The Hermetic Seal: Spiritual Practice of Secrecy
“Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have your reward from your Father in heaven.
“So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites to in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
“And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when ever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you” (Gospel of St. Mathew, the Sermon on the Mount, 6:1-6).
If this is true of piety and good works, and of our prayer life, how much more so is this true of the spiritual works of divine wonderworking movements extending invisible and spiritual assistance, or of the sharing of our spiritual and mystical experiences with others? Indeed, in these verses from the Sermon on the Mount Adonai Yeshua encourages us to practice discretion and secrecy surrounding our spiritual life and practice, and as much as secrecy regarding piety and good works, he is speaking of a hermetic seal upon wonderworking movements and our spiritual and mystical experiences; unless there is a clear and conscious intention, some purpose to be served that actually benefits and uplifts others, or we are called by the Holy Spirit to share a wonder because it has transpired for the sake of the people, or we are called to share a dream or vision that has come for the people, then we are silent about such things, maintaining a “hermetic seal.”
In this regard we might recall the many times that Adonai Yeshua performs a wonder, but then tells those witnessing it or experiencing it to keep it private, secret. First we must say of this that his aim is not the glorification of himself, but the glorification of God; and, second we must say that the wonders are for those who are present in the experience of them, those who are illuminated by them and healed by them, those whose faith is restored by them and who are, thus, uplifted to God through the wonders transpiring in their midst.
Indeed, just as in piety and good works, we have reason to question the motivation behind the sharing of wonders “we” have performed or spiritual and mystical experiences we may have had – it is very easy for the egoistic self to take hold of such things and for the taint of Klippah Nogah to enter, corrupting them. Thus, before we too swiftly share about wonders that have transpired through our spiritual practices, or spiritual and mystical experiences that have happened through them, we want to look to see our motivation – is it to glorify ourselves or to glorify God, is it to actually benefit or uplift others, or is it blowing our own horn in self-aggrandizement or some other form of selfish ambition?
The balance of spiritual self-worth and spiritual humility is very delicate, as is the balance between self-glorification and the glorification of the Divine. As spiritual practitioners we are all intimately acquainted with this, for we all share in this struggle for self-transcendence and the cessation of the doer.
There is, indeed, a time and place for us to share about wonders that have transpired, or something about the spiritual and mystical experiences that have unfolded in our spiritual life – at times there is a need to do so that is Spirit-filled and that will benefit others, and the intelligence of our heart and the Holy Spirit will call us to share; but much of the time such things are private, secret, and are not meant to be openly shared.
In this regard, in the Sophian Gnostic tradition, such things are often spoken of as “mysteries of the bridal chamber,” and are viewed as intimate exchanges between the “lover and the Beloved,” the faithful and God; in a manner of speaking, we are not inclined to “kiss and tell,” as that would be unseemly.
There is something much more within and behind all of this, however, for as much as a guardianship against the egoistic self taking hold of our spiritual life and practice, and the taint of Klippah Nogah in us, there is also the issue of the preservation of energy through the generation stage (Ma’aseh Bereshit) and guardianship against the incursions of admixed and dark forces, klippotic beings-forces.
This is reflected in the teaching of the Zohar on the interpretation of dreams and sharing of dreams. According to the Zohar there is great manifesting power in our dreams – prophetic power, so that whether bright and hopeful, or shadowy and seemingly dreadful, nevertheless all dreams are to be interpreted in a positive way. Thus, the Zohar cautions us regarding the sharing of our dreams with others, proposing that we should only share them with individuals who are close to us and who will support a positive interpretation. Moreover, according to the Zohar, we want to ensure that the that the positive charge of energy-intelligence is not drained by speaking too much about it, and that we do not attract spiritual beings-forces of the Other Side that might seek to hinder or obstruct what we desire to manifest. In other words, we want to be careful who and what we invite into the continuum of our spiritual life and practice, and we want to guard against incursions of klippot, whether shades and shadows in our own psychic being or those that may come from the apparent outside.
