Initiation rights

Having started my occult path before the arrival of the internet I am “old school” and believe that initiation is not something you get automatically.

A friend of mine in another school is having problems with a student who felt he should be initiated because he said so. He had shown up, paid his dues, and he felt he was ready. He was so shocked when his teacher said no, he left in a huff and then started to attack the teacher online for not noticing his greatness. Like many modern “magicians” he has failed to see that his very actions are exactly why the teacher did not want him initiated yet.

The assumption was that rejection was the ego of an autocratic teacher. I understand how he felt. I was in the Servants of the Light for many years, working hard and not getting initiated. I remember feeling at the time – why is that person getting initiated when I am being ignored? With hindsight, there were political reasons, but at the time I was not aware of that. But what I believed at the time, and still believe, that you will be initiated when you are ready for it. Years later I got the initiation I was looking for and it took me out of the SOL style system and into the Golden Dawn. Again, with hindsight that was always going to happen, but I needed to learn some things before it did. Staying within that tradition meant I learnt those valuable lessons before leaving.

Teachers do miss initiation candidates… but

But students are not the only ones who are arrogant about the reasons for initiations. Teachers can, and do fail spot promising students and get lost in their own games. Ironically when my then teacher who provided me with that much-awaited initiation, expelled me, he did so fully assuming it was the end of my magical career. He told me that I would play around with “uncontacted groups” never going anywhere. It was then I realised what initiation was and how it was only tentatively tied to a group or tradition and you get your initiations in different places over your life. In my career, I have had four real initiators before I met my own contact and did not need them anymore.

In the Magical Order of the Aurora Aurea we get loads of applications from people who expect that because they have applied we will initiate them and let them in. However, in a real school it does not work that way, indeed you should be deeply suspicious of groups that want you to be a member or recruit you.

Initiation is a big job

Taking a student is a big task that the Order itself has very little say in. People are bought to schools by the life forces behind them for a purpose, which may or may not be initiation. But coming to a school does not make you a member of it – you might be just passing through, or just be being given a chance to start your occult career. Some groups focus on beginners and accept that they are going to get a lot of tourists passing through, but the more serious schools, particularly those with a lot of initiations, do not have the time to waste on those students who will just rush to the next newest shiny object.

Each school, if they talk about it, or even acknowledge it is based around a set of contacts who specialise in a field of training. It is those contacts who do the initiation in their school not the chiefs, or the order. If they do not want to initiate you, getting on with the human group leader will not help you, the initiation will not take place.

Testing for Initiation

In MOAA we ask people wanting to join to carry out a series of pathworkings to see how they get on with our contacts and ask for detailed reports back. We ask for symbols so we can see what the student is getting at a level they have not worked out yet. Often the would-be student is telling us that contact in the pathworking is earnestly telling them that they will be part of the order, while the symbols all around them are quietly hinting no thanks.

Before someone is initiated they must have some semblance of stability. That is not to say that perfection is possible, but they should not have any obviously alarming traits which show that there will be problems further down the line.

In some groups, where you wait several years to be initiated, you are expected to sort out a lot of those quirks before being plugged into the contacts. In GD groups the first level of initiation power is applied gradually and will cause you to focus on different aspects of your life. Obviously any one of these initiations you can fail and “break” and some personalities are so damaged and fragile that breaking is a certainty.

Failed initiations

Sometimes you cannot tell if someone is going to break or fail a grade, often it is obvious. The group leaders often have an inkling but still hopes it will not be the case. It is usually the blue-eyed boys or girls who are mostly likely to fail. It is the plodders who do not attract attention who quietly go up the grades that succeed.

When people fail a grade, it is spectacular and usually the leader of the group is the target for abuse. I used to think that this was part of the individualisation process, but now I am less certain. More often the people who go bang in this way are doing so because of problems that they refuse to face and would rather project it onto the group leader. Parental issues are the biggest problem, with mummy or daddy issues played out violently on the teacher who did not give them what they wanted. It is more likely that they will continue to ignore the issue for the rest of their life and take their problems to the next group they join, or their relationships, or workplace. If the problem is crippling, then chances are they will leave practical magic. One modern trend is to fail an initiation in one group and then suddenly be attracted to another group which will not challenge that weakness, or which convinces you that all your problems are the fault of your old one.

And finally

The point of all this is when you hear someone bad-mouthing their teacher because they refused to give them the initiation they felt they deserved, understand that you are seeing the problem that prevented them from being initiated. Try to understand that teacher themselves will also be sad that the amount of effort they put into that student did not help them see that problem. If the teacher really was at fault, then advice the student to move on and find the occult teacher they need.

Repealing the Law of Attraction

One of the sadder manifestations of the 20th century was the dumbing down of esoteric thought to simplistic New Age mantras like the Law of Attraction. What amazes me is not so much that the Law of Attraction draws in so many muggles, but that occultists try to incorporate it within their practice.

