Reading this book has hopefully left you with a new perspective or view of the Craft and probably a sense of appreciation and wonder, but in spite of all the things you have read here the future of Traditional Wicca as it survives today is not only endangered but also very much in question. Some of the people who know and love the Craft best, who believe in it and truly understand it, seriously doubt if the system can or should continue in the present way of transmitting papers and explanations in secrecy, initiate to initiate, or whether everything should be published and made easily available to the public.
The reluctance many have to publishing the tradition arises from the nature of traditional Wicca itself. Unlike the neopagan Wicca movement, which was reportedly invented in the 1940’s and 50’s by Gerald Gardner and Doreen Valiente, (see “Crafting the Art of Magic” by Aidan A. Kelly, 1991, Llewellyn Publications, St. Paul, Minnesota) the very old and unbroken traditional European lineage carries a profound system of self-realization. This system, though badly damaged through centuries of persecution, and corrupt or sloppy transmission, is comparable to Hindu tantra and Buddhist tantra (Vajrayana) in that it reveals the nature of mind and consciousness through direct and personal experience. In fact, highly respected practitioners of Hindu and Buddhist tantra who have been exposed to this tradition have called it “the Tantra of the West.”
Contrary to popular opinion, Tantra does not mean sexual practice. Literally, the word has the following meanings: A loom, specifically, the warp, or weaving. The leading principle, essential part, main point, or characteristic feature of anything. A model, prototype, system, framework, doctrine, rule, or theory. A chapter or part thereof. A class of works teaching magical and mystical formulae.
Like Wicca, Tantra is a cleverly designed and carefully woven system of means and methods that can make use of every possible experience or activity to directs one’s mind to the leading principle, the essential part, or the main point of everything: the ultimate nature of the mind itself.
The public misconception that Tantra means sexual practice arises from the fact that it, like Wicca, is among the spiritual systems that include specific sexual experiences (along with all other experiences) in religious practice. Sexual practice, however, like any other Tantric practice, is incorporated only under the discipline of very specific conditions. The conditions and methods for being able to use sex for spiritual practice demand a very rare type of student who has completely conquered any form of lust or desire. Because such students are almost non-existent, actual sexual practice is not common in Tantra, contrary to popular belief.
All of the teachings, initiations and meditations involved in a wisdom tradition like Wicca are attempts to trigger in the initiate the same ultimately indescribable, very personal experience which is the first-hand recognition of the nature of Mind or Consciousness. It is not possible to over-state the significance of this experience. In a sense, this experience is Wicca. Our entire field of experience is Mind: aware, alive, and responsive. The whole Universe, even the Gods themselves, are all manifestations of Mind, and are governed by Mind (Habit=Karma). Through the perspective afforded by Consciousness, each and every one of us shares that same Mind so intimately that we experience it as our own mind. What we perceive to be our own individual mind is really a limited view of the Ultimate Reality, limited by the scope of our chosen perspective.
Direct personal recognition of the nature of the Mind immediately reveals the fact that we are all ultimately One Being, and have the potential for the realization that we are all immortal divine beings, even the parents of the Gods themselves, and the authors of the Universe itself. Most of us just don’t know this, and in an unconscious expression of ultimate power and freedom, create for ourselves very convincing restricted existences. What is more miraculous: that a human being can become a god, or that the infinite Divinity that has created the whole universe can disguise itself, and believe itself to be a mere human being? We do not know who we really are, what we are capable of, and could make of ourselves if we wanted to. These are things real Witches want to learn about. Most of us certainly do not act like the divine beings that we really are. For example, as the “Parents” of every single suffering being in the Universe, most of us do not know how much we could be helping, by simply caring, if we really wanted to. These are things real Witches want to do.
