Monday, March 14, 2011

Initiates, Adepts and High Adepts

Recently, Phoenix Angel wrote up a blog article about how she defines an adept, calling the article, “What I Expect from an Adept.” I found the article interesting, but I felt inspired to add my own two cents to the discussion. As a witch and a pagan, these terms mean something different to me than they might to one who is either a classically trained Golden Dawn initiate or a Theosophist. Phoenix Angel appears to be a something of a practicing heterodox like myself, but still, let me opine a bit on this subject. You can find Phoenix Angel’s article here.

First off, I tend to differentiate between someone who is initiated into a tradition and someone who has experienced a life-changing transformative experience. Not everyone who undergoes an initiation into a specific tradition has also undergone a corresponding transformation. One would hope that they would be synonymous, but that is not always the case. For instance, one can receive an initiation into an exoteric social organization and not experience any kind of internal transformation. Also, one can undergo a harrowing transformation and not be a member of any esoteric organization.

It’s my perspective that someone who receives an initiation into an esoteric spiritual or magickal organization should experience some kind of deep psychological transformation. That transformation may be contiguous with an initiation, or it may occur either before or immediately following it. If it doesn’t happen at all, then it’s possible that the initiation may have either failed in its purpose, or represented a level of consciousness or grade of spiritual achievement well below that which the candidate already possessed.

So, it’s my opinion that every initiation which a person might receive from a spiritual or magickal organization must cause some kind of dramatic or profound change in the candidate in order for that initiation to be considered authentic. I have actually known or witnessed some individuals who underwent initiation rituals that were incompetently performed by the members of a coven or temple, and still, they appeared to achieve some kind of internal change. I can only assume that if the intention of the candidate is true and deep, then the resulting initiation, no matter how poorly contrived, will produce the desired effect. Correspondingly, I have witnessed beautiful initiation pageants perfectly executed that had little no long term effect on the candidates. The desires, intentions and expectations of the candidate appear to be quite important to a successful initiation rite. A candidate must know why an initiation is occurring, its purpose, and he or she must have done some internal preparation for it.

What this means is that the dual process of transformation and initiation, as experienced in authentic occult groups, belongs wholly to the individual who undergoes it, not to those who perform the rite. The performers of a rite of initiation are merely taking upon themselves a temporary role to assist the candidate in achieving the purpose of the rite.

As an initiator, you can feel responsible for someone’s development, training and behavior while they are making the first steps at self-knowledge, but you are not implicitly responsible for the occurrence of their transformation or their initiatory process. A candidate can receive an initiation by those who have taken the role of facilitator or ritual guide, but refuse, for various reasons, to receive any further training, guidance or any kind of benign interference. An initiate actually has no further obligations of any kind to anyone regardless of promises or oaths made to the contrary, but he or she may choose to play the role of neophyte and continue with the roles that were temporarily assumed during the initiation rite. Oaths and obligations are assumed for the sake of the mentor relationship and also for any lore that might be given. Yet the initiation itself is the business of the candidate, and its confidentiality is for his or her sake alone.

This unacknowledged truth might be quite surprising to some, and others might disagree quite passionately with what I have said. The initiators do not own the initiation rite that they perform for a candidate, and they don’t own the initiatory process that the candidate undergoes. It doesn’t happen because of the rite that they have performed, nor does it occur because of the supposed power that they have dispensed or given to the candidate. It happens solely because it is within the provenance of the candidate and his or her own internal mystery. That provenance is the exclusive personal property of the one undergoing the initiatory process.

Oaths and obligation are given for the information imparted and the confidentiality of the individuals within the group, but they can’t and don’t apply to the initiation mystery itself. One could undergo an initiation mystery in a coven or temple, and then decide to follow their own inner prompting, and that would be completely lawful, regardless of the shock and outrage of those who performed the initiation rite. This almost never happens, but it should demonstrate that the initiation and transformation process belongs exclusively to the one who undergoes it, not to the group, the teachers or the overall organization.

