More questions I’m afraid…
It is funny how coincidences work. The night after a conversation with a few colleagues at work concerning matters recondite, I find myself testing a new home video program by randomly clicking video files. Suddenly I am beholding Robbie Coltrane in Cracker talking about the exact topic we were discussing.
As part of a lovely exchange with a local priest, the antihero Fitz is lampooning traditional Catholic doctrine concerning priesthood. Put simply, once a person is a priest they are ordained by God to administer the sacraments. The capacity to stand in persona Christi however has nothing at all to do with the qualities of the priest. They could be nice or nasty, wonderful or a wanker. They could commit enraged rape and murder on Saturday night but when they preside over the Mass the wafer will still become the body of Christ. This is because God will not punish the Sunday faithful (by keeping the wafer as bread) on account of the sins of their priest. Nice.
With doctrines like this it is easy to see why secularists roll their eyes at us sacramentalists. However, the alternative view opens a large can of worms. If a priest by his or her actions can lose their qualifications to administer the sacraments, what is the cut off point? Can they be openly racist? If not, is a little soft racism ok? Can they have a quick look at porn on Saturday night and still be fine for Sunday morning but not pick up a drunk sex partner at a club? Are the verboten qualities universal and trans-cultural or temporal and specific. For example, I am sure any list of such things a century ago would have included homosexual sex whereas today it would only be on some lists.
The only way we can make sense of such questions is by viewing the administration of the Sacraments as an ability not an ordained qualification, which is a big no-no for the Church as it leads to a creeping sense of magic. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. In the ability model it is the consciousness, skills, contacts and subtle body makeup and structures that allow a priest to consecrate in persona Christi. These can be affirmed or developed at ordination but they most certainly can also be hindered or lessened due to unhealthy spirituality, abuse, damaging hallucinogenic drug use etc. I doubt there would be many magicians who would say that from a magical perspective a priest could indulge in a druggie sex-rape orgy on Saturday night and conduct a consecration without problems on Sunday morning.
Still what about less gross distortions of the spirit? My original Imperator was from England and voted for Thatcher! (a fact I discovered after initiation) :) I am sure the inner work he conducted at my initiation was not marred by his conservative politics. Well, pretty sure.
The Golden Dawn
Seriously however, the officers in the Golden Dawn, particularly the Hierophant, do a lot of tinkering and manipulating of the subtle bodies of the candidates during initiation. Is their magical ability to do this lessened, distorted or hampered by personal actions and choices? Would they be able to get high, take home an anonymous drunk sex-partner from a club, roger them rigid on a Saturday night and still be able to perform a neophyte initiation OK on Sunday?
During the neophyte initiation there is a particularly potent component when the Hierophant moves as the Elder Horus to stand and stamp atop the Evil Triad of the candidate, hindering the evil force. This is a crucial and pivotal part of the initiation and the new mode of spiritual awareness being instilled into the candidate. If it is not done properly things can go awry. I have seen firsthand the sad result for a group of Gnostic magicians of a Hierophant who did not do any inner work at this point and it is not pretty.
Equally though, can a Hierophant do this inner work effectively if they have not in some measure, controlled and put down their own personal evil triad? Will the presence of the godform and the Order’s egregore be enough? Personally, I think not.
This of course ties in with the oft quoted idea of Carl Jung’s*, that we can only help someone to the extent we ourselves have plumbed and healed the depths of the issues they are now facing. This principle is one of the reasons why only those of the Inner Order in the GD were given the role of initiators. Theoretically this means the our initiators are exemplars of the way forward, at least to some extent, even if not perfect. I think this is all well and good. However, the action of some Order’s senior members show the extent of the persistence of the notion that the simple act of Installation as Hierophant is sufficient, no matter what personal actions the Hierophant takes – kinda like the rapist priest mentioned above. What do you think? Thanks :)
* I have no idea if he really said this.