Philip Jenkins


I put this together as an aid to understanding the wave of small esoteric sects that arose in the US from the late nineteenth century onwards. It is an ideal type, in the sense that the model does not necessarily fit any one group or movement, but the general statements are true.


Generally, these groups held that:


1.The universe contains vast powers and dimensions beyond those generally understood by science.


2.The outer world reflects the inner world: what happens in the universe at large reflects what happens within the human soul or mind, and changes in one can affect the other. Studying the planets or stars can reveal truths about human beings. Also, each individual is the focus of mystical forces besides the visible human body.


3.These great powers were known to ancient civilizations that are now lost, but which left traces of their existence that we can interpret. These civilizations developed over many millions of years, a timespan much greater than that commonly recognized by science or archaeology.


4.If we could access these powers, we would have abilities that seem magical, including precognition, psychokinesis, telepathy, miraculous healing, astral travel, extra-sensory perception, and extended lifespan, even immortality.


5.The human soul never dies. Human beings evolve over many lifetimes, and progress towards higher spiritual states. (reincarnation; karma)


6.The most evolved beings become great spiritual leaders and teachers who help lesser beings progress to perfection. They have access to the lost spiritual powers of the ancient civilizations.


7.The secret teachings are passed on through special societies and mystery schools, which often pass on their message in symbolic form. As Manly P. Hall wrote, “Realizing that nothing is more dangerous than the indiscriminate circulation of occult secrets, the Mysteries established their Schools for the purpose of concealing rather than revealing the knowledge.”


8.People rise in such mystery schools through a path of gradual initiation and study, until finally they themselves become great masters or adepts.