Another important point is that a transformative initiation should not be a single event, never to be repeated. While there are some pagan and witchcraft traditions that espouse only one initiation, an occurrence of internal, cyclic transformations, expressed or realized through some kind of exterior ritual should be a natural part of anyone’s spiritual and magickal process. The exterior rite should not, in most cases, be one that is performed alone, but shared with others, who act as witnesses and perhaps even facilitators. They assist the candidate in objectifying the internal transformation.

This continuous and periodic transformation and it’s outer expression as an initiation rite characterizes an incremental expansion of consciousness and the evolution of spiritual awareness. For the progressive pagan, witch or occultist, spiritual evolution in this life is a very important virtue, denoting that one is on the “path” to ultimately achieving union with the Godhead. Not every pagan, witch or magickal practitioner has this as their goal, but for the progressive practitioner, growth and personal development is a critical part of one’s spiritual and magickal practice. It is also a natural by-product produced through the search for meaning, greater insight, and the exalted conscious realization of Spirit within the material world.

This is why many magickal lodges and other occult organizations have multiple degrees or grades, but the transformative process doesn’t adhere to fixed degree structures or orchestrated, time-in-grade measurements. Transformative initiations are, if anything, guided by the internal mechanism and the mysteries of the individual initiate, based as they are on his or her soul revelations. Some transformations are greater and far more profound than others, and they may occur at greater or lesser frequencies during the lifetime of the initiate. They can also happen during different time frames, some taking much longer to complete than others. What we can say about transformative initiations is that they are cyclic oscillations of an initiate’s internal spiritual process. That cycle can be compared to the mythic Cycle of the Hero or the twenty-two Trumps of the Tarot. An examination of the symbolic images of the Tarot Trumps, or the occurrence of one in a strategic Tarot reading, can indicate to the initiate their specific point in the ongoing and ever continuous initiation process.

As I have already indicated, cyclic transformations occur at various intervals, and have greater or lesser impact on the one experiencing them. The greater cycles can be symbolically compared to the ten Sephiroth on the Tree of Life (that is, if the Qabbalah is an important tool), but other meta-patterns or symbolic structures can be used. Because, for me, the Tree of Life is a very useful tool, I also find it useful to determine the larger transformative patterns.

In the Order of the Gnostic Star, the Qabbalah is used to build the required ordeals that an initiate must perform in order to attain to a specific degree, since by performing them, he or she triggers the associated transformation. Using the Tree of Life can also help us to define the differences between an initiate, an adept, and a high adept; a structure that is represented by the three triadic groupings of the nine Sephiroth. It’s assumed that Malkuth, the lowest of the ten Sephiroth, would represent the state of the non-initiate or the one who stands at the threshold of the process of spiritual transformation, but it is also the very first initiation ordeal that one undergoes.

What I am presenting here is something that is very simplified. One would have to incorporate the twenty-two paths as well as the ten sephiroth to produce a comprehensive examination. I will just use the sephiroth to aid this discussion, leaving the more complex analysis for one of my future books.

Initiates who are following a magickal path that uses the Tree of Life as a guide, would begin their process at the point of the element of Earth. This is the place where the initiate crosses the first threshold,  revealing the truth that the material world is imbued and suffused with Spirit. This often causes the initiate to see the world as a sacralized phenomenon of nature, where there is no division between matter and spirit because all is one and unified. One can take this experience as indicative of the veritable truth of pagan spiritual perspectives (such as Neoplatonism), but it can also cause one to realize that the product of creation is just as sacred and holy as that which created it (such as the writings of Emerson would indicate).

Once the initiate has passed this threshold of Earth as the manifestation of Spirit, then he or she begins a process of transformation that has many incremental steps, both great and small. Yet the first progression can be compared to a series of ordeals that emulate the internal qualities of the four Elements. These transformations are therefore referred to as the initiation of the Four Elements, and represent a larger and more complex cycle for the initiate who is seeking to master Spirit. Of course, the quest for mastering Spirit is the long sought after achievement that bestows adepthood upon the seeker.

