Esoteric Orders: A Survival Guide
          Section I: How To Find An Esoteric Order

Last Chapter: Section I: Introduction

Back at the turn of the 19th century, if you wanted to get involved in an esoteric Order, you needed to know somebody. Secret societies were, well, still secret back then, for the most part. On rare occasion, one might see an editorial, or even rarer, an advertisement in a fringe magazine, with contact information through postal mail, if one was lucky.

How much things have changed in a century and a quarter.

When I was initially looking for the Golden Dawn in 1997, I stumbled upon AvatarSearch one night, which billed itself as the search engine for the occult Internet. Although it’s already been gone for a few years, it did a pretty good job in its day. I remember typing in “Golden Dawn” and immediately getting half a dozen solid hits. Before I knew it, it was 3 AM, my eyes were glazed over, and so was my mind from all the information that had been thrown at it. I started out excited, and ended up inundated.  Nearly two decades later, in a World Wide Web where “Google” has become a verb, a newcomer would only get more overwhelmed.

Solid, principled esoteric Orders have to walk an interesting tightrope in the 21st century. Tradition holds that they operate under a veil of secrecy. They have their oaths to preserve and their heritage to protect. Contemporary society, however, almost demands that they present some sort of public presence. This typically rubs raw against Orders’ oaths of secrecy, but it also provides them a powerful benefit, as they also have the responsibility of their egregore to perpetuate. Finding that balance is a difficult exercise, but one that they should not shrink away from, as good Orders are all about proper equilibrium, for their members and themselves.

Because of this, websites of responsible esoteric Orders are going to be predominantly for educational and informational purposes.  If their tradition already has a rich and protracted history, plenty of space will be devoted to it.  If the Order is a variation on a tradition, or an entirely new incarnation, expect there to be some sort of founding statement or manifesto, defining itself and its raison d'ĂȘtre.

Every half-decent website is going to have a fairly sizeable section devoted to resources, including such things as references, articles, images, historical letters, art, news, and event announcements.  Information pertaining to the Order's teachings, even if it has been published for decades, should be significantly excised, simply out of respect to the tradition and its oaths.  However, you can get an idea of the group's mindset and center of attention from the resources they provide.  If their materials adhere closely to their own tradition, you can expect the Order to be focused and devoted to that tradition.  However, if their information spans widely across a number of different doctrines and practices, it could be evidence of a hazy concentration on, or worse, a fundamental lack of understanding of, their own tradition.

Since these sites are primarily about information, and because these Orders are still semi-secret, don’t be surprised if they make it a little difficult to find out anything about how to become a member.  In fact, you should count on it.  You might find a reference on a remote page to a post office box or an email address.  At most, there may be an online form to fill out for serious inquiries only.  Many Orders, including ones with groups, circles or temples world-wide, shy away from publishing their locations.  After all, a good Order is going to, first and foremost, be discreet.

The more dubious Orders out there do not suffer this conundrum.  In this day and age, anyone with a little pocket change and time on their hands can register a domain name and set up a slick website, replete with fluffy bunny affirmations, surrounded by lots of eye candy.  In this sense, the Internet is the “Wild Wild Web” when it comes to trying to make heads or tails of legitimate esoteric Orders.

Those types of groups, more especially the smaller ones, are more than ready to let you know how widespread they are.  The thing is, finding out that an Order has multitudinous temples across the globe really doesn’t tell you much.  When newcomers see the word “temple”, they think of a free-standing building with dozens of people participating.  Truth be told, many of the “temples” out there are a couple people running things out of their spare bedroom, if you’re lucky.

The same goes for any references to membership brought up by the website.  Simply put, the earlier there is mention of the ease, and especially the cost, of joining their Order, the sooner you know what their focus is truly on.  If the information on the main page of the website reads like the script of a bad infomercial, then it is highly likely that they are trying to sell you something.  That’s fine if you’re looking to buy a pentacle necklace, a cool talisman or some other pretty bauble, but we’re talking about the first step on a new spiritual life here.  Think about it.  If a website claims to be the elite Order of its tradition, would it be so indiscriminate of its applicants as to allow anyone with a credit card and a button click to become a member?

