For certain, the wordplay on the title of this blog post is meant to show that there has been no lack of controversy, nor hyperbole, when it comes to talking about the mysterious, magical Secret Chiefs who "live in the Light of their Perfect Justice", and who "journey as upon the Winds...strike where no man strikes...and slay where no man slays"!
In fact, in 1896, S.L. MacGregor Mathers said the following about his personal connection with the Secret Chiefs:
"Concerning the Secret Chiefs of the Order, to whom I make reference and from whom I have received the Wisdom of the Second Order which I have communicated to you, I can tell you nothing.
I do not even know them by their earthly names.
I know them only by certain secret mottoes.
I have but very rarely seen them in the physical body; and on such rare occasions the rendezvous was made astrally by them at the time and place which had been astrally appointed beforehand.
For my part I believe them to be human and living upon this earth; but possessing terrible superhuman powers…
The strain of such labour has been, as you can conceive, enormous...the nerve prostration after each reception being terrible from the strain of testing the correctness of every passage thus communicated; the nerve prostration alluded to being at times accompanied by profuse cold perspirations, and by severe loss of blood from the nose, mouth, and occasionally the ears."
Such claims seem to be too fantastical to be believed, yet there are Golden Dawn Orders in existence today who claim to have this connection with these Secret Chiefs. So what exactly is to be believed?
As like everything in the Golden Dawn, a Middle Pillar approach of sober moderation is best. Such claims should not be dismissed out of hand, nor should they be taken on blind faith. Furthermore, we are taught to test every entity we encounter, by signs, symbols, names and letters. If there are beings, human or otherwise, which claim to be Secret Chiefs, then they should be able to hold up to the same scrutiny, if not more so. It is abundantly clear that Mathers conveniently forgot his own advice and did not do his due diligence when it came to Mr. Theo and Madame Horos in 1901.
But that is all history. What is relevant right here and now is, have the Chiefs of current Golden Dawn Orders making their claims done their due diligence? The only real way to answer that question is to do our own in the face of those claims.
At risk of sounding pedantic, there are two fundamental claims regarding the authenticity of Secret Chiefs. One, that they are "Chiefs". The other, that they are "Secret".
Regardless of modern cultural mindsets, secrecy has always been an important part of the Golden Dawn Tradition. It is a fundamental exercise of self-restraint, more especially of the ego and, in my opinion, is even more important in today's instant gratification society. So if the Secret Chiefs, who have remained private for centuries, suddenly decide to make themselves revealed to the public, what does that mean? Are they simply coming forth into modern times? The Rosicrucians actually had a process for that. They called it a Reformation. And if the Secret Chiefs decided to come out now, they are either 13 years too late or 99 years too early. Besides, what do you call Secret Chiefs who have "outed themselves"? The Chiefs-who-until-recently-were-Secret? Do they say ecky-ecky-ecky-ecky-p'tang-whoop-boing? And do we need to offer them a shrubbery? Please pardon my sudden departure to snarky humor, but I hope you get my point. If Secret Chiefs are no longer secret, then they are...well...something else, aren't they?
Regarding the claim to the Chiefly title, a member of the Third Order is going to be at very least a Magister Templi, or Master of the Temple. S/he should have mastered the magical system of which s/he is a Chief. S/he should have forgotten more about the First Order than you have learned, be able to give insight into the magical system that you could not have imagined, and continue to build on that tradition without abandoning its fundamentals.
So what is to be thought about Secret Chiefs who are disseminating a new ooh shiny type of magic for the not-so-new millenium? Why would the guardians of a centuries-old magical tradition seemingly start from scratch and throw the magickal childe out with the bathwater? Should not a Secret Chief be able to adapt to new information while keeping the tradition intact? Nihil Sub Sole Novum. Furthermore, if such a new magic is so special, so insightful, so powerful, then why would the Secret Chiefs make it public at their first opportunity and not keep it instead for their initiates? Knowledge is power, and with power comes responsibility. One should expect Secret Chiefs to be wise as well as knowledgeable, and if the knowledge they intentionally share is then purposefully abused by its recipients, is that the kind of poor judgment to be expected from Secret Chiefs?
Lastly, if Golden Dawn Adepts strive to be more than human, then I would hope that the Secret Chiefs would have reached that goal. But being more than human is more than just about power. If the Secret Chiefs possess superhuman power as Mathers had claimed, then I certainly would hope that they would possess superhuman virtue as well. So when these Secret Chiefs hand down this arcane yet freshly modern occult knowledge, what is its effect on the world? Does it make better people? Does it further the Great Work? Also, take a close look at the emissaries of the Secret Chiefs. Are their teachings helping their ambassadors become wiser, more serene, more temperate, more humble, more virtuous?
Simply put, "by their fruits, you will know them."