“I wish to know, in order to Serve”
(Book of Shadows)
This is what traditional Wicca is all about. Like all wisdom traditions, it exists only for the purpose of leading an initiate to Self-Realization, Enlightenment, or the Ancient Harmony as witches say. Without this purpose at its core, any mystery religion like Wicca becomes nothing more than folk superstition. The conceptual and philosophical teachings, rituals, meditations, magical practices, exercises and the unveiling of the mind’s powers all provide the initiate with opportunities to “re-cognize” and to experience Divine Realization. Without this insight to apply in each type of magical practice, the rituals, meditations and powers cannot be fully understood, are empty shells devoid of their most valuable meaning and significance, and will therefore inevitably become perverted to the service of one’s ego or self-serving individualistic nature. This occurs because people simply don’t know any better, having habitually adopted the mistaken perspective, self-image, and life of insignificant and helpless creatures, who thereby find themselves in constant need of self-promotion for survival and comfort.
Many similarities can be found between some of the material carried in the neopagan Wicca movement and the older Spanish and Basque material in the European tradition. Perhaps Gerald Gardner, Dorothy Clutterbuck and Doreen Valiente did obtain most of their original material from a secret English traditional lineage as they had previously claimed. Perhaps they had some unacknowledged exposure to the secret European tradition whose material they translated from another language, thereby seeming to have written it themselves. Whatever the case, as the neopagan Wicca movement is bereft of an emphasis on direct recognition of the nature of Mind, which is the quintessence of European traditional Wicca – as the writer knows it – the differences cannot be more significant. This omission leaves the religious and magical practices carried in the neopagan Wicca movement at the service of the practitioner’s ego to support pride, self-aggrandizement, feeling powerful, entertainment, “feeling good” and outright commercialism, often disguised as one’s conscience or justified with claims of altruism. It is wonderful that people find ways to entertain themselves and feel good about themselves and the world, but this approach of self-promotion and self-indulgence does not make people act and think more like the Gods. Instead, typical neopaganism promotes the utilitarian tendency of acting and thinking like ordinary beings that have a need to be more significant, to feel less helpless, and thus to act and think more like animals obsessed with survival and comfort. (Traditional Wicca is NOT about “nature worship.”) Self-promotion is a horrible mockery of the divine beings we have always been. As unconditionally divine beings, we could realize that we have always been the authors of everything, and do not have to be slaves to anything – certainly not to our own habitually self-clinging and self-promoting animal nature! This slavery to habitual self-indulgence, self-restriction, and self-promotion is in direct contrast to the traditional Wiccan attitude.
“No more shall ye know slavery, who give true worship unto me.”
(The Goddess – Book of Shadows)
Strive ever to purify your body and Enlighten your mind, saying to yourself:
`Now it is my life that I must shape as a carpenter shapes wood,
and the thing to be formed is a union with the Gods and the Ecstasy of the Spirit, as Nothing to me is this body, as Nothing the parts thereof.'”
(The God – Book of Shadows)
It is because of this essential difference in attitude that traditional initiates see the neopagan movement’s characteristic self-indulgence, utilitarianism, and spiritual consumerism as the perverted “dark side” of the Craft. Spiritual consumerism is making magic and nature “work” for oneself, thinking “what can I get out of this?” It involves prayers like: “If I meditate or make offerings or say the magic words, please cure my cancer,” or “please get me a job” or “please make me more comfortable.” The urge to do this is very human, in fact all religions do this, but it is not the main objective of true religion. Spiritual consumerism is in direct opposition to the traditional Wiccan concept of the Ancient Harmony. One meaning of the Ancient Harmony is that, because everything is Mind, arises from Mind, and is directed by Mind, everything is Holy and everything is Perfect the way it is. To intervene with a limited individual perspective is to disrupt that Ancient Harmony. Adopting the Ancient Harmony as a way of life involves a type of Divine Surrender to reality. Divine Surrender arises from the Realization that we do not need to make ourselves more perfect than we already are. We need only recognize our true nature and our true capabilities. Such Divine Surrender to the Ancient Harmony involves prayers more like: “I offer Perfect Love and Perfect Trust. Please let me experience whatever I need to learn about life and my true self. Give me the strength to endure the suffering I may need to experience, the maturity of accepting the pleasant things without letting them spoil me, and the skill to help others do the same.”
