Once again, the Wheel of the Year has turned, and we find ourselves in the newest Leap Year. Traditionally, the New Year is a time for resolutions and new beginnings. But Mercury is now in retrograde, and as such is in the midst of its three-week do-si-do across the Capricorn-Aquarius cusp. So presently, I would argue that it is a more optimal time for introspection and contemplation, so that you would have well-crafted plans to launch around the time the Sun moves into Aquarius.
Perhaps part of your contemplation includes seeking out an esoteric group, organization or Order. In fact, I have seen a number of inquiries as of late on public forums alluding to exactly that. Usually, the seeker states their interest in a particular spiritual path, but laments that there are no such groups in his/her area. Respondents do their best to assist or sympathize, but easy answers are usually at a premium. Still, I think it is still necessary for the seeker – any seeker – to do one’s level best to help oneself.
When it comes to esoteric Orders, most of my time is spent advising people what to look out for and what to avoid. Here, I would endeavor instead to advise seekers what to look for and what to do to be successful in their endeavor.
With the ubiquity of the Internet, it is all too easy to jump into social media, ask a question and expect easy answers. We as a society have all but taken this for granted in the 21st century. So at risk of sounding trite, I find myself forced to start my consultation with the most basic of questions.
Question #1: “Did you look?”
When I was first seeking out Golden Dawn Orders in 1997, I had the good fortune of stumbling upon AvatarSearch. It billed itself as the search engine of the occult Internet. It folded a dozen years later, but it was the tool that got me to the threshold of the organized Golden Dawn community.
Nowadays, Google is your friend, and many well-known organizations out there will have websites, set up with pages displaying all of their locations. Setup and hosting of a website is extremely easy and cheap these days, more especially with WordPress, so even the smallest, most isolated group out there can have a public face.
The ease of Internet publicity is a boon for most every esoteric group, but it could also be a stumbling block for seekers as well. It means that any charlatan can present him/herself as a spiritual guru. Even some of the larger esoteric groups out there use their websites as a huge marketing ploy instead of a channel for the Light, and they will be more than happy to trumpet their locations world-wide to bring you in. Remember that spiritual groups identify themselves as esoteric for a reason; they are supposed to value the virtues of privacy, secrecy and proper discretion.
Question #2: “Did you ask?”
Search engines and social media are a great launching point, but they are not the be-all and end-all. Your search for a spiritual life is a harbinger of actually living a spiritual life; you get out what you put in and you reap what you sow. So if you are truly interested in esoteric spiritual groups that are actually spiritual and esoteric, you need to talk to those who are in the know.
Talking to experienced folks online will get you a better feel for spiritual paths and organizations in general. However, if you are looking for local groups specifically, you will find such communications will give you scattershot results at best. Besides, even if a person knows about a group, they may not have the relevant contact information at hand (or rather, the authority to divulge that information).
It is important, in this age of the Internet, to not forget the resources in your own neighborhood. Remember that new age bookstore downtown? More likely than not, it is struggling to keep its doors open, so go visit it. Most of them have flyers plastering the walls, and maybe one of them has just the contact information you’re looking for. If not, get to know the proprietors. Part of this path is getting to know people of a like mind, is it not? In fact, I would recommend you find the five closest occult stores nearest you and visit them all. You will likely find that, by the time you get to the fifth closest, you won’t be within your city limits anymore. This alone will give you an idea of the strength of the esoteric community around you (or at least its public face, anyways).
Question #3: “Did you do what was asked of you?”
Bear in mind that most any esoteric order with an operational history that goes back decades, or even centuries, is going to be a little “old school”. Some will require you to fill out an application form, whereas others may ask you to send an inquiry via post with a self-addressed stamped envelope included. You might be interviewed, or asked to write a short essay about why you would want to join their group.
This is another mark of a good esoteric group, because it shows that they are circumspect and their tradition is for the select few. Dues might come into play, but they are much more interested in your dedication and zeal than your money. Their tradition is important to them, and they are going to respect it by not only walking the path themselves, but also by bringing in people who are serious about walking it as well.
So if you’re not willing to fulfill the requests made of you as a candidate, that’s just an indication to them that you are not going to put in the time and effort in their tradition, and you simply won’t find yourself becoming one of their initiates. There is a reason why this quest is called the Great Work; it takes a great deal of work to achieve it. Your spiritual life is too important to TL;DR.
Question #4: “Is your priority enlightenment or convenience?”
So far, I have addressed the “I’m looking to join an esoteric group” part of the goal, and it is true that most seekers will spend most of their time considering what spiritual path seems best for them at the time. But what is often left glossed over is the “but there are no groups in my area” portion. When a seeker hits this very common initial obstacle, they will often drop their aims and wander off for something less than ideal but closer to home.
Success in your spiritual journey is more than just picking the right path for you. It is also about following the right guides and walking the path with the right companions. Even in this modern day, esotericists are few and far between, and good people are hard to find in any age, so why would you think that you would find them in your own backyard?
When all is said and done, proximity is one of the worst reasons to join an esoteric group.
The fact of the matter is, unless you are extremely lucky, you are going to have to travel to get initiated. More often than not, you will have to cross borders, whether they be state, province or country. Many groups have attendance and participation requirements of their members, so you will be expected to travel as such on a somewhat regular basis. As you progress through your group’s degrees, the pool of members will become shallower, and you will probably need to travel even farther for higher level initiations, perhaps even overseas.
None of this should come as any surprise. The fanciful notion of the young seeker traveling leagues to find his or her spiritual guru is practically iconic. Yet when it comes to the seekers of today, few seem to realize that they need to get out of their armchairs in order to go off on a spiritual adventure.
When you started looking for the Light of Occult Knowledge, what part of that gave you the impression that any of this was meant to be convenient?
Since time immemorial, those esoteric few who hear that call to be more than human go to the Mountain of Initiation for enlightenment. The Mountain does not come to you.
All this can really be boiled down to one very simple question: "Why?" Why do you really want to join an esoteric group? The answer to that simple question should end up being deep and complicated. This is why the words “KNOW THYSELF” are inscribed in the pronaos of the Temple. It is important, if not downright incumbent, to be completely honest with yourself as to what truly is compelling you to seek initiation, long before you ever approach the Temple.
You only have one opportunity to take your first step on your spiritual journey. Make it sure-footed and true.