“Secret Chiefs” is a vexatious topic in the Occult. On the one hand some people claim that they – and only they – are in contact with them. For these people a Secret Chief becomes a badge of exclusivity, a members-only sign to provide a filip to their fragile egos. On the other hand there are people who deny that Secret Chiefs exist, precisely because they do not want people to feel excluded. Then again there are people who say: “Someone is only a Secret Chief if they conform to the rigid definition which I set.” Hence, when any given person fails to live up to their arbitrary criteria, they say: “That person cannot then be a Secret Chief.”
As has been pointed out elsewhere, there is good evidence that Macgregor Mathers believed the Archangel Raphael was the Secret Chief of the Golden Dawn. To my mind this is entirely plausible: after all, what would you expect with a name like “Golden Dawn?” Also, the idea that Mathers received his teachings as a result of a series of clairvoyant operations involving the Archangel of Tiphereth would be congruent with the views of those who believe that Secret Chiefs are not living adepts.
So basically, the whole argument boils down to those who assert the existence of the Secret Chiefs out of sheer hubris, and those who deny them because they do not want to admit that any other person knows more about the occult than they do. Which itself is another kind of hubris. What I see very little of, unfortunately, is people willing to accept the possibility of Secret Chiefs out of a genuinely humble attitude of actually wanting to learn something.
But I digress.
I would like today to tell you a story of a certain person to whom I shall refer simply as “R,” and who was the real-life basis for the character of “The Magus” from my trilogy of books of the same name. R was, quite simply, the most likely candidate for a “Secret Chief” whom I have had the honour of meeting.
I first met R in 2009, although I had heard of him by reputation in certain English esoteric circles for several years before that. R was a kindly old gentleman in his eighties. He had been a Freemason for around sixty years, and had in his time joined a number of esoteric organisations both related and unrelated to Masonry and had achieved the equivalent of “grand rank” in all of them. However his true spiritual home was a rather obscure and exclusive order organised on generally esoteric Christian lines, based inGlastonbury, of which he eventually became the head. This order works a sophisticated system of Qabalistic Theurgy: moreover, as the head of the order, R had an important role to play as the intermediary between the Human and Angelic realms.
I say “spiritual home” because he used the teachings he had learnt here to colour how he interacted with all the other organisations of which he was a member.
R once told me a little of his background. It was obvious that he was an expert on Astrology and the Qabalah. In fact, as he explained, his studies had been such that he had been looking forward to the coming Age of Aquarius long before such a term ever became fashionable.
When it came to Freemasonry, he had been initially frustrated on first joining: his enquiries as to the deeper meaning of the symbolism of the Craft were usually met with responses like “Because it is written!” or “Because it’s always been done like that!” or even “Don’t worry yourself about that.” Bear in mind that this was around sixty years ago: from my own observations of Freemasonry almost all lodges are still like that today! R had more luck however when he joined the Masonic Study Circle, and he started coming into contact with those more esoterically minded.
By the time I came to knew him, he firmly believed that when Masonic ritual is delivered without any sense of meaning or importance – which unfortunately is how 99% of Freemasons do deliver it – it is useless. However, when it is delivered with decorum, and an appreciation of the principles involved, then that by itself serves to attract the positive influence of higher spiritual beings. Or in other words, if only Freemasonry were treated like a spiritual practice, it would become one!
So anyway: whilst outwardly a kindly old man, R was in fact the equivalent of a senior adept in just about everything. Everyone who knew him and to whom I spoke generally agreed that if any human being could be a Secret Chief, R certainly qualified.
But then, however, I uncovered the proof!
The last time I met R was several months ago, when he came to visit my own lodge. I knew that he was closely acquainted, via this same esoteric Christian organisation, with a couple of the people there, so I naively assumed that he had just turned up to wish them well. “Ah, no,” one of them said, in a mysterious tone, “it was a bit more than that…”
He said no more until a few weeks later, when we were at a lodge of instruction, that the details of why R had visited us were revealed. The crafty old so-and-so had been checking us out on the astral plane as we performed our ritual! He later took his trusted acquaintance aside and said something along the lines of “My boy, that was generally good, however I have some suggestions for you to make sure that ‘them upstairs,'” (which was how he referred to Angelic presences) “don’t get accidentally put off in the future.” His contact then relayed the various pieces of advice to us. I had to admit that the teaching was of the very highest quality.
But then – the realisation struck me. R had, all along, been using his position as head of this Glastonbury-based order to establish a network of contacts, getting them into positions of influence in a whole load of other esoteric orders. He then used this network to promote the values of this esoteric Christian order within those other orders!
I would have been outraged – were it not for the fact that I actually enjoyed the snippets of secret teaching that he was disseminating in this clandestine manner. Far from using his influence to aggrandise himself, R was deliberately attempting to promote what he honestly believed were true spiritual values.
Excited by my discovery, I went to see another of my esoteric acquaintances, who also knew R well. “Funnily enough,” he said after I had explained my theory, “many years ago I once suggested that R might be a Secret Chief as well. But I was told: ‘He can’t be a Secret Chief – he’s not dead!’”
The idea that being deceased was a necessary qualification for being a Secret Chief struck me as quite bizarre. Unfortunately, however, that final barrier was recently removed when R temporarily paused all his spiritual activities for which a physical body was necessary.
I firmly believe that great Adepts do not simply “die” at the end of their physical existence, but move to a region of the astral plane from which they can continue to influence their followers still on Earth. Hence, although R is no longer with us, he will almost certainly continue to exert his influence – which let’s face it, means on most of English esotericism – for a long time to come.