There has never been a time when instruction in the arts of magick was more freely available than the present. The information age has made it easy to access huge libraries of occult manuals and to connect with other students of magick to share our experiences and find guidance in the practice. Online forums and social media groups devoted to the study of the occult arts now openly discuss every aspect of magickal practice with an openness that was once the antithesis of correct occult discipline. Under these conditions, maintaining the pretense of secrecy is, at best, a self indulgent illusion and, at its worst, the excuse for elitism and the separatism that leads to fundamentalist sectarianism that is the polar opposite of the true nature of magick.
This book is for
for every man, woman, and child.
My former work has been misunderstood, and its scope limited, by my use of technical terms. It has attracted only too many dilettanti and eccentrics, weaklings seeking in “Magic” an escape from reality. I myself was first consciously drawn to the subject in this way. And it has repelled only too many scientific and practical minds, such as I most designed to influence.
I have written this book to help the Banker, the Pugilist, the Biologist, the Poet, the Navvy, the Grocer, the Factory Girl, the Mathematician, the Stenographer, the Golfer, the Wife, the Consul — and all the rest — to fulfil themselves perfectly, each in his or her own proper function.- Aleister Crowley, Magick in Theory and Practice, Introduction
One of the most commonly misunderstood concepts of magick is the need for secrecy to preserve the “Mysteries” from being profaned by the uninitiated. This archaic concept has had such an enduring influence that, even in this digital age of immediate access to previously unobtainable books of magickal instruction, it is still common for magickal groups to insist upon onerous oaths of secrecy being included as a condition of admittance. This fallacious need to keep the Mysteries quarantined for the use of elite few that are “qualified” to have access to them calls the validity of the society that requires such secrecy from its adepts into question on several levels.
The Difference Between Silence and Secrecy
A great deal of the difficulty that many novices have with this concept is that they have confused secrecy with silence. On the surface, these may seem to be similar exercises but upon closer examination they are revealed as completely disconnected ideas altogether.
Silence is the first, and most difficult of the Four Powers of the Sphinx that the Neophyte must master on his path to adeptship. This silence requires no secrecy for its power to be accessed by the magician; it is not the outward silence of remaining mute, it is the inner silence that comes from stilling the inner noise that fills our lives with a continually distracting static.
But now concerning Silence, o my Son, I will have a further Word with thee. For thereby we mean not the Muteness of him that hath a Dumb Devil. This Silence is the Dragon of thine unconscious Nature, not only the Ecstasy or Death of thine Ego in the Operation of its Organ, but also, in its Unity with thy Lion, the Truth of thy Self. Thus is thy Silence the Way of he Tao, and all Speech a deviation therefrom.- Aleister Crowley, The Book of Wisdom or Folly, Ch. 161
This conflation of the value of silence with the falsity of secrecy is not only totally unnecessary, but it is also harmful to the overall practice of the magician. The unending muteness that is demanded by secrecy is anathema to the power of secrecy which is a transient phase in the greater ceremony of initiation.
Now, o my Son, mark thou well this that I will write for thine Advertisement and Behoof, that this Silence, though it be Perfection of Delight, is but the Gestation of thy Lion, and in thy Season thou must dare, and come forth to the Battle. Else, were not this Practice of Silence akin to the Formula of Separateness of the black Brothers?- Aleister Crowley, The Book of Wisdom or Folly, Ch. 162
The Natural Inviolability of the True Mysteries
The argument that the Mysteries themselves require secrecy to defend them from coming into the possession of the profane relies on them having some sort of universal application. The idea that certain words, gestures or symbols have some intrinsic magick power is little more than the ignorant superstition of the uninformed. Any Mystery worth its salt cannot be communicated with a quick whisper in the candidate’s ear at a mid-week initiation ceremony in some suburban lounge room. True Mysteries can only be apprehended, much less understood, by careful contemplation and the dedicated discipline of hard work. This is so in real life just as much as it is in the magick temple.
The central practice of magick is initiation, and no true initiation comes from the ministrations of a mortal. The only true initiator is the representative of the unity that each of us has concealed within. This unknown Crown goes by a variety of names; the Higher Self, Augoeides, Atman and, among most Thelemites, the Holy Guardian Angel, a term that I myself prefer as it best describes by own experience.
Unto men, according unto their deserts, and the first excellency of their soul, God hath appointed a good Governor or Angel, from among the orders of those that are blessed.- Emericus Casaubon- A True & Faithful Relation of What Passed for Many Years between Dr. John Dee and Some Spirits
As each of us has a guardian that is unique to the individual, so too is the method for connecting with, and receiving instruction from, this governor a unique experience for each of us. The object of studying elementary magick is to develop the skills that are necessary to be able to create the individual method that will succeed.
