The Mysteries

Witches are as witches do. But what do witches do?

  1. We celebrate the Wheel of the Year, both in ourselves, and in the world about us.
  2. We practice Magic, and
  3. We pursue The Great Work; We chase the dream toward achieving union with the Whole.

In ancient Greece there were two Mysteries, the Greater and the Lesser, in both the Eleusinian and Dionysian Cults.

Plato tells us, “the ultimate design of the Mysteries … was to lead us back to the principles from which we descended, … a perfect enjoyment of intellectual spiritual good.”

In order to qualify for initiation, participants would sacrifice a piglet to Demeter and Persephone, and then ritually purify themselves in the river Ilisos. Upon completion of the Lesser Mysteries, participants were deemed initiates worthy of witnessing the Greater Mysteries. The Eleusinian Mysteries, it is thought, had their basis in an old Agrarian Cult which probably goes back to the Mycenean period (c. 1600 – 1100 BCE) and it is believed that the cult of Demeter was established in 1500 BCE.

(River Ilisos- Edward Dodwell: Views in Greece, London 1821)

The mysteries represented the myth of the abduction of Persephone from her mother Demeter by the king of the underworld, Hades, in a cycle with three phases, the “descent” (loss), the “search” and the “ascent”, with the main theme the “ascent” of Persephone and the reunion with her mother. It was a major festival during the Hellenic era, and later spread to Rome, and it parallels the Egyptian rite of Isis and Osiris.

The rites, ceremonies, and beliefs were kept secret and consistently preserved from antiquity. The initiated believed that they would have a reward in the Afterlife. Since the Mysteries involved visions and conjuring of an afterlife, some scholars believe that the power and longevity of the Eleusinian Mysteries came from psychedelic drugs, but we know that drugs are not necessary to achieve the state of enlightenment.

Then there are the Greater Mysteries, with connections to the Mystery Cults of Assyria and Egypt. These took place in temples when, after training, an initiate was shown an ear of corn, and he experienced the cosmic connection. In another rite, the initiate was presented to a mirror and told to “Behold the Face of God”. They underwent a Mystical Experience; Life would never be the same for them.

Today in the Western Mystery Tradition, the Mysteries again may be divided into two categories. The Lesser Mysteries and the Greater Mysteries. The lesser mysteries are gained relatively easy. Mysteries, experiences and situation that make us go Wow!!! such as an Enchanting Sun-set, the birth of a child, Being loved, the wonder of Fecundity, The joy of being Alive. These are events that take us out of ourselves and show us another view of this world. And offer a glimpse of other realms of existence. These states can come at any time, and at any stage of life. In fact, many people who still have a long way to go towards Maslow’s self-actualising experience the Lesser Mysteries. The artist, the musician, the poet, the writer, the skier, the engineer, the saint, the prisoner, the inventor and many other types have experienced this as a fleeting moment which occurs while they are pursuing their work or in deep thought.

The greater mystery was later termed the Great Work in Western Mystery Tradition, a voyage of self-discovery and self-realisation, through Self Actualisation,  and so on to Apotheosis and beyond, through to the Mystical Experience. Humanity’s first world-encompassing idea was the hunter-gatherer belief that “everything is connected”. There followed an agricultural era during which humanity lived under the “hierarchy of the gods”. Then comes “the divergence”. We need to seek some perspective on our modern juggernaut of radical innovation and global polarization. Maybe reach towards ancient wisdom traditions that some call “the harmonic web of life”. A common experience of those who have had mystical experiences, regardless of their religious  background, is that all Life is One.

There is no separation, no “Them and Us”, no Sacred or Profane, no Good, nor Bad, just Unity, a Whole, a whole of which we are a part. It is dissolving the Ego, getting rid of the Self, losing oneself in the Whole. No I,  just Us. There is only the One of which were are a part.

Having a Mystical Experience does not lead to feeling  superior, because you know that All is One, so there cannot be any separation. No you, and no me, just us. Crafte, with its awareness of Divinity both Imminent and Transcendental, confirms these experiences. We may see this interconnection as the Wyrd. Or in more modern parlance, it could be called Jung’s Collective Unconscious Reality.

That “Psychological Parent” which guides us through Life and shapes our Being. In fact, Attaining A Mystical Experience may be part of our Ecological / Evolutionary Psychology, since it goes across time and cultures. With this, we can step outside of using the Collective Unconscious to gain access to the Cosmos, and become Whole, in direct relationship with the Cosmos.

We worship the Gods that men fear, the Horned God of Ancient Days;
We worship the Goddess, the Lady of Older Times.
And the God is the Sun-God of Life, yet also is He the Great Lord of Peace and Understanding.

The Goddess is the Maid of Joy and Hope, She is the Mother of Love and Protection,
the Grandmother of Wisdom and Knowledge,
yet also is she the Dark Lady of Peace and Magic.

 Yet beyond these Two is the One we do not know.
That which we cannot name or limit,
for that One is Limitless.

We work our Crafte in the name of the Lord and the Lady.
Every spell that we weave, every magic that we work,
and every act in life is done before these. 

