Friday, January 30, 2009

Professional astrologer am I?

When does someone become a professional astrologer?

That is my latest question that I am kicking around. And have I crossed the line?

As some of my readers know, I am currently working as a Staff Writer for the Community College of Denver's student newspaper, Campus Connection. It was a gig that was supposed to expand my portifolio. Instead as the year has gone on, I have drifted in writing for the same type of stuff that I always write: esoteric and occult.

In this latest issue, I had both an article about Divination Addiction and an astrology column.

So does writing a monthly astology column for a college newspaper make one a professional
astrologer? I don't know. But it is sure to bug my mother if she ever learns of it.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Car Thief Transforms into a Goat

Here is a weird news story from Nigera. According to a newspaper in Nigera, two men tried to steal a car; and when the citizens chased them, one of them turned into a goat (the other man got away).

Reading this story, I must admit that I am amazed that anyone can believe this. But then again, we are talking Nigera where witches are still being hunted and killed.

I don't know any magician, witch or lunatic that can do it in the western world. Maybe we don't have strong enourgh magic to do such, or maybe I just have not encountered it.

The historian in me asks what type of drugs and toxins are in their food supply. Or is it just religion that makes them believe this.

Then again, in recent days, we saw a bad president try to turn himself into a good one; not that it worked, in my opinion.

Of course, one has to wonder if we don't have criminals who can do this in the western world. Makes one wonder what type of animals some of our disgraced politicians will turn themselves into.

The AP article that brought this weirdness up is:

Friday, January 23, 2009

Sorry for the slow response time

Awhile back, I was reading some opinions about how to determine the best Golden Dawn group for oneself. Now, I will admit that I am opinionated about the issue. After all, I am a lodge officer and have been such for several years. Plus I have been in more than one group: some good, some bad.

But there was one comment (which I am sure was meant as a joke) that said the Golden Dawn group that responds the fastest is the best. And it has been bugging me ever since.

I am not sure about the response time for membership inquires from the Big Name Orders, but I do know that for the lodge I belong to that response times are not quick. Ice ages have came and gone in some cases.

On a good day, the email is checked once, and only once. On a bad day, it is not checked at all. That is the first speed bump in the road.

The lodge also has a couple of dead links out there (created by former members) which if they are the ones that you are using, well, your communication goes into a internet black hole, never to be seen by a current officer. This is not so much a speed bump, as it is those nasty spikes that the cops use to blow out the tires of fleeing cars.

The second speed bump is the schedule of our meet and greet officers. Often they have to compare notes to figure out when someone can meet you before they can even reply to you to set up a time to meet.

Another speed bump, one that I hope no one is guilty of, is if we are unsure of your suitability based solely on your email. If your ego is showing, or you are engaged in dubious practices, or are considering joining for the wrong reasons (the lodge is not right for everyone), then there is going to be a delay in the response time.

The final speed bump that prevents rapid response time is that someone has to have a couple of mintutes to actually answer the inquiry in the first place. We have never figured out how to set up the auto-response feature on the website, nor have we ever agreed on what form letter to send out to actually consider using the function.

All this combines to make our response time slow, sometimes painfully slow.

And if anyone is turned off by this, we do know one thing: the lodge is not going to be right for them. After all, instant gratification is not part of our system, just hard work.

Thank you for your call. Your call is important to us. Please hang on for the next live human being to take your call. There may be a small delay in answering your call. Thank you for your call...

Monday, January 19, 2009

Godforms and gods and goddesses

Occasionally, I forget one of my self-imposed rules of behavior, those rules of thumb I have to make my life easier or at least less exciting.

One of these rules is to never respond to a posting by certain people. It is a waste of time to respond to some people on the forums; they are just there to prove their point and will use everything you say (or don't say) as proof that you are against them. Or so it seems.

One of the people I do not respond to is Steve Nichols.

Or at least, I try to resist the urge to respond to his postings. Unfortunately, I occasionally give into temptation and then end up regretting it.

The latest topic I responded to is his "Adopt a deity for a day" campaign. I read the post, and replied that the idea reminded me of a procedure that some Chaos magicians have done.

First, Steve asks me what my point was.

Honestly, I am not sure that I had a point. And I admitted that to everyone.

Then he decides that I am accusing him of lifting the idea from Chaos magic.

Oy Vey.

That is why I don't reply to his postings.

Well, that and I have no clue why anyone so hostile to Golden Dawn posts on the Golden Dawn forums. One of his pet projects has been to divorce Enochian Chess from any Golden Dawn influences. He claims that it predates Golden Dawn and that all one needs to become an Adept to play Enochian Chess.

