Starting your own esoteric book club (EBC) can be one of the most rewarding ways to enhance your spiritual practice while building a community at the same time. It can be as intimate or as big as you want it to be. There is no wrong or right way to do it, although it’s good to have some kind of structure to adhere to.
Define the Purpose of the Group
The most important question to answer before you begin is this: Do I want to study from a purely academic perspective? Meaning, do I want to merely comprehend the subject matter? Or do I want to learn a specific spiritual practice and gain experiential knowledge? For example, a person can read and learn about various types of yoga, and be knowledgeable but may have never actually practiced yoga and know the experience of doing yoga first hand.
How you answer that question will determine the mission for the group and what is involved in the gatherings you host. During this process, you can also write a mission statement for your group. The Daughters of Sophia EBC wrote this one:
The Daughters Of Sophia Mystery School & Esoteric Book Club Seattle Chapter
The major world religions are defined as being exoteric institutions, if this were the study of comparative religion, we would study the dogmatic aspects of their systems. This course of study is not the study of comparative religion. In the case of this group, we will be studying what is known as the “mysteries” of faith. The esoteric aspect and experiential wisdom of what faith is hoping to discover. In this form of study, the student may enter with faith, but soon find that belief becomes knowing.
This knowledge is the underlying and often hidden, or secret, wisdom that is behind the ritual of the church, and yet, does not require the church to be experienced. Historically, the study of these esoteric practices has been done through “Mystery Schools”. The Daughters of Sophia as such is a Mystery School. Indeed, the daughters of Sophia are abundant with Faith, Hope, and Love…cultivating in us Wisdom.
Our reading list has a two-fold purpose: to enhance our academic knowledge and to enhance our experiential wisdom. Knowledge coupled with practice is the foundation of the mystery school. So that we grow with and from one another, we will keep a journal or other notes of our questions, thoughts, insights, and meditative experiences to share with one another.
Some of us may be familiar already with the selected literature. If you find that you have already read one of the suggested reading materials, please reread. Your previous reading will provide wisdom for the group and there will undoubtedly be new perspectives in this context. Our goal is to create a context for the experiential aspect of this study as well as obtaining academic knowledge.
The group is a support system and acts as a soul group. We are brought together for the purpose of deepening our knowledge, our spiritual growth, and manifesting such growth on the physical plane through our own insights and the insights of others.
As Sisters, we promise to maintain: an open heart, an open mind, respect for privacy, And our committed participation.
Create a Reading List
The next thing to do is make a reading list for the group to share. Start by establishing the essential categories of study for your group. Here are some examples from The Daughters of Sophia EBC:
- Vedic Traditions: Hindu/Buddhist/Vedic/Taoist/Yoga/Reiki
- Hermetic Traditions: Hermetic/Judeo/Christian/Sufi/Zoroastrian/Kabbalah
- Shamanic Traditions: Shamanism/Pagan/Folkloric
- New Thought Authors
- Modern Interpretations: The Energy Body/The Subtle Body
- Self Help/Popular Psychology
- Suggested Modalities for Intuitive Readings/Energy Work & Healing
Decide on a Schedule and ESB Host
There is no right way to do this. You may start with a monthly meeting and have smaller weekly sessions. Meeting in person during the COVID-19 quarantining period will create challenges for your group, but you can meet virtually using Zoom or Teams, and prayers and rituals can still be performed.
It is important that you keep up with spiritual cleanings, protection, and banishing rituals even though you may not be physically sharing space. Spiritual energy knows no bounds!
The host of the meeting can change with each meeting in order to give different members a chance to lead rituals and suggest books, or you can keep one constant host if there one person who is particularly organized and consistent with communication.
The important thing here is to adhere to your definitions and decisions for protocol, otherwise, the group will be so democratic that it’s hard to make progress and stay on task. Decide on a leader for each meeting who will make sure you adhere to your guidelines for meetings.
Here’s an example of how to run a meeting:
- Create start time and don’t be late even if individual members are late.
- Greet all members with love and generosity.
- Say opening prayer.
- Take 10 minutes to meditate.
- Be welcoming to everyone.
- The host can summarize the book and the status of the group activity.
- Go around the circle and discuss dreams, insights, and raise questions regarding the book and journaling process.
- Perform a ritual together regarding the book.
- Have some social time together, and share in a meal or snack.
- Set goals for the next meeting/assign book/assign host.
- Give people a chance to ask for guidance and/or prayers.
- Say closing prayer.
Name Your Group and Write Your Own Prayer
Naming your group is more important than you might think. The name is establishing an identity on where you draw energy. For The Daughters of Sophia, it was important to reference “wisdom” and the feminine principle of God, while also creating a sisterhood by identifying as “daughters” of the goddess principle.
Another noteworthy reason to name your group is that you will be establishing an “Egrogore.” An egregore is a collective thoughtform that has substance and space. When members of your group meditate, pray, or convene they will be participating in the egregore. The name of your group gives this space a place of honor in the collective psyche of the members.
The prayer establishes a culture for the group. It’s inevitable that the format of the prayer will be derived from an already existing religious culture. For example, The Daughters of Sophia EBC has it’s own version of The Sign of the Cross because we are heavily influenced by our Catholic and Jewish heritage. In our version, we use the right hand in the traditional way, but we have added the left hand to represent the feminine principle and ignite the lower Chakras (or Sephiroth). The left hand is doing the reverse of the right hand on the body, and naming the Mother, the Daughter, and the Holy Soul in tandem with the masculine principle of the right hand. In essence, we are igniting the Merkabah field of energy within before saying our devoted prayer to Sophia.
Create a Social Media Account
Creating a social media account is very optional. It has to be clear to the group why the account exists and how it is to be used. Facebook accounts are great for organizing events and introducing the next book or ritual. They can also be as private as the group wants, or they can be used to recruit new members.
Instagram is a way of creating relationships with other practitioners and showcasing your group to the world of people who may enjoy discovering others like themselves.
Perform Rituals, Keep Journals, Go On Field Trips
Rituals can be elaborate or simple. A ritual can be a simple habit of an opening prayer, or a 10-minute meditation to set intentions or clam the mind. Rituals can also be a whole topic of study on their own. Our daily routines are rituals after all, and we imbue them with spiritual energy whether we intend to or not. Studying rituals can be a way of keeping these actions and behaviors in the most sacred level of awareness.
Keeping dream journals, writing notes on what we read, and writing down our rituals step by step (including the state of mind we’re in when we do them) is an absolute must for fine-tuning our spiritual awareness. It’s very much like balancing your checkbook but for your consciousness. Watching and keeping track of your patterns, beliefs, and progress will help you set goals and achieve them. The most important goal is to know yourself completely.
Bonding with the members of your EBC is critical to building trust and deepening your own self-knowledge. By learning new modalities together, like spending time at a retreat, class, or workshop can fun and establish ties between members of the group for further growth.
Create Living Documents for Your EBC
As you grow and refine the agenda and reading list for your EBC you will need to be flexible and grow with the needs of the group. By setting up documents that may be added to or amended as needed, you are keeping the leadership and members flexible and adaptable.
Ultimately you will need to be as highly structured as you are mutable for your success. Good luck and have fun!
With Love and Light,
The Daughters of Sophia ESB