To some, the term Western Mystery Tradition conjures up images of esoteric lodges performing some group ritual or initiation and possibly some mysterious religious activity in ancient Greece. To others, it may have to do with practices handed down from their spiritual, and sometimes familial ancestors perpetuating a tradition spanning hundreds of years. Still others may think in terms of such groups in the last decades of the 19th century that gave birth to still other groups into the beginnings of the 20th century still in existence today performing their rites and rituals. It would be fair to say that all these points of view are right and in fact the term Western Mystery Tradition embraces them all and much more. It is a vibrant, very much current and alive Tradition that has a very wide reach. It is the West’s Inner Tradition and one that would take many lifetimes worth of study, practice and meditation to explore fully.
Practitioners who are a part of this Tradition as well as academics, may also use the term Western Esotericism and sometimes just Esotericism. There are quite a few Initiates of this Tradition that have PhDs in Esotericism as well, which has increased the scholarship in the past couple of decades. It seemed not that long ago that the term Occultism was used instead, simply meaning Hidden Knowledge. Either way all of the different use of terms can lead one to quite a bit of confusion, especially if one is just starting out.
One of the main purposes of this site is to dispel some of this confusion and to give the reader a quick introduction of how some of these terms are used or point them to some decent resources to find out for themselves. There will be instances where the most decent available free resource online will be Wikipedia. Wikipedia will have several warnings right at the top of their page for a given article if it seems biased, doesn’t quote resources etc. Please heed their warnings and always do more research. The following article does a pretty good job explaining all of the above in more detail. As a side note, if you are able to, Wikipedia also receives donations to keep things afloat with no advertising. A worthy cause.
Here is a quick list of subjects, philosophies or practices that are generally considered part of the Western Mystery Tradition. Different groups, schools and orders have intentionally been left out as they cover many of these subjects and overlap one another but may teach it from their own point of view. This is a healthy thing! This list is in no way at all complete: Hermeticism, Modern Paganism, Esoteric Christianity, Martinism, Qabalah, Alchemy, Wicca, Theurgy, Thamaturgy, Rosicrucian, Thelema, Psychic Development, Tarot, Theosophy, Gnosticism, Freemasonry, Magick, New Age movement, Illuminism, Neoplatonsim, Witchcraft, Grail Mythos, Templarism and so much more!
Individuals may express that some in this list aren’t really a part of the “Tradition”. If you hear from anyone claiming this, please just politely listen to what they have to say and move on. The Hermit image of the Tarot is holding that lamp out for everyone guiding them along the path up the mountain. He’s not discriminating who gets to see that light. Its there for all to see and be guided by. There are many different ways up that mountain and it is counter to the evolution of the Tradition, nature, humanity, our planet, and solar system to belittle someone else’s path.