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10 Signs that an occult leader has lost the plot

Leaders of esoteric groups are in a difficult position trying to balance their own spiritual path with helping others. Sometimes it all proves too much and they go off the rails. However there are 10 basic signs that things are about to go pear shaped which followers should react to.
Mathers never went off the rails.  No way!
  1. They start thinking that they, and their group are actually important. Perhaps the most famous esoteric order in the world – the Golden Dawn – had a fewer than 130 members in its history. Whare Ra had much more than that, but significantly not much more. One of the largest Golden Dawn groups in the World is run by Chic Cicero. It has some 20 temples with, on average, 15 members each. All this adds up to being absolutely tiny in the scale of things. Even Wicca (which is huge) has group leaders which can only really claim control of about 24 people at most. In the scale of world such leaders claiming they, or their orders, are important, are worth listening to are fairly pathetic.
  2. They start claiming that they are the re-incarnation of a famous occultist. This means psychologically they know that their personality is not up to scratch and they have to borrow someone else’s. What is interesting is that often by nicking the personality of another they end up exhibiting some of that person’s faults and life story.  A similar problem to this one is that they start claiming grades which put them above the riff-raff still further.  Often this is done under the authority of secret chiefs (who are never around to sign a certificate or answer questions from other people).  However it is harder to argue against a person who claims that they are a 10=1 because their Secret Chief gave them the grade in honour of their magical ability.
  3. They take a lot of drugs or start drinking. This is a common problem it means that the person is seeking to escape the real world and live in one where they are seen as important.
  4. They decide to pack in their day job and live off their students or their Order. This indicates that they are losing touch with material reality.
  5. They start claiming authority from Secret Chiefs or Invisible beings. The only authority comes from God. All else is advice. Secret Chiefs, or contacts, do not tell people what to do. They provide information and guidance in terms of spiritual principles. Some chiefs claim that difficult or unpopular decisions come at the demand of Secret Chiefs or contact. They can say “It is not me that is refusing you this grade it is “Anubis””. The answer to that is “if Anubis told you to jump off the great pyramid would you do it?” The point here is that Secret Chiefs and Contacts are supposed to help you individualise and that sort of relationship is one of dependence.
  6. They ask you to give you all their money or want to shag you or your partner to assist your spiritual path. Sometimes they will even change their order structure to make sure they get a shag. One OTO group had a habit of promoting young attractive women faster so that they could be used for sex magic by the chiefs sooner.
  7. They start to become incredibly paranoid. This is a symptom of number one. As they start to inflate their importance they start to think that everyone is out to get them. Paranoia is a sign of a weak personality which is often over inflated. One person once accused me of doing black magic against them… this surprised me as I had never actually thought about them. In my universe they were not that important to be bothered with let alone do magic about. One thing that they will do is scan essays, articles and Internet posts desperate for proof that others are talking about them. They will see attacks that are not there and misquote and bend sentences so that they constitute an attack.
  8. They feel the need to attack other orders, personalities and systems. It is a sign that they have nothing, that they will label and attack other groups. In occultism, those who can, do. Those who can’t, attack others that can. Such types will not just attack those who are better magicians, but they will attack any group which they see as a threat. If they are dependent on the money from their Order, or the status it provides for their broken personalities, then they will often attack groups that are more commercially successful.
  9. They lose any sense of humour.
  10. They believe their own bullshit. Lots of occult leaders create stories about themselves or their orders. Paul Foster Case and Anne Davies were great at this. Davies once said that Master R manifested a statue of the Madonna on her bookshelf to cheer her up!  However such stories were always presented for the incredulous and it is unlikely that anyone ever believed them. However it is a sign that a leader really has lost the plot when they start to believe such stories, even in the face of evidence (such as they were in the wrong town when the story is alleged to have taken place).
If your esoteric group leader starts manifesting any of these symptoms you have to take them to one side and find out what is wrong. Most likely they will throw you out, but if they fail to listen you should leave. Trust in the universe that you will find new teachers. It is not that they are bad, it is just that they are going through some shit and need to sort it out. If they are not going to sort it out, you need to leave before things turn very ugly. Remember that they are only manifesting these problems because they are a bit broken. The reason they react badly is because they know you are right.

