How To Build A Brotherhood

I sometimes travel around the US, giving talks related to one of my books. And whenever I do, I find that I’m greeted by a group of guys (mostly), who welcome me as a Brother and who go out of their way to make sure my stay is as enjoyable as possible. Meeting old friends or making new ones seems part and parcel of the experience.

Here, I want to briefly look at eight essential features that are necessary for building a Brotherhood, whether that’s a small, local group or larger but meaningful network.

(1) A Common Interest:

The group must have a core interest. This might be spirituality. It might be motorbikes. It might be physical training. Or it could be something entirely different. What matters is that the members of the group are passionate about its core interest — its purpose for existing. There might be other aspects to the group which help it to run properly or that bring the members closer together — raising finances, social functions, and so on — but the core focus of the group should constitute the core practice around which everything else revolves.

(2) Respect:

An ethos of mutual respect must be cultivated. Younger or less experienced members might respect older members for their experience, wisdom, insights, and ability to guide the group ethically. Older members might respect the energy and enthusiasm of their younger Brothers and Sisters, and their willingness to get things done.

But respect means you respect people even when your personalities just don’t gel. In many cases, once you get to know the person, your impression will change. But, if it cannot — so long as the individual is not acting in a way that drags the group down — then you can keep a respectful emotional detachment and perhaps find qualities in the other person that you can respect.

(3) Hospitality:

In most traditional cultures from around the world, hospitality is central. The stranger is welcomed and fed. (Benedictine monks are supposed to welcome the stranger as if he is Christ.) Yet, there is also a boundary line that cannot be crossed. The stranger has to respect the host, just as the host respects his guest. In any Brotherhood or society, hospitality is important. Yet, respect for each other’s time, family, and other relationships is also essential. Hospitality must not be allowed to cross over into familiarity.

(4) Appreciation For Individual Differences:

In every group, there will be people with different skills, professional experiences, life experiences, interests, and even aesthetic tastes. The group is a kind of machine, made up of various moving parts. Some parts might look more important than the others, but a machine — a whole — needs all of its various parts to run properly. Members should contribute their skills and work in areas that interest them, rather than following examples that do not really inspire them or that doesn’t suit their personality.

Moreover, a group gives each member a chance to enlarge their own understanding by meeting with, and listening to, individuals that they would not normally meet. Drawn together by a core interest, a writer, a soldier, a CEO, a tattooist, and a factory worker will all have something to learn from each other.

(5) Genuine Connection:

Related to the above, genuine connection requires not only respect and interest but the ability to listen — or what is sometimes referred to as “deep listening.” Instead of assuming we know “what kind of a person” someone is, we have to try to find out what is interesting about that person, and what makes them tick. This means being willing to get rid of the impressions we have of someone before we’ve even spoken to them.

(6) An Elevated Standard of Behavior:

Although different groups will differ about what is elevated behavior, every meaningful and life-changing and life-affirming group will demand behavior that is in some way above that of the rest of society. Such behavior might require bravery and self-sacrifice. Or it might require manners, courtesy, and an ability to express oneself without cursing every few seconds. Whatever it might be, the group must set standards that are higher than that of society outside. It must be the place where members go to step up.

A Brotherhood is a tightly-bonded group of role models. And the behavior of each member is, or should be, a model for every other member. Flouting the rules isn’t edgy, and does not show independent thinking. No one is compelled to sign up to a Brotherhood or to a similar group. Rather, flouting the rules demonstrates an inability to step up and be counted. And an ability to commit to one thing or another.

(7) Taking Action:

The group cannot survive on talk or theory. The group must do something. It must, in fact, create something. Moreover, the action taken must be based on the core interest of the group.

This includes mastermind groups, which come together to encourage each member in their life journeys. The group might not take action together, here, but each is required to act and to improve his life or circumstances. A weekly mastermind meeting might even involve checking to see what action the members have taken since the previous meeting.

(8) A Culture of Value:

If group activity devolves into meaningless minute-taking, talk, criticizing, or well-meaning side projects that nothing to do with the core interest of the group, it is probably in trouble. No one would stay in a martial arts school or a gym if the training was squeezed in between business meetings, endless discussions about nothing, or charity work. And few will stay if a Brotherhood or other type of group begins to act in the same way — especially if there are dues to pay.

