Once a long time ago, a fledgling religious movement began to flourish. It did not arise from nowhere, it was a modification of previously existing spiritual paths.
There was a basic "story," mythos if you will, that was the foundation of this movement. The story had many meanings, most of them allegorical, but of course no one could truly understand the allegory without having gone through the preparations and initiations of this religious tradition. The outer teachings and trappings were open to all, however the inner mysteries were oathbound and secret, only available to those who began to truly understand the mysteries.
The outer rituals and stories reached far and wide and many proclaimed themselves as members of this religion. However, since their knowledge and Gnosis was limited to the mythos only, many began to believe that is was all there was to the religion.
Meanwhile, those small groups, that had undergone the initiations, and had understood and received Gnosis, were becoming difficult to control. They felt they need obey no laws, no governmental authority, and as it seemed to others, no ethical or moral authority. They felt that when one achieved gnosis, or communion with the God, their WILL was indistinguishable from universal WILL. And as spiritual persons, they treated all as spiritual beings and treated them accordingly.
This would not do, and since by sheer numbers and governmental authority, the "literalists" as they have become known, crushed and wiped out many of the traces of the early Gnostic church, the original "church of Christ," which taught things much differently to those on the outside as opposed to those that understood the mysteries.
I could also be talking about Wicca
first a quote from The Jesus Mysteries by Freke and Gandy
"Why did Literalism Triumph over Gnosticism? By its very nature, Gnosticism attracted people of a mystical nature. Literalism, on the other hand, attracted those interested in establishing a religion. Gnostics were concerned with personal enlightenment, not in creating a church. they could have never have triumphed over the Literalists, because they never could have had the desire to do so. Literalism was originally the Outer Mysteries of Christianity, designed to attract initiates to the spiritual path. With their fascinating tales of magic and miracles, and the promise of immortality through the simple acts of baptism and belief, the Outer Mysteries were meant to be more popular and widely appealing than the Inner Mysteries. As Jesus says, "Many are called but few are chosen" if the original integrity of the Jesus Mysteries had survived, the popularity of the Outer Mysteries would have naturally led more and more initiates into the Inner Mysteries of Gnosis. Once Gnostiscm and the Literalism were two distinct traditions in conflict with each other, it was inevitable that Literalism would prove more popular."
One of the things that will prevent wicca from walking down this path (I hope) is our policy of non prostytising. In some opinions, even listing on a web page or magazine as contacts might cross that line.
Once it was very very difficult to locate those who would teach. Oh they were around but only those fairly far ahead on their personal journeys could recognize them. Even Gardner is reviled for making it easier for people to find groups and teachers from which to learn.
TO ME, the outer mysteries of wicca include the seasonal and fertility re-creations of European paganism. And for many people that is enough, as long as it is recognized that is just what it is, an introduction to the God and Goddess, and our place in the universe. This is what is taught in popular books available to all, and in this time in our history, is also attracting a huge numbers of followers. And since the hurdles involved in acessing the inner mysteries are personally difficult, many will stop there.
FROM MY EXPERIENCE, the inner mysteries are much deeper. And not part of any religion.They are designed to follow in the same footsteps of the great pagan mystery traditions. Although actual rituals and practices are not completely available, in many ways it doesn't matter. We have to work within the mythos of our present society, but the framework of the mysteries does not change The symbols and messages are almost always the same. Anyone who has studied the Tarot can see this. The major arcana is the most easily recognisable representation. The journey to enlightenment is always the same, no matter what path you use, and unless you recognize the signposts, you run the risk of getting lost. This is the fine line between enlightenment and insanity.