I believe that much of the confusion regarding this lies in the fact that in the original Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn there only existed operative levels in the Second or Inner Order which worked on the quite low level of Adeptus Minor, pertaining to Tiphareth halfway through the Tree of Life. And even on that level the system was only worked halfway through, i.e. even the Adeptus Minor Grade wasn’t developed fully as its so called “subgrades” only was worked up to the Theoricus Adeptus Minor level, or perhaps a tentative Practicus Adeptus Minor level (se below in my explanation of the Grade system). Higher Grades beyond that was only given to the Chiefs of the Order as honorary titles. So when the Order split up in the wake of the great schism in 1900 and later in 1903, the three main branches of the Golden Dawn who continued the work developed their own peculiar views regarding the higher Grades.
But before we enter into the discussion about these particular developments let me first give a brief summary of the Grades of the Golden Dawn and how they are applied to the 10 Sephiroth of Tree of Life, the planes of existence and Qabalistic Souls of man:
- Not considering the preparatory Grade of Neophyte 0°=0°, the actual first Grade is the one called Zelator 1°=10°, which is attributed to the Element of Earth, the Sephirah of Malkuth, the Planet Earth or the physical word, the human physical body, or Qabalistically speaking the Guph (the reflexes and instincts), being part or lower aspect of Nefesh or animal Soul.
- The second Grade is referred to as the Theoricus 2°=9°, which is attributed to the Element of Air, the Sephirah of Yesod, the Planet of Luna or the astral word, the human astral body, or higher aspect of the Qabalistic Soul of Nefesh (vital or animal Soul of drives, also referred to the automatic consciousness or the subconscious mind), which overlaps with the lowest part of Ruah or the rational conscious mind.
- The third Grade is referred to as the Practicus 3°=8°, which is attributed to the Element of Water, the Sephirah of Hod, the Planet of Mercury, being part of the mental word and the human mental body, or Qabalistic Soul of Ruah (that part of the rational soul pertaining to Reason).
- The forth Grade is referred to as the Philosophus 4°=7°, which is attributed to the Element of Fire, the Sephirah of Netzach, the Planet of Venus, being part of the mental word and the human mental body, or Qabalistic Soul of Ruah (that part of the rational soul pertaining to Desire).
- The fifth Grade is referred to as the Portal and Adeptus Minor 5°=6°, which is attributed to the Element of Spirit, the Sephirah of Tiphareth, the Planet of Sol, being part of the mental word and the human mental body, or Qabalistic Soul of Ruah (that part of the rational soul pertaining to Imagination). This Grade is further subdivided into the sub-grades of Neophyte Adeptus Minor (N.A.M.), Zelator Ad. Min. (Z.A.M.), Theoricus Ad. Min. (Th.A.M.), Practicus Ad. Min. (P.A.M.), Philosophus Ad. Min. (Ph.A.M.) and Adept Adeptus Minor (A.A.M.).
- The sixth Grade is referred to as the Adeptus Major 6°=5°, which is attributed to the Sephirah of Geburah, the Planet of Mars, being part of the mental word and the human mental body, or Qabalistic Soul of Ruah (that part of the rational soul pertaining to Will or Volition). It is subdivided into sub-grades in the same manner as in the Adeptus Minor Grade.
- The seventh Grade is referred to as the Adeptus Exemptus 7°=4°, which is attributed to the Sephirah of Chesed, the Planet of Jupiter, being part of the mental word and the human mental body, or Qabalistic Soul of Ruah (that part of the rational soul pertaining to Memory). Beyond this Grade lies the Great Abyss between the Divine and the mundane.
- The eight Grade is referred to as the Babe of the Abyss and Magister Templi 8°=3°, which is attributed to the Sephirah of Binah, the Planet of Saturn, being part of the casual word beyond the Abyss and the human casual body, or Qabalistic Soul of Neshamah (that part of the divine soul pertaining to Intuition).
- The ninth Grade is referred to as the Magus 9°=2°, which is attributed to the Sephirah of Chokmah, the Sphere of Fixed Stars or the Zodiac, being part of the casual word and the human casual body, or Qabalistic Soul of Chiah (that part of the divine soul pertaining to the Life Force).
- The tenth Grade is referred to as Ipsissimus 10°=1°, which is attributed to the Sephirah of Kether, the Sphere of the Primum Mobile, being part of the casual word and the human casual body, or Qabalistic Soul of Yechidah (that part of the divine soul pertaining to the Higher Self or Divine Spark).
This alignment of the Rosicrucian Grades of the Golden Dawn to the Tree of Life gives a wonderful and unique opportunity to us in our understanding of the relationship between each Grade and the supposed attainment level attached to it, using traditional correspondences of the Sephiroth, such as Elements, Planets and Qabalistic Souls assigned, etc. There is also the Paths ascending towards each of the Sephiroth to consider, which sheds further light on our understanding of the Grades and the initiatory processes ascribed to them. But in this essay I will only limit myself to the 10 Sephiroth, which gives us ample information to draw our conclusions.
