Secret Rites

Here’s an interesting topic. The HBO series Big Love is going to feature a Mormon “endowment ceremony” in this week’s episode. This is a sacred ritual that takes place inside the Temple, and only Mormons in good standing are allowed inside a Temple. Naturally, some Mormons are upset about their sacred, secret rituals being broadcast nationwide.

Questions of Mormonism aside, how do you feel about this?

My opinion is that the days of the Holy of Holies and the Eleusinian Mysteries are long gone – virtually every occult ritual or ceremony known to humankind can be viewed on TV or read on the internet. Mormon practices are no different from anyone else’s.

On one hand, there’s something to be said for keeping the sacred sacred. Western culture has lost sight of the fact that some things of Ultimate Importance can’t be explained second-hand – they have to be experienced to be understood.

On the other hand, there’s a lot to be said for transparency in religion, especially in light of the abuses that have occurred from the beginnings of organized religion through today.

Ultimately, if the endowment ceremony has any real value, making it public cannot harm it. If it does not, keeping it secret only preserves an illusion. So I’m not too concerned with those who are offended by showing this, especially if it’s portrayed accurately.

That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep secrets. Most Wiccan and other Pagan initiations are kept secret, and some material is oath-bound. I’m not going to reveal the content of my college fraternity initiation (which was quite good, actually) simply because I swore an oath to keep it secret. But if someone else chooses to reveal it, I’m not filing any lawsuits.

I’ve never watched Big Love. I may watch it this week… or I may have better things to do…
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About John Beckett

I’m a Druid in the Order of Bards, Ovates and Druids. I’m an ordained priest in the Universal Gnostic Fellowship. I’m the Coordinating Officer of the Denton, Texas Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans. This year I’m also serving as a member of the Board of Trustees of CUUPS National. I’m a member of the Denton Unitarian Universalist Fellowship.

I write as a spiritual practice. It helps me organize my thoughts and work through ideas and concepts. It helps me evaluate my beliefs and practices against my core values and against what I know (or at least, what I think I know) to be true. It helps me interpret my experiences (religious and otherwise) in ways that are both meaningful and honest.