“Mankind, more than is realised, is an expression of the part of the earth upon which he subsists. A rose of the West should not aspire to bloom like a lotus of the East.” ~ Gareth Knight, The Rose Cross and the Goddess, as quoted in The Western Way: A practical guide to the Western Mystery Tradition by Caitlín and John Matthews, from which I quote the following:
Magic, as we understand it, did not exist: the whole of life was magical, in one sense. Yet there was nothing within creation which was truly supernatural. These seemingly contradictory statements are resultant upon any attempt to enter the Foretime ~ wherein life was infused with the numinous nature of the gods ~ from the standpoint of today ~ wherein everything is explicable from a scientific premise.
Before we make that attempt we must understand where we are in relation to consciousness, for the Western Way is very much the path of consciousness and its evolution. Symbolic truth is as true now as it was in the Foretime, yet the means of that truth ~ often conveyed by image, story or music ~ changes as the consciousness of humanity evolves. According to the prevailing consciousness at any one historical cross-section of linear time, so will different levels of symbolic truth be revealed. The development and evolution of human consciousness is the motivating factor in the Western Way; it is the impulse which sets seekers upon the path, from shaman to scientist, determined to find the unifying factors of physical or outer life with spiritual life. The capacity to understand and equate these factors is dependent upon the level of consciousness brought to bear upon this search.
The first steps upon the way are taken within the Native Tradition [as compared to the Hermetic Tradition] where tribal or collective consciousness prevails: out of the tribe emerges the shaman who experiments with individual consciousness ~ the next step ~ by means of identifying with the numinous quality of creation as personified by the gods, by synthesising this experience and transmitting it in an appropriate form to the tribe. The necessary next step to individual consciousness is one which cannot be taken simultaneously by all: this evolution takes many generations and is partially achieved by the presence and work of the shaman and a growing body of initiates who have already begun to make the transition within the tribe. The Native Tradition of any country takes its people on the long journey from tribal to individual consciousness, just as its Hermetic or esoteric Tradition attempts to lead people from individual to cosmic consciousness, in which evolved humanity will perceive its collective responsibility. (Figure 2.)
Native Tradition ~~~~~~~~~~~>>> Hermetic Tradition
Tribal consciousness ~~~>>> Individual consciousness ~~~>>> Cosmic consciousness
The task of religions, both old and new, has been to inculcate this evolutionary process through the means at its disposal. The varying success of this movement can be gauged by a quick mental reconnoitre through one’s own life experience to date. In the Foretime this search was begun by means of contact with the mineral kingdom and with the earth’s vital energies, which led on to an understanding and personification of these energies with god-forms. While the Native Tradition works from the immediate and familiar forces of the earth towards an evolved understanding of a cosmic plan or single, centralised Deity, it is the way of the Hermetic Tradition to perceive the cosmic and hierarchical forces which motivate the universe and identify their operation within elemental and imagined god-forms, as we shall see in Volume 2. [Volume 1 being “The Native Tradition”.]
Currently, the Western World is still struggling to throw off the last vestiges of tribal consciousness which have not yet worked themselves out. The revival of the Old Religion under the form of the neo-pagan movement and renewed interest in the Native Traditions of many lands are resonances of this struggle: it is one wherein the best of the ancient ancestral wisdom is retrieved and the unregenerate forms discarded as inappropriate. We shall be looking closer at this phenomenon in Chapter 5 and assessing the development of the Native Tradition since the Foretime. But before we can follow the way of the earth and of the gods, before we take ship for the Otherworld, we must enter the world of the Foretime ~ the ‘once upon a time’ of our ancestors.