Friday, August 31, 2007

Site outage

The Bast Temple website currently seems to be experiencing a temporary problem originating with the hosting service. Sorry for any inconvenience that this causes.

What?! Me?! An authority?!

Earlier this week (Monday) on my way into the Microeconomics class, a student (who was hoping to get a late admission) thought that I was the professor, rather than the student that I actually am.

Personally, I find such inicidents alarming. They might be amusing if it wasn't for the frequency that such inicidents occur in my world. Considering how often I am mistaken for places that I don't, or for being an expert in a subject that I barely understand, I occasionally find myself wondering why it happens.

My latest theory is that I suspect that I carry the air of authority around with me. I would blame it on age, except that it has been happening for years; there is also the fact that I come across much younger than I really am. It is definitely not my Adeptship, for it was happening long before I took my Inner Order oath.

It probably wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't for one thing. I know how much I don't actually know.

Realistically, I realize that the experts of various fields can not know everything about their area of expertise. Just a quick glance through the pages of an older textbook while comparing it to a newer textbook reveals how much the experts had it wrong. For a good laugh, do the comparsion with a text that is a hundred years old.

So obvivously, it is more of a personal problem of belief rather than one of actual substance. My own belief is that I am the last person that should be an authority. This belief rises its ugly head everytime I recieve an email from someone asking me a question about why something is done the way it is. It also acts up twice a year when the lodge decides to leave me in my current office. There is also that annoying part of it grinding its teeth whenever someone I admire (call them mentors and teachers, loyal friends and people who know where their towel is at) treat me as if someday I will end up teaching others. Or remind me that much of what I am currently doing makes me a de facto authority.

At my age (forty-two as of tomorrow), you would think that my self-image would have caught up with my experience. After all, I have been a lodge officer constantly since the start of 1998, besides serving a couple of years in Hathoor Temple. And there is that whole business of management and being a writer.

But then again, my thought is that maybe it is a good thing that I have a hard time considering myself an authority. Many of the worst experts are those who consider all their opinions true and absolute. This type of expert either has never learned or has forgotten how to say "I don't know"; something that I say at least once a day.

If I am lucky and the lodge is smart, the instant I consider myself an infalliable expert (aka authority), they will remove me from office. Cross your fingers for both of our sakes.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The sad state of book stores today

Yesterday, I was in a bookstore looking for a book. An occult book that I know exists. And it being big name chain store, naturally they did not have it.

Now those who know my tastes in occult books and the state of the book business will not be surprised by this. The occult section of big bookstores has descended into new age, sun sign astrology, and the fluffier wiccan books.

This very bookstore chain has actually canceled book signings that might offend people.

I won't name the bookstore chain; you can guess who they are. The odds of me having to do a signing for them is nil next to none; but there is still a slim chance, so I prefer not to burn any bridges.

But it reminded me of the sad state of the book market for writers of my irk. I write books on ceremonial magic--books that only a few online publishers will touch nowdays. The big pimp of occult books, again no names mentioned, a few years ago cut loose everyone who was writing the heavier, and therefore less read material. If you can't or are unwilling to write new age material, they don't want to waste their time with you.

And for me, that is a problem. Because I am an expert in the deep end of the pool, and the shallow end does not interest me that much. I would sooner consider writing a college textbook (that day may come) than writing fluff bunny material.

I am an initiated wiccan (witch) of the old school, besides being a card-carrying member of a Golden Dawn based lodge.

A lot of the stuff that I would find interesting is not being written becasue it is not economically feasible to do so. For instance, one of my favorite series was Mercedes Lackey's Diana Tregarde series. But because of poor sales, this series will never have another addition to it.

How many good books will never be born because of the state of the current book market? I fear a lot.

But it is not all gloom and doom for the niche books. Thanks to the internet, webpages and POD (print on demand) publishers are cropping up. The internet could save niche publishing. And with companies like Lulu and Google Adsense, one can get paid something for one's niche writing--provided of course anyone can find it or cares to read it.

