Sunday, July 29, 2007

History of Self-Initiation

One of facts of life if you are interested in Golden Dawn today is that most people are either self-initiates, or long distance members. Very few people are members of an actual lodge. Most people experience the system through self-initiation or "astral initiation" rather than actually undergoing the rituals in a Temple setting.

There is a whole can of worms involved with both self-initiation and astral; you can boil the worms down to that sticky, dark goop of a question "Do these variations work?" Being a little fuzzy around the ears today, I chose to delay addressing that question.

Instead I want you to consider how long the concept of self-initiation has been around. When I became interested in ceremonial magic in 1991, one of my text books was Modern Magick: Eleven Lessons in the High Magickal Arts by Donald Michael Kraig. This book came out in 1988, and has been in print ever since, much to the surprise of its author.

When I encountered Andew W., the man who was to become my sponsor and mentor in Hathoor Temple, I was reading this book. In fact, it was how Andrew spotted me. Upon leafing through the book, he laughed. At the time, I was under the impression that he had a low opinion of all who studied such things--later I realized that he had a low opinion of the book as did most of the members of Hathoor Temple.

In hindsight, with fifteen years of Golden Dawn experience under my belt (most of it Temple based), I have to agree that perhaps Modern Magick is not the most ideal book for the purposes of self-initiation.

But it is not the first book on self-initiation, nor is it the last.

In 1995, Chic and Tabatha Cicero had their opus Self-Initiation into the Golden Dawn Tradition: A Complete Curriculum of Study for Both the Solitary Magician and the Working Magical Group published. I know quite a few people who have used this book. As a Temple Initiate, I must say it hardly prepares one for the curriculum of the SubGrades of Inner Order (ZAM, THAM, etc.) or at least not the program that I have the most experience in; that particular Inner Order curriculum depends upon knowledge of the Temple versions of the rituals.

The Ciceros will not be the last to publish such a work. Why? Because with the inability of individuals to find local Temples, and the problems with long distance memberships, self-initiation fulfills a need. As long as the need is around, self-initiation will happen.

This need has been around for a long time. The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor had an initiation script "The Hermetic Ritual For the Private Initiation of Neophytes" which was to allow for their members to self-initiate. Most of their members were self-initiates, especially after their system of lodges collapsed.

The A.A., the famous (or infamous) organization detailed in Crowley's Equinoxes is primarily a loose band of self-initiates.

In fact, advancing a member without them undergoing a Temple ritual has been so common throughout the history of the Orders, there is a Freemasonry term for it--communicating the degree. Basically, you sign your oath, and are issued the relevant papers for your new degree.

How far does the concept of self-initiation go?

My personal opinion is that it extends all the way back to the writings of Agrippa. His is the first book that I can look at and see a set of lessons for the self-initiate in. Whether that was his intention or not is hard to say.

Self-initiation is going to be around for awhile. Besides the sources already mentioned, there are some non-Golden Dawn systems of self-initiation--the works of Mouni Sadhu, Edred Thorsson, and Franz Bardon are all designed on the principle of self-initiation. For those who are more interested in Golden Dawn with a side order of Thelema, check out the webpage of the Thelemic Golden Dawn. And for ceremonial magic, there is also the works of John Michael Greer. Wicca has Scott Cunningham as a source.

And there are probably many works and options that I do not recall, or have not read.

Bottom line, if you are interested in doing the work and can not find a suitable Order, there is self-initiation.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Ongoing failure to recruit new members

One of the ongoing problems in Golden Dawn is our resounding lack of membership. Either you are one of the big Orders and are forcing members to travel across the country to recieve their initiations (ignoring the routes of self-initiation and long distance initiation--I will address these at another time), or you are a small lodge struggling to get (and maintain) a large enough membership to do a Grade ritual.

There seems to be no middle ground.

As a member of a smalll lodge, I have seen us struggle since our formation to attract enough members to maintain operations. And while I have learned a lot about the system thanks to having to learn work arounds for procedures normally outside of my office's responsibilities, there are days where I wish to be able to spend the workload around a little bit more.

Our problem is that no one seems to know that we are here.

Bast Temple, Denver Colorado (Golden Dawn based) is who we are.

When people do find us, they always say that they never knew that we were here. And we have yet to find a successful way of letting people know that we are here. I have seen the figures; no one has ever seen our website. LOL. Not exactly true, a half dozen people look at it every month, and then don't follow through.

Why? My current theory is that we are not a big name Order. That unless you have hundreds of members--which requires tossing out the concept of electing officers amoung other things--that no one believes that your Order is serious. If we had a full blown correspodence course, at least one paid officer, an expensive hall rental, a splashy web page, and tons of online advertisment--maybe then people would be able to find us and consider joining.

Or maybe not.

Anyway, that was my gripe of the day.

Yours in the Great Work, MDE

Monday, July 16, 2007

Who is Morgan Drake Eckstein?

Exactly who is Morgan Drake Eckstein? Occasionally, even I wonder about that.

The short answer is that I am a forty-one (forty-two come September) year old college sophomore who goes to the Community College of Denver. I am also a freelance writer, more by luck than by talent and ambition. And an elected officer of a small Golden Dawn lodge here in Denver, Colorado.

It is that last fact that is probably the most concern for the readers of this new blog. After all, this is a blog about Golden Dawn and the Western Mystery Tradition (though to be fair, I will probably talk about Wiccan and other systems too--I am slightly eclectic in my personal studies).

My history as an occultist started when I was young. My aunt was a Gardnerian witch, and my mom was a believer before she became born-again. My father knew some rune lore (from where he learned it is a mystery to me) and hexcraft (Pennsylvania Dutch). So I was raised around strange happenings, including a house haunting by a dog.

So it was natural for me to get involved with Wicca and Heathrenry. It also seems natural that I got involved in Golden Dawn. After all, I like complicated systems and having to read and research things.

I got involved in Golden Dawn officially in March of 1992 when I became a member of Hathoor Temple. While there are some who claim that it was not really Golden Dawn, I do consider it legitimate (just like I consider my current lodge legit). In late 1994, it disbanded. I left it an Adept Minor Neophyte. I also left it bearing an Administrative Grade of 9=2, as my last office in the lodge was that of an Archive Officer.

For several years, I bounced from group to group; some of them Golden Dawn based, some of them not.

In October 2000, I became one of the founding members of Bast Temple, which eventually would turn into the Mother Lodge for the BIORC. I have been elected officer of Bast Temple since its formation. I am also currently the webmaster and Praemonstrator General for the BIORC.

This blog, unlike the official BIORC blog, will be more about my opinions and personal experiences than official statements concerning Golden Dawn. I hope that my readers find it useful.

Yours in the Great Work, Morgan Drake Eckstein

Bast Temple (Golden Dawn in the Outer, BIORC in the Inner)
[Edit June 5, 2012: Changed web address of preferred contact point.]

Weekly Thoughts about Golden Dawn (the official BIORC blog)
[Edit 17 May 2010: This blog no longer exists; it was lost when Geocities shut down.]

Official Ba Iset Order of the Rosy Cross blog
[Edit June 5, 2012: Added the web address of this blog.]