So many people who turn to the occult or to so-called “alternative” belief systems do so out of a sense of necessity. Maybe the religion in which they were raised harmed them in some way. Maybe it never spoke to them at all. Maybe the lives they now lead would result in an eternity in hell. Or maybe they grew up without any sense of spirituality at all and feel an emptiness. Whatever the case, having left one of the large established world religions is fairly common among those who travel in the demimonde of the occult.
It may be overly simplistic, but still useful, to put it like this: if they had found spiritual fulfilment in the beliefs of their parents, they would not have started seeking. This seems particularly true when we recognize the fact that not all people feel the need to strike out on their own in the search for personal gnosis. Many—we might even say the vast majority—are perfectly content to continue in the religion (or in the atheist materialism) they were handed as children. Nevertheless, there are always a few seekers who have been shocked out of tradition and, some would say, complacency. These are the people who often become initiates of various reconstructionist, new age, occult, or otherwise “exotic” systems.
My intention here is neither to valorize seeking more meaningful spiritual initiation nor vilify that of clinging to spiritual consensus. Rather, I would like to point out what might seem at first like a radical idea: an adept is an adept no matter the color of his or her robes, no matter the décor of the temple, no matter the words of invocation being spoken, no matter the orthodoxy or dogma required for worship, no matter the given subjective framework for “religious experience.” A spiritual adept is one who can find value in the Tao Te Ching, in the Dhammapada, in the New Testament, in the Vedas, in the teachings of all prophets and sages—even those who would not normally be taken seriously by established authorities, like satanists, fakirs, sorcerers, mediums, and card readers.
The initiated understanding of religion, then, depends on who one becomes inside, not on outward accoutrements and accessories, ritual items, sacred architecture, religious societies, or the approval of those licensed to be “holy men.” As an ordained priest of an established mystery religion, I can tell you that the value and power of my ordination depends wholly on my willingness to walk the path of my initiation. I might always bear the metaphysical mark of having become a priest but, unless I live the path (unless the path lives in me), I will be spiritually empty and my priesthood will be a sham.
If we accept that spiritual initiation is an internal process, we may then see the world’s religions with new eyes. As long as we don’t get hung up on dogma (i.e. the way a religious group seeks to preserve a cohesive identity by establishing a set of lifestyle requirements), it is possible to absorb what is useful from any spiritual perspective. We are brought back, again, to the wisdom of the Golden Dawn: “Hold all religions in reverence, for there is none but contain a ray of the Divine Light which you seek.” In this, we understand “Divine Light” to be that of the highest self-realization, which is the true goal of every adept walking the initiatory path.