Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Are Esoteric Orders Merely Relics of the Past?

by Golden Dawn Imperator
David Griffin

The Alpha Omega's 1,000 Points of Light initiative, has been bringing the differences in mission and philosophy between various leaders and orders in the esoteric community into sharp focus. Nick Farrell wrote an article called "Playing at Magic" that you can read here. This article sets forth Mr. Farrell's position on "dabblers" (Self-Initiates and Independent Practitioners of Ritual Magic).

The above article led me to clarify the Alpha Omega's position on such maters in an article called "Ritual Magic 101: Playing at Magic?" that you can read here

This week, Alexandrian Wiccan HP and Pagan author, Frater Barrabbas, who leads the Order of the Gnostic star, set forth his unique position here. I will be quoting extensively from Frater Barrabbas' article, as I find some of the arguments quite important.

Frater Barrabbas wrote:

"The amount of written material on the subject of magick which can be found on the internet and in books is already quite voluminous, and it is quickly growing even as I write this article. There is a vast body of information available to anyone who is either curious or who desires to engage in the magician’s avocation. The number of available temples and organizations is still quite small, and I might add, fairly exclusive.
What this means is that the probability of someone acquiring their knowledge and experience of magick by reading and experimenting is much more likely to occur, in other words, by being a dabbler. As time goes on this disparity will only continue to grow until the population of initiate members of these exclusive groups and organizations will be tiny compared to the population of self-taught and self-initiated magicians. Such a course of self-determination and directed learning even has a fancy label - it is called heutagogy.
So, it would seem that the future of ritual and ceremonial magick belongs to the masses of dabblers and dilettantes rather than to the so-called properly initiated members of occult organizations and formal traditions."
"There are a lot of self-trained magicians out there in the world today, and in fact, most of the magicians that I know, even including those who belong to occult organizations are mostly self-taught and self-directed. This is because competent magicians have achieved their results due to their own personal efforts, discipline, experimentation and individual accomplishments. I have also met individuals who were spoon-fed and supposedly trained by some lodge or another and who were actually quite incompetent. What makes someone a good magician has a lot to do with individual initiative, inspiration, and steadfast application of a foundational discipline. There is no guarantee that a Golden Dawn or Thelemic magician will be competent just because he or she received extensive training. This is why I feel that such exclusive organizations are on the brink of being buried in a deluge of dabblers and dilettantes unless they, too, change with the times." 
"Few Golden Dawn organizations appear to be doing anything about the fact that people are acquiring first class publically available information and engaging in a certain amount of dabbling. Many seem to be condescending towards the masses of the uninitiated and act more less as entitled elitists, an attitude that will guarantee a relative future morbidity. What is needed is some kind of outreach, since the population of the self-taught far exceeds the population of the traditional initiates."
Obviously, the Alpha Omega does not share any dim view of Self-Initiates and Solitary Practitioners of Ritual Magic. There are many whom others call "dabblers" who are actually "seekers." It is to help these "seekers" that the Alpha Omega exists to begin with. It is also for these "seekers" that we have created one program after the other - to help them in their Ritual Magic practice so they may become Magicians and not just practice Magic.

We call this training and coaching for independents the "1,000 Points of Light" initiative. Here is a run-down of new A.O. programs for Self-Initiates and Solitary Practitioners.
Personal Temples: We are encouraging Self-Initiates and Solitary Practiioners of Ritual Magic to create Personal Altars and Temples. We are putting them on the map here on the Golden Dawn blog and publishing photos of independent Altars and Temples around the world.
Self-Initiation: We are teaching how the goal of Golden Dawn Initiation and Magic is to strengthen the energetic body and to awaken the Elemental, Planetary, Zodiacal, and Sephirothic Magical Forces in the "Sphere of Sensation" of the aspiring Magician, and are providing the techniques necessary to attempt this on one's own.
Magical Tools: We are teaching about how traditional Golden Dawn Magical Tools are created by publishing photographs of Israel Regardie's tools from the A.O.'s Golden Dawn Museum.
Ritual Magic 101 Webinars: Bring solid Ritual Magic teaching and coaching to self-taught Magicians all around the world.
2012 Golden Dawn World Tour: Since there are aspects of Ritual Magic that can only be taught in person, the Alpha Omega is making Ritual Magic instruction and coaching - as well as tradtional Golden Dawn initiation - available in at least 5 countries over the next year - up close and personal.
Ritual Magic 101 Workshops: lead off the Golden Dawn World Tour
Traditional Golden Dawn Initiation: both in our network of traditional Golden Dawn temples as well as part of the Golden Dawn World Tour.
Frater Barrabbas continues:
"While I applaud the outreach that some organizations are undergoing for those many thousand points of light, there must always be a place at the table for the self-made magician as well, and in fact, they will soon be far more numerous than a thousand points of light; more like a sky brightly illuminated with a myriad of stars. The best thing that can be done for these so-called dabblers (I prefer to call them experimenters) is to make more foundational lore available to them either through published materials or online articles." - Frater Barrabbas
I mostly agree with the above sentiments from Frater Barrabbas. However, not only publications are necessary. This is why we started the 1,000 Points of Light initiative.