Where Earth is the revelation of the material world imbued and made sacred with Spirit, the sequence of the next three elements represent a similar progression. Let me briefly note them here for you to examine and ponder. Keep in mind that an actual transformative initiation process might not undergo the next three elements in the order that I am presenting here. Some systems use the progression of Earth, Air, Water and Fire, others might use Earth, Water, Air and Fire, and still others might use Earth, Fire, Water and Air. The order is not important, what is important is that the initiate goes through all four Elements in some manner. In fact, it is usually the case that an initiate will track through all four of them multiple times until they are completely mastered.

Water (Yesod): This transformative degree is characterized by the imagination, the power of dreams, symbols and psychic occurrences. This is where magick seems to become a fully realized phenomenon, where spirits and powers are encountered and realized. Initiates who walk this path also acquire a spiritual sense of themselves, and they discover that they have helpers, guides and spiritual allies who seek to aid them in their spiritual and magickal quest. As you can imagine, divination is important in this sphere, as is the foundation of archetypal symbols that lie at the core of the spiritual domain. 

Air (Hod): The next transformative degree is characterized by the occult intellect and the individual will, the ability to organize diverse spiritual and magickal phenomena using various occult systems, such as the Tarot, Qabbalah, Astrology, Alchemy, Psychology and occult metaphysics, and the desire to use them to will things into manifestation. Science is also used to understand the subtle occult processes that the initiate has personally experienced, and all disciplines and areas of knowledge are culled to assist the initiate in being able to intellectually apprehend the fullness of the spiritual and magickal world and then, to subjugate it. 

Fire (Netzach): The final transformative degree of the four elements is characterized by spiritual love, selfless devotion, spiritual service, and the practices of spiritual alignment. This degree is where the initiate begins the transition of becoming a priest or priestess of Spirit, and it is also where the other three elements begin to blend into a seamless discipline of spiritual and magickal practices and insightful experiences. In some traditions this would be the first element degree experienced beyond Earth, particularly if spiritual love was the pre-eminent foundation that one had to establish before doing anything else (this would be true of the Abramelin ordeal as well as certain monastic Christian traditions and Sufiism). This degree would also represent the beginning of the manifestation of the higher self, which becomes more materially apparent to the initiate through spiritual love. Initiates walking this path dedicate their lives to building a core of spiritual practices that erect powerful bridges between themselves and their chosen personal Godhead.
Adepthood is the transformative process where the four elements of the self (body, imagination, intellect and heart) join together to fully reveal the manifestation of Spirit. An adept has learned to master the four elements and thereby, through internal alchemy, undergoes the transformation of their quintessence, which is spirit. Therefore, adepthood is all about learning to master the fifth element, a process that can take decades or even a lifetime to accomplish.

Typically, but not always, the initiatory process of the adept is broken into three levels, representing the revelations of the Self as Spirit (5th Degree of Tiphareth), Mastery of Personal Destiny (6th Degree of Geburah), and Mastery of the Mysteries of Spirit (7th Degree of Chesed). Adepts must pass through the so called lesser abyss and undergo the mystery of their own death, and therein, find a deep and powerful spiritual revelation. This revelation helps them to undergo the regeneration of the body as a vehicle of spirit, which is the primary task. Sometimes this process of death and resurrection can be experienced as a near death experience, life threatening accident or some kind of terrible calamity. More typically, this experience represents something much less dramatic, which is an end to all of the practices and knowledge associated with the four elements and the beginning of the practices and knowledge associated exclusively with Spirit. The old self is surpassed, and the new self is fully imbued with the powers and wisdom of the higher self. This new self must grow and evolve over time before it becomes the foundation and basis for the practicing adept.

