Quick GD thoughts: adeptship and the lineage conundrum

When is an Adept?

Over on one of the Golden Dawn forums there has been an interesting discussion on the qualities of an adept. Like the lineage question, like many of the ‘issues’ involved discussed in modern magic, part of the problem is an incongruence of terms. The words ‘adept’ and ‘master’ mean several different things to different people. And since we are always talking about subjective spiritual realities there can be no end to these discussions.

Christians long ago had similar problems with all the new concepts stemming from Jesus being somehow the One and human at the same time. Their response was to get all the Bishops and high folk together and define their terms so at least everyone knew what each other was saying. Unfortunately, drawing on the Roman Imperial model (and patronage) this response soon shifted into a mode where they would define, codify, theologise and canon-law the hell out of pretty much everything they could think of. And then censure, ban, pull faces at and extraordinary rendition anyone who thought otherwise.

Now of course the magical community does not want to go down that path (I hope). But I do think we need to have a common lexicon of some sort. How this may come about is beyond me, but perhaps some of the wiser MOTO readers have ideas? I do not think it is an impossible task, only an improbable one. After all, we do have a collaborative Initiate’s Bill of Rights and Responsibilities – perhaps we could do a similar project to create a common lexicon?

Naturally I have my own ideas on adepts and wot all. I go into them at length in my forthcoming By Names and Images, so will not repeat them here. Suffice to say that I seem to be in broad agreement with the majority of GD forum posters in saying that we have gone beyond the old Victorian model of an adept being all sweetness, nice and beyond all human foibles and vices. I think Morgan Drake Eckstein sums it up best when he wrote:

Adepts are created from ordinary men and women, and we remain ordinary men and women despite our Adeptship.

Lineage and lies

"That's a lineage!"

Over on Gleamings from the Golden Dawn there was a little discussion that got me thinking about lineage some more. Now I have written a whole, nice neat post on this before, which I still kinda like. However, obviously the lineage question has not been too important for me ‘cos I missed an important point all these years. This is best illustrated in this fictional example of the Enclave of Real Magicians (ERM).

ERM have lots of neat secret techniques available in the higher grades. They also claim a nice lineage going back several hundred years when they evolved, legitimately, out of the Rosicrucian Order of Scunthorpe (ROS – I said it was fictional 🙂 )

However, in reality the ERM was a breakaway from ROS in 1825. One Trevor Tippet, a senior ROS Adept got pissed off after someone ate his junket at the Festive Board. He took umbrage, all his papers and students and formed ERM. Mr Tippet had received all the ROS initiations and had, let’s say, 75 per cent of papers and spiritual transmissions on offer throughout ROS. Naturally, when he comes to write the History Lecture for the new ERM he does not mention the bit about the junket. So later students do not know about it at all.

The ROS, being a secret order, cannot tell people that ERM is an illegitimate order (i.e. not charted) without revealing their own presence and history (and the fact someone in their order is a junket thief). They cannot contact all the potential new students ERM could attract, and so ERM grows without a legitimate charter. Come 2012, ERM is armed with secret teachings, 75 per cent of ROS spiritual transmissions and a false history, which cannot be disproven.

Now unless we simply assume and assert that real adepts would not break from their mother order (which is simply not borne out in history), we have an interesting conundrum on our hands.

Even if ROS was to blog post about ERM only firing on three cylinders (only 75 per cent of transmissions), they cannot prove it without providing evidentiary shared space-time papers, memos etc. which, being secret they cannot reveal. They also can not reveal the additional 25 per cent of transmissions ERM lacks.

And more to the point, how do we know ROS was never a breakaway from some other original order?  

Think about it. How do we know any of the ancient and venerable orders on display today were not originally rogues? They write their own histories after all. It’s not like there’s a peer review process 🙂

How do you know your order is not in the same boat?

How do you know the Secret Chiefs who give your order secret and higher teachings are not really from an ERM type order?