We carry a part of each within ourselves
But they, the Lord and Lady, are above us.

Through our Crafte do we serve the Lord and Lady,
and do what best we can for our fellow men
both within, and without, the Crafte.”

Thus runs a declaration of Crafte belief, and again we see the concept of Oneness.

Behind the Lord and the Lady lays the One, who if we can name is not the One, for by naming we define, confine and limit.  And that One is Limitless. Think what “Limitless” means!!

The Ultimate can only be experienced, in a wordless way, that is beyond thought, it is Being. Maybe even Paul Tillich’s “Ground of Being”.  But Heidegger says we cannot talk about Being, but only of “Being in this World”. In other words, we need to contextualise Being.

No good being “So Heavenly Bent to be of No Earthly Use”.

This is true of the Lesser Mysteries, but not of the Mystical Experience. For to contextualise is to apply Labels, and the Ultimate is without labels. This is an idea which can be compared with Tao, and Zen.  Remember the Zen koan “There are many paths up the mountain but the view is always the same”, so once more inter-relating the many Paths to the one centre, the Wyrd. Since the One, the Wyrd, as the sum of these, is indivisible. It may indicate our common cosmic origin. This is implied in the words of one ritual, which says, “For we are of the stars, and to the stars we shall return”. This cosmic point of view is one of the empowerment sources of the Witch.

(“For we are of the stars, and to the stars we shall return.”)

What is this thing we call the Mystical Experience? And how may we gain such? A couple of years ago, Jim Irwin, one of the Apollo Astronauts, who had walked on the Moon, before he died, revealed that whilst he was walking on the Moon’s surface, he had had an Epiphany, which changed his life. Joseph Campbell, that great author and student of Human Nature, also used this term  Epiphany, in his magnum opus The Masks of God.  So what does it mean? What is an Epiphany? An epiphany (from the Ancient Greek for Manifestation, ‘Striking Appearance’) is an experience of sudden and striking realization. Generally, the term is used to describe scientific breakthrough, religious or philosophical discoveries, but it can apply in any situation in which an enlightening realization allows a situation to be understood from a new and deeper perspective. The word Epiphany originally referred to insight through the Divine. Today, this concept is often used much without such connotations, but a popular implication remains that the epiphany is Supernatural, as the discovery seems to come suddenly from the outside. But it is not supernatural but is more Supra-Natural. It is a breakthrough from the mundane, to that which lies beyond normality.

Epiphanies are studied by Psychologists and other scholars, particularly those attempting to study the process of Innovation.

Epiphanies are relatively rare occurrences, and generally follow a process of significant thought about a problem. Often, they are triggered by a new and key piece of information, but importantly, a depth of prior knowledge is required to allow the leap of understanding. Hence the importance of Training and Education. Famous epiphanies include Archimedes’ discovery of a method to determine the density of an object (“Eureka!”) and Isaac Newton’s realization that a falling apple and the orbiting moon are both pulled by the same force.

Do pagan mystics exist?

I would suggest that Witches are the mystics of the Pagan Path.

Upon entering into Conscious Oneness with the Universe (which is the basis of the mystical experience) it is self-evident that the divisive claims by religions, or factions, are ill founded.

The mystical experience is one of Wholeness, of Unity where the petty divisions made by Church, State, or Tribe dissolve and the Web of Life is apparent. The mystical experience is personal, and immediate, not vicarious or deputised.

Mystics may attempt to express their feelings in terms of Christianity, of Islam, of Hinduism or of Paganism, but there are no Christian, Muslim, Hindu or Pagan Mystics as such, just mystics. Do not confuse the “tools” that they use to attempt to convey the encountering with the happening itself.

All endeavours to explain the mystical concurrence, must, by its very nature, fall short of perfection when we remember that mystery/mystic come from a root-verb meaning “to be beyond words – to shut the mouth”. The common expression used by many to attempt to convey the Mystical Experience is “ineffable”, beyond words. It can only be expressed in Symbols not words.

Recall the Charge of the Goddess :-

And thou who thinkest to seek for me,
Know that your seeking and yearning shall avail thee not,
unless thou knowest the Mystery.
That, if that which thou seekest,
thou findest not within thee,
Thou wilt never find it with-out thee,
For behold:  I have been with thee from the beginning,
And I am that which is attained at the end of desire

The Higher Degrees of Freemasonry and the Rosicrucians should not be knife waving exercises, that can be written about, but ought to lead on to the Mystical Experience, which changes you forever.

Karen Armstrong in her book “The Battle for God” tells us

“Mystics have long insisted that “God” is not an Other Being, and they claim that “he” does not really exist, and that it is probably better to call him Nothing – that is No Thing. The Divine of the mystic is better termed Godhead, That from which All flows; That from whence ALL gods come; Beyond thought, Beyond comprehension, Capable of being “known” only through actual first-hand experience, But not through intellect, or by telling.

