– Know Thyself
One of the oldest maxim of philosophical thought as espoused by such great thinkers as Plato, Benjamin Franklin and Samuel Coleridge. The premise of this maxim, as it evolves into an axiom, is that by understanding oneself and one’s actions one can better engage life and the world around us. Rendered as “nosce te ipsen” in latin. For those not interested in pursuing a magical or mystical path this may sound like the easiest thing in the world. We grow up listening to our parents, family, friends and our communities informing us who we are in their eyes. This isn’t necessarily a fatalistic perspective for a person as many people cope well in the world and forge wonderful lives for themselves; for others interested in magic knowing oneself or one’s motivations is often understood to be crucial to developing within magic as a paradigm.
Approaching a magical order for initiation might seem simplistic. If you click on the links to their website you will often find an online application form, for applicants to submit their application electronically. See simple! Right? Not so, since we often engage with online media very differently than we do hardcopies of things we may rush through details and maybe even forget ourselves by using shorthand or text-speak. Some people just aren’t strong spellers and this is fair enough but considering this is the first impression many orders and temples have of prospective candidates and depending on the information supplied will determine whether or not an interview will be arranged. It may seem harsh but from my canvassing of various friends in a variety of magical orders its often accompanied by a dialogue online. I mean an Order would need to be pretty hard-faced to not recognise that some people have genuine problems, but nonetheless take your time!
In terms of the applicant it may be the first time or the hundredth time one has applied to a magical order (though if the latter you may want to heed key advice of this blog piece and slow the feck down! Seriously its not a race its a path). Either way just like the function of the magical diary the application allows the applicant to consider carefully where they’ve come from and why they are applying. Gnoithi Seauton – Know thyself in practice. No one’s denying the limitations of words as a form but words are powerful tools which aren’t to be feared. Perhaps its my English student tendencies coming to the fore again but I’m familiar with, though not fluent in other languages like Irish, German and Spanish. If you can’t focus yourself for an application form (which no one likes filling out by the way, so you’re not alone) how can you be focused for an interview? While many Orders say that interviews will be arranged for all applicants no one should assume this when submitting an application. Just like with a job applicant the two are likely to be considered in tandem. Be smart about this folks and don’t waste people’s time. If it helps print it out first and fill it in in pen.
I’ve recently discovered what really drives me cuckoo when looking at applications . They are: incomplete forms/omitting information, refusing to answer direct questions such as which orders have you been previously/currently been affiliated with, and demanding Order related information before initiation to name but a few.
Leaving an application form blank in some respects is actually advisable if you’re not 100% sure you can trust the website. Hopefully filling out the application at all means you’ve considered this and have checked around and so do trust it. For most Orders I doubt it will completely kill your chances (though I promise nothing since I don’t speak for every Order and this is just a personal blog post), but if you decide to leave pieces blank consider whether or not you will feel like disclosing them later when they email for a meeting or even at the interview. It’s about being prepared.
While interviewers like to see people strengthening their egos through the work this does not mean they like to see inflated egos, so if you’re prone to establishing yourself as a god I can confidently say that most sincere occultists will be too busy to stop and feed your ego. This does beg the question of how to strike the appropriate measure of respect and friendliness after the initial contact is made online. First, I would council that a person fill out online forms with due diligence and care. Like magical diaries (if anyone doesn’t keep one really suggest they start, so much help!) forms aren’t intended to get private information on you but to get a sense of who you are. Its just a sense remember, so if you heeded the advice about care and diligence you’ll most likely be successful regardless of whether it was the perfect rendition of who you are. I suggest keeping a copy of it because sometimes reaching the next step can take a while for some Orders. If you don’t hear back don’t panic, wait a week or maybe two and send an email asking for confirmation. Sometimes machines mess up, others human error. Don’t plague the Order but chasing up for confirmation can show a measure of sincerity and commitment which some leaders like to see. (Not sure how I feel about this, naturally if its an accident of the system or servers it’s understandable but I’ve heard rumours of some Orders that do this as standard).
Step two is scheduling an interview. Once again these can be formal or informal my general guideline for this is like a job interview let personality shine through but be focused and polite. No one likes interviews but they are oh so good for you to be introduced to the Order. Its okay to show some personality and even be a little nervous but try not to let that get in the way. (Wow I really feel like I’m the esoteric answer to FÁS – Ireland’s job and skills training group with cliché’s like this! Sorry).
G∴D∴ and New Media
While I might be called presumptuous for suggesting that applicants, of which their are many and various styles and amounts, should consider what it is they are engaging with when they apply online. By this I mean the medium of the information exchange online. Just because the Golden Dawn practices magic doesn’t mean the use of modern technology is moot. Indeed consider for a moment that the ‘Original’ Golden Dawn was founded in 1888 when we had the first development in what some sociologists call new media technology i.e. the telegram and transatlantic postage. The GD (and other Orders of the time) was present for international connection, sure its not the internet but sparked stories like Stoker’s Dracula and theres also an interesting scene when Jane Eyre hears Rochester telepathically! (No, seriously I kid you not!)
The GD is not so past it that the internet should be seen as a secondary element to the process of initiation and therefore inconsequential. While some commentators (muggle and magical alike) might suggest the GD and all magic is merely fanciful re-enactment or nostalgia it is a living tradition that grows with the times around it. This is, in my opinion, its continued strength and appeal to modern day seekers.
Personally I consider it a mark of respect for modern day magicians to acknowledge that they are living in modern times. If anyone’s read my pagan blog you’ll know that while I respect the past I wouldn’t be what one might call a overtly nostalgic. I’m pretty much the same with ceremonialism.
One final piece of advice, Orders are rarely so petty as to reject someone’s application on petty grounds. Sometimes they might feel some maturing is needed others they might feel there is a better suit elsewhere for you to pursue magical and spiritual goals. However, if you’re sure you want to be a member of the __[insert appropriate Order here]__ Order I suggest you take the time of the initial rejection to reflect maybe read up on the history of that Order and the tradition and apply again in some months time. Also keep an eye for other spiritual opportunities such as more accessible events like workshops and talks.
I wish you well on your search!
[NB: post was edited (07/11/2011) to insert some clarity of position. Please accept my apologies for inconvenience to readers and posters alike.]