Initiation, Magical Teachers, and Personal Accountability

I’ve written before about the revised Rosicrucian Code of Life and how appealing those ideals can be, especially this passage: “Never cause anyone to believe that members of the Order are sages who are in full possession of the Truth. To those who may ask, present yourself as a philosophical person who is seeking Wisdom. Never pretend you are a Rose-Croix, but say you are a perfecting Rosicrucian.” 

I’ve also noted Paul Foster Case’s idea that to be a “Rosicrucian” is to accept a way of relating ethically to the world; it is not primarily an outer affiliation with a mystical order.  It is an inner state of being and consciousness.  This makes it tantamount to a philosophical, initiatory decision on a personal level, which is where all magic begins and ultimately ends.  There are many esoteric groups in the world, several of which currently bear the label, “rosicrucian,” but there is only one Self.  There is only one workshop in which the individual can dedicate and rededicate him- or herself to the Great Work.

With this in mind, I believe that if we are seeking magical initiation (i.e. “a way to begin”), our first and most reliable teacher is our “holy daimon” or “holy guardian angel”—the part of us that exists beyond the vagaries of form and time.  Attaining the “knowledge and conversation” of this teacher can become a spiritual quest in itself or it can amount to a surprisingly quiet revelation: that we are not “in full possession of the Truth,” but that we are always “perfecting” towards a more complete realization of it.  And part of us, the part that is god, is already there, unfolding its mystery for us as we progress.

In The Secrets of High Magick, Francis Melville notes that “One of the most significant experiences on this path is known as the ‘Attainment of the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel.’  This is a transformational encounter with your inner master, higher self, or guardian angel—the Inner Divinity within all things.”  As far as concise definitions for the K & C of the HGA are concerned, this one is good because it ends on the idea that divinity cannot be partitioned or objectified.  It is “within all things,” including you and me. 

Perhaps this is the what Trithemius refers to when he asks, “Is it not true that all things flow from one thing, from the goodness of the One, and that whatever is joined to Unity cannot be diverse, but rather fructifies by means of the simplicity and adaptability of the One?”  According to this, magic, both low and high, would be just as much an articulation of the one thing as anything else under the sun.  As most translations of the Emerald Tablet of Hermes put it, “What is above is like what is below, and what is below is like that which is above. To make the miracle of the one thing.”  Realizing this “miracle” on the deepest level is why were are here.

It is also the reason we cannot offer our initiation for another.  In other words, if we are magical teachers (as we most surely are), all we can do is open a space for the student to experience initiation.  In the neophyte ritual of the Golden Dawn, the Hierophant accepts the individual into the Order by saying, “Child of Earth, long hast thou dwelt in darkness. Quit the night and seek the day.”  Note the emphasis on personal volition in this language.  This is not a Marvel Comics Dr. Strange initiation where the master knocks you upside the head and grants you cosmic perception (as fun as that would be).  It’s an act of accepting accountability for one’s own development.

In this sense, teachers are wonderful but they are primarily facilitators.  We don’t have to wait for someone’s permission to accept this magical burden or this personal quest.  We can do it right where we are, right now.  It is completely up to us.  The thing we’re all looking for waits at the top of the mountain.  Many paths go up and they all terminate at the same point, the same existential realization, the same knowledge and conversation of and with the Self.  This is true no matter whether we are saying a simple child’s prayer, working a bit of hoodoo, performing a lodge ritual to attain a deeper level of gnosis, or rising on the planes.  The mountain remains.  And if we keep at it, we ascend.


Entering and Leaving Magical Orders

Leaving an order doesn’t have to be traumatic or negative. People tend to expect that they will be members for life, but an order, in my opinion, is more like a tool. A useless tool becomes a liability. I believe this is true no matter how high up in the organization you may go.

Most magical / magical-religious orders in the West are about 10-20 years beyond their social reputations, for better or worse. The OTO looks like it still has a lot of people (relatively speaking) coming into it, but if you’re the sort who likes serious magical work, it may not be for you unless you luck out and find a like-minded camp or lodge.

The AA is a lot more magically serious on the whole, but still, your experience with them will be unique to how you are connecting to the Order’s egregore. I believe this. If you’re not deeply into Crowley’s perspectives, I suggest you investigate the work of David Shoemaker (Living Thelema), Jack Parsons (Freedom is a Two-edged Sword), Rodney Orpheus (Abrahadabra) and maybe David Wasserman’s memoir, In the Center of the Fire. Then revisit how you feel about Crowley and the AA. There’s a lot of good Thelemic material out there that you can access without having to be initiated and pledge yourself to that order.

