SECTS, SECRET SOCIETIES, AND INITIATIC ORDERS
For quite some time now, the Euro-American media abounds with publications of all kinds on Sects, Secret Societies and Initiatic Orders which, in the mind of the average reader (and even the above the average) often represent one and the same thing.
However, this is nothing but a superficial view of an extremely old phenomenon — at least as old as socialized humanity itself — and is likely to spread confusion in the mind of the public. In addition, at a time when the question of "sects" is more than ever under public scrutiny, and, at this time when there is a multiplicity of controversies on the subject, it seems appropriate to establish certain ideas with regard to the differences between these three groupings. In this regard, it would be useful to recall some fundamental concepts because, even if, for us traditionalists, things in this field seem to be obvious, things could only go better if we said them.
Therefore, after consulting a few dictionaries and encyclopedias, the following definitions emerge:
SECT: This word has two etymological origins, both of which are Latin:
sequi: to follow;
secare: to cut off.
From this fact, and sticking simply to this double etymology, one could deduce that a sect is constituted of a gathering (coming together) of people who have separated themselves (cut themselves off) from a common trunk and/or who, more or less blindly follow a leader. It is well known that throughout their history all of the great religions have given birth to a certain number of sects. This generally occurred each time an individual or a group of individuals disagreed on a point of the dogma, a moral principle, or even with the uses of the religion which they professed.
In any event, a sect is always endowed with a religious or pseudo-religious nature. It is through ignorance — or derision — that one sometimes calls "sects" groups, which are completely indifferent to any religious preoccupation. On the other hand, there is reason to distinguish between sects (secare), such as the multiple Protestant Sects born of successive schisms, and those sects (sequi), hatched of their own initiative, such as those which are more precisely the subject of recent attention.
SECRET SOCIETIES: They consist of individuals (socius) who jointly pursue a mission which is hostile to the established order. This fact obliges them, for obvious reasons of safety, to meet and act in a clandestine way, sheltered from the inquisitive eyes of the mass, and more particularly from public authorities and the forces of law enforcement. This appellation of secret society can cover a broad range of activities. These rang from a network of resistance whose goal is to release the fatherland of a foreign occupation by "kicking the enemy out of one's national territory", to the subversive movement which aims at "destabilize" or to reverse a regime already in place. These latter also foment disorder and perpetrate acts of terrorism and, by way of the information services, engage in espionage and against-espionage, which are, for obvious reasons, organized within secret societies.
INITIATIC ORDERS: Attached to a traditional movement, an Initiatic Order  has as its raison d'être, the conduct of its members from the ordinary state of consciousness to a philosophical state. That is to say, Initiatic Orders are concerned with the moral, intellectual and spiritual elevation of their members through the knowledge of those great mystical principles which govern life in its apparent multiplicity. Initiatic Orders differ from the Religious Orders only in the esoteric dimensions of their teachings even though certain Religious Orders are much closer to the Initiatic Orders than it may appear at first sight.
That having been said and acknowledged, the entire history of humanity testify to the fact that membership in a Sect, in a Secret Society, or in an Initiatic Order arises from the real needs of human nature:
The need to withdraw oneself from a world which too often is oppressive.
The need to belong to an elite (or to that which one believes to be an elite).
The need to share in secret with a small number of one's peers.
The need to feel protected (modern terminology would say: secure) while taking refuge in a social microcosm, a veritable cell in which one feels sheltered from external aggression, and in which one may temporarily abdicate one's responsibilities.
The need to distinguish oneself from the herd
Let us now examine the principal criteria on which these various types of organizations rest. In doing so, let us, for the moment, set aside consideration of Secret Societies, and confine ourselves to the examination of those differences which exist between Sects and Initiatic Orders, differences which one finds in their modes of recruitment, their methods, and their objectives.
MODES OF RECRUITMENT
SECTS have the habit of recruiting their members from among the anxious and the depressive, in a word, from among those who are not "comfortable within themselves". That is to say, from among all those who, rejecting society, family, social and family obligations, are in search of an indefinable ideal of life, due to their lack of reflection. Sects like the Moonies or Hari Krishna, as well of others, are past Masters in art and the manner "of trapping" these unhappy drifters, these castaways of existence.
