What is a Contemporary Mystery School?
So here you are.
Your heart has opened. You have an instinctive sense of compassion.
At the same time, your psychic abilities have woken up and you find yourself sensitive to energies and atmospheres, perhaps with some mystic intuitions and impressions.
Where do you go now?
In the Greco-Roman culture two thousand years ago, you would have sought entrance to one of the Mystery Schools. There, through ritual, sacred drama and direct teaching, you would have been introduced to the Mysteries.
Across the world, other traditions were providing similar mystic and esoteric trainings, but using different ceremonies and symbols. Look to the Druids, or Taoists, or Hopis, for examples.
In this blog I want to suggest some features of a contemporary Mystery School.
First though we need to recognise some profound transformations that have happened in our social and cultural circumstances. These developments must, in my opinion, be influential. Let me briefly list them. They are fairly obvious, but often we do not appreciate their implications for spiritual study.
- Global Village
The first shift is that we now live in a global village of shared knowledge. It is no longer possible for any school or teacher to claim any special access to wisdom and spiritual connection, when there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of other schools and teachers, some of them very good. A thousand years ago we could travel thirty miles on a good day to find a teacher. Today we can travel anywhere digitally in the blink of an eye or click of a keyboard.
- No More Secrets
Second, the core secrets of the Mystery Schools are now open knowledge. Historically these secrets were only divulged privately, usually after an initiation. Today they are commonplace in movies, television shows and books. Here is my brief digest of these once esoteric secrets:
- Within and behind the material world perceived by our five senses, is a more subtle world of energies, patterns and archetypes. They influence and determine the material world. We can develop senses to perceive them more fully.
- Using imagination, thought and other strategies it is possible to cooperate with and influence this subtle world and its manifestations.
- We are not just material human beings with one life, but we are souls on a long journey of learning and development; and we are supported by souls who are further along this path. More love. More compassion. More connection. More consciousness.
- Hierarchy to Democracy
Finally we have also to acknowledge a profound change that is happening in social and cultural structures. There is a general shift from top-down, often bullying, hierarchical leadership, towards democratic communities of networked and equal individuals. Seniorities by virtue of age, birth, gender, ordination or lineage, are being replaced by egalitarian mutual respect and natural wisdom. You will recognise that this particular shift is currently creating friction, as old hierarchies have trouble accepting this new reality.
Given these substantial shifts – not to mention astrological and cosmic dynamics – how then might we imagine a contemporary Mystery School? What might its features be?
Here are a few ideas.
The applicant to a Mystery School needs to self-assess as meeting these criteria:
- My heart has opened and I prioritise compassion.
- I have a sense of connection with a benevolent cosmic mystery (known by many names.)
- I have a sense of subtle energies, patterns and archetypes.
- I am humble in the face of this wondrous cosmos.
- I am responsible for myself.
Now to the curriculum. Here is a brief list of what I suggest would be the essential components of a contemporary Mystery School.
- Spiritual Experience
Using person-centred teaching methods each student is enabled into a deepening daily practice of spiritual connection.
- Reflective Psychology
Students learn the psychological dynamics of spiritual development and how to manage them. Bliss to shadow – and back again.
- Esoteric Meditation
Students learn how to be quiet scanners and receptors, wisely guiding and assessing subtle sensations and impressions.
- Soul’s Journey
Before birth, through life and after death, students explore the nature and purpose of this journey.
Students understand their own psychic interpretive mechanism, and how best to manage and develop it.
- A Map of Subtle Dimensions and Beings
Students explore and develop maps of subtle dimensions and beings.
- Compassionate Magic and Energy Work
Students learn how to cooperate with and influence subtle energies to the benefit of all.
The course, I imagine, would need to last between one and three years. After that, everyone would be supported in an ongoing community of peer support and lifelong learning.
The teachers would need to be people who themselves practise and have experience of the topics. Most importantly they would be emotionally intelligent and could teach-facilitate in a way that respects each student’s individuality and learning style. The guru-acolyte model would be replaced with mutual respect and collegiality in the context of experiential learning.
So those are my thoughts.
In fact, I have been pondering a modern mystery school for decades and waiting for such a school to appear.
Years ago l would have applied to be a student.
Today I might have the chutzpah to apply to be on the faculty. I once thought that the Findhorn Foundation might be a Mystery School. Perhaps it still could be.
Over the years I have also noticed a few esoteric schools, but they have all been glued to a particular teacher or teaching, and have not practised, in my opinion, a holistic and contemporary method of student-centred learning.
Good education, including spiritual and esoteric education, builds on personal experience and not, in my opinion, on sacred texts. Authoritative and sacred texts, though, can be crucially helpful in unpacking and expanding personal experience, but this requires teachers who are wise facilitators and not proselytising a particular tradition.
One thing we need to hold in our hearts about mystery schools is their purpose. They enable independent and self-managing adults, who are supported on the Path of Liberation, to the service of all.
All of that said, maybe it is sufficient for life itself to be the Mystery School.
On the other hand, a helping hand from loving companions is always useful.
More love. More compassion. More connection. More consciousness.