One of the things that every student of Golden Dawn needs to be aware of is the assumptions that themselves and other students (especially lodge and Order officers) have about the Golden Dawn system. These assumptions are constantly in the background, and they color the opinions of those who hold them.
What are some of the assumptions that I hold?
Grades represent a level of learning in the system. And while they are associated with a sephirah and certain spiritual states, they are NOT the sephirah and states of consciousness themselves. The Grade is a Gateway to those states, but just because someone has the Grade does not mean that they permanmently dwell in that mental state.
The baseline of Golden Dawn is the Outer Order material, that the entire system is built from the bottom up. There are some that say that the further development of the Golden Dawn system depends upon knowing what the Third Order teachings are--I disagree. It would be an awful poor mystery tradition if all you had to do to kill it was kill off the superior Grades in the chain.
I believe that the history of Golden Dawn is both simplier and more complicated than people can imagine. My basic view of Golden Dawn history is that Kenneth MacKenzie cobbled together the Cipher Manuscript for a group that never used it, and that Westcott and company created a myth to match it after it came into their possession.
Therefore actual contact with Third Order is impossible. Third Order, if it arises, will come from a further development of the Golden Dawn system. Any group that claims to be Third Order is involved in a plot to control Golden Dawn.
As one can guess these assumptions color my opinions about Golden Dawn. To convince me otherwise, one has to cough up actual evidence.
One of the most important assumptions that one can make about Golden Dawn is about the nature of initiation. Considering initiation is the backbone of the system, having a clear idea of what initiation is and is not is important. What is it supposed to accomplish? To put it simply, initiation's purpose is to bring you in contact with certain energetic sources that are tapped though symbols; the energy flow that results is used to develop spiritually and magically.
Personally, I believe that Temple Initiation is best. I firmly believe that one should belong to a community of scholars and mages. Failing the option, second choice is Self-Initiation. I consider Astral Initiation to be a compromise between the first two options.
My beliefs about the hierarchy annoy many people. I believe in electing officers. Many believe that one must have a place in the hierarchy to hold an office, and that it is true to a certain extent. But a member of the hierarchy does NOT have to hold an office to influence the system and the world.
I believe that Golden Dawn is NOT a religion. I believe that members of any religion can join the system, though I will admit that certain religions have a harder time in the esoteric Orders than others.
And most impotantly, I believe that I am allowed to change my mind about the assumptions that I have today. I am allowed to learn. Others are allowed to convince me that their assumptions are more correct. So if you think that I am in error, you might be right and I might agree with you tommorrow.