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The Mystery Schools and the Invisible Government
An examination of the hidden institution behind human evolution
Note: This article is the first chapter in a thirteen-chapter book project. All chapters are available to read here on my Substack. Please see my website, www.alexsachon.com, for the table of contents and for direct links to each of the chapters.
In this article, we will be exploring one of the most important topics in Esoteric philosophy: the purpose and function of the Mystery Schools and their role in the unfoldment of world civilization.
In my opinion, this is the great forgotten factor in human history. The Mysteries once dominated the affairs of the ancient world, but over recent millennia seem to have disappeared from public view. What happened to it?
1. The Role of the Priesthood in Ancient Civilization
Our modern civilization is defined in large part by its embrace of secularism: the idea that religion, science, politics, and economic management should be kept separate and autonomous from each other. The ancient civilizations of the pre-Christian world did not share this belief, however.
In ancient times, the priesthoods of the temple and the rulers of the state were tightly intertwined. The state monarchy ruled by divine right, and this divine right was sanctioned through the approval of the priesthood.
Economic management was under the direct purview of the state. The priesthood in turn would serve as advisors and counselors to state leaders, using their knowledge of astrology and other ancient sciences to guide various economic and social activities, such as the seasonal harvesting of crops.
In ancient societies, science did not exist independently of religious practice, meaning there was no concept of secular science. Instead, scientific knowledge was considered sacred and the priesthood held exclusive access to it.
In addition, seasonal festivals and rituals were conducted out of the temples. These played a vital part in solidifying the social and cultural cohesion of ancient society. The priesthood, in coordination with the state, organized these important events.
Overall, ancient society was organized around a different institutional paradigm than what we experience today, one characterized above all by the fact that every aspect of society was infused with a religious vitality.
As the leaders of the state religion, as advisors to the state government, and as the keepers of the sacred sciences, the priesthoods were the custodians of this vitality and therefore were the true guiding lights behind the glories and achievements of ancient civilization.
On this point Manly Hall writes: “The temple was the cradle of civilization. The priests, exercising their divine prerogative, made the laws and enforced them; appointed the rulers and controlled them; ministered to the needs of the living, and guided the destinies of the dead. All branches of learning were monopolized by the priesthood, who admitted into their ranks only those intellectually and morally qualified to perpetuate their arcanum.” (A)
By implication, the health of the overall society depended in large part on the health of the priesthood. When the priesthood served adequately the will of the gods, society prospered; but when they fell into corruption, the overall society would also fall into corruption and inevitably a collapse would follow.
In good times, the priesthood served as wise councilors to the state; but in dark times, the monarchs and aristocracy would turn against the priesthood, cast them out, and replace them with a less wise, more corruptible sect of priests - ones who would be willing to capitulate to the monarchy and the aristocracy’s self-serving ambitions.
In a worst case scenario, such as that which transpired during the dark ages of ancient Egyptian and American civilization, the priesthood would fall under an evil influence and practice “black magic”, where they would misuse their knowledge of the sacred sciences in order to gain political and psychological control of society and energetic control of nature’s elements.
No matter how it happened, the corruption of the priesthood was a death sentence for the civilization at large, as this priesthood was the custodian of the vital knowledge required to keep civilization prosperous.
This vital knowledge included knowledge of the workings of energy, of the sacred geometries underlying physical form, of the astrological motions of the stars, of the healing arts, and of meditation and yoga.
If the priesthood became corrupted and dominated the state or if the state became corrupted and cast out the priesthood, then the bond between the two would broken and consequently the flow of vital knowledge into society would be severed.
Without the input of vital knowledge from the priesthood, civilization would fall out of tune with the natural cycles of heaven and earth. As a consequence, it would lose its health, prosperity, and cohesiveness and would eventually and inevitably collapse in on itself, falling into barbarism and corruption.
In sum, the driving force behind the great accomplishments of the mysterious pagan civilizations of antiquity was their priesthoods. As the quality of these priesthoods gradually began to decline due to internal and external corruptive influences, the “pagan” pattern of civilization gradually began to unravel and fall apart.
This process of decline took place gradually over an extended period of time. But eventually the collapse would be complete: all over the world, the institutional order that characterize the pagan or pre-Christian age of civilization gradually fell apart and disappeared.
The great culmination point for this collapse came with the fall of the Roman Empire and its replacement with a new world order centered around the geopolitical dominance of the Catholic Church. It was with this transition that the institutional pattern of global civilization was moved irreparably away from the old model and set onto a new course of growth and development.
In the new world order, the Church would become a political force separate and autonomous from the state; science and religion would move to become independent of philosophy; economic management would be driven by secular and self-centered concerns; and the Mysteries would transform from an overt institution rooted in the temples to a covert one concealed within the obscure motions of secret societies.