Even though the persecutions seem to be over(?!), Wicca’s worst enemies are the witches themselves. The neopagan devotion to ideals opposite to traditional Wicca has made traditional witches wish to be all the more secret. They loathe to publish, support, and be associated with the neopagan movement. This is why so little is known by the public of the existence of a real ancient tradition of Wicca. Furthermore, due to the nature of the teachings, words cannot reliably convey the experience outside the context of a personal friendship with each student, and an understanding of each student’s character. It is only for this reason that traditional Wicca (and likewise all wisdom traditions) is said to be secret. These teachings are secret not because initiates wish to keep them from anyone, but because the conditions for being able to convey it are so personal. Due to the nature of the impersonal printed word, it could be said that any printed exposition of the Craft will be missing the essential point, and cannot help but be misleading.
Even if the entire corpus of traditional Wicca is not published, some feel that an attempt should be made to publish at least the explanations behind the system. The hope is to somehow make this over-looked, all-important direct experience of the nature of Mind, of who and what we really are, more available to everyone. It is hoped that with this experience more readily available, “witches” will turn away from using the Craft for self-pleasing, and that they will realize their true potential to be far beyond the petty and often ridiculous image they have built. A perfect commentary on the Craft would require exact printed instructions that, if followed carefully and with earnest, would eventually trigger the direct personal recognition of the Mind’s true nature in a reader, something completely new to both neopagan and traditional Wicca. It is not believed that such written instructions are possible because words can only convey concepts, and the Experience is completely non-conceptual.
Furthermore, even if an aspirant should arrive at an experience of “realization” on their own, following printed instructions, a relationship with an experienced teacher is still needed to check and adjust the “experience” for the many subtle flaws that can and do occur. There are subtle levels of Mind short of the Ultimate that are very real and very powerful. For example, you could reach a stage in your practice at which you completely lose body awareness and your mind feels like an infinite ocean of light, and an ocean of consciousness. You could think “aha! I have directly experienced the nature of Mind.” It is true that this experience does reflect a greater perspective of reality. After all, you really are a god of light, the ruler of an ocean of space. However, even in this experience you still haven’t seen your true nature, because you are still limiting your perspective beneath your true potential. Your self-indulgence in always seeking what feels good will make this experience seem to you to be the ultimate, and become a trap that robs you of your true heritage. This is one of the many subtle corrections of character and perspective that only an experienced teacher can catch and help you adjust.
To satisfy the need for personal interaction with an experienced teacher, the Craft has operated for centuries by teaching initiates in private, initiate to initiate, or high priestess and high priest to a coven, but there is a very serious problem with this approach as well.
The problem arises from the fact that the Craft shows all the hallmarks of a badly damaged tradition; damaged by the well-known historical persecution, public misunderstanding, and maybe most of all by incorrect and sloppy transmission. Though all the traditional maxims and practices have survived intact, the traditional guidance and transmission of the explanations have all but disappeared. Certainly the Craft still fully embodies all the Wisdom, the teachings, and the magical formulae that a true wisdom tradition must have, but embodied in symbols and allegory where they can only be seen by those who already have the keys and know what to look for. This means that, without the guidance of a trained Holder of the Tradition, the true meaning remains veiled and unavailable, and the Craft then, is Silent. Because of this, unless one is of the fortunate few, the tradition appears to be merely a simple, vaguely defined fertility cult involving nature worship, with more or less glamorous rituals, spells and beautiful prayers. Very few ever suspect the true meaning and the depth of Wisdom inherent in each carefully chosen word and symbol, behind the spells and rites. We have a lot of people who love the Craft very much, but very few who really understand it.
Since the papers alone, the spells, rituals, practices and maxims do a person little good by themselves, Wicca is then only as good as its’ teacher. With good teachers and explanations being rare, and good students likewise, the opportunity to transmit the highest meaning and teaching becomes more and more scarce. We then have the present situation where people read books, buy capes and candles, call themselves “Witches” and proceed to act and speak in ways ranging from pernicious to just plain silly. This kind of thing has done more harm to the Craft than the persecution of the Middle Ages.
Because the teachings are Secret, and absolutely require explanation and above all experiencing, the Craft being mainly an Experience, the system in its present form can give an enormous amount of power to the teacher over a sincere aspiring student. Human nature being what it is, enormous and elaborate ego-trips of a more or less subtle nature can and do arise even unconsciously in Circles, whether traditional or not. Because so little is generally known of the real meaning of the Craft and the Wisdom it embodies, even well-meaning people who have a natural love for and attraction to the Craft unknowingly find themselves in very strange and sometimes even dangerous situations, all in the name of Wisdom and the search for truth.