According to the former Golden Dawn Adept Aleister Crowley, the personal student of Golden Dawn Adepts George Cecil Jones and Allan Bennet, and the close confidante of S.L. MacGregor Mathers, one of the founders of the Golden Dawn, all of these Grades were attainable by humans and also conferred certain states of consciousness or spiritual attainment. I will return to these notions held by Crowley below, but must now limit myself to the so called “Magical Powers” described in his book Liber 777. This book was basically a tabulation of correspondences of the Golden Dawn, which Crowley more or less had stolen from S.L. MacGregor Mathers without giving him credit. Dion Fortune heavily based this information from Crowley in her teachings in her seminal work The Mystical Qabalah, also the Magical Powers which she referred to as “Spiritual Experiences”, which are attributed to the Sephiroth thus:
- Kether – Union with God
- Chokmah – The Vision of God face to face
- Binah – The Vision of Sorrow
- Chesed – The Vision of Love
- Geburah – The Vision of Power
- Tiphareth – The Vision of the Harmony of Things (also the Mysteries of the Crucifixion)
- Netzach – The Vision of Beauty Triumphant
- Hod – The Vision of Splendour [Ezekiel]
- Yesod – The Vision of the Machinery of the Universe
- Malkuth – The Vision of the Holy Guardian Angel or of Adonai
Regarding the teachings and traditions of A.E. Waite and the Holy Order of the Golden Dawn, later reformed into the Fraternity of the Rosy Cross, I cannot tell much as I havn’t done that much research into it yet. But it seems obvious that Waite did develop rituals beyond the Adeptus Minor Grade in the early or middle 1910’s (which were published by Israel Regardie in his The Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic), and later on even beyond the Abyss, at least up to the level of Magister Templi 8°=3°. It also seems that Waite held quite interesting views on sexual polarity which was implemented into these highest Grades developed by him. So it is obvious that Waite held the view that Grades beyond the Abyss were attainable for incarnate humans.
I have previously given lots of information about the peculiar development made by Robert Felkin and his Stella Matutina, which received heavy influences from unexpected quarters, i.e. from the German “Misraim Service” led by Rudolf Steiner. So I would like to direct the reader to that particual essay if he or she want to have a thorough understanding. As will be evident from this reading Felkin developed rituals for the higher Grades, i.e. that of Adeptus Major, Adeptus Exemptus and Magister Templi, after the template as given forth by Rudolf Steiner, or rather whatever Felkin could gather from the interaction between the S.M. and the Misraim Service. This was done almost simultaniously with with A.E. Waite’s developments, probably in a spirit of competition as they both were aware of what the other was doing. It seems Felkin later also developed initiation rituals for the Magus and and perhaps even the Ipsissimus Grades. These Grades beyond the Abyss were delivered to the most loyal and hardworking Adepts of the Whare Ra Temple as honorary titles, however the initiates receiving these Grades were scarce. The teachings to fill up the Grades beyond the Adeptus Minor seems to have mainly been extracted from the previous sub-grades of the Adeptus Minor which was discarded with, together with whatever teachings Felkin could have received from Ruldolf Steiner and concocted up on his own. It seems that the higher Adepti Grades were operative to a certain extent, but that the opinion held regarding that level of teachings was that it was much up to the individual student to make out of it whatever he or she could and do personal research.
However it seems like many high Grade members of the Whare Ra was somewhat displeased by that approach and the material that was handed out, as many would later turn their attention to B.O.T.A., the organization created by Paul Foster Case (see my further discussion below), and the teachings regarding Qabalah and Tarot as taught there. It seems there even were negotiations with Ann Davies, the chief of the B.O.T.A. during the 60’s, to merge the Whare Ra with the B.O.T.A., but luckily enough that didn’t manifest.
According to current adherents and possible heirs of the Whare Ra tradition Grades are not emblematic of actual spiritual attainment, and hence no certain level of spirituality must be attained prior to advancement into a higher Grade. Although initiation is held to infuse current into the Candidate, which will trigger changes and create life lessons (i.e. synchronicity), and that the individual work done (both theoretical and practical) will provide tools to enhance this initiatory process, these achievements may only be judged within the limited framework of the Order and not in the wider sense of the word or spiritually attained in common or everyday life. Initiation within the Golden Dawn framework of the Tree of Life only occurs in Assiah (the last of the four worlds of Qabalah attributed to action and matter), and therefore are attainable while incarnated. To be an Ipsissimus is to be one holding all the tools and experience required to be able to manifest the Higher Self of the Magician, but doesn require it. Hence the Grades beyond the Abyss are not regarded as overly “exalted” but that they simply present deeper frameworks to explore the self and the Universe. According to this source the process of initiation must be permitted to proceed until death; no one is to be barred from advancement because of lack of certain spiritual qualities, as the whole Tree of Life must be able for anyone dedicated to be explored without any Chief denying them this right. Grades in the Golden Dawn do not represent high spiritual exaltations, only symbols that helps the initiate on his or her way; they are processes which may lead to higher levels by giving the initiate necessary keys to produce end results.
Even though I partly agree with these notions, I also to a large extent don’t. I do agree with the notion that initiation in the Golden Dawn paradigm is well within the last Tree of Life in Assiah, and hence attainable in the flesh. Therefore each and everyone of the Grades should be attainable in one’s initiatory path and administred by the Order. But we have to remember that within each of the Four Worlds of the Qabalah, there is also to be found a subdivision into Four Lesser Worlds. This means that Malkuth of Assiah corresponds to Assiah of Assiah, and that Yetzirah of Assiah comprises Chesed to Yesod on the Assiatic Tree. Furthermore, Briah of Assiah must be attributed to Binah and Chokmah, and finally Atziluth of Assiah to Kether. In the microcosm, which includes all of Assiah in man, this relates to the Qabalistic Souls thus: Guph and lower aspect of Nefesh to Assiah of Assiah, higher aspect of Nefesh and Ruah to Yetzirah of Assiah, Neshemah and Chiah to Briah of Assiah, and lastly Yechidah to Atziluth of Assiah. This means that initiation into the Golden Dawn involves all of the bodies of the microcosm, subtle as well as the physical; initiation is supposed to realign (to separate and reunite) the different aspects and levels of man into a new and harmonious whole.