2. Esoteric Knowledge and Its Potential for Misuse
The mental orientation of ancient peoples was rooted in mythology, with the affairs and activities of the common people guided by the myths, symbols, and rituals of their religion.
We are inclined to think of ancient myths as mere fables, but modern psychologists such as Carl Jung and Joseph Campbell have pointed out that there is a high degree of psychological intelligence bound up in their symbolism. Furthermore, scholars such as Manly P. Hall, Graham Hancock, and Freddy Silva have pointed out that there are highly advanced mathematical and astronomical patterns concealed within the symbolism of these ancient myths.
Given these mysterious facts, it seems evident that the mythologies of ancient times could not have emerged by chance. Rather, they appear to have been deliberate creations of the temple and its priesthood.
The symbolism used in the mythologies created by the priesthoods seem to have been designed to contain more than one layer of meaning. While the public would interpret myths one way, the priesthood possessed a cryptographic key that would unravel deeper, hidden layers of meaning behind their symbolism.
There were thus two ways to interpret the religious symbolism of ancient mythology: an outer, public method and an inner, sacerdotal method.
This reveals an important fact about ancient civilization that is largely overlooked: it possessed two fundamentally separate forms of knowledge. One was an exoteric or “outer” form used by the public and the other an esoteric or “inner” form kept by the priesthood.
The prefix “exo-“ means “outer”. “Exoteric knowledge” therefore implies a form of knowledge that is learned and gathered from one’s sensory engagements with the outer world.
As Manly P. Hall describes it, this includes “every form of knowledge discoverable to the intellect through the sense perceptions of the physical mind.”
This category incorporates all the forms of knowledge that the mass population are familiar with, such as the scientific knowledge we learn in school or the religious knowledge we are taught from scripture. Simply put: if it is grounded in the workings of the intellect, it is “exoteric”.
By contrast, the prefix “eso-“ means “inner”. “Esoteric knowledge” thus implies a form of knowledge that is revealed from within.
This denotes a special category of knowledge that is mystical and spiritual in nature. It arises as an experience of consciousness within the psyche.
In ancient civilization, this type of knowledge was considered sacred. It formed the foundation of the priesthood’s sacred sciences and was the means by which they developed their mysterious esoteric disciplines, such as those of alchemy, astrology, and yoga.
According to the teachings of esoteric philosophy, esoteric knowledge involves the understanding of causes, while exoteric knowledge concerns the perception of effects.
By “cause”, we are referring to knowledge about the spiritual realities underpinning physical existence. This is the world of Platonic and Jungian archetypes, which are said to inwardly direct the motions of all that happens in the outer world of material form.
In scientific terms, we are referring to the idea that physical reality exists as an effect which is precipitated out of dynamics taking place within a metaphysical field of energy that surrounds and interpenetrates the physical world. This metaphysical dimension constitutes the cause responsible for generating physical forms. It generates out of its own internal dynamics the physical world, which is understood to exist as an effect of this cause.
To use a familiar analogy, the physical universe is like a projection on a screen: the structures and motions produced on this screen are the products of energetic dynamics taking place in a projector existing behind the screen. Here, the projector is cause and the images on the screen are effects. It is said that reality follows a similar dynamic.
At root, esoteric knowledge concerns knowledge about how the energy manifested out from Source - the spiritual Consciousness responsible for creating the Universe - moves through various metaphysical dimensions as it extends itself downward into Matter in order to create a physical form.
It is difficult to fathom esoteric knowledge without understanding something of the larger worldview that esoteric philosophy reveals. This worldview sees reality as being the product of three fundamental principles interacting together: Spirit, Soul, and Body.
According this worldview, Spirit moves into soul in order to fashion the physical form of a material body.
Each physical body is a vehicle into which the energies and powers of the soul are poured. Likewise, the soul is a vehicle of the spirit: it is a vessel into which the powers and potentials of the Creating Spirit of the Universe are focused and given expression.
Thus, Spirit moves into soul and soul moves into body. Here we understand Spirit as the First Cause, the body or material form as an effect produced out of this cause, and the soul as an intermediary between the two.
The body is physical, the soul is metaphysical, and Spirit is transcendent.
Esoteric knowledge differs from exoteric knowledge in that the former is concerned with the dynamics of the spirit and soul (i.e. cause), while the latter is oriented toward the world of material form (i.e. effect).
Stated in terms of energy, esoteric knowledge concerns knowledge of how energy moves down from Source through various metaphysical dimensions in order to fashion the material universe. In other words, it involves knowledge of how material existence is fashioned from dynamics taking place within the “ether” - a metaphysical field of energy that surrounds and embeds all material forms.
Knowledge of how to control and manipulate these etheric processes is the secret of the ancient science of alchemy, which at root is about the transmutation of form through the re-direction of energetic processes taking place within the metaphysical dimensions space.