I, myself, have resorted to putting something up on Lulu. My revision of the Golden Dawn Neophyte Ritual for Three Officers is such a niche of a niche type of work that I felt that it was unlikely that a publisher would ever include it in their catalog. And considering that I feel that it high time for more Golden Dawn lodges to arise, I chose to get the information out there, even if only a dozen people ever saw it.

My visit to the bookstore yesterday was a sad reminder that I am pushing a large boulder uphill. I wonder how many other writers are struggling with the same burden.

This post also appears on my Writer's Blog.

[Updated--June 21, 2013--changed the GD Neophyte 0=0 ritual book from its Lulu sales page to its Smashwords sales page.]

Saturday, August 18, 2007

How long should one be in Golden Dawn?

One of the disturbing things that I notice about the modern branches Golden Dawn, or at least something it is distrubing to me, is the fact that many treat the Golden Dawn system as something you do for a certain amount of time and then stop after you reach the end of the system.

Part of this trend is that many people have no experience with the non-Golden Dawn Orders. Traditionally in such Orders as the Freemasons, the Elks, and the Lions, one is a member for life. This is especially true of the Freemasons--even if you cease to attend lodge and quit paying dues, you are still a Freemason. You may not by in good standing; but unless you are expelled, you are still a Freemason.

And at one time, even if you were not a member of a non-Golden Dawn Order, you knew someone that was. While I was attending High School, one of my next door neighbors was a member of the Odd Fellows. The town, Brush Colorado, also had a Lion's Club. I didn't think anything was unusual about that. And a hundred years ago, it wasn't that strange.

We forget that a cenury ago, the Orders were striving. Forty percent of the adult population were a member of one Order or another. That wasn't just old white dudes; women and minorities had their own Orders.

It is different today. My grandmother was a member of the Modern Woodmen of America, an Order which purpose is to provide insurance policies to its membership. For me, it is easier to do business with State Farm. This lack of experience with the phenomenona of the Orders and the type of people who join them handicaps our system.

Another handicapp which contributes to the tendency to consider one membership in the system as a temporary thing is the truncated revealing of the system. While the publishing of the core documents of Golden Dawn by Israel Regardie saved the system from extinction, it has also had the effect of freezing much of the system into a form that gives itself to chasing a title and then leaving the system.

In many ways, I consider myself lucky to have found my way into Hathoor Temple before I was exposed to much of the published material. For the members of Hathoor Temple, one was a member for life. Recieving the Grade of Adept Minor was not the end of your involvment with the Order; for them, Golden Dawn was a living, growing system.

It was because of this long view that their curriculum was an expanding one. This tradition carried over into Bast Temple when it formed. I encourage members of the system to take the long view and treat Golden Dawn and its offshoots as an organization that one will be a member for the entire length of their lifetime.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Bast Temple Curriculum

The subject of the week seems to be curriculum.

First, Pat Zalewski posted a posting about change in Golden Dawn on his forum: Golden Dawn Group. That is a curriculum issue for as he states, "With the various GD groups using [new] material to fill the void at the Inner Order level, an entire infrastructure is needed to support it." Well-defined steps and levels are necessary according to him to prepare people for the new material. In other words, a curriculum.

Then today, I was talking to someone who wanted to know our curriculum. Which is hard to describe considering that lately we have been focused less on paper lessons, and focused more on Temple Ritual work. I have yet to figure out how to describe the importance of Temple Ritual, other than say it ties into our Inner Order curriculum.

This is not a new problem. I could only show the first intake of members the importance of the rituals by making them practice. The same is still true today. It is fair to say that I teach the way that I was taught. Doing was more important than theory.

The closest thing Bast Temple has to an official curriculum is the summary that was done for the original contact sheet (public flyer). It said:

Neophyte (0=0)"newly planted"
Learns the basic symbols of the elements, astrology, and kabbalah. Also learns basic lodge protocol and lodge-kit.

Zelator (1=10)"zealot"
Continues studying of astrology and kabbalah. Starts the study of alchemy. Learns about the various elementals, Earth of Malkuth in Assiah, and Malkuth of Malkuth in Assiah. Studies the theory of geomancy.

