Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.
There are many esoteric orders in the Western Mystery Tradition today. The majority derive all or part of their doctrine and practice from the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, and for two reasons. Both Aleister Crowley and Israel Regardie published its main rituals and a lot of its teachings, and in the century since the original HOGD’s demise and reformulation, a large number of practitioners have been trained in its ideas and ideals.
There are also many self-initiated orders, begun by enthusiasts who might have learned their magick as Wiccans or in some other field of occult activity. They have their strengths as well as their failings, and at one point I wanted to join one myself. I was only deterred by the death of the Chief Adept, which postponed my initiation indefinitely, and by a roundabout way, I ended up joining a Thelemic version of the GD.
There are three primary elements any successful order needs. First off, it needs roots in the Tradition. Perhaps today it’s wrong to use the word ‘the’ in this context, since the GD current is so diversified. The Builders of the Adytum and its offshoots constitute one branch, more traditional GD groups another, and the Thelemic orders form a third. There are probably others.
Whatever the school, there needs to be an understanding in the senior membership about why certain things are done in the way they’re done, and a willingness to avoid deviating from long-established standards and requirements. The deeper current, the spiritual wellspring that informs and energises any worthwhile order, lodge, temple, fraternity, or whatever name is used, operates most effectively through certain channels. The A.’.A.’., which takes the whole game to a higher level, involved a major reformulation of the Tradition(s), but it was supernally inspired from the get-go, and didn’t have to seek its inner-plane contact. Rather, the Supreme Sanctuary sought out the founders, Crowley and George Cecil Jones, and prompted them to get started with an advanced curriculum that their own attainments let them teach and support.
Such an inner-plane contact is the second requirement an order has. While almost any sustained magical working will draw the attention of higher beings, archetypal forces or levels of consciousness (choose your preferred terminology), the nature and the intensity of that contact varies greatly from order to order. In particular, the human Chiefs of the order need to be open to constant revision and expansion of their own ideas, and to admit that any conception they have, however noble or wise, needs substantial upgrades from time to time. Senior Adepti share information with each other, but a lot of the information they have comes to them as a result of their own teaching activity, not prior to it, as well as from creating a vehicle that’s conducive to members learning what those teachings are.
And that’s the third requirement. While a senior officer’s Adeptship might be beyond reproach, he or she has to remember that the human vehicle the Adept-self uses still has all the weaknesses, blindnesses, scars and personal failings that going through a human life in a human world creates.
This is one of the more baffling issues for many newcomers in the Mysteries. Beginners can assume that the personality of senior members has been essentially reformed by the training, and while that does occur to a certain extent, it’s never a total transformation. It’s equally hard for the leadership, who can sometimes easily confer wise advice or illuminating experiences, but forget that as conferring Adepts they aren’t the source of what is given. There is no copyright on occult truths.
No order I’ve ever encountered possesses all these three requirements in perfect alignment on the human or manifest level. The best ones, however, have them well embedded in their inner structure, and can use them to forward the aims of the Great Order. What that Order is, many of us spend decades trying to understand. But if these foundations are in place, its effects can be found in those who aim to serve it.
Love is the law, love uner will,