Therefore I don’t regard Grades as mere symbols of attainment. Therefore there doesn’t exist any “human rights” to attain any Grades, especially not beyond the Outer Order. For me to be able to ascend into a higher degree one has to had aquired certain signs of spiritual maturity. For example, being an Adeptus Major should be the mark of someone succeeding in the goal of the Adeptus Minor, i.e. that of the attainment of Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel. However being a Adeptus Major does not automatically prove that one has been able to root out the unresolved complexes of the unconscious, the work required for the Adeptus Major, as that is the sign of the Adeptus Exemptus. We all start as Neophytes in a particular Grade and advance into full blown Adepts of that Grade in time, if we perservere and if we have the talent. If not, we cannot be expected to advance into the next level. I will return to my own views soon, but I felt I had to make a statement right away before I proceed with the view held in the original Rosicrucian Order of the Alpha et Omega.
In the Alpha et Omega S.L. MacGregor Mathers soon developed the system further and introduced rituals for the Adeptus Major and Adeptus Exemptus Grades as early as in 1907, perhaps even earlier then that. Thus he was the first to develop the initiatory system further. He also developed teachings corresponding to these Grades, which for example developed the teaching regarding sexual polarity, etc. After the death of MacGregor Mathers his sucessors continued this work to create teachings for higher Grades, such as J.W. Broadie-Innes and E.J. Langford Garstin. Regarding the Third Order and its three Grades it is held in certain quarters, i.e. in that of the current inauguration of the Alpha et Omega, that Mathers received further material regarding Inner Alchemy, or western tantra, which was supposed to be used on that level, but that he didn’t finish this project before his sudden death in 1918. Later in the A.O. lots of the materials originally reserved for the sub-grades of the Adeptus Minor were moved to higher Grades, in the same manner as in the Stella Matutina. I believe this was because of the later interrelationships between the S.M. and the A.O. during the 50’s. It also seems as the Sun Order may have been serving as a fertile ground for higher Grade work both in the A.O. and the British section of the S.M. and perhaps also in the Whare Ra. May I please refer you to this essay regarding this later cooperation between the Stella Matutina and the Alpha et Omega, and that of the higher and sexual teachings of the Sun Order.
What can be gathered and said about the view regarding higher Grades beyond the Adeptus Minor in the Alpha et Omega is that they were indeed operative, i.e. not honorary as in the early days of the Golden Dawn, and that written material were handed out and substantial oral traditions transmitted to prepare the student for the higher mysteries. However all this remains a mystery for the outside word who has to rely on the words of modern students and initiates of the Alpha et Omega. Thus I cannot say anything more regarding this subject. However it is also, in my opinion, interesting to examine somewhat the particular views held by Paul Foster Case who was a former Adeptus Minor and acting Chief Adept of the American branch of the Rosicrucian Order of Alpha et Omega, who broke off (or was expelled) from the A.O. to form the School of Ageless Wisdom in 1922, which later became known as the “Builders of the Adytum” or B.O.T.A.
First of all Case held the opinion that there were no initation rituals that could be performed or administered beyond the Adeptus Minor, not that they wasn’t attainable by humans but that that workings beyond the level of the Minor Adept was purely of a self-initiatic nature. This is similar to Aleister Crowley’s sentiments, although the latter placed the Adeptus Minor initiation at the level of the Theoricus 2°=9° Grade in his A∴A∴. P.F. Case also held the strong opinion that each Grade of the Rosicrucian system according to the Tree of Life were associated to specific spiritual attainments, i.e. that they weren’t honorary but actual. The attainment levels of the Grades beyond the Abyss would be regarded as “superhuman” by ordinary standards, but not unattainable by incarnate humans, although they constituted Masters of both the discarnate and incarnate type. He also held the view that initiation wasn’t suppose to gain any power in the initiate but to make him or her conscious of powers already available within man.
Paul F. Case lays all this bare in his seminal work The True and Invisible Rosicrucian Order. Briefly this can be said of the particular Grades of the Golden Dawn according to the views held in the B.O.T.A. Initiation proper begins at the level of Zelator or 1°=10°. As relating to Malkuth and the Element of Earth, Case states that this Grade properly deals with the physical body and sensation. The Zelator must consider his or her body and the physical surroundings. The first step made by the initiate is to make a complete change in his or her interpretation of the sense information, i.e. not to take anything (or appearances) for granted. The Zelator must also study the laws of nature, both in the macrocosm and the microcosm.
According to P.F. Case the work of the Theoricus or 2°=9° concerns study of theory. As Yesod, the Sephirah of that Grade, also relates to the automatic consciousness, the initiate must now also become aware of his or her subconscious mind. This Grade is also about shifting one’s consciousness from the material to the spiritual, and from the outer to the inner. He or she also becomes aware of the fact that spirit always if superior to matter, and that it is spiritual forces on the level of subconsciousness that operates the physical appearances. This knowledge is the first step of controlling these forces by applying constructive thinking (i.e. positive thinking); mental hygiene. The Theoricus also nurtures the opinion that the normal reasoning faculties of man is greatly transcended by the superconscious resoning on the level of True Self. He or she becomes aware of that there is a power that is overshadowing the ordinary and human self.