11 thoughts on “10 Signs that an occult leader has lost the plot

  1. Fantastic post!

    “This is no magnificent deed, because I do not want followers, and I mean this. The moment you follow someone you cease to follow Truth. I am not concerned whether you pay attention to what I say or not. I want to do a certain thing in the world and I am going to do it with unwavering concentration. I am concerning myself with only one essential thing: to set man free. I desire to free him from all cages, from all fears, and not to found religions, new sects, nor to establish new theories and new philosophies.”
    -Krishnamurti

    (From Wiki) Krishnamurti had denounced all organized belief, the notion of gurus, and the whole teacher-follower relationship, vowing instead to work in setting people “absolutely, unconditionally free”.

  2. Wonderful post! This wisdom can be applied to anyone in positions of spiritual power. (including religious leaders/gurus/et al) As well thought out caveat. I’m going to forward it to my children to read..(as well as your quote @puer aeternus)

  3. Wow, of all the occultists you could have probably named and tied to the subject matter of your this blog, you chose Paul Foster Case and Anne Davies.

    I was an active member of BOTA for the better part of a decade (starting in 1988) and finished most of the course material. I did not experience the conduct you speak of during that time. Nor do I ever recall being exposed to what I would consider fantastical, untrue claims.

    I think there are probably better examples out there than Case and Davies. Do you have an axe to grind? Just curious.

    S.V.

  4. Not especially. I am not anti-BOTA at all. It was simply Case and Davies that popped into my mind when I wrote it.
    I listened to all Davies lectures and she loved to place herself at the centre of a good story. Often you would not be aware that what she was sometimes coming out with was a fantasy.
    When she visited NZ she heard that the Whare Ra people believed an important esoteric teacher was going to arrive. She cast herself as that teacher saying the Whare Ra legend talked of the person being “red haired”. Actually the prophecy said no such thing and implied the messiah was male. I was in BOTA in the 1980s too and they were still saying that Davies was that Messiah. Even while some of the Whare Ra people were building a centre for this Messiah (indicating that they did not believe it was Davies) in Taupo.
    The story about Master R manifesting a statue of the Madonna to cheer her up was vintage Davies (I think a variant of the story appears in the “Tarot for Psychic Development Course”. There were others. At the time these sorts stories were so well presented I didn’t think that they were impossible either. It was only later when I thought about them. I mentioned some of them to senior BOTA people (and Percy Wilkinson) once and they just laughed.
    I have doubts about some of the Case stories too, but to be fair they came through Davies after he died.
    I was in New Zealand and under Chesterman things were a lot more personality focused than in the US. We were much more temple based, so we heard a lot of Case and Davies stories.
    I am not sure if Davies *believed* these stories and I doubt it (which is the point of the comment in the article) but she did love to *tell* them.
    For the article, Crowley would have served as another example, Mathers another. Wicca is full of such types and there are a couple of people who are still alive that do this too.
    I dont have “any axe to grind” I still consider myself a non-paying member of BOTA (although I am not sure which faction these days 🙂 )

  5. Nick,

    Thanks for filling that out for me. From your account, it is interesting to me that BOTA in NZ was apparently much more different than that in the US. I did not do any temple work, nor did I ever meet the staff or other members of BOTA. I was basing my experience solely upon the teachings that I had access to, the weekly courses and my practical application of those courses to my daily life. In this context, perhaps I was sheltered from the personality matters your discuss.

    I, however, found the fruit of the labor of Case and Davies (the BOTA cirriculum) to be extremely genuine and potent, at least to the degree that this level of teaching was able to impart. It was from this point of view that I made my comment to yours regarding Case and Davies, wherein you state: “They believe their own bullshit. Lots of occult leaders create stories about themselves or their orders. Paul Foster Case and Anne Davies were great at this.”

    Your foregoing comment, at least to me, seemed to be a careless flurry of the fingers on the keyboard, denigrating years of dedication to the Great Work and the evolutionary advancement of humanity that Case and Davies had put forth. I thought it needed to be addressed, since these two are obviously no longer here with us and cannot speak for themselves. I judge Case and Davies, to the limited extent I feel capable, by the fruit of their work, not by some probably off-hand comments that are likely distorted from the context in which they were given. This is evident by your own contradiction, when you state they (Case and Davies) believed “their own bullshit,” and then state in your later comment “I am not sure if Davies *believed* these stories and I doubt it…”

    The pen, or in this case, the keyboard is a potent instrument, especially in this day of the Internet. My take was that to hurriedly make a point, you got sloppy, and in so doing lost some credibility in my eyes.

    Thank you for your reply, though. This material, in all its forms, fascinates me. And I appreciate the opportunity to chime in here.

