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“Guard the Mysteries. Reveal them Constantly”

This post was written by Donald Michael Kraig
on February 3, 2012 | Comments (12)

Four decades ago, two men, Herman Slater and Ed Buczynski, started a small occult store in New York City called “The Warlock Shop.” They were at the right place at the right time offering what people wanted. Eventually they outgrew their location and moved, renaming their shop “Magickal Childe.”

They put out a wonderfully strange and complete catalog, in tabloid format, offering everything from the strangest herbs to “Aleister Crowley’s altar” (well, I think it was a night table from the last place he lived and that might have served as an altar). The owners eventually went in separate ways, and Slater kept the store.

It was many years later that I finally met “Horrible Herman,” and I always found him an open and generous gentleman. He actually gave me a copy of the hardbound version of the Simon Necronomicon.

And that was one of the things that Slater and the Magickal Childe were also doing, publishing catalogs, books, and a magazine.

The magazine was named Earth Religion News. It was originally published in the mid-1970s. I don’t know how many issues were published. I have two copies, one a combination of two issues.

I’m only showing the cover of one issue because the other issue has a photo with nude women (gasp!) and I wouldn’t want anyone to get in trouble if they view my blog at work.

The reason I’m taking this walk down memory lane is that Earth Religion News had a motto:

Guard the Mysteries. Reveal them Constantly.

As a young neo-occultist, this motto didn’t make sense to me. The mysteries of Wicca and Witchcraft, and of various magickal orders, were secrets. I understood the first part of the motto. It meant to keep the inner teachings—”The Mysteries”—a secret except to those who were initiated into the group and granted entry into the Mysteries. But it was the second part that was confusing. If you were guarding the Mysteries by keeping them a secret, how could you “reveal them constantly?”

Walk Your Talk

In discussions with friends, I came to the belief that the meaning was that Pagan and ceremonial magick groups had their own sets of ethics that were a reflection of the group’s set of Mysteries. You could reveal the Mysteries constantly by living your beliefs, by doing what people refer to as “walking your talk.” How could outsiders take us seriously if we did not practice our beliefs? Why would the gods and spirits respond to our requests if our actions showed that we did not mean what we said?

As a relatively new entrant to the occult world this made sense. But as I reached out to work with more and more people I discovered that, as with other beliefs and faiths, followers will say one thing but do something different. “Perfect love and perfect trust” often weren’t as perfect—not even close!—as I would have liked.

I know that many people want to work by themselves for just this reason. I know what that’s like. When I was younger I went through a period with an approach to life like this in my personal life. It’s easy to avoid being hurt by not allowing anyone into a position where they can hurt you. My personal motto from that time was taken from a song by Simon and Garfunkle:

I am a rock,
I am an island.
And a rock feels no pain;
And an island never cries.

It’s mentally and emotionally very safe. It’s also very lonely.

Many people today get around the loneliness of isolation by communicating with lots of people over the internet. While this has some positive value, it’s not as great as you might think. I discuss the value of meeting with people in person in a previous blog post.

Since the time I’m talking about was B.I. (Before Internet), I didn’t have the same sorts of social media available today. Instead, I had to climb out of isolation by realizing that people are people and they will behave as they will. Instead of making assumptions as to how people will behave and becoming disappointed when people don’t behave that way, I came to accept people as they are and appreciate the time we have together. That is, instead of emotionally depending upon the way I want things to be, I focus on the way things actually are. As one of my teachers used to say:

Learn from the past.
Live in the present.
Create your future.

So I came to a realization that since people are people and don’t necessarily walk their talk, my interpretation of the motto of Earth Religion News was either inaccurate, overly simplistic, or meant something else.

Another Meaning?

There was something about that motto that fascinated me. I looked for other possible meanings and eventually found it…in the movies.

Since the earliest days of movies, filmmakers have been fascinated with the occult. One of the earliest filmmakers, Georges MĂ©liès (see his somewhat fictionalized story in the recent film, Hugo), made films with devils and angels and dragons and other occult or mythical figures. The films all had one thing in common: although they used the trappings of real occultism, they presented a false view of the occult. Badly mumbled evocations and meaningless wand waving don’t do anything…except in the movies.