Secret Chief from Atlantis

Of course, we cannot know. Evidence of any secret teachings, spiritual transmissions I might receive in the higher grades mean nothing with regard lineage, because as we have seen ERM has a lot to offer.

In reality, the whole concept of lineage meaning anything at all breaks down, unless it is well documented, verifiable paper lineage along the lines of Masonic charters. Not, as I said in my original post on lineage, that there’s anything wrong with that.

The way of discerning the validity of any group or order just has to be what work, what teachings and spiritual changes they offer. And when these cannot be scrutinised at will by the outsider, the only discernment a prospective member can fall back on is how the teachings have affected the public adepts of the order or group in question. Do these people display at least common sense, compassion, courtesy, intelligence and a spiritual presence? Are their published works useful, coherent and expanding the tradition or simply repeating the same stuff for hundreds of pages? However, as evidenced time and time again, these good solid qualities are often displayed by people claiming no lineage and absent in those claiming lineage.

So, even if I were to receive an invitation into the order behind the original GD or behind the original Rosicrucians, I could never know the real history and legitimacy. I would still have to discern the people and processes I come across, not accept anything on blind faith. Nuff said 🙂



  1. Mike Howard · February 17, 2012

    I can’t speak from the criteria of Golden Dawn initiations or grades as it is not my tradition, but the mundane definition of an adept is someone who is skilled and proficient at what they do. It comes from the Latin ‘adipisci’ meaning ‘to obtain or attain’. In occult and magical terms of course it has taken on a far more grand, glamorous and mysterious aura. As to how you recognise an adept – in days of yore I was told by my first occult teacher, Madeline Montalban of the Order of the Morning Star, that if somebody called themselves an adept it meant they weren’t! Mike

  2. alexsumner · February 17, 2012

    Lineage is bunk. End of.

    A point I make in my own blog post, The L Word

  3. Arcad · February 17, 2012

    We surely need a lot of defining terms. When it comes to linage, there is a lot of belief involved. Of course there are those who state that there is enoug evidence but at least at my level I am not able to follow those. Also it seems one has to be an Adept and to be worthy to be given and initiated into the new material comming from the Third Order, which again leaves anyone else and below official Adept status (whatever that means) in teh dark. Specifically those who are on the quest and interested in teh Tradition (define) have to go with the word given and trust or believe without being able to see any proof or being in any state of determine the validity of the claims at all. Also statements like these: “You can’t practice Hermetic spirituality without the Hermetic tradition, no matter how good your contact with your Divine Genius is. The Third Order is the bearer of the TRADITION” do not help here. (statement from one order’s head in one of the forums). Although this order always states that they welcome diversity in the community etc, this makes it very clear where everyone stands. If you claim that you are the only one in contact with the Third Order and you claim that this order is teh only bearer of the tradition which sets the precondition for practicing hermetic spirituality, then there are no questions left. Following the so much liked comparing the GD community with modern fiction, this is the Highlander approach to the whole question. There can be only one. The rest is just for fun.

    I would indeed wish that we would see an agreement about teh definition of terms like Tradition, Linage (maybe thjis is too much), Adepthood etc. It would still leave room for disagreement or defending own positions of course. But it would make clear that everyone is talking about the same thing at least. I have my doubts though that everyone is interested to share the same definition of terms since it may been easyer and more comfortable for arguing and defending (and that is not refering to one specific group or person).

  4. Peregrin · February 20, 2012

    HI Mike – yes, I agree with that in lots of ways. Though I shudder when I mention her name, it’s similar to what Maggie (Thatcher, not Simpson) said about being a powerful – “if you have to tell people you are, you aren’t”. 🙂

  5. Peregrin · February 20, 2012

    @Alex – nice and simple, thanks. You gonna respond to GH Fr SR’s rebuttal on his blog? 🙂

  6. Mike Howard · February 20, 2012

    Now that the Thatcher woman has been mentioned this blog needs exorcising!! 🙂

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