We can remain on the fringes, allowing life’s winds of change to buffet us or else be responsible enough to embark fully on the Great Work.
We can remain in our armchairs or get up, cross that meaningful threshold and be of service, so let’s do it! Right?
There is a marked difference between sitting on the sidelines and being entertained by the occult and actually doing the Work. So, how do we get started?
Education is first. In the occult, in order to be informed correctly both acquiring and assimilating a library of both classic and more specialized reading material is a must in addition to one’s own Gnosis. Even more specialized education continues in organizations. This is the phase on the Path of the Seeker.
Second, disciplined practices are done and initiation commences. Anyone can purchase and read books as well as on-line articles, but not everyone is cut out to be a true initiate. The step of initiation and practice is that of the phase of the Path, of the Magician.
Thirdly, becoming of service to others without expectation of reward. Being able to initiate and teach others. This is phase of the Path, of the magickal Adept.
It requires courage to commit one’s self to any structure and authority other than one’s self. We may all be our own Holy Authority over ourselves, yet we cannot actually initiate ourselves. This is a fact.
That would be akin to performing psychotherapy on ourselves. No matter how observant we may be to our inner workings, it is not possible to administrate to ourselves. This is the point where many back out in fear. The fear of someone or something controlling one’s own Will, yet that is not the point at all! The point of initiation is to help the initiate to develop themselves spiritually and to find their True Will, their True Self/ Higher Self.
If we are prudent and select the proper teachers as well as they are selecting us, then we realize Brethren are here to assist us in finding our True Will via facilitation in a group initiatory environment. Is there risk being an initiate? Yes, of course there is! Which is why we screen our initiators just as they screen us. Trust should not be completely blind.
Be sure that you are getting the best quality initiations and training possible with people who have the experience, wisdom and selflessness to set their own personal Egos aside to help others without bellowing out all their accomplishments, titles and so on, in a grossly overstated way. Secrecy about such matters is the norm, not the exception.
The internet is both friend and foe. On one hand, there is such a wealth of information accessible like no other time in history, by the masses. On the other hand, it is an ideal place for charlatans, egomaniacs and mentally unstable people to set a nice web of enchantment to lure in the unwary. These are usually the young, the inexperienced, disadvantaged and just plain those who are hungry for esoteric knowledge and want to turn their lives around for the better!
This is why I urge anyone seeking to become an initiate of any occult order to do their research on various groups ahead of time and not jump onto the first bandwagon they see crossing their path.
Here is a checklist I am making available for those who have not yet had exposure to an initiatory magickal order who are looking for one and then I will go into more details. Most of this is common sense, but there are vulnerable folks out there who are ready to trust anyone who can sell them a bill of goods:
- Do the research on the specific Tradition(s) you are interested in.
Read all you can via articles and books published by credible sources. See if the structure, background and practices really appeal to your sensibilities. Reach out to only that which “calls” to you and I do not mean via advertisements. This is an intuitive feeling and mental curiosity both. If there is something that does not appeal to you on logical nor intuitive levels, it probably never will. Move on to something else.
- Select multiple Orders in the same Tradition (where applicable) and then do research on those Orders.
In modern times, there are many “flavors” of Orders & Traditions. I can count on my hand no less than ten Thelemic organizations and over a dozen for the Tradition and related to the Golden Dawn. See what Orders may best meet your needs as well as what you can contribute becoming part of a new spiritual family. Because that is exactly what your Order will become and Brethren are your Brothers and Sisters in the Great Work!
- Discern how much travel you are willing to do.
Many make the mistake of not figuring out logistics details ahead of time. It is wise to do so. Occult orders may not have a local presence unless you live in or near a major city of your native country and even then, what you are looking for may still not be popular there so you may need to travel a distance. It is wise to keep in mind that the occult is not like conventional religions in terms of physical temple or lodge availability.
Occult temples and lodges are not like conventional temples, churches and synagogues. They are most likely not going to be located in your backyard and many are operating under secrecy. Often times, they are on private property or in private residences. Sometimes they are in rented public halls but to date, I can only remember one personal initiatory experience in a rented hall or some other public place. All the rest were in private homes with a dedicated temple room in them. I remember my first experience being in an Order and had to travel to a foreign country for my initiations, for a number of years as well as to this day also travel for one of the multiple orders I learn, serve in.
