Hermetic seals, oaths, and vows of silence: sowing the seeds for dishonesty?

To dare, to know, to will…and to keep silent (or alternatively, “shut the fuck up”). We’ve all heard it, from those of us in the Western Mystery Trads, traditional witchcraft groups, British Traditional Wicca–you name it. Undoubtedly this idea of keeping seals upon hidden knowledge dates back to the concept of initiation back in ancient times with the Rites of Eleusis and the Osirian Mysteries. In short, it’s not new.

During my time in various initiatory bodies, I have seen all levels of secrecy and based on my experiences with such, and it has caused me to wonder the following: at one point are you veilingĀ too much? To what end can the secrecy reach the stage where it has become so commonplace that you are either refusing to talk about things which are either available to the public, or…worse yet…being silent about things which never, ever should be kept hidden?After my time spent in in a particular Golden Dawn group I noticed a great effort on many splinter groups formed afterwards to “maintain transparency.” That is, transparency of funds, governmental workings and other such topics which, if candid about, could help to foster and nurture trust on both ends. In fact, groups I belonged to later which have refused such a transparency and were discovered to be harboring secrets about misuse of funds and what-have-you were ones I was all too happy to leave. Having some measure of transparency is crucial for ensuring lack of abuse of power.

Organizations that lack transparency frequently abuse the power of silence and secrecy. The problem is two-fold: a) people are human and prone to being tempted by ego and greed and b) lacking a sanity and reality check from those on the “outside”, those on the “inside” wind up living very insular lives where they can lose focus, grounding, and a sense of what is right.

Knowing right from wrong doesn’t mean all initiatory secrets must be brandied about like so many strands of pearls before the Intarwebs, but I do think that secrecy is something which must be handled in moderation, treated with enough checks and balances to prevent its abuse, and also to make sure people don’t become so used to keeping things hidden that they veil matters they shouldn’t. Otherwise, people pile secrets one on top of the other, and it’s the slippery slope I’ve watched people fall down on, and hurt themselves as well others.

When you find yourself in a group so shrouded in secrecy to the point where you can no longer communicate with the outside world: your family, friends, significant others, that’s my measuring stick for When Things Have Gone Too Far. I uphold that same measuring stick for when people get into relationships also. If they cease communicating with you and/or start deliberately withholding information, something is terribly, terribly wrong. Sometimes people return from behind that curtain and at other times, they do not. All you really can do in such circumstances is pray that they realize what they’re engaged is is unhealthy.

In the end, you should go with your gut: if any organization body asks something of you which you find to be against any of your moral, civic, or spiritual obligations, you have the right to refuse, speak up, and look elsewhere for assistance with your spiritual growth and development.

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