Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
Back in the mid-1990s, I tried self-initiating myself into a Rosicrucian path. After playing with this approach for a couple of months, I abandoned it, and sought out initiation with a proper order with inner-plane contact.
Initiating oneself is a popular approach to magick, and I won’t say it’s ineffective. But I’ve found very few people who strike me as having learned deeply from it, even if they’ve learned broadly.
There are various arguments offered against occult groups. Crowley was turned off by his Golden Dawn experiences, which occurred when that order was imploding, and he and George Cecil Jones formulated the A.A. as a chain system, teacher-to-pupil. But that doesn’t eliminate the possible problem of a loony-tune, egomaniac teacher; in fact, it can make it more problematic. Nor does it expose the student to the variety of perspectives that are encountered in groups,
Let’s look at what is actually supposed to happen with ceremonial initiation. The senior officer, supported by a group of more junior initiates, aims to use potent symbolism and invocatory processes to connect the conscious or outer self of the candidate with the deepest level of love, power and wisdom possible. How much of that occurs in a fully conscious way at the time will vary, but as a general rule we can say: Not a lot.
That’s where the training processes come in. The seed implanted in the initiation ceremony is nurtured by private practices, and step by step, the beginner starts expanding his or her comprehension of what we called the Mysteries.
After a period of years, this beginner is ready to offer initiation to others, having attained a broad and deep enough understanding that the initiatory current working through the order or temple can be transmitted beyond the confines of personal opinions, needs or preferences.
That, to me, is the key thing. The Hierophant should, by this point, be too wise in the ways of these things to try imposing an individual perspective, and the ritual employed will use generic language that helps prevent that from occurring. If proper training has been given to the initiator, the ceremony will open a doorway to something well beyond ego-based desires – regardless of the human failings of the Hierophant. If the new initiate has any serious juice at all, what is given can be nurtured and developed, and the cycle of initiate-to-initiator repeats itself.
On top of that, there is still a considerable body of practical teaching that is kept within the sanctuaries, and not given out willy-nilly. It is provided at the appropriate juncture, and not before. The initiatory process is one of mitigating the outer veils of conscious opinion, ideas acquired from upbringing, or anxiety about changing deeply rooted (i.e., only semi-conscious) beliefs, and simply stating all of that teaching without the necessary transformative alchemical shifts occurring first, is to cheat the student. A system of graduated degrees only offers a part of the truth students will find, because truth is, in the end, an ongoing process of discovery, not a set of dogmas and doctrines. Yet the system will be the key means by which that process is sparked and inspired from within.
Where I have seen harm from self-initiation arises from the fact the self-initiator does not, by definition, have realistic comprehension of the true extent and potency of the core and summit of his or her ultimate nature. Instead, the person initiates into a conception of that, a harmonic or image of it; and by doing so, can create an inner linkage that is heavily, even hopelessly, wedded to intellect and analysis, and to self-promoting aspirations. The Mystery that is sought, or even that might open up in the moment of self-initiation, is beyond the aspirant’s ability to accept.
The whole business then becomes one of explaining and comprehending things within an existing conceptual framework, and thus, in the end, of bolstering the mundane ego. The result, in several examples I’ve encountered, is a consistent hostility to ‘the misguided and weak’ (magicians with a different viewpoint) as well as a sometimes scornful dismissal of aspects of occultism that are dismissed as imaginary or romantic or unreasonable.
The conditions of initiation lay down the factors that affect the magician’s subsequent career. If it is done solo, without asking for human help as well as from the Divine, or the HGA, or one’s Genius (choose you term here), then that necessarily locks the aspirant into solitude and suspicion about other initiates. Initiation is a crisis, or it is nothing at all, and it needs to be performed, completed and dedicated within a ceremonial framework that goes far beyond personal need, desire, hope or doubt. Yes, self-initiation will work: I’m not denying that, and even my own effort contacted something beyond my then-current understanding. But I was putting a lid on the possibilities, and I was fortunate enough to realise that soon after.
The Hermetic initiatory process, by definition, uses imagination (the quality associated with the sephirah of Tiphereth). It requires a yearning for the non-material in order to work (the work of Yesod and Hod). And while it is ultimately the sanest of things to pursue, not the craziest, it does require us to step outside the bounds of reason (Netzach). “Ye are against the people, O my chosen!” (Chapter II, v. 25 of The Book of the Law) is not merely an instruction to foment social revolution, but also counsel on the need for moving far outside the bounds of conventional, consensual mentalities.
And to do that, we might want to have some experienced friends along for the ride, to offer us a reality check.
Love is the law, love under will,