If you consider the implications of how this powerful form of knowledge could be misused, we can begin to understand why esoteric knowledge was considered highly sacred and why the priesthood felt it so important to keep it closely guarded away from spiritually immature people.
As Manly Hall informs us, the ancient priesthoods were “the guardians of a transcendental knowledge so profound as to be incomprehensible save to the most exalted intellect and so potent as to be revealed with safety only to those in whom personal ambition was dead and who had consecrated their lives to the unselfish service of humanity.” (A)
Henry Drake, one of Hall’s protégées, elaborates: “In the program of the Mysteries, each individual must grow into the comprehension of truth. Before he can be entrusted with the divine powers of mind and will, he must accept knowledge as a responsibility to his Creator and his world, rather than as an opportunity for the advancement of personal ambitions.”
Manly Hall continues: “In ancient days, all learning was regarded as sacred. To bestow knowledge upon those who had not prepared their minds by years of discipline and self-purification profaned the sacred sciences. Thus the choicest branches of the sciences were communicated only to duly initiated pupils.”
Only those who had met very stringent requirements were allowed to receive the sacred knowledge that was in exclusive possession of these priesthoods. These requirements included:
a) Purification of oneself from physical and emotional imbalances,
b) The release of oneself from the attachment to self-centered motivations and impure thought patterns, and
c) The dedication of oneself to the service of a higher Divine Plan.
The misuse of sacred knowledge constitutes “black magic”, which is the re-appropriation of esoteric knowledge in order that it be used to redirect nature’s energetic processes towards ends that are driven by personal desires and agendas rather than toward the fulfillment of God’s Will and the Divine Plan.
It was the use of black magic that lead to the final collapse of the Atlantean civilization pattern. Unfortunately, the karma from this age would re-express itself numerous times over subsequent eras.
For example, the priesthood’s fall into corruption and use of black magic was said to be the cause of the collapse of the ancient Egyptian and American civilizations, which rose to great heights only to collapse into complete destruction. In addition, one might look at the current corruptions of modern science and the technocratic ruling elite as a modern recapitulation of this Atlantean karma pattern.
Black magic must inevitably fail because it goes against the archetypal design of creation. Those who remove themselves from the Divine Plan must inevitably experience a karmic recompense for their decision.
Karma is actually held within the nature of the very energy that black magicians seek to misuse. When one redirects energy away from its natural course, it sets up an asymmetry between the higher metaphysical dimensions where energy originates and the lower physical dimension that it flows down into.
By manipulating the energetic dynamics of the physical dimension of creation, black magicians gain temporary control over the world of material form. But in the end this inevitably creates a disaster, as the energy flowing out from the Spiritual Source of creation will in time inevitably break through any arbitrary blockages set up to impede its natural flow state. When this breakthrough finally happens, it destroys the unnatural forms responsible for the creation of these blockages.
The fall into use of black magic is a phase that mankind has repeatedly fallen into; it is a karmic pattern inherited from Atlantis that we have not yet escaped.
When this happens, there is always an element of the priesthood - those of the highest grades - that does not fall into such practices.
To ascend to the highest levels of esotericism is to become one with the Creator and his Plan. This highest order of the priesthood is constituted by “adepts,” a term which represents an individual who has attained the highest degree of spiritual awakening possible for a human.
A fraternity or secret society of adepts constitute what Manly Hall terms the “Invisible Government” of the world. This is the same group that Francis Bacon, in his book The New Atlantis, terms “The College of the Six Days Work” and which Plato, millennia earlier, coined the “Philosophic Empire”.
This secret fraternity of enlightened individuals is the true “shepherd of men”: they lead and direct the long-term evolutionary destiny of the race, assuring that human souls have the opportunity to learn from experience and therefore to express and gradually overcome the karma we have brought forth from the Atlantean Age, while simultaneously ensuring that we will not depart from the Master Plan archetypally set forth by the Creator for us at the beginning of this cycle of creation.
3. The Mystery Schools
Existing as a “society apart”, the priesthoods of the ancient temples organized themselves according to a guru-disciple pattern, with a central high priest (called a hierophant or adept) serving as a great spiritual teacher around whom a small number of elite disciples (called initiates) were gathered.
This cadre of initiates, who themselves were highly evolved in spiritual maturity, received their guidance directly from the master himself. This pattern was then replicated, as the initiates would in turn serve as the instructors for a descending hierarchy of lesser evolved disciples, students, and truth-seekers.
At each level, students are gradually working their way up a ladder of spiritual ascent, with students and disciples training to become initiates and with initiates training to one day become adepts.
The whole system operated in some ways like our modern university system, which is actually based on the original pattern of these ancient philosophical schools.
This system of spiritual education, termed the “Mysteries”, existed all over the world in the various great of civilizations of Asia, Europe, Africa, and the Americas. In each case, the Mystery School was oriented around the luminous aura of a central spiritual guru, around whom the whole system would revolve - much like the how solar system’s central Sun is orbited by a small group of planets (the initiates), which in turn are orbited by various lesser moons (their disciples).