[The same is true in most novels that involve occultism. One of the reasons I wrote my novel, The Resurrection Murders, was to present a more realistic view of magick and the occult within an exciting story.]

One of the things I’ve taken to saying is that if the occult grimoires worked like they show in the movies, they’d all be impounded and locked up under the Patriot Act!

The words are there, but if they’re not understood, they’ll be useless to the people trying to work with them.

Aha!

That was the “aha!” moment for me. There’s a myth that mystical concepts were saved by putting them into an artistic form used for gambling, The Tarot, so that even if the inner meanings were lost on most people, those who were “in the know” would get the secret. In this way you could constantly reveal the secrets of the occult while guarding their continued existence. Share them with everyone…only the initiated would understand.

This makes great sense to me. Is there any evidence to support this concept? I think so. Aleister Crowley complained that when he was initiated into the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn he took extreme vows, acknowledging terrible things would happen to him if he ever revealed their secrets. However, the secrets turned out to be astrological symbols and the Hebrew alphabet.

Superficially, I have to agree with Crowley. Hebrew and the astrological symbols, along with elementary Kabalah, simple meditation techniques, etc., were well known at the time. But what I think he missed was the real secret: that these things were used for magick. You needed the initiated interpretation of those things to understand them (an interpretation Crowley came to understand).

Yes, You Can Teach

With the understanding that not only can the Mysteries be revealed, but that we absolutely should reveal them (I take “reveal them constantly” to be an instruction, not an observation), I find teaching and writing on occult topics should be encouraged. The Mysteries should be revealed. The time for secrets is past. Leaders who say they have secrets they’ll only give to people whom they approve of are not real teachers. They are following the age-old tradition of the power-hungry seeking to be or become the heads of cults. Reveal the Mysteries constantly. Keep the inner meanings of the Mysteries for the initiates.

Years ago, Scott Cunningham taught a particular tradition of Wicca called “American Traditionalist.” He publicly taught everything in that system except for one thing: the name of the Deity worshipped in that system. When he initiated me I vowed not to reveal that name, and I take my vows seriously so I won’t reveal it here. I did a web search on the name, however, and discovered that it’s the name of a RPG (role-playing game), a DJ’s remix of songs, and more. Does that honor the Deity? I don’t think so. Can someone work with the Deity, stealing thunder from the tradition? Again, I don’t think so; not unless they follow the teachings and beliefs of the tradition, making them a de facto member of the group (although not an initiated one). If they don’t follow the practices and beliefs, why would the Deity bother to listen?

There are two exceptions I make to this concept of revealing the Mysteries and, by extension, revealing occult secrets. I’ve been “out” of the occult closet for so long that disguising it is meaningless. I’m fortunate that I can afford to be so open. Others have jobs and relationships that might suffer as a result. Therefore, I strongly support the idea that where a group has private meetings they should be kept secret. In conjunction with that, those who choose not to be identified as a member of an occult group should have that choice respected.

We should guard the Mysteries and reveal them constantly. It is, perhaps, the only way to assure their continued existence. This corresponds to what Carl Llewellyn Weschcke once referred to as the “Democratization of Magick.” He has worked to accomplish this on a large scale as the head of Llewellyn Worldwide. I’ve tried to do this on a small scale with my books and various workshops. And although all people may not be able to walk their talk—indeed, we may not be able to do it all the time—we should also reveal the Mysteries by living our lives in accordance with those beliefs.

Reader Comments

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#1 
Written By Phil Farber
on February 3rd, 2012 @ 1:05 pm

Magickal Childe was the first occult store I ever went into. My first time in there, the crazy guy behind the counter was shouting into a telephone, “I WANT PAZAZU! GIVE ME PAZAZU!” Having recently watched the Exorcist movies, I knew that Pazazu was a Sumerian demon and I didn’t know whether to bust out laughing or run and hide! Needless to say, that crazy guy was Herman Slater.

