A week ago (or was it two weeks ago?) I openly noted that I was kicking around the question of how one's lineage was affected by having a villian in your lineage. "Does having Aleister Crowley in your lineage make you less of an Adept?"
The reason that I started thinking about this question again (it is a periodic re-occurring question) was that I had encountered some blog posts about lineage that were arguing that you could not have an initiation higher than the person's initiating you; furthermore, Grades are actually a measure of spiritual development--and NOT magical development. Therefore, it is doubtful that a sinner could initiate someone into Neophyte even.
Now, this is always an interesting question for me...because if you believe the story that I was told by one of my initiators, part of my lineage actually traces back through the infamous Aleister Crowley. That is right, my lineage may go back to Crowley and MacGregor Mathers.
Of course, if you believe that a sinner like Crowley cannot pass on a lineage, then the initiations I got from that lineage does not count. In fact, I can point to dubious characters in all the other lineages that I supposely have. Therefore by the logic and beliefs of many people, I am not an initiate at all.
To add a cherry on top, having sat in the hot seat and initiated people myself into the Golden Dawn system, there are people who trace their GD lineage through me. While I am not as bad as Crowley, there are some people who think that I am more than slightly evil.
And there are some people who do not even know that their lineage traces through me. (Oh, you know how that happens.) One should really pity those poor souls.
When I openly started kicking around this question this time around, someone pointed out that the question is really about the spiritual technology and not the person giving the initiation. That answer is fine...provided that there is only one true Golden Dawn, and everyone outside of the real Golden Dawn is not an initate at all.
(Please remember that everyone in the 80s and 90s claimed to be the one and only true Golden Dawn. Someone obviously had to be lying. My membership in an Order was based more on who I discovered first than on what they claimed to offer.)
Problem is that I do not believe that there is only one true Golden Dawn. I believe that all initiations have an effect on the person undergoing them. Therefore, the question is really about how badly does it affect someone to undergo an initiation where the officers are not ALL SAINTS armed with the COMPLETE KNOWLEDGE OF THE 10=1. Yes, I am serious. Saints who are 10=1s would be the ultimate initiation team.
(Of course, given the fact that there are only allowed to be twelve/twenty-four/thirty-six/seventy-two/whater-your-number-is Magus 9=2s in the entire world at any one time, logic tells us that the perfect initiation team is more myth than actual fact. Especially when you consider the number of groups that claim that there is only one 10=1 alive at any one time. And this is not even accounting for the groups who do not believe that Third Order Grades can be held by living physical human beings.)
Everyone who suffered with a team of initiators who were less than full 10=1s has been dealt a lineage with holes and problems in it. (I do mean the whole team has to be 10=1s--therefore the Neophyte Grade needs eleven 10=1s to man all the officer stations in order to properly do the Neophyte initiation.)
Lesser members do not have the full spiritual technology. Therefore, by logic of the spiritual technology model combined with the idea that officers must know and master it all (otherwise their ritual performances are flawed), only a person with access and mastery of the complete system, aka a 10=1, can provide a complete initiation. Logically by this style of thinking, only Third Order, and only those of the very highest Grade, should be giving initiations to anyone.
Yet we live in a world that this is not true. For instance, in the very first days of the Golden Dawn, there was only three officers and (let's be honest) they were not yet fully instructed in the system yet. Their rituals were flawed...their initiates were flawed...and the cycle goes on and on. Therefore, most initiates in Golden Dawn have undergone flawed initations.
So the real question becomes how do you deal with the fact that you have a Crowley in the woodpile. The answer is keep collecting lineages (to better your chances of connecting to a better stocked lineage) aka "healing your lineage" and/or by doing the advanced work of the system. The latter unfortunately requires finding the correct work to do, which also leads to collecting multiple lineages. Hence the only way to make sure that the rot of Crowley (or whoever your favorite villian is) does not bog you down is to join every Golden Dawn Order that will let you in the door. And don't trust anyone who claims to possess the only correct way to do things...because they might be wrong. You must collect all the lineages if you want to be absolutely sure that you have the correct spiritual technology.
Of course, if you are like me, a poor college student with little spare time and money, that is not really an option. In that case, you just have to make your best guess and cross your fingers. And in my case, let's be honest, everyone knows how incorrect my decision was.
"What the hell?! It is a tadpole--I wanted a dragon." "That is not a tadpole; that's a baby salmander." "A baby salmander?! I wanted a dragon." "Patience, patience, patience."