On the level of Practicus or 3°=8° the student is concerned with putting his or her theoretical knowledge into practice, using the faculties corresponding to Mercury or The Magician (Key No. 1 of the Tarot). Here we are concerned with intellectual or cognitive training of the mind, in application of inductive reasoning, as contrasted to deductive reasoning properly belonging to the Grade of Theoricus and the subconscious. The Practicus cultivates his or her self-conscious faculties, through attentive awareness such as the practice of meditaiton. As is shown in the image of the Magician of the Tarot the Practicus works with the Elemental Weapons, on a symbolical level, i.e. with the cultivation of the Wand of Will, the Cup of Imagination, the Sword of Action and the Pentacle of Physical Manifestation. The Practicus applies this knowledge of the automatic consciousness to nurture constructive though and imagination to change his or her subconscious patterns of thinking, which will manifest as life events in accordance. According to P.F. Case the Practicus must also become consciously aware of the subtler bodies beyond the physical, which he calls “four dimensional consciousness”. This also involves a change or transmutation of the physical body, which becomes the result of clear cut and focused vision.
The Grade of Philosophus or 4°=7° mainly concerns with the desire nature of man. The Philosophus aligns his or her desire nature to that of the cosmic forces and processes. This implies the notion that one doesn’t do anything of one’s own effort and that there is no separate existence; personality is just the outer vehicle of the True Self. This also concerns a purification of the desire nature. Through meditation the Philosophus becomes aware of the core or source residing within each of his or her desires. Through this process he or she “washes” the desire until it becomes the true and pure desire of cosmic law.
The Grade of (Portal and that of) Adeptus Minor or 5°=6° involves the faculties of imagination, and to further cultivate that into seeing the beauty of the divine expression in all life and outward appearances. According to Case the Lesser Adept strives towards strength, adaptation, balancing and equilibration, etc. It also concerns the meeting of the Dweller on the Threshold, more properly to the level of Aspirant or that of the Grade of Portal. This basically involves rooting out of misconceptions in the subconscious mind, through the faculties already taught in the Practicus Grade, i.e. that of focused vision. It also involves the process of death. It is the death to old notions of individual existence and that his or her thoughts, words, and actions are merely personal. It is the sacrifice of the ego. The Adept must go through a symbolical and mental death to be able to truly acknowledge the true “I AM” (or Yechidah) in the core of his or her existence, i.e. an awareness of that which is symbolized by the Holy Guardian Angel. Being a Lesser Adept the work is mainly concerned with gaining high skill in controlling one's mental imagery to that end.
The Grade of Adeptus Major or 6°=5° involves the submission of human will, the total sacrifice or death of the ego, to become a channel for the operation of the greater cosmic laws and currents. The Major Adept must know that his or her personal will is but an expression of the greater and True Will; corresponding to Geburah he or she incarnates Willpower. Case compares this to the eastern conception of Samadhi. It is the freeing from bondage of the lie that man has a personal will. The Greater Adept is thus the administrator of cosmic law. According to Case he or she is also the teacher, or the one who is the mouthpiece for the One Teacher within.
The Rosicrucian Grade of Adeptus Exemptus or 7°=4° expresses the exempt i.e. free Adept. Adeptship on this level is more than being an open channel and teacher of the Law. The Exempt Adept is a channel for the exhaustless Mercy of the Life-Power, according to Case. As the Major Adept expresses Justice the Exempt Adept expresses Mercy, which is a nobler approach towards life, and more impersonal according to Case. Only the merciful can truly understand the state of separatelessness. Thus the Exempt Adept no longer has any consciousness of separation and no longer is driven by any ego in his or her actions. The Exempt Adept also never forgets anything as he or she embodies memory, which is attributed to Chesed. This of course involves a greatly enhanced state of consciousness and full awareness. The Exempt Adept is also one who has full control over his or her desire nature. He or she thus also has power over karma; the freedom or exemption from karma.
The Grade of Magister Templi or 8°=3° involves the cultivation of speech (or both thought and sound vibration) which is then, through manipulation of the subtle forces, used to build the Magister a body which resist the laws of physics. A Master of the Temple always follows the Great Plan, step by step as it unfolds to him or her. Therefore the Master is without any anxiety nor curiosity regarding the future. The title “Master of the Temple” is a reference to the physical body, hence it means “Master of the Body”. It is the mark of someone who has overcome the forces of physical death, which is brought about through the perfect union of the conscious, subconscious and superconscious levels of the Life-power. But it is not mere control over the physical body; it concerns the control of all subtle bodies as well (remember my sentiments about initiation as a way to realign the subtler bodies into an new whole). It is the mark of someone in conscious union with the Qabalistic Soul called Neshemah, which is at the level of the casual plane according to the Theosophists. Hence the Master of the Temple is a pure or clear channel for these casual forces, and the True Self, which incorporates all forces known to science. He or she is able to perfectly direct the Prana, or Life-breath. But it is still on the level of limitation, concentration and form.
