Journal of the Western Mystery Tradition
No. 0, Vernal Equinox 2001




Glossary of Commonly Used Terms in the Western Mystery Tradition
Compiled by Alex Sumner
The Ideas - The Issues - The Personalities - The Controversies

Magic is both an art and a science, and like the conventional Arts and Sciences, it has a vast array of technical terms that will bamboozle the casual observer. It should be remembered that for the most part of its history, the Western Mystery Tradition ("WMT") developed in secrecy: hence, its practitioners did not want to explain themselves to the general public anyway.

It should also be remembered that until the 19th Century, the WMT did not really have any contact with oriental religions or philosophies such as Buddhism, Yoga, Taoism, etc. If it had, a number of concepts might have been explainable by comparison to these foreign idioms. As it were, the ideas that made up the WMT were left in an abstruse state, for lack of vocabulary.

Therefore, when one begins to study the WMT, one finds a vast number of words and phrases that are not used in everyday English. Moreover, a casual reader might not be aware that many of these terms refer to issues of great controversy within the WMT and not just as to interpretation of meaning. It must be admitted that the WMT contains more than its fair share of argument and schism.

This "Glossary" is a collection of the terms most useful for beginning to study the WMT. However, as I review what I have written, I realise a "beginning" is all that it can be. This whole "Glossary" is written with the assumption that if the student wants more in-depth information, he will go and seek it out for himself. A Bibliography is included at the end - all of these books I have read myself, in the course of my own sojourn in the WMT, by the way - but there are also many more titles of relevance to the WMT even though they didn't figure in the writing of this glossary.

Unlike the other articles in this edition, this glossary is meant to be exactly that: a glossary, or dictionary of the relevant terms. Having adopted a "dictionary" style it may not make sense to read it straight through like a book, though it will be helpful as a ready-reference, into which to dip from time to time as the need arises.

It is above all a Key - with which the reader can unlock the door to further study. The reader will find that if there is any lingering doubt as to a given term, he will have enough references with which to carry on his own research into the topic.

Note the use of bold type - this refers to other entries within this glossary. Also, please bear in mind that this is meant to fit in with the theme of this issue of the JOURNAL OF THE WESTERN MYSTERY TRADITION, which is of "Introducing the Western Mystery Tradition". The reader can rest assured that topics to be covered in future issues (e.g. Divination), will be covered in far greater detail in those issues anyway.

Alex Sumner,
March 2001.

The Glossary