We must also face the reality that the curriculum of the Alpha Omega's outer order, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn is the most demanding, yet thorough undergraduate level curriculum of Ritual Magic in the world today. 

Clearly, not every Solitary Practitioner is ready for the commitment it takes not only to enter the H.O.G.D., but also to graduate and go on to advanced studies in the A.O.'s Second Order, the R.R. et A.C.

My other concern about Self-Initiation is the way someone can easily portray a magician without ever really becoming one. If someone learns to portray a magician perfectly, they may trick themselves and waste a lifetime living a delusion.

I am not saying the Alpha Omega is the "only" or the "best" school of Ritual Magic. I do become concerned, however, when I read statements like one recently made by Jake Stratton Kent:

"My simple opinion is that Orders (as a genre, not any particular faction) are an outmoded organisational model for modern occultists." - Jake Stratton Kent
Judging from certain parts of Frater Barrabbas linked article, it would appear that Barrabbas shares a similar opinion. I hope I am mistaken. In any case, this is a view that has become all to prevalent in modern occultism.

Why is it that in the esoteric community so many people think that the powerful methods of Magic, Alchemy, and spiritual growth are the one area of life that requires no teacher? This is the one area where it counts the most! We are dealing with our eternal Soul. We are dealing with forces that can literally make a person insane.

I am certainly not saying that there are not any top quality self-taught Magicians around. Frater Barrabbas and Jake Stratton Kent are examples who come to mind immediately. But these are extrordinary individuals, with a level of self-discipline that is quite uncommon.

I certainly do not agree that traditionial esoteric Orders are in any way outmoded - in precisely the same way that universites have not become outmoded. Sure, self-education is possible, and sure, at times even Harvard graduates idiots, but the methods of a top University have plenty of advantages.

The same holds true for the esoteric Order and the aspiring Magician.

Let's be clear that I am not saying the Alpha Omega is "right" - or that we are somehow "better" than other Golden Dawn orders - but we DO use different training methods.

The methods the Alpha Omega uses are specifically designed to facilitate our mission of making Magicians. These methods can accelerate your spiritual and energetic growth and make YOU a magician as well - faster and easier.

I think that experimentation is great advice for advanced Magicians, like Adepts in the A.O.'s Second Order (master's level training).

Experimentation and innovation are indeed essential aspects of Magical practice for advanced, highly experienced Magicians. The “science” of magic is important - but should be done only after one has reached the doctoral stage of the Art.

The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, the outer order of the Rosicrucian Order of Alpha Omega is the bachelor’s degree of Magic. Its primary purpose is to educate the aspiring magician in the required vocabulary, symbolism, and practices which are already established and proven to be effective.

The Master’s degree (Second Order level in the A.O.) is an applied approach to the science and/or art under consideration and prepares the student to do secondary research in one specific area of knowledge. The “master” is one who can take existing knowledge and apply it to new situations. Finally, the doctoral degree (Third Order level in the A.O.) is to learn the methods of primary research and obtain the skills to create new knowledge.

The Outer Order beginning student is at the bachelor stage. Undergraduates are not ready to do comparative research of sources. They don’t know enough, or have the skills required, to make informed choices.

This is why the work of a university (or Order) is required. It’s not that the undergraduate information isn’t already available and easy to find. It’s a progressive learning experience that removes the requirement of comparative research skills. 

The Order offers a controlled environment to gain this knowledge and learn these skills. An Order allows the student to focus on what to learn, when to learn it, and to have an expert proclaim – “you have learned it!”