That store was great… one of the best occult shops ever. It had books you’d never find anywhere else, the greatest selection of esoteric incense and herbs and a secret room hidden behind a bookshelf.

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#2 
Written By Michael Lloyd
on February 3rd, 2012 @ 2:28 pm

Donald,

As Eddie Buczynski’s (and by default, Herman Slater’s) biographer, I would like to thank you for throwing some much-needed light on the lives of two complex, and generally misunderstood, men. In addition to the combined edition that you mention, there were 5 other issues of Earth Religions News (ERN).

Pax,
Michael Lloyd

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#3 
Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on February 3rd, 2012 @ 4:02 pm

Thank you, Michael. I look forward to reading your biography. In my opinion both Ed and Herman deserve far more recognition than they have achieved. They were an important part of support to the occult communities that were growing at the time.

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#4 
Written By Carl Llewellyn Weschcke
on February 6th, 2012 @ 11:34 am

A very nice article, and a very timely one. Too often people indulge in “secrecy” as a coverup for their own ignorance – even to the extent of being ignorant of the extent of their ignorance.

Information can be organized into Knowledge, but Knowledge itself does not lead to “Power.” Only Work, Discipline and Perseverence will lead to Power, and by the time you have Power you will know how to use it and the Ethics involved in its use.

Books, and the Internet are good sources of both Information and Knowledge, but only YOU can do the work.

Love and Blessings,

Carl

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#5 
Written By Kristi
on February 10th, 2012 @ 5:45 pm

Wonderful reading. Thank you.

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#6 
Written By Najah Lightfoot Bagley
on February 22nd, 2012 @ 11:42 am

Thank you for your article. I find in this day of social networking and media people want access to knowledge and information, at their fingertips to help them move forward and make informed decisions. While I love the romantized yearnings of secret occult groups and meetings, in this day and age I feel a responsibility to sharing my knowledge, wisdom and experiences with the public and friends as the Goddess leads me. I truly feel we are living in a time when more people are seeking us and our ways, as they have grown dissatisfied with the status quo. Its a an exciting time as well as a scary time because never before has there been so much public information. But I believe this push is Divinely ordained and I’m glad to be living in this time, where we can share and be open with our beliefs and practices. I have shared your article on my Facebook page – http://www.facebook.com/PriestessNajah. Blessed Be and Bright Blessings to YOU!

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#7 
Written By Donald Michael Kraig
on February 22nd, 2012 @ 11:52 am

Thank you all for your kind comments!

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#8 
Written By Wanderer
on May 27th, 2012 @ 1:03 am

Great article, Donald, certainly a rich quote.

Songbirds are taught the song of their species by their parents. However, if the young birds are not taught the song for some reason, within a few generations they can redevelop it perfectly. In the same way any magic that is true does not depend on human traditions for its existence, it is natural and eternal. This is why I practice solo rather than join a magical order. I believe that secrecy of that type is no longer necessary in our age, and I can obtain everything I need from my guides. Magic is truly for all!

One other thing, I think it’s a bit sad you find an RPG or a remix dishonoring to the god. I really doubt that these creative expressions were intended for that purpose and I am sure the god understands the true intent.

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#9 
Written By Aaron Leitch
on July 15th, 2012 @ 2:53 am

Good post, Don!

I’m surprised you didn’t mention Regardie. When I see that motto: “Guard the Mysteries, Reveal them Constantly” I can’t help but think of him right away.

Regardie saw that the Tradition of his Temple was on its last legs when he joined. Too many of his fellow students weren’t being properly tested and couldn’t “walk the walk”. He eventually joined a better Temple, yes, but by that point he realized that the entire Tradtiion was likely in its last generation.

So, he decided to Guard the Mysteries – by publishing them. Did it reveal the secrets of his Order to the whole world? Obviously not, because most people on the street have still never even heard of it. Yet, that publication gave new life to the Tradition that continues on to this day. Not only did it survive past his day to a new generation, it has since thrived and grown larger than it was before – and is now entering yet another new generation of aspirants.

Regardie Guarded the Mysteries by Revealing them Constantly. :)

Zorge
Aaron

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