Builders of the Adytum’s Paul Case was one such person who included these simplistic New Age visualisation techniques in his correspondence course. When I was a teen, it was easy enough for me to understand and I used it. The only problem is that it does not work, and with it comes a pile of baggage which is counter-productive to magical work.

For those who came in late, the Law of Attraction says the following:

“The universe creates and provides for you that which your thoughts are focused on. Many believe it to be a universal law by which “Like Always Attracts like.”

To get “what you want” you must visualise clearly and charge it with positive emotion and act as if you have already obtained the result. The universe will then bring the result to you. You also must remove yourself from negative influences which will destroy your positive view.

Superficially all this slides neatly with other New Age concepts including the western concept of karma (as defined as sewing what you reap). Recent manifestations of the “law” are liberally smeared psycho-babble, and fake-physics which make it easy for con-people to adapt. It is possible for those wishing to make it “magical” to do so because there is a strong element of visualisation within magical training.

So, what is wrong with it? Like many things superficial, it is a victim of application of philosophy and working out the consequences of what it means.

The most important influences of the law of attraction are always material (abundance and wealth) and the person picks the specific goal based on desire.
Magical philosophy specifically says that material circumstances are a complex web of levels and ideas and desire is only a part of this. Everyone “desires” all the time and everyone’s desires are always going to be in permanent contradiction with someone else’s. The weakness behind the LoA is that says that everyone is doing it all the time naturally, but if everyone was doing then no-one would be getting what they want. According to the LoA I should win the lottery, but what about the millions of others who have also bought a ticket? The LoA says that the winners succeed because they are better at attracting wealth, but some of the horror stories about lottery winners wasting their winnings seems to show the opposite.

There are no values to the Law of Attraction.
A person’s desires are not based on fairness, or anything other than their own petty material whim. Desire is one of the lowest parts of a human existence. It is unlikely that a human society could function without necessary values or repressing desire in some way. If someone cuts you up at a traffic lights you might “desire” to kill them. The values of your society say you cannot, but the LoA says you can attract their person’s death just by wishing it.

A magician, even those claiming to be evil, work under a value system which places something above their own personal whims. Most material whims are so banal that it is hard to see the universe going out of its way to make them happen.  Values, personal development, and ethics are therefore very important to magicians

With the Law of Attraction do not have to do anything
The LoA, says that you can attract something to you without making effort. It is a law so if you are doing it right, you do not need to do anything else to attract what you want. So, if you want to win the lottery you should not need to buy a ticket. If you want a new house you do not need to look, you should wait for the Universe to provide one. However, the magical path insists that if you want material magic to work you must put yourself in the way of getting it.

Make no plans with the Law of Attraction
Making plans shows the universe that you doubt its ability and lack faith. Doubt is negative and you will then attract more negative and not get your desired item. In the Secret, Jack Canfield specifically tells us that it is not the humans to figure out the how… trust that the Universe will figure out how to manifest it.” This is counter to a magical approach which can involve a series of different events to bring about a result. Understanding what is happening is part of the magical process. Take that away and you have no magic, just blind faith that you are going to get what you want. To risk an alchemical analogy, the LoA says that you can place your lead in a test tube and not worry about how it turns to gold, just so long as it does. An alchemist says that watching and planning the different processes IS the alchemy.

Do not set any deadlines with the Law of Attraction
Because you have already achieved your goals, there is no reason to set up deadlines or timelines. Secret author Rhonda Byrne points out that it takes no time for the Universe to manifest what you want. So, when do you give up? A magician usually allows a certain period before they realise that the rite or spell did not work. Time is also a weird thing. If the universe can make it happen at any time, and you assume it did then why hasn’t it happened straight away?

Challenges are a bad thing for Law of Attraction followers
The LoA implies that there should be no challenges to your desire, yet most managers will point out that you need to plan for challenges that may arise. In fact you would be a very poor military campaigner if you did not have a plan B or C. The Charge of the Light Brigade is an example of what happens if you are not flexible, or do not plan (see above).

The Law of Attraction says Compassion is a bad thing
One of the biggest problems I have with the LoA is that it is entirely without compassion. It says that if you get sick, it is your fault and if anything goes wrong in a person’s life it is their fault. The LoA makes this New Age belief even more obnoxious by claiming that helping people is bad for your personal health and should be avoided. This is because hanging around with the poor, the sick, will mean that you will attract their sickness to yourself.
The Secret says: “If you see people who are overweight, do not observe them…If you think or talk about diseases, you will become sick. What you think or surround yourself with – good or bad, is what you will bring upon yourself.”

