Alchemy and your comfort zone

Here’s a great question I’ve seen raised: how does one know whether or not one is ready for the next stage of alchemical development or advancement within their chosen path?

I’ve seen people race through the grades of the HOGD and similar esoteric bodies like it’s a sprint and not a marathon with the reasoning of “alchemy is just an excuse for being lazy” and other similar bullshit. Honestly, the more I look back on my time spent in the HOGD the more I realize how incredibly valuable the Outer Order was for personal development and how much of it was taken for granted, overlooked, and just plain ignored in terms of importance.

So, here’s the deal: when you’re comfortable, it’s time to move on. If you’re itching to get to the next level, it means that wherever you’re at is still stretching your comfort zone, so it’s time to stay put. Magick begins at the end of your comfort zone, and this goes in all areas of life. Get comfortable being uncomfortable. Like with physical fitness, those muscles need growing, stretching, and strengthening time. There are times when it’s good to take a rest day and there are times when you gotta suck it up, buttercup, because you won’t evolve unless you do.

This is why when I first was getting back into yoga I kept requesting core work when the teacher would ask what we wanted to focus on that day. It wasn’t because I loved core workouts; I fucking HATED them. I found them challenging, hard, and I was struggling to get any of it done. Now I have an emerging six pack, and core workouts are now a strength as opposed to a weakness. But that meant sucking it up and practicing, practicing, practicing so I could get better at them.

Alchemy is a very similar deal. Much like muscles, you may find that some aspects of your life are more out of shape than others–and will wail and scream when exercising. Out of all of the grades in the HOGD I had the most amount of growing pains in Practicus. The Water element ¬†was NOT my friend. I was itching to get out of there so badly it hurt because the entire GRADE hurt. There were a lot of lessons I had to revisit later because I don’t think I spent enough time there. I think I should’ve been held back another year, quite frankly, but all in all I have no regrets.

I knew that I had found the ideal magickal system for me recently when I found myself thinking, “Holy hell, I feel like a fucking Neophyte. I know NOTHING. This is all over my head. HELP. WTF.” Nothing good will ever come easy,and pearls are formed in oysters through constant irritation.

Hermetic seals, oaths, and vows of silence: sowing the seeds for dishonesty?

To dare, to know, to will…and to keep silent (or alternatively, “shut the fuck up”). We’ve all heard it, from those of us in the Western Mystery Trads, traditional witchcraft groups, British Traditional Wicca–you name it. Undoubtedly this idea of keeping seals upon hidden knowledge dates back to the concept of initiation back in ancient times with the Rites of Eleusis and the Osirian Mysteries. In short, it’s not new.

During my time in various initiatory bodies, I have seen all levels of secrecy and based on my experiences with such, and it has caused me to wonder the following: at one point are you veiling¬†too much? To what end can the secrecy reach the stage where it has become so commonplace that you are either refusing to talk about things which are either available to the public, or…worse yet…being silent about things which never, ever should be kept hidden?After my time spent in in a particular Golden Dawn group I noticed a great effort on many splinter groups formed afterwards to “maintain transparency.” That is, transparency of funds, governmental workings and other such topics which, if candid about, could help to foster and nurture trust on both ends. In fact, groups I belonged to later which have refused such a transparency and were discovered to be harboring secrets about misuse of funds and what-have-you were ones I was all too happy to leave. Having some measure of transparency is crucial for ensuring lack of abuse of power.

Organizations that lack transparency frequently abuse the power of silence and secrecy. The problem is two-fold: a) people are human and prone to being tempted by ego and greed and b) lacking a sanity and reality check from those on the “outside”, those on the “inside” wind up living very insular lives where they can lose focus, grounding, and a sense of what is right.

Knowing right from wrong doesn’t mean all initiatory secrets must be brandied about like so many strands of pearls before the Intarwebs, but I do think that secrecy is something which must be handled in moderation, treated with enough checks and balances to prevent its abuse, and also to make sure people don’t become so used to keeping things hidden that they veil matters they shouldn’t. Otherwise, people pile secrets one on top of the other, and it’s the slippery slope I’ve watched people fall down on, and hurt themselves as well others.

When you find yourself in a group so shrouded in secrecy to the point where you can no longer communicate with the outside world: your family, friends, significant others, that’s my measuring stick for When Things Have Gone Too Far. I uphold that same measuring stick for when people get into relationships also. If they cease communicating with you and/or start deliberately withholding information, something is terribly, terribly wrong. Sometimes people return from behind that curtain and at other times, they do not. All you really can do in such circumstances is pray that they realize what they’re engaged is is unhealthy.

In the end, you should go with your gut: if any organization body asks something of you which you find to be against any of your moral, civic, or spiritual obligations, you have the right to refuse, speak up, and look elsewhere for assistance with your spiritual growth and development.