Since I enjoyed jotting down my take on astral initiation, I thought I’d do the same with ‘self-initiation’. 🙂 Here I am specifically talking about Golden Dawn and RR et AC initiations. Other MOTO posts touching on this topic are:
- The Western Lodge Tradition and Initiation
- Initiations – what are they good for?
- Currents and Templates of Transformation within the Golden Dawn Neophyte Ceremony.
Of course in any analysis of personal experiences, such as initiation, we have to take care not to invalidate people’s experiences.
After all, all inner experiences are valid and can, if we follow them with honesty and altruistic motivations, lead us to learning more about ourselves and the universe.
That said, it is perfectly fine to critique and offer differing opinions from the outside, even if they may upset the apple cart a bit. I have just read a good example of this in Yours Very Truly, selected letters of Gareth Knight (Skylight Press, 2010).
In a letter to Vivienne Jones, Gareth refers to an article concerned with spiritual pathology he wrote for Psychology and the Spiritual Traditions (Element, 1990). This article seems to have made a few folk come up and short and re-examine their own assumptions and the origins of their received material and intuitions. Gareth wisely states,
…it is no small achievement to realise how badly one has performed as a human being – it shows a glimmer of clear sightedness and the beginning of practical spiritual wisdom.
We all need a dose this now and then. 🙂 Anyway, onward…
There are a number of misconceptions surrounding magical initiation. One of the most pernicious, and all the more so for its subtlety, is the idea that initiation somehow makes one different from other people – more advanced, one of the elite – an attitude that is in complete contrast to the actual purpose of initiation. Initiation means simply ‘to begin’. The late W.E. Butler, an adept in a Western Magical tradition stemming from the Golden Dawn, believed we should not say we are ‘initiates’ (noun), but rather ‘initiate’ (verb), to indicate that we are all, no matter our experience, continually beginning our spiritual unfoldment. In the Golden Dawn this is the beginning of a new mode of awareness, where we no longer walk in the sleep of everyday life but are alive to our own inner divinity and the call of God.
In a very real sense all initiations are self initiations. It is the self of the initiate that is being changed, and it is the self that has to assent to the initiation and the spiritual and/or the fraternal gifts it offers. If the initiate is closed, immature or has base motivations, the best ceremonial initiation in the world will not affect them directly. They will remain closed. Whereas an open, dedicated person at home waving some incense around and calling on the divine powers in a self composed ritual will be affected more. I would more likely class them as an initiate than a Neophyte who has gone through the motions but not open to unfoldment and service. Our motivations are the key here. I do not expect the first degree Wiccan, who confessed to Maxine Sanders he was only there because he liked the look of her tits, would be much of an initiate.
Now that said, the Golden Dawn Z docs, from memory do make the bold claim that the initiate, once entering the process, will be moved to the Light whether they will it or not. This is because the Golden Dawn initiation ceremonies, like all effective magical traditions, work on the subtle selves of the initiate. When correctly performed the blessings of a ceremonial initiation will be linked to the subtle selves of a ‘closed’ initiate. So even though the initiation does not ‘take’ immediately, when the initiate becomes open within themselves the initiation becomes active. Nifty, huh 🙂
There are many aspects to a full Golden Dawn initiation, as shown for example in this post, Currents and Templates of Transformation within the Golden Dawn Neophyte Ceremony. So with all of these points and all the various functions of initiation in mind, fraternal belonging, energetic transformation, linking to egregores etc, etc, can a person perform a ceremony at home that will initiate them into the Golden Dawn as Neophyte or the later grades? Overall, I would have to say ‘no’, though we can achieve the same results over a longer magical process. Let me explain.
OK, first off, self initiation can never initiate us into a particular physical temple or Order in the same way a physical initiation into the temple or Order does. The presence of physical initiator is a particular form of magical action, as shown in our last post, Astral Initiation. Physical initiatory action cannot be replaced by astral work, and self initiation is necessarily astrally based since we physically cannot be the initiator and initiate at the same time.
Also, within the Golden Dawn the initiations are extremely complex magical actions. They rest upon and require clear and empowered connections to particular magical currents and a level of technical skill far in advance of a newcomer to the grade. Put simply, if someone had the skill to initiate themselves into the Neophyte Grade with its complex formula and impact of twenty two godforms etc, all within a single self-initiation ceremony, they would not need to be initiated. Think about it – a person has to take the place of an entire Order and supporting Inner Order and perform several magical actions on all levels, simultaneously. No easy call.
