Be warned, as Tony Hadley sings: “Question, questions, give me no answers“.
A while back I unwittingly de-initiated someone from the Golden Dawn. It happened when the gentleman in question, let’s call him Toby, asked to be considered for entry into our Golden Dawn Order as a Zelator rather than Neophyte because he had already received the Neophyte initiation. Now our Order has the rather neat (I think) policy of admitting everyone as a Neophyte; that way we do not make judgements on which other Order’s initiations are “valid”. It also helps create a stronger and more balanced egregore. Anyway, after explaining this policy I was chatting away and asked Toby in which Order he was initiated. He named an online Order and the date and time and other details as to when he had been astrally initiated into the GD. Oh dear.*
Keeping my personal views in check, I began to idly muse and compare his details with what I knew, and stupidly blurted out some facts that showed the initiation could not have taken place as he described. Toby insisted it had, and I only replied that the Order in question had a somewhat dodgy reputation. He suddenly looked very crestfallen. Later that evening, after some net searching and overseas phone calls, he rang me in great distress. The initation had not taken place. He felt duped and deluded (he had described some intense astral experiences during the ‘initiation’). “I thought I was Golden Dawn” Toby bemoaned sullenly, “but I’m not.” On hearing this, I wished I had kept my big mouth shut.
Now here’s the thing: in his reality Toby had a valid and moving initiation and became part of an august tradition. He was an initiate. He acted as one, served as one and practiced as part of the GD tradition. Being an initiate helped him grow. However, in another reality, that of any objective observer and the cruel wanker who took his money without so much as waving a painted stick over his name, he was never an initiate.
There is no doubt in my mind the objective space-time “truth” in this case was harmful. Toby became depressed, left his magical studies behind and drifted away. I hope he has found some peace now.
So, when is an initiate an initiate? I have elsewhere referred to a Wiccan initiation reported by Margot Adler which was dysfunctional, chaotic and included arguments between the officers in front of the initiate. Yet, Ms Adler describes the new initiate as glowing, content and showing all the signs of those Witches “properly” initiated. So was she now an initiate?
I am pondering these things because of Nick’s recent post on multiple initiations and a few comments stemming from it. Nick avers that properly initiating groups of people into the GD grades is impossible, something I agree with. He also states that a Hierophant performing six or so serial initiations on a single day would be letting the side down somewhat towards the end, something I again agree with. However, different people have different ideas. A Facebook friend of Nick’s puts the high limit of group initiations at three. Interesting. I have asked this commentator to write a paper on how this can be done, and I really hope he does, as me wee small brain cannae see it. I am always keen to learn new ways in the GD.
However, the essential question still remains. If a Hierophant was to initiate six people into a high grade, one after the other, would the poor bastards who drew the last straws be initiated? Even if they had full and wonderful internal experiences, could we say the intiation was not full or valid? If I were to rope together six candidates and initiate them en masse into the Neophyte, would they be initiates? Or would they only be one sixth of an initiate?
Is the internal experience of the candidate the most important factor? If it is, why do we need to do “proper” initiations at all, since, as in Toby’s case, they can be stimulated by just telling someone they are being initiated. If external factors are important, how do we measure them, ensure quality control (ha ha) without involving some internal perception? I mean we can tell if a newly minted coin is up to scratch cos there are standards by which to judge. Judging initiation, not magical skill, seems to me fraught with peril and possible bias.
However, I cannot honestly say that if our Order suddenly changed its procedures and accepted people at higher grades I would be happy. I could not easily accept someone wandering into Practicus based, as we have seen in the case of Toby, on possible astral initiations. And if someone told me they had been made Practicus together with four other folk, all at once, I’d probably start making Marg Simpson dissaproving moans. And honestly, if someone wandered in cheerfully announcing they were a Practicus via self initiation or an Adept by following the advice in Modern Magick, I would be somewhat of a sad panda too.
So where does this leave me, where does it leave us? Do we only trust our own views and ideas on initiation? Or should we be happy so long as someone, like Toby, knows they have been initiated? It fairly does my head in, it does. Thoughts anyone? Thanks
*As readers of MOTO will know I remain to be convinced astral GD initiations are at all possible. I’ve publicly asked one of the more prominent expontents of astral initiation to address my concerns, but have never recieved a public answer, only an invitation for one on one dialogue, something I do not wish to do. That aside, this is my personal view – our Order has no official stance on the matter, only that we do not do them.