2. In all systems of religion is to be found a system of Initiation, which may be defined as the process by which a man comes to learn that unknown Crown.
3. Though none can communicate either the knowledge or the power to achieve this, which we may call the Great Work, it is yet possible for initiates to guide others.
4. Every man must overcome his own obstacles, expose his own illusions. Yet others may assist him to do both, and they may enable him altogether to avoid many of the false paths, leading no whither, which tempt the weary feet of the uninitiated pilgrim. They can further insure that he is duly tried and tested, for there are many who think themselves to be Masters who have not even begun to tread the Way of Service that leads thereto.
5. Now the Great Work is one, and the Initiation is one, and the Reward is one, however diverse are the symbols wherein the Unutterable is clothed.- Liber 61 vel Causae
This means that for each of us the content of the Mysteries is unique and only able to be penetrated by our own individual methods. No amount of secrecy will make the Mysteries of the individual any more secure than they already are and artificially concealing them for the use of a chosen few who have been deemed fit for their reception by the accidental circumstances of their earthly life is merely ridiculous. The idea that certain words of power, names or magickal ceremonies have an intrinsic power that is universally applicable is equally as fallacious.
Speaking Our Own Mysteries
All true High Magick is essentially theurgic and, rather than being a ceremonial act of worship, is a revelation of the inner divinity that is erroneously apprehended as separate from the unity of creation. The magick symbols and words of power that are used in these ceremonies, while often drawn from a common set, or based upon a broad system of correspondence, are unique to every magician. My magick words will very likely not have any effect in someone else’s Great Work. The magick words that each of us uses to develop the dialogue with the Holy Guardian Angel are, of necessity, unique to that individual conversation. Through the evolution of this dialogue each of us, in effect, speaks our own Mysteries, the depths of which cannot be plumbed by another living soul In this way, the magician speaks the words that invoke his own godhead and which create his own universe.
From a magical point of view, it is axiomatic that we have created the world in which we exist. Looking about himself, the magician can say “thus have I willed,” or “thus do I perceive,” or more accurately, “thus does my Kia manifest.”- Peter Carroll, Liber Null
On this basis it is obvious that no secret society can be in possession of any Mystery that will be of any more than a cursory value to anyone that is engaged in their Great Work. These societies and teachers of the occult arts that insist upon the magick power of their jealously guarded secrets are perpetrators of a fraud, espousing their privileged access to the keys to the kingdom while in reality they hinder the genuine progress of the student towards the unveiling of their own individual Light. While demanding their observance of the unassailable secret they deny them the true knowledge of the power of silence.
If then by thine Art thou canst conceal thyself in thine own Nature, this is Silence, this, and not Nullity of Consciousness, else were a Stone more perfect in Adeptship that thou.- Aleister Crowley, The Book of Wisdom or Folly, Ch. 162
Let the Silence Speech Beget
Because the true Mysteries cannot be revealed by any mortal being to another, and because of the static nature of secrecy, keeping these secrets is counter to making genuine progress in initiation. The aspirant that knocks at the door of a secret society that claims to dispense enlightenment via their trademarked secret words and names of power is looking in the wrong place. The allure of learning these secrets is akin to chasing shadows and the true revelation of the Light can only come from looking within.
The effect of secrecy has always been to obscure the truth of magick from the profane, skewing it in their imaginations by the denial of an informed understanding rather than preserving its sanctity. This secrecy, jealously guarded by those that have sought to restrict the Light rather than to share it as an example of the excellence of their discipline, has only perverted the understanding of magick among the uninitiated and made the work of the God into the diversions of the Devil.
Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed? and not to be set on a candlestick? For there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested; neither was any thing kept secret, but that it should come abroad.- Mark 4:21-22
Now, from the experience that I have gained from my time on the Path, I have come to appreciate the instruction that I was given at the outset to be transparent. The wisdom of the adepts that codified my magickal discipline, in insisting upon the open and frank discussion of initiation is even more important to me now than it was when I first entered the Order as a Probationer. As a student it enabled my teachers in magick to may the Way apparent to me and as a teacher it empowers me to help other to find their steps on the path to the Light.
He shall everywhere proclaim openly his connection with the A.’.A.’. and speak of It and Its principles (even so little as he understandeth) for that mystery is the enemy of truth.- Liber 185, Colegii Sanctii, Being The Tasks of the Grades and The Oaths Proper