The solution would seem to be to publish the complete corpus of the Tradition as it survives and now stands. If this is going to solve the problem, it will have to be done in such a way as to eliminate the necessity of a transmitter, and to formulate and organize group-work in a way that will remove potential power-trips and misrepresentations. In publishing, one would have to give the initiation rituals with their proper explanation and “inner work” (meaning the visualizations, formulation of thought-forms, and handling of energies), so that people could step by step initiate themselves, and by their own efforts, eventually arrive at that essential experience which is the recognition of the ultimate nature of Mind.
Each step would necessitate a lot of work in terms of meditation, visualizations and awareness of – and handling of – “magical” energies. For example, students would have to start from the very beginning, building their elemental contacts on their own. This is not difficult, but it does take a long time and a certain “knack”. To complete the First Degree Initiation alone, if successful, might take students two or three years, because it wouldn’t and couldn’t be a single ritual. One would have to take the thirteen parts of the initiation and make each of them into a separate practice involving meditations, visualizations, and a lot of magical work, so that the student would really accomplish each step. In the published instructions it would be necessary to say things like: “after you have succeeded in attaining such-and-such realization or effect, then go on to the next practice or step”. A student could no longer depend on someone else who had already done all this and has the ability to transmit the energies and bring about the experiences during the ritual, so that a great deal would be lost.
Supposing the work of the First Degree could be formulated and published in the above manner, what happens during the Second Degree, when the real Power of the Tradition is transferred along with the Secret Keys, empowering the student, now Initiate, to teach and continue the Tradition? The best and most obvious answer would be to tap the Inner Planes directly, provided the student-Initiate had the necessary knowledge and ability to do this, and even then, knew where to go and what to look for. If left to this kind of Inner Plane contacts, we could then have the same well-known situation as when the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn broke up: everybody claiming to have contacted the “Secret Chiefs” and claiming to be the only one with the real knowledge and keys! In other words, a complete disaster, and probably more harmful to the Craft in the long run than even the Inquisition.
It is true that the solution might be partly in the publication of the material but this course of action would be difficult as well as costly. Having the Beauty and Ultimate Reality about yourself and the Universe revealed, pointed out directly and then explained to you by a teacher, friend, and brother or sister who really loves you is one thing; reading about it in a book and practicing on your own is quite another. If the Tradition and its teachings are to be published and explained, this will have to be done by someone who speaks with an enormous amount of authority, understanding of the subject and love for all humanity, who has the necessary background as well as the insight, not to mention the literary talent, time and finances. Such beings have always been rare, and are especially so in these dark times, and the few that exist today have their hands full with the needs of the lost and suffering.
This is the present situation. With all these problems and uncertainties, how can Traditional Wicca best be preserved? By publishing everything, or by continuing to train Initiates, or both? Maybe there is no answer possible or even needed. Maybe what we are witnessing is a timely and necessary manifestation of the Eternal Law of dispersal/renewal, which the Craft itself emphasizes as the most obvious and tangible way the Presence of the Ancient Harmony can be directly experienced. Perhaps it is a manifestation of the Sacred Urge for growth and expansion that drives all things on and upwards, always accompanied by a break-down of the old forms, including those of the system of Wicca and even the Gods themselves.
Ultimately we must have “Perfect Love and Perfect Trust” that the effort invested, whether publishing, or teaching or both, will increase the Tradition’s availability and improve the quality of the transmission, while keeping traditional explanations intact. Hopefully, this effort will open the eyes of those who are heir to the Tradition and are ready and qualified to receive it. Whatever the future holds for the Tradition, whether it survives as it now is, complete or incomplete, expanded and improved or misunderstood and degraded — from the Highest Point of View, all this is of no consequence. For, as the Horned One, himself the Lord of Change and Death and Renewal, has taught us of old:
“There will always be
The Sun and the Moon,
The Infinite Sky with its Stars,
And Union with the Gods.”
(Book of Shadows)