A rough guide for avoiding bad magical groups.
A rough guide for avoiding bad magical groups.

A rough guide for avoiding bad magical groups.

Joining a magical group is remarkably easy in the 21st century. It seems strange that you can read all about magical groups on the internet and think they are as common as muck. But real good quality ones are as rare as they ever have been. Finding one good one can still be a life’s work. There are many people who go from Order to order looking for something and never really finding it. Sometimes that is the universe trying to tell you that you are not ready for a real magical order. You might be looking for the wrong things, or cannot really handle the sort of training that a real magical group puts you through.  However you can save yourself some time by using some wisdom.
The idea of a coven or a magic order still has a lot of merit as they can be hot houses to learning.  But if the leadership is wrong then you could be suffering from bad experiences that you will talk about until you drop.   What follows are tips to help  work out if a Order is good or bad.

Is it too easy for you to join?

Groucho Marx once said that he would never be a member of a club who accepted him as a member.   If a group wants members, for whatever reason, they might be too keen to lower their standards.  Remember if they lower them to admit you, then there is a good chance that they have done so in the past and most of their members are not the sort of people who should really be doing magic.  Magic is not a easy path, so joining an occult group should not be easy either.  Real magical groups see people as things they have to train and a long term project. They generally should not be too concerned about getting extra people if they have enough to do their work projects. If a group seems too keen for you to join, say by paying for you to come and be initiated, you should avoid them. This means that they are desperate to boost their membership. An esoteric group should always be looking for quality over quantity. You might think that the reason a group wants you is because you are a wonderful esoteric candidate with heaps of knowledge. However to a real magical group lots of experience and pre-knowledge is a hindrance. You have to learn from scratch in any order you join so any intellectual baggage you might be carrying will have to be dropped before you join.

Does the group try to sell itself to you.

In the 21st century many groups have a web presence or a place to contact them. However a group steps over the line when it tries to sell itself like a product.   It is mostly recognised by the overblown language on their website which is pitched to stereotypes about what Muggles think magic is.  The sort of thing which promises secrets, power, mastery of the universe, cures for cancer etc.  Here are a list of common ones:
“We are the ONLY magical school teaching the TRUE and ANCIENT TECHNIQUES”
“Orders have to receive a dispensation from the Masters on the Inner Planes who are known on in the West as the Secret Chiefs.  We have been told that our Order is the only one to receive our Contact’s dispensation in the 21stcentury.”
“All others are frauds and cannot offer our secret techniques.”
“Other groups are envious that they do not have our sources of Secret Teaching and training.”
The list could go on, but you get the idea.  To get a high Google ranking you have to do a lot of shady self-promotion. This involves going onto lots of blogs and waxing lyrical about your order and encouraging all your students to mention you often on their blogs. It is possible to know who some members of magical orders are because often they are writers, but if you start to know too much you have to be careful. Self-promoting groups are trying increase their membership to make money (and sometimes sex). They are also often trying to build an esoteric cult around their actions.

Does the group block a particular group from membership and why?

Magical Groups should not stop anyone from entering on the basis that they are the wrong sex, colour, sexual orientation, physical disability, or hold different religious or political views from the members.   Magical training is possible for everyone and it does not matter what shape you are, or what you prefer to bonk (or how).
That does not mean that they HAVE to accept everyone. Some groups do not allow people to belong to other orders, or have a blacklist of groups that they will not allow members to join at the same time.  This is often not because they are bad, or evil (although it can be), it is just that they have different symbol set from the group and it would lead to some confusion.    This is particularly true of different Golden Dawn orders.  While MOAA gets on well with most of them, all emphasis different aspects of that tradition, or do some things differently.   Nor does a group want to hear “well in my other Golden Dawn order we insist on the [insert teaching here].”  
Honestly I do not believe it is possible to be a member of two different groups anyway as the workload should make it impossible. 

Does the group allow you to skip grades on the basis of your previous experience?

This is a trick to try and establish an Order as quickly and widely as possible.  The premise is that the Order will acknowledge the grades of the leaders of a forming group so that they can form a new order under their banner.    However anyone with common sense will realise that they are not getting anything from the Order that they are joining.  True they might have access to intellectual training, but they will not have experienced what the magic order is supposed to be doing!    As an idea it only works on idiots who like the idea of holding high grades in an order, preferably without doing any work for them (cough masonic types).    When you join an order, you start at the lowest level of that group and then you let it do its magic on you.  You do not do it to form another group for them, or just to have a flashy badge.   Never join an order that allows you to take several grade initiations in the same day or in a short period of time.  They do not understand how the grade system works and you will not get anything out of it.

Does a group accept you without meeting you or pay for you to visit them to be initiated?

If you meet someone you can know much more about them and know if they are going to fit into your group mind and if they are going to make it.  You cannot tell that over a Skype call, even if you have the video chat on.  The fact that a group skips this important meeting (and some even insist you turn up at several of their public meetings first) indicates they do not really care if you fit or not.  Paying for someone to travel to a place to be initiated smacks at desperation. 

Does a group offer to give you status on the basis of an “astral initiation.”

