Monday, September 14, 2009

Praemonstrance to the new Neophyte

Florence Farr, Praemonstratrix at the fin du siecle.

Welcome, Frater and or Soror Neophyte(s) to our most ancient and venerable institution. Ancient, no doubt it is, because over the years its name and traditions have withstood the tests and trials of time, the misuse of charlatans, and the exultation of Adepts with the dignity and prestige its study so rightly deserves and demands. Venerable, for in its pale the wisdom and methods used by the magicians of the past to apprehend the crown of attainment are indeed contained.

One of the first concerns which often burns in the mind of a new neophyte, is whether they have the ability to learn and master the knowledge of the Order which they have intended to make their new domicile. The second probable concern is of course, what are the end results of all the academic studies the Order now apparently requires of its members?

The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn in the Outer, does indeed hold the requisite knowledge from the magical traditions of the ages. But there is a greater lesson taught within its bosom, greater than just being deeply informative about the occult learning that its name evokes, and far greater than the fraternal sharing which can warm the spirit of those who share similar recondite interests. I speak of course of the knowledge of the methods of how to study magic. It is this directive methodology behind the art, and an art it is indeed, that have been chiefly laid out in our multitude of sympathetic correspondences. As all the rituals and lectures of the Outer Order and a few of the Inner are already in print, this approach to learning as offered by traditional Orders is a real key to the field of Hermeticism. It is literally this secret traditional methodology and process of how to learn our system of magic that is the thrust behind initiation: it is the grace and the expression of the higher.

Some feel emotionally moved when the hoodwink is removed, and the symbol of the Outer Order upon the altar is finally seen. The budding magician is often moved in a very different way when it is further revealed that there is now work to be done. The new frater or soror oft looks at the First Knowledge Lecture and query's why the basic ritual and several pages of academic material are to be committed to memory. This is, of course, a very excellent question to ask! Some magicians are excited at the challenge; others have already learned the material expected of them; and yet the majority are unpleasantly surprised, and seem to view the symbols in The First Knowledge Lecture with something akin to horror.
Those of the latter category may find their agitation manifesting in a manifold fashion: firstly, symbols of a magical nature are not to only be discussed, but actually studied; secondly, that the information in the lecture, the content of which they have not yet comprehend the value of, must be not only studied but memorised perfectly; thirdly, that the ritual and meditation materials of uncertain origins, at least as far as the new neophyte is concerned, are to be not only memorised, but fully worked. While in all likelihood they are still enthusiastic for their membership and the Order, when the folder of the First Knowledge Lecture is opened for the first time, all at once the majority of our new members are placed into their first serious, but only temporary, setback.

We make it our custom at this temple, to Receive into the Order only actual magicians, occultists or individuals who are deeply spiritual, and in at least one of these capacities, you are such a suitable Candidate. A person with the above background that is unfamiliar with the functioning of a magical Order might readily assume that the point of all the quaint memorisation of symbols and ritual work is to receive another Jewel (or embroidered cross) on their sash, as some meaningless social accolade from the organization they have just joined. However, this is not the case, and as the new Neophyte claimed on his or her Application that he or she has set out to learn and accomplish magic, so the lessons and curriculum have been set accordingly. While he or she has already been told that these are only the basic rudiments of occult science, the reason for the work must be made clearer to the modern student than it ever has been in the past, for today's student has not the inclination to put forth hours of work, nay, years or even a lifetime of effort, simply on another being's authoritative say-so. His or her interest and desire must be engaged.

The reason for the work is simple. Magic is a language that is both eloquent and personal. The Adept uses it to express himself in the most spiritual ways, it is a terminology and a philosophic dialect that both other magicians and spiritual creatures may understand, it is our basic technology. But first the Neophyte Magician needs to learn the alphabet of their new endeavor. Next, she slowly sounds out the consonants and vowels. After awhile she learns of its syntax, grammar, sentence structure, case, tense and tone. Then eventually she starts to form sentences and paragraphs of her own, beginning to argue and debate ideas in passionate discourse, or perhaps compose the most moving of magical acts, the poetry and oration of which literally raises the powers of nature in reply, communicating mysteries, heaven and earth in unity. However, to raise this level of energy within themselves and in nature, one must be able to do more than provide a rudimentary grunt of the constituting ceremonial consonants. When a magician has done the correct amount of work, no more and no less, they will achieve the advanced or adept abilities and the requisite skills completely for themselves.
But first they have to learn the rudiments of our terminology. It is therefore important you truly learn the basics of our progressive system. Like in any language, terms begin with the letters they are composed of. Meanwhile, the alphabet that has been already mentioned, is not strictly speaking, just a metaphor. In this case, it is literally the four elements, the symbols of astrology, and the Hebrew Aleph-Beth. Take note so there is understanding: it is not the Hebrew language that is utilised by the Hermetic Magician, although this would be an asset for anyone to know, it is the Hebrew and Aramaic terminology of the Cabala that we are concerned with.

Learning magic is like learning an instrument. Better music does not always stem from better technique, but the best music often reminds one nostalgically of something else heard once before, even when it has been newly composed. Nature herself seems to form in recognisable mathematical patterns that transcend the compound material of which they are composed, whether it be organic or not. Experienced biologists, musicians and magicians alike know that this is because there is a certain mathematical formula present in nature that is universal, transcending any language or metaphor. In magic these patterns move beyond our cultural traditions, and may be found in the sense of inner rightness that we are all privy to.