Along the same vein, if an Order claims that they have all the tools and tricks to make your newly-founded spiritual life instantly powerful and easy, then they are trying to take you to the cleaners.  There are many reasons why the endeavor is called “The Great Work”.  It’s because it takes a Great deal of Work to achieve it.  Any good writer can give easy-to-follow, step-by-step instructions for rituals and ceremonies.  Knowledge, however, falls considerably short of gnosis, and won’t get you even near the threshold of understanding or wisdom.  Spiritual growth requires a great deal of personal introspection, admission of hard truths about yourself, and significant psychological change.  There are no short cuts.  You will not hold dominion over your own personal world until you first know thyselfAs above, so below.  As within, so without.

Remember that this is but your very first step in finding the spiritual path that is right for you at this very moment.  Surfing the web is a good opportunity to get a glimpse of what’s available out there.  However, just because certain statements and claims are out there on the Internet, that doesn’t make them true.

If you want to find the right esoteric Order, you are going to need to do more than scratch the surface.  You are going to need to crack the veneer.  There are plenty of people out there, also accessible through the Internet, who have been underneath the candy-coated shell.  You can glean a great deal of valuable information from them, if you next choose to seek them out and engage them properly.

Next Chapter:  Engaging the Community

Section I: Introduction

Esoteric Orders: A Survival Guide
          Section I: How To Find An Esoteric Order

You’ve always known you’re a little different.  Going to school was always mentally tough, not because of the coursework, but because you never really fit in.  You always knew when your best friend was having a rough day, because you could feel it in your gut.  You could see things other people couldn’t see, and you couldn’t say anything, because people would laugh and call you crazy.  So you kept it all inside, alone and afraid to tell anyone.  What people called anxiety, you called survival.

Your parents made you go to church every Sunday, but you felt like you didn’t fit in there, either.  Your pastor said that the pentagram is evil and Satanic, but there was always something about it you liked.  There were other things your priest said at church that just didn’t jibe with what you read in the Bible.  You looked up the word “occult” once in the dictionary, because you were taught in Sunday School that the occult was "a tool of the Anti-Christ", but you found out the word comes from the Latin “occultus”, meaning nothing more than “hidden”.  Unlike the masses, you still have your critical thinking skills turned on.

Mythology had always intrigued you, especially the Greek and Egyptian.  There was always something about the tales of Apollo that resonated with you.  You also couldn’t help but notice some parallels with the religion you were brought up with, too.  You’ve wondered what the early church was like.  It couldn’t have been as political and screwed up as it is now, or in the Middle Ages, for that matter.  Besides, you’ve always thought of yourself as more spiritual than religious.  You’ve always felt there was a “Higher Power” out there, whatever he, she or it is.  You never felt or found that connection, however, in church.

So one day, the moment hit you.  You were tired of feeling alone and seeking by yourself, so you decided to look for a group of people who shared the same curiosity, mindset and beliefs that you had.  You weren’t exactly sure what you were looking for, but you were going to look for it anyways.  You talked to a couple of friends, the ones that weren’t muggles, and they had heard whisperings about a group or coven nearby, but nothing that really piqued your interest.  The only other connection you had was the one in the wall that led to the Internet.

There’s a reason why the Web is called World Wide.  You can find anything you want there (and a whole lot more of what you don’t want).  You signed up to a few Yahoo groups, joined a few on Facebook, stumbled upon alt.magick and ran away almost screaming.  You asked a few newbie questions, got chided a bit from the old guard, but also got a referral to a website that apparently is everything you’re looking for.