So what is an adept? Is he or she some kind of godlike being who directs and manipulates events from behind the obscurity of oaths of secrecy and personal mastery? I think that this is a highly romanticized belief, particularly since the adept is still gripped with the process of continuing to grow and evolve. Adepts do not cease from growing and learning, so they would have to be seen as nothing more than an advanced student.

Adepts have powers and spiritual knowledge far beyond the ordinary non-initiate, but those powers and knowledge seem only to make their lives more complex and burdensome. It causes the adept to realize how problematic and fraught with risk it is to use that knowledge and power. Often, adepts are so encumbered by the process of the mastery of Spirit that they are unable or unwilling to interfere in the actions and beliefs of other sovereign individuals.

Sometimes an adept is called upon or even reluctantly forced to intercede in another’s person’s spiritual process. More often an adept functions as a teacher, guide and unassuming assistant to others, offering them the tools for self-transformation but never interfering.

Adepts are usually humbled by their responsibility for assuming the path of spiritual mastery, and as they evolve there is a corresponding desire to engage in selfless spiritual service, seeking situations where one can do the most good without being identified. Life is complicated enough without all of the spiritual pretensions and delusions projected upon one by others. While it is possible for a beginning adept to act in an immodest way and to engage in outrageous self-promotion, this posture soon gets the adept into lots of trouble, forcing him or her to drop all pretensions and disappear into a blessed anonymity. Adepts either learn to be invisible to others, hide behind a public persona or erect strict boundaries that hinder accessibility, because otherwise they would be hounded by the multitudes for the use of their knowledge and power.

As you can see, adepts are not the great movers and shakers of the world, since their work is still at a critical stage, and such distractions as assuming other people’s issues appears prohibitively onerous. I would guess that adepts would seek to help where possible, otherwise they would respect the sovereignty of other people’s will to do what they wanted, even if it resulted in terrible folly. The real mover and shaker isn’t the adept, so it must be the initiate who has achieved the next greatest level beyond adepthood, and that is domain of the high adept.

High adepts have achieved their exalted level of spiritual and magickal accomplishment through the act of having successfully crossed the great gulf between Spirit and Mind known as the Greater Abyss, which separates the Supernal Triad of the Tree of Life from the rest of the sephiroth. Not only must this transition be successfully accomplished, it should also be stable. This massive ordeal, once completed, would represent the completed transformation of the initiate into a kind of avatar, which is a pure and true representative of the Godhead, living and breathing in the world. A higher adept has transcended normal consciousness and lives day to day within the exalted conscious levels of the higher Subtle and lower Causal.

Such a person is continuously aware of the monad within and has obliterated all non-dual states of consciousness without, which are the source of the illusion of separateness. An avatar is capable of unleashing magickal powers of a miraculous nature as well as displaying psychic abilities such as precognition, clairvoyance, a kind of telepathic empathy, and even a charismatic projection of self. Yet all of these abilities are completely controlled and unleashed only when required, which is rarely. Along with these abilities would be the superior judgment of knowing when to intercede in the lives of individuals or even large groups, and when to remain anonymous. A high adept could invisibly walk amongst the crowds of normal people and not be noticed or seen as anything other than a common and ordinary person. We pass hundreds of people every day as we travel for work or recreation; any one of those strangers could be a master and we wouldn’t even know it.

What I don’t accept is that a high adept, or master, would be beyond mortality or be able to appear and disappear, and act in an omnipotent, omniscient or omnipresent manner - that is reserved for the Godhead. A master is just a human being, although one that is able to project Spirit into the world without any bias or interference from the “petty” ego or illusory self. Such individuals would be rare, and they might not even operate through an established religious or occult organization. It might be that such groups would actually hinder the execution of a master’s true will, which would be nothing less than the will of the Godhead manifesting into the world.