In addition a crucial component of the GD outer grades is the redeemed or higher consciousness within the physical presence of the Hierophant. This simply cannot be replaced by visualising the associated godforms, because the real flesh and blood initiator represents physically on the material plane what the initiate can become. This is one of the reasons why in the GD only Adepts may initiate, and why choice of initiator is very important. The higher consciousness within the human body is essential, even if that body is clothed astrally as Osiris. If we associate the higher Tipharethic consciousness to Christ Jesus, as is common, then the blessings of the interior Godforms can be linked with the name YHShVH. However, this alone is incomplete and the blessings only earthed with the presence of the name YHVShH, as shown in the Rose Cross ritual. The physical presence of an Adept as Hierophant fulfils the YHVShH function and grounds the full blessings into the real, everyday life of the initiate.
Finally, and most importantly, ceremonial initiations always require passivity on behalf of the initiate. The western lodge tradition over the centuries developed many ways to induce this passivity, from sensory deprivation to scaring the bejesus out of the poor sod being initiated. While this passivity becomes a little less in the deeper grades of some traditions, it is still a requirement. The initiate is literally acted upon by the officers and spiritual forces invited and invoked. The same effects simply cannot occur if we, in an act of self initiation, were to call the forces and seek to act on ourselves. The very act of invocation would alter our subtle bodies and we could not receive the various complexly created structures and energies the initiation is designed to instil in the same way, the way the initiation designed them to be received.
Theoretically it would be possible to magically consecrate a vast number of talismans prior to a self initiation ceremony, one for each Godform, tool, banner etc. Then during the self initiation ceremony we could move around and be mostly astrally and mentally passive, simply uncovering the talismans to call them into action etc. However, even if we were capable of such magical finesse (and still wishing to be initiated), there is still no way around the fact that we would be physically and etherically active. The passivity required for magical initiation is as important on these planes as much as the higher planes. To deny this is to partially deny the sacrament of the body, as I talked about in the last post on Astral Initiation.
If we as solo magicians wish to engage with the initiatory method of the Golden Dawn, and there are very good reasons for doing so, we need to find ways of affecting our subtle bodies in the same manner as the initiation ceremonies themselves. During initiation we receive a gift of many hundreds of hours of inner and spiritual work on behalf of the initiating team. It is these hours of effort and spiritual work, combined with the blessings of inner plane beings, that all come together into a coherent whole that will (hopefully) change the initiate. We simply cannot hope to achieve this by ourselves in a single ceremony, no matter how good we are at visualising various officers or Godforms around us.
The way forward is to analyse exactly what each initiation does and what changes it produces. Once we are clear of these we can then design a curriculum of magical practice designed to produce these changes within us. We may need to use different magical processes than those found in the initiation ceremonies, but provided the end result is the same there will be no difficulty. In short we can design an initiatory process that will, over a period of time, change our various subtle bodies and our psyche and result in us effectively being initiated into whatever grade we are working with. I have included detail instructions on this method in the much belated By Names and Images 🙂
It should be pointed out however, that our analysis of the grades needs to be done thoroughly and personally. We should not blindly take anyone else’s approach, not least of all because many of the published accounts are woefully inadequate. For example, even calling the GD grades from Zelator to Philosophus ‘elemental grades’ betrays a limited elemental bias that can rob us of exploring the other depths within these incredibly rich ceremonies. The outcome of such a bias can be seen in Donald Michael Kraig’s Modern Magick or Israel Regardie assuming several hundred performances of the Opening by Watchtower was equivalent to these grades.
Finally, I think we need to honestly recognise that ceremonial initiation is a gift from an Order to an initiate but one most of us involved in the Western esoteric traditions may never receive and will have to learn to live without. This is simply because of the lack of sensible, accessible and properly functioning magical Orders within the West today. However, it is quite possible to create your own Order rather than waiting for one to appear or bemoaning the lack. To this end I sincerely recommend John Michael Greer’s Inside a Magical Lodge and Nick Farrell’s Gathering the Magic: Creating 21st Century Esoteric Groups. Seriously, forming a magical Order is not out of the question and may not only be spiritually fulfilling, but will also provide a much needed service. Think about it. Do it.