Oaths and Obligations

Yesterday at work I wrote a complaint letter to a leading computer company which had repeatably failed its warranty obligations. Since I believe in going straight to the top I rang the Sydney office to get the name of the head honcho. The receptionist refused to give me the name. Incredulously I replied, “oh come on it’s got to be a matter of public record”. He still refused to give me the name. As we argued I typed into my trusty Google Toolbar and five seconds later told him who it was. Yet he still maintained he could not tell me! I half expected the proverbial, “I can neither confirm nor deny that information”. It was a classic case of the SNAFU principle as described by St Bob, where organisational culture prevents those at the top knowing what is really going on, thus leading them to make the wrong decisions.

wicca1I was also reminded of magical oaths and obligations where Neophytes and others are often pledged to keep secret information already published and freely available. I first encountered this as an eager pagan teenager going through the first degree Wiccan initiation. There I was, bound and naked with a sword pressed against my throat looking into the beady little eyes of our High Priest and pledging to keep secret material I had in several books at home. By then, being very eager, I had found copies of all the Wiccan rituals. I had also analysed them and quickly realised they were not in any way historical but based on extant western magical rituals. So being bound to keep them secret felt very strange, but I did it nonetheless.

Next however, I was asked to “keep the Coven Law”, something I had never heard of before this evening and knew nothing about. For all I knew obeying the Coven Law could mean oathing myself to service the High Priest’s car once a month. Or him. Now what I should have done was take a deep breath and say, “Hang on a minute, what’s this Coven Law bit, do you have a copy?”. But I meekly submitted. After all everyone was taking the whole thing seriously and the High Priest looked very annoyed at my pausing to consider the matter. Really, it should have been a Priestess binding me (as a man), but our High Priest did enjoy his simple and primal power games. At least he was looking into my eyes not oggling my tits like he did with a couple of my friends.

It was not long after this that I again found myself taking another oath of secrecy long after the traditional secret material had bolted out of the stable. This time it was in the Neophyte Hall of the first Order I was initiated into. Being descended from an Order started by Stella Matutina members it was the long and sonorous version, complete with warnings about about being struck down by beings who “journey on the winds”. At least this time I had some clothes on. And the sword was behind me. However, I suddenly found myself repeating an oath of allegiance to the directives of a particular Frater – not a GD office, but the individual member who was the leader of our Order. Again, I meekly submitted as it would have spoilt the whole proceedings to exclaim, “you want me to what?”. Fortunately, my future oaths (in a different Order) were less worrisome.

Suddenly springing an oath, particularly of allegiance, on an unsuspecting open and vulnerable initiate seems grossly unfair to me. When we came to form our own Order I was able to modify the oaths to keep secret only Order specific symbols, workings, rituals and material. The oath, in a general way, is reproduced on the Pledge Form so people know what they are going to be asked when swimming in a sea of astral impressions and magic.

The Golden Dawn, being a western lodge tradition uses secrecy as a form of transformation. So it is understandable why some Orders maintain the traditional oath even if it is redundant. Other Orders get around it in various ways. Pat Zalewski recounts how the oaths of his wife and himself were modified to permit them latitude in sharing the Order’s teachings. The Rosicrucian Order of the Alpha et Omega moved all the published material of the GD and the RR et AC into the Outer Order. Very neat. Their Inner Order is therefore, once more a repository of REAL magical SECRETS!!! Maybe even lashings and lashings of ginger beer. Of course, just because something is secret does not make it useful or worthwhile. I have found this out the hard way over the last 25 years.

