Arts and Crafts Divine : Teaching and Learning Ritual Magic in Sodalitas Rosae Crucis
Abstract: This is an anthropological study of teaching and learning as it unfolds in a contemporary esoteric society in Sweden, the Sodalitas Rosae Crucis (SRC), founded in 2002. It perpetuates the teachings of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, an influential esoteric society instituted in Victorian London. Through an initiatory system of several degrees, SRC employs a stepwise revelation of secret teachings and ritual practices, with each degree unlocking new venues and devices towards spiritual attainment, the aim of ritual magic in this context. In this study, elusive and contested concepts such as magic, secrecy, ritual and initiation are grasped as practices and skills that can be taught and learnt. By so doing, this study provides a framework for understanding what the aim of spiritual attainment can entail in practice and how perceived traditions are made and remade in the process of teaching and learning. It offers a potent analytical venue for vital aspects of both esotericism and spiritual/religious learning in general. To examine teaching and learning of ritual magic through initiation, the study asks: How can we understand what, how, and why teachers teach, and students learn, in the initiatory society Sodalitas Rosae Crucis? Based on fieldwork in SRC during 2019-2021, with interviews and participant observation, the study explores what, how and why teachers teach and students learn, through an analytical framework of grounded theory and social learning theories. The analysis unfolds in four chapters, beginning with an account of a solitary probation phase of ritual magic learning, to test and train self-discipline, a prerequisite for inner sense cultivation such as having visions. Focusing on practices and learning environments, from large, formal initiation ceremonies to playful rituals in intimate social situations, the study explores a variety of didactical tools and the reasons for, and effects of, their use. It maps how teaching and learning unfold in scaffolding, assessment, and reiteration practices, with attention to teachings and informal storytelling, smalltalk, and the diverse uses of secrecy which characterise teaching and learning in SRC.
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