The IOT and the Temple of Psychick Youth were doing great things about 20-30 years ago, the same way that LaVey’s early Church of Satan was 10-20 years before that. What I mean by “great things”: innovating magically, changing culture, bringing a huge amount of energy and creativity to magical-artistic projects, inspiring the world, and opening up new possibilities by challenging accepted norms in the occult and in mundane society. When an order really gets good, their “current” (influence) acts like a big magnet. They start drawing talent (and crazies) to them. Prominent order members burn out and meet tragic ends. Other members write books that travel out beyond the boundaries of the order and change the world (probably violating a bunch of ill-conceived oaths of secrecy in the process). And then a lot of people seek the order out, which means it’s already becoming a commodity and losing its potency. A few less-talented people figure out ways to make a living off of it (ahem, David Griffin anyone?). And then it becomes part of esoteric history. Doesn’t mean the egregore goes away or the rituals don’t work. It just means the avant-garde is elsewhere.

Again, look at an order as a personal vehicle. Don’t serve it. Let it serve you until it’s time for you to move on. Or you may find that the order always serves you well and you it. A lot depends on who you are and how you’re growing. Growth is the key. The AMORC is a great example of a venerable mystical order with a lot of resources and talent over the years that just became a shell of its former self. I think the same can be said about various other prominent ceremonial, druid, and GD-derived (the Open Source Order of the GD is still around) groups.

Right now, it seems to me that we’re seeing three themes emerging in occulture in the West: (1) a continuing resurgence of traditional grimoire practices with an increasing number of people with both academic and magical credentials; (2) regional folk witchcraft / traditional witchcraft coming back in a big way as people move away from mass-market Wicca and other highly commodified cynical new age reinterpretations; and (3) magical-political hybrid groups, many which are ethnically closed or very “folkish” and reminiscent of the occult scene in early 20th century Europe.

Personally, I’m a lot more interested in individuals than in groups. I think the best orders are born from talented obsessive people coming together to create something new and dynamic.

The Occult Communities Are Falling Apart | Baal Kadmon

The more I get to know Baal Kadmon through his books and commentary, the more I like him and think he’s a sincere practitioner.  After meditating on my 7 Spiritual Practices this morning, I noticed Kadmon’s post in my RSS feed and see his message here as an expression of my first practice, “Live and Let Live.”  He’s a good writer and I think he deserves our attention. – S+A


Source: The Occult Communities Are Falling Apart | Baal Kadmon

Everything is Worthless Except for My Own Occult System

Something I’ve been noticing lately in the various internet occult conversations I follow is a certain rigidity.  When someone says, “The Demiurge came down into my bedroom last night and told me how to immanentize the eschaton with DMT” or “I evoked Satan and discovered that Goofy is really Jesus Christ,” we roll our eyes.  Sure, maybe Goofy really is Jesus in that person’s subjective world, his Unverified Personal Gnosis, but that doesn’t make it so for anyone else.  Mistaking UPG for transcendent truth is easy to spot and it’s something magicians are particularly susceptible to when they walk the path of self-transformation.  One hopes they are mentally stable enough to avoid getting lost in a solipsistic world of their own creation.

However, sometimes it’s not as easy when the UPG is threaded into a whole spiritual system.  For example, you might be a member of a Golden Dawn-ish ceremonial lodge and that might really work for you.  Using the Golden Dawn techniques, as an individual on a daily basis and with your brethren, you have called down divine light, experienced higher states of being, worked with the Tree of Life, evoked spirits, balanced the elements, undergone initiation rituals, written articles about the tradition, attained the K&C of your HGA, and learned a lot about Western Esotericism in general and Victorian occult history in particular.  That is excellent and one very rewarding way up the mountain we sometimes call the Great Work.

But let’s say you have limited exposure to other spiritual perspectives and / or what you have learned about other systems has come through the stilted word of mouth of your lodge brothers, occult stereotypes, and irresponsibly researched occult books.  What then?  Then you might start shooting your mouth off about other people’s beliefs, saying, “Yeah, really there’s nothing to the Order of the Shut-Eye.  It was a con game established in 1953 by a disgruntled Mason named Dumblebore Wiggins as a money making scheme.  Everybody knows that.”  Meanwhile, members of the OSE are steadfastly doing the work in their tradition, making it work, and getting a lot out of it.  But because you’re so locked into one way of seeing things and believe you have found the TRUTH (i.e. you’re buying into UPG on an institutional level), you can’t allow yourself to accept that more than one perspective can be true simultaneously.

I know it’s a hard thing to deal with when your pet system—the one that has trained you and brought you into the light of its wisdom—says “Yes, my child, we are the keepers of the sacred flame.  AND ONLY WE HAVE ACCESS TO TRUE WISDOM” and yet the Dalai Lama seems to know a thing or three and some Satanist on the internet has been saying down-to-earth things that really do make sense and the members of the Ladies’ Auxiliary down at the Baptist Church do something suspiciously like hoodoo in their “candle service” and you can feel the power coming out of there on Sunday morning like ripples in the air.

When you notice such things, you have a choice.  You can vehemently deny their reality, saying that those practitioners are either deluded, stupid, charlatans, inept, or all of the above.  Or you can take a step past your institutional UPG into a broader universe.  It’s up to you.  Just don’t be surprised when you wind up spending most of your energy defending your personal gnosis at the expense of being able to learn what other perspectives could teach.