Sunday, September 25, 2011

Function of a Magick Temple and Initiated Peers

I decided to include this article from a section in the Order of the Gnostic Star documentation entitled “ESSG Purpose and Path,” which helps initiates to understand how to function as a magician and about the degree based ordeals. We have already covered that material, but I thought that it would be appropriate for my readers to know how magicians should behave and work in groups with their peers. I am a strong believer in the rule that magicians should have a peer group and should work in groups, even ones that are loosely organized.

In my humble opinion, it’s not appropriate for magicians to work their magick in isolation, and such insular habits are highly discouraged by me, particularly for those who are still undergoing the trials of the four Elements (Degrees 1 - 4). There are some very important reasons why this is an issue in the practice of ritual magick, and we should discuss it here so members of the Order of the Gnostic Star (and others) will know why it’s important for them to practice and associate with like minded individuals.

Magicians maintain their psychological balance and determine their progress through an important mechanism called peer review. Magicians should keep journals and note down the date, planetary hour (if appropriate), astrological transits, the events of the ritual working, and the results. Divination that was prepared to determine the nature of the problem and shape the working should be included as well as divination used to examine the outcome of the magick worked. All of this goes into the journal and it’s the most important record for magicians to keep, since it exists as a form of incontestable evidence that one has performed the required work. Magicians may perform the working alone, for certainly the rituals of the Order were written in such a fashion that they tend to be worked by individuals; but they can be easily modified to accommodate a group of workers as well.

The easiest way for a group of magicians to perform a working is to split up the ritual tasks among them. A group performing a working must also write up a journal entry for that working, so someone must gather together the impressions of each individual who participated and also write a generalized narrative of what transpired during the performance of the working. An official temple working should have an official journal entry written up by the Auctor and kept with the temple records. An Auctor is the temple scrier, divinator and journal keeper in the Order, but I am certain that there is typically a similar role for an individual in other magickal organizations.

Ritual magick is a very subjective phenomenon, yet it can cause all sorts of internal changes, associations, interpretations and even psychological and spiritual crises in the magician’s psyche. Phenomena produced by the manifestation of magick can have all sorts of incredible effects on a practicing magician. Such occurrences, like the experience of visions, communication with various spiritual entities, immersion within inner plane domains, and the emotional impact of magickal powers and their realization are part of the phenomena of magickal manifestation. These phenomena should be recorded as best as one can, and then at a convenient time, shared with others who are also practicing magick.

What I have found is that what might seem to be a singular and unusual experience for one is actually something common to that particular kind of ritual working or to the initiate at a certain level of development. This realization can help the magician to process the experience, to properly objectify it so that it becomes a feature of one’s spiritual and magickal evolution instead of being indicative of some kind of anomaly or special sign exclusive to the magician.

Magicians objectify their magickal experiences through peer group review. This process is unfortunately often overlooked by those practicing ritual or ceremonial magick, but it’s extremely important. If a magician has had some very disturbing experiences associated with a particular ritual working, then the peer group can help him or her judge whether the experience was typical, that is, common to all, or whether it represents an internal issue that the magician must master. Mastery of psychological issues is also something that a peer group can help a magician to acquire, since they will ensure that judgments about the situation are kept within the boundaries of rational understanding and objective examination.

Sharing magickal experiences with a peer group may subject the magician to a rather embarrassing scrutiny, but if everyone participates and shares their experiences equally, then no one will be put in the position of being critically judged and not being able to return the favor. If one is judged by one’s peers, and then in turn becomes the judge of those same peer members, then there will be a higher degree of compassion used in that judgement. It would seem that the Golden Rule applies to peer group judgment, but it’s also important to apply truth to apparent illusions.

So, it’s important for magicians to have their magickal workings examined by those who might be more experienced than they, thereby assisting them in perfecting their art. In fact not only do magicians in the Order share their magickal experiences with other members of the temple, but they may also have a mentor relationship with at least one of them, as required for the initiations of third degree and higher. This mechanism of sharing experiences and performing workings together fosters a fairly tight knit organization, and the temple of the Order often represents the place where deep lasting friendships and intense social engagements between members occurs, binding them together far beyond the life span of the temple itself.

Since everyone is considered an equal and integral part of the temple, and no one, even if they are of an advanced degree, is more important or has more power or authority in the group than anyone else, the group respects the experiences and opinions of each individual equally. This is the nature of a Star Group, and one that is integral to the structure of all temples of the Order.

As stated above, sponsorship in the Order is required for the third degree and beyond. The initiations for third and fourth degree are performed in a private ceremony between the mentor and the student. Fifth degree requires not only a mentor, but one who has been elevated to the 7th degree and functions as the magickal hierophant or bishop for the inner order, which the candidate has become an accepted member thereof.

