“Religion should give instruction in optimum living.”
Source of the opening quote: C. C. Zain from the introduction to “Spiritual Alchemy, The Hermetic Art of Spiritual Transformation” as first published by the Church of Light,, Los Angeles c. 1914-1934.
For more than twenty-centuries in the West, and even longer in the East, the concept of obedience has been requisite to fulfilling every known form of religious virtue. Obedience is hermetic code for acknowledging hierarchy.
Spiritual development and wisdom studies define the Western Mystery Tradition and in its service, the narrative of the Astrologers’ Folio. We begin today’s reflection by considering the ubiquity of hierarchy–not as an artifact of human innovation, but a feature fundamental to physical and metaphysical Cosmos. Hierarchy, simply considered, is the orderly ranking of authority and is always nearby. Hierarchy and authority co-depend. Authority absent an empowering hierarchy is authority absent a mandate.
Human institutions in the West embody hierarchy, viz., government, education, military service, church order, medicine; even sports. But more importantly are the examples of Cosmos expressed as Nature and Time, even Gravity; each exemplifies hierarchy as an existential prototype. The authority of Nature and Time cannot be impeached–and none of these fundamental constructs of Universe appear able to acknowledge the authority of humanity, to the contrary. Human beings, on the other hand, imitate the authority of Nature, albeit imperfectly. The source of Nature’s authority: Cosmos. The source of authority in human affairs: always self-imputed.
Consider Time as hierarchy—with its “authority” defined by overlapping, non-simultaneous sequential beginnings and endings–Time is the authority of sequence. Incarnated direct lived experience conforms to Time’s authority; and Time’s authority may not be overcome by ideation or denial. The authority of Time is inexorable. It is not enough to have all the right ingredients–sequence matters. Gestation precedes birth. Death follows animated being. And Time’s arrow, like authority itself, moves in one direction. [Even the tides undulate–in, out; not Time.] Time, thereby, is asymmetrical. We may wonder: is asymmetry a feature of Eternity? At a deep level of reflection, the answer: unlikely.
Nature as hierarchy is almost imponderable, the authority of Nature, irresistible. Authority and power co-depend. Nature’s power, consequently, is both scary and breathtaking because, unlike the asymmetry of Time– Nature’s rhythm appears to be “eternally recurring”. Great observers have wondered as much. In the modern era, the reflections of Mircia Eliade (1907-1986) come to mind. Creatures are subject to extinction, not Nature’s hierarchy or authority.
Universe , too, qualifies as a hierarchy within which we “live, move, breathe and have our being”. The Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) is anecdotal evidence of the “radiant persistence (authority)” of Universe. The authority of Universe is unsummoned and aboriginal—like Love.
Archaeology of Silence
The title phrase, “Archaeology of Silence”, is connected to our discussion of hierarchy and authority. The phrase is associated specifically with the writings of French philosopher Michel Foucault (1926-1984). Foucault’s abiding interest in matters of power, authority and hierarchy inform his philosophy of human history. Foucault, to our knowledge, was not a student of hermetic subjects. If he were, we might apply terms of alchemy to fully appreciate his regard for studying the past to appreciate the present. Instead, “archaeology” is the term he uses to describe a process for assaying the past for clues to the present. According to Foucault, mounds of occult detritus and dust, the tailings and slag of direct lived human experience hold the clues. Alchemically speaking, the past is the dross, the present, the sought after gold. Foucault’s “archaeologist” labors to glean the gold of human aspiration from mute shards of yesterday’s breakage.
Wherever humans have settled in community Foucault observes hierarchy underlies social structure. His inference from the ubiquity of hierarchy in human affairs: hierarchy compels authority, and authority compels power. Authority and power compel submission.
The occultist celebrates obedience as voluntary and virtuous submission. The anarchist equates submission with repression, exploitation and the absence of freedom. The anarchist seeks freedom now; the obedient catechumen understands freedom is the absence of hierarchy—or, not now.
In spiritual terms, the believer embraces obedience because its fulfillment, as bliss, nirvana, or heaven, is beyond hierarchy. Beyond hierarchy? Yes. Beyond one’s incarnation into Time and history. Beyond Universe as first cause. The gift of non-waking awareness is the gateway for the individual en route to the “world to come”.—where Time is unbounded (not asymmetrical), symbols (not words) are syntax, and Nature, like Elvis, “has left the building”.
The practices curated as the Western Mystery Tradition, including Astrology, the Tarot, Spiritual Alchemy, the Gematria and Kabbalah–are reliable agents of quiet discernment. Our wish for your journey? Keep the good company of fellow archaeologists along the way, and archaeologists of silence, especially. So let it be done.
In the world to come, “the last [the obedient] shall be first”…(Matthew 20:16)…a world beyond hierarchy.
We bid you peace through practice,
Should you have time to consider a musical reflection to accompany this post, the link will connect you with a rendition of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” performed by Mike Geier as Puddles Pity Party. Quoting Puddles on the occasion, “I tried to do good by this song whilst doing my own thing. I felt like I was in the deep end of the pool.” Link to YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ydhE7wThDtI
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