Since the last occult revival of the 1970’s, and especially the latest generation of Adeps being initiated in the 1990’s, we have watched the phenomenon of initiates also being historical researchers. I have addressed this question before in my Swedish essay regarding the traditionalists and liberal factions of the Golden Dawn community. That essay is two years old almost exactly today, but I still stand by my opinions as I then expressed them.
In short liberal researchers and initiates sees the Golden Dawn as a historical phenomenon which must be scrutinized using academic standards, while traditionalist and initiated researchers live their tradition and expose it from the angle of personal experience, and by using anecdotes and rumours. But in particular they base their research on oral and written tradition. The latter also considers the Golden Dawn tradition to be a late and genuine manifestation of a yet older Rosicrucian and Hermetic tradition. Thus they express views which may not always be corroborated as this would entail publication of secret documentation, while liberal historians try to limit their theories based on solid documentation which may be corroborated. But contrary to traditionalists, liberals wouldn’t hesitate to publish older and still secret documents to corroborate their theories. But what may be said regarding historical research may also be said of scholarship in general.
Now, traditionalist researchers, like myself, are sometimes accused of expressing the official policy as set by the Chiefs of their Order. But I ask if we aren’t all biased when we address the history and material of the Golden Dawn? Is it even possible, as a magician and active member of the Golden Dawn community, to be un-biased? The fairest thing is to be conscious of the bias and be open about it when one writes something.
There is also the thing that complicates this subject a bit when it comes to receiving oral instruction and teaching direct from a “Chief” or an advanced initiate. You tend to adapt the viewpoint of the Chief or teacher because of the pointers you receive from him. What others may see as expressing loyalty to a teacher may by the student be perceived instead as the current yet humble understanding which has been brought forward by receiving instruction from the teacher in the first place.
Thus can a student ever be un-biased taking training in a hermetic lodge? His worldview will be heavily affected by both the teachings received and by the initiatory process provided by his Temple. Hence a paradigm is developed, or to use occult parlance an “egregore”, which each individual or initiate is being a part of. For better or for worse.
Thus one cannot compare initiated research with that of the academic. I believe it is impossible to follow the standards of the academic world as an initiate. When you live what you are taught and teach in this way as an initiate you immediately loose your objectivity or un-biased attitude necessary to meet the criteria of academic research.
But that is how it works in esoteric circles, both in the occident and orient. Look for example at the chain of Qabalistic Rabbis, as in the Lurianic Qabalah. Most later teachers pays homage to Ari (Isaac Luria), or to Nathan of Gaza, or to Jacob Frank, etc. This doesn’t mean that they are exact replicas of the earlier teachers, but that they feel an honest gratitude towards the privilege of have been granted the wisdom of the past masters. Then it is to the task of the student to evolve the system further, within the tradition, within the system, being conscious of past history and paying respect to the foregoing brethren and sisters who has been beneficent enough to enlighten the student/researcher in the arts.