Monday, January 28, 2013

Astral-Only Initiation: Golden Dawn Leaders Speak Out (Part 1)

The discussion regarding the benefits and limitations of "Astral-only" Initiation has gone on for years in the Golden Dawn community. The fundamental question is whether or not anyone can be exclusively astrally initiated at a distance.

Proponents of Astral-only initiation claim that a group or people (or a Temple) can initiate a person by perfoming a ritual somewhere else for a person separated by geographical distance, allegedly initiating the candidate by reading off their name in Temple during the ritual. Other claims made by proponents of Astral-only initiation include:
  1. Astral Initiation accomplishes everything that traditional Golden Dawn initiation does
  2. The original (pre 1903) Golden Dawn practiced Astral Initiation.
  3. Critics of Astral-only Initiation do not understand that all magick takes place on the Astral Plane.
  4. Astral Initiation helps those who would otherwise not have access to Golden Dawn initiation.
Let's examine what various leaders and members of the Golden Dawn community have said about these claims over the years. To begin with, Donald Michael Kraig, in a new article entitled Ritual and Ritual Theater recently wrote here:
"Some events are both ritual and ritual theater. For example, in the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, initiation rituals involved a group of officers and the initiate. However, there could also be an audience that participated very little in the ritual. So the actual initiation is both ritual and ritual theater. The involvement of others and their energy, as well as the initiate seeing the activity of others and of the temple, makes the very concept of “astral initiations” into the Golden Dawn dubious at best."
There have been numerous other voices in the Golden Dawn community who have spoken out about the ritual theater aspect of Golden Dawn initiation over the years. In March, 2009 Open Source Golden Dawn Chief, Joseph Max, wrote in a post that you can still read here):
"The Hall of the Neophytes is full of much interlocking symbolism designed to have a specific effect on the Aspirant at the point at which they "light up.". Any ritual of High Magic is a work of psycho-dramatic performance art. All Ritual is Drama, as all Drama is Ritual (ask the ancient Greeks.) It is powerful Magic in and of itself.  
So... if the Awakening of the Body of Light *is* Initiation (the first one anyway,) it doesn't matter how it comes about, even spontaneously. But *Golden Dawn* Initiation is a sub-set of this phenomena; it's aimed in a definite and unique direction down a particular Path of Attainment. It comes from the Neo-Platonic tradition of Ritual Drama, so the powerful effects of psycho-drama are part of the system. It's a "play" performed for an "audience" of one. 
Therefore the question comes down to: can a Golden Dawn Initiation, that will effectively awaken the Body of Light AND point the Aspirant down the unique Path the Golden Dawn School follows, be accomplished *without* the live dramatic component, and the personal involvement of the Aspirant in that performance? 
Personally speaking, I think it would be difficult. It's certainly possible to accomplish psycho-dramatic impact with solo visualization (in fact it's one of the things a Golden Dawn school teaches,) but for a rank beginner without any background to do it? That would be a rare talent." 
On the question of the ritual theater aspect of Golden Dawn initiation, Alpha Omega Adept, Sincerus Renatus writes here:
"The ritual is a drama, a play, which also has as a function to impart a though form or cognitive structure into the candidate, a theme so to speak, which gives a tone or atmosphere for the Grade. This has to be experienced live and in person, not read through or imagined in the inner eye. Compare this to reading a novel and watching a stage play; two legitimate artistic expressions but quite different in nature and quality. Full and physical initiation is a stage play of old Greek dramatic proportions."
On this same subject, Golden Dawn member, "Polimetis," writes here:
"[Proponents of Astral-only initiation] always argue that Initiation is not Theatre and is all about the astral (forgetting, as you say, the importance of basic psycological and emotional impact!)? Well, actually, ancient Drama comes directly from the Dyonisian and Eleusinian Mysteries, and Tragic Festivals continued to be a sacred ceremony and a sacred experience for the Athenians, which is, actually comparable to intiation ceremonies (especially masonic high degrees where only a few of the candidates participate, and most are just onlookers!). 
I'll bet no one in ancient Greece could say that if the director mentions the name of an Athenian citizen that was out of town, before the perfomance of a Tragedy, would ‘astrally” experience the awe and pity that the tragedy inspired, and the psycologically healthy Catharthic effect of actually seeing the sacred perfomance!" 
I am pleased to see that not only Donald Michael Kraig's independent research, based on so many years of magical experience, but also the independent research of Joseph Max, Sincerus Renatus, and Polimetis support my own conclusion that Astral-only Initiation does not accomplish everything that traditional Golden Dawn initiation does.

Let us move on to examine the claim made by proponents of Astral-only initiation that the original (pre 1903) Golden Dawn practiced Astral Initiation.

Noted magical author, Nick Farrell (Chief Adept of the Magical Order of Aurora Aurorae), writes here:
"If astral initiation was used within the GD there would be some evidence of it... If an astral initiation was taking place then where and when and why did it not leave a trace of paperwork? There are no records of astral initiations being performed, nor any members who are identified as being part of the GD who had their initiations astrally recorded. Nor is there any mention of the procedure being used in the various editions of by-laws, nor any diary notes from anyone saying that they had taken part in an astral initiation. While we have access to many different GD rituals, there are no recorded instructions for how to perform one..."
"Occam’s razor tells us that if all the evidence suggests that we have to assume that it is logical that the Golden Dawn did not perform astral initiations." 
Golden Dawn scholar, Samuel Scarborough, chief of the Ordo Stella Matutina Golden Dawn writes here:
"I think of myself as something of a scholar on the GD as well as a serious student of the GD system. The same can be said for Nick Farrell or Imhotep, or several others that say that these astral initiations are not verifiable, nor were they done in the original GD or AO or SM after the 1903 Schism in the regular sense. There is no evidence for “astral” or long-distance initiation from those orginal bodies.