Theoricus (2=9)"student"
Continues studying of alchemy and kabbalah. Also continues studying of astrology, including how to erect astrology charts. Learns about the various kinds of spiritual entities, Air of Malkuth in Assiah, Yesod of Malkuth in Assiah, and the Moon.

Practicus (3=8)"practitioner"
Continues the study of kabbalah. Learns about the lineal figures, magic squares, sigils, Water of Malkuth in Assiah, Hod of Malkuth in Assiah, and the planet Mercury. Starts the study of the Golden Dawn Tarot.

Philosophus (4=7)"lover of wisdom"
Continues the study of kabbalah, alchemy and the Golden Dawn Tarot. Learns about Fire of Malkuth in Assiah, Netzach of Malkuth in Assiah, and the planet Venus. May chose to study the electionals of isopsephos ("Greek kabbalah") and the tattwas.

Today, that summary is a little out of date. It was written when the lodge had deeper ties (reciprocal recognition of Grades) with the Hermetic Sanctuary of Maat (Hermetic Order of the Stella Matutina). We were trying to match our requirements with theirs. Today, it is more of an issue to figure out how to properly stage (prepare members) for the incoming changes of the Inner Order material.

Naturally, given the fact that I am involved, a lot of the changes are written on the backs of pieces of paper. Some of the material already exists in our documents (there are currently over two hundred and fifty items that have been issued to at least one member of the lodge); other parts of the material are still deep in the planning stages.

Like for instance, the following planned lessons for the Forty-two Assessors:

Adept Minor Neophyte (5=6 AMN): Z documents
Adept Minor Zelator (5=6 ZAM): Assessors' placement and purpose in ritual
Adept Minor Theoricus (5=6 ThAM): Enochian attributes of the Assessors
Adept Minor Practicus (5=6 PrAM): Coloring of the 42 Assessors
Adept Minor Philosophus (5=6 PhAM): [nothing has been noted for this subgrade yet]
Adept Minor Adept (5=6 AMA): Assessors' use in minor talismanic work
Adept Major (6=5): Use in "Justice" workings
Adept Extemptus (7=4): Use in "personal development" [spiritual] alchemy
Magister Templi (8=3): Comparsion between Outer Order and Inner Order judges

It will be awhile before most of these lessons are written. For one thing, as much of the seven layers (Physical, Etheric, Astral-Emotional, Lower Mental, Higher Mental, Causal {Archetypical}, and Spiritual) information as can be gathered must be assembled before the lessons can be written.

In the end, I think my problem with being able to sum up the curriculum rests in its scope and how much of it has yet to be charted out. Hopefully, I do a better job of it the next time the question arises.

[Updated--June 21, 2013--removed the link to the Hermetic Sanctuary of Maat (HOSM), for it was a dead link to a group that no longer exists; the HOSM still exists; it is merely the self-initiation web support site that no longer exists. Eventually, the BIORC will provide some support for self-initiates.]

Saturday, August 4, 2007

How to contact with Golden Dawn in Denver

I realized that perhaps I should mention how one would go about finding us (Golden Dawn) in Denver. The first thing to do is to send us an email. At the moment, all of the inquires come to me anyways, so lets just use the account I check everyday--rather than the official email address which I only check once a week.

After receiving the email, I will arrange to meet with you. My chosen meeting spot is the coffee room at the Tattered Cover across the street from East High School (on Colfax). Either that or we will try to obtain you a pass to the lodge's next public meeting (which is always the first Sunday of the month) and occurs at the house of one of the lodge's members who lives over by the zoo.

After the meeting, whether the public or the lodge's "meet and greet," you can decide whether you want to pursue the route to membership any further.

It is relatively easy to apply, provided that you can find this blog posting.

To inquiry about membership with the local Golden Dawn Denver lodge of the BIORC, visit the Bast Temple official blog for the latest information.

[Updated--June 21, 2013--updated link to current Bast Temple membership information page.]

Friday, August 3, 2007

Hathoor Temple

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.