One of the things that vastly affects one's opinion of Golden Dawn is the first group that one belongs to. My Mother Lodge, so to speak, was Hathoor Temple. Located in Denver, Colorado, it served the local Golden Dawn community for over a decade. Extinct now, it still colors my opinion about what Golden Dawn is and can be.
I first encountered one of its members in mundane circles. At the time, I was working in fast food. During my breaks I was reading Donald Michael Kraig's Modern Magick. I was also practicing my flash cards and drawing my Hebrew Letters. It was the latter that Andrew spotted. After getting to know me very well over the next few months (I call it haressment--he had a wicked sense of humor), he told me that he knew some people who believed in the same things that I was studying and asked if I would like to meet them.
I said, yes. At the time, I didn't know that he was a member of Golden Dawn. Or rather a Golden Dawn based group. I did not learn that until my Neophyte initiation in March of 1992. All this time, I thought that he was just a lonely old man who took great joy in mocking my beliefs and rolling his eyes at my studies. While that was true, he was also the Chief of Hathoor Temple. His mocking turned out to be that of an initiate laughing his head off at how far off track a self-taught person could be.
There are some that have observed that I seem to function best in lodge when things are falling apart. Call it crisis mode, battle field conditions, or whatever you like; truth be told I am more comfortable during those times. And a large part of this comfort arises from the fact that Hathoor Temple was a lodge in crisis when I joined.
The crisis was a simple one. They knew that they were losing their Chief Adept in a couple of years. In fact, they had closed their membership by the time Andrew met me. To this day, I am not sure why Andrew pushed to make an exceptation on my behalf. Maybe they just needed a warm body to help organize their archive of documents.
I do know that I got to serve in a lot of offices during my brief stay in Hathoor Temple. Two weeks after my initiation into Neophyte, I got elected to be Sentinel. Before the doors closed completely, I also served as Kerux (an awkward position for me), Hiereus, and as an Archive Officer. Besides the service, I got a whirlwind training course in how to be an officer in Golden Dawn.
I admit that this training affects how I view the system. It was pounded into my head that officers serve the lodge and its members. Ideally, the best people are supposed to be elected to these positions, though there are times when you cope with less than the ideal. First sign of an officer taking a walk to the padded room, the membership should remove them from their position. Only the Archive Officers were officers for life, but that was because their duty (function of the office) required that condition.
Officers were to fulfill the function of the system. In Hathoor's view that function was teaching. Therefore their Chief Adept was actually the Praemonstrator. This is something that a lot people consider strange in Golden Dawn, but for me the Chief is supposed to be a teacher while his (or her) Co-Chiefs are responsible for taking care of enourgh daily business and problems for them to actually be able to focus on that job.
This difference in opinion is one of the reasons that Hathoor Temple referred to themselves as "Independent and Irregular." Or to put it another way, "Golden Dawn based." This particular term has carried over into Bast Temple. It simply means that just because someone else claims that Golden Dawn is ran this way and this way only that it is necessary true for us.
Having not been exposed to the majority of the published Golden Dawn documents at that time, to this day, the Hathoor rules and customs seem normal to me. It is the variations drawn from literal interpretation of the published material, or due to new revelations that seem strange to me.
The silliest notions I have heard is that everything has to be done the way that the original Order did things, or conversely that everything that has been published is now Outer Order material. The members of Hathoor Temple believed that things could change, bylaws voted on, officers elected, and new material added to the system. But they also believed that the material was graded in such a manner for the benefit of the students; while most people know far more about occultism than the original members of the system, even today there are real Neophytes, who enter the tradition knowing nothing about occultism other than it is there.
So while Hathoor Temple believed in a certain amount of tradition, they tried not to be slaves to it. Exactly where they picked up this strange (to some) notion I am not sure.
Did they have a lineage tracing back to the original Order? No. They did break off from an earlier group, but it seems to have been based on the published material of Regardie--the earlier and more distorted version--or at least, that is how I interpret what I seen in their Archive. That group I am guessing started in the seventies, with Hathoor breaking off in the early eighties. Another reason for the label "Golden Dawn based."
I never asked about why they break away from their roots. But I do have a good idea--abuse of power by the leadership. On one occasion when the possibility of just appointing someone to the position of Chief Adept came up, the Co-Chiefs stated that they had no desire to go back to that state of affairs. The next Chief Adept needed to be elected and able to fulfill the office, not be a figurehead without the knack to do the job. They believed that a certain amount of raw ability coupled with experience and training was necessary to do the job. And none of the newer members were ready yet, and the existing Co-Chiefs knew that they could not fill the position.
Hence the membership's decision to finish training its current members and then disband. They chose to lay the groundwork for a possible future lodge in Denver, rather than became a fossil themselves. Whether it was the right decision or not, I am still not sure. I do know that my subsequent adventures with various groups were the result of being "an orphan;" and if the claims of certain leaders be true, my own personal lineage is actually better than those who originally brought me into the tradition. (If you believe their claims, my own lineage, having to re-undergo Outer Order, trace back to the original--but that is an entry for another day.)
When Hathoor Temple closed its doors in late 1994, I was an Adept Minor, and bore an Administrative Grade of 9=2 because of my position as an Archive Officer. Many of their lessons and customs ended up in Bast Temple, due to my involvement in its formation. And to this day, the Hathoor way of doing things looks (more often than not) like the correct way.
Which just goes to show that your Mother Lodge will affect the way you approach the system for the rest of your life.