Friday, November 23, 2012

RITUAL MAGIC 101: Playing at Magic?

Nick Farrell today published an interesting and thought provoking article called "Playing at Magic." You can read this article here.

Below you will find a few quotes I consider important.

Nick Farrell writes:
“The number of people out there who say they have had no teachers, but have actually experimented with heavier ceremonial magic techniques is frankly alarming. It shows, amongst other things, a level of arrogance and a belief that they are so important that training within an esoteric school is not necessary for them. They have the answers already because they have read about it. But it is not as if they have really studied, or done regular meditation work to reach that state. After playing around with systems they did not completely master, they have just moved onto something else..." - Nick Farrell
Nick really struck a nerve this time that has implications in the entire esoteric community. Clearly the age of information does indeed have negative consequences as well as positive ones. As I have written  over and over lately, the whole "do it yourself" mentality that has become so prevalent in recent years when it comes to Magic is rather alarming. I am really happy to see Nick Farrell addressing this problem as well.

Why is it that in the esoteric community so many people think that the powerful methods of magic, alchemy, and spiritual growth are the one area of life that requires no teacher? This is the one area where it counts the most! We are dealing with our eternal Soul. We are dealing with forces that can literally make a person insane.

Who really wants a a physician that “did it themselves” without the constraints of some authoritarian dictating what they learn? Do you want a surgeon that read some books and uses what “works best for him?” Do you want a mechanic, plumber, electrician, or any other professional that “did it themselves?” If given a choice between a professional who was trained by experts or who “did it themselves,” which would you choose? Which do you want to be?

Nick Farrell continues:

"One of the downsides of the modern age is that beginners have access to more information than they used to and this makes “dabbling” much easier than it was before." 
"You can usually tell if someone is playing at magic by their tendency to do a lot of different systems, often employing them all at once... But not one of them has focused on a training system to be any good at it, and none of them amounts to much when it comes to magic." - Nick Farrell
I fully agree with several of the arguments presented in Nick's article. Clearly the matter of magical “dabblers” is indeed problematic. I have discussed Nick's article with a number of Alpha Omega and H.O.G.D. members today, and some of them added interesting insights to the discussion. 

For example, this morning Frater E.P.A. a Neophyte (0=0) in our outer order, the H.O.G.D., in a private email wrote to me today:

"I think there are actually two catagories of dabblers:
     1. Those who like dabbling and 

     2. Those who dabble while seeking a Path. 

"Dabblers" who are seekers buy the books from popular authors, they try some of the methods, but ultimately those books do not represent a curriculum. No book is a Path. They are merely a stone or an oasis on the Path. A college uses books; there are no colleges IN a book. A few are lucky and join an Order in the beginning of their search and stick with it. They have a temple nearby with a trained Hierophant and in a few years they are a magician. But what about those people with no temple? No Hierophant? No teacher? By definition, they dabble. They must. I feel very passionately about this because ... 


- Frater E.P.A.
To those who "dabble" merely because they like "dabbling," I wish you the best of luck!

Those "dabblers" who are also "seekers," however, I see you as a an essential part of the esoteric community. In fact, it for seekers like you that the Alpha Omega exists to help. You kept trying. You have read the books, you took the courses, you practiced one thing and then another. You are devoted, but lost, souls wandering in the labyrinth, groping in the dark to find the hardened Path.

While the A.O. is certainly not the only Path out there, it is one that is well-worn, easy to follow, and well-lit with the Light. After all, isn’t this “dabbler” exactly the one being addressed in the Neophyte Ritual?

We must face one sad reality though. Even among "seekers," not everyone is ready for the commitment it takes not only to enter the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, but also to graduate and go on to advanced studies in the A.O.'s Second Order, the R.R. et A.C.

It is precisely for "dabblers" who are also "seekers" that the Alpha Omega launched our 1,000 Points of Light initiative. We began by encouraging you to create your own Personal Altars and Personal Temples. Next we created for you, the "Ritual Magic 101" series of articles here on the Golden Dawn Blog as well as live "Ritual Magic 101" Webinars in 8 languages around the world.

The truth, however, is why there aspects of Ritual Magic that can only be taught in person. This is why are coming to you the 2012 Golden Dawn World Tour, and bringing you "Ritual Magic 101" to you - up close and personal - in a series of live Workshops around the globe. For those ready for a serious commitment to their spiritual growth, here is also be an opportunity for traditional Golden Dawn initiation. On our preliminary itinerary, there are presently cities in 5 countries across 3 continents where we will carry the light of the Golden Dawn.

In short, whenever "dabblers" are ready to put aside that part of their life and finally BE the magician they have wanted, or pretended, to be for so many years, the Alpha Omega is here waiting to help you further, regardless of the level of commitment you are ready to make.

Alpha Omega Imperator, David Griffin
Imperator David Griffin
HOGD AO 33 95


  1. Hi David -

    Actually, as someone who is, for the most part, self-taught, I found Nick's article to be rather insulting. He has created a "straw man" of the dabbler, like Goethe's Sorcerer's Apprentice, who was haplessly incapable of doing anything correct because his training was so woefully inadequate.

    There are a lot of self-trained magicians out there in the world today, and in fact, most of the magicians that I know, even including those who belong to occult organizations are mostly self-taught and self-directed. This is because competent magicians have achieved their results due to their own personal efforts, discipline, experimentation and individual accomplishments.

