In Japanese lore, there is a historic drama about two swordsmen.1 The first is Sasaki Kojiro, a well trained and undefeated swordsman. The second, Miyamoto Musashi, a young and unconventional swordsman.
Thew two characters meet on an island to do battle. Musashi shows up several hours late, an act that angers Kojiro, throwing him off balance emotionally. When Musashi arrives he’s wearing dirty robes, and instead of a sword he wields an oar sharpened to a fine edge. This also upset the great sword fighter Kojiro as Musashi was spitting in the face of tradition.
As they engage, it is the oar wielding Musashi that kills Kojiro. Despite all the traditional training of Kojiro, he looses the battle, and his life. Evidently Musashi’s oar allowed him greater reach, by which he struck Kojiro down.
The takeaway here is that groups and leaders, they often expect others to follow their system and dogma. So easily we can loose sight of our own Individuality in the doing of what is expected of us.
Kojiro thinks he has an easy win. He’s been trained well. He’s studied and practiced the traditional art of swordsmanship. Yet it is Musashi who wins the day. By adapting the surroundings, changing his weapon to a crude oar and offsetting his opponent emotionally, Musashi wins.
In essence, Musashi thought as an Individual. He didn’t approach the battle the same way Kojiro did. Instead of attempting to be Kojiro, Musashi was instead himself.
Recently I saw another post on social media where an occult leader mocked a newcomer. Someone threw out some ideas they had on occult practice, and the leader humiliated them, stating that they aren’t doing the practice in the correct manner, according to the correct tradition.
Tradition is all some groups have. They have no ability to think in new ways, and they lack Individuality. This is their downfall.
Echo Chambers vs. Individuality
This occult leader, as he humiliated the newcomer to the forum, gained many the agreeable smirk and laugh. Cronies came out to mock and humiliate the person in question.
The thread was an entire echo chamber, resonating with the notions of the occult leader. This is nothing new. I’ve seen so much of this lately. I actually remember it in the early days of joining occult groups. There’s this tendency for people to echo the expectations of a leader back to them, in order to gain favor.
Over the years I’ve come to realize something. I can predict who’s going to leave an organization. It’s always the echo chamber characters. Those people who echo back the sentiment of the egotistical leader, are almost always the first to go. In some rare cases, the poor bastard remains a forever slave, echoing back the guru or master’s voice.
The rest will have a moment of clarity, a moment where they get a taste of Individuality. Usually it starts when they begin to lose interest in the group. Those goals or needs they came with, are now unmet. Perhaps they gained all they can gain. The reason for kissing ass, is to play along long enough to get something. Once it’s gotten, there’s nothing left to keep interest.
Such people begin to get frustrated with the way things are. They may even feel that “it isn’t the same,” when in fact it is the same as it ever was. The fakery they put on is now dissipating. Soon they will get a taste of being an Individual. This will lead to discontent with the group-think. In time they’ll leave.
Most likely they’ll leave and jump into yet another group… and the cycle will repeat. Some will perhaps take on the role of our victor, Musashi, and remain an Individual.
Why follow Tradition?
Why follow a group’s tradition? Why join? Sometimes I joined because I wanted to find the “secret teachings.” Here’s the rub: no group can teach you anything you don’t already know (or can learn). No group can confer any real advancement. All growth is Individual, through direct experience and gnosis.
So why join? The idea of a lineage or master/student relationship appeals to some. It confers some idea of legitimacy. While this has benefit in the trade school arena, it has little merit to joining a spiritual group. In the end all the effort has to be completed by the individual.
To be Kojiro is to remain stagnant in the old ways. It pays off at first. There’s some gain. Perhaps one joins the occult society and has a flash of paranormal effect. Something amazing happens, and the worst error is to consider that growth as the result of the system being learned.
I believe all gain is self generated. I do not believe one system is greater than another. All systems are ways of using a tapestry or imagery to pull out of one’s self, what is already there (Gnosis).
Like a placebo the Initiate can assume that the rituals and ceremonies of the egregore are themselves the form of success. As one moves about through different groups, it becomes clear that no one group holds the monopoly on experience. In time the experiences are not important and the depth of Self is sought.
When one seeks to become an Individual, it can not be obtained through group-mind, group-effort or someone else’s system. Each of those paths will result in a person becoming the teacher, and not themselves.
To be Musashi, is to find one’s self. It is the greatest path, the path of the Individual awakening.