The Grade of Magus or 9°=2° concerns the administration of the Life Force or Prana itself, a reference to the Qabalistic Soul called Chiah (which is translated to “life”); and he or she does this without any limits and beyond any form. The Magus thus embodies the Life Force. He or she is one that has overcome all pairs of opposites and who rests in perfect equilibrium. A Magus is someone who is Wisdom incarnate, someone who truly has become more than human. All generative and regenerative powers are under the control of the Magus; when he or she formulates an image it immediately manifests as a physical form. Thus he or she is a God-Man, according to Eliphas Levi. Or perhaps the Son of Man, being able to exhibit “miracles”, as did the Master Jesus. As Ab, or “Father”, is one of the titles of Chokmah the Master Jesus can truly be considered to be of equal stature as the Magus, being one with the Father; Jesus is the archtype of a Magus working the Magic of Light.
And finally the Grade of Ipsissimus or 10°=1° may be translated as “one who is most himself” and relates to the highest of the Qabalistic Souls, that of Yechidah the “indivisible”, corresponding to the Hindu “Atman”. The Ipsissimus is therefore the head of the Rosicrucian Order. P.F. Case considers him to be the Christos, or Christ, the universal Logos. He is one who expresses the Primal or True Will in the truest sense attainable in Assiah. This is of course the mark of someone who truly has completed the Great Work.
Now, reading these explanations (or rather my personal interpretation of the teachings of Paul Foster Case) regarding the Grades beyond Adeptus Minor one isn’t at all surprised that Case didn’t administer any Grades beyond that. I wonder if there ever were any Grades given beyond the Adeptus Minor in the B.O.T.A. considering the superhuman qualities attached to them. Still Case believed that they were attainable while incarnated. But Grades beyond that of Adeptus Minor didn’t necessitate any honoraries or titles, or regalia for that matter. Greater Adepts and especially Exempt ones dosen’t need anything of that, if we are to trust Case in his analysis. But as Grades are and always has been administered in formal form both in the Alpha et Omega and the Stella Matutina, and Fellowship of the Rosy Cross, one cannot follow Case’s criteria to the letter. They must be considered to be idealisations of these Grades, unattainable in practice if one is to follow them to the letter, but indeed something to strive for. In my more pragmatic and humble opinion it suffices to be a good enough Adept. But in my more idealizing and grandiose opinion they do convey spiritual truths and give some good hints of what is to be expected from professed high Grade holders. Case do present a truly profound understanding of the Rosicrucian or Golden Dawn System of Initiation; it is not merely about being given Grades honorary but one also have to show the mark of true Adeptship.
I once had a discussion with an Adept who I considered as highly proficient in his magical ability but obviously suffered from personal issues and unresolved unconscious conflicts towards the Order that initiated him. He told me that initiation in the Golden Dawn system didn’t had anything at all to do with spiritual evolvement. This for me was shocking to hear, something that still affects me. I just cannot accept that idea. What is it all about if it is not about spiritual unfoldment? Ego-mastrubation? Remember the adage contained in the Stella Matutina version of the Neophyte Ceremony:
Although the Magical virtues can indeed awaken into momentarily life in the wicked and foolish hearts, they cannot reign in any heart that has not the natural virtues to be their throne.People today sometimes regard requirement for admittance of higher Grade as just passing through examinations, both theoretical and practical. In the old R.R. et A.C. people had to perform rituals in front of other Adepts. This is still a practice in the Rosicrucian Order of Alpha et Omega, in the Outer Order even. But passing just by outer performance of ritual cannot be sufficient when it comes to work done by Adepts. I can accept that if it comes to Outer Order members, as that is much about learning the trade. But even when it comes to admittance into higher Outer Order Grades I judge by the force or current felt invoked, not that much about outer performance as compared to a Zelator level of working. But at the level of the Adepti work, something else must come into the criteria of judgement. Magical rituals done must have specific results in the mental sphere and the soul of the Adept. It must have direct psychological results, or the ritual has been poorly performed. Hence the ritual and magical ability isn’t sufficient. Hence the Adept cannot pass the test.
Furthermore, with a successful initiation ceremony or advancement into a Grade it should follow a certain level or state of consciousness. If not, at least seeds are supposed to be planted into the subconscious level of the initiate which will unfold if properly cultivated by him or her. It is in my own experience a common thing that the mind will experience a recession of consciousness after a while as a post-initiatory effect, i.e. that it returns to the normal state as prior to the initiation ceremony, because of the forces inherent in the plane of action and matter. I believe this to be a normal phenomenon. However, now that the mind of the initiate has experienced the glory of that Grade, he and she are able to find their way back to that initial state, even if it requires lots of hard work. This, in my opinion also constitutes signposts in judging the spiritual development of the initiate, i.e. the unfoldment of his or her consciousness.
When it comes to admittance into a higher Grade I fully understand the delicacy of this matter. I agree with the view that it ultimately is a personal matter between the initiate and his or her own God regarding the spiritual attainment acquired. But this delicacy and difficulty shouldn’t let us turn into the opposite position and nurture a “anything goes” mentality. Adeptship, even of the lesser category, in my opinion does require certain mental and spiritual qualities prior to advancement into the Second or Inner Order. The Second Order has always been based on invitation in its recruitment; such an invitation should be regarded as a true privilige by the Aspirant. The Outer Order serves as a training ground where the few selected are spotted and the mentally or spiritually unprepared or unfitted are “weeded out”. This may seem as a very cynical view on humanity, but unfortunately this is a fact. People are not equal – at least in the sense of un-equality in spiritual maturity; that is not to say they are not of equal worth. But some individuals have advanced further on their evolutionary path of return compared to others. Adeptship in particular is only for the selected few. And it must be the prerogative of the already admitted and senior Adepts to decide who is or is not suited for the work, as the Temple in the Outer also has the right to bar the entrance for individuals that doesn’t meet the requirements for initiation into the Grade of Neophyte.
