Monday, July 28, 2008

Dues, warm bodies, and officers

The dissolution of the RMWT has got me thinking today about the resources neccessary for the functioning of lodges and covens. A lot of people think that all it takes to run a lodge or coven is someone wanting to do so. Yes, that all that it takes to start a group, but it requires a lot more if the group is going to stick around and be functional.

I invite you to stroll around the internet for awhile. There are some groups on the internet that look functional; but in reality, never hold meetings and in fact, can be said to consist solely of the webmaster and a couple of minions. I have heard rumors that one of the Big Name Orders does not have a single lodge in existence, and I know of another that is trying to look like a Big Name Order and doesn't have any lodges. Looking good on the internet does not neccessary mean that a group is actually functional.

And by functional, I mean that members occasionally met face-to-face, initiations and rituals are performed, lectures are given, and the occasional handout is issued. By this standard, many esoteric groups are not actually functional.

So what resources does an esoteric group need in order to be functional?

Dues (money): Money is neccessary for a group to function; it allows them to buy supplies (incense, candles, ink cartridges, the occasional ritual prop) and to rent a meeting place. Some groups also kick in to compensate the chief officers for their time, and it takes a lot of time to run an occult group if it is growing and developing.

Many people object to dues. They say that the wisdom of the ages should be given to everyone for free. These are the same people who think that writers, Hollywood film companies, and musicians should give their product away for free.

"The wisdom of the ages does not belong to you; it should be given away for free to everyone who is interested in it."

By the way, these are the same people who complain almost the loudest about the fact that there are no cutting edge occult books, and that most occult books are just copy and paste jobs. Why are there no cutting edge occult books? Simple, no one is willing to pay for them; therefore, publishers do not commission them, and writers do not write them.

(In fact, many occult books are now being done by small publishers or print on demand services because the bigger publishers only want mega-new-age books that sell better. The quality suffers because of this.)

Furthermore, these are the same people who believe that all the expenses of an esoteric group should come out of the wallets of those who run it. They don't want to chip in for incense and supplies even. Of course, if they become leaders, they will expect their members to chip in. And so it goes.

There are also some people who scream loudly that certain occult leaders are robbing their members by charging them dues. Ironically, some of the loudest in that category charge their own members dues.

(Yes, some of the politics of the occult community is actually about money, and who is making it.)

And there are some leaders who generally have an aversion to collecting dues, and believe that the wisdom should be taught for free. Generally, the groups they form dissolve because they don't have enough resources to continue operating.

When Bast Temple formed, the costs for the meeting were read out loud for all to hear, a custom lifted from Hathoor Temple. A couple of the members were surprised to learn how many expenses were actually involved in running a group; it was something that they were never exposed to before. Within a couple of meetings, one of the members (not the founder of the lodge) proposed a dues structure, and it passed; to this day, the Bast Temple dues are set by the active membership of the lodge.

Dues come from the members; and if you have enough members, most of a group's needs are taken care of.

Members (also known as warm bodies): One of the most important resources a lodge can have is members. Without members, a group is just a paper and/or an internet group, existing only in the mind of its founder and whoever falls prey to the illusion.

From the members come the dues, the experiences, and the people neccessary to actually do the rituals. Without members, rituals are impossible to do in a group setting. It is possible to get away with less than a full number of members, as Bast Temple has proven with their revised Neophyte ritual; but some members are always neccessary.

And without members, especially the occasional new member, an esoteric group is doomed to extinction. The reason for this is that the membership is the pool that new officers are pulled from.

Officers and leaders (the people who attempt to herd cats): Without officers and leaders, it would be impossible for occult groups to exist. The number one case of occult group dissolving and disappearing is the lack of leaders and officers. The history of the occult is littered with groups that died out and disappeared when its leadership got burnt out or died.

For any occult group to survive more than a single generation, officers have to be replaced. And for a group to survive for more than a couple of years, officers must be able to avoid becoming burnt out and/or bankrupt.

