Given some of the recent discussions I have had lately, ones where I found myself looking at things completely differently than everyone else, it might be useful to remind people that my personal background in Golden Dawn is perhaps not what they expect it to be.
Like many people, I got drawn into the occult when I was young. My parents raised me without any religion; there was a conflict over what religion I should be raised in, and the compromise was none.
But I was exposed to some religion, one that my mom (in hindsight regrets that I was exposed to, especially after she became born again). My aunt was a Gardnerian; like a fool, I followed suit becoming an initiate of one of the offshoots of the Craft in my late teens/early twenties.
(My mom blames wicca, along with a couple of other things, for her sister's death. In her book, me and my aunt are not wiccans, but outright satanists. It is hard to be a satanist when you do not believe in that entity or his enemy; or at least, I do believe in the same sense as a Christian does. I believe that there are unbalanced spiritual entities out there; I just chose not to worship them.)
I have belonged to a few covens in my time, along with study circles, healing circles, and the odd Golden Dawn lodge. I have also belonged to a few groups that score high on the cult evaluation form. I was actually expelled from a couple of these, including one where I was stripped of my degree by someone of a lesser degree than myself (basically, I refused to do something illegal after they seized control of the group; they thought I should follow their every order; hence, my ongoing battle with willfulness made me unfit for all fair society).
Being told that you are unfit for fair society allows one to look at things differently. For instance, I know that there is potential for cult-like behavior in Golden Dawn. And I will not keep this a secret, even when high superiors tell me that this must never be admitted.
I am also a journalist (sort of). I believe in the freedom of the press. One of the first things that a bad leader does is try to control what is being said about them (and others). I have a soapbox; I am going to use it (even if it is only to write bad book reviews).
But the thing that one needs to know the most about me is that I did not start off as a book learned member of Golden Dawn. Before I walked into Golden Dawn, I knew as much about the system as is contained in Kraig's Modern Magick. In fact, it was my carrying that book in public that caused me to come to the attention of a member of Hathoor Temple.
I was harassed for six months (or tested if you prefer that term), brought in and promptly made an officer. At the time, the lodge was in distress. They were trying to find a replacement for one of their long standing officers; hence, my experience of being ran though the mill.
For those who have not experienced this, imagine undergoing the rituals and teachings of an esoteric system, both as a student and an officer at the same time. As quickly as you move up the Grade ladder, you are also moved up the Officer ladder. People wonder why I dropped out after Hathoor Temple closed: I was simply burnt to a crisp.
It is due to this experience that I look at the Golden Dawn system differently. So differently that often I will back out of a conversation rather than try to convince people that I might know what I am talking about. I did not learn the system though papers and books: I learned it from a script while trying to figure out where I was supposed to be standing.
My experience was hands-on. Studying the papers came later. And Hathoor Temple (along with the Inner Order mentors that I came into contact with later) often disagreed with the published material. For me, the published material is always going to be a touch wrong.
I am also a touch suspicious of anyone shouting "Lineage!" or "Secret Chief!" Here in Denver Colorado, a place that had four GD lodges active in the late eighties/early nineties, we have never had any help from the outside. We have been on our own for quite some time doing the best that we can. In my opinion, it is a little late to suggest that we need help.
So to sum it up: I have been involved in too many groups that were on their own; I come from a non-Christian religion (hence I do not think that GD is a Christian Order [Hathoor sure wasn't; Bast Temple sure isn't]); I have suffered at the hands of bad leadership; I learned hands-on using scripts that disagree with the published material; and I believe in the freedom of the press.
If I wasn't already declared unfit for all fair society, the combination would get me be expelled.