An interesting discussion has arisen on the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn Yahoo Group concerning initiations. Once again, we are seeing the old debate about Temple Initiations vs. Self Initiations vs Astral Initiations. You can find the entire thread here.
I have written a moderately lengthy response outlining my own views on the subject, and I think you folks might just find it interesting. So read on and enjoy, and feel free to post your own comments either below or at the HOGD Group. :)
My take on this issue is as follows:
First, I agree that *all* initiations begin as self-initiations. Whether you make a conscious decision, or the Gods find a way to call you or drag you kicking and screaming, something must happen in your life to set you on this path. But this is not the same thing as taking a formal initiation (group or self) into a specific System, Tradition, Order or Temple.
Second, I agree that *all* initiations involve an astral process. If it didn’t, it wouldn’t be anything more than a passion-play walk-through done merely to say “welcome to our group.” (Like being hazed into a college frat. Or, sadly, like many Masonic initiations.) The astral is where the magick of the initiation happens. But this is not the same thing that is meant by groups who claim to offer “astral initiation.”
In a full Temple Initiation performed by initiated and experienced officers, there is a lot going on. The above-mentioned astral process is there – with the officers calling down LVX onto the candidate, various symbols and patterns being implanted in the aura and psyche via visual contact, the patterns of the ritual, the established Godforms (along with the very real Gods and spirits), the positions and actions of the officers, etc, etc. It involves the candidate astrally and physically, employing all five outer senses and several inner ones.
It is the best way to go when you’re talking about a Tradition like the Golden Dawn which is designed for Temple and group work. It doesn’t apply so much to folk traditions like Hoodoo, or even the Solomonic system – which are intended as personal practices from the beginning, and often involve the natural talent of the practitioner over an official “initiatory process.” (Though even those systems can be empowered by undertaking such an initiatory process.)
A Self-Initiation (as given in the Cicero’s book) gives you the visual contact with the symbols and the ritual patterns. But it does not include the drawing down of the LVX onto the candidate by experienced officers. Instead the candidate has to entreat the Gods to send the LVX and to help him *eventually* incorporate the necessary energies into the aura and psyche. As Frater SR stated, it’s not impossible but it is a harder row to hoe due to lack of community support and guidance. These can be supplemented with social networking, but it’s still harder than having direct face-to-face access to those with experience. You’ll never come away from it with “the same thing” you’d get from a Temple.
Also, keep in mind that a Self Initiation can often lead one to a full Temple Initiation. I “self initiated” with Don Kraig’s “Modern Magick” lessons, and it put me on a path that ultimately led me to the Mother Temple of the HOGD – and I wouldn’t exchange any aspect of my path from its start to its present for anything. ;)
Finally, an Astral Initiation (meaning a full Temple initiation performed by officers for a candidate “in absentia”) does not include the full impact of the symbols and ritual patterns upon the aura or psyche – outside of one or two symbols you might be asked to “meditate upon” while the work is going on elsewhere. It only involves the drawing down of the LVX upon you by officers who are not in direct contact with you.
Personally, I find this to be rather dangerous. I’ve seen how taxing a Neophyte Ceremony (and its aftermath) can be on any candidate, even with access to a full Temple and all the guidance and support that comes with it. Blasting someone with a massive bolt of LVX and then expecting them to sink or swim on their own is… well, not something I’d do to someone myself.
(In fact, I’ve often said that if you know someone who is ruled by darkness and doing harm to others, a great way to nuke them would be to consecrate a Talisman in their name and then Neophyte the hell out of it. Send a good thunderbolt of LVX at them to fry them from the inside out.)
Besides, say what you will about the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of an astral initiation, but I still never recommend an aspirant go that route – simply because most organizations who sell “astral initiations” aren’t doing anything of the sort. All too often, the candidate sits at home meditating his well-intentioned heart out while the “Order” does nothing more than head out to cash his check. Those who say they took such an initiation and it worked are, in fact, enjoying the results of their *own* Self-Initiation.
I am by no means suggesting that *all* groups who offer astral initiations are doing this. But the odds are just not in your favor in this area, so I can’t in good conscience recommend that path for anyone.
Frankly, I’ve never understood why even honest groups have their long-distance candidates just sit and meditate during their astral initiations. For Gods’ sake – have them get up and perform a Self-Initiation ceremony *in tandem* with the officers who are working for them elsewhere!! How could that possibly do anything other than facilitate and empower the process? An at-home ceremony could be written specifically for the purpose – yet I’ve never encountered a single “astral initiation” group who even suggests such a thing. Doesn’t that seem a bit odd to you?
So that’s my buck and a half on the subject. To each, of course, their own. :)