Manly Hall describes the organizational metastructure of these Mystery Schools in detail: “The Great White Lodge is the hierarchy of enlightened souls bound together by wisdom and dedicated to the service of human need. Its lowest parts are composed of lay students and truth seekers whose virtue is sincerity. It ascends through the various degrees of studentship, probationship, and discipleship until the degree of adept or arhat is reached. The degrees still ascend through the various levels of initiates, until the whole order has as its apex and head the secret Nameless and Unknown One, whom the Egyptians called “The Master of the Secret House.” (B)
By “Master of the Secret House”, Hall is referring to the Divine Being - the Creator of the world. Thus, in relation to the larger spiritual context that our world exists within, it is the function of the Mystery Schools to serve as the “hands and feet” of this “Adept-King”.
Here we come to an important point: the illuminated hierophants at the heart of the Mystery Schools were not just spiritually evolved persons; they had actually awakened the consciousness of the Creator within themselves and served as dedicated instruments of His Will and Plan.
Hall notes that these illuminated individuals were one with God and served as direct instruments and ambassadors of the Divine Being within the realm of His creation: “(The Hierophant) has become part of the mechanism of the Great School itself. … He is a conscious instrument of the Great Plan and perpetuates his body without the phenomena of birth and death. He does not have disciples other than initiates, and it is exceedingly unlikely that he will make his appearance to any person not already proficient in occult matters.” (B)
Henry Drake provides more information on this elite group of spiritually awakened teachers: “The adepts, considered together as the citizens of an invisible empire of the philosophic elect, constitute the heroic elder brothers, the custodians and protectors of humanity. As the interpreters of the Mysteries, they are the true educators and illuminators. As the redeemed servants of Divine purpose, they comprise a powerful, creative, and directive force in the world.” (A)
Note that there is an emphasis in these quotes on education: the secret fraternity comprised of adepts, initiates, and disciples were termed a “Mystery School” because their overall orientation was one of spiritual instruction and education.
According to Manly Hall, the ultimate goal of this School was rather simple: “to teach the doctrine of one God, the resurrection of man to eternal life, the dignity of the human soul, and to lead the people to see the shadow of the deity in the beauty, magnificence, and splendor of the universe.” (A)
He continues: “The purpose of the Mysteries was to purify and regenerate the individual. This was accomplished through the dedicated practice of self-control and disciplined conduct. Through this training, the individual was given the power to govern himself: to place value above profit and to choose self-sacrifice before the abuse of Truth.”
From this we can gather that the Mysteries exist to awaken the consciousness of the Creator within the human being. This can only be attained by the individual who has wholeheartedly dedicated themselves to the accomplishment of this realization.
The Mysteries should be understood as a specialized institution specifically set up by the Creator to awaken itself gradually within the collective body of mankind - a task that is accomplished one individual at a time.
On this note, Manly Hall writes: “The Mystery systems of initiation were organized to teach the science of human regeneration by which the inner faculties of the soul could be stimulated and unfolded according to the laws governing its process.” (G)
Elsewhere he writes: “The primary function of the Adept-teachers is to initiate humanity into those sublime mysteries by which the corporeal man, cleansed of bodily limitations, may ascend to reunion with his own divine nature. This release is possible through the mastery of the seven esoteric arts and sciences”.
This process of spiritual awakening is closely tied to the evolutionary trajectory of the human race: we are destined to re-awaken the spiritual consciousness of God within ourselves and, in so doing, become like the great adept-initiates of the temple. In this way, the adept “foreshadows the state of mankind when it will have attained the full release of its faculties and powers. The adept is, therefore, the truly evolved of our species.” (A)
As we can see from the above discussion, human evolution and spiritual awakening are closely tied together.
On this, Manly Hall teaches: “The urge to grow is present everywhere in nature. All creatures, from the least to the greatest, are unfolding or developing from within outwardly. In the human being the urge to improve is expressed rationally, and man puts his intellect to work to devise means of co-operating consciously with the evolutionary processes.”
From this we can infer that the Mysteries were created to meet an innate need within the human being: to discover the means whereby man may unfold its own innate potentials for spiritual evolution. This evolution is to be advanced in order that mankind may become a willing participant in the fulfillment of the Creator’s Plan for the Universe He has created.
The curriculum of the Mystery Schools was based around astrology, alchemy, and various forms of meditational sciences. Its focus was on teaching the student how to master their physical and psychological resources and how to unlock and release, through the use of specialized disciplines, internal spiritual capacities and potentials within themselves.