Some orders may not even have a presence in your native country. Find out where the nearest temples or lodges are in the Tradition(s) you have chosen. Many people find extensive travel for initiations and meetings to be a complete deterrent as they are looking for convenience and others are willing and able to spend the time, money and effort to travel out-of-state, province or even country for what they want.
If you cannot travel much and you have your heart set on a particular Tradition or Order, see if they have a correspondence course available. Many do, so you may be able to become a distance member and only need to travel for your initiations and special events.
Organizations representing Traditions with authentic lineage typically require you to be physically present for initiations into a lodge/temple. We may now have the benefit of technology to aid us in many ways, but let’s not think that certain aspects of becoming an initiate can be done without being physically present. There is a process and common sense dictates otherwise.
For instance, there are specific events that happen and actions that take place during initiations that absolutely cannot be done without being there in person. These often involve physical touch, the position of Temple Officers, implements and how they are handled. Touch is also not meant to be sexual in nature. Think of being led by the hand and/or what people do typically when taking an oath. Some orders require a book or other physical item to take an oath upon.
There are forces invoked that have a presence that is almost palpable. There is a physical “floor team” of people who are serving to help facilitate the invocation of those forces.
There are also often elements of at least mild sensory deprivation or sensory over-loading since initiations are not designed to be made easy and typically have deep psychological impact on the candidate.
For instance, our ancestors in many cultures often had harsh aspects to initiations. One might have been expected to retreat into a dark cave or subterranean maze with no sustenance for a time, to walk across hot coals, sit in a pit of snakes or other types of very physical and psychological challenging circumstances. Often times this required a dark, subterranean place. To be a bit more specific, here are a couple of examples:
In Ancient Egypt during the Hellenistic period, in the Mysteries of Isis, the theme of Life, Death and Rebirth was highlighted as a dramatic re-enactment of the death of Osiris and how Isis revived him so that she would conceive their son Horus. Like the Greek Eleusinian Mysteries, a symbolic travel to the underworld would have been featured as well as many physical purifications throughout the ceremonies. It is said that in another Ancient Egyptian Mystery, ( most likely involving the cult of Sobek), acolytes would be required to descend some stone steps into a pool of water. They would swim underwater through a tunnel and then emerge in a cistern, or subterranean lake, where hungry crocodiles dwelt. Those that would come to the surface would most likely meet their end as a meal for the crocodiles. However, there would be a deeper, darker submerged tunnel, that if the wiser swam through it, they would emerge to the light and another set of steps safely with none of the fierce beasts to attack them..
There is no modern Mystery school I can think of that has this traumatic ( and life-threatening!) type of initiation regimen. Yet in order for an initiation to truly be effective, there has to be a little bit of trauma to the psyche.
These are designed to make one think and to feel.
There are changes and unfamiliarity in the candidate’s environment. The initiatory candidate is in a vulnerable position and puts his/her trust in the hands of the initiator(s). Therefore, being cautious and getting to know one’s initiators and/or their representatives first, is a safety measure. Some orders also have initiatory candidates sign waivers and/or answer questionnaires prior to the initiation to be aware of any special physical or mental situation with candidates. This is also for safety and depends on what type of initiation it is.
Some orders allow correspondence coursework aside from this, but initiations into certain Traditions definitely have a physical component and “traditionalists” tend to stick with this. This however does not include the internet-based occult schools and many New Age organizations. There are all sorts of internet based schools available for those that prefer that method and level of interaction. Be discreet and discriminating.
Some of these may be good if you prefer an on-line order, but know that because you may be doing something in an untraditional manner and there is no telling what the initiators are like in person, you are taking a significant risk from multiple perspectives.
Now, this is not to say that there are not certain practices that can be done astrally or over some non-physical connection. There definitely are.
Some people give divinations (aka “readings) this way or New Age type of attunements that can take place in the comfort of your own home, but these are different from actual Temple/ Lodge initiations that have an initiatory team serving the candidate doing an initiation that was intended only to be done physically present.
Don’t let anyone steer you into thinking anything less can be done. You may as well be initiating yourself only divinities/guides as witnesses. And it certainly would be less expensive! Right?
Most authentic occult orders also do not believe in self-initiation, but even for those that do, it is more or less something apart from the regular order of practice intended for solitaries to become more familiar with certain aspects of a Tradition.
