A debate erupted on Facebook about the necessity of the Golden Dawn initiations. Over the years there have been various suggestions that various grades are un-necessary and you can do Golden Dawn magic (usually the ritual material at the 5=6 grade) without doing the outer order.
One argument goes that the Golden Dawn founders Mathers and Westcott where not initiated into those grades so they don’t need to either. Another, put forward by Israel Regardie, is that the Golden Dawn elemental grades were pants and were better off being replaced by the Watchtowers ritual for a while before getting on with the 5=6.
Like many things Golden Dawn related, the key advocates of running it down have not seen a Golden Dawn group unrolled in all its glory. Or if they have, it is usually run by someone who does not know what they are doing and is winging it with a copy of Israel Regardie’s Golden Dawn book under their arm.
Basically you need the whole system in play to get any benefit out of it.
Let’s start with the basics. As I have said before each Golden Dawn ritual is a form of psychic surgery on a person’s sphere of sensation. Each operation moves towards the goal of adjusting and balancing the person until they are able to handle the load of higher magic both intellectually, psychologically and spiritually. Each grade opens the person until they can have an understanding of that element inside themselves. An initiation impresses on a person systems which are important for later work. I would add that you could see this all as an alchemical operation starting with the 0=0 and ending in the 5=6, however you can get away with any old rubbish by claiming it is alchemical.
The 0=0 ritual awakens the dead matter of the personality to a spiritual life. But within it are encoded sequences used in the Magic of Light sequences of the higher grades. If you have not undergone these, then you cannot comfortably use these processes on other objects. You can’t transform the elements which make up a talisman unless you have the energies in your own sphere of sensation ready to take them. You are given one ritual in the 0=0, that of the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram. If you study this, you can see that it is wired into the 0=0. Thus someone who has been initiated into the 0=0 will perform a Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram differently from one who does not. Yes, I know Wiccans use the Lesser Ritual and so did I when I was in the Servants of the Light, but it “changed” after I did my 0=0 in a way which was unexpected.
Elementary my dear Watson
The elemental grades adapt each of the different parts of the spheres of sensation and get an “effect” as the person attempts to integrate the grade. Basically the 1=10 forces them to look at their material circumstances in terms of help, fitness and finances. The 2=9 requires them to analyse their astral, psychological and instinctual make-up. The 3=8 looks at the rational mind and incorrect thinking and the 4=7 forces them to look at their higher emotions and to bring about change. These are not grades which are taken in a masonic way. A practical Golden Dawn group is looking for results in these grades and practical changes as the candidate may “fail” an initiation (often leaving the group) or take a long time to process the issues of the grade before they are ready to proceed.
In the portal grade the magical system which has been created in the outer order is “powered up” with spirit for the first time. This spirit is the image of Tiphareth reflected onto Yesod. It is there that any cracks and short comings in the candidate’s outer work appear. What is not dealt with appears as a crisis which MUST be dealt with. This sort of balancing act is emergency maintenance which must be done in a hurry and obviously the more work which is done in the outer order helps.
At the end of the Portal you should be the best personality you can be, balanced and ready to take the higher load of Tiphareth when the path of Samech is opened by the 5=6 ritual.
So what are the consequences of missing these important grades and jumping to 5=6? Regardie’s theory that doing watchtowers in place of the elemental rituals does not work. In fact almost everyone I have met who tried this approach ended up a basket case. The watchtowers just open the elemental gates and expose the person to their energy. They do not help the person balance them and indeed any elemental imbalances will be powered up. If they have a weakness in the water element the others will be over pronounced. If a person is not even aware of what the elements are, thanks to not spending any time working with them one at a time, then they are not going to have a bats chance in hell of understanding what is going on if they are unbalanced.
If they try to do 5=6 work without the elemental grounding of the outer grades they will find that the centres which are supposed to open during these rituals will not. The result will either be a lack of success (where the person invariably will blame the failure on the Golden Dawn system) or an unbalanced success/ failure due to some of their centres and parts of their astral bodies working when others do not.
What about Westcott and Mathers?
So then the what about the so called killer argument that since Wynn Westcott and Samuel Mathers did not undergo the outer order their students need not either? In my view Westcott and Mathers were given a get out clause which is reserved for all senior adepts who start an order. They act as channels for those powers which are behind the Order who carry out the initiations until the students who have the magic done to them are ready to initiate and have all the material ready to do it. If Westcott and Mathers had any sense they would have undergone their own initiations along with their students, but instead when the students reached Tham the split happened and the SM and Waite’s Order were formed. In my view the real adepts of the Golden Dawn were always the students who took the system and made it into something. Westcott pretty much dropped out and Mather’s AO was a shadow of the rebels’ GD until Brodie-Innes took over.
What is weird about the elemental grades, and the Golden Dawn system is that it is bloody obvious to anyone who has actually worked the complete system. Yet those who find the flaws in the system or attempt these shortcuts are those who have not.