On this, Manly Hall writes: “The Mystery Schools are institutions that have appeared among all great civilizations. These schools developed systems of special culture intended to stimulate, train, and directionalize metaphysical forces present within the subjective nature of human beings. The formulas of these schools were called disciplines. The disciplines differed according to the requirements of various races and nations, but in all cases, the end to be achieved was identical - the release of the true man from the limitations imposed by his material nature.” p.164 (B)
The instructional technique utilized by these schools to communicate these disciplines utilized a pedagogical technique that is largely forgotten today: that of “initiation”.
The initiation process emphasizes the student’s need to demonstrate what they’ve learned: they must be able to actually prove their mastery of the curriculum by passing real-world, do-or-die tests.
In order to pass from one degree to another, the student had to demonstrate that they had actually transformed themselves by internalizing and mastering the esoteric teachings they had been taught.
On this, Manly Hall writes: “In the Mysteries candidates were tested as to their strength of character, their courage, their integrity, and their intelligence. The initiations, given in the old Mystery Schools, were trials of spiritual, mental and physical strength. Those who passed the initiations satisfactorily were accepted into the body of the priesthood and were instructed in the secrets of the Ancient Wisdom.” (B)
One example of this is the ability to “astral project” oneself out-of-body. The more advanced levels of Esoteric instruction were communicated only once the student had developed the capacity to accomplish this feat. Until they could fulfill this requirement, they were stuck on a level, with higher levels of instruction saved for those who could release from within themselves this rarified ability.
Manly P. Hall comments: “The initiate is usually clairvoyant to some degree, as this is necessary to his initiation. He may or may not possess the ability to function consciously outside the physical body. He can read part of the etheric record of the earth, and has a considerable understanding of the invisible worlds. He is able to commune with others of a similar degree of development by subjective methods, and he is part of that great Brotherhood of initiates which is being built up in the world as the foundation for the philosophical era that is to come.” (C)
He continues: “The secret schools of antiquity instituted systems of definite discipline by which the whole nature was dissociated from the elements of exoteric knowledge and, through protracted effort, elevated to the level of super-sensuous comprehension. Having reached this state, the principles of higher knowing are then communicated to the neophyte by a method almost as arcane as the secrets themselves. A strange telepathic system was developed whereby the findings of the subtler inner perceptions were communicated.” (C)
Perhaps the most pivotal of all initiatory degrees that initiates must pass through involves undergoing the experience of ego-death and spiritual-rebirth.
Manly Hall teaches that, in the higher degrees of the Mysteries, “the more advanced pupils actually pass through the experience of death, an experience created for them by the wisdom and ingenuity of the priestcraft. Many of the initiated hierophants and adepts were profoundly versed in mesmerism and hypnotism. They could cause artificial catalepsy and by their own knowledge of natural law temporarily force the soul out of the body that it might gain the actual experience of passing into the invisible world. This experience “would acquaint the neophyte with all the profundities of mortal and immortal existence. Hence, it was well said that a man was born again when he had passed through the initiations.” (H)
Hall emphasizes that this experience of death and rebirth is one of the key elements of the initiation process: “Having been liberated by death from the limitations of body, man gains one advantage over his incarnate state - he has come to function in, and become a part of, that subjective world of which our objective sphere is but the shadow. Certain mechanisms of creation are, therefore, uncovered to his view, and if his understanding be sufficient, he may gain a better estimate of comparative values and degrees of truth.” (H)
He continues: “Every initiate of the ancient world had been out of his body at least once, usually aided by the priests. This experience entirely changed one’s perspective towards life, for it enlarged the horizon and established a new concept of values. This single circumstance is largely responsible for that indescribable interval which separates the philosophers of antiquity from mankind in general. These philosophers were of a race apart. A strange dignity, a commanding simplicity had been conferred upon them by the Mysteries.” (H)
In coming to know this truth, the initiate gains knowledge of the greater meaning and purpose of his life and what role he is intended to play in the unfoldment of the Divine Plan of creation. This type of deeply transformative spiritual experience is in fact the true foundation of religion. Meaning: religion is not grounded in a church, priesthood, or scripture but rather in the personal experience of God - an experience that is available to each of us, as each of us have our own unique connection with the Divine Being.
5. The Decline of Ancient Civilization
As the sun’s motion through the Great Year moved through the Age of Aries and approached the sign of Pisces, the long, gradual collapse of the pagan civilization pattern reached its culmination.
In the centuries preceding the end of the Age of Aries, historians find that, all across the world, an old order of human civilization was gradually unravelling and coming apart. This was the so-called “pagan” pattern of civilization.
The collapse of this old order did not happen all at once. Rather, it came as a gradual decline: civilizations would rise, prosper, then inevitably decline and collapse, only to be resurrected in a slightly different form in order to repeat the cycle once more.
But as the Sun finished its motion through Aries, the larger institutional order that underpinned the rise and fall of these civilizations would itself come to an end. A great cycle that held all of the lesser cycles within itself had come to completion and a new cycle of human activity was set to be born.