Since discussing these exalted levels of consciousness and the kind of person who would act through them are at the very edge of what I know and have experienced, I am unable to really and effectively describe and explain spiritual mastery beyond what I have tentatively written here. Suffice it to say that the high adept is the true conduit of Spirit manifesting into the mundane world, and that the greatest teachings and practices have been imparted from such individuals to human posterity. We can surmise that such individuals were known to humanity as Zoroaster, Lao Tzu, Buddha, Jesus, Rama Krishna, and many, many others.

All of these remarkable men and women changed the world as we know it, and left behind critical and important teachings and practices. The process of world spiritual evolution has only just started, and we can assume that eventually there will be enlightenment on a global scale, affecting everyone alive in the world. At that time, the world itself and all within it will be profoundly changed, and humanity’s childhood will finally end. We will hopefully emerge from that transformation as a mature species with a conscious mental state and a technology that would be seen by us in the present age as truly godlike.
Frater Barrabbas


  1. I found most of what you had to say highly interesting. However I want to make a slight distinction: individuals who progress along a 'tried and true' esoteric path are normally given a static, semi-working map of esoteric reality to make use of as they process the elemental mysteries. This leads to a progression along the lines of what you've discussed. It does not necessarily apply to individuals who decide to go it alone, and walk a more solitary path. Someone who is making their own way may, in fact, choose to deal with the various elemental mysteries at different times, and the progression may be more hap-hazard and chaotic than the process you've described. The potential drawback of this is that the individual will go to the elementals and mysteries they feel suit them best, and may not progress "spiritually" in the sense that you're suggesting.

    We need to remember that the activation of magical powers, spiritual processes, and the continuity of such is different for each individual. What may appear, to someone who's moved down the path paved by an Esoteric School, to be a folly could in fact be the way a person's spiritual progress was supposed to transpire all along. Though their actions at a given time may be poor, or unwise, that does not mean they will remain forever restricted to such problematic behavior.

    Finally, we need to be very careful not to put limits on what the concept of the Godhead is, as the most important part of that process is that an early initiate has a belief in which there is something (or things) higher that are looking out for them. These beliefs are to be transcended, as John C. Lilly puts it, as they are encountered "as if" true through experimental processes or experientially processes. The core belief need be there before it can be transcended, however. To quote Spare:
    When we say 'I Believe', it is usually a lip avowal from an infected mouth of borrowed precepts or simulations, as living an inexperience. Belief must be vital, livable, and as unquestioned as our blood-circulation or heart-throb.

    Vital belief overcomes all things, in that it will endow us with the means to do so...

    Gods do not die but our belief in them dies through the absurdities we attribute to them. Our changing is usually a renaming and a reclothing of Them with new attributes.
    (Logomachy of Zos.)

  2. @Jack Faust - Thanks for your comments.

    However, with the quoted statements below, I think that my point is made quite clear. If the individual is using the Tree of Life as their model and if they seek to master spirit by mastering the four elements, they would follow, in some fashion, the pattern indicated. Otherwise, uncountable variations could also be considered. I have also stated that what I am discussing is overly simplified.

    "The greater cycles can be symbolically compared to the ten Sephiroth on the Tree of Life (that is, if the Qabbalah is an important tool), but other meta-patterns or symbolic structures can be used."

    "What I am presenting here is something that is very simplified."

    "Initiates who are following a magickal path that uses the Tree of Life as a guide, would begin their process at the point of the element of Earth."

    I also made certain that my readers knew that what I was describing was limited by my own experiences, which means that there are many different ways to define the Deity and one's progression towards union with it, if that is even an important feature of their magickal practice.

    "Since discussing these exalted levels of consciousness and the kind of person who would act through them are at the very edge of what I know and have experienced, I am unable to really and effectively describe and explain spiritual mastery beyond what I have tentatively written here."

    So I think that my points are valid and make sense, as far as they go. Also, my examples are not in alignment with the Golden Dawn or the OTO, for that matter. I just happened to use the Tree of Life as my meta-structure.


