Saturday, December 1, 2012

Esoteric Orders, Self-Training & Mental Instability

by Golden Dawn Imperator
David Griffin

The discussion about relative virtues of self-training and formal Order training continues across the Blogosphere!

The latest contribution to this discussion comes once again from Frater Barrabbas, in an intriguing article you can read here.

When it comes to Magic, there are many important arguments for a formal training system. One of these is mental well-being. I mention this because of an email I received this morning from H. Soror D.N.

Regardie and others have discussed this issue, but I still don’t think it gets the attention it deserves. Soror D.N. writes:

"Frankly, I wish a lot of the material in the public domain was not available. It stands to reason that if psychology can resolve insanity, it can also create it. I have never encountered so many lunatics as I do on occult forums. It seems a lot of people who are mentally disturbed are attracted to the occult. Perhaps it is the self-administered occult methods contributing to it. Fully ¼ of the people I meet in this area seem to be borderline schizophrenic.

I have met people who tell me they conjure archangels to have beers with and discuss the universe. Not in visualization, but in real, tangible, physical form! That is schizophrenia, not magic (I think)." - H. Soror D.N.
In the Alpha Omega, we far too often receive admissions applications from individuals who appear psychologically unstable. As a rule, we reject these applications. The Magical flower blooms best on a firmly rooted psychological tree, and the mission of the Alpha Omega is Magical rather than psychological.

I was most fortunate to have a licensed psychotherapist, Cris Monnastre, as my initiator in the outer order. She superbly guided me through very real potential psychological pitfalls in the initiatic process of the Golden Dawn's outer order. Good Hierophants are very important.

It would be ideal if each Order had a psychologist specializing in such matters on staff. We are fortunate in the Alpha Omega to have G.H. Frater Sincerus Renatus, who is a trained psychotherapist.

I have therefore asked G.H. Frater S.R. to comment on the above, since this issue receives far too little attention in the Golden Dawn community.

Sincerus Renatus writes:

Sincerus Renatus
"I basically agree with the (above) assesment about the amount of seriously mentally disturbed people seeking initiation and the occult arts; I have had my share of that in the Sandinavian jurisdiction of the A.O. ... I have had significant direct experience of this before and have barred several people initiation because of symptoms ranging from clinical depression to autism, etc. As a psychotherapist I know how to spot them, but sometimes they are good at hiding their symptoms until it is too late... 
My conclusion and experience says that it is not magical practices 'per se' that create “lunatics” in the occult community, but rather it is mentally disturbed individuals who seek magic and initiation in hope of being healed from their condition. You also find this in professional education of psychologists and therapists, where there is an overrepresentation of mentally disturbed individuals seeking that kind of training in hope of being remedied themselves. 
Magical techniques, because of their very nature to open up and putting down borders in the psyche, only augment these symptoms. The initiatic process of disintegration, separation and purification, followed by reintegration (solve et coagula) have a direct, damaging effect on indivuduals who lack a basic integration of their psyche; borderline schizophrenics or individuals with asperger’s syndrome, or other dissociative disorders, will only become crushed under the intense pressure that initiation creates. I am 100% convinced that initiation and magic cannot be a substitution for psychotherapy if you are experiencing mental disorders. There has to be at least a basic level of integration of the psyche. I always ask my candidates if they are diagnosed with psychic disorders, etc. I also ask specific questions to try to spot them ..." - GH Frater Sincerus Renatus
On the relative virtues of training on one's own or within an Order structure, note how the military has unpublished training methods that are kept secret for a good reason. Even with all the former soldiers running around, those secrets remain secret, for the most part. Additionally, even with all the information on war fighting and martial arts, very few can train themselves to effectively prosecute a battle.

Available information does not equate to a system of training. If having information available was all that matters, millions of dollars would not be spent on finding the best coach for a professional team or the best CEO for a company. The teacher and leader of an organization make the difference entirely. Anyone who disagrees doesn’t pay attention to professional sports.

The argument Frater Barrabbas puts forth against formal Orders is limited. Yes, all the things he offers are potential drawbacks to an Order. However, safeguards can be put in place to avoid those limitations. If those safeguards fail, students can still walk, as they did with the Esoteric Order of the Golden Dawn - en masse - two years ago.

However, the problems inherent in self training cannot be eradicated. Data is not information and while people can learn, most cannot usually effectively self-instruct. There is little information that isn’t public about medicine and surgery; however nobody is taking the self-physician approach for a reason. Corporations are cesspools of human troubles but our limited minds have yet to find a better approach to building an international system for the design, production, selling, and support of complex products.