As an example, I wouldn’t let in anyone into my Temple who were engaged in criminal activities, child molesting, or were actively drug addicts, or were on heavy medication against mental disorders, etc. These, I know, are very extreme examples. What I am trying to convey with these is that an Order, and its Adepts who are in a position to decide who to admit and who to bar, must use common sense in these matters. Personally I am very selective when it comes to admitting aspirants for Adeptship. I would say that out of 10 admitted Neophytes one or even fewer are suited for the work. When it comes to candidates seeking admission into the Grade of Neophyte I would say one has to multiply that figure with a factor of 10. That is the statistics that I am acquainted to, unfortunately. Luckily enough, the Golden Dawn System of Initiation does this selection process automatically; that is one of its great strengths. This has especially become the fact after the General Reformation of 1999, where people are expected to work hard to receive dispensation for advancement. Hence, the majority of these 9 individuals leave the Order and abandon the Initiatory process by their own accord or decision. It is very seldom that one has to take an active action against someone seeking admission into the Second Order.
And as has already been stated elsewhere by others it doesn’t take a superhuman to become an Adept – i.e. Lesser Adept. It however takes a strong dedication and will, perserverance, and these are the spiritual qualities that are required of an Aspirant of Adeptship, together also with humility and service. Service not only towards the Order and the lesser fortunate students of the Outer Order, but also towards one’s neighbour. In this respect I believe it is well to quote the full text of the obligation taken in admittance into the Grade of Practical Member in Sigismund Bacstroms Sociatas Rosae Crucis, a Rosicrucian fraternal order operative in England in the early and middle 19th Century, which admitted both women and men on equal basis. Bacstroms Rosicrucian Society made a huge impact upon the formation of Golden Dawn’s Inner or Second Order, the Ordo Rosæ Rubeæ et Aureæ Crucis or R.R. et A.C. The obligation goes as this:
I do hereby promise, in the most sincere and solemn manner, faithfully to observe the following articles, during the whole course of my natural life, to the best of my knowledge and ability; which articles I hereby confirm by oath and by my proper signature hereunto annexed.As the rites in the Golden Dawn System of Initiation has a strong potential to create spiritual unfoldment within the psyche of the initiate, he or she has to show himself worthy of such a spiritual gift. Therefore in my opinion these articles (or at least the majority of them) still is applicable in the selection process of the initiate before the admittance into the Inner Order. In my opinion each Aspirant should read these or similar modernized clauses before admission into Adeptus Minor. Then he and she are able to judge for themselves, with the guidance of their own conscience, if they are up for the work that lies ahead of them.
1. That I will always, to the utmost of my power, conduct myself, as becomes a worthy member, with sobriety and piety, and endeavour to Prove myself grateful to the Society for so distinguished a favour as I now receive, during the whole course of my natural life.
2. I will never openly publish that I am a member of this august Society, nor reveal the name or Persons of such members as I know at present or may know hereafter, to avoid derision, insult or persecution.
3. I solemnly promise that I will never during my whole life prostitute, that is publicly reveal, the secret knowledge I receive at present or may receive at a future Period from the Society or from one of its members, nor even privately, but will keep our secrets sacred.
4. I do hereby promise that I will instruct, for the benefit of good men, before I depart this life, one person, or two persons at most, in our secret knowledge, and initiate and receive such person (or persons) as a Member Apprentice into our Society, in the same manner as I have been initiated and received (in quality of a Practical member and brother); but such a person only as I believe to be truly worthy and of an upright well meaning mind, blameless conduct, sober life and desirous of knowledge.
And, as there is no distinction of sexes in the spiritual world, neither amongst the blessed Angels nor among the rational immortal spirits of the Human race; and as we have had a Semiramis, Queen of Egypt, a Myriam, the prophetess, a Peronella, the wife of Flamel, and lately a Leona Constantia, Abbess of Clermont, who was actually received as a practical Member and Master into our Society in the year 1796, which women are believed to have been all possessors of the Great Work, consequently Sorores Roseae Crucis and members of our Society by possession, as the possession of this our art is the key to the most hidden knowledge. And moreover as redemption was manifested to mankind by means of a woman (the Blessed Virgin), and as salvation, which is of infinitely more value than our whole Art, is granted to the female sex as well as to the male, our Society does not exclude a worthy woman from being initiated, God himself not having excluded women from partaking of every spiritual felicity in the next life. We will not hesitate to receive a worthy woman into our Society as a member apprentice, (and even as a practical member or master if she does possess our work practically and has herself accomplished it), provided she is found, like Peronella, Flamel's wife, to be sober, pious, discreet, prudent, not loquacious, but reserved, of an upright mind and blameless conduct, and withall desirous of knowledge.
5. I do hereby declare that I intend with the permission of God to recommence our Great Work with my own hands, as soon as circumstances, health, opportunity and time will permit, that I
first - I may do good therewith as a faithful steward
second - that I may merit the continued confidence which the Society has placed in me in quality of a practical member.