Of course, that was before he decided that the Ancient Egyptian game of Senet could be used for that task.

Part of the problem between me and Steve is that I don't believe that it is that easy. Sometimes games are just games. I used to be a role playing geek and a Magic the Gathering player. I have never gained anything spiritual from the games of Senet that I have played.

And I find some of his ideas underdeveloped and not to the point at all; I admit that my reviews of his books on Enochian Chess were not nice.

The other problem is that he spends a lot of his time trying to tear down Golden Dawn. He has never been an initiate of the system, yet he believes that he understands the system.

I am a member of the THAM (Theoricus Adept Minor 5=6) subgrade, plus have access to higher Grade stuff due to my office of archive officer (complete with a much higher oath and Administrative Grade); I don't understand the system completely, and I have been a member and student of the system since March of 1992.

Another of his pet projects is to prove that the godforms that Golden Dawn uses are wrong. Unfortunately, he does not realize that the godforms and the ancient deities of Egypt are not the same things.

(By the way, I am an Egypt pagan/wiccan, besides having worked with other pantheons.)

The godforms that Golden Dawn use are function based. They use a modified form of a god or goddess (angel or myth), and a selected piece of its mythology. They serve a ritual and energetic function. They are NOT the entity who they are named after.

But no amount of reason will convince him of that. Better and more learned people than I have tried. Which is why I have to remember not to respond to his posts.

Place your bets on how long it is before the next time that he suckers me into answering some discussion.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Source of Liber Israfel

Procul, O procul este profani.

Bahlasti! Ompehda!

In the name of the Mighty and Terrible One, I proclaim that I have banished the Shells unto their habitations.

I invoke Tahuti [Tehuti], the Lord of Wisdom and of Utterance, the God that cometh forth from the Veil.

O Thou! Majesty of Godhead! Wisdom-crowned Tahuti! Lord of the Gates of the Universe! Thee, Thee, I invoke.

O Thou of the Ibis Head! Thee, Thee I invoke.

Thou who wieldest the Wand of Double Power! Thee, Thee I invoke!

Thou who bearest in Thy left hand the Rose and Cross of Light and Life: Thee, Thee I invoke!

So begins Liber Israfel (LXIV) from number 7, volume 1 of The Equinox. What a lot of people do not know is that the source of this ritual is not Crowley, but Alan Bennett who performed it in a ritual alongside Florence Farr.

The original invocation starts:

Majesty of Godhead, Wisdom crowned Thoth, Lord of the gates of the universe: Thee! Thee we invoke! Thou that manifesteth in thy symbolic form as ibis-headed one: thee, thee we invoke! Thou who holdest in thy hand the magic wand of double power: thee we invoke! Thou who bearest in thy left hand the rose and cross of light and life: thee, thee we invoke!

The original working was done on 13 May 1896, six years before the version in the Equinox was published, and a year and a half before Crowley was initiated as Neophyte in the Order of the Golden Dawn.

The original working was the famous Taphthartarath (Mercury) ritual, the evocation of the spirit into visible appearance. More details about the ritual can be found in Talismans and Evocations of the Golden Dawn by Pat Zalewski.

(There is another source that I can not remember off the top of my head.)

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Should Orders be ran like businesses?

Thanks to the outpouring of replies on the Golden Dawn Group yahoo forum to Nick Farrell's post, I have been thinking today about whether or not Golden Dawn Orders should be ran like businesses.

What got me thinking about it was a comment that said if a group has a website, then it is a business and it is advertising and applicants are its customers...and the customer is always right.

I will admit that I have always viewed the Order system, both esoteric (ex. Golden Dawn) and exoteric (ex. Freemasonry and the Woodmen of America), as a business model. It comes from being a restaurant manager for ten years, an apprentice to my father (who was self-employed a good part of his life), and being a freelance writer.

In fact, I find that some of the behavior that other people find unbecoming of an esoteric system, such as the mud-slinging, advertising, and lawsuits, to be perfectfully understandable if you think of the lodge system as a type of business.

Note that I say "understandable." I don't think that such behavior is anything to brag about, or even desirable in an esoteric system, but I do understand it.

And considering that all of the Big Three (the three Big Name Orders that I consider to be at the top of the heap GD-wise) have at least one business person (current or ex- business owner) in their upper echelon, it is not really surprising.

So the question becomes what type of business is Golden Dawn?