Astral initiation takes place at a high level when the person is experienced enough to go out of their body to receive it.   It is rarely given by a physical being, and only in unusual circumstances.
Lower grade initiations cannot be performed magically, because the candidate needs to experience certain things psychologically and physically.  I was fairly open minded about the idea of astral initiation at this level but I heard too many stories which showed it to be bogus. The technique involved telling the candidate to sit passively at the time of the initiation while a group of officers initiated a talisman (or astrological chart) with their name on it.   One of the tests for an Astral initiation is that the candidate picks up images or feelings from the rite.  I have not met anyone who has come up with anything which compares to a 0=0 experience.
Astral initiation performed in this manner is designed to raise funds from distant members and enable training.  There are much better techniques than passive “astral initiation” which can have a dramatic effect on the candidate, however the groups that use them always insist on a future physical initiation.

Are the leaders who interview you too young?

I started magic when I was 17 and studied really hard at it for many years.  I do not think I really understood anything until my 30s and started to teach when I was in my late-30s,  I have become a lot better since my 40s. 
 My mid-twenties were spent cramming knowledge and dealing with the fall out, I was also trying to build my career.   I cannot see how anyone under the age of 30 can be an esoteric teacher.  You can know enough intellectually in your 20s, perhaps, but you certainly cannot pull in the magic.  Even Jesus, who was supposed to be a prodigy (and apparently the Son of God) did not start teaching until he was 30. 
In your 20s you think that running an occult group is important.  In fact we find that too many younger members think that this is a priority.   Occult leaders should have their arms twisted before they form a group because it gets in the way of real work.  MOAA has enough work in it to last a lifetime, pissing around worrying about people forgetting to bring their red socks to rituals is not something a sensible person would want – unless they are too young, arrogant, and have not had enough magical experience.

Does the group attack others?

Good esoteric groups do not publically attack others.  Even a saint loses their temper in the presence of an internet troll (which is why some good teachers refuse to have an internet presence) and this does not usually mean there is something wrong with them.  As a rule of thumb, the groups that are being attacked, are usually the ones that are doing something, those who are doing the attacking have nothing to offer.  There are some exceptions.

 One group, fortunately disbanded, had an initiation test for its adepts.  This involved either attacking an ex-member’s property or “supporting the order” by setting up webpages defaming rival groups.  There was an inner circle within this group which was dedicated to making magic attacks against those who the leadership thought were trying to attack them.
Real occult orders get on with other occult orders.  They accept that they are different and are happy with that.

Does the group tell you what other similar groups do?

I have heard lots of things that apparently MOAA does from people who have talked to other groups.  I find it fascinating that they claim to know what happens in our rituals.  I don’t know (or care) what they do, so how can they know what is happening in ours?  The latest one is that Nick Farrell has “changed everything” and that the godform of the Hierophant is apparently Hermes!  It is no secret that MOAA has a Heirophant which uses an Osiris godform (when he is sitting down) just like 99 per cent of the Golden Dawn orders out there (the Open Source Order which uses a different inner structure).  All groups (even those who claim to be fundamentalist GD) have changed something.  This is because even if you had the original scripts of the GD, you would have no idea how those rituals were performed.  Nor do you have any idea how much modern thinking has corrupted that teaching. Generally saying that another group is “doing it wrong” when you can’t be certain what they do, means you are trying to convince people that your way is the only way.


  1. Couple years ago when I was searching for real GD order I realised that the Internet can be useful in that. So I googled it and got result.
    To me a big issue, something I could read only in books appeared in front of me just on reach. I was really excited. But then I noticed the least possible thing I would ever expect in connection with a magical order,
    this -> ® The rest was short: omg! wth? rofl 😀 no, thx…

  2. Nick, your article is great and goes right to the point. I met a strange magical order on an internet magic forum. Apparently the forum itself was put up by the order’s main leader, and in there, a couple of older members boost the order a lot. The leader used to say that his order was the only “legitimate” in an “unbroken line”, but he didn’t present any evidence of that. Or better, he promised to show a real strong evidence, but only to those who were advanced enough in the grades, to be trusted. Here and there appeared a lot of stories of how the order received atacks from other magical groups and “dark lords” of magic, and how they defended themselves with their unique and legitimate techniques. It happens too that the leaders are really young, maybe in their 30’s, and all their knowledge came from a sort of “remembrance from past life initiations” and some intensive training in eastern meditation they received by a real “adept” although they never said who was this adept because we noobies would try to reach him and importune him with our “noobieness”. There were so much of this bullshit that I quit the order. I hope your texts are a warning against this kind of bad thing. Thank you!

  3. Excellent article Nick! I was fortunate enough to be led to a good GD group in ’87 and to many valuable teachers and another great GD group today. I excelled quickly but I agree that it takes time to really do one’s own ‘Work’ before they can get to the task of teaching and managing a group. One of my tasks in leaving and reentering the tradition with group work, was dropping my intellectual baggage about how things should or could be done, its been a unique challenge since one of my first mentors that I met in the GD went on to create the Open Source order.

    Among other things, I have been guilty of paying too much attention to detail, I love those Red Socks. But really, its been more a matter of less distraction for me and more opportunity for concentration and the quality of symmetry in the room. Its a useful aide, but as you reminded, not necessary. I guess I can be a bit of a perfectionist…which is why I like your blogs. I’m thinking your probably a bit of one too. You certainly have your opinions and speak your mind!(which I’ve enjoyed, when it hasn’t gotten ‘my goat’).

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