As a community I think it is important to have an intelligent approach to our Oaths and Obligations. It is ridiculous to simply reproduce traditional oaths these days; it just makes us look daft. And since we get up in coloured robes, call ourselves all sorts of lovely names and wave painted sticks around, we don’t need any more tendencies in that direction. If an Order is practicing the GD tradition straight from the texts and does not have any or many secrets, so what? We can make the oath more operational, like the Adeptus Minor oath, where the initiate swears to transform themselves. As I have said many times previously, even the most public rituals can be effective and transformational. The twice daily LRP and Christian Communion being but two examples. Thanks 🙂

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8 comments

  1. SororFSO · May 1, 2009

    Thumbs up, thanks for sharing. I’d like to note however, that I have witnessed two types of Golden Dawn orders today, what I will call ‘living’ and ‘dead’. The dead Orders strictly follow the books that have been published, and do not try and utilyze the material to expand on the tradition. They do not look for new info, nor try to create thier own. The living Orders look at the Golden Dawn as a growing system, and use the original manuscripts and information to continue adding to the curriculum and knowledge. Obviously, if there are multiple Orders who attempt this, without sharing the information eventually these may not resemble the same traditions at all. However, I don’t believe that Mathers ment for the tradition to stop at him. When you have an infinate amount of information available to you through skyring, enochian, etc…there are bound to be new secrets found everyday. I think secrecy is an important aspect of the work as far as it keeping people from being publicly persecuted and that it acts as a Hermetic Seal for ritual work. However, as I do believe the GD is a living system, I’d like to see different Orders willing to share thier new findings and techniques with the initiated members of other Orders for the benefit of all. Obviously, every one might not agree on the beneficience of every technique or discovery, but that is the nature of research and development, and are we not researches of the Spirit and Soul?

  2. Rachael · May 1, 2009

    I am somewhat reminded of Dumbledore: “Secrets and lies, that’s how we lived, and Albus – he was a natural.”

  3. Peregrin · May 1, 2009

    Care Sr FSO,

    Thank you very much for this comment, and for your own blog. For others reading this, you really must take a look at Flight of Hermes.

    I agree with much of what you are saying. The only additional comment I would make is that the infinite amount of information available via inner vision and inner contacts needs to be tested and grounded well. Of course our tradition has processes and techniques to do this and to ensure the material is not coming from or distorted by the Adept’s personal Yesod (unconscious). Thanks.

  4. incompleteinfinity · May 3, 2009

    I was once in a coven where I had to take an oath to ‘service’ at least one (sometimes four) fair maidens every night! The Priestess was a jaw droppingly gorgeous(and for some crazy reason covered in olive oil) specimen of the female gender that insisted that it was part of my oath to………… slap slap…. sorry!!! I’m awake now!!!! 🙂

    I’m sure the High Priest wasn’t interested in looking at your tits Peregrin as you were not yet a slobby middle aged man with man boobs! By the way guys!!! STOP DRINKING SO MUCH SOY MILK COZ IT GIVES YOU MAN BOOBS…. think estrogen levels……

    Another excellent post from yourself Peregrin! 😉

    I confirm and attest that the LRP is most beneficial perfomed twice (or more) daily is most transformational….

    I must get back to doing it……

  5. Sincerus Renatus · May 4, 2009

    Care Fra. Peregrin,

    There are different levels of the necessity of secrecy. Some of which you have mentioned in your blog. I would just like to bring your attention to a operative and magical reason for secrety, that of containing power or force. In my personal experience, both as a individual magician and also as a Temple Chief, secrecy (the principle of Harparcrat) creates a vessel for the group soul or egregore. This vessel is then utilized to invoke and contain the force worked with. The four credos of the Adept still applies today; i.e. that of to Dare, to Know, to Will and to be Silent.

    The principle of Silence or Secrecy is one of the first and hardest lessons to learn as a Neophyte.

    S.R.

  6. SororFSO · May 5, 2009

    So true Frater, the knowledge we gain must always be tested against the Corpus of our materials, tradition, and the Scriptures…

  7. Pingback: Discrimination – a personal note « Magic of the Ordinary
  8. Erasmus · July 27, 2012

    Ave Fraters et Sorors,

    In his last address to members of his order Sam Mathers stated (relayed by his
    wife Mina) among other things that he felt the fundamental tradition could and should be modified / modifiable for “reasons of tribe and culture” !!!
    This seems to me to include a provision for Evolution, i.e., we are no longer living in Victorian / Edwardian England. The basic principles and formulae remain valid though, and need not, nor should not become unrecognizable.

    Vale,
    Erasmus

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