A group, a Brotherhood, a Lodge is, in a sense, a dojo — a place of the “Way.” It is where the members go to realize who they are just a little bit more than they had, and to practice being who they want to become. That might mean becoming more knowledgeable, stronger, more courageous, better at public speaking, or something totally different. But the individual members should not only find value in the core focus of the group but in relating to it through some kind of practice. Ritual, meditation, working out, mutual encouragement and support. It doesn’t matter. It matters only that the focus of the group, and the activities of the group, creates value for its members.

Angel Millar is the editor of The Spiritual Survival and the author of several books including The Three Stages of Initiatic Spirituality: Craftsman, Warrior, Magician (release date: February 2020).

Life as an Initiatic Test

“The world is the great gymnasium where we come to make ourselves strong,” said Swami Vivekananda.

In contrast to our image of the aesthetic, holy man of India, Vivekananda placed great emphasis on strength. To be truly religious, an individual (perhaps especially a man) had to be strong. Why? Continue reading “Life as an Initiatic Test”

The Romantic Outlaw

“But the Romantic Outlaw must have something to rebel against,” writes Camille Paglia, Sex, Art, And American Culture: Essays. As Paglia complains, though Rock music was once created by outsiders who “read poetry, studied Hinduism and drew psychedelic visions in watercolors,” today managers make sure to sanitize and repackage the music before it’s even aired.

The same can be found in probably every aspect of Western culture, including modern spirituality. Notably, my friend, author Mitch Horowitz, recently found himself at the center of some controversy over his study of Satanism — though he is interested in “Satanism,” not as a TV-style embodiment of evil, but in the Promethean, Romantic, literary, artistic sense (think Joris-Karl Huysmans and William Blake). 

The authentic rebel has a problem today. And, let’s be blunt. He has a problem because rebellion is built into “the system” — but only so much rebellion is acceptable. The modern spiritual practitioner (including the pagan) often either practices a soft repackaging of Christianity (minus the difficult theology and hierarchy) or a repackaging of politics (usually Left-wing but sometimes also extreme Right-wing). The focus is increasingly on “rights,” love, diversity, and acceptance. And, with that, conformity.

The true rebel (the man or woman of self-mastery and uncompromising vision, who is determined to elevate and to create themselves, and to create something of transcendent value (rather than emulating whatever is en vogue) is still an outsider, and, as such, is still perceived as a danger. 

Hence, it is not uncommon to find the modern pagan worrying more about political correctness that the transcendent. Or, in contrast to La Vey and Aquino, to find the modern Satanist saying that she is unable to defend free speech if it’s “not strategic.” Today, rebellion is more about imitation than authenticity. 

It’s difficult to be a romantic outlaw in a society in which everyone is posing as one. Despite what we might think, outlaws, or outsiders, tend to associate with each other and in a world of decoy outsiders no doubt it’s easy to get stuck in a group of poseurs.

But, nonetheless, the romantic outlaw can still exist as such, because it is not a case of having a tattoo or not, of smoking cannabis, or of listening to a certain type of music. It is an attitude that sees how society has gone too far in one direction and seeks to rediscover both the primal and the higher. 

To borrow a phrase from G.K. Chesterton, in an age of cookie cutter-rebellion, the authentic rebel is “a rebel against rebellion.”

To put it another way, it is about not being swept along in the fashion of the day — which is always rebellious (at first), but almost immediately filled with conformists, all of whom will move on to the next fashion when it comes along, changing their opinions as quickly as their clothing. 

The trappings of the romantic outlaw are on sale in every high street shop, but its spirit has to be constantly rediscovered within one’s being, to push one’s own creativity, to try something new, and to do the unexpected. The romantic outlaw can borrow the guitar riff, the clothing, the lyrics of the past, but what’s important is the attitude; the spiritual, mental, and emotional power; the curiosity; and the integrity that made their creation possible. In a sense, authentic rebellion is about self-mastery. It is standing up to the mob in one’s own being. 

Related to “Satan” of the Romantics, the Greek hero Prometheus is said to have stolen the fire from heaven, giving it mankind, and thus sparking the beginning of civilization. For his act of insubordination, Prometheus was punished by Zeus. Today, the rebel, who brings light to mankind, is punished mankind, especially by those collectives who think of themselves as rebels but who have merely swapped one dogma for another. 

Angel Millar is the editor of The Spiritual Survival and the author of several books including The Three Stages of Initiatic Spirituality: Craftsman, Warrior, Magician (release date: February 2020).