    I have also met individuals who were spoon-fed and supposedly trained by some lodge or another and who were actually quite incompetent. What makes someone a good magician has a lot to do with individual initiative, inspiration, and steadfast application of a foundational discipline. There is no guarantee that a Golden Dawn or Thelemic magician will be competent just because he or she received extensive training.

    Also, it would seem that because the public knowledge of magick has a far greater audience than any organization could possibly cope with, it would seem that the future will have vastly more self-made magicians than those supposedly properly trained by hermetic organizations.

    Sane and rational experimentation, having a loosely defined peer group, and developing a consistent and continuous spiritual and magical discipline is the real key to a mastery of magic. This is true regardless of whether or not the magician received training within an organization. Learning to be creative and "thinking outside of the box" are techniques that can't really be taught - they must be individually mastered and thereby use certain innate talents.

    While I applaud the outreach that HOGD is undergoing for those "thousand points of light," there is a place at the table for the self-made magician as well, and in fact, they will soon be far more numerous than a thousand points of light, more like a sky full of stars.

    The best thing that can be done for these so-called dabblers (I prefer to call them experimenters) is to make more foundational lore available to them either through published materials or online articles. I believe that I have and continue to engage in both of these efforts.

    I will be responding to Nick's article in the very near future, but I do find his arrogance, hubris, and condescending attitude to the self-taught and self-directed to be quite obnoxious. It is, in word, the smirking, sneering face of the entitled pedigreed whining and complaining about the unwashed masses. Yet I have found much of Nick Farrell's writings to be quite lacking, all despite his supposed training and guidance by the hands of a superior adepti.

    Regards -

    Frater Barrabbas

  2. Care Frater Barrabbas (Dear Bryan):

    Thanks for sharing.

    First off, I want to repeat what I said in the article above. I do not share the negative view of "Dabblers" contained in the article that motivated this one. There are many "dabblers" who are also "seekers" and it is for these people that the Alpha exists and for whom we are creating one program after the other to help them become Magicians and not just practice Magic.

    Let us be clear that My position is NOT that Self-Initiation is completely impossible. In my opinion, you are living proof that Self-Initiation and self trained Magicians are indeed possible.

    My fear of Self-Initiation though is someone can easily portray a magician without ever really becoming one. If someone learns to portray a magician perfectly, they may trick themselves and waste a lifetime living a delusion.

    You Brian, are a perfect example that true Self-Initiation and self-training indeed ARE possible. But how many Frater Barrabases are there out there - compared to the number of people that, despite everything, waste years trying to figure stuff out on their own, while picking up bad magical habits in their training along the way that later will take even years to unlearn?

    You are a highly exceptional individual, Brian, in many senses. For example, you have extrordinary self-discipline combined with a sharp, discerning mind, and you also have the benefit of your initiation and training in the Alexandrian tradition.

    Obviously, true Self-Initiation IS possible, just like it is possible to to achieve self-education to graduate level at home. Self educatino involves a cost in terms of self-discipline and honest self-examinatioin that most people are not ready or willing to pay, however.

    And this still does not negate the value of a good University!

    And even under the best of circumstances, try to get a job with a self-education. Can a self taught man really compete with University graduates effectively tin he real world job market. There are reasons why employers in the real world value University degrees over self education.

    Let's be clear.

    I am certainly not saying the Alpha Omega is the "only" or the "best" school of Ritual Magic. I am only saying that our teaching methods are proven and that, when it comes to Ritual Magic education, a good Order fills the same function as does a good University.

    David Griffin

  3. There are also many who fall between the cracks of this division - e.g. those who taught themselves the basics, then were taught some disciplines in an organization - maybe "form corrections" to improve on what they were already doing, then found the org ultimately lacking, and thus BECAME "dabblers"... all over again...

    Many later find another organization that can take them beyond their current level - experience making them a little clearer on how to choose an organization that really suits them. This is also a surprisingly large demographic in the wider community.

    To be honest, most organizations have such deep issues of tangled groupthink and disrespect for "lower" Grades, that the dabblers learning poor methodology through flawed books are often doing themselves a favor in the long run! Damage done by "teachers" with an inflated ego can outweigh that from inferior instructional material.

    Provision of an Order with a proven pedigree and solid instruction by well tested tutors is one of the great achievements of the HOGD/A+O.

    What Frater Barrabas is undertaking is equally challenging, as he says:

    "Sane and rational experimentation, having a loosely defined peer group, and developing a consistent and continuous spiritual and magical discipline is the real key to a mastery of magic." With a need for access to "foundational lore"...

    All of this is provided in a good Magical Order structure. Replicating that via the Internet where everyone and anyone has an opinion that gobbles up bandwidth... is not an easy task. Not everyone is providing the same standard of guidance as Frater Barrabas!

    It is great to see his writings in the Research Center Journal - but who else is there among the self-initiated that have grown to warrant such acceptance?


  4. I do basically agree with Mr. Farrell's opinion in this matter. But on the other hand his latest statemenst makes me somewhat confused, as he has set himself as a prime example of someone who publishes (or profanes depending on your outlook on these things) entire initiation ceremonies and documents of MacGregor Mathers' A.O., with the purpose of creating DIY Temples. What is wrong with this picture?


    1. After reading the quotations of Farrell I had the exact same reaction as Sincerus Renatus. How can he justify his publication of Mathers' documents?