The fact that the great composers and magicians of the past have written their works down for posterity means that we can learn to play their songs and enact their magical efforts, effectively recreating what they have already done and accomplished before us. This of course doesn't mean that we automatically gain all their individual abilities or wisdom, but it does mean that once the Magician learns the esoteric basics through the Order's curriculum, so may she begin to form a solid foundation of theory and practice, eventually grasping with strength the philosophy behind magic. The dilettante has no need for this, he is happy to just read or discuss these concepts, oftentimes getting even the most basic theories confused from his armchair.

Those who aspire to be an expert before they have learned even the basics of theory and practice will always be ultimately unsatisfied with their progress in the work. They know that something is missing from their efforts, for when they try to discuss and debate with others, perform unclear divination or fail to raise spirits, they feel something is wrong. They may not consciously recognise the absence of complete abilities in themselves, and thus cannot distinguish the overall feeling of dissatisfaction with their magical progress for what it really is: their own ignorance.

Even saying all of this, a magician does not require the auspices of a magical order to be validated, for true magical validation comes from within. She does require that her studies be undertaken to completion, and it is this study, after protracted and sincere efforts, which tends to uncover the very best within each of us. A true magician is always an ongoing student of the mysteries, and after a time once the work is known well enough and the process of training has continued for many cycles, the rigidity of memorization falls away. At the Adept level, the work and learning becomes a method of expressing anti-rigidity. Of this paradox, frequently pure creativity and originality are the result.
The innovator in any subject would do best to first learn all the rudiments of their art or science, lest every modern musician become bogged down in the wood shop, building his instrument from scratch before he has even learned to play a single note. So it is also true for the magician. The Neophyte learns the fundamentals; the Adeptus builds the classical tools; and the Master explores and reinvents the system on an inner level, according to his or her understanding of the universe. But every master of music, no matter how promising a student he or she originally was, has always started his or her career at one time as a beginner, and frequently learned from another musician who is already adept at the art. So it is also true with magic.
But far be it for us to set ourselves above you in our capacity as instructors in your studies. This is a fraternity, and we all work together as equals in the act of learning and practicing our work, you are not subjected to the whims of a teacher or guru here. While we may lecture and test each other on our educational work, of the higher lessons you will never be scheduled sit in examination with one of our Officers, no matter how inspired or exemplary they may seem as fellow fratres and sorores of the Order, for we are all the exclusive and solitary pupils of our higher-selves. So for now, we leave the invention of new instruments to the artifice of the master, to whom the work of creation in the very wood shop of the temple has become their essential practice, and we turn again to the work of a neophyte.

When we consider the effort required of our neophytes to learn the science, it is seen as a test of their diligence, desire, knowledge and will to truly be a magician. The endurance of which is but an expression of the patience and work ethic needed to accomplish the work one has begun today. However, far be it for us to insist upon any one's blind faith. Now that you have been officially Received into the Order, ask your new fratres and sorores about the value of the work, attend the lectures and rituals of the institution, do the exercises prescribed by the Order, but ultimately decide upon its value only for yourself.

If at any point, there is a question about the utility of the work at hand, bring it forward immediately in the spirit of scientific engagement and constant questioning that leads to true knowledge. However, our neophytes have also come to expect that what they may be provided is not simply a solution, or even one answer among many, but a practice or means to experimenting within yourself to discover the true meaning of the Great Work, which is personal.

Our practices which begin with such ceremonies as the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram, work in much the same way as how a modern computer operates. In other words, much like how hardware downloads and uses software. Your mind is susceptible to its programming, but the fact that our work and language is built on merely arbitrary designations should only encourage philosophic study, for one of the first lessons of linguistics is that while there may be distinct and ancient origins for most words and terms, language has always been arbitrary, even while it still commands the power it was inevitably intended to posses. So too, does the magical language yield its potency soon enough to the knowledgeable magician's will and inspired emotions, allowing her to build the mental and physical tools necessary to artistically engage the natural forces of life and death.

These rituals, grades and lectures are in fact, brilliantly designed tools unto themselves that gradually unfold into multi-purpose instruments, but only once they have been properly practiced and analyzed over ample time. The grade meditations, while dating from a period a little later in the Order's history than the other practices, are nonetheless integral to the accomplishment of the Great Work. They tend to release the early results of the neophyte's efforts in a personal format, as a kind of gift to the Magician in the form of a dream or vision, a progress report that once recorded in her Magical Journal, only she may truly begin to decipher its import.

Finally, all the Grade ceremonies are of the utmost importance to be worked and understood, for within them is concealed in plain sight the symmetrical portrayal of magic as a type of mathematical algebra. Once the values of the symbol and allegory are filled in with the individual understanding, attributes and personal wisdom of the magician, true knowledge is gained of that Gnosis within, which is the knowledge of self.

VH Frater YShY
Past Praemonstrator
Past Hierophant
Thuban Temple

September 14th, 2009ev.

The ideas for this paper was taken entirely and equally
from correspondence sent between Fratres SN and YShY

1 comment:

  1. Excellent! You really know your way with words.

    In Licht, Leben und Liebe