6. I do further most solemnly promise that (should I accomplish the Great Work) I will not abuse the great power entrusted to me by appearing great and exalted, or seeking to appear in a Public character in the world, by hunting after vain titles of Nobility and vain glory, which are all fleeting and vain; but will endeavour to live a sober and orderly life as becomes every Christian, though not possessed of so great a temporal blessing.
I will devote a considerable part of my abundance and superfluity (Multipliable infinitely) to works of private charity, to aged and deeply distressed people, to poor children, and above all to such as love God and act uprightly, and will avoid encouraging laziness and the profession of public beggars.
7. I will communicate every new or useful discovery relating to our Work to the nearest member of our Society and hide nothing from him, seeing he cannot, as a worthy member, possibly abuse it or prejudice me thereby. On the other hand, I will hide these secret discoveries from the world.
8. I do moreover solemnly promise (should I become a Master and possessor) that I will not, on the one hand, assist, aid, or support with Gold or Silver, any Government, King, or Sovereign whatever, except by paying of taxes, nor, on the other, any populace, or particular set of men, to enable them to revolt against their Government. I will leave public affairs and arrangements to the Government of God, who will bring about the events foretold in the Revelations of St. John, which are fast accomplishing. I will not interfere with affairs of Government.
9. I will neither build churches, chapels, nor hospitals and such public charities, as there are already a sufficient number of such public buildings and institutions, if they were only properly applied and regulated. I will not give a Salary to a Priest or Churchman as such to make him more proud and indolent than he is already. If I relieve a distressed worthy clergyman, I will consider him in the light of a Private distressed individual only. I Will give no charity with the view of making my name known in the world, but Will give my alias privately
10. I hereby promise that I will never be ungrateful to the worthy friend and brother who initiated and received me, but respect and Oblige him as far as lies in my power, in the same manner as he has been obliged to promise to his friend who received him.
11. Should I travel either by sea or by land and meet with any person that may call himself a Brother of the Rosy Cross, I will try him whether he can give me a proper explanation of the universal fire of Nature and of our Magnet for attracting and manifesting the same under the form of a salt, whether he is well acquainted with our work, and whether he knows the universal dissolvent and its use. If I find him able to give satisfactory answers, I will acknowledge him as a member and a brother of our Society. Should I find him superior in knowledge and experience to myself, I Will honour and respect him as a Master above me.
12. If it should please God to Permit me to accomplish our Great Work With my own hands, I will Give praise and thanks to God in humble prays: and devote my time to the doing and promoting all the good that lies in my power and to the pursuit of true and useful knowledge.
13. I do hereby Solemnly promise that I will not encourage wickedness and debauchery, thereby offending God, administer the Medicine for the human body, nor the Aurum Potabile to a patient or patients infected with the venereal disease.
14. I do promise that I Will never give the fermented metallic medicine for transmutation, to any Person living, no not a single grain, unless the person is an initiated and received Member and Brother of the Society of the Rosy Cross.
To keep faithfully the above articles as I now receive them from a worthy member of our Society, as he received them himself in the Mauritius, I willingly agree and sign the above with my name and affix my seal to the same, so help me God. Amen.
Now regarding the requirements of admission into higher Adepthood, I also agree with Aleister Crowley (which is also implied by Paul Foster Case) that the mark of successful accomplishment of the Adeptus Minor level is the Knowledge and Conversation of the Holy Guardian Angel, i.e. a conscious communication or open channel with, or awareness of the Higer Self or Divine Genius. If that is not aquired during the Adeptus Minor Ritual, which often is the case, that constitutes the hard work of the Lesser Adept. Then, and not before, is he or she ready for advancement into the Adeptus Major Grade, where the Adept is expected to work with the darkest recesses of mind through the aid of Magical Evocation of Demonic entities. As is foretold in the noble grimoare of The Book of Sacred Magic of Abramelin the Mage, this Knowledge and Conversation of the Divine Genius must be accomplished prior to summoning of Demons or Qlippoth, as that work would easily become debased and regress the soul if not under strict guidance of the Divine. And it is only when these irrational and unconscious impulses and behaviours have been rooted out and their innate psychic power been placed under Divine Will, when the Adept is freed from the bonds of his or her Animal Soul, he or she deserves to be called a free or Exempt Adept.
Then there is also the question of the “Mystery of Cruxifiction” to consider, the spiritual experience affixed to the sixth Sephirah of Tipharet, attributed to the Adeptus Minor 5°=6° Grade. This is because of the traditional assignment of the Messiah or Christ Force to this Sephirah. In my opinion the Passion of Christ, his ressurection and ascension may be attributed to the Grades of the Adepti to further shed light into that process of high initiation. I have written more fully about this symbolical journey of death and ressurection, a central theme of high importance in most initiatory systems, in a previous essay.
Of course how all of this is accomplished in the final analysis is very individual. Again common sense must be the guiding light in selecting candidates for further instruction; in the work accomplished one only has to become “good enough” in attainment, not perfect. There are no perfect humans, hence no perfect Adepts. It’s impossible while incarnated in the flesh. But some hallmarks of attainment must have been conquered by the Adept. Detachment or non-attachement towards the material, as an example, is the true mark of the Adeptus Exemptus. He or she must become almost like an innocent child to be able to unite with his or her God, with the Neshemah. Again, Aleister Crowley obviously knew something of this level of attainment; one has to become a “Babe of the Abyss” to be able to cross it. In this we have to loose our preconceived opinions about anything, especially when it comes to traditional notions about sin, especially of the carnal kind. When one transcends the Abyss, one also transcends the concept of morality in the eyes of society. This attitude, or perhaps lack of attitude, is a necessary prerequisite for admittance into the Third Order.
