It is not every day that one gets to coin a new word, or even attempts to, but today I have done it: Metaorthopraxy.

If you have been following the comments on the post, The Masters and Some Mutterings, you will have noticed Asher’s lovely espousing of orthodoxy. Classically, this means having the ‘correct opinion’, often as defined by the leaders (dead and/or alive) of the tradition you are working within. Traditionalist and esoteric understanding of orthodoxy (which is where Asher is coming from) is that there are eternal verities in the Universe, Truth(s) with a capital ‘T’, which do not, cannot change, as they are beyond temporal and contingent conditions. Different religions and different traditions may refer to these Truths (or not) by different names, conditions, myths etc, but they are still there.

These days the Western Esoteric tradition largely rejects orthodoxy, though there are essential underlying beliefs within the Western tradition that reflect these eternal verities. Most practitioners of magic and Neo-Pagan traditions have seldom thought or elucidated these, but they are there nevertheless within their underlying beliefs and hidden dogmas. Antoine Faivre has explored these well and I have related them to the Golden Dawn tradition here. Please be clear; I am not saying these underlying Western Esoteric beliefs are the Truth, only that there are eternal verities that these beliefs reflect and refer to. An example of one is just to the right of this text, in the words of the sainted Martin Luther King Jr.

Orthodoxy is very much out of vogue in the West today for a lot of reasons, some of which of course have much merit. Rarely however does the Western Esoteric literature mention the sheer simple beauty of orthodoxy, even in its classical setting of correct belief – the surrender of personal ideas, egos, beliefs to a higher, spiritual force. I mean, just on a practical level, we all need to surrender our egos, and here is a wonderful way to do it. Like I said – not much in vogue, eh? 🙂

Western esoteric traditions tend more towards orthopraxy – correct action, or correct practice. This is a trait found more in Polytheistic religions than monotheisms which tend, naturally towards orthodoxy. Individual schools, traditions, lodges and Orders often develop their own orthopraxy – methods of practice that adherents to the school must practice correctly. Many sadly even suggest their way is the only way, creating a very rigid orthopraxy indeed where all outside the group are effectively seen to be operating on three cylinders at best.

My own understanding is that there are no discreet ‘correct practices’ per se. However, for practices to be effective they have to follow essential formulae and ‘rules’. Just as we cannot boil water without somehow exciting the H2O molecules a fair bit, normally by the application of exterior heat. Hence my term for western esoteric thought: Metaorthopraxy. The addition of the Greek suffix, ‘Meta’ for “after”, “beyond”, or “with” showing that the underlying principles beyond the practice are important, not the form of the practice itself.

An example of Metaorthopraxy:

All spiritual practices if they are to be effective have to follow this basic pattern:

  • Firstly, they have to strengthen our boundaries of the box of everyday consciousness; make us strong, know who we are – grounding is the typical way of doing this.
  • Secondly, they have to then focus on the reality of what is beyond the box of everyday existence – Goddess, God, the One Being, Mystery, and allow us to surrender to be guided by that power. To give over ourselves to the higher. To begin right in the name of God.
  • Thirdly, they have to at some point move us out of our box of everyday life – a transition of consciousness, guided safely into something OTHER, something beyond our current ego identity. This may be a state of meditation, the touch of the Goddess in a ceremony of communion, an interaction with an unknown aspect of ourselves. But it has to be something different, outside our normal frame of reference. And this interaction has to be undertaken in balance.
  • Fourthly, they have to return our consciousness into the box and re-strengthen the boundaries with care.
  • Finally, they have to give thanks to the One, the Mystery beyond the box and promote our gratitude towards the One, to encourage us to form and maintain good relationship with God.

I am not sure who will use this term, or even if I will. But it has codified a stream of thought into a single word. Which itself is not always useful. I do sincerely hope however, western esoteric people begin to understand better their own beliefs and practices. This can only result in greater understanding between people, which I think all, orthodox and otherwise, would support 🙂



  1. Steve · April 6, 2008

    This is quite new to me — I’m just wondering what “orthodoxy” means in the Western esoteric tradition. Please excuse my ignorance.

  2. azrael2008 · April 7, 2008

    Feminists create new words to more clearly articulate concepts as well . Here it seems to me to be approprate . The word will be useful to more comprehansivley articulate contemporary, often postmodern, western esoteric thought.

    The debate with Asher was challanging and interesting . This new word seems to me to seek to address the subtile aspects you were both seeking to articulate.

    From a personal perspective I will use it. It is a word that seeks to codify practices that are underpinned by principles that in their essence inarticulatable, well for me at least. Thanks, perhaps now I will be less frustrated during debates over semantics . Nicki

  3. Asher Fryer · April 7, 2008

    Beautifully spoken Peregrin! A joy to read. 🙂

    One of the best understandings of the relationship between eso and exo, praxis and doxa I know of is in Schuon, especially his Trancscendent unity of religions, and writings on Christianity from a Gnostic perspective.

    Orthodoxy and praxis united: when Tat Tvam Asi become true, Christ in you. There is no separation between what it is, teaches, and your true self. Gnosis. LVX. Intellectus Innatus.

    Orthodoxy was never meant to be an abstract thing. You were meant to learn, experience, come back, exactly like the five points you make. The separation is artificial, and basically a result of academic intellectualism, most of whom are not practicioners, and lacking in authority…Orthodoxy!

    Slang meaning: a necessary and inescapable benchmark. Correct. Complete. It is the modern world (to a great degree), shallow to the hilt, which gets caught up on words, and rarely understand their true meaning. If they did, they would acede, and no argument would be possible. Practise leads to results, recognition of truth, which leads to assimilation of practise. There is no conflict. Doctrine to practise and experience. The four worlds. Esoteric doctrine implies orthodoxy, correctness, especially in such a potentially dangerous field.

    Bye bye! 🙂

  4. Peregrin · April 7, 2008

    Thanks to everyone who replied here.

    Steve, i think Asher’s words on Orthodoxy match my own views well. Please remember most western esoteric people would deny there is any orthodoxy within their traditions. I do not think this is the case, and with Asher, believe the rejection of all that authentic orthodoxy entails is a mistake and makes our traditions poorer for it.

    Nicki, yes I think the coining of new words can be empowering sometimes. It is required when our language is based on world views that rob us of a semantic understanding of mysteries. The quote from Neil Douglas Klotz on the side bar refers to this, and i recommend his works greatly. Also, the Spell of the Sensuous by David Abram.

    Asher, cool 🙂 Without getting into a mutual admiration of posts, thanks for your comments. I agree Schoun is one of the best. It is sad that people throw out the concept of orthodoxy as they reject any narrow (normally Christian) theology/practice they have been exposed to. Some of the most orthodox of people are the most wise and most compassionate. 🙂

  5. azrael2008 · April 8, 2008

    Yes thanks, I have been following the innovation of the sidebar. I was inspired by the quote by Mr Douglas-Klotz more specifically Greek philosophy, to venture into Abwoon , when this first appeared.

    So off I went again and this time read the interview ‘Desert Wisdom and the New Cosmology’ .

    I found both resonance on a personal level, as well as something of the current discussions and metaorthopraxy here. (You might have had to been there, as the link this morning seems a bit tenuous).

    I also liked the idea of taking time to let experiences rest and permeate, a wisdom too of the GD, I understand. Nicki

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