Western mystery tradition
The Western mystery tradition traditionally started in Ancient Egypt, Ancient Greece, Rome and Israel, while it contains many characteristics from the Pagan people of Ancient Britain and Scandinavia, such as the Celts. Other places which contributed to the Western mystical tradition are Babylon and Persia.
Ancient Egypt and Ancient Greece were the most known sources of what we currently call Western Mystery Tradition. Egypt was considered more advanced in mysticism, and thus many Ancient Greek philosophers travelled to Egypt in order to learn their traditions.
The Dark Ages
The appearance of Jesus Christ and the introduction of Christianity influenced the tradition deeply, but during the dark ages the ancient Western mystery tradition was heavily opposed by the Christian Church and many figures associated with it were victims of the Inquisition, especially the witches and members of secret mystical societies. The Christian church was successful to completely destroy some paths of the tradition, such as Mithraism, or profoundly minimise the activities of traditions such as Gnosticism and Cathars. However, the Western tradition managed to remain alive in Medieval France, Medieval Britain, Medieval Germany and other places, mainly due to the work of many secretive esoteric orders such as the 17th century Rosicrucians, who published their famous manifestos Fama Fraternitatis and Confessio Fraternitatis and who also helped to transfer the remains of the ancient tradition in the recently discovered "New World" of North America (Fancis Bacon, the Imperator of the 17th Century Rosicrucians in Europe, wrote a book titled New Atlantis which described the transfer). It is also possible that the Arabs may have had preserved some of the secrets into some of their Islamic traditions. It is worthly to note that in middle ages, although Christianity opposed occultism, many people remained interested in Astrology and some kings or queens had personal astrologers for advice.
The European Enlightenment
The European Enlightenment was very positive for the ancient mystical tradition. Especially after the 19th century the Western mystery tradition started becoming more and more famous among the general public who started again being interested in subjects such as witchcraft, ritual magic, mysticism, divination, Rosicrucianism, Freemasonry, occultism, spiritism and Astrology. The separation of church and state, the democracy and the advances in personal freedom of thought and speech apparently helped in this revival. Mystical societies such as the Rosicrucians and the Freemasons greatly influenced the society in order to allow more individual freedom and encourage the people to become truth-seekers. In 19th century a new mystical tradition was also born: the Martinism.
The Second World War
After the dark ages, the preservation of the secret teachings of the Western mystery tradition was endangered again during the Second world war, due to the Nazi regime in Third Reich's Germany. Although it is believed by many that Nazis and Adolf Hitler himself had a profound interest in occultism (See Nazis and Occultism), the Nazi regime was strongly opposed to the mystical secret societies which acted as the guardians of the secret teachings, and Gestapo killed many of their dignitaries in Europe, including but not limited to Freemasons and Rosicrucians. North America remained free, and the American orders helped to revive the mystical tradition in Europe after the Nazi's defeat by the Allied Forces.
The Collapse of the Soviet Union
Little information is known about the status of the Western mystery tradition in the officially Atheist Soviet Union and its "satellites" during the ruling of the Communist Party. It is believed by some that the Soviets had a scientific interest in subjects traditionally studied by the Western mystery tradition, such as telepathy and astrology.
A number of people associated with mysticism chose to leave the countries where Communism was installed. For example, G. I. Gurdjieff, an influential individual from Armenia, fled to France after the Bolsheviks overtook the ruling of Russia. The Universal White Brotherhood of Bulgaria, founded by Peter Deunov and extended by Omraam Mikhael Aivanhov, also chose to continue its activities in France and other Western countries after the Second world war and the introduction of Communism into Bulgaria. These two examples, although not directly associated with the core of the Western mystery tradition, demonstrate a pattern which supports the claim that the Soviet-controlled states were negative not only to mainstream religion but also to mysticism and occultism.
It is known that after the collapse of the Soviet Union, several mystical societies, such as the Rosicrucians, gained profound revival in Eastern Europe and Russia which resulted in the foundation of many new jurisdictions and lodges.
Nowadays the Tradition is experiencing a profound revival in North America and Europe, while many Western mystical organisations have presence all over the world. Today the tradition is undergoing an import of Eastern ideas, mainly Taoism, Tantra, Buddhism, Hinduism and Yoga, which began mainly by the Theosophical Society of the 19th century and now is continued by many people with syncretic or eclectic backgrounds. Some people like to mix New Age syncretic ideas and modern scientific findings, such as Quantum mechanics and modern Psychology, with the Western tradition, while others are opposed to such modernisations.
Today, the Western mystery tradition is a mixture of ancient philosophy, paganistic and Christian thought, medieval ideas, and also contains some imports from Asia and modern Science. However, the true Tradition, seems to focus on individual spiritual progress through initiation into some sort of brotherhood, group rituals, study of philosophy and the cosmic laws and their practical application with the aims of alchemy, meditation, divination and ritual magic.
Initiatoric societies existed in Ancient Greece and Ancient Egypt. They were working as schools or colleges for the spreading of their secret teachings to worthly individuals. The teachins were not accessible to the general public, a tendency symbolised by the Greek phrase "Ουδείς αγεωμέτρητος εισείτω" (which may be translated as "no person without knowledge of Geometry should get in") found in Plato's Academy.
The tradition of initiation and secrecy is well-preserved today, although it is criticised by many people, mainly those related to the New Age phenomenon, which has the view that knowledge should be as open as possible.
The Main Themes
The main themes of the Western mystery tradition include:
- Alchemy and the Great Work
- Magic / Magick (and in particular ritual magic)
Teachings and practices relevant to the Western mystery tradition include:
- Astrology and other forms of Divination
- Magic and Theurgy
- Christian Mysticism and Gnosticism
- Kabbalah and Jewish Mysticism
Organisations which were or are related to the Western mystery tradition include:
- Ancient Mystical Order Rosae Crucis (AMORC), Confraternity of the Rose Cross (CR+C) and other Rosicrucian orders
- Theosophy (which imported many Eastern ideas into the Western world) and Anthroposophy
- Knights Templar
- Builders of the Adytum (BOTA)
- Servants of the Light (SOL)
- Hermetic Order of the Morning Star
- Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the original order founded in 1888 as well as many similarily named orders which claim continuation of the Golden Dawn tradition
- Rosicrucian Fellowship, Christian mystics
Modern people who are related to the Western mystery tradition include:
- Harvey Spencer Lewis, founder of AMORC
- Dion Fortune, magician
- Aleister Crowley, occultist
- S. L. MacGregor-Mathers, founding member of the 1888's Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn
- Max Heindel, author of The Rosicrucian Cosmo-Conception and founder of The Rosicrucian Fellowship
Historical individuals who are related to the Western mystery tradition include:
- Hermes Trismegistus, ancient mythical figure
- Akhenaten, Ancient Egyptian pharaoh who promoted and protected the mystical tradition
- Plato, Ancient Greek philosopher
- Pythagoras, Ancient Greek philosopher
- Plotinus, philosopher important in occultism
Historical texts associated with the Western Mystery Tradition include:
- Hermetica or Corpus Hermeticum, which outlines the Hermetic tradition
- Fama Fraternitatis, classical text of the 17th century Rosicrucians
- Confessio Fraternitatis, classical text of the 17th century Rosicrucians
- Chymical Wedding of Christian Rosenkreutz (also known as The Chemical Wedding of Christian Rozenkreutz), classical text of the 17th century Rosicrucians
- Sepher Yetzirah, important text for Kabbalah
- Zohar, important text for Kabbalah
- Zanoni, Rosicrucian text
- List of spirituality-related topics
- List of dignitaries of mystical organisations
- List of occultists