As noted above, when the old pagan civilizations fell into collapse, it was often due to an initial corruption setting in within its priesthood. Once this rot had set in within the temple (which, remember, was the lifeblood of ancient civilization), it was inevitable that it would gradually branch out and infect the rest of society, with a total collapse in civilization inevitably resulting.
This rot would set in not with the higher initiates and adepts but rather with the School’s lesser disciples: the ones who possessed some measure of occult knowledge but who were not fully mature in their spiritual understanding or capacity for self-control.
If we think of the Mysteries as a program of spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical self-purification, then it makes sense that those in the lowest grades would be the least purified and thus the most likely to fall into temptation, ambition, and corruption. Thus, it is in this lower order of occult students that corruption may set in.
In the design of the Mystery School system, the higher orders are oriented more towards the metaphysical and spiritual dimensions of human existence, while the lower orders are oriented more towards the physical, earthly dimension.
Those in the higher orders of the Mysteries remain somewhat aloof from the mundane activities of mankind, while those in the lower degrees interface directly with the machinations of human affairs on Earth.
Only in rare occasions do the adepts of the Mysteries directly operate in earthly affairs. By and large, this task is reserved for their disciples, with the adepts and higher initiates impressing their influence upon the world through the guidance of their disciples.
Thus, it was the task of those in the lower degrees of the Mysteries - as part of their initiation rites - to embed themselves in society and become involved in the political and economic affairs of the state.
These social realms were ruled by the monarchy, the aristocracy, and the economic and financial elite. The individuals in these positions wielded great power in society, but they would not necessarily be accepted disciples of the Mystery Schools.
It was therefore the responsibility of the initiates and their disciples to work within these institutions in order to covertly exert the will of the Mystery Schools within them.
On this note, Manly Hall writes: “The genuine Esoteric Associations always required that disciples prepare themselves for careers of practical service. The student was expected to attain to a state of unusual skill or proficiency in some branch of learning. He was then to practice this profession or craft as a means of extending this sphere of constructive influence. He was to teach through example, enriching his chosen vocation with the overtones of enlightened religious philosophy. Thus, gradually creating a significant zone of influence, he was available for whatever task the Keepers of the Great Plan required.”
Note, however, that there is a combustable dynamic at work here: if the lower order of disciples should fall into corruption for any reason, they would be well positioned to form an unholy alliance with the ruling class in order to form an evil empire.
Before moving on, I want to highlight a further path of cultural decay, one that begins in the greater society and gradually moves in to effect the priesthood.
If, for whatever reason, the society-at-large stopped producing citizens eligible or capable of entering the Mystery Schools to carry forward to its traditions, then gradually the Mysteries would lose its ability to perpetuate itself within that civilization. Thus, a lack of qualified candidates would serve as another means of severing the sacred bonds between the temple and state.
The main point is, if the sacred bond linking the overt state institutions with the Mystery system should ever be severed, then the lifeline of spiritual guidance coming from the adepts to the public would be broken and the society would inevitably fall into decay and collapse.
6. The Transition to a New World Order
After the fall of the pagan order of civilization, the Mysteries decoupled from its former habitat - the temples and sanctuaries of the ancient world - and went underground, or “sub rosa”, where it would continue its works in a clandestine fashion.
The collapse of the pagan religious institutions set the stage for a new model of religion to be born, one where religion becomes decoupled from its association with a particular state and nation, instead seeking to become an autonomous global force that moves above and atop the nations of the world, seeking to consolidate them all under its own global rulership.
This new model of religion was prefaced with the emergence of Judaism, a religious movement that goes back to around 1500 BC. But it wasn’t until the rise of Christianity in the early centuries of the modern era that this new institutional paradigm would officially expand out to dominate the affairs of Western civilization.
The Christian model of religion differed in several important ways from its pagan predecessors (this will explored in further detail in another article). Three of the most notable differences include:
a) The separation of the Church as an autonomous political force independent of the state;
b) The rise of the desire for world domination, with the Church seeking to convert other civilizations into its belief system and thereby to consolidate mankind’s expression of religion into one global superstructure under its control; and
c) The abandonment of the initiatic method of spiritual instruction emphasized by the old Mystery system, with the Church claiming to be the sole custodian of man’s spiritual salvation, a reward it provided only after the individual had sworn allegiance to its doctrines and decrees.
It was this latter point concerning the Church’s claim to possess a monopoly on spiritual salvation - a claim rooted in their doctrine of “vicarious atonement" - that put the orthodox Christian Church at fundamental odds with the priesthood of the Mystery Schools.
The Church promulgated a doctrine that stated that, in order to be saved, one merely had to profess their faith in Jesus and their fealty to the Church. This is the exact opposite of the concept of salvation taught in the Mystery Schools.