A solitary practitioner however will not have recognizable credentials to others working a specific initiatory system or Tradition, if they choose to only “self-initiate” Performing an initiation on one’s self for one’s self is really more like a dedication ceremony rather than an initiation.
Initiations are also facilitated in a shamanic manner by one’s own personal god/gods/goddesses and/or spiritual guardians and are thus personally interpreted, but this is another subject worthy of its own article. By own experience, I had both a shamanic initiation and a dedication ceremony before becoming initiated into an actual Tradition. Some may end up doing this in the opposite order.
Solitaries that have “self-initiated” into a magickal Tradition will still be considered solitaries when interacting with others in the occult, not members of any Order unless they are also initiates of a different Tradition. If you are fine with this, then great. But if you want to work in a manner that is more like a college, with others and get the “credit” for your Work acknowledged as genuine in a specific tradition, then you would be selling yourself short.
Ask about initiation requirements up front. It will save quite a bit of frustration. And if you have an Order with a local Temple less than several hours away drive or travel by air, consider yourself very, very lucky!
Best advice is – Keep expectations real. Don’t expect too much convenience. Save yourself the trouble.
- If you have friends in the occult, ask them about their experiences.
Do not rely solely on internet research, if possible. Referrals are always good and they work both ways. I have learned myself quite a bit from friends in other orders about what the people are like and the organization structures. It is worth it to get to know people in the “occult scene” first, if you can and those that are part of different organizations.
- Join discussion groups to find out more.
Be sure you are consulting groups that are legitimate, as defined as run by official representatives of orders. As there tends to be multiple groups for many traditions, be sure to join more than just one. You may find completely different perspectives and can then compare notes and cross-reference. Some orders even run local open study groups and meetups.
- Interview the potential initiators/ leaders.
I cannot emphasize this strongly enough!
Occult leaders do typically interview potential initiatory candidates as part of the vetting process. On one hand, they want to be of the best service to Brethren and want to deal with sincere candidates only. Also, they don’t want whack-a-doos joining their organizations. Trust me. There are many odd people in the occult. Most are not dangerous, but the occult does tend to attract some unstable people. Good orders tend to watch out for these. They have procedures on how to deal with all sorts of situations. So should you.
Interviews are always best accomplished in person, but Skype or other on-line interactive tools where you can both hear and see each other will also work if need be. You want to be able to see reactions and body language since non-verbal cues can be very revealing!
Find out what the experience levels are of the leaders/interviewers, their background, where they had their training and when. If they are legitimate, they should be more than happy to tell you how they got started in the Tradition, what years they took some initiations and perhaps where. Let’s face it, these are once in a lifetime events that can change lives so you’d think they would remember them! Some people have written books and divulged this information so you don’t need to ask as many questions.
Of course, there are certain things initiators are oath-bound not to discuss and degree/grade levels are often one of them, so do not expect an answer to an inquiry about this. Adepts tend to keep such details concealed from the outside world. If someone is plastering their grade/degree status all over the place, this is considered extreme hubris in the world of the occult and is questionable. Also, if the leadership is coming out of nowhere without valid credentials, hesitant to answer your questions, instead diverting them to another subject, then that says enough right there.
In occult orders, there is a paper trail, there is lineage, and there is authenticity with members.
* When I reference “lineage” in context here, I mean that there is a traceable line back to more than just the Temple or Order you are interviewing with in a specific Tradition. I am not going to split hairs in this article over “how long” that lineage extends. Some go back hundreds of years, some only a few decades. This is being addressed because there tends to be quite a bit bickering, even to the point of irrelevant hostility, on the internet about who has the most lineage, or the most valid lineage. Which brings me to another point in side-line: Any order that claims to be the “only one” that has lineage, is grossly overstating credentials unless they can prove it via a paper trail.
If you can’t get answers, time to move on! I cannot emphasize this well enough. The internet may be a wonderful resource and provide welcome contact with those we otherwise would not be able to connect with. However, it is also a haven for charlatans, profit seekers, and megalomaniacs. Any Order worth its salt will have its leaders and/or other appointed administrators meet with you first, before any commitment is made and especially prior to any funds being collected. This lead to the next item on the checklist…
- Asking about dues/ fees upfront before committing to paying for anything.
Find out where your money is going upfront. It does not hurt to ask!
