Does it matter if my Hierophant’s a plonker?

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.



  1. Dean Wilson · February 22, 2012

    Some good questions.

    This is a difficult one to say, as morality changes from culture to culture and time period to time period. Just as what we considered to be immoral a hundred years ago is often not considered immoral now (homosexuality), we might find that morality will change again over the coming centuries.

    I think the important thing in terms of a Hierophant/Priest and their effectiveness is whether or not they can tap into that which empowers them, if they can assume the godform, and become their role, leaving behind their everyday persona.

    If someone commits rape or murder, or is drunk or drugged up, I think it is almost impossible to initiate someone or conduct a magical mass. These things have to affect the person very strongly and therefore affect their ability to conduct magic.

    More ideological issues, such as political views, should not cause a problem unless, for example, the Hierophant is ultra conservative and is initiating someone who he/she knows is extremely liberal. If he/she cannot leave the politics outside of the temple it could bring in an element of resentment, which would hinder the initiation. This would also show that it is V.H. Frater/Soror X rather than V.H. Hierophant and Osiris doing the initiation.


  2. miriamspia · February 24, 2012

    I really got something out of this. Thank you.

  3. tomandmanfred · February 25, 2012

    I think there’s a lot of confusion over what constitutes “priesthood.”

    However, regardless of conceptions and misconceptions, I don’t think there is anything hindering deity from using someone officiating from being a conduit for divine power, whether or not the conduit spent the previous night banging cocktail waitresses two at a time. Precedence can be found for this even in the Old Testament.

    Many pagans seem to conceive of priesthood in relative terms, i.e. as some sort of office that separates the priest from the normal run of worshiper, as though that were its distinguishing characteristic. Another tendency is to conceive of priesthood as some sort of personal achievement, a matter of accumulating spiritual or magickal merit badges. A few moments’ reflection should reveal that neither notion could possibly be true. Any distinctions between devotees before the gods must be made with reference to the gods, not other devotees — which means that it must be absolute rather than relative; and this in turn means it must refer to a qualitative distinction of a spiritual nature rather than a merely quantitative one. In other words, it can’t be about how much you know or how much mana you can access, but must be about the priest’s own relationship with the divine.

    The distinguishing feature of priesthood — it’s essence, in other words — is consecration. As a ritual tool is consecrated for use solely in ritual, a priest or priestess is a person who is consecrated to divine use. Their lives are no longer their own, but surrendered to the divine to be used as the divine sees fit.

    This is not an attractive notion, in part because it’s difficult and in part because there is no small number of people out there who want to “be priests” and “be priestesses” to satisfy some ego-driven fantasy. They concoct a distorted notion of priesthood that satisfies their desires, and in the process the concept of priesthood is corrupted and its true essence is lost.

    This is not to say that priests and priestesses are perfect — far from it. Consecration of oneself to the divine is a matter of intent, of commitment and fidelity to thereto. A priest or priestess is not a “saint” — not necessarily, at any rate. I imagine the gods are willing to put up with quite a bit of nonsense from priests before revoking their consecrations, simply because they do that with all of us, no matter what our depth of spiritual commitment. So, a priest can sometimes be a total jerk and still be a priest.

  4. J.C. · March 9, 2012

    There is a concept in Catholic Theology (which I had to study in my undergrad studies as a Catholic University) that go beyond even what you have said here. (I wish I could recall some of the details of the Theologians who constructed these ideas, but their recollection is beyond me at this moment.) In Catholic Theology even a persona who is not a consecrated member of the clergy, even an ATHIEST, can perform a baptism so long as they say the words and perform a baptism in proper form.

    I have personal issues with this idea. I do not believe someone with no real connection with God can bestow his blessings, and in some cases there are certainly priests and ministers of various faiths bestowing blessings and giving sacraments, in the names of spiritual forces which they have little relationship with. There are, of course, some priests who have an amazing spiritual presence, and were I a church-going man, I would be looking for such a priest who has a direct line with God, and not someone who just read about Christ, God, and his ministering Angels in the bible.

    When it comes to Golden Dawn work, my opinion in these matters is even much less lenient. It is the sole duty of the Hierophant to invoke spiritual forces in the temple for the purposes of performing a truly spiritual initiation. Without such forces, I don’t think the initiation ceremony is much more than a strange interactive theater performance. And the person these forces rely on the most to be invoked in the temple is the Hierophant.

    If a Hierophant has no relationship with Osiris, their ability to invoke Osiris will be superficial at best. The same can be said of the other myriad of forces and entities that are invoked prior to a Neophyte Ceremony.

    Of course, you’re talking more about morality, and while there may be minor differences between cultures and spiritual traditions, I think they all generally agree on what is “good.” I believe that if a Hierophant is in an unrefined so-called “spiritual” person, it will certainly have an effect upon the candidate, and in some extreme cases upon the fate of the temple or even an order. I believe the same can be said for any person of authority, as we have certainly seen in the Golden Dawn back in the day, as well as in recent history.

  5. Peregrin · March 12, 2012

    Hi JC – thanks for the comments and information.

    Yes, I had forgotten the rules for Baptism are bendable when in extremis – i.e. no priest can be found. I still thought the baptist had to be a good standing Christian though. So, thanks for the new information 🙂

    I agree with your comments re the Hierophant – thanks 🙂

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