In a temple where there is no established inner order, then the candidate must seek out a temple where such an inner order is active to receive his or her elevation to the Pontifex (5th) degree. Once any member of a temple has achieved membership in the inner order, then they can become the nucleus for an inner order forming in that local temple. Temples in the Order are fully autonomous, but initiations and training beyond the second degree are performed in a student mentor relationship, and this has the effect of enforcing a certain degree of intimate sharing and objectivity between the teacher and student, sometimes a mentor relationship can even cross temple boundaries. Once a member of a temple becomes a 7th Degree Hierophant, then all inner order initiations may be performed by the local temple without needing any assistance from another body. That temple will also form an inner order of members who have been elevated to at least the fifth degree, and they will practice their magick and perform temple celebrations in addition to the those performed by the outer order.

It is important for the outer order to be kept active in a temple that has an inner order to ensure that new members or initiates who are still experiencing the ordeals of the four Elements can participate in the temple rites and workings. Since each temple functions as a Star Group, then all members, whether of the outer or inner order have a right to equal participation in the affairs of the group.

It’s possible that a temple may eventually be populated only with adepts, and such a mature organization may not want to perform both inner and outer order rites, and train and initiate new members, so they may close the temple to all future possible membership and instead focus on performing the ordeals and workings of a higher order of magickal accomplishment. Such a mature organization has its benefits, since the magick performed by a group is only as great as the weakest or least experienced initiate. However, the effect of hubris and arrogance can also haunt such a group who has lost touch with new and fresh perspectives brought in by new members. Teachers always learn something new from their students regardless of whether or not they are or are adepts, if the teaching is done in an open and sincere manner.

Initiates are responsible for their own progress, growth, and for their personal spiritual development. Teachers and mentors can only do so much with students, especially if they won’t perform the basic required work for a degree. Neophytes (1st degree) and Acolytes (2nd degree) are trained by the whole temple organization, and beginning classes are organized and conducted by the more experienced members for all who wish to attend. During that period of training, the student establishes relationships with the members of the group and as they grow and progress in their studies, they will chose one of the more experienced members as their personal trainer and mentor.

Their mentor will then assist them to prepare for the third degree and ensure that they have done the work necessary to be recognized by the group and awarded that degree. But it must be stated that initiates should always do more than what is merely required for an elevation, so as to maximize their occult training and perfect their skill as a magician. The more that students put into their training, then the better the outcome will be. It should be noted that a firm and strong foundation in the basic occult and magickal skills makes for a better and more well rounded magician. Also, a weak foundation will cause a magician student to founder or catastrophically fail when he or she attempts more complicated and powerful magickal workings. Additionally, a student magician is advised to have at least a basic spiritual practice steeped in an earth-based spirituality or an esoteric spiritual perspective of one of the mainstream faiths, since this is the preferred spiritual foundation in the Order.

Initiates always decide when they are ready for an elevation, but it’s the mentor and the members of the temple functioning as their peer group who makes the judgement as to the worthiness of that elevation. The mentor and senior members of a temple are responsible for who they elevate, and will reap the results of poor training and the mental instability of a newly elevated member if that person was not prepared for what they received. This is why the peer group is so important for the developing and training of a magician, since they are the final arbiters of whether one has accomplished the accepted results of a particular set of workings, or is experiencing the regressive effects of an internal psychological crisis.

This brings us to the rather thorny topic of judging the difference between behavior that is the result of a transcendental experience or the result of regressive psychological issues and complexes. Determining the difference between regressive tendencies and behaviors and true transcendental experiences can be quite subjective, and often requires the objective perspective of others and a period of time within which to judge. The greatest flaw of the supposed New Age is that many have celebrated behavior that is regressive and immature, confusing it with transcendental experiences. Books have been written about “releasing the inner child”, and allowing any kind of immature behavior as a critical part of becoming unfettered. This supposedly releases a person’s ego boundaries so that they might experience the transcendental dimensions of the higher spiritual domains. While it may be true that too much self-control can be a great inhibiting factor in the governance of one’s spiritual and magickal path, it is a greater truth that a lack of self-discipline and self-discrimination will do even more harm to an individual in their unfolding.

We need to be able to differentiate between transpersonal and transcendental psychic processes with what is actually pre-personal and regressive processes. How do we make that judgment? The following tips can certainly help a group or an individual in determining the difference between regressive and transcendental experiences, but every judgment is unique and therefore, exceptional.