I again agree with Barrabbas that most formal Orders will fade, especially unless they rise to the challenges of the 21st Century. This is why the Alpha Omega continuously tries to improve both our curriculum and teaching methods.

Perhaps they will indeed fade, but I also believe that the formal Order structures will also return. The pendulum always swings both ways. With luck, we make a minor improvement each time.

There is no point getting bogged down splitting hairs over the relative virtues of formal Orders and self-initiation. Since I lead an esoteric Order, my position is obvious. 

Jake Stratton-Kent
I laud the achievements of disciplined, self-taught Magicians like Frater Barrabbas and Jake Straton-Kent. Still, I do believe a formal Order has something to offer, or I would not have dedicated my life to helping aspirants to become Magicians. An Order does provide a structured method for incremental growth toward becoming a magician. Whether or not someone could do it on their own is immaterial. 

The Order provides a service; therefore it has a right to exist. Even if I prepared my own meals, I would not advocate for the closing of restaurants nor would I denigrate their purpose. Some people can’t cook or don’t want to. Some people can’t learn on their own or don’t want to. We are here for them, not to satisfy people who have disdain for formal systems.

The Alpha Omega must also face the reality that graduating our outer order, the H.O.G.D. requires a commitment to becoming a Magician that many aspirants are simply not prepared to make.

The A.O. must absolutely continue to support self-initiates and solitary practitioners. In the A.O., we are not interested in building an empire. We are interested in helping to make Magicians - including even those who choose to self-train. 

This is why the A.O. - with our 1,000 Points of Light initiative - is encouraging the creation of Personal Temples, providing articles, and both on-line and in person Ritual Magic instruction, coaching, feedback and support for self-taught and aspiring Magicians. 

This is also why (and this is news!) ...

"The Alpha Omega invites solitary practitioners and self-initiates to the International Golden Dawn Pow Wow in April, 2013!"

At the end of the day, Barrabbas, Nick, Jake, and all the others are striving to help people bring Magic into their lives. The Alpha Omega and other Orders are doing the same. Barrabbas et al. publish materials and reference already published materials to further the cause of Magic. The A.O. does the same thing. Barrabbas et al. experiment to find new and better ways to experience Magic. So does the A.O. Does a formal Order have its drawbacks? Yes. Does going it alone have its drawbacks? Yes.

Ah, the beauty of a free market!

But here is the difference. In an Order, the curriculum has been proven through countless trials. For the most part – it works. A karate school has its ranking system and method of instruction. The military has its boot camp. The university has its curriculum. None of these guarantee perfection, but they all have proven their systems are effective for most people. What does the free-lancer offer? Here are some books, good luck. Maybe the solo occultist excels and replaces Levi in the world. Maybe not.

Formal Orders have one more ace up their sleeve. You can join a formal Order and still “do your own thing.” You get both worlds. By not joining, you get one. As Sun Tzu says, always move toward more options, not fewer.

One recent point of discussion aroused particular passion in certain Golden Dawn members - unhappiness that practitioners are usually required to begin again as Neophytes when they enter most occult Orders. Today, in an email to me, V.H. Frater Q.P. wrote:
"Anyone that cannot set aside their ego to join as a Neophyte is probably not suited for work within an Order. That’s not a put down, it’s just reality. Some people are not suited for corporate work, military service, or married life. That doesn’t mean others aren’t. I spent four years in the Army to become a sergeant and when I enlisted in the Marines I had to go back to being a private and go back to boot camp. That’s just the price you pay. 
Being assigned the title of Neophyte does not take away your “magic powers.” It is a rank within an organization, not a label of self-worth. If I went back to college for a new degree, I would be labeled a Freshman (even though I am almost 50 with a PhD). I wouldn’t be a Freshman because they stripped me of my present knowledge or position in life, but because that’s what we call people in their first year of a particular discipline! 
If Patton resurrected and joined the marines, he would be a private and go to boot camp. If Dion Fortune, William Gray, and Christian Rosenkruntz resurrected and joined the AO, they would be Neophytes. Not because they don’t know anything, but because they are learning the system. These are titles of where you are in a learning system, not representations of self-worth (at least that’s the way I understand it)." - V.H. Frater Q.P.
To this I wish only to add a bit of factual information about the Alpha Omega. We do as a rule require everyone who joins the A.O. to complete our entire undergraduate level, First Order curriculum. However, like universities, we also do have the equivalent of CLEP exams, so if you are a Magician with prior knowledge, you do have the opportunity to test quickly out of the Grades of our H.O.G.D. First Order.

