Path of Initiation

γνῶθι σαυτόν

– 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.]


6 Replies to “Path of Initiation”

  1. >refusing to answer direct questions such as >which orders have you been previously/currently >been affiliated with93 Ironically it was on this criteria I was recently refused interview with a Golden Dawn order…Having worked in a sustained and dedicated way with a Thelemic social order (ie not a training order in the sense of the GD or the A.'.A.'.) for about six years i decided to pursue a specifically magickal training with aquisition of skills corresponding to grades. I initially approached a GD order who turned me down flat pre interview after hearing I had been committed to a 'Thelemic' order for 5-6 years. One would think that would be a good thing! But i was told that I was on a path, the GD and Thelema are incompatiable, and basically no chance. Having worked with the irish Order of Thelema, and its predecessor the OTOF Irish Kingdom, I went through a process of contact, conversation, meet and greet and an outer court process of learning about each other. Even had i not chosen to be a member of the order, or if the Order had decided i was not a desirable candidate, a lot of human contacts were built up over that provisional meet, greet and probationry period that would have continued long beyond.My experience with such an online application process as you describe above for your Dublin temple was met in this GD order when a single individual read who i was, expressed their bias against Thelemites, and on the basis of a single e-mail decided I was undesirable (I replied but recieved no further response). I experienced this as humanly unpleasant and created a situation that would make future fraternal contact with this person difficult (because of a lack of response mainly, though also because of the judgement of the mystical/ religious alignment with Thelema- what does belief have to do with membership in a magickal training order?) Since being rebuked in this way by the GD order i have approached the A.'.A.'. who have a similar probationary interaction. Although I get your point in the above, I do not share your enthusiasm for this kind of interface. When i approached an Order I dealt with people on a human level who took the time to get to know me, and I am glad to still call many of them friends as well as collegues in the great work today.Taking the time builds a society of mutual respect (every man and every woman is a star)and even if a person and an order dont fit together, it allows continuing mutual respect and perhaps even collaboartion in the Great Work.93/93Frater Docet Umbra |

  2. Ave Frater DU,Thank you for the considered post.I'm struggling to compose a response since my initial post was on the process of online applications and the associated faux pas' people make when filling them out and proceeding to interview.It sounds like you were honest and upfront about everything which is no more than anyone can ask. Unless such reviewers decide to publicly explain why they refused you (doubtful as you can imagine) its all conjecture from here. I don't pretend to represent MOAA on this blog, its a personal space, which makes it harder for me to gauge why any GD Order would refuse on the grounds of religious affiliations. There is undeniably a strong vein of bias between GD and Thelema which cuts both ways and has been around for a long time. It is a crying shame that the two can't be more fraternal as you say.What I would point to is that the GD historically has never had an "outer court" element to it to facilitate interaction between initiates and non-initiates like you have with the Irish Order of Thelema. MOAA has what we term antica (plural of anticum) which are for non-initiates but I'd be wary of calling it a social gathering either. It's part of the path to initiation in our Order rather than a distinct social order. I'm currently unaware of nay other GD Order using a similar set up, most seem to use Open Days or some such.

  3. 93 Niall,Your initial post also included a 'this is how we do things' in terms of applications, and a wee bit at the end on the whole question of technology and the mage, so my main point was that there is no substitute for personal contact. The event of my rejection was not the point (I feel no need for explanation from those I applied to) but I was using my experiences to reflect on the potential pitfalls of online application, the benefits of longer term interactions and give a view of another way of doing things in differently structured orders.Antica, as concieved of in the MOAA sounds very promising as a way to interface with potential initiates, as well as built peripheral fraternal relations. i look forward to hear of such events as i would most likely attend. As formal events they would also serve to inform as much as act as social foci, so serve the purposes of a magickal order admirably. In a way the two are not comparable, as the Irish Order of Thelema, and other similar orders like the OTO are fraternal and socially active (both in the membership and in the world) and not teaching orders in the sense of a GD order (more withdrawn on all levels of activity – Speech in the Silence).Outer court work, classes run by initiates, social meets etc. have served our work well. Athough GD orders have not done such activities in the past, nor even Antica (also an innovation), new, and as I understand it, progressive GD orders (as I would understand the impulse of the MOAA as not practicing the same ritual of Mathers GD) have new potentials in how things get done. This may not even be desired within such an order, as if something isn't broken, dont fix it, but its always good to have a counter image…Fraternally yours93/93Frater Docet Umbra |