I disagree with certain groups that claim that these astral (long-distance) initiations were commonplace within the original Golden Dawn. I have never seen the evidence to support the claim. Nor can I think that Westcott, Woodman, and Mathers received some astral initiation as founders of the GD in the first place."
I am pleased to see that again the independent research of Nick Farrell and Sam Scarborough support my conclusion that the original (pre 1903) Golden Dawn did not practice Astral-only Initiation. There appears to be a wide consensus in the Golden Dawn community regarding claims made by proponents of Astral-only initiation.

Let us move on to examine their claim that critics of Astral-only Initiation do not understand that all magick takes place on the Astral Plane.

In this regard, Nick Farrell says here:

"Physical initiations have an astral component. But if you mean do I think it is possible for someone to initiate you into the 0=0 grade of the Golden Dawn without you being there I would say that it is unlikely. I would say that it would take a supremely good magician (angelic being, or secret chief) to be able to do that. I do not think that simply performing the ritual with a stand-in is enough."
On Nick Farrell's blog, Golden Dawn member, "Magician," also addresses this claim here:

"The discussion isn’t about whether or not magic can work at long distance. The discussion is about if initiation ceremonies can work long distance where there is no way to infuse the physical symbols into the aspirant’s sphere of sensation."
I have addressed this issue numerous times over the years as well. For example, I write here:
"No one is disputing that there is an astral component to both initiation and magick. However, what proponents of Astral Initiation do not understand is that this astral element is rooted in the physical body. They reach a completely erroneous conclusion that, merely because an astral component is there in initiation, they can make you a full Golden Dawn initiate from the comfort of your armchair on the other end of the world..."
Proponents of Astral Initiation allege that it accomplishes everything traditional, physical Golden Dawn initiation does. Golden Dawn leader, Peregrin Wildoak comments in this regard here:
"I do think since the GD initiations were designed for phsyicality, and some of the important parts are done physicially, the control a phsyical initiation has to produce an inner experience for the initiate is beyond anything an astral initiation can do."

Donald Michael Kraig writes here:
"The true astral initiation occurs when both you and the higher initiation forces/energies/spirits of the group are ready for it to happen. No sooner. No later. The physical initiation may help it occur sooner, perhaps simultaneous to the physical initiation. But because so many people these days want to be initiated, some groups have specialized in offering astral initiations. But are they valid within the Western Mystery Tradition? 
If you take someone with little or no training and tell them to visualize walking around a triangle (as I was for an Order a long time ago), the answer is decidedly NO!" 
... and ...
"This means that although so-called “astral initiations” sold to you may make you a member of a group (and allowed to pay them nice big yearly or monthly dues), on a spiritual basis it usually is meaningless."
Nick Farrell adds here:
"A physical initiation is an intensely emotional experience with physical and emotional reactions that have a deep impact on the person. For an initiation to have any impact, such a person should be able to feel something, if not at the immediate time, but in their dreams immediately afterwards. However the reports of people who have undergone astral initiations ... have been extremely nebulous or non-existent (or) have included comments which were so nebulous that they are more likely to be psychosomatic or wish-self-fulfillment."
Samuel Scarborough has this to say here:
"Does long-distance (astral) initiation work? Well, I would say that at best it would be dubious... My concern, and most whom disagree with long-distance initiation, is that there is no way to verify that the person being initiated is actually receiving the energy due to the gap between the initiating body and the candidate."
Alpha Omega's, V.H. Frater P. commented here:
"What i miss in this debate is the simple fact that, apart from the energetic transmission from the Hierophant unto the candidate, it is impossible to impregnate the MIND of the candidate with the physical symbols that are displayed in these ceremonies. For doing this, the candidate has to be physically present, and able to use his eyes! Moreover, by blindfolding him/her and exposing him to a dramatic procedure, his mind is made extra sensitive and absorptive. This is an ancient technique."
I am pleased to see that yet again, the independent research of a wide cross-section of the Golden Dawn community, including Donald Michael Kraig, Peregrin Wildoak, Nick Farrell, Sam Scarborough, and other Golden Dawn members, based on many years of initiatic experience, support my own conclusion that the astral aspect of initiation does not at all negate the necessity and importance of the physical aspect of initiation. I have spoken out on this many times in the past, for example here:
"It has been argued that there is always an "astral" element in any genuine Golden Dawn initiation. This is true in the limited sense that the energetic or "astral" body of the candidate is always ultimately impacted by the initiation. In other words, the initiation ritual works on many levels and affects not merely the physical body of the candidate. This does not mean, however, that the actual physical presence of the candidate is not required."
... and here:
"There is an actual transmission of energies from the physical body of the initiating Hierophant to the physical body of the initiate. To fully transmit these energies and fully awaken the LVX current in the energetic body of the candidate is extremely difficult to fully accomplish even under the best of circumstances - with the candidate physically present in the temple."
To be continued ...

Don't miss Part 2 coming soon on the Golden Dawn Blog!
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  1. Respectfully, either your comment, "I am pleased to see that not only Donald Michael Kraig's independent research... support[s] my own conclusions about the claim that Astral-only Initiation accomplishes everything that traditional Golden Dawn initiation does" contains a typo or it completely contradicts what I wrote and what I meant.

  2. Care Frater Don,

    I had not noticed that this sentence could be so easily misread. Thanks for pointing this out. I will fix it right away!

    David Griffin

    1. Corrected. Thanks again for pointing this out, Don.