deeper relationships, the ability to do one's every day work with better control and enthusiam. The days when someone comes to you because they feel you will understand their pain or trouble, or that they can trust you. The one will become the many and your time of service will have begun. Time and again people come to the gate of the Mysteries asking what it can offer; when you pass through, it changes to "How May I Serve?"

Many come seeking magic in the Disney sense. That is a beautiful fantasy: save it for pathworkings. Real magic causes changes inside the mind, body, and soul. It is caused by your own desire to change and grow. It has nothing to do with your teacher; he or she is merely a rung on a ladder which you are climbing to get a better view of yourself. The change you undergo is all to do with your desire to know in order to serve. The same instinct causes the legendary phoenix to cast itself into the fire of its desires and rise renewed from the flames. Every phoenix starts out as an unhatched egg. You can either let life boil you and bash your head in with a spoon, or roll along until you find a warm place in which to grow and hatch out. When you do, you will be like the ugly duckling: clumsy and unsightly and untrained. You will go through many moultings and many changes of plumage before you obey the summons to the mountain-top and begin to build your fiery bed on which you will endure the final change.

Does all this sound as if I am trying to put you off joining a Mystery School? Well, in a way I am.

Unless you come to us knowing what you are in for, you will get discouraged and dejected and will finally leave, unable to believe in what is before you. You will lose and we will lose. Don't just look at one school, look at many. You are an individual, schools are different. What suits one will not suit another. We know we cannot be the school for everyone - not everyone is the right pupil for us. Choose carefully, and ask questions if you wish. Wait for the feeling that says, "this is the one".

When you find it, sit down and think over its' material and what it will be asking of you. Family must be considered. The changes you will go through will also affect them. Sometimes - often in fact - partners will be violently opposed to your studies. Sometimes the changes involved will mean a change of job, house, country, beliefs and even... partners. Ask yourself if you can accept the discipline involved. Can you spare the time for reading and study? It is no good if you will have to give up in six months' time. Many never even start because the first lessons are not magical enough for them. Others because they do not begin doing rituals right away. Well, you don't put nitroglycerine into a baby's cup and then hand it to him to throw on the floor. Ritual work for the unprepared is just as dangerous and not just for the student. If you prove to be a good student, your supervisors will work you even harder and be even tougher on you. Only the best is good enough for the Masters.

Don't think you can make it to the top in a year... Take a look at a few of the things you will need to have in your mental data bank. Biology, psychology, and chemistry, physics, archaeology, geology, philosophy and literature - your own and other countries' - history, art, mathematics, music, languages, voice training, things like sewing and cutting out robes, woodwork for making your own wands and altar. Anthropology, comparative religions, dancing, singing, astrology, tarot, geomancy, memory training, palmistry, crystals, healing, colours and vibrations... there are some more but I do not want to frighten you too much. You won't have time to get bored if you are serious about this.

The aim of a school is not to grab as many students as it can, but to turn those they have into fully trained, responsible occultists. So many begin with enthusiasm and then tail off when studies interfere with a full socisl life , dancing, clubs, cinema, television etc. It is heart-breaking and annoying to spend time and effort on a promising pupil and then see them drop out often without even the courtesy of a letter. Your time is precious; so is ours. If you mean it, be welcome: we will train you hard and well. Every tutor has been through what you are experiencing, they can help you recognise the stumbling blocks and help you over them, if you really want to do that. There are no doors in the Pylon gates - but only the most determined get through.


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