  4. Ave D.U.Yes I made use of MOAA's online application process but only because I know from personal experience that other Orders operate a similar format and I felt it important not to illustrate with other Orders lest people digress and feel obliged to comment on them.While seem to have digressed somewhat anyway I would like to pick up on something you mention in your response and that is the question of whether online ought to be the ONLY method of interaction. I should also explain my interest in this debate is semi-academic too. I'm studying new media as part of my course, which looks at how we use new media technologies such as the internet. While any theorist will explain that the internet does affect the ways in which we interact i.e. we have international magical orders with websites and blogs. I waited to see modern Orders using Facebook pages and twitter and with Facebook at least The Irish Order of Thelema did not disappoint. Where people go magical orders are bound to follow.From an academic perspective there is an argument to be made that MOAA's own antica and the outer court systems of modern covens and orders is a reaction to this 'hypertextuality' online. It's so new that much like the telegrams of the late Victorian era we find people examining them with regard to older mythos, while it is fiction a reading of Dracula by Bram Stoker does illustrate this point. People were terrified of new media back then as it was set to change the landscape of the world. Much like Victorian England I suspect that while many of now would crave simpler times the new media of our generation is here and we are using it and Orders will to.I also don't feel that new media needs to be a threat against human interaction. Reverting to MOAA or indeed the IOT as examples the process of contact online be it application or simple email is aimed at contacting likeminded folk for meeting in person. With MOAA as a GD group people will be seeking initiation so this will affect how they construct their emails and applications, even if one is contacting IOT for a social gathering they will construct their emails and Facebook messages appropriately. This is the other angle my post dangles around but doesn't address very successfully, appropriateness since we shouldn't presume familiarity with a recipient I think it's a good idea to make practical use of the Subject field like with a letter to remind oneself why you are scribing the email or application. Students have used this method for years magically and mundanely so I say roll with it.I would reassert that much of this is theory from sociology of the media. It might serve to clarify some of my points better but I feel I'm dropping the ball on your address about the benefits of longer interactions with potential candidates. My issue is that while I suspect the Golden Dawn to follow people the motif being used is that of Light and us as people following it. You can change aspects of interaction but remembering the roots of the tradition are still present, we might relate through modern eyes but we're not talking about replacing our own roots surely? If so whats the point of Order membership in the first place?Dunno about you but this has sparked cascading questions and queries for me. I think I shall retire for a moment to pause.Thank you again.LVX Níall

  5. 93 This has proved a most interesting interaction! I suppose through having a blog and an online presence I have become part of the rat race. As you have pointed out there is the phenomena of esoteric orders (not all esoteric orders are magickal orders) having blogs and websites as faces, but few enough have deeply interactive media such as forums, facebook and twitter pages. Those who do tend to be those like the (c)OTO and Irish Order Of Thelema, which is to say social rather than teaching orders. A social order is not necessarily the debased 'boys club' of exoteric freemasonry, but can be people combined in striving and working for social change. The trend for instant access and the ability to e-mail Orders for membership has led to spurious affiliations and a very high drop out rate. For a magickal order this is less than useful as it congests the lower grades of a teaching order without the support in the higher grades to cover the student needs.There are essentially three types of order – (1)affiliating orders like the BOTA, AMORC, OMCE (though without the financial dues) and so on who require no more than financial commitment and they continue to consider you a member and send you teachings. Although there are lodges, the vast majority of the membership are peripheral and not lodge based. Often dont have any interview/ vetting process.(2) The second is the order which is a magickal school in so far as it may have written and distributed teachings, but its students are accompanied by tutors who see that they work, and if not boot them. These orders usually lead towards initiation, may have lodge work and although they may have distant members geographically, all are pulling sufficient weight that there are no 'peripheral' members as in 1 that don't soon drop out. Strict vetting process based on applications.Finally there are solely lodge based orders, who pass on oral teachings and initiations, but do not have the more 'mail order' aspect. One is either in or out, involved or not involved, and although there are individual circumstances, the order has consistent membership. This includes orders like the various Martinist orders, and the Society of the inner Light (though the latter has a kind of outer court aspect). Contact almost always personal and through interview for membership and perhaps probationary contact with some of orders work.The structures of such orders also affect how they are approached. For example, there are lineages of Martinism that you can hardly find mentioned online never mind contacting them. There are also orders, like the outer college lineage of the A.'.A.'. that have a web presence but have no online contact information and one must send them a letter for membership. i personally think this is wonderful and i'm sure it has deterred many who do not respect the 'content' of the approach because it is so 'easy' through digital media. i'm sure this order has lost potential approaches because such candidates rather find a lineage with an e-mail address. I'm sure they're happy not to have such candidates though!I think if one looks at some of the above categories (which cover more teaching than social orders) one sees very different modes of contact. I always think its a bad sign if you can go on an Orders website and become a member by merit of paying for it via paypal/ credit card etc. I'm fine with online payment, but where there is no vetting, there are no standards. A mixed rant today and not quite sure if its coherent, but works a bit in the direction of comparative contact and approach methods and the question of online interface for different 'kinds' of orders. We should have a chat about this some day! 93/93Frater Docet Umbra ~

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