Thursday, May 21, 2015

Misunderstanding Mystery Traditions

Apparently the debate over "astral initiations" is back on. This is largely an issue within the Golden Dawn tradition, and it's mostly due to the actions of one person, Robert Zink, who heads up the Esoteric Order of the Golden Dawn. This group pioneered the concept of astral or long-distance initiation years ago amidst a lot of criticism, and I personally count myself among the skeptics. The tradition in which I am a chartered initiator, Ordo Templi Orientis, does no such thing. Our initiations must be conducted in person, and there's a good reason for that. As descendents of Masonry, both Ordo Templi Orientis and the Golden Dawn are fundamentally mystery traditions in addition to being magical orders.

Peregrin Wildoak has written up a critique of astral initiation, based on the idea that an initiation should be done in person because it grounds the result of the operation in Malkuth, the physical plane. Magical orders are generally small, and for many people travel can be difficult, so if a system by which candidates could be initiated at a distance could be developed it would be quite convenient for many people who don't live near a chartered body. But even though healing rituals can be conducted at a distance, they don't work as well as when the patient is physically present - and besides, an initiation is a fundamentally different type of operation.

There is an argument that if absent healing works, so should astral initiation. However, absent healing works by the healer changing the higher subtle selves of the patient. These changes then hopefully manifest down into the physical. Sort of a trickle-down approach to healing, and we all know how well that has worked in the economic sphere, eh? :)

Anyway, even if absent healing works better than trickle-down economics and actually does cause physical health benefits, we simply cannot apply the same logic to the traditional Golden Dawn initiations, which were designed to be conducted simultaneously on all planes: physical, etheric, astral, mental and (hopefully) spiritual. We can look at this from two angles. Firstly, the Golden Dawn initiations stem from the broader lodge tradition which has always required physical initiations. The structure of the initiations themselves work with the physical in many ways, from blindfolding, binding, moving, touching, placing etc the candidate. Secondly, the initiative process takes into account the divinity of the initiate on all planes, recognising the body as sacred, whole and inviolable.

Robert Zink responded to the article, but his response does not address what I consider to be the central issue - that astral initiation completely disregards one of the most important aspects of a mystery tradition initiation. In fact, from this response, I'm left wondering if he even understands how such traditions are supposed to work. Zink has been accused of "New Agifying" the Golden Dawn on a number of occasions, and his second paragraph here suggests a perspective similar to that of "New Thought." But thought and action really are different, and confusing them is problematic. "As above, so below" means that a correspondence exists between the microcosmic and macrocosmic realms, not that a change in one invariably produces a change of the same magnitude in the other.

New members immediately receive their grade materials within 12 hours or less of joining. These materials include the full grade manual along with step by step instructions on how to proceed with Golden Dawn astral initiation. PLUS members receive tons of audio files, one of which is the actual initiation and verbal instructions. New members are given all details of how to light candles and listen to the initiation as if they were in a temple. Many members share powerful astral initiation experiences on the Esoteric Golden Dawn Private Forum. New members are never alone in their astral initiation experience; they are given the name and phone number of an adept/mentor who will help prepare all members for the initiation.

This is absolutely a hands on process. The entire concept of astral initiation is based on the teachings of the Emerald Tablet of Hermes, “ As Above, So Below.” This means that whatever the Hierophant binds in the higher planes must manifest in the lower. Time and space are removed in the magical realm. Astral initiation is a certain way to enter the energy flow of the Golden Dawn. Your experience will prove it.

My issue here is not that magical force is impossible to transmit over a distance. Rather, mystery traditions make use of a specific piece of psychological technology, the cultivation of cognitive dissonance through uncertainty. If, going into an initiation, you have absolutely no idea what is going to happen, the mind enters a state that is both hypervigilant and more open to suggestion. A good mystery tradition initiation, then, takes advantage of this unusual state of mind to imprint the principles taught by the degree. While there should also be spiritual forces brought to bear during the ritual, the imprinted memory of the experience serves as a sort of "anchor" within the initiate's mind that allows him or her to connect with them more easily.

This, then, is the main reason that mystery traditions work so hard to keep their initiations secret. The modes of recognition and so forth are designed to prevent somebody who has never gone through the degree from seeing it, and the oaths of secrecy are intended to impress upon initiates the seriousness of revealing what goes on during degree rituals. This is not because of any nefarious reason, but because as initiates we try to make sure that somebody who might go on to take the degree doesn't come across it inadvertently. This is also why such systems advise candidates not to read ahead when their rituals have been published. By short-circuiting the uncertainty mechanism, candidates are really only cheating themselves. But someone who is new to mystery traditions in general might not understand this.

Kind of like tickling, creating cognitive dissonance is not something most people can do to themselves. It doesn't happen during a self-initiation, and I don't see how it could happen during an astral one either, even if you are following a prepared set of instructions. The very fact that others are physically present performing an initiation ritual heightens the effect dramatically. It's not that a candidate is necessarily going to derive no benefit from an astral initiation; ritual work is being performed on their behalf, and magical influences can cross distances. However, given the way mystery traditions work, this benefit will likely be vastly reduced by the lack of an in-person experience charged by uncertainty.

Technorati Digg This Stumble Stumble

1 comment:

siriusvoid said...

I tend toward the belief that 'cognitive dissonance' is always already the case prior to initiation... And prior to energetic healing too for that matter.
It may be 'un-ethical' to proceed secretly, 'un-announced, and incognito', and from a safe distance with energetic healing treatment, but that is exactly how I do these things... NOT projecting force, nor energy of any kind.. NEVER that.. but generating a vacuum to simply draw what's already stuck in there, through them... This seems to relieve bound-up, stifled, and stagnant energies of all sorts from the places it has become lodged... All taking place without, IMO, karmic implications... They do seem to remember 'the event'... the 'noticing' that things have changed and gotten inexplicably waaay better for them... It's a puzzlement... A mystery with a whole set of clues they can pick up at their leisure... to employ them in their own way... to re-invoke their own 'healthy state' for their own personal reasons.. Kind of like 'self initiating'.. just with a little help is all. In the diseased state this 'awakening' could take decades.. maybe even lifetimes before it occurs to them there's a better way to live...
Just some thoughts.
Also leaving the Victorian dread of vampires and deeply ingrained fear of all things Tantric aside for a moment.. The energy is not ever 'hoarded'.. yuck!... but simply allowed to flow once more as nature intended.. As we know vacuums in nature are instantaneously filled with fresh invigorating energy so there is never anything like loss for the erstwhile sufferer of symptoms to endure.