  6. No doubt Case and Davies were influential, both on me and other occultists, I revisited their work recently when I started working on the Golden Dawn Temple Deck.
    At the time it seemed really good, without much practical work, and now I am less certain. As an exercise I went through one of the lessons and chopped out anything that was “hard sell” (either of the course or future material) or redundant and that removed a lot.
    But that was not really what bothered me (I sort of expect hard sell from US teachers). In the end it came down to some of the attributions and associations which were hammered in over a period of time. Some of these do not actually go anywhere.
    For example one of the most meditated card for me was the Heirophant because Case said that it would create a contact with the Higher Self. The Hiero, he said represented the Higher Self. But this did not fit with the rest of the symbolism (Case attributed sound to this card to increase the association). True, the Heirophant was the expounder of the mysteries but what has that to do with Taurus? The GD meaning of “the tradition” made a lot more sense. It was the spiritual tradition that spoke… although it did have limitations (outer order). However as an emblem for the higher self it does not work… particularly as you can count most of the first nine cards as being the Higher Self.
    I think Case was trying to form a system and he dealt with the various inconsistencies in his realisation by repeating the attributions. Davies carried on that tradition.
    That is not to say they did not have some really good ideas. I guess that those ideas were only a small part of my spiritual path so I tend to see their contribution to the tradition with that bias.

  7. I love it Nick…Grazie! I hope you don’t mind if I repost this link to my blog…I appreciate when people share they’re thoughts on this subject.

    FSO

  8. A quick note about #10: I’m not a psychiatrist, so I bow to S.R.’s application of terminology, but there are plenty of examples of one “believing their own bullshit” not in that if held at gunpoint, they would honestly and truly believe their own lies, but in that they are lies so often repeated that they begin to act and feel as if these stories really happened. Repeating the lie of physically manifesting something from nothing, for example, could easily lead to ego-inflation as one feels like a great and powerful magician with rare abilities, and they may be prone to lashing out against those who question their stories, as this threatens their sense of self-worth. These reactions are exaggerated by the fact that the person knows, but has repressed the fact that they know they are lying. Not exactly a trait you’d like to see a lot of in your spiritual leadership.

  9. Interesting comments you make about BOTA. I am about three years in, up to the Tarot Interpretation course so far.

    While I do share some reservations about Davies, I really do feel Paul Foster Case is top notch and have never found a leader who explains things as lucidly as he does.

    Do you have some advice to share about what to expect regarding the next few years lessons from BOTA? Does the quality remain consistent? I feel like I am just starting to ‘get’ it, I really feel like I’m making progress spiritually and come to new realisations and connections regarding my relationship to the Tarot cards.

    The truth is I have looked at a lot of the stuff from the Golden Dawn, even Crowley and such and none of it has spoken to me the same way. Bardon is the only other I really like. I read some negative comments around the place, like BOTA is a dying organisation and your comments about Davies and I wonder what this means going forward. Surely if the coursework is up to scratch and it inspires me to continue learning and working on myself, that’s what really matters. Don’t really have much to say about the workings of the organisation as a whole since I have no real contact with it apart from receiving the lessons.

  10. I stayed like that for a while, but I think the problem with BOTA is that it is not practical enough unless you take part in its ritual work. The course work is not bad for about five years and then it gets a bit repetitive with ideas being a little milked too much. While some raved about the alchemical stuff I was not that impressed and his work on the lesser pips was too little too late in the course. It is as an order I have the most problems with modern BOTA. The way it treated Joyce Chesterman really concerned me and I could not think that it was connected to anything decent any longer. I had my problems with Will Chesterman but I never denied his right to run the order. I left. As far as I am concerned the people who locked Joyce out should have done so too.

  11. Could you please elaborate exactly on what you mean by practical then? At first I was not applying what I read in my life at all, and it is very easy to do this since they have an open attitude to how you should apply what you learn. They never really say you must do this or that in such a structured way like they would in the Golden Dawn. But I feel like now that I’m taking a more active approach to applying the Tarot and Seven Steps to my life, being a lot more attentive and aware on a daily basis, taking to heart what they say about how to work on your consciousness with the cards etc, its taken on a whole new meaning to me. And the fact is they do hammer this over and over again, it’s not just about meditating on the cards but applying the meaning of it all into how you consciously live throughout everyday life. Isn’t that really the point of it all, and if I’m missing the point, could you perhaps point out how it can be done better? I’ve never been involved in group ritual work, for example, so I would not know how something like this could deliver better results.

    I have no doubt you’re correct about how the order is being run these days, however. Seems like a pretty inevitable occurrence after the founders and their disciples pass away.

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