Regarding the work done in the Third Order I cannot divulge any substantial, simply of the fact that I’m not an initiate of that level of attainment, not by far. But I know enough to say that when it comes to works of Inner Alchemy definite states and results, both spiritual and physical, are expected from definitive operations or experiments. So it is very easy to know and observe, on that exalted level of working, when one is ready to begin with the next level of attainment and progression into next Grade. The work of Alchemical Masters (which is the right term which one should assign the Secret Chiefs of the Third Order) concerns the transmutation of the Saturnian or physical body, first into a Lunar, then Mercurial and lastly into the Solar Body of Light, with which the Master acquires conscious immortality at the moment of death when he or she projects his or her consciousness into the prepared Solar Body, or Diamond Body which it sometimes is called. This marks the completion of the Great Work, or Royal Art. According to the Masters this is no mere fancy but actual states of being. As all this is beyond my understanding and certainly my level of attainment, I can only describe what have been told to me.
When it comes to the Outer Order I to a large extent agree with the sentiments of Paul Foster Case, but I would like to stress certain points. As a Zelator the initiate must become aware of his or her body and its functions, as well as reassess his or her attitudes towards incarnated existence, the material world. Depending on the initial attitude towards his or her body and carnal pleasure, he or she either must start to passionately give attention to his or her body and nurture it properly with loving care, or nurture the attitude of non attachment towards it. The initiate must properly understand his or her physical body as a vehicle of the Self, and sustain it accordingly without any excess. Basically being a Zelator means creating a heightened awareness or consciousness of the physical body and matter in general.
The Theoricus on the other hand must now turn his or her attention towards that spiritual plane which precedes the physical, i.e. the astral. This is done in several ways, but one such thing is paying attention to ones dreams, or spontaneous thinking. Another way is through different visionary and astral techniques. This leads to a heightened awareness of the automatic consciousness, which basically is constituted by structures of thoughts implanted by parents and society, and of early experiences of life as interpreted by the infant mind. Hence the Theoricus must become aware of his or her spontaneous thinking and patterns of behaviour. This is a clear increase of awareness as the initiate must transcend the ordinary self or ego. It is also the time to make the first observation of the Evil Persona, or shadow of the self, and acknowledge all undesirous personality traits. The Theoricus must also become aware of his or her breathing in more detail, and the currents of Prana which flows through his or her body and the universe.
The Practicus, in my opinion, must now cultivate his or her Magical Will and faculties of concentration. This is mainly done through magical meditation, i.e. the focused mind. This also involves a heightened awareness of the subtle and hidden patterns behind everyday life. The Practicus must thus cultivate his or her communion with the divine, through the seemingly senseless and random patterns of daily events; i.e. “the oracle of life”. He or she must also further cultivate these faculties through divination. Suddenly the initiate will find the true meaning of his or her life or destiny, the sacred mission of the individual. This is the first step towards the future Knowledge and Conversations with the Holy Guardian Angel.
Being a Philosophus concerns using these developed faculties of concentration and Willpower, to now through devotion direct the passionate nature of Netzach, originally directed towards the material, towards the spiritual. This process is further enhanced with the aesthetics and spontaneous artistic creativity of Venus, in contrast to the Mercurial scientific mind of the Practicus. At a later stage, as a Aspirant for Adepthood, the Senior Philosophus must be prepared to face the darkest parts of his or her subconsious mind, which eventually will assult him or her and scare the Aspirant away from the path; the Dweller on the Threshold. This experience of the Dark Night of the Soul is the necessary preliminary stage before the Golden Dawn of the Glory of Tiphareth.
As it happens, Israel Regardie wrote a little gem of a booklet called The One Year Manual or Twelve Steps to Spiritual Enlightment. In this book he presents meditative exercises which perfectly aligns with the Outer Order initiatory process from Zelator to Philosophus. The first step involves body awareness, wich basically is an exercise to pay attention to bodily sensations, and the second step involves a relaxation exercise, both exercises corresponding to the work of the Zelator. The third step involves rytmic breathing and the fourth step a mind awareness exercise, both aligned to the Grade of Theoricus. This last one is similar to the first step although it now concerns the observation of spontaneous thoughts which arises from the deepest recesses of mind, which is very suitable for the Theoricus to become aware of his or her habitual thinking. Step five concerns meditation through the use of mantrams and the sixth step the development of will, both corresponding to the work of the Practicus who has to train his or her ability of concentration. The last step of cultivation of will very much resembles Aleister Crowley’s exercises as contained in Liber III vel JUGORUM.
The seventh and eight steps of The One Year Manual concerns with the Rose Cross and Middle Pillar Rituals, while the following and last four steps concerns with the work of the Philosophus. The ninth step concerns practical advices of devotion, the tenth the practice of the presence of God, the eleventh the unity and awareness that all is God, while the last step admonishes the Philosophus to: “Invoke often! Inflame thyself in prayer!” These exercises fitly prepares the initiate for the greater initiation of Adeptus Minor and makes him or her a true Aspirant of the higher mysteries. Thus I warmly recommend this book, a favorite of mine amongst the works of Israel Regardie.