The law of attraction says blame yourself and the victim
As I mentioned above, the LoA is supposed to be a law, and therefore if you can’t make the law work for you it is your problem. Given that most people using the LoA are not going to get what they want (because they don’t plan, don’t do anything for it, and isolate themselves) they are going to feel that they are failures. To make matters worse, if shit happens to people they have somehow drawn that into their lives. Hiroshima happened because the people in that town willed it upon themselves, the Holocaust was not the fault of the Nazis but the negative thoughts of the Jews. Such an atrocity of thought is a philosophy which fails on so many levels.

The law of attraction is divisive
The LoA encourages you to see people who do not agree with you as being “negative” or “evil.” If you are trying to attract what you want, then you come to see anyone who suggests you may not as someone to be avoided. This has happened to me on Facebook when I suggested to someone that the Law of Attraction might not work. The person immediately unfriended me calling me “negative.” This is a cult mentality which prevents you from seeing any truth. If truth is presented to you, you must isolate yourself immediately from it for your own health. Any system which locks you away from discovering new ideas or seeing reality differently is contrary to magical thought. Anything which makes you see another human as being different from you is also non-magical. All creatures are an expression of one central being.

Invoking the Universe
The LoA has slipped past a lot of intellectual gatekeepers because it refers to the “universe” rather than a God or Goddess. But if the Universe is an intelligent being then how can it possibly be interested in helping one of its atoms who wants to own a large flat screen telly? It seems that by making an entity called the universe responsible, the secret appears to imply that its ideas are a mechanical thing, like gravity, or relativity. If this were so we should see it operating in physics. Objects which are the similar or the same should be draw to each other. So, if we take two identical steel balls, paint them the same colour and place them a foot apart on a table, they should be drawn to each other thanks to the LoA. A magician and a physicist would say that this is not possible, but if the LoA is a physical law then similar physical objects must always be attracted to each other.

The law of attraction’s similarity to magical ideas
One of the reasons that the LoA appeals to some magicians is that it does have elements of magical techniques. The most obvious being visualisation. In many ways ritual is a big visualisation exercise designed to help you overcome any internal barriers to making your goal happen. The idea that similarities between colour, or sound, or the shapes of plants make for an occult correspondence appears to be shared by magic and the LoA followers.

However, that certainly does not make them the same thing. An LoA follower would say that painting a talisman blue, making it a square, and filling it with four-letter divine names would be to aid drawing a positive expression of Jupiter energy. But this is a superficial part of the talisman’s creation. As I have said in my book, Making Talismans, a Talisman does not work because it is made from these correspondences it works because it is the body of a spiritual creature that embodies them as ideas. There is a marked difference. I can make a perfect talisman out of cardboard but it is dead material, equally I can involve a “spirit” to do the job, but it will be unfocused or lack a name. If I use a set of correspondences I am invoking a specific spirit for a specific task. The difference is calling a plumber by randomly choosing a number from the phone book and picking one from a directory of plumbers. LoA confuses by dumbing down this important difference.

Magic is different from the Law of Attraction
Magic suggests that there is a divine unity to the reality and that everyone is playing a role in a bigger story. The magician role is not played by everyone so the rules that he or she uses do not have to be used by all. What works for them is not necessarily a “law of the universe” it is just what they use to control their part of the story. Rather than being isolated from humanity, they have a role to help it. They train in magic so that they can assist those who are tied up in their own stories and need help to move on.

Magic may or may not work in specific circumstances because it is not part of the plot of the universe. A person gets sick, or dies, because that is their role in that part of the story. If a magician can help them and they get better, then that is because that is also part of the narrative.

But there is no secret and no Law of Attraction, or short-cuts underpinning the universe and we can thank the gods that this is the case, or else it would be a very miserable universe indeed.

Ancient astrological planetary signs

Most people believe that the astrological symbols we use are truly ancient. In fact they were a renaissance invention. This knowledge is rather important when you consider that John Dee’s Hieroglyphic Monad, and several Golden Dawn diagrams depend on these being the correct symbols.

In early astrological drawings  images of the gods were used to represent the planets they controlled. Each god had a symbol associated with them, so slowly these became the symbols of the planets. The first example we have of this is Roman where the gods are shown with their symbols.

Jupiter has his staff (although sometimes he has a lightning bolt); Saturn his scythe; Mars his spear; Mercury his caduceus; The moon has a lunar crown and the sun has his rayed halo. Venus has a necklace from which a ring is hung.

Here is what the symbols would have looked like if they were used in a modern astrological way.  It is possible to see where our modern symbols came from, in some cases and it does rather poor cold water of some of the speculations of later eras.

If we think for example about the importance of placing the planetary symbols on the cabbalistic Tree of Life, or how all the planetary symbols are actually born from one single symbol we discover how far off the mark some of the occult teaching has been.  That is not saying it is bad, or even wrong, it is just that they have missed the point of what the symbols were supposed to mean.