Over the past decade, the Western Mystery Tradition has become more recognized as a subject to study and research on an academic level. In Sweden, there is a flora of courses connected to different esoteric currents. You can take a basic course in religion, get better understanding of the modern witch movement, Gnostic texts, hermetic subjects or basically anything. One can even study obscure grimoires, magical systems and alchemical processes.
In the early 2000s, it was a little bit different, there was simply not as wide a range of, or sufficient tolerance for an academic study of different or dissident spiritual traditions beyond the exoteric religion. If you wanted to study something other than the major world religions, you would have to have a very good reason for this, at least if you wanted to keep some form of credibility within the academic world. But times are changing and now the great academic progress is being made in the mapping of spiritual traditions, dating and geographical origin of ancient documents and analyzes of occult sciences and their alleged function and historical significance.
Academic progress is, of course, both interesting and an asset for esoteric practitioners outside of academia. Documents that were previously assumed to be missing or incomprehensible can suddenly see the light of day when some professor has managed to find a old book or manuscript in an old, dusty library and also managed to decipher it. This is happening all the time nowadays and often both pictures and explanatory texts are posted directly online. Everything has become very easily accessible to us.
This is of course fantastic… or is it really that and for everyone?
There is a risk that we as active practitioners and part of a living tradition will only be subject to our own or others’ academic ambitions and reviews. Academic studies present a picture of what has been (or can be) established through evidence. In principle, organic or subjective experiences and experiences are almost never included. Personal experiences is in many ways outside the academic world. The purely personal experience and the experiences created through it have been replaced with cold logic, objective evidence and intellectualizing explanatory models. This is, of course, in many cases a strength as even outside oneself and one’s own opinion one can agree on certain ”truths”. That you can objectively examine the tradition of which you are a part and even learn something new. The danger lies in the individual practitioner’s discernment. As a practitioner, it is important to be able to distinguish between objective and subjective views, but even more important is the ability to know WHEN to shift between the two different views.
The tradition that our Order embodies is based on a model where the member gradually becomes aware of the spiritual side of life and the world and how to approach it. This is done partly through theoretical knowledge but above all through practical grade initiations whose effect leads to a personal and spiritual experience. This highly personal experience runs the great risk of being shattered by an excessive intellectual focus. In the attempt to understand and objectively prove what you have experienced, you analyze the whole thing to the point of breaking. What remains is a cold and, in the worst case, halted spiritual process.
So how should one look at esoteric teachings and the academic studies of these? It is, of course, about finding a balance between personal experiences and objective truths. As an initiate, you should stay on the path that does not turn off to the right or left, between the Pillars, so to speak. How to succeed in this is up to yourself to discover, but first you have to find the path… and learn not to confuse the Map with Reality.
This year’s Autumn Equinox is here and as a final word we want to ask you dear readers whether you want to go out into nature this time to really experience all the changes of the season or if you would rather read scientific essays that explain why the forest trees shed their leaves?