INITIATIC ORDERS recruit their associates from among "men and women of desire", in other words, from among those who, also in the search of an ideal (and who, in truth, is not?), wish to participate in the construction of a better world, a freer and more fraternal world. These are men and women who, at a given moment in their lives, have sensed the vanity of the material aspects of life, aspects which are but the support of the Universal Spirit which "hovers above water". Unstable individuals, desperate individuals, do have no place in Initiatic Orders and are generally not accepted, except by error or by laxity, and, under those conditions, they never remain very long.
In SECTS, the teaching (sic) is dispensed by Masters who are considered to be infallible — Gurus in other words. It is laced with repeated draughts of false certainty and often founded on the doubtful amalgam of disparate borrowings from the Bible and Hindu texts, the whole remaining deliberately superficial. Physical and moral constraints, drug-addiction, along with complete and prolonged isolation from the external world, complete the work of intellectual and psychological conversion of the individual. In this respect, the leaders of these Sects behave in the same way as do the "brain-washers" in the work camps or reeducation facilities of certain States.
On the other hand, in INITIATIC ORDERS, the recipient is encouraged to preserve and develop his or her critical sense, his or her Free Will. The teaching is not authoritative, but mutual. Prayer is practiced, but it should be well understood that prayer is not source of alienation, but, in truth, assures intellectual and spiritual freedom, because it connects man to God. That is to say, prayer is the link between man and the generative and dispensing principle of the Spirit, and "flies" beyond Masters, beyond Gurus and other Followers, above dogmas and fixed teachings. The purpose of the rituals which are based upon symbolic language (to be brought closer to the gift of tongues of the Rose+Croix) are not "to condition" the participants, but to create within them the serenity necessary to any constructive exchange, while keeping alive the traditional roots of initiation. Finally, it will be noted that the members of Initiatic Orders retain their social freedom and are not cut off from the world.
SECTS work towards the goal of creating easy-to-handle groups which, in the short term, could be subjected to economic interests and, in the longer-term, to remote control by political ambitions. All of this under the cover of a vague religious ideal centered on the arbitrary rejection of the Western values, which is only a pretext.
As for INITIATIC ORDERS, they have as their goal the spiritual elevation of their associates, so that they may better serve Humanity. And, in addition, that they better accomplish in society, in their family life as well as in their professional life, in their private affairs as in their public affairs, any goal which they may be led to set for themselves.
One will notice, in passing that Sects and Secret Societies at all times have applied themselves to "mimicking" Initiatic Orders. They invent for themselves rituals, words and signs of recognition, concoct "secrets" and make their members take oaths. One sees that they are there only pretenses intended to impact the mind of those who have fallen into their snares, the better to retain them. Moreover, one does not easily withdraw from this kind of organization. And without quoting the extreme rules of the "Mafia" which wishes that renegades be assassinated, even the mildly renegade ones, one knows that the moral and physical treatments undergone in so many of these Sects and Secret Societies greatly limit the chances for "deserters" to resume a normal life.
On the other hand, one can at anytime and for any reason what-so-ever, freely quit an Initiatic Order without incurring reprisals, contrary to what is claimed, with dishonesty, by certain authors in bad copy.
It is neither a lack objectivity nor to prove one's mental capabilities "from the bell-tower", to affirm that there exists, at the present time, but few veritable Initiatic Orders, and that Martinism and Freemasonry certainly appear to be the most traditionalists and most regular among them.
Neither one nor the other is a Sect, because:
They are not the result of schisms (secare);
One does not find Gurus there (sequi).
And, furthermore, they are not Secret Societies, because:
They respect the freedom of their members;
They entertain no political goals (the participation in political debate by certain Masonic Obediences, for example, arises only from their civic duties which is proper for very Initiate).
Freedom of conscience and of expression, equality of rights and duties of members — the hierarchy of the ranks and the functions being only initiatic — true fraternity in joy as well as in affliction, such are the criteria of the Initiatic Orders. Such Orders have no other desire than the spiritual, intellectual, and moral progress of all Humanity, the gathering of the men and women of goodwill and desire.
- We prefer to use the word "ORDER" rather than "SOCIETY", because it implies a spiritual RULE. ↩
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