On Adeptship

The discussion has been brought up on The Great Work list: “what level of adeptship do we feel ourselves to be”? I wound up writing an email long enough that I figured it belonged as a blog post.

Before you can delve into determining level of adeptship, you first must answer the question of what an adept is.

If we’re talking about the general term, the literal dictionary term means “Someone who is skilled or proficient at something”. If we get into certain occult traditions, the term becomes far, far more loaded. I’m going to approach it from the literal dictionary definition and not press forward on any one tradition.
We become adept at something or an adept through years of study, practice, and experience. We are not likely to get there overnight, and the idea that this can be brought to us in an instant through an initiation is actually absurd. It’s akin to saying that merely giving me a college diploma gives me all of the knowledge I need when in fact it’s just an acknowledgement of the work I’ve already done. All an initiation can do for you is just that, simply acknowledge what you have already done, and bring you to the next level that you may realize just how much of a neophyte you still are on the path. Life doesn’t end after graduation.
I am adept at Usui Reiki and various other Reiki traditions because I have studied, practiced, and experienced them for years. I am adept at divination, particularly tarot, for the same reason. I am adept in the Golden Dawn tradition for also the same reason. I can claim the same for computer programming, particularly C# and .NET development.
The idea of mastering something, whether it be a craft, tradition, or any one skill, comes through focus and perseverance. It does not imply perfection, nor does it mean you have nothing left to learn. I’ve spent a decade or more in any of the above that I listed, and never once have I felt that there was a stopping point; perhaps a desire to focus on another tradition or move on, but in any of them I have the capacity to teach and transfer information.
It’s interesting; right now I’m in the process of transferring out of the IT industry into a completely different career, and after my time in the Golden Dawn I went onto other things. I don’t think it’s unusual once you’ve gained a particular skill that what you’ve learned from it is something which guides you into another direction. I still engage in Golden Dawn related discussions and talk with people in the tradition all the time, and much of my knowledge and experiences I’ve gained from it continue to benefit me in day to day life.
At present, I am eyeballs deep in the Abramelin rite. Various traditions stress the importance of doing this once you’ve reached the level of adeptness, and yet it’s something you can do even as a neophyte. I do think however like all forms of personal development that doing any one thing is easier once you’ve already done a good deal of personal work.
A huge part of mastery is self-mastery, and even in business people stress the idea of doing personal development and growth. The most invaluable thing about the Golden Dawn, IMHO, is its elemental alchemy which provides a basis for doing just that. People who race through the grades like people collecting Girl/Boy Scout badges miss the boat entirely, and are depriving themselves of the most powerful aspect that particular tradition has to offer. I cannot stress its importance enough. It is far, far more important than all of the memorization and ritual that the grades have to offer, and will make you into a much more magically efficacious magician.

Abramelin Oath

I swear by Phoebus Apollo and Almighty Zeus that I will undergo the Abramelin operation to the best of my ability over the course of the next six months, beginning on March 21st 2014, the first full day after the start of the Spring Equinox. Should I make a mistake or err in the process due to ignorance or otherwise, I will endeavor to compensate and if necessary change what is needed for optimal procedure allowing for no excuses to stand in the way of my successfully completing this rite of passage that I may achieve full knowledge and conversation with my Holy Guardian Angel.

I swear to uphold these virtues as sacrosanct: that everything I undergo throughout the course of the next six months be undertaken with full mindfulness and that learning and growing will take place even when conditions are not perfect and knowledge incomplete. I trust that my HGA will desire me to complete this rite and make whatever I need to know in order to do so known to me. At no point will I use travel, work, family, personal and professional responsibilities, ignorance, or illness as an excuse to halt or postpone my efforts and instead will endeavor to treat all obstacles and setbacks as being part of the rite itself.

I swear this oath in the presence of my Holy Guardian Angel and my patron deities. May they help guide me towards the accomplishment of my True Will, the Great Work, and the rending of the veil which stands between me and my evolution inside and out in all matters spiritual, emotional, magical, psychic, mental, and physical.

So mote it be.

