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Glossary of Wiccan, Neo-Pagan and Occult Terminology


The legend of Shambhala (or Shamballah or Shamballa or Shangri-La; Kalapa in Sanskit) is a very old part of Tibetan lore.   Shambhala is a utopian kingdom (a small, agrarian city-state, usually hidden in a mountainous region) in which people live in peace and good health.   There are a number of variations on the legend.   The term Shambhala generally refers to an above-ground kingdom, and the term Agarttha generally refers to an underground one.   Like Shambhala, the term Agartta has many alternative spellings, including Agartha, Agarta, Agharta, Agharti, Agarthi and Asgartha.  

Some writers use the terms Shambhala and Agarttha interchangeably, while others distinguish between them.   The latter may refer to Shambhala as the "left-hand path," or "black occult," or "Wheel of the Black Sun" group, and to Agarttha as the "right-hand path," or "white occult," or "Wheel of the Golden Sun" group (and source of the Vril power, which some suggest is the Kundalini power).  

The leader of Agarttha is The King of the World (Le Roi du Monde).   The leaders of Shambhala have various names, as described in this passage from Victoria LePage:
"Alice Bailey calls them Ascended Masters, Idries Shah calls them Guardians of the Tradition, John Bennett calls them 'psychoteleios' or "perfected ones," and they are also known as the Ancient Ones, the Watchers, the Immortals, the Monitors, the Hidden Directorate and the Children of Seth.   All are said to follow what is known as the Ancient Path.
According to Esoteric tradition, in ancient times before the advent of the Mystery schools they lived in more open communication with us, but as the age advanced were compelled to withdraw into their present obscurity, so that now they are accessible to only the most highly purified souls and with rare exceptions are known to the rest of us only through the grace of mystical vision."

Although the term Shambhala is very old, the term Agarttha is recent.   Its first use is traced to the writings of the French writer Louis Jacolliot in the late 1800s.   The term Agarttha was introduced by the French philosopher / mystic Saint-Yves d'Alveydre via his Sanskrit teacher, Haji Sharif (or Hardjji Scharipf).   In 1922 the Polish-Russian scientist Ferdinand Ossendowski included a description of Agharti in a book, Beasts, Men and Gods, describing his travels in Asia.   (The term Agharti is used to refer to the kingdom or to its people.)   In 1927 the French mystic Réné Guénon published a description of Agarttha in Le Roi du Monde (The King of the World).   In 1929 the Russian Nicholas Roerich published an account of Agharti in the book, Altai Himalaya: A Travel Diary.

From some of the accounts available, Shambhala appears to have been a centre of spiritual enlightenment, very reminiscent of James Hilton's 'Shangri-La', but others say that it was a centre of occult power and arcane teaching.   Its leader was thought variously to be either an evil, tyrannical Sorcerer-King or a God-like 'Lord of The World'.   We seem to be left with a choice as to which story we prefer to follow, and evidently which Path one desires to follow, too.   The evil Left, or the good Right!

Apparently there were two factions (as in Hyperborea), one of which followed the Golden Sun, and the other the Black Sun.   (The 'Black Sun', incidentally, was as prominent an emblem of the Nazi mythos as was the Swastika)   According to Jean-Claude Frére, author of 'Nazisme et Sociétiés Secretès', the people of Hyperborea, after migrating to the Gobi Desert over 6000 years ago, founded a new centre, which they named Agartha.   It became a great centre of world learning, and people flocked there from all over the world to enjoy its culture and civilization.

However, a huge catastrophe supervened, and the earth's surface was devastated, but the realm of Agartha somehow survived, under the earth.   The legend continues to relate that, as with the original Hyperboreans, the Aryans now split into two factions: one group heading north-west, hoping to return to their lost Hyperborea, and the second going south, where they founded a new secret centre under the Himalayas.

Jean-Claude Frére concludes: The sons of the Outer Intellegences split into two groups, one following the 'Right Hand Path' under the 'Wheel of The Golden Sun', the other the 'Left Hand Path' under the 'Wheel of the Black Sun'.   The first preserved the centre of Agartha, that undefined place of contemplation, of the Good, and of the Vril force.   The second supposedly created a new place of initiation at Shambhala, the city of violence in command of the elements and human masses, hastening the arrival of the 'charnel-house of time.'

According to Peter Moon, in his book 'The Black Sun', the ultimate concept of Thule is well represented in the myth of it as the capital city or center of Hyperborea, a word wihch literally means 'beyond the poles'.   As it is beyond the poles, Hyperborea is ositioned as being outside of this dimension.   Thule, being in the center, is positioned as the source of all life on Earth.   In Greek mythology, Pythagoras was taught sacred geometry by Apollo, a god who was identified as a resident of Hyporborea.   In Pythagorean teachings, the Earth itself geometrically unfolds from a void in the center.   This void has been recognized by many ancient groups, including the Sumerians, as the Black Sun.   In this sense, Thule is synonymous with this Black Sun.

The word Swastika itself is means 'source' amongst other definitions, and represents eternal cause or the fountain of creation.   Accordingly, the Thule Society used the Swastika symbol in their log to represent this idea.  

The Black Sun is an even more Esoteric concept than that of Thule.   Represented as the void of creation itself, it is the most senior Archetype imaginable.   Thus, this namesake was reserved for the elite of the Thule Society.   The Black Sun was actually a secret society within the Thule Society.


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One of the major problems with 'defining' Paganism and/or its beliefs and practices is that it is an 'organic' movement, in that it is undergoing constant change and re-evaluation from within, and as such any 'one-size-fits-all' approach to understanding Paganism will be found wanting.

Due to the very 'organic' nature of Paganism, and the many differing Paths and Traditions within it, in many cases no one definition may be universally accepted by all Pagans.   Therefore, where such cases of possible conflicting and/or contradictory meanings of certain terms occur I have endevoured to give not only the generally accepted meaning, but also any major 'variations' in belief and/or practice.

Christians who believe this difference in meaning of certain key terms, beliefs and practices to be unique to Paganism need to remember that such conflicts also arise within the Body of Christ - the Church.   Take for instance the differing practices amongst Christians concerning Baptism and the different attitudes towards women in the clergy.

- Jean-Luc
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