Friday, March 13, 2009

On The Subject of Magical Orders

At first glance it would seem that Magical Orders would be preferable to the alternative. Orders like the O.T.O., the Golden Dawn, the Rosicrucian Fellowship (etc), all provide opportunities for the aspiring student of High Magic and Ritual Occultism to discuss and correspond with other students of a similar mindset. Students have a network of experienced Magicians to ask questions, discuss methods, debate correspondences, and learn tried and true methods. Students are provided with structure, format, resources (libraries, etc), and instructors.

So wait...what's wrong? Structure, order, like-minded individual, isn't that exactly what I argue for in modern Occult?

The problem, however, is that the delicate balance between healthy structure and stifling restriction is unknown to modern Magical Orders (and was likely unknown to their historical counterparts). Orders fall into the same trap that Revealed Religions do, namely that the practice and dogma become more important then the actual growth of the student or historical authenticity of what is being taught.

Take the Ordo Templi Orientis, for example. Many intelligent and well trained Thelemites refuse to "monkey around" with the rituals as they stand, meaning that even though Crowley changed rituals like the LBRP (see Israel Regardie's Complete Golden Dawn System of Magick for the original Golden Dawn version found by Regardie in Order documents) they refuse to try (or even look critically at) the original versions. "If it was good enough for Crowley it's good enough for me." A student of the Occult finds himself left wanting when trying to incorporate older versions of the rites in his practice and finds little to no discussion on why the newer versions are "better." He is just meant to trust that "it's been tried, studied and tested by some of the best minds in ceremonial magick, and to some extent, some of the best minds, period."

It is that very refusal to look back into the history and practicality of ideas and practices that is why many Occultists left the religions of their childhoods (or of their neighbor's childhoods) in the first place. While I am all for an "it works so why change it" attitude, when a visible change can be seen from the method of one generation to that of another I must ask "why" and cannot be satisfied with the excuses of "because that's how we do it."

In the end, dogma exists where people exist and even magic is subject to intellectual stagnation.

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