How long should you be in an esoteric order before you are capable of actually doing something useful?
In a recent debate about the merits of one group I was surprised how many people were proud of the numbers of years they had studied within an organisation. However, at the same time they did not show any signs that they could act independently of it.
A group is not supposed to be the beginning and end of a magician’s work. It is supposed to be training them to work independently, carry out their research and magical work. Sure, a substantial chunk of the early work is personality development, and this balancing work can be long and arduous but at the end the day a group is supposed to train you to be a magician.
You are supposed to reach a point where you can find a need for magic and have a broad idea how to do it. Sure, you might be terrified and inexperienced but you have a rough idea what is happening.
The Golden Dawn set the outer order as its personality balancing time and assisted the student with initiations which enhanced that experience. It is not always enough time, and people are often burnt during the study phase, but it does give you an idea.
For the first two and half years (if you rushed it) you would dedicate to balancing your personality and carrying out some basic intellectual study so that you knew what roughly what you were doing. There was little practical work because you were integrating the experiences of the initiations which had a direct impact in your life. Most people never manage this process within the two and half years, mostly it takes three to four as part of the balancing carries out in life events which take time to play out.
The result of this is that the person is “mostly themselves.” They are not perfect, but they are a lot more confident, informed and ready to be a magician.
In the 5=6 true magical training takes place. This is where the person starts to practically learn the art of magic based on the school and their appointed teacher. This process should take about five years, depending on many numerous factors and the dedication of the person. Practice is a key part of this process. It is not so much looking a manuscript and intellectually picking it to bits, it is doing. Most people stay in this state for longer than they need to because “doing” is the hard bit.
The student then enters the next phase. They magically know what they are doing, they have made and deepened their contacts and automatically work regularly. Most specialise, or move onto their own projects. Some teach. It is more than likely that they will leave the order because they do not practically need it. Information will come to them from other sources. Others will stay because the Order is a place of like minds and provides them with support and information. Some groups offer initiations to help with the higher grades work, but, however useful they might be, the magician at this point is independent. When they need it, the gods initiate them.
This does not mean that they know everything. In fact they will need their Order to provide them with missing pieces of research. If they have left an order or the group cannot tell them the answer to their question they will have to find those missing pieces elsewhere. Approaching others requires something that many magicians in this position do not really understand – they have to be humble. A lot of bullshit in the magical community is caused by people pretending they know it all when they don’t know anything. One of the saddest things is hearing adepts using bullshit ideas in their magical work because the person in charge of their Order did not have the courage to say “I don’t know.”
Magical independence is an ideal and people will take a lot longer to move through these stages, but the point is that the Order is not ever meant to be the focus of their work. The Order is supposed to help them develop so that they can become a magician. If they stay once they have done this it is out of service to the Order, not because it is the focus of your magical work.
In many ways Orders are like a large (sometimes dysfunctional) family. The goal of an Order is to turn children into adults as quickly as possible so the parents can have a life too. Once a child is an adult they go on to have families of their own. They remain tied to the family through bonds of blood, show up from time to time and help out. However, there is nothing sadder than a child who never grows up and stays at home for decades after they are meant to leave. Occult orders who encourage that are not really doing what they claim.
One group provides written materials which, if followed, would take up most of a person’s life. But if it had been focused on making the person independent most of the information was unnecessary. It is intellectual material that the student should have been able to work out on their own if they needed it.
Another idea is to keep inventing ever higher grades and initiations to create the illusion that the student will “get better” if they still be in a group.
However, the point of independence is well below any grade structure. If a person stays in an order so that they can get their Grand Order of the Golden Duck and Silver Goose grade they have failed the much lower 5=6 grade. Orders like this are like families who bribe their kids to stay at home by putting an extension on their bedrooms, or allowing them to use their sister’s room now that she has married. Orders that give higher grades to independent adepts are like families who save up to put their kids through university, or stump up for the deposit of their first house.