In the esoteric teachings of the Mysteries, it was emphasized that man was responsible for his own spiritual salvation. They emphasized that this salvation could come from no other source other than the individual himself and that each person had to actualize this salvation by awakening within themselves their own personal and private relationship with God.
The early era of Christianity was marked by a division taking place within itself between a comparatively small mystical and philosophical branch and a large and politically dominant orthodox branch. The former is best known through the sect of the Gnostics, while the latter is the sect that became the Roman Catholic Church.
The Gnostics sought to maintain the enlightened philosophical teaching of the Mysteries and this institution over to the new faith. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Church, which sought to claim mankind’s spiritual salvation exclusively for itself, saw the Gnostic movement as an existential threat. Consequently, they set out to stamp out and exterminate not only the Gnostics, but all other remaining sects tied to the ancient Mystery tradition.
Manly Hall explains this situation as follows: “Once Christianity had rejected paganism, it refused to recognize the Esoteric Orders of the pre-Christian world. It regarded them as detrimental to its own prestige, and sought relentlessly to exterminate them. … In order to advance itself as the supreme custodian of salvation, ecclesiasticism had to reject the Mystery System.” (D)
The consequences of this for the course of Western civilization were dire: “In its own effort to usurp this high destiny for itself, the Church obscured the very essentials of human progress and discouraged its followers from those noble and unselfish convictions which might long ago have supplied the incentives for a Universal Reformation of mankind.” (D)
What resulted was the collapse of Western civilization into a millennia-long Dark Ages. This situation would not begin to begin to be overcome until the Renaissance, when the philosophical wisdom of the pagan era was seeded back into Europe.
It was this campaign of persecution by the Church that led to the concealment of the Mysteries within secret societies.
Despite the Church's campaign to stamp out all traces of the old Mystery School system, its leaders survived and remained active in the pursuit of the Great Work. As Manly Hall writes: “The philosophic empire of the Mysteries was not destroyed but retired ever deeper into secrecy and restriction.”
Throughout the long era of the Church’s dominion, numerous branches of this concealed Mystery system have sprouted up to carry on its work. These include: the Knights Templar, the alchemists, the cabalists, the Rosicrucians, the Freemasons, and the Bavarian Illuminati.
In modern times, these secret orders still exist and are still working toward the same end goals they have always pursued. The vehicles they operate through have evolved, however.
In each age, the Invisible College works through specialized instruments designed to meet the needs of a specific time and place. In the old pagan order, they worked through great temple complexes. In the era when the Church dominated human affairs, they worked through secret societies like the Freemasons. In today’s technological age, dominated as it is by large industrial and economic concerns, the secret societies must work through a new, specialized form fitting the current social environment.
On this Manly Hall writes: “Amid the bustle and confusion of our great economic era, there are still mystic Master Builders like Paul and initiated philosophers like Plato. And these, in common with the priests of an older world, still serve and protect the sacred fires of aspiration burning upon the high altars of humanity. … The divine traditions still survive and the wise of one generation still pass on to the wise of the next that body of mystic truths which is the leaven of civilization.” (D)
Hall declines to give specifics about where the Mystery Schools are currently based, but he does note that the Great School and its initiates are now focused on the collective emergencies of contemporary living: “international accord, the arbitration of religious and social differences, and the systematic advancement of the plan for world welfare supply the ingredients of a new application of Hermetic chemistry.” (D)
Manly Hall emphasizes that one of the main priorities in the current work of the Invisible Government is to transform our concept of education in order that it emphasize the core principles that have always been at the heart of philosophy: the unity of God and the brotherhood of man.
Hall notes that these societies are gradually working to build for mankind a new mythos, one fit for our globally interconnected science-based civilization. He writes: “For this age we must have a doctrine of synthesis, a code actuated and dominated by the spirit of unification. The supreme need is to blend the diverse interests of men into a common purpose. The philosophy of this age must reveal interdependence …. We have need of a common denominator, a fundamental premise upon which all will be agreed; for if we are to establish the government of the philosophic elect it must be erected upon the foundation of mutual understanding.” (C)
He continues: “The new message is the gospel of identity. It is not an effort to unite lives in a common interest, but a recognition of the fact that all forms are but manifestations of one indivisible agent. … No longer will there be a great order of evolving lives, but rather one ideating whole; an expression moving from itself outward to the inclusion of all.” (C)
For this message to flower, mankind must overcome the millennia-long cycle of materialism and egotism that it has been plagued by. Overcoming these entrenched tendencies and beliefs is not an easy task, but it is a our destiny to achieve this victory. To again quote Manly Hall: “Spiritual progress, symbolized by the fabled phoenix, rises victoriously from the ashes of the human ruin. … Universal enlightenment and universal fraternity are the natural ends which reward the social struggle. The world and all that inhabits it are moving triumphantly toward peace and security. At any given time the vision may be obscured, but in the larger dimensions of time, all things work together for the fulfillment of the greater good.”