What TO look for in an esoteric order

Recently I posted a list of red flags to look for in esoteric orders, as in, what NOT to look for.
Today I will post a things to actually look for. Peachy, huh? Emphasis on the positive!Here we go!

  1. Leaders who willingly admit that they don’t know something. Hey, that’s awesome! No one knows everything, and I like those who are in a position to teach and/or lead and are willing to admit shortcomings.
  2. Friendly group egregore. In short, people who get along, act like family, and not just a bunch of whiny kids all trying to get grade badges.
  3. Groups that demonstrate fruits of their labors. Are their members and/or leaders writing books? Blogging?
  4. Leaders who have patience with newbies. Hey, we were all Neophytes once, right? If you get beaten up with responses like “That information is above your GRADE, Frater/Soror!!!” (depending on the tone, obviously) and make you feel like an idiot for asking questions, that’s not a good teacher. Go for the ones who have patience. Go for ones who will say things to you like “The reason why we don’t teach that above your grade/degree level is due both to relevance to the initiation and a desire not to overwhelm you with too much information” but won’t be afraid to answer your questions the best they can.
  5. Which leads me to…
  6. Leaders who have a sense of humor about themselves, their path, and the group. Yes, maintaining the group is important. The path is important. Everyone’s important. Just don’t take yourself or anything too seriously. Laughter is good!
  7. Leaders who aren’t afraid of differences of opinion, and encourage questioning of authority. Debates are NOT the same thing as arguing.
Feel free to add anything I’ve missed. I’ve tried to stay away from any one type of group, path, tradition, or teaching in this list.

What everyone must do and know before and after joining an esoteric Order

What I’m about to post is everything I wish I knew before I had joined my first Order. I hope that it helps others.
  1. Do research on the group. Look over not just their website but talk to current and ex-members of the group. Find out why people left and what the Internet says about them. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.
  2. ¬†Be wary of claims made. If they claim to be hundreds and thousands of years old with direct lineage to Jesus Christ, Apollonius of Tyana, Superman, whatever–RUN.
  3. Be wary of costs to join and remain a member. Places that charge an arm and a leg are typically more in it for making money off of the credulous than they are providing genuine spiritual teachings.

Also…if you’re already a member:

  1. If you join and discover that people talk strangely about the leaders, claim that they can “know everything about you”, are above reproach, and ask you not question to their beliefs/ideas/opinions/philosophy, that’s a red flag.
  2. If you join and they tell you who to and not to befriend, RUN.
  3. If they encourage people to not talk to people who have left their group, RUN.
  4. If they tell you certain books and traditions can’t be read or learned because the knowledge will do awful, evil things to your soul, RUN.
  5. Do they put others down for being “fluffy” or not measuring up to their standards? Do they maybe spend TOO much time talking bad about other groups?
  6. Do they spend too much time being serious and taking each other perhaps a bit too seriously?
  7. Do they frown upon mistakes and come down on you if you make any? Are you made to feel uncomfortable for having made them?
  8. Do they look older than their ages? Are they generally stressed and unhappy with their lives?
  9. Do they enter into heated debates and competition with people that appears to be less than friendly?
  10. Do they seem to be “angry” all of the time and encourage doing a lot of Mars and Saturn style workings? Ie., “battling our enemies” and engaging in “magickal/spiritual warfare”, that sort of thing?
  11. Do they scoff at people who want to try certain magicks or spiritual traditions and claim that it’s not possible or it’s too “stupid” or “a waste of time” to try?
  12. Do they encourage “not reading ahead” of your “level” and keep strict hierarchy in both social and business related settings?
  13. Do they instill fear in those who have done so, either accidentally or on purpose?
  14. Do they seem to be filled with fear and/or anger at certain sorts of traditions, knowledge, and teachings that they disagree with or is different from their own?
  15. Do they tout certain “healing rituals/prayers” for major issues like world peace or hunger, but balk at doing the same amount of healing on themselves or their fellow members?
  16. Do they list a ton of titles in their emails and in their conversations with you? Do they brag about their certificates and accomplishments a great deal? Do they seem very self-absorbed as a whole?

 

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.