Of course, the real trick here is for the officers to learn to set their egos aside, teach younger members to replace them, and actually step aside and allow them to take over. This is harder to do than it looks. It depends on being able to say, "I don't know. I need help doing this work. It is no longer my problem." Tough words to say under most situations.

And looking at the RMWT and its dissolution, I know that the cause of its death was rooted in the fact that only a couple of people were carrying all the expenses, the membership numbers were dropping, and a couple of people were stuck doing all the work. It was a deadly combination for any esoteric group.

Rocky Mountain Wiccan Temple dissolved

The Rocky Mountain Wiccan Temple has officially dissolved; the board felt that the group had outlived its usefulness. Unmentioned in the dissolution notice (or at least, the one that I saw) was the fact that support for the group in both monetary terms and participation were down.

Fortunately, for those in the Denver area interested in open (public) wiccan and pagan rituals, there is still Hearthstone Community Church.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Humor: Crowley

A friend sent me this today. It sounds exactly like I would expect from him in the afterlife.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Joyous day of Webmastering

One of the joys of being Chief Officer is the duty of being the webmaster for the Bast Temple website. It is a ugly job and someone has to do it, therefore it is my job. Some days it is easier than others. Today was one of the hard days---during the midst of trying to modify the Suggested Reading Page, Microsoft Office Live decided to wig out on me. Internal Server Error--as I said, joy.

So now, I have a crummy looking page up and I can not finish it until Office Live fixes their own problem. One of the things I wanted to do today was to update the description of the Revised Three Officer Version of the Neophyte Ritual that I have a link to on that page. I am in the process of proofing a copy of it before I set it up for a distribution package on Lulu.

(I now realize that part of Steve Nichols' high prices are the result of the distribution package he brought though Lulu. The price of the ritual book went up the instant I accepted a distribution package. I am not happy about the price increase, but it does allow for it to have a wider audience.)

There were a few other things that I wanted to add to the suggested reading page, such as links to my reviews of certain books and links to their respective publisher's sites. But it is all going to have to wait now because some place in the world, there is a server that does not like me.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Tarot deck review: The Classical Golden Dawn Tarot by Dudschus and Sledzinski

Until recently, one of the advantages that BOTA (Builders of the Adytum) members had over the Golden Dawn is that they could hand color a set of pre-outlined Tarot cards which helped them establish the symbolism of the cards firmly in their minds; with the publication of "The Classical Golden Dawn Tarot: An Historic Deck In Black And White" by Richard Dudschus and David Sledzinski, Golden Dawn members can also engage in the practice of coloring their own Tarot cards.

Originally, the members of Golden Dawn were meant to hand-draw their own deck of Tarot cards. There were several reasons for this practice. The primary one is that the Tarot deck that Golden Dawn used was a truly esoteric deck; Golden Dawn members were sworn to keep its symbolism and images secret. The symbolism of the Golden Dawn Tarot tied into the symbols and concepts studied by the students of the system, and the cards were used both in private and lodge rituals (divinations, initiations, pathworkings, etc.). Members of Golden Dawn, and its offshoots, took their oaths of secrecy so seriously that it was not until 1978 that a published version of the Golden Dawn Tarot deck became available. Unfortunately, the first published version of the deck, done by Robert Wang, was less than satisfactory.

To read the rest of my review of the Classical Golden Dawn Tarot, click here.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Open Full Moon Dates for 2008

Hearthstone Community Church
Open Full Moon Dates
for the rest of 2008

July 18
August 22
September 12
October 10
November 7
December 12
Meets at the First Unitarian Church
at 14th and Lafayette, Denver Colorado
Doors open at 7 pm.
Ritual starts at 7:30 pm.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Pier Anthony's on the Tarot

