by W. E. Butler
Every organisation must, by its very nature, have a definite set of rules, otherwise it will become chaotic and unable to function. At the same time, those rules must not be like those of the Medes and Persians, ‘which change not,’ as the Bible declares. So, between the opposing rocks of ‘Democracy’ and ‘Autocracy,’ how must a lodge or Fraternity be governed?
If we were dealing with perfected men and women, then it would be easy, but as humanity is at all stages of progress, we must have an organisation which is at the same time both rigid and flexible. Just as this is no easy task in engineering construction, so when we are dealing with the living stones of the esoteric Temple, we find it to present several difficulties, more especially in these modern times, when the word 'democratic' has become one of the modern words of power. Incidentally, the ‘democracy’ of a small City-State was far removed from the modern understanding of the term. Professor Joad was fond of saying, in connection with semantics, "It all depends on what you mean by a particular word."
We are all in the habit of projecting upon a word our own understanding of its meaning, and it is this subconscious projection which causes so much trouble. The value of many of our words is so often based upon our emotional reactions to that which is being named or described, and there is a cliche' frequently heard on Radio and Television, "This is an 'emotive' word."
Such words could also be described as 'evocative,' for they do evoke from our subconscious minds many images, concepts and miscellaneous emotional reactions, and these tend to gather around and coalesce with the particular word in question. Thus if someone is told that the government of a Fraternity is ‘democratic,’ then it may well be equated his mind with the mode of government of the Trade Union to which he belongs. Equally, a business man will picture the organisation of his own company, or a communist will think of it in terms of whatever brand of communism he happens to espouse. And all could be wrong!
So if I say the true Orders are neither democratic nor autocratic it may seem to make confusion worse confounded. If they are neither of these, then what is the structure of the true Orders?
The answer is--they are Hierarchical. Such a structure is one of graded power, and this grading is not based upon any idea of egalitarianism. For although the occultist believes in the fundamental equality of all souls as they commence their aeonian pilgrimage through the Universe, and though he believes that at the end of that journey they will express and experience their true unity with each other and with the Divine Source of their being, he also realises that they are by no means equal one to another. All are at different points on the Path as far as their personalities are concerned, and a simple democratic organisation is not the answer. 'Counting heads' is an unprofitable proceeding unless one has some idea as to what is contained in those heads!
Neither is a purely autocratic structure the Answer -- useful though it may have been in the early days of humanity, when the Priest-Kings guided the infant Race. Most of the troubles which have beset the esoteric schools in the past can be clearly seen to be due to attempts to impose a governing structure of either type upon the members of that Particular school, or, ill-advised attempts to accommodate one type of government to the other.
There are three ways in which the Ageless Wisdom may be studied and followed. These are usually thought of as the Paths of Power, Love and Wisdom, and all mankind evolves along one of these roads. But things are tendered more difficult because although each one of us has this Primary Path, our present personality may be working along one of the other Paths.
It is clear then, that the structure of the esoteric schools must be one that can take account of these complexities, and this can best be achieved by a graded system wherein authority rests in the highest grades in an increasing measure as one proceeds upwards, but this must be an authority based upon not one, but all three methods of study and practice -- of Love, Power and Wisdom.
At the moment we are not concerned with the Inner Plane members of the Hierarchy, only with the physical plane members of the school or Order. If we regard the School, or Lodge, or Fraternity as a great Pyramid, then at the summit of that Pyramid we find three Heads or Chiefs and each represents, and strives to make himself a channel for, the aspect with which he is concerned.
So we have the 'Three who Rule the Lodge.' In the Golden Dawn system, which drew upon ancient Rosicrucian sources, these three were known as Imperator, Cancellarius and Praemonstrator. In other schools they have other names and other titles, but their functions in the lodge are the same.
Below these three, we find another grade of government, and this we may term 'The Council.' This will usually consist of four members, two chosen by the Three-who-Rule, and two elected by all the members of the Lodge. These latter two are periodically changed.
It will be seen that these officers (who may or may not be the Officers of the Ceremonial team at any particular time) form a Triangle and a Quaternary, and together express in their number the 'Principles' of a human being.
They who Rule must consult with the Council in session where any matters concerning the Lodge as a whole are concerned, and in certain rare cases both the Three and the Council must place the matter before the whole membership of the Lodge for a final decision.
Apart from these two sets of Officers, there may be as many other Groups or Committees as required for the specialised study and practice of parts of the corpus of knowledge of which the Lodge is the custodian. However, all such 'cells' or Groups must be authorised by the Three and the Council, and their work supervised by them. The results of such separate group-work must be made available to the whole of the members of the Lodge.
Then we come to what is termed the Outer Court-- the training ground for those wishing to join the Lodge proper. The Outer Court completes the hierarchic structure of the Lodge or Fraternity.
In many cases the Outer Court consists of the personal apprentice of a brother; in other cases Lodge formation is the rule. In the old Rosicrucian Order, each Brother took an individual pupil and gave him personal tuition. Where the Outer Court consists of several people, it is usual to have a Master of the Neophytes, who regulates the general affairs of the Outer Court, but at all meetings of the Outer Court, Initiate Brethren of the Lodge may be present. They must not however, in any way attempt to alter the particular instructions which the Master of the Outer Court may be giving to the Neophytes. Any observations they may wish to make should be given to the M.O.N. in private.
This is the general organisation of an esoteric Lodge as I have known it during my membership of two distinct and separate organisations. It is implicit in many ways in the Golden Dawn set-up, and I feel it fairly describes the Hierarchic structure of the Esoteric Schools.
© W. E. Butler 1976
From IBIS, Vol. 1, No. 2, 1976