  3. @Brother B.: I understood that entirely, friend. I merely wished to note that for those who move outside your system of training, the experience might be a wee bit different and they might wonder why some of their experiences did not match with your own. I do not mean to discount your system or thoughts by any means; merely comment that what you see as a linear progression is a continuity. You're fixing the patterns in a way that's simple and easy to follow, and I like that quite a bit. I was simply offering an alternative perspective and some thoughts - that's all.

  4. I do agree with a lot of what you said, and some of what I don't agree with is really just semantics and the way we define these different words. I agree that an adept is not a master, they're still working on their spiritual path, but my definition is a lot simpler and requires a much smaller qualifier. An adept is just someone who is good, or adept, at working magic.

    The one area where I really disagree though is your concept of high adepts. I don't believe such a thing exists. Mastery is an illusion, and each of us has a spiritual path we're always walking. Even the gods are spiritually growing and evolving as they need to. Futhermore the fact that someone is incarnate in this world is proof they still have a potential for growth here they haven't fully realized.

    With guys like Jesus and Zoraster, I'd label them very powerful adepts, not someone who has achieved some higher level. I don't believe them to be masters either, but adepts like you and I who were still working on their spiritual path while they were alive. Labeling them high adepts causes a problem too, because it implies there is a level that was reached by historical figures like Christ which are unattainable by normal people, and so we should follow the dogma imparted by the great masters instead of trying to achieve or exceed what they achieved.

    I also think it's wrong to look at spirituality as having an end, an area where you finally win and become a master and spiritual progression stops. If such a thing exists, it's never been achieved by any person or spirit still in contact with this level of existence. Every ending, every goal reached, only leads to new beginnings, new goals, and new journeys. Spiritual growth is forever and infinite, and there never is a true master.

    I've written and talked about in the past about what adepts are and aren't. On one side there are groups of people in the community claiming to be adepts who aren't and know they aren't. They lack any kind of knowledge, power, or self-control, the very things that make a person adept at magic.

    There's a second set of people like this, community leaders, who admit they aren't adepts, but then try to elevate adept to some near-impossible goal. This leads to the idea that adepts are very rare, that most people cannot become adepts, and that adepts have some sort of outrageous powers, like that adepts never get sick or that they know the answer to every question.

  5. @Rob: If we treat the term as simply meaning "an expert," then I'm going to start expecting log-sheets of hours toiled on magical projects before I accept any future Adepts. It takes around 10,000 hours of work (or so I'm told) to become an expert on a given subject.

    So. Let's see. 10,000 hours is 416.66 days of nothing but magical work. So about 1.14 years total.

    That's not much, really.

  6. @Rob: Ahhh. I just figured out why the time-frame was astonishingly low. The "occult" is more than one subject, so if we expect expertise on multiple topics then the time increases. So, if you did nothing but Tarot for about 1.14 years, then you'd become an expert. And so forth. So.

    Maybe a decade or half a decade of continuous practice in various aspects, with no other distractions would be required to acquire said expertise.

    Hell - who knows. The timeframe may even grow exponentially as one adds more and more subjects.

  7. @Rob - Thanks for your comments.

    You forget that the model I chose for this treatise was the Tree of Life, everything follows on that premise, whether you agree with it or not. Therefore, mastery is defined as being able to cross the abyss. It is not something that just anyone or everyone will accomplish in their lifetime. Considering my age, even I am sitting on this side of that chasm and contemplating how to cross.

    Obviously, someone who has successfully crossed that chasm has achieved something that is far beyond the ordinary occult "expert." You may think that such individuals must be purely mythic, but I don't buy that. I may call them "masters" but they could be called avatars, holy ones, sons of god, or whatever. They are real and are sprinkled throughout our history.

    Were they mortal? Did they suffer through their lives like you and me? Of course! However, they had at some point abrogated their personal spiritual process and path for the one revealed to them by their Godhead. That isn't the end of the work, it is just the beginning, whose purpose, I suspect, is to free everyone on this planet and enjoin them (in some manner) to this unified cause.