My answer to that one is that Golden Dawn is a co-op. For those of you who have not experienced co-ops up close and personal, a co-op is a business owned by the customers who use it. Credit unions, farmers co-ops, grocery co-ops are all good examples.

A co-op is ran and governed by its members for the benefit of its members. And you have to qualify to be a member of a co-op; they don't just allow anyone in.

Repeat after me: A magical lodge (Order) is a group of people pooling resources to accomplish a common magical goal. In the case of a Golden Dawn based group, it is to study and practice the Golden Dawn and RR et AC material.

There is nothing in that definition that says that a lodge can not be ran like a business, though it would be a highly picky business that was choosy about who it did business with. If it is not co-op, I don't know what it is.

(Of course, this is based on my ideal of the physical meeting based lodge; Orders that specialize in doing correspondence courses, allow everyone in and are typically owned and controlled by a single person.)

Monday, January 5, 2009

FAQs of realisations for those who want to join a working GD group

Occasionally, one recieves a posting from an online discussion group that is just too good not to share. This is one of them. It was written by Nick Farrell, who is a fellow writer; he is also a lodge officer for a group in Europe (I think it is in Europe). It is his response to some of the applications that his lodge has been getting lately. If you would like to see and comment on the original posting, it is on the Golden Dawn Group, an yahoo discussion group.

A brief FAQ of realisations for those who want to join a working GD group

1. It is better to work on the basis that a group should not accept you. If it does you are either lucky or the group is suspect. "I would never trust a club which would admit me as a member," Groucho Marx

2. It is not what the group can do for you it is what you can do for thegroup.

3. Do not ever aspire to be 'an adept' or seek 'enlightenment' from a group. These are things you do on your own and could never be recognized by a group even if you attain it. Real aspirations for joining a group are personal and often very small.

4. Real teaching is what you get when you are ready to receive it. It is never put on paper. Lessons, etc. are only guides to real teaching which must be found by yourself. Intellectual knowledge is a tool to real knowledge, passing an exam is no indication of evolution any more than passing your written driver's test means you can drive a car.

5. No one in the GD is above the grade of Neophyte. Those who tell you their grade to impress you are lying. Generally the higher the grade, the bigger the liar... anything beyond the veil is probably trying to sleep withyou.

6. Real magicians are unimpressed by people claiming they are high grademasons.

7. GD leaders should be unimpressed by what grades you got in a different esoteric school.

8. Group leaders are unimpressed by people trying to show how clever they are. Knowing that a particular astral plane is coloured pink is not the same as going there. Sharing intellectual information is like listening to someone informing you about a place because they have read about it in Wikipedia.

9. Esoteric Groups are about daily work: intellectual and practical.

10. In joining a GD group, leadership is not impressed when you tell them that you have been doing loads of pentacles and hexagrams and inner order work daily. This is because people who brag about that sort of thing generally have not been doing them properly, have been largely unchanged by the experience and suddenly can not do a basic meditation daily when they are required to.

11. Esoteric Schools do not owe you anything. Theoretically they are not supposed to notice you.

12. Who are you anyway?

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Using Regardie as a benchmark

The biggest portion of published Golden Dawn and RC et AC documents (assuming that Stella Matutina can be considered Golden Dawn) was published by the late Isreal Regardie. His work has became the thirty-six inch rule (or twenty-four inch rule if you are a Freemason) that many people judge what is and what is not Golden Dawn by.

Unfortunately, there are a few problems with using Regardie as our benchmark for what should and should not be in Golden Dawn.

The first of which is that the branch he belonged to, the Stella Matutina, was a later offshoot of the original Order; it had roots in the original Order, but some changes had been made to the rituals and lesson plans. Yet many people consider his documents to be the proper standard despite this.

The second problem is that Regardie was a mere ZAM (Zelator Adept Minor 5=6) when he left the system. The few higher documents of the THAM Grade and of Waite's Holy Order that he collected and published are not enourgh to judge what the higher Grades of the Golden Dawn should look like. Yet many people consider his documents to be the proper standard despite this.

The third problem is that he picked up a lot of ideas from Crowley. Now, personally, I have no problem with Crowley in small doses, but Crowley's ideas belong more properly to his own Order, the AA, and to OTO; Thelema is not part of Golden Dawn; at best it is a sister system. Yet many people consider his documents to be the proper standard despite this.

(Though I will admit that the Thelemic Golden Dawn has combined the two quite nicely. I do not say that as a member of the TGD, though I might still be a member of that Order depending upon how you view my parting with that organization.)