So you type in the web address, and the browser pulls up a very well-designed, good-looking site.  Obviously, these people know what they’re talking about.  They profess a long-standing history, and are offering to share age-old secrets that will transform your life.  You could be part of a world-wide society of like-minded people for the first time in your life.   They even have training courses through their "online cyber-circle".  All you need to do is click on “Sign Me Up”, send your money through PayPal and you’re in!

And maybe that worked out for you!  There are plenty of esoteric organizations out there with rock-solid teachings, taught by smart, knowledgeable mentors, run by compassionate and wise leaders.  However, there are also plenty of organizations whose members are sycophants, teachers who are charlatans, and leaders who are charismatic poseurs.  Some of these groups suck so much time, energy and money out of their members, and demand such tight control of their lives, that they could be easily classified as cults.  Others are more insidious; they have bright, nurturing teachers, but unwittingly, they are psychological enablers for a horribly toxic chief.  You’ll never see that stuff, though, from the “ooh, shiny” website.

But how does someone, completely new to the scene, who doesn’t know anyone in the esoteric community, know who to trust and who to avoid?  It’s not like you can drop a couple hundred dollars and have an online service do an “occult background check” on someone.  Querying the community just seems to go around in circles.  Ask a dozen people about an Order and you’ll get two dozen opinions, along with a whole lot more confusion than when you started.  In exasperation, you go back to your gut, and that “Sign Me Up” button sure would feel good right about now.

Not so fast.  The Quest for the Great Work is one that lasts a lifetime, no matter when you start.  A lapse in judgment now, regardless of whether it is based in a lack of information or lack of wisdom, can send you on a detour of several years.  Then, when you leave that Order with a pretty website and an easy sign-up button, you will find yourself essentially right back where you started, more battered and bruised, psychologically or otherwise, than you originally were.  At that point, you might even walk away, feeling jaded and tarring the entire community with the same tainted brush.  (And who could blame you, really?)

We, the writers, have taken those detours and suffered those lumps.  We write now so that you don’t fall into the same organizational pits that we did.  We cannot tell you which Order, coven or mentor is right for you, but with this guide, we hope to clue you in on which types of Orders, covens or mentors are wrong for any seeker of the Light.

Next Chapter:  Orders in the Age of the Internet

Shattering the Vessels

As you may have noticed, I have just changed my profile picture here to something a little more personal and meaningful.  I had originally chosen a frame of William Blake's "Newton" for a number of reasons.  First, for the most topical and obvious, a reference to the study of Newtonian physics and the study of geometry, as it relates to Freemasonry and other sacred subjects.  The second, deeper layer is a tip of the hat to Blake, himself a mystic, who thought of Newton as someone who was unable to think outside his own scientific circles and recognize a greater spiritual reality.  Lastly, as recent historical research would have it, Newton's own esoteric endeavors in subjects such as alchemy and bibliomancy have come to light.  Newton then, as such, lived life with one foot in science and the other in mysticism, something to which I aspire.

Recent events, however, have caused me to brandish my Magic Sword.  In the Golden Dawn Tradition, the Magic Sword is a symbolical instrument of the Sephirah Geburah, and is meant to be employed for the purposes of banishing and the warding off of evil forces and influences.  Therefore, its hilt is painted red, and various Geburic and Martial Names of God, Archangels, Angels and Divine Beings are painted upon it in their flashing color green.  A nearly identical version of the Magic Sword is wielded by the Hiereus, who is the officer in the Golden Dawn Temple who symbolically sits in the darkest part of Malkuth, guarding against the multitudes that sleep through the light and awaken at twilight.

These multitudes are part of the Qliphoth or Shells, the resultant shards of the cosmogonic event called the Shevirat ha-Kelim or the Shattering of the Vessels.  According to Lurianic Kabbalah, the initial Sephiroth or vessels to contain the Divine Light were created in Tohu or Chaos.  So when the Light flowed into the vessels, they were subjected to the process of Din or Judgment when the Light reached Geburah.  They were judged to be imperfect, and thus they shattered.  The shards fell and become the Qliphoth, along with the Light, which scattered in Nitzotzoth or Sparks of Holiness.

