Those without the gate frequently question the wisdom and right of the occultist to guard his knowledge by the imposition of oaths of secrecy. We are so accustomed to see the scientist give his beneficent discoveries freely to all mankind that we feel that humanity is wronged and defrauded if any knowledge be kept secret by its discoverers and not at once made available for all who desire to share in it. The knowledge is reserved in order that humanity may be protected from its abuse at the hands of the unscrupulous.
~~ Dion Fortune, Esoteric Orders and Their Work (1928)
Sometimes when I’m reading about Qabalah, I have this niggling sense that what the authors say doesn’t quite fit within its nature. For example, take the Creator, existing beyond even Kether at the top of the Tree of Life. The Creator is neither male nor female, and not really both either, because they (for lack of a better pronoun) are beyond what we can understand. The 2nd and 3rd Sephiroth exist in that Divine space, too, and yet – well before we humans are even a twinkle in our Creator’s eye – they are described as male and female. It doesn’t work for me.
I don’t mean to dismiss on the great thinkers of the early 20th century, not at all. Their work is invaluable, and I absolutely love it. But when it comes to context, we have a major advantage: we have Thelema and if we consider the e20thC work from that perspective, and remember that they were writing outside of what Thelema sets out as our current state of evolution, we can see that the contradictions that arise in their thinking are due to their still working within the parameters of the previous Aeon – the Age of Osiris, the dominant male/father.
Secret societies seem to usually work on this principle. They are based on the paternalistic view that certain people – historically, men – are just better equipped to take charge and make decisions for everyone else, who ‘need’ their guidance. The Victorians did put this concept to good use in some instances – setting up schools, hospitals, parks, and libraries, which are genuinely good for people – but the general idea that the father figure at the head of everything evaluates others and judges who is capable of what undermines the true meaning of Qabalah, and magick. If we look at Qabalah from the Thelemic point of view, that it is for everyone, we could say that the idea of Qabalah within a closed group actually defeats its purpose entirely. If, as they saying goes, none of us are free until all of us are free, then to keep spiritual secrets is only shooting ourselves in the foot. Thinking only of ourselves, we keep ourselves in place.
Our age, the Aeon of Horus, is symbolised by the Divine child. This child is present in all of us bringing us a newly intimate relationship with the Divine. Of course that relationship has always been there, but humanity has not been awake to it. Up until the early 20th century, humanity looked to have a spiritual relationship with a god that is Other, outside of ourselves. This is why the Aeon of Horus is the age of humanity – divinity focuses on us now! The nature of the internet, where we can easily find the secrets the Golden Dawn protected, reflects this change – it’s freely available and there is so much available, at any time of day, in any location with a device that can hook up to it. Humanity, not just people who … work in computer science, for example.
We have moved past the time, then, where we need the kind of protection that Dion Fortune advocates. We have, perhaps, moved past needing secret societies with a structure to supervise our enlightenment. I think it’s fair to say that Fortune and her colleagues absolutely meant well, and that in her circumstances, it was the right thing to do. We’ve learned from it – mostly about ourselves! – and we’re now ready to move on into the new world that Crowley envisioned.