In his introduction to his novel "Tarot", Piers Anthony talks about an experimental Tarot reading he did as part of his research for the novel, a reading that went very well, too well in his opinion. Being a non-believer, he asks “How could a supernatural device work so well for an unbeliever?” His answer, after much thought was: “[T]he tarot deck presents a concentration of symbols, some of which are almost certain to relate to any person. The pictures have multiple levels, many interpretations, and these are what the person tunes in on. If Death comes up and there has been a recent death in the family, there is confirmation. If there has not been a death, then there is the fear of one coming up. If there is no such fear, the symbol may relate to the termination of something important, such as one’s job. Death is not just literal death; it is Transformation, or Change, and can manifest in many ways. Similarly, the other symbols have projections like pincushions; you can’t touch them without getting stuck. The Lovers is also Choice, so that card relates to romance or to a difficult decision; and when was there a time when you are not faced with some decision, and which one is ever simple? Os these versatile symbols, coupled with the human’s mind capacity to interpret, to make something relate, do almost inevitably relate to your life.” As he concludes, he had “solved the mystery."

As an initiate of Golden Dawn, I don’t necessary agree with his answer, but I must admit that his opinion is one of the better non-initiated, non-believer answers that I have encountered about how the Tarot works.

Monday, July 14, 2008

What has the current GD leadership taught us

Feeling a little grey and under the weather, and with my Scorpio Moon acting up, I started to think about the lessons that the current leaders of Golden Dawn are teaching us.

Now, there are good leaders and then there are the bad ones. It is the bad ones that I am thinking about today; the ones that make me glad that I have no potential to ever become a leader.

In part, because they have a nasty habit of leaving lawyers on your doorstep. Not that I have anything against lawyers, one of my friends is studying to be a lawyer, it is just that my idea of a good time is not spending it in court.

Nor do I consider it a good time to have oneself, friends and family dragged though the mud. Character assassination is something that I experienced enough in High School; there was also a lot of it in my family.

Of course, to be a leader in today's Golden Dawn, you must pet sharks and fling like a monkey. That is the first thing that some of today's leaders have taught us.

The second thing that they taught us is that a leader in Golden Dawn can not have any honor. Nor can they afford morals. After all, they going to throw unmentionables at us, and leave things on your doorstep. And if you respond in kind, they will point out that you have no honor or morals.

They have also taught us not to share information with our own members. They have brought a whole new level of secrecy to the system. From now on, we must destory any member who leaves our lodges so that our sacred knowledge is not published as a public service, and proof that we ripping people off. Or we must publish it ourselves in self-defense (after all, the thing on the doorstep is trying to get a legal action together to make us cease operations).

But they are fair...never forgot that...if you allow them access to your secret materials, they will check them against their own documents, and declare you a brother. Of course, your documents may just meet their photocopier, and they may tell you that they have better documents and lineage.

They have taught us that being able to make it rain, to summon up angels, and actually know something about our tradition is nothing. Only the sacred lineage counts. And the legal right to use the name Golden Dawn.

Today, they are going after their fellow leaders because they are competition. Tommorrow, they will go after the writers because they help create competition. And the day after that, they will sacrifice and kill the Golden Dawn tradition because it creates competition.

And the most important thing they are teaching us is to make sure that we never appear to be leaders, or give any hint that we have the potential to be leaders, because they are swore to crush anyone who has the potential to be a leader. All that matter is our wallets, and the money that we can provide them in the forms of dues; love of our tradition does not matter; nor the ability to affect our world in a positive way.

The bad leaders of Golden Dawn are teaching us one and one lesson only: it is better to be the only one left and the tradition to die than to have it continue in the control of someone who might actually be in the game to help people with their spiritual development.

I am a happy little cynic, ain't I?

Friday, July 11, 2008

Tradition from last Thursday

One of the things that I worry about is the idea that older is better in occultism. And preferably old is best when it traces back to Moses. Hence, the whole idea of lineage, and the "Only True LVX Order."

The problem is with this is that ideas, which are fuel for the mind, and symbols, which are food for the soul, have limited shelf-lives, just like food for the body does. Some of the ideas and symbols used by Big Name Orders are as wholesome as the cans of survivor rations that are stored in my grandfather's fallout shelter. I am not willing to stick beef stew canned in 1961 into my mouth; why would I consider putting ideas and symbols such as Atlantis into my head and heart?