Experienced magicians do a disservice to beginning Magicians by encouraging everyone to start at the doctoral level of personal research. Any professor that tells a student to simply buy a bunch of books, compare what they have learned, and stick with what works, is doing no favors.

Magicians who take this approach are only delaying their growth. There are reasons universities require classically trained Ph.D’s to teach. There are reasons all religions have a school for training clergy.

Before anyone can write poetry, they first must not only learn their ABCs but even the rules of grammar, consonance and alliteration, etc. Rote memorization is not as much fun as writing poetry, but it is nonetheless essential preparation for future poets.

The same holds true for future Magicians. Where the methods of the Alpha Omega differ most drastically from other Golden Dawn orders is the thoroughness of our method teaching the fundamentals of Ritual Magic from day one in the H.O.G.D. (Outer Order, undergraduate level).

Astonishingly, the Alpha Omega is the only Golden Dawn order that teaches Ritual Magic in the Outer Order at all. This makes no sense at all. Why make Golden Dawn students wait four or five years before giving them any training or supervision in Ritual Magic?

Golden Dawn students are practicing Ritual Magic anyway. Why on Earth should students be left hanging for years without any Magical training or support - while developing bad Magical habits that will have to be unlearned with great effort later? What is even the point of an Order then?

The training methods of the Alpha Omega are as different as night and day from this. In the Alpha Omega, we make Magicians - and we certainly do not expect beginners to try to figure stuff out on their own.

On the contrary, the A.O.'s First Order, the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, today offers the most thorough and demanding training in Ritual Magic anywhere in the world.

I have seen the disastrous results of the "experiment for yourself" approach for aspiring Magicians over and over. Every day, students come to the Alpha Omega with bad habits so ingrained in their Magical practice, it will take months, if not years, to correct. This is why we provide thorough training, guidance, coaching and support in Ritual Magic from day one.

In the A.O., we do not advise beginners to "experiment for themselves" as though they were already advanced Magicians. In the Alpha Omega, we teach Ritual Magic with the proven teaching methods used at Universities. 

We expect our H.O.G.D. Undergraduate students to study and master the fundamentals of Magical practice precisely the way we teach them, as is the norm for Undergraduate education.

Throughout the academic world, udergraduates are required to master course curriculum in the manner each Professor requires it. This does not mean that there are not other methods or that experimentation has no value. Experimention and innovation certainly do have their places, especially when writing a doctoral thesis. These things do not belong in the beginner's level though, as undergraduates are not properly trained in comparative research methods.

At the undergraduate level, what really counts is that the Professor has a method that works, and effectively transmits to students the fundamental abilities they will need for more advanced studies. This can not be done properly by expecting students to use post-graduate methods at an undergraduate level.

In conclusion, if your want to "gut it out yourself" you will find plenty of books around and even community leaders who think that traditional Orders are outmoded.

But if you are serious about your Magical education, you will find no more thorough, more complete, and more challenging curriculum anywhere other than the A.O.'s Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. You will also find the same proven teaching methods found in top Universities.

Click here to explore our outer order training program, the H.O.G.D.

Alpha Omega
We don't just hand out grades ...
We Make Magicians!

1 comment:

  1. Carete,

    The freedom that the HOGD/AO has introduced to me is nothing less than miraculous. After a lifetime of "hell", I am now able to be still and not worry about initiations, or colors, or sigils or, well, basically anything. I've even learned that worrying about grades, and grade material, are lessons in themselves. As a seeker, dabbler, alien, Moses, solitary (with an occasional namaste moment) or whatever the tuned flavor is at the time, I experience and learn. Additionally, I have not experienced the sense of one rolling their eyes or sighing in response to my questions and I am free of mind made superiority that needs to be right.

    This may be a fast route, and it is simple, however, I have found that it has not been easy. Sometimes removing the robe from its hanger is the most difficult thing to do. Fortunately, I have been taught to quiet the chatter of the mind and take simple actions that promote change."Why reinvent the wheel?" I'm not better, or worse, than anyone. I am a grateful initiate, fortunate enough to be a member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn outer order of the Rosicrucian Order of Alpha et Omega. In reality, it matters not to me how others choose to identify, because as I do unto others, I do unto myself.

    I also prefer seeker :-) but, di**head's fine too

    Fraternally in L.V.X,
    Frater F.D.