Since I still have not met any secret chiefs in the flesh, I am continuing my series on how the idea of secret chiefs evolved.
The ideas of secret chiefs evolved under the British mistress of magic Dion Fortune into something which was more elaborate than had been seen even under Theosophy.
Fortune regarded masters or contacts as the most important part of magic but rather than keeping them as the preserve of the chiefs of an order, made them a key part of any student’s training.
Her system of three degrees emphasized the importance of contacts. In the first grade, a student would learn the theory of magic and start to develop the psychic skills necessary to start making contact with their astral master. In the second degree they would start on basic practical magic with the aim of making a deeper spiritual contact with the master. They would then make an “unreserved dedication” to that master who would agree to continue their teaching. At the third degree they would be working with the master to assist in its work.
Each magical school had one basic contact and many who over saw the different aspect of the students work. As you can see a master would direct students to carry out their own work. But lesser masters would oversee the work of developing students until they were ready to meet their real master. The work of the “real master” was to get the student to finally meet their higher self.
Fortune had several different types of contact too. The first were mortals who had died and agreed to work as communicators to the greater masters. These were similar to spiritualist “guides.” Then there were masters who had lived lots of different lives who would take up the shell off one of their historical personalities and animate it. It is for this reason that Dion Fortune could have masters like “Socrates”, or “the Chancellor” who were historical personalities.
|Dion Fortunes "Chancellor" contact|
Finally there were contacts which were Gods or angels. These were exactly what they said. To make matters more complicated some of these gods were said to have human incarnations. These were favoured because they understood human nature better than gods who had never walked amongst men.
In the theory it was possible to talk to such beings through one of their human personalities.
Communication was always either by meetings in pathworkings on in the astral realm. A contact was tested using grade signs, in a similar way to the Golden Dawn. But since some were more psychic than others, mediums with a special gift to talking to contacts channelled information.
There were some requirements for Dion Fortune’s secret chief system to work. Firstly you had to believe in re-incarnation. For a person to reach the status of a Secret Chief they had to have had many lives of spiritual experience. Messages from contacts were often coloured by the medium, channeller or the wish fulfilment of the student. Some students were drawn to particular Gods and offer to serve them for years only to discover that their true contact was something else. This was explained as the contact changing and handing them on to a higher being.
Students also tended to wish that they had the same contact as the head of the school or one of their friends within the order.
|Glastonbury is always used for Fortune illustrations|
Channelled teaching was of various levels of quality too. Some material, such as Fortune’s cosmic doctrine was so obtuse that its profundity was impenetrable. Other material was so completely inane as to be comical. Once Dion Fortune asked her contact about the future of her Soya Bean shares, which she depended upon for her independent income. She was cryptically told “the Soya Bean will look after itself.”
Fortune’s contact system was similar to one used by the Hope Sisters of the Bristol Temple of the Golden Dawn. Fortune was very close to this temple and finished her Golden Dawn training there. Israel Regardie said that after his 5=6 initiation he was summoned to hear one of the orders Secret Chiefs provide him with a personal message. He thought it was rubbish pouring from the unconscious minds of the channellers. He also had similar feelings about Crowley’s Books of the Law, which were obtained using a similar approach. That prejudice affected several strains of the Golden Dawn which reject channelled messages completely.
|Israel Regardie was forced to channel Harry Potter|
Having seen some of these “secret chiefs” in action, I cannot help but feel that we have missed the point about what they are supposed to be doing. Experiences were strange and sometimes interesting, sometimes producing information which was unavailable to the channeller. However the system was wide open to abuse, it also favoured a hierarchical, bureaucratic view of the universe. Regardie, and his ilk, might have been throwing out the baby with the bathwater. The method could have been right, but the philosophy behind it might have been way off. Had he seen the channelling work of Mathers or Yeats he might have been a little more tolerant (although knowing Regardie probably not).
By philosophy I mean the concept that invisible friends control lesser beings on earth through psychic means. I do not like the concept which places beings between you and your higher self who require absolute dedication. Anything that gets between you and your higher self is probably an obstacle rather than anything useful.
One thing that Fortune did however was make Secret Chiefs available to all working students of magic, and not just a chief. This was a form of democracy which meant that her system could become the most widely spread. A student could, following the orders of their master, go and form another school, or order to carry out a different type of work.
What Fortune appears to have ruled out completely was the idea of physical secret chiefs. Anything on earth that was special was an initiate and she did not appear to mention any physical secret chiefs meeting her in parks.