September 21, 2004

An Evening Of Western Mysteries

Two nights ago, I had the honour of sitting in on a lecture by acclaimed occultist, Paul A. Clark. He is the founder of the Fraternity Of The Hidden Light - an organisation that has many active relations with various occult societies, both new and old, such as The Golden Dawn and The Rosicrucians. When I heard that he would be the key speaker at Japan's first Western Mysteries Symposium, the opportunity was too great to miss.

The symposium was held at Tokyo's wonderful spiritual art space, The Museum, where I studied Yoga for a year. It is a marvellously decorated centre, with a penchant for the Pre-Raphaelite. The ambience could not have been better suited to the tone of the day's events.

I arrived as a lecture on Tarot symbolism was coming to a close. There was a small audience of perhaps thirty or forty people, who looked surprisingly normal, as compared to the usual black-clad eccentrics and jewelry-dangling hippies that can be found at such events. They seemed like an interesting, respectable group, with an obvious healthy curiosity about the world, and I felt comfortable to be counted among them. Although, I was surprised to discover a group of Pagans from the US Navy!

Paul A. Clark was sitting rather nobly in a large ornate chair, waiting for his opportunity to speak. He strikes a rather impressive figure, with his bushy beard, tall stature and sweeped over hair. Dressed in a black suit, he could have been a salesman, as opposed to a master of mysteries.

When his turn arrived, I took the initiative to pillage his very comfortable-looking chair. It is not often that one has the opportunity to sit where a famous occultist has been perched. He later passed by me, and I apologised for pinching his chair, but he was very gracious, and that was where I remained for the rest of the evening.

He began his lecture by reminding the audience that we were a chosen few: That the reason for our presence there, was due to our shared drive to find answers about the hidden essence of reality and life. While it was flattering to hear, and difficult to refute, I did think that perhaps as much as there was a force pushing us there, there could also be absolutely nothing to it.

His lecture focused upon the initiation process of the Western Mysteries. Using the Kabalistic Tree of Life as a map, he very clearly described the varying levels of symbolism in both the philosophy and the initiations of the Western Traditions - these are not separate entities, but intrinsically tied.

He spoke of the importance of archetypal symbols, meditation and discipline, as well as adding colourful adages and parables to highlight complex concepts. None of the information was particularly new to a student of Western Mysteries, since it was an introductory lecture, but his clarity was exceptional, as was his obvious knowledge.

The initiate must begin as a Neophyte. The term comes from the Latin, meaning 'newly planted'. In this sense, the new intitiate, who has devoted himself to a teacher, must be guided to grow correctly, like a seedling plant. I have always had reservations in devoting myself to any spiritual teacher, out of fear that I may be manipulated or conned. In the past, I have had several encounters where suspicion of a teacher, has led to a withdrawal from a particular path. Yet, all spiritual teachings, whether Western or Eastern, have promoted the necessity of teacher devotion. The concept of guidance I can accept, but complete trust in a guru is something that remains a hurdle for me to overcome.

As the student progresses upon the Path, various truths are revealed. At some point, the individual must come face to face with the Terror At The Threshold. Clark explained the ancient Greek myth of Hades and the River Styx - the river that separates the realm of the living from the realm of the dead. After the Ferryman takes us across the river, we must then pass the hideous Terror - usually described as a monstrous hag or troll. Like all mythology, these tales are symbolic metaphors of universal truths. In fact, the Terror is actually the facing-up to our own shadow - our dark aspects - which we must overcome, rather than submit to.

Once we achieve mastery, the Key to Absolute Truth is revealed. Clark explained that reality is not an external construct, but rather a reflection of our minds. If we can embrace this concept, it is possible to shift reality from the pollution of negative influences, through discipline and spiritual endeavour; which entirely corresponds with the Eastern traditions and the concept of Karma.

People often misunderstand the nature of Magick, believing that such a force exists externally. However, according to Clark, no such force exists outside us. If reality is a reflection of our minds, then Magick is a force from within us, that can be used to transmute our perception of reality. In many ways, this corresponds with modern Psychological terminology, such as 'positive thinking'. Again, this presents some very tricky and potentially dangerous exploration, so a good, trustworthy teacher is absolutely vital.

He finished by telling the tale of a Master and his acolytes: A Master once came upon a magnificent precipice, that bestowed a fabulous view. He called upon his acolytes to join him, but they were fearful of falling over the edge. The Master was so overwhelmed by the beautiful sight, that he started to jump up and down. The edge beneath began to crumble, and the acolytes looked on terrified. He called out to them again to join him, but they continued to refuse. The Master commanded in a loud voice, "YOU MUST COME HERE!" Nervously, they obeyed and stepped forward. As they stood there terrified, the Master stepped behind them and pushed them over. However, instead of falling they found themselves flying.

To question at the level of depth that is required for any mystical path, requires a form of courage that most people are not equipped with. If one can overcome their fear, it is absolutely possible to achieve anything.

It was a very interesting way to spend a Sunday evening. Of course, an open mind is required to listen to such a lecture, but what an intellectually stimulating experience. Whether you agree with Clark or not, you will be made to think.

-El-Branden Brazil -

The website for The Museum:

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