    The fact that a number of traditions, especially Eastern, have mapped consciousness far beyond the normal mental-egoic stage that most folks reside at means that these higher states are accessible (I know this for a fact, because I have experienced them); for a few, they are the permanent locations of their being. They aren't mythical and they don't represent the end of one's spiritual life, but the true beginning. What that beginning consists of is truly difficult for me to fathom if not even attempt to explain.

    @Jack - too funny to comment! I have been working my path since I was 16, and that was 40 years ago. I may be an expert in some areas, but I am still learning. I don't feel like I am an expert in all of my chosen areas, though. However, at some point, I must surrender to my Godhead all that I am and all that I have accumulated, and receive the true directive of my destiny, hopefully before I am dead.


  8. @Mr Faust: I've never seen a definition of adept, besides defining it as a person that is good at magic, that doesn't either allow a person to exploit some system or loophole to gain the title despite a lack of magical ability or exclude certain people from the title because they don't follow a particular spiritual path or belief system.

    Arbitrary numbers aside, I've always believed a magician should be judged based solely on their actions. So if someone wants me to acknowledge them as an adept, I need to see proof from their actions that they are good at magic. I don't think there is any other way to accurately judge a magician's power or ability, since rank, time spent studying magic, lineage, peer approval, milestones reached, ect. all have issues which may unfairly elevate some individuals while refusing to acknowledge others. If you know of an alternative system to judging a magician's ability other than based on their acts alone that consistently works just as well or better, I'd be interested in hearing it.

    @Frater Barrabbas: Sorry, I assumed the tree of life system you proposed was merely an example of a system and how your ideas of an adept and high adept fit into them, and not that the entire article centered around this idea.

    I never meant that adepts who had crossed the abyss, or men like Christ and Buddha, were mythical, on the contrary I believe they are very real, or at least real possibilities, but I do try to keep them in the perspective of having achieved an attainable level of spirituality rather than elevating them into a position which is supposedly unachievable, at least to most. Like everyone else in every field I don't look at them as masters which have achieved the impossible, but rather as great men who have shown us a level of attainment we all have the potential to achieve, and that we shouldn't revere these men because they are better than us, but rather that we should aspire to exceed their accomplishments and prove ourselves even better than them.

    The entire argument though may come down to semantics and how we define mastery though. What I took exception to was the concept that there was a point that a person's spiritual growth ends and they become a true spiritual master, something that I don't believe exists, which is why I try to stay away from words like mastery and master. I'll admit that some adepts are better than others, some are in fact much better. The typical beginning adept that can manipulate energy and understands how to cast spells is a far cry from someone who can walk on water, make food infinite, and resurrect themselves and others from the dead. Beyond the point of becoming an adept though paths and abilities tend to differ so much between individuals, even within a specific system, that it becomes impossible to try to accurately apply labels to anyone. Even if it were possible though, I don't really see the need to apply labels beyond adept. Assuming someone isn't specifically trying to hide their ability, adepts should be able to get a rough idea how they compare to other adepts, and as for non-adepts who can't yet judge a person based on acts, knowledge, and energy, adepts are going to be so far beyond them at that stage of their spiritual development that the difference between a typical adept and Jesus Christ isn't really going to make that much of a difference.

    I also don't believe in the idea that there is one final spiritual destination. In other words I don't believe that there is one spiritual beginning that happens when you cross the abyss, or where ever a person may wish to peg the endpoint of the spiritual journey. Just as there are a multitude of different spiritual paths, I believe there are a multitude of different destinations and different new beginnings. What that beginning is for me may be very different from what it is for you, however this is probably a far more complicated spiritual argument best left for another time.