(I still need to study the material of Open Source Order of Golden Dawn before deciding if they are combining the two in what I consider an acceptable manner; acceptable being defined as "does not make me run for the hills.")

The fourth and most important problem is that Regardie only attended his own initiations. He attended no lectures, had no exposure to the oral tradition, had no contact with the other members of his Order. He had only the Stella Matutina documents to judge what Golden Dawn is or is not. Yet many people consider his documents to be the proper standard despite this.

All this translates into a situation where people are using the documents that he had published to judge a system that had more branches and more differences in it than he was aware of. His Golden Dawn is not necessarily my Golden Dawn; nor is it necessarily yours either.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

State of the Golden Dawn 2009

As we open up the New Year, I find myself thinking about the state of the Golden Dawn community.

Over the past year, we have seen several political motivated flare-ups (bearing in mind that these flare-ups also have to do with trying to corner the Golden Dawn market). We have also seen several forums mediators/owners setting up their forums, so that they can weed out all the political and bile-inspired postings.

This has resulted in a decrease in serious Golden Dawn postings on the public forums. The only postings that are still numerous are ones that really have nothing to do with Golden Dawn. Ads for non-Golden Dawn groups and classes (the Golden Dawn related ads are actually being blocked) and rants by people who for the most part seem mentally unstable have became the norm of the day.

Not that serious discussions are no longer around, it is just that most of it is happening on private members-only forums. Or in lodge.

This is not necessarily good for the Golden Dawn community as a whole. At the moment, based on the postings, an outsider would judge us all to be loons.

On the other hand, it is not necessary bad either. One of the big threats in Golden Dawn has always been that the leaders of the worst Golden Dawn groups will do everything in their power to destroy any up-and-coming members of the system. It is a lot harder to destroy someone when you don't actually know that they exist.

And we are going to need a fresh crop of talent in a few years. Several of the heads of the major Golden Dawn groups are getting long in the tooth. We are going to need a revival of the system, preferably by people who had no part to do with the politics and legal issues of the current version of the system.

Not only are we going to need these people to revive the lodge system of Golden Dawn, but we also going to need them to come up with a new goal and administrative structure for the system. Much of the currect state of Golden Dawn is based on the absolute sacredness of the original documents and structure; unfortunately, this results in a system that outlook is rooted in the 1890's. New seekers want the system to be more current and useful to their religous and spiritual beliefs. They also want a system that they can turn their back safely on their fellow members and leaders without getting stabbed.

(I still that a form of limited democracy is the way to go. I am a minority of one.)

As it is right now, there is little to make of value to a Wiccan or non-Christian member, and Christianity may be a dying religion. Outside of magic, that is.

During the last year, the lawsuit that threaten the entire system seems to ground to a stop. It is still too soon to pronounce it dead. As it stands right now, any hope that Golden Dawn would ever unify again into a single Order is gone. Which might actually be a good thing, or maybe not, time will tell on that front.

The trend towards Golden Dawn writers being forced to publish though small publishing houses continues. The bigger publishing houses have decided that there are just not enourgh Golden Dawn students buying books to make it worthwhile; they rather cater to the new age crowd. Even the more serious Wiccan authors are being forced into the arms of small publishers.

It is still not profitable to write Golden Dawn material.

And all this behavior is rooted in a common problem. Most people are treating the Golden Dawn and its membership as a zero-sum game.

For those of my readers who have not taken economics, a zero-sum game is a game where if one person gains, another person must lose. It is based on the assumption that there is only many resources to go around and that no more can be created.

There are only so many lessons that are in the Golden Dawn system, so we must have absolute secrecy to prevent these materials falling into the hands of outsiders. There are only so many potential members to go around, so we must crush competiting Golden Dawn Orders, lodges and leaders and take their members and potential applicants for our own. There is only one way to continue to develop the system, so we need to convince people that it is our way and no other.

The zero-sum game as applied to Golden Dawn is poppycock.

With the lessons, Orders need to generate new material, write new lessons, and develop the system. Yes, this will talent and skill and lots of energy; it will keep people busy. With the membership, actual and potential, the system as a whole needs to start growing interest in the system (if businesses can figure out how to create new customers, why can't Golden Dawn; after all, people are hunger for the spiritual). With the development of the system, all the potential ways need to be looked at.

But lets be honest, this could have been entitled the State of the Golden Dawn 1965, 1984, 1992, 2008 or 2010; it is another year and the state of Golden Dawn is the same as always. Nothing is going to change in the next year, decade or century. I am a happy little cynic, ain't I?