Moreover, even top Universities also at times award honorary PhDs to significant achievers from outside. In the Alpha Omega, we occasionally award an "Honorary Adeptus Minor" (5=6) to advanced Magicians.

Of course, if an honorary Adept wants to pursue post-graduate level, Second Order (R.R. et A.C.) training with us, you will still have to CLEP out of our undergraduate level, First Order. In  any case, we do award you an honorary place in our Second Order, College of the Adepti.

Click here to explore our undergraduate level training program, the H.O.G.D.

Alpha Omega
Making Magicians - Since 1888!


  1. I am pleased with the recent tone of this blog in that it is advancing the cause of magic. Long may it continue!

    Some typos here:

    hiding their symptoms until it is *to* late...
    >> too

    only *argument* these symptoms
    >> augment

    training on one's own or within *and* Order
    >> an

  2. Thanks. I missed those. By the way, since English is not Sincerus Renatus' native language, I think he does pretty darn well!

  3. A couple of questions come to mind from reading this article.

    Is there such a thing as a spiritual malady that manifests and appears as if it were a mundane pyschological pathology? If so, what happens when an "exoteric" pyschologist/psychiatrist tries to wrap their arms around that?

    Is there not such a thing as esoteric psychology, the priniciples of which spring from a more full understanding of the workings of the mind. If so, whey a lay person learns and applies these principles from esoteric sources, is that not a method of self-healing?

    I can understand that those with psychotic disorders would be at a severe disadvantage in an initiatic setting, and that that particular path possibly should not be tread by those unfortunate individuals.

    However, when it comes to mood disorders, such as mentioned by GH FR. SR, when he discusses "clinical depression," where is the cuttoff point? When is dysfunctional too dysfunctional? It seems to me that in some cases, a clearer understanding as to the nature of life and our place in it might actually be therapeutic---you know, truth and light shining on a hitherto misunderstood circumstance that allows wider vision and understanding and synthesis?

    I believe that self-discovery is in itself therapeutic, especially in a world that is full of blinds and darkness. Unfortuately, much of the medical community, to include therapists, are delusional themselves, at least when it comes to the reality as presented by the mysteries.

    Just some thoughts on mental stability and the path.

    1. Solutions often do not generate revenue.

    2. Worse, solutions often negate revenue generation!

      Anyone up for a few Mercury fillings? Who holds patent on those...

  4. There are also very pernicious models of "mental health" that are if anything directed AGAINST the Perennial Tradition. Politicized distortions of "health" based on maintaining "proper consumers" in a predictable social control paradigm.

    We do become increasingly more robust and balanced in our mind and emotions through the processes of the Great Work - but this need not happen in response to SURVIVING it! Ha ha.

    We can make an easier transition with the assistance of NATURAL Therapies, based on removing energetic blockages that generate lack of balance and dis-EASE on an emotional (astral) and mental level.

    There is no ideological basis to such energetic therapies, and maybe no talking at all. Clearing the way for higher energy throughput as a result of the Great Work is a matter then of re-instating the natural energetics of a body-mind unconstrained by external ideological constraints applied through societal and moral pressures.

    Random imprints and shocks applied to us during our early development as a result of ignorance as much as malice, are only going to constrict our ability to MOVE energy as Magicians, especially as the power of that energy be4comes amplified as we reach more refined practices.

    Hermetic Orders can't really be expected to provide full in-house therapeutic intervention of this nature - and there is no need, as there are many skilled healers available.

    What Hermetic teachers CAN do, is to watch for the signs of blockages earthing out into psycho-spiritual reaction patterns, and to guide the student to the right variety of therapy to ease the ordeal.

    With long and gentle Work through the Grades, there need never be a blow-out - but Life also brings harsh shocks and lessons outside the Temple.

    In fact, being part of a Temple, and having Magical PEERS as well as Guides, can help one to avoid so many pitfalls... this is another reason why it is often safer to join an Order.

  5. The history of "Mental Health" treatment is a nightmare. [In the UK they are still dosing elders with respiridone to make them compliant - so what if it causes strokes!]

    I am not so sure that the majority of mental illness is physical in origin. I think that people are pushed into non-ordinary states of being by the warped culture they experience. These are MAGICAL experiences, and the wanderer has no map to guide them and no idea how to get back home.

    Their physical plane issues are often compounded by dangerous drugs given as "treatments" that serve only to make life easier for other people.

    Some treatments do also work, but honestly, a few months with a shaman would be more likely to effect a permanent cure.