Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Updating and modifying rituals

One of the things that you occasionally see someone make a fuss over is the fact that some of the modern lodges have modified the rituals that they are using. No longer are the rituals the same as the ones that Westcott and Mathers were using...hence, they are not correct according to some people.

Personally, I have mixed feelings over the matter of changing the rituals myself. I have learned a lot about ritual structure though having to modify the rituals that my lodge uses, but I was not happy about having to do it in the first place.

For instance, due to the inclusion of geomancy in the Zelator Grade, our Zelator Grade ritual had to be modified. The decision to bring geomancy down to the Zelator Grade wasn't even our decision; it was something that occurred in the greater Golden Dawn community, and new members started to expect to see it there. It was a curriculum reform done by someone else, due to the nature of geomancy, and put into print.

This curriculum change has probably affected everyone in the system. Other groups have picked it up, and used it also. But here is the kicker...this curriculum change disagreed with the Outer Order Initiation rituals.

In our case, once we figured out that the ballon had gone up, we decided to bring geomancy into the Zelator ritual. Of course, this violates the sacredness of the Cipher Manuscript where it is clearly stated that geomancy is not introduced until Theoricus...at this point, one could argue that the groups that do this are no longer Golden Dawn.

(And given the people who would argue this...well, I have to thank them...I do not want to belong to the same club as they do.)

And this is not the only type of change that has happened to the Golden Dawn rituals. Recently I have been reading a discussion about the 6=5 Adeptus Major Initiation ritual. There is a lot of debate about how long the 36 hours in the pastos is supposed to be. I have my own personal opinion based on my own experience and ritual skill.

It is the latter that one should look at the rituals though. In my opinion, it does not matter what the ritual script says; if you do not have the ritual skill to maintain the energy flow while doing it strictly by the script, then you need to consider modifying the ritual.

In many ways, the fact that the Golden Dawn ritual were set in stone so soon after their modern creation limits them. For instance, the original rituals presume that only the Hierophant and Co-Chiefs know the underlying godforms; it also presume that they are the only ones with the ability to create the shells for them. Many modern groups may not even have a single Adept when they start out: What do you do then?

One of the modifications that I like is the idea that all members can take part in the building up the godforms. This is especially true for a ritual like the 6=5, where there is that question of how long is a person supposed to lay in the pastos. (Yes, there are godforms associated with the reading of the hours; they have seven layers, just like all the other Grade rituals.) Instead of one person trying to hold these godforms together, you have a team doing it. Think of it as enriching the lodge.

My bottom line is that the rituals and curriculum of Golden Dawn needs to be able to change over time. If the system does not change, it becomes a dinosaur. And we all know what happened to them, don't we?


Frater Yechidah said...

Despite it being popular to keep everything set in stone, I agree with you here. Much of the system we have today has been modified and changed over time (it is largely based on the SM documents, which include very big changes from the original GD).

Of course, some changes have been implemented haphazardly, like the Geomancy one you mentioned. Merely moving the curriculum is not good enough, as that affects other areas like the initiation ceremonies themselves. This is why big changes to the system need to be studied carefully and discussed with others to see how it affects things in the long run.

I think everyone chipping in with the god-forms is a good idea. Not only does it help bring the group closer together by pooling their energy and attention, etc., but it makes the god-forms easier to maintain, as well as making the experience itself stronger for the Candidate.

Just as the original Order grew and developer over time, so do we need to continue that process.


Solitary Dawn said...

I have had big discussions about changing rituals and whether you are allowed to do so or not. I guess you always have the traditionalists who want to preserve the “original” tradition (whatever that really means) as much as possible and others who try to adjust a ritual according to developments and experiences which have been made throughout the times. I am in favour of being flexible – as long as the person knows what he/she is doing. I have seen people who changed a ritual because it sounded better or was “easier” that way or because they are having a personal problem with that specific godform…, not realizing that you a) need to have the full understanding and knowledge of the “original” ritual and b) any change needs to remain the balance between the various elements of a ritual. At the end of the day any ritual is supposed to have a specific purpose and was not created to serve as some fancy spooky gag on someone’s part of a different kind…. I have changed minor things in ritual which are more in conformity with my spiritual background. However I would not change any major ritual myself since I am far away of having that deep of an understanding of the details but I personally do not see a general problem there… And at the end of the day, everything changes throughout the times. No exceptions, just refusal to see it…

in LVX,