It’s been a week all about secrets, for me.
First off, we listened in coven to a story from Diana’s Grove Mystery School, which included Cynthea’s brilliant work on secrets: “The sin that haunts a secret,” she writes, “is not found in the desire for private sharing or the need to keep a confidence held tight. The sin that haunts a secret is this: A secret takes away the listener’s right to choose. The sin that haunts a secret is: A promise not-to-tell binds time. It makes time stop. A secret takes an experience out of life and holds it away from all the things that can bring healing. Light, exchange, understanding, forgiveness — none of these can touch a secret.”
That’s what I was pondering when all hell broke loose because I Told a Secret, a secret I had no idea WAS a secret, since as far as I could tell it was just a Fact, and had not indeed been given to me in the form of a secret, so I couldn’t have had any way of knowing that it was to be Kept Silent. It was sort of like running into the Whomping Willow, when you thought you were just out for a little stroll in the garden, really. People were very upset, and full of contempt, and were throwing shame bombs around. It took a lot out of me. I had to lie down for a while.
So I thought about this some more.
There are often family secrets, usually of the sort that really should actually get told, maybe in the newspaper; or the sort that are just silly to keep, like who was born out of wedlock two generations ago; and often of the sort that everybody knew anyway, like when the dads pass out on the lawn. You can decide not to talk about that last sort, but it’s not like it’s really a secret. And the family codes of silence often don’t even specify which facts are to be kept secret, and which are ok to talk about. So if you’re involved in that sort of system, it’s easier just to not say ANYTHING about the family or anybody in it. This gets tedious.
I think about memoirists. I wonder, what is it like to just write all the secrets down and send them off to the New Yorker? How does it change your relationship with the people who installed all your buttons? I once heard the memoirist Patricia Hampl talking about this; she said she keeps a file of all the letters from friends and relations she gets sent, and as you might expect, most of them are from people who are Very Upset about what she’s written. But a goodly number of them — and this is the odd part — are from people who are upset that she DIDN’T write about them. The memoirists can’t fail to upset people. It’s just an occupational hazard.
So you might think, given this week, and what I’ve got to say above, that I am in favor of Telling All the Secrets.
But in my class on taking the aventure, I teach about the power of keeping silence. Not that the aventures, all of them, need to be secret, no. But it’s true that talking about things can cause their energy to dissipate. That would be exactly why, in a household containing abuse and addiction, the secrets need to be told. They are not mysteries. They are spells to bind time, and keep healing from coming in. They are curses.
Mysteries, rightful mysteries, are best kept close to the heart, so that they remain powerful.**
So what’s important, in the secret keeping and silence keeping game, is to tell the difference between that which must be kept secret and that which must be told. As always, the information is in our bodies — but in this case, fear in the belly is not the key. It’s the heart, where both love and courage reside. Keeping a true secret, a true mystery, will violate neither.
**There’s also a line of thinking on this which is that the power of the true mysteries is such that they need to be kept secret because most people will not understand them. This is exactly what the Paris theologians told Marguerite Porete, after they read the book in which she says that since God is Love, the further you go into communion with God, the less you need the church. They told her she was right, but that most people shouldn’t know that. Then she got burned at the stake. I do not consider this to be an excellent example of why mysteries should be kept secret, though I certainly note the pragmatic aspect. But she is for me an emblem of love and courage. She violated neither. And that is a very great mystery, though it is one that needs to be told and remembered.