Short and sweet – follow the rules

Another gonzo – no edit – post: I recently posted this on my Facebook page:

Free advice for any neophytes / novices / apprentices on my feed: do follow the structure and order of your group / school / coven / lodge. Do not think it doesn’t have to apply to you, or you’re somehow ‘different’. You’re not.

Responses varied with one basically saying that working beyond your grade (my term) is fine, so long as you are doing the work of your grade also. Any magic or practices you do will either not work or produce an imbalanced state from our unconscious that needs to be dealt with anyway.

I’ve heard this argument many times before and it seems a reasonable way of looking at things from the modern liberal, individual mind-set. However, there are – to my mind – clear problems with it. To wit:

THE REALITY OF SPIRITUAL POWERS. The above attitude is only relevant if we consider all the many blessings, beings, angels, powers etc spoken of in our various traditions as ‘within us’ – and any imbalance our presumptive actions produces would be from ‘our unconscious’. Of course traditional Christianity, traditional spiritual magic, traditional (re-booted) Paganism does not think this at all. The beings are real. And to throw in a deliberate ‘don’t do this at home’ warning, this from Israel Regardie quoting an anonymous student:

“The writer of the above method adds a note, which in my opinion is worth paying close attention to; it coincides with my own view as expressed elsewhere.

“There is reason for concern that some students may misinterpret certain of Crowley’s magical writings. For example in Magick in Theory and Practice, Chapter IX, p. 69, he writes: `The peculiar mental excitement required may even be aroused by the perception of the absurdity of the process, and the persistence in it, as when Frater Perdurabo…recited From Greenland’s Icy Mountains and obtained his result.”‘

“Now there is no doubt that the ego, excited to the proper pitch, is capable of placing such a strain in the Astral Light as to cause some sort of manifestation, perhaps even that of the spirit it was desired to evoke (but more likely a phantasm masquerading as such). But without the presence of the Divine Force, such a being, once evoked, cannot be controlled, and there is no effective means of banishing it.

“Depending on the nature of the spirit, and the degree of its manifestation, it is likely that the spiritual progress of the magician is at an end – at least as far as his current incarnation is concerned.”


THE EGO. Let’s seriously think about what is going on here. When we join a spiritual group, take a spiritual director or guide or enrol in an esoteric school we are entering a relationship. We have consciously chosen this; no one forces us. We have consciously chosen to accept their wisdom and advice, because we think they have something we do not have at this time. They can help us unfold, to uncover the true nature of ourselves, the image of the One, who we really are – letting go of sin, or that which we are not. If we then, at some point think, ‘hang on, I think they are wrong’, we have an obligation to be honest and say that. Otherwise we taint that relationship with falsehood and we might as well not go on.

And, if our director or group says, ‘well, thanks for your opinion sunshine, but you still need to do it this way …” we have to accept that. Or leave the relationship. Because we have created a situation where our personal ego knows better than our teacher. And to enshrine the ego as better or more knowledgeable than our teacher or our Order is not a good idea. At all. It encourages all sorts of daft notions. Of course we do not need to do a whole guru-yoga number and listen to all the words and ideas of our teacher as the words of a Master, but we do need to respect them and believe they have more wisdom than us. Otherwise, what’s the point? As my pal Eric sings:

If we call for the proof and we question the answers
Only the doubt will grow

SERVICE. The biggest problem however with the notion that we can do things how we like, even if it damages us, throws us off kilter and makes us learn, and that’s all good, is the question of service. The spiritual life is one of dedicated service. If we go ‘off the rails’ because of our ego choice to do something our curriculum or spiritual director says we should not we have limited our service. Dealing with our ‘unconscious’ (or really-real problematic spiritual forces) means we have to focus on ourselves rather than others – and that is the exact opposite of the spiritual life. What a waste!

At this juncture we can look, cos people often do, at Aleister Crowley. Crowley was BADLY let down by his first teachers, George Cecil Jones and Alan Bennett who encouraged him and joined him in the practice of magic during his outer order years. As I have said, and keep saying, the GD (originally) followed the threefold structure, mirrored in the three Orders, of renunciation of the false self (Outer Order), followed by re-creation of a functional self, as directed by the Divine (who God made us to be) (Inner Order) to eventually embody the revelation of the eternal verities (symbolised by the Third Order). And the fact that the Third Order could never be reached meant something too in this schema.