7. Initiation on a Global Scale
As we have been exploring, the adepts, initiates, and disciples of the Mysteries together constitute the “Philosophic Empire” and “Invisible Government” of the world. Let’s now turn to the essential question: what exactly is the goal of this Government? What does their Great Work - their Magnum Opus - entail?
According to Manly P. Hall, the aim of the secret societies is simple: it is the “restoration of human society toward a new golden age”, one marked by the re-establishment of the Mysteries in a new, globally integrated form of expression.
Plato and Francis Bacon saw this new global expression as a resurrection of a form of civilization that once prospered in the lost days of Atlantis, which existed long ago as a globally interconnected civilization that featured the Mysteries as its heart and center.
The Golden Age experienced during this lost era gradually succumbed to the evils of materialism, egotism, and personal ambition - factors we are still struggling through today. It is our duty, however, to overcome these evils in order that way may build for ourselves a new golden age for mankind, one where the Mysteries are once again enthroned as the guiding light of human civilization.
In its new form, the Mysteries will not be imposed upon society against its will in an authoritarian or paternalistic fashion, but rather would be voluntarily accepted and promoted by the global citizenry at large, which, by this time, will have millennia of historical data demonstrating the hell that civilization inevitably falls into when the spiritual leadership of the Mysteries recedes from view.
It is therefore the mission of the secret societies to prepare mankind to take the reigns for a new order of civilization, one based around Plato’s vision for an enlightened “Philosophical Democracy”. Here, citizens will democratically vote to support and uphold a world system founded in the highest ideals of philosophy.
In this Philosophic Empire, the populace voluntarily pledges itself to the Mystery system and thereby self-consciously participates in their own initiation. It is the privilege of the adepts and initiates of the Mystery Schools to serve as the instructors and custodians of this process, where older and more mature souls tutor and council their younger and less mature brethren as they develop and grow toward God.
On this, Manly Hall writes: “The goal of the Secret Schools is the revelation in the sphere of mortal activity of the design of the Invisible College. The very earth itself is to be the campus; nations and states, the classrooms; humanity, the student body; those dedicated to essential progress, the teachers; and the eternal sciences and arts revealed by God through Nature, the curriculum.” (D)
Zooming out, we can now see the outlines of a great pattern. We are currently living through a preparatory stage that is part of a larger grand project: the reformation and relaunch of the Mystery School system on a planetary scale as the centerpiece of a new order of global civilization - the New Atlantis.
The collapse of the pagan civilization pattern and the redesign of man’s social institutions that took place during the onset of the Piscean Age marked a critical transition point in the unfoldment of this grand initiatory plan.
This transition point had long been planned and was proceeding according to a master blueprint. Manly Hall writes: “the time had come when the whole body of humanity was to approach the sanctuary. Therefore, it had to walk collectively the same path as each of the individual candidates who had gone before.” (I)
By this he means that the hierophants of the Mysteries decided to turn their focus on the task of quickening the evolution of the entire race rather than civilization-specific cohorts of initiates as had been the norm before. Earth itself became the temple, and the collective citizenry became the neophyte undergoing the initiation ritual.
Hall explains: “The world is now the sanctuary. This great vaulted world is the new temple of the Mysteries, where man, as observer and participant, plays out the great passion play of human struggle.” (F)
This whole enterprise is proceeding according to an archetypal blueprint whose destiny is written in the stars.
At root, mankind is not an aggregate of billions of separate beings but rather is the outer extension one great Divine Being expressing itself through the growth, development, and experience of human souls. In other words, mankind is the specialized vehicle in nature through which the One Life experiences its own re-awakening within a universe it has fashioned specifically for this purpose.
The decision by the Mysteries to move into a global form makes sense when you factor in this perspective: as it pursues its own re-awakening within creation, it is natural that the Divine Being should gradually link its various component parts together.
As humans, we are the vehicles through which this divine reawakening process takes place. We are the vessels within which the great alchemical transmutation of the human soul is taking shape.
The great Spiritual Soul of the universe develops and progresses itself through the development of civilization. As we link together and grow together, its growth and development is accelerated.
On this final note, Manly Hall reminds us that: “Life is unfolding according to a magnificent program. The high destiny of humanity is inevitable; disasters and tragedies belong to the world of appearances. The indestructible Self within each human being is eternally growing, and the vicissitudes of mortal existence are like the trials of the Mysteries: tests of courage and integrity.” (G)'
References from Manly P. Hall:
A. The Secret Teachings of All Ages
B. Questions and Answers
C. Lectures on Ancient Philosophy
D. Masonic Orders of Fraternity
E. The Secret Destiny of America
F. Albert Pike lecture series
G. The Light of the Vedas
H. The Phoenix
I. Old Testament Wisdom
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