The mystic’s divinity is not a local deity, does not “belonging” to one Path, one Tradition, one race or one tribe, but is “greater” than these puny limitations. This perception is not easy to apprehend, since it requires long training, usually with a spiritual guide or facilitator, and a considerable investment of time. The mystic has to work hard to acquire this sense of reality known as God (which many refuses to name).

This is not something that has much appeal to many in our present-day society, conditioned as it is with fast food, fast cars, fast solutions, instant gratification and speedy communications.

Mysticism has often been perceived as an esoteric discipline or an elitist activity, but this is not so; because all mystics are aware that the “truths” can only be perceived by the intuitive part of the mind after special training; not accessible or assessable to the logical, rationalistic faculty.

Mystics appreciate that God does not exist in any simplistic sense, since they recognize that the very word “God” is only a metaphor, a symbol of a reality that ineffably transcends it. “

So how can we gain a Mystical Experience?

One simple answer. Hard bloody work !!!

There is no short cut, but it usually involves years of dedicated application. Having had a Mystical Experience does not make one boastful or make you special, since the very experience allies you with all others, and all else. There is only The One.

Our brains have a quality called “Plasticity” which allows our  grey matter, with its 48 Trillion Synaptic Connections, to develop in accordance with our learning. Our brain is not fixed but changes as we change.

For example, the part of the brain associated with Spatial Awareness actually increases by 4% in the brains of London Black Cab drivers when they have gained The Knowledge.

That is the brain adapts during the experience gained in four years of walking various routes around London, so that they qualify to be a registered London Cab Driver. So too can we adapt our brains as we continue in our Occult Studies, so as to ready us for a Mystical Experience. And this has been captured on an MRI Scan.

To reach the top of your professional tree, takes long years of not only study, but also years of practical application of your discipline. In Apprenticeships at Work, and Degrees at college, much study, and personal application, is required to achieve the ultimate in Performance, Peer Recognition and Job Satisfaction.

Nor do you get to row in the Boat Race, or run in the Olympics, unless you have trained. And so it is for those who wish to achieve a Mystical Experience.

As we practice Craft every day, as we meditate, as we study the occult more, and as we live our lives following the Witches Rede, so we build neural pathways in the brain.

And it is these pathways which lead us to a Mystical Experience.

If you only think of Crafte at the time of a monthly ritual,

if you never alter your life to respect others,

if you do not constantly apply Crafte in your everyday living

Then you will never achieve the Mystical Experience.

No short cuts, No not bothering to put the hours in, the Universe does not owe you a living, or a Mystical Experience

Do not confuse Maslow’s Peak Experience with a mystical experience. One is transitory, the other is a permanent state of mind.

How do we recognise that what we have had is a Mystical Experience? It is like nothing else that you have experienced.

It is so overwhelming, that you lose your Self. It is Life Changing. And if it does not change your life, then it may well not be a Mystical Experience. I do not know of anyone who has been there, who does not mark that point in their lives as being radical. There is Life before and Life after a Mystical Experience.

Do not confuse the Mystical Experience with Out-of-Body Experiences, they are easily induced. It’s in a different order-of-magnitude. The Peak Experience comes in so many guises, often shaped by creed and culture, but the underlying experience, and effect, is always the same. If you can describe it fully to your own satisfaction, then it may not be a mystical experience. Do not confuse the Peak experience with the Mystical Experience, which is the end of the Crafte Path. A peak experience is just that. It peaks and then subsides, whereas a Mystical experience lasts for ever.

So, if you want a Mystical experience,
Start now, and work hard. Do not seek it, but rather let it find you.

Studies to aid the Path to the Mystical Experience

Study what mysticism is.  Read books on Mysticism.  Underhill etc.

Read and understand Mythology.  Campbell and Eliade, etc.

Study and interact with non-theistic religions such as Zen and Tao

Adopt a cause

Learn to meditate properly. Contemplative and active – discursive and ordered.

Examine prejudices.

Practice a Discipline/Yoga  e.g. Rajah. not Hatha Yoga

Learn Compassion.

Work with the sick or disabled.

Experience and explore the minor Mysteries and Epiphanies.

Find a Teacher

Unpeel the onion

Re-evaluate your Life’s goals.

Find your Bliss

Follow your Bliss

Give it all away

Kill the Teacher

Get a Life!


River Ilisos

Starry heaven:

Quote from the Charge of the Goddess


David (Dave) Bracey Born 1937 in Hertfordshire. England.

Qualified in Chemistry, Electronics, Applied Psychology and Religious Studies. Started employment in Production Control in UK Metallurgical and Chemical Industries. Worked overseas, for 23 years, as an electronics engineer, manager, and consultant, mainly in Civil Aviation, including time as an Exo-atmosphere specialist, in Nuclear Test-Ban Monitoring, and the Gemini/Apollo programmes. Upon return to England in 1983 became a Telecommunications Technical Officer with the UK MoD, working with the USAF, at the same time  joined a Gardnerian coven. Started a training Coven in 1985, which operated on the East of England for over 30 years. Later was a Committee and Council Member of the Pagan Federation for 13 years.

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