At one time, Atlantis was an useful symbol. Plato created it, probably basing its mythical disappearance on a real event, and used it as a prop for his idea of the Philosopher-King. For those who are unaware of his ideas and have no idea what he wrote in another of his works, The Republic, he thought that some people were more qualified to rule than others and that they should use force to remain in power.

Sounds a little like the ideas that have led to Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, and Jonestown, doesn't it?

His fiction of Atlantis was ignored for several centuries until the New World started to be explored when it gained a new purpose. It was a way to explain how animals and plants could be common to both the New World and the Old World despite a large ocean between them. Today, we know more about the land/ice bridge and no longer have any need of the theory.

But some occultists refuse to give it up. It is old; it has lineage, and it is more romantic than the theories that someone came up with last Thursday.

According to the lineage crowd if an idea can be traced to its source, like maybe Pat Zalewski, or did not have the kiss of approval by a Philosopher-King, then it is useless, untrue, and everyone should be forced into a better Order (today, the legal system is the force favored) with older and better ideas; there you will be told who is telling the truth and who is not, what to think and why to think it.

It is a perfect world based on a perfect idea carried down though time by a perfect tradition and taught by perfect officers. Perfect, that is, if you are a sheep. As for myself, I am a goat; and I am going to take a look at the idea from last Thursday and see if it is better.

Book Review: The Rulership Book (Rex E. Bills)

"The Rulership Book" by Rex E. Bills is not properly a book, at least not in the sense that one would sit down and actually read it cover to cover; but it is a book that should be on the bookshelf of every serious astrology student. Consisting of a set of rulership lists for the planets, signs and houses, The Rulership Book is more like a telephone book than anything else. Yet just like a telephone book, it has its uses. To read the rest of the review, click here.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Book Review: Secret Societies (Sylvia Browne)

Many people believe in the abilities of Sylvia Browne, world famous psychic medium, and treat her every word as gospel. But does she know the truth about secret societies? In her book, "Secret Societies...And How They Affect Our Lives Today," Sylvia Browne claims to reveal the truth about secret societies and what they are really up to.

Secret societies have been around as long as human civilization. They were present in Ancient Egypt and Greece, the Roman Empire, with significant flare-ups throughout history to the present day. Many secret societies, mystery cults and schools, have died out and completely disappeared because their members took the concept seriously, leaving us guessing what their rituals, mysteries, and motives were.

Most people assume that any society that keeps secrets is up to no good. Sylvia Browne explains why this assumption happens:

To read the rest of this review of Sylvia Browne's "Secret Societies...And How They Affect Our Lives Today," click here.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Differentiation of egregores

(Note: Some readers may have read this already. I thought that the issue is important enough that I shared it on one of the Golden Dawn forums.)

A common event during the birth years of Orders, especially those which arise out of schisms, is the founder of the Order writing a document(s) that states why their Order is different and better than the other Orders that one could join. Part of the reason for this is economical politics (all Orders of a certain type and style tend to draw off the same possible membership pool), and partly is due to ego issues (the founder of a new Order is normally doing it because he thinks that he is more capable of running an Order than the people he just broke away from).

That is what we see happening on the surface level; but there is something else going on that many people may not be aware of, which is how this is affecting the egregore of the group.

Now the term “egregore,” in the oldest references that I have been able to trace it to, referred to the occult theory that each nation had an angel (god) which was its patron and guardian. This term and concept later ends up being applied to a mystery of the esoteric Orders.

Now the truth of the matter is that any group of people that gathers together will generate an egregore. Book clubs, businesses, military units, soccer fans, football fans, in fact any gathering of people will create an egregore. Most egregores are temporary things; unfortunately, they are the most primitive and the most dangerous in many ways. Riots tend to be caused by primitive egregores which is why trained Adepts tend to avoid large crowds.