1. The individual is not under the influence of any kind of substance, either alcohol or mind altering drugs. There is a place for the use of substances, if that is something that one has chosen to do. However, experiences undergone while using mind altering substances must be carefully examined and scrutinized with a greater regard for relevance and appropriateness than what would normally be used if no substances were being used. Generally, substances are used in the context of a vision-quest type of rite, and there is always a control, or someone present, who is completely sober, to aid the participant. For all other workings, it should be said that being sober and in control of one’s wits is critically important if anything of a lasting and profound impact is to be realized.

2. The individual is not deeply or emotionally traumatized and is in complete control of their faculties. If someone loses complete control of themselves and has had some kind of paroxysm, then what occurs during that interlude must be considered highly suspect. Typically, transcendental experiences occur even while one is fully awake and exercising a great deal of self-control. Thus, a person is affected by this experience, but not debilitated by it.

3. The individual does not usually exhibit regressive behavior patterns - i.e., pre-personal or obvious childish behavior. These can manifest as temper tantrums, fits, yelling or screaming episodes, etc. A person who is obviously and typically exhibiting childish behavior can’t be trusted to suddenly have a truly transcendental experience, since such occurrences are usually experienced by individuals who are mature and self-aware. If someone who is normally immature has a profound experience that causes them to start acting in a mature manner, then at that point in their development, they may be able to be taken seriously if they have a profound spiritual experience. In other words, a faked transcendental experience can garner a person a great deal of attention, at least for a short period of time. Beware of individuals who grandstand or need excessive amounts of attention. They are usually not the ones who are experiencing something truly profound.

4. The experience seems completely other than a manifestation of the petty egoic self or what typically occurs when one is in a borderline conscious state. Transcendental experiences occur when one is wide awake and in complete control of one’s faculties. Transcendental experiences are usually pretty difficult to fake, since they must also be accompanied by a greater degree of self-insight and obvious personal growth. A single transcendental experience can profoundly change someone, and that change is typically permanent. However, a real transcendental experience is just the beginning of a long process of spiritual and psychic evolution.

5. The experience has transcendental qualities or spiritual manifestations that impart a state of wonder and awe instead of fear or paranoia. Transcendental states are non-dual, non-temporal, holistic and revelatory. The experience seems to teach something deep and powerful about the self and one's world. Also, if there is more than one person witnessing the occurrence of this transcendental experience, it is typically so contagious that others will simultaneously experience it directly for themselves. If others are not sensing anything while someone is supposedly undergoing a transcendental experience, unless those others are non-initiates or somehow completely insensitive to occult phenomena, then the experience must also be suspect.

6. Once the experience has passed, does the participant feel emotions of completeness, fullness, happiness, bliss; or do they feel drained, diminished, shattered or incomplete? The former are indicative of transcendental states, the latter, of regressive states. Being immersed in the spiritual domain causes one to experience the self in a holistic manner, which should make one feel more fulfilled and complete. Such an experience should make a person feel awake as if for the first time and it should prove to be deeply insightful, as if all questions could be answered and everything made possible. A person who has undergone such an experience feels optimistic, elevated and as if he or she were walking on air. A regressive experience is where the self is shattered or truncated, or where a personality fragment is able to fully monopolize all self expression. Such a regressive experience can’t make the participant feel anything other than a profound diminishment and a deep inferiority to others. It can even manifest as a sense of personal loathsomeness once the euphoria and the intense “high” passes away. It’s a good idea to watch someone in order to see how they respond hours or days after their supposed transcendental experience.

7. The experience is in itself inexplicable, i.e., it seems that it can't be readily discussed or examined and made sensible. The person who has had such an experience also seems to be unperturbed with their inability to explain it all. We should always beware of someone who is able to provide a lot of detail and explanation for their supposed transcendental experiences. They are probably making it all up for their own prestige and personal benefit unless they are very experienced or have past training as a psychologist. It’s also a good idea to observe someone days or even months after their experience, to see if it has made any difference in their behavior or changes in the way that they conduct their personal life. Magick has a way of greatly amplifying one’s ability to fantasize, but fantasies can’t help one to become more aware or enlightened, and they soon fade away when contrasted to the difficulties of a mundane existence lived in a state of perpetual neglect and denial.
If the tests above indicate that the experience was transcendental, then it could be said to be a manifestation of the spiritual domain, in whole or part. The question about whether such things experienced are real or unreal is probably not even relevant. They are real, but not in an ordinary way. Spiritual reality seems as if it were a separate reality, paradoxical and often allegorical. However, regressive behavior is not a replacement for transcendental experiences. The individual and the group are both responsible for being able to differentiate between the two, since they will be the judge and arbiters of whether someone has had a valid transcendental experience, and whether they are ready for elevation to higher degrees. A group’s responsibility for truth and rational sincerity should never be taken lightly, for each person depends on the candid objectivity and scrutiny of his or her spiritual and magickal associates.

Frater Barrabbas

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