However, the effect of pouring pure Light into imperfect vessels is not the reason why I'm writing this blog entry.  Rather, it is about the effect of filling vessels of innocence with the luminescence of external splendor which is internally corrupt.   This is the Venereal radiance, "known as Nogah amongst the Shells", and is often referred to as a form of Serpent.  Affixed to the Middle Pillar, it is Nehushtan, the Celestial Serpent of Wisdom.  Let loose, it becomes the Serpent that slithers around the Qliphothic Tree on the Sitra Achra.

Such is what happens when seekers of the Light, new to a tradition and a community, find themselves joining up with an esoteric group and mentor who looks like the real deal, but beneath the veneer are toxic, or at worst, predatory.  Instead of finding the spiritual alchemical transformation they seek, these seekers instead end up as shattered vessels, divided from their "order" through tragedy, often entirely alone to try and deal with their grief and heal from the damage done to them.  Learning to trust again seems to many of them like an unclimbable mountain, and the idea of joining a different spiritual group practically unfathomable.  Others go "on the rebound", joining a similar group, often presenting itself as entirely different but, under the surface, ends up being painfully similar.

I have been made aware of numerous happenings like this as of late.  I do not know if this is the fallout of the Grand Cross in the Cardinal Signs currently in the Heavens, but it happens much too often to too many good and sincere people.

I myself have been through four different Golden Dawn Orders.  My jump from first to second was a complete rebound.  My jump to the third was an "allergic to Orders" move, as the group of us went totally independent.  For the fourth, I took my time, and proceeded carefully and cautiously.  (Maybe too cautiously than the folks in that Order deserved!)  I have now been with the HOGD for over eight years now, and I'm very happy to be with an Order where the Chiefs are unpretentious, selfless and, most of all, sane.

It is said that wisdom comes from good judgement.  Good judgement comes from experience.  And most of all, experience comes from bad judgement.  So let me say, I have my fair share of wisdom in this particular subject matter.  That said, I have good friends that have had similar yet different experiences, and some who have stared deep into the heart of corruption in some of the leaders in the esoteric community.

It is my intention to come together with a few of those notable fellows and commence a series of blogs as a definitive guide to the perils and pitfalls of dealing with esoteric leaders, mentors and organizations.  Our goal is to share our knowledge and wisdom (see definition above), so that other seekers of the Light won't have to go through the same trials and tribulations that we did.

Stay tuned to this page, as it will stand as an index and table of contents for this blog series.  I hope to get the first installment published within a week.

In Memoriam

Jorge Hevia, III
Passed December 10, 2013
Requiescat In Pace

Last Wednesday night, I was informed that Jorge Hevia, a former Golden Dawn associate of mine, had passed away almost five months ago.  I was shocked, for sure, as he was still a young fellow, but I mourned more over the fact that no one in the know breathed a word about it for all this time.  Regardless of how one felt about the man, he was a rather notable figure in Golden Dawn circles.

Jorge and I met and went through the Outer Order grades together in the EOGD before the turn of the millenium, back when it was still known as the Hermetic Order of the Morning Star International (HOMSI).   He jumped ship a while before I did and, when my time came, he pretty much personally escorted me right over to the A+O in 2002.  He and I worked extensively together for the next four years, he as "Chief Legal Counsel" throughout that time, and me as Cancellarius Ordinis starting in 2004.  He must have received his 7=4 sometime after I left in 2006, and likely had become Praemonstrator Ordinis upon Jean-Pascal Ruggiu's departure.

We had a good working relationship, even a friendship, at the beginning.  There was a fair bit of strife, suspicions and inconvenient truths towards the end, which is not proper to get into at this juncture. Needless to say, we never spoke to one another after I left the A+O, but I do remember him being rather weary already at that early point in time.

Now that he has passed beyond the Veil, I truly hope he has found the peace and happiness that seemed to elude him so on this material plane.

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