What I Don’t Believe: Secret Chiefs (2/3)

I don’t believe in secret chiefs.  I do believe, of course, that there are people wiser than I am, better at magic, and so on, just as there are those who are better looking, cook better, dance better, and so on.  So this rejection of the concept of “hidden masters” or “secret chiefs” isn’t a matter of ego.

For those not in the know, a secret chief is the “true” and invisible ruler of a magical order, who delivers his or her messages on to the more visible rulers by means of telepathy or other methods.

I do believe that spirits can teach us, even perhaps spirits who have once been human (although, really, what do you imagine makes them cleverer once they’re dead than they were when alive, other than mere perspective?).

But the results of the secret chiefs — the lodge wars, the posturing, the insisting that I have the true ear of the secret chiefs, no, no, I do, no, I do.  Bleh.  Bugger it all.  Anyone that imagines that this sort of nonsense is the height of magical work is doing it all wrong.  They’re the sort of folks who take on grand names, mutter mysteriously or glower at people at festivals, and turn every topic to that of the occult.  Dull people, in other words.

Again, as well, we find a bit of racism mixed in with occultism.  After all, so many of the secret chiefs come from Tibet, or India, or are Native American — which seems like a really good thing, doesn’t it?  I mean, it’s respectful of other cultures to honor their wisdom.  But that’s the problem: it’s not honoring their wisdom, because these “Tibetan” or whathaveyou secret chiefs are having the dubious wisdom of their humble acolytes put in their mouths.  When my secret and mysterious Native American spirit guide tells me some great teaching of his long lost people, what I’m probably really doing is projecting my own, quite western, quite white, probably quite imperialist views of what wisdom is onto this figurehead of “savage wisdom.”  It’s insulting, both to the western mystery traditions themselves which don’t need to be exoticized to be valuable, but more importantly it’s insulting to the people whose cultures we’ve reduced to “sources of secret wisdom,” rather than recognizing their complexity and richness as a culture.

Fortunately, this trend in occultism is dying out.  One rarely sees people claiming special knowledge from channeled hidden masters anymore, and the Native American spirit guide is, thank goodness, a thing of the past — in no small part, perhaps, thanks to those Native Americans who stopped putting up with the patronizing nonsense and spoke out against it.

And it’s doubly fortunate, because when we push our authority off onto secret chiefs, distant authority figures, and made up projections of our own prejudices, then we surrender our own authority.  And that’s not something a magician does lightly.  If the head of a magical order says, “I made up these rituals based on some stuff I read, and some of my own practices and experiences, as well as a few intuitions and insights I had,” I’d have more respect for that than claims of secret chiefs and mysterious ciphers.

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7 Responses to “What I Don’t Believe: Secret Chiefs (2/3)”

  1. My Secret Chief says Meow!

  2. Question: What is more correct? Someone believing in what he doesn’t know, someone not believing in what he doesn’t know or someone who keeps open-mind for what he doesn’t know?
    Patrick, I think you are doing a mistake here by taking assumption as a solid proof. Yes, you used common sense and it is logical, but don’t forget that the same thing was done by clerics during dark age and same thing is done by scientists rejecting occult phenomena.

    • Keeping an open mind is valuable, but doesn’t preclude critical thinking. Note that I don’t say that I don’t believe that secret chiefs *exist*. For all I know they do. I just don’t believe in — have faith in — them. Because it seems that having faith in them often leads to very detrimental things, which I explain in the post.

      • I agree, perhaps ironically. It’s all too easy to spout mystical sounding mumbo-jumbo in the guise of channeled wisdom. I despise channelers, as a rule. lol. I have more skepticism about channeled writings than probably any other aspect of this wicked business.

  3. inominandum Says:

    One of the best things about the former Tibetan Masters is that since 1959 and the Tibetan Exodus, the actual Lamas have been travelling and teaching widely. Because they are afraid of their tradition dying out we can even learn and read about practices openly now that would have been very difficult even for Tibetans to learn in traditional Tibet because of the secrecy. These teaching bear little in common with what Theosophists and others who drew from “Tibetan Masters”, taught.

    The weirdest thing is that despite this newer, better, and verifiable information available, large sections of the western new age and occult scene would STILL rather rely upon 19th and early 20th century sources for their info about Tibet, as well as Egypt, Native Americans, and a host of other indigenous cultures.

  4. [...] same goes for Secret Chiefs. (Postmodern [...]

  5. Hey, Pat. For a number of years I worked under people who believed in such beings, though they really had nothing to say about them. It did little more than add ego to their work, such that every thing they channeled from certain spirits become their gospel.

    The group I belong to has evolved and no longer accepts any spiritual contacts as gospel, and has even done away with any human authority figures (at least in the inner core group) save for that governing the teachings of the outer school and the need for governing party to keep temples running and organized.

    It was nice meeting you last year at Greer’s workshop. I’m glad I found your blog. We should do lunch sometime. Aurora is just a hop skip and a jump.

    -James

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