It is possible for Initiates to keep themselves out of spontaneous egregores, and to be able to stand back and observe the effects of the larger ones. It is a skill like any other and can be taught; the base line information on how to do it is hidden in basic lodgekit.

Now in Golden Dawn, we use our egregore all the time. We use it for extra power during ritual, use it to help guide us, and to store excess energy for later. Call it a god, call it an angel, call it an energy bank. Except that we are not all using the same one.

Each Order has its own uber-egregore (I am open to suggestions for revision of this term, but it says what I want it to say) which acts as a template for the egregores that its daughter lodges create. This is one of the first things that an Order creates, knowingly or unknowingly. (This is not to be confused with the Arch-egregore that sits above all of them, and supports the tradition itself.)

And the founders of Orders do their part to differentiate their uber-egregore from the others. In part, this is done though changing the name of the Order, its rituals, and teachings, so that it doesn’t match other Orders.

The reason for this differentiation is that every time a member of the Order generates excess energy in a ritual, the egregore absorbs it. Think of it as a direct deposit device. It knows what energies to absorb and which to ignore by how the energy was generated. And members of Orders learn to generate energy in very specific ways.

(This is by the way one of the reasons that lineage and hierarchy is important; lineage is the wiring of an initiate to send excess energy to a specific egregore based on a specific uber-egregore, and one’s position in the hierarchy helps determines how much access that one has to the energy that has been previously stored.)

So for instance, when Paul Foster Case issued his statement that Enochian led to bad things, that statement helped led to the BOTA egregore ignoring the energies raised by Enochian methods (provided of course, that all the Enochian has truly been removed from the system) and not storing that energy. It would lead to a certain amount of paranoia about the energies in later members (which makes me wonder about Case himself).

You can also see differentiating statements in the works of Mathers, Fortune, and Crowley. I, myself, wrote a couple of statements at the beginning of Bast Temple that ended up affecting the system.

The differentiation of the egregores and the Orders leads to all types of interesting effects. But the most important is that the energies raised by my lodge do not flow into the energy bank of another group.

Now, I would like to explain why I have been thinking of this lately. There has been a lot of noise about differences in techniques and ethics practiced by different groups (in fact, the Denver community now has three lodges, all with a different opinion about the matter). And some people think this is a bad thing.

It is not. I am grateful for these differences. As long as these differences exist, everyone interested in Golden Dawn can find a group suitable for them. It is only when these differences disappear that we will end up with a monolithic single Order, and a whole bunch of people will be excluded from the tradition. Ironically, I would be one of the ones excluded, due to my pro-gun, pro-militia, pro-choice, and semi pro-death penalty opinions. There is also the issue of my big mouth. And quite honestly, I like being part of Golden Dawn.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Book Review: Inner Order Teachings of the Golden Dawn (Pat Zalewski)

One of the difficulties in studying the Golden Dawn tradition is that many of its Inner Order teachings have been lost, unpublished, or sometimes never even fully completed, forcing the modern day esoteric Orders that have been built from the Outer Order information (compiled and published by Israel Regardie) and the Adepts connected with these groups, to create their own Inner Order teachings, a major problem for some; Pat Zalewski in his book "Inner Order Teachings of the Golden Dawn" addresses this problem.

The book, not to be confused with Zalewski's earlier book, "Secret Inner Order Rituals of the Golden Dawn" (1988), mainly consists of THAM (Theoricus Adept Minor) lectures written by one of the three co-founders of Isis-Urania, the original Golden Dawn lodge (Temple), Macgregor (Samuel Liddell) Mathers, along with papers written by Pat Zalewski that supplement the Mathers' material. There is also information about the diagrams studied in the PRAM (Practicus Adept Minor) subgrade, alchemy and the Tarot, the Lunar Diagram on the Tree of Life, and the Chief Adept's (Caduceus) Wand, all of which were written by Pat Zalewski.

To read more of this review of Inner Order Teachings of the Golden Dawn, click here.