Any order or group than demands a price upfront without proper vetting of candidates is clearly in the profit business. Spirituality has no price tag.
It is perfectly fine (and to be expected) for nominal fees to be charged for such things as initiation equipment and member’s time, temple maintenance, and web-site maintenance. But these should not amount to several hundreds of dollars per candidate every month or year. Workshops should also not command more than a nominal fee or a love donation.
Anyone can develop a snazzy website and there is a reason some opt to include lots of text and alluring photographs. It is a way to boost the SEO on websites and blogs! The more often certain words appear on a single site, the more the chance of it appearing at the top of search engines. Of course, there is nothing wrong with this, except that an exorbitant amount of text tends to be a dead giveaway to the motive of heavy advertising. Some people are inquisitive and will wonder why. By contrast, a site that is too sparse may also generate questions such as: Why is there not more information being shared? Both extremes lend critical minds to question validity.
- Ask about Order affiliations, especially religious ones. Is the one you are considering joining considered it to be a religion also, or strictly esoteric?
Many occult orders are esoteric, thereby not adhering to a religion, yet some do. I will share what I know of from my experiences and go very much in-depth with this since this is an area that tends to give rise for assumptions, and thus much confusion:
In some cases, religion is publicly acknowledged at part of an order praxis. For example, Thelemic Orders. Why is this?
Because Thelema is also considered, and recognized internationally, as a religion, albeit not a conventional one. Thelema is also considered a philosophy and for some people, even a lifestyle. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn Traditional-based Orders however, are not, with the exception of some of those Thelemic organizations that are teaching-school based.
Wicca and many Pagan revival and Reconstructionist groups, are also religions. All are recognized as such publicly. So are some of the other world Neo-pagan religious organizations that have what could be considered occult-related practices. Magic and religion were not separate to our pagan ancestors of yore. The esoteric and exoteric were often inseparable, however in some cultures, the more esoteric teachings were reserved for special sects, royalty and priesthoods. These are what eventually gave rise to “Mystery Schools” such as the Eleusinian Mysteries of Ancient Greece. The Ancient Egyptians also had ceremonial high theurgy, but it’s practice was limited to the highest ranks of priesthood. They had an elaborate hierarchy.
However, by contrast as well as convergence, the teachings specifically of the Golden Dawn are based on the eclectic. They influenced by the following esoteric principles: Ancient Egyptian religion (Kemeticism), Judeo-Christian, Greek Eleusinian Mysteries and Chaldean. These make up what is known collectively as the “Western Mystery Tradition”. Because it is so eclectic derived from other religions as well as mystery schools and does not require direct worship, it cannot be a recognized religion unto itself.
Unlike Thelema, that has a religious body called the Ecclesiastic Gnostica Catholica, a holy book and proclaimed prophet, the Golden Dawn does not have these. In the.E.G.C. ordained Priests and Priestesses can perform sacraments. It takes years (sometimes many) to become ordained because of the degree requirements of the O.T.O. tying in directly to the ecclesiastical body and with each local body having different circumstances. Members can be however allowed to serve in the Gnostic Mass as novitiate Priests, Priestesses and Deacons before ordainment at the required degree in the O.T.O. I am one such Priestess at the time that I am writing this article.
There are some Golden Dawn orders that try to make the Golden Dawn it into a religion unto itself by forcing members to worship one way or another or to proclaim/ convert to one faith that it’s leadership prefers. This is religious bias. Sometimes this is very covert and something that is not introduced until members have been around a while, which is unfair. It is not against any rules however to have local variations or “flavors” of GD Temples and Orders, nor is it typically not against any rules for individuals that share common beliefs or that are experimenting that happen to be part of a working Temple, do other sorts of rites together outside those of the Tradition.
However, all the Traditional teachings, initiations and common ceremonies should be uniform and not cross-pollinated.
It is wise to find out upfront what you may be potentially dealing with. People can of course make the Golden Dawn their own “personal religion” if they choose to see it in that context just like anything else, however it is not a publicly acknowledged as a religion of any kind, and was never intended to be one by it’s founders.
To be armed with the knowledge presented above, we can not only cross our own spiritual threshold to become initiates, but also peek through the veils of modern illusion. Be wise. Be safe!
Be attuned to your spiritual guides and True/Higher Self and you will find exactly what you seek!
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