The Zohar, of course, is speaking of dream interpretation as a theurgic action – a wonderworking movement; the same teaching therefore applies to spiritual works of wonderworking, and to our spiritual and mystical experiences – they must be sealed and guarded, unless there is a clear and conscious reason for them to be spoken and shared, and there is a greater good to be served in so doing.
This practice of silence and guardianship associated with wonderworking is often called the “hermetic seal,” a term from the art of alchemy; for a hermetic seal implies the no positive energy is allowed to escape or leak out of our continuum, and likewise that no unwanted negative energy is allowed to enter in to taint it. It is for this reason that a ceremony of banishing or purification is performed at the outset and the conclusion of virtually all spiritual workings, for in so doing we ensure that only divine and luminous spiritual forces enter into the movement, placing a proper seal upon it.
Thus, when we are going to perform a spiritual working, we do not speak of it, save when there is good reason and it is necessary; likewise, any time soon after we will not speak of it, unless there is good reason or we receive a clear charge from the Holy Spirit to do so – the same is typically true of our spiritual and mystical experiences that arise in the process of our spiritual work.
You may recall St. Paul’s teaching on the play and conflict of spiritual forces – according to St. Paul, our battle is not with blood and flesh, but is with spiritual forces of admixture and darkness established in celestial places; yet, blood and flesh, ordinary people, become vehicles of spiritual beings-forces, and often times, in the unenlightened condition, the spiritual beings-forces channeled are admixed at best, and frequently dark and hostile. Although in and of themselves a person may intend no harm, unconsciously they can become an agent of klippotic forces, and through them admixed and dark forces may form a psychic link with us, attempting to hinder or obstruct our spiritual work.
Aside from the reality of such spiritual forces, various forms of negative thought, emotion, word and deed can be invoked if we share too much about what we are doing in our spiritual life and practice, or share too much about the spiritual and mystical experiences transpiring in our lives with those who have no need to know – any negativity, such as envy or doubt and the like, becomes a psychic force of opposition and is heavy energy that is not helpful to us, but that may actually interfere with our spiritual work and influence the outcome.
We all know the difficulty of keeping our own energy-intelligence completely positive in the midst of a spiritual movement, the struggle to keep our own thoughts, emotions, words and deeds aligned with the Divine Light; with the exception of accomplished initiates, every other person we add into the mix naturally increases this difficulty of maintaining completely positive energy in a spiritual movement. Thus we are wise to guard our spiritual work with a hermetic seal, only speaking of it when there is a clear and conscious intention, and when we are lead to do so by the Holy Spirit because it will serve a greater good; most often it is best not to “let the left hand know what the right hand is doing.”
In these modern times this is often even true with individuals on behalf of whom we take up a spiritual work or wonderworking movement – disbelief and doubt is so prevalent, and various forms of self-negativity and mental arrogance are so pervasive, that even where there is some faith, more often than not, powerful shades and shadows linger. At times we will involve a person in the spiritual work we take up for them, encouraging them to participate through offerings, prayer and such, but often we will say nothing of the spiritual work or wonderworking movement we take up for them, as were they to know doubt and other forms of negativity would enter in to pervert, hinder and obstruct the transmission of helpful spiritual energy – our discretion and silence is a matter of skillful means.
Of course, before taking up a spiritual work for a person in secret we always pray about it and meditate upon it, seeking the will of the Divine and the blessing or authority of the Divine for the movement; but having done so, very often our works of invisible and spiritual assistance are performed in secret, just as piety and other good works are best performed in secret.
Thus, the practice of the hermetic seal is common among Sophians, especially among initiates of the Order of St. Uriel – it is a basic teaching of the wonderworking art in the Christian Kabbalah.
May all be sealed in the Mystical Body of the Risen Messiah; amen.
Blessing & shalom
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