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The Llewellyn Encyclopedia

Term: Hierarchy


Hierarchy: A set structure in an organization with positions and the duties and responsibilities of each position, ranging from the leader or head, to the regular participants and attendees. Theosophists relate this to the degrees and grades of development in the universe. Some Pagan traditions do not like the authority given to some as implied by the term. Others suggest that groups naturally form structures with hierarchies, and that the problem is not with the structure itself, but with locked-in hierarchies where a specific individual always "rules" the others. This can be overcome with the concept of an "open hierarchy," where on regular occasions different people can hold different positions within the hierarchic structure.


It is believed that those of a higher initiation compose a leadership that has the ability to transmit spiritual energy to those of lesser spiritual stature and thus "raise them up."

Nearly every kind of group is formally organized in ranks of power, authority, and seniority. Whether in government, business, social club, military group, non-profit organization, church or religious order, a hierarchical structure has generally proved to be more effective in accomplishing the group mission than an unstructured democracy.

What is important, however, to the health of any organization, is the basis of the ranking. In an esoteric group it should be by knowledge and expertise, and demonstrated merit in any degree or level of initiation. Nothing is worse than authority without demonstrated merit.

It is both unfortunate and passé that some esoteric groups, like the Catholic Church and some Masonic lodges, devote so much of their resources to the embellishments of office instead of effective teaching or service. A simple badge of office should normally be sufficient. Within a ritual drama, symbolic costuming may be important just as are other elements of ritual.

Carl Llewellyn Weschcke


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The History of the Golden Dawn
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