  9. @Rob -

    What you are saying is that you don't believe in the union of spirit, what the Neoplatonists called the One. That is the destination, in my opinion, even though there are a myriad of ways of achieving it, that point of transition, like a black hole, narrows to a singularity - the One. What comes after that, besides rebounding back to the many, is to transcend the One, and become None.

    Also, it appears that you are taking things to an extreme! A master has much myth and mystery surrounding him or her, but at the core of that mystery is a real flesh and blood person, who lived and died, as do all of humanity.

    I suspect that a lot of the miracles of Christ are likely myths, like the wedding at Cana, when Jesus turned water into wine, analogous to Dionysus. I won't digress into individuals who are all legends and little history. If you want to read about a real live avatar, look up Rama Krishna on the web. He was a man who lived and died in late 19th century India, and whose life was intimately documented by his followers. Because of his work, an entire movement precipitated in India, shaping the individuals who came after him, such as Vivekananda and Gandhi, and freeing his country from British rule.

    Measuring whether someone is an adept is probably difficult, but not impossible. In the Order of the Gnostic Star, each degree level has one or more ordeals or magickal tasks that the initiate must master. These ordeals will trigger transformations within the magician, and their successful completion is signified by an initiation ritual. So it's a combination of ordeal and initiation, which ensures as much as possible that the initiatory degree will confer a powerful internal transformation. All I need to do then is just question the candidate and look over his or her magickal journal.

    Anyway - nuff said about all of that.


  10. Care Fr Barrabbas and all - wonderful post and discussion - thanks :)

    Personally, I like the Tibetan (vajrayana) system - no one ever says they are enlightened, to do so indicates you are not. Everyone takes vows to assume they are the least spiritually evolved in any group, to avoid ego kicking in.

    And any 'judgement' of status is often left to death and observation of the body, which often for high adepts does not corrupt in the normal manner or emits light and other phenomena. A peer of my Tibetan teacher died recently and stayed in the Clear Light, no corruption, body still warm, for 21 days. He was a very respected teacher but never claimed to be anything special :)

  11. It's not that I don't believe in the union of spirit, it's just that I don't believe it's the only option available. Even using as a basis a system that is strictly and completely Kabalistic, there are at least two options for spiritual attainment, either through Kether and unification with the one, or through Thamiel, granted the later is the more difficult path. An argument could be made that the attainment beyond Thamiel and Kether is the same (becoming none), however I'd argue that is based on a very large amount of speculation, and even if that is true there is at least one other option for spiritual attainment which does not involve crossing the abyss into Kether.

    I don't believe all of the miracles of Christ happened, especially considering the tendency for modern magicians to embellish and exaggerate their magical stories and I doubt all that much has changed in 2000 years. However I don't believe anything he did is impossible, and I figured he would make an example everyone would be familiar with.

    A lot of systems have tried to use methods, like what you describe, to apply ranks to members in accordance with their progress and ability. A lot of these systems end up getting corrupted though, and there are a lot of systems that exist now that started that way but have since turned into something different where people are able to get a variety of high degrees through other methods. One of the big issues is that although you're able to do that, it's not something that can be objectively measured by anyone in the group, and there's no way to guarantee that the people who succeed you will always be of your ability. Your system also only works in judging the progression and ability of those within your system and can't be applied as a rating to all magicians. I don't even have a journal for you to look through, and I'm also almost positive that if I did meet all the prerequisites and joined your group through normal channels my rank would be something like neophyte or initiate (sorry for any wrong assumptions, I remember reading about your system, but don't remember any specifics and I'm using it as a general example of magical systems here), which is what it should be, but ultimately it's just a measure of my progression through that system, not my overall progression which I would argue is beyond the neophyte and initiate stages.

  12. Sorry my response to your post was a bit late. You honor me Frater Barrabbas. Thank you for this discussion on adepts. It provided me with alot of useful information and insight. ((BOW))

  13. @PhoenixAngel - the honor is all mine. Thank you for the wonderful article idea, and keep posting your thoughts, since we are reading them.