The dangers of premature magic or depth spiritual practices are real, as are the results which are sadly visible in any modern Neo-Pagan and magical community. Simply put, we cannot use magic or spiritual practices to re-create a self that is still in a process of renunciation. This occurred with Crowley, and whereas once when young he wrote to A.E. Waite seeking advice from someone more experienced and committed to service, Crowley quickly became his own light and own authority. This did not end well. And while is there no doubt of Crowley’s intelligence, drive and originality, these were not realised in service for the world or others. His efforts and talents were misdirected towards his own squalid life and a set of followers and sycophants in Orders which he hoped, paradoxically, would produce enlightenment within the world at large. We can explain this anyway we want, but I apportion some of the blame to magic – too much, too early and too boundless.




  1. Birch Wind · February 24, 2015

    Reblogged this on Terra Spiritus and commented:
    Ahh yes. I liked this post.Quite.

  2. Michael Howard · February 24, 2015

    Your comment about “traditional (rebooted) paganism” is interesting. I have come across neo-pagans (some claiming to follow a humanist path) who don’t believe spiritual beings exist as exterior entities . Instead they are ‘within’ and merely aspects of the human psyche. As somebody who has experienced visible manifestations of spirits that were certainly not aspects of my psyche (and is still progressing magically !) I find this very odd.

  3. Pingback: Why join anything? | Abhainn
  4. Mithrandir Greyholm · February 25, 2015

    Hello Peregrin (nice name),

    Would you elaborate on this: “Simply put, we cannot use magic or spiritual practices to re-create a self that is still in a process of renunciation.”

    Thank you,


  5. Peregrin · February 26, 2015

    Hi Mithrandir,

    Essentially it is saying that magical unfoldment, like any depth spiritual process, is undergone in stages. Only when one is complete can we move to the next. Of course, life is a little more messy than that, but this is the principle.

    We can look at this in the GD and other traditions via the QBL:

    Our body, reactions, intellectual comprehension and emotional apprehension are clarified and purified in the grades of Zelator through Philosophus (as well as another crack at it all in Portal). This is renunciation – we let go of that which we are not.

    After the powerful Adeptus Minor initiation we are now able – with the divine aid – remake these spheres – hence we have Zelator Adeptus Minor through Philosophus Adeptus Minor.

    It is crucial this remaking process is only attempted (a) after connection with the Self and openness to the divine (Adeptus Minor in Tiphareth drawing from the Three Supernals) and (b) after the ‘lower’ spheres have already been ‘loosened’ through the Outer Order.

    If not, disaster can ensue. On a much more mundane level, it would be like attempting surgery without the basics of anatomy or even knowing for sure one was not haemophobic!

    I hope this helps 🙂


  6. Iago Pereira · February 28, 2015

    Hey Peregrin. Thanks for the article!
    I can see how dangerous is to give the lower ego/persona authority over your spiritual path. It’s bad magick to ascribe someone (or a group) the position of embodying truth, and then not act accordingly.
    Could you expand on how does this applies to solitary magicians?
    I mean, in your book, you build a curriculum to emulate GD’s outer order initiations, recommending to the earlier grades practices such as opening greater pentagrams and hexagrams for purposes of scrying, and travel in spirit vision.
    Thank you again!

  7. Peregrin · March 3, 2015

    Hi Iago, THANKS 🙂

    Solitary magicians have it tough. This is why i stress throughout the book the need for (1) slow progress (2) the right dedication of service to the One and the world, (3) correct praxis.

    I also mention the need to replace traditional exoteric religious activity focused on communal service with something else – if not actively religious and engaged in practical compassion.

    Solitary magicians will also need to find, even via the net, solid and sensible ‘elders’ who can correct and help them. There are plenty of wonderful folk who do this, out of the goodness of their own heart, in the GD community now. If one goes onto some facebook groups, becomes discerning, sensible people will appear who can help. Even if one does not find someone, getting a spiritual director of some sorts, from a church etc, is a great idea.

    My curriculum does indeed use a few inner processes in what is essentially the outer. These, IF the requirements above are worked with WELL, are not going to cause problems and will be part of a replacement for the intense blessings stemming from traditional group initiation ceremonies.

    I hope this helps – if not ask more 🙂

    thanks –

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