Earlier this week, I read a posting on one of the Golden Dawn forums about how does a group get to be recognized by others, and who do they ask to be recognized. After I wiped the cola off my computer screen, I told the poster my opinion of the issue; basically, I would rather do the work than fight for recognition.
Recognition is a concept that came out of Freemasonry. To have your lodge recognized by a Grand Lodge is to have it regarded as being legitimate, and allows the members initiated into your lodge to attend other lodges that recognize your lodge. The reason this is so important in Freemasonry is that Freemasonry is NOT an unified worldwide Order. Rather it consists of a number of Grand Lodges (or Orders as we in Golden Dawn would think of them).
Some of my favorite quotes about the matter comes from Christopher Hodapp's Freemasons For Dummies:
"Freemasonry is not like a corporation or a single, solid, worldwide entity. As a result, no one owns the worldwide trademark to the square and compass logo, and no one can claim he holds the universal copyright on Masonic rituals. It would be like the Methodist Chruch claiming it holds the universal rights to all trademarks, symbols, and sacred texts of Christianity. The Methodists or Catholics or Baptists can't keep a new Christian group from building a chruch and placing a cross over its altar, or stop its choir from singing 'Onward Christian Soliders.'"
"Likewise, Grand Lodges can't stop a group of people from obtaining Masonic rituals out of a book, buying a stack of aprons and officers' jewels, and claiming that they have their own Grand Lodge. Like the branches of the Christian churches, there have been arguments and schisms between differing Masonic groups over the centuries, and factions of Masons have started their own Grand Lodges."
"So who gets to decide who is 'mainstream' or 'legitimate'? Well, in Freemasonry, as nasty as it may sound, might makes right in most cases, and it's a pretty tight club. The big group of mainstream Grand Lodges represents the greatest number of Freemasons in the world. As the 800-pound gorillas in the Masonic Universe, they get to collectively make rules they all agree to abide by."
"None of this is a huge issue to the individual Mason until he starts to travel and visit other lodges or encounters other Masons. An irregular [non-recognized] Mason will not be welcomed into a mainstream lodge, and his degrees and documents will not be considered legitimate. He will not be entitled to the honors, benefits, and fraternalism enjoyed by millions in the Masonic world."
Some parts of this reminds one of the situation in Golden Dawn; other parts do not (can you imagine Golden Dawn having millions of members; I can't).
For instance, Golden Dawn today consists of many different Orders (or Grand Lodges if you will). None of them can claim to hold the exclusive copyright to the Golden Dawn rituals, though certain members like myself can claim the copyrights to our own work and modifications that we have made to the system.
But unlike Freemasonry, in which Grand Lodges have agreed to recognize each other, Golden Dawn have little mutual recogntion. For the most part, a lot of the Big Name Orders do not recognize each other and/or are at war with one another. (I wish that I didn't consider it war, but with how nasty some of the battles have been...) Odds are that if you are in Golden Dawn, you are considered to be irregular by someone else.
And the cherry on top is the little trademark legal war that periodically flares up. Unlike Freemasonry, Golden Dawn has fought its most important recognition battles in court.
That is why I don't think anyone serious about doing the work should get involved in trying to gain recognition. As a tradition, we are too fragmented to justify the effort. At this point in time, it is better for us (outside of the Big Name Orders) to just do the work, and leave the worrying about who is legit and who is not to those who worry about such matters. And pray that we ourselves never grow to the size where we find lawyers on our doorstep.
For myself, I don't recognize any particular Golden Dawn group as legitimate. Why? Because I judge people by their skill and knowledge of the tradition. Have they done the work? If so, then I recognize them; if not, I chose not to associate with them. For me, recognition is an individual award, and not something given over to an entire Order.