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Monday, 8 April 2013

Top 10 signs that your Magical Order is dead

A magical group is something that has a life of its own, it is not simply the quality of the teachings but also the drive of the members that are currently in place.  Builders of the Adytum for example started out as a vibrant group with two very good spiritual teachers – the last died in the 1960s.  It could have continued were it not for the actions of Will Chesterman, who with the best motivations, froze the Order so it focused on a worship of founder Paul Case and his successor Anne Davies.  In Chesterman’s view, the teaching of BOTA stopped with Davies death and all that needed to be done was preservation.   In some ways he might have been right, BOTA did survive, but it also imploded after his death.  Chesterman’s problem was that BOTA stopped making adepts, as those who showed any talent were usually at odds with him.  As a result another wave of non-entities climbed up the ladder of BOTA with no knowledge of magic but with a desire for political power.  They kicked out Chesterman’s wife Joyce from the temple she and her husband had put their life savings into and took control for themselves.    They also deleted all reference to Chesterman from their website.  The European BOTA schismed off and did its own thing.     
This list which follows gives you signs that your group is no longer functioning as it should and has probably lost its spiritual connection.  It is not about BOTA, although there are some elements of what I learnt from that group in my list.  No doubt there are others.  My theory is that the spiritual connection within each group looks at an order and decides that it is finished.   It walks away but it takes a while for the group to die.
      The group fails to produce adepts. 
Systems of teaching which have worked in the past no longer create the right circumstances to build a magician. The systems have become either obsolete with age, or no longer reflect the society that created them.  Adepts are always those who are at the cutting edge of development.  They might use “older systems” but their approach will always be state of the art.   If a system does not encourage the development of adepts then the spiritual connection will wither.  It is important to point out that in any given magical order the percentage of adepts will always be small.  For every 100 that go through a school the number of people who make it their life will be about one or two per cent.  But if you can’t spot one or two people who know what they are doing in a group any contact is unlikely to be interested.

Teaching or ritual systems are not evolving
It is common to think that there is a perfect form of teaching, or that the founders of a system really understood it.  If this were the case the original Golden Dawn would have been better than the later versions such as the Whare Ra and AO.  The original Golden Dawn was much closer to modern co-masonry.  It was adapted by the founders to add in more magical elements and the results were spectacular.  The final break-up of the Golden Dawn was inevitable not because it failed, but because adepts were taking it into different directions. The fact that such teaching evolves bothers those who want the reassurance of a fundamentalist approach. Fundamentalist systems can be learned and be “correct” yet things that develop cannot be.   Fundamentalism, for all its cries of “purity of the system” are doomed.  The goal of magic is to evolve, fundamentalism locks everything into a past that never was.
3.       Teaching is considered “too powerful” and moved to the Higher Orders.

This happened in both Whare Ra, AO and  Inner Light.  Some material which had been given out to lower order members was suddenly bumped up to the adept grades.  This was partly because the elderly chiefs did not know how to teach the material and were fed up with answering tricky questions about it.   The converse of this is when Inner Order teaching leak downwards because people do not realise how powerful it is.  The latter is rarer but there are cases of GD documents which have been given out to the riff-raff because Chiefs thought it was unimportant, or believed that it should really be taught at that level.

4.       An order makes its founders into Gods or Goddesses
One of the most over worshipped founders of any magic order
 next  to Christianity.
If you are incompetent as a leader, you bolster the reputations of the chiefs and founders of the order.  In doing so the order creates a mythical legacy which its chiefs inherit by virtue of holding the job themselves.    It also means that you can get rid of tricky members by claiming that they do not honour the teachings of the founders enough and their removal or punishment is justified.  In fact no teacher ever wrote anything perfect and some of the so called Gods and Goddesses of the old orders were deficit in a lot of areas.  Anne Davies had a habit of making up tall stories which were believed by many, Paul Foster Case did not really want to run a Magical Order and prefered running a Positive Thought correspondence course that was Tarot based. No one has ever questioned Mather's ritual genius either.

      There is a culture of yes-people around the leadership.
Too many Yes men is bad for for a group... particularly
It is ok to disagree with the leader, just so long as you accept you are getting something out of the order.  Hating the leader is probably a sign of your own particular issues.  However if a leadership builds up a culture of yes-people about them, elevates people who are not worthy to give them seniority then the order is on the way out.  What happens is that the leader might be an adept, but if they are not there, these non-people will take over, usually after a particularly messy battle for dominance.   If the order is based on grade rather than magical ability,  the chief is devaluing the level of the group to preserve their own position.   Another thing to watch are promotions on the basis of “services rendered” to the chief.  This can be sexual, free professional advice, anything really.  Each grade must be demonstrated on the basis of magical ability and nothing else.

6.       There are issues about the succession to the current leadership.
It is the duty of every chief to have a clear successor, who is usually an adept who can continue the work of the order.  This is particularly important to long established Orders.  If the work is focused on the chief, which sometimes happens, then the order closes.   However if the group is to continue the successor is obvious and publically recognised to make sure that any transition is smooth.  An order is on its way out when it cannot manage this or encourages senior people to fight for the top job.  Succession is always based on the person’s magical ability and their contact with the same spirit behind the order.  Politics cannot enter into it.

7.    The teaching group stops initiating or bringing in new worthy people.
Orders like those of the Golden Dawn exist to train people.  Sometimes it is necessary for the group mind not to take people.  However some groups end up never taking new people at all.  This is what happened at Whare Ra and was one of the given reasons for the group to fold.  The Bristol Temple was theoretically running until the 1970s but had not initiated anyone since the 1960s.   Magically that was the day it died.  An order is like a light house on the astral.  If it is not attracting people to it then there is something wrong.  It means its spiritual energy is not enough.  If the only people that can be attracted to a group who are really only there for social reasons or other pointless reasons then that is also a sign. Another sign is the membership becomes too old and is unable to attract young blood.

 No one writes any new teaching or brings about any more research
It is the duty of a chief of the order to encourage people to write and produce new teaching and research for experimentation.  A student might be able to survive on the view point of one person, but an order needs the ideas of many to keep it vibrant.  Each student has a duty to make the system their own and to share their ideas with others.  The chief’s job is to make sure that people do not stray too far off the path or go insane.

9.       The group becomes more interested in the mundane.
When a group becomes more established it can sometimes end up owning property.  Some have even ended up paying their teachers’ salaries.   But what also happens is that the group becomes more interested in the material side of running the order than they do the actual work itself.  Once a group spends more time working out which plumber to sub-contract out too than the ritual they need to perform next, it is time to quit.  Gossip is always part of an esoteric group, it seems to come with the territory.  But after a while it starts to become the only reason why some people are showing up.  One group I know was obsessed with its own made up history and spent a lot of time and energy finding historical proof that it had a long lineage dating back to the Middle Ages.  This is also when politics in an Order become more important than anything else.

         People forget how to do the magic.
Over the years a body of knowledge about how a ritual, or initiation works is built up.   If for some reason the group starts to forget that it is on its way out.  A sign comes about when someone says “lets not bother with doing the godforms” or “let’s not invoke this godform, I can never pronounce it.” Another sign is when a ritual is performed perfectly and fails to get the slightest inkling of power.   It is like you can clap and hear an echo.  Sometimes a group can pull itself back from this particular point, but more often they do not.  What happens soon after is that any sense of contact with the Inner melts.


  1. Nice blog and very poignant but I feel that like many lists of this type it really has points that apply to every organization out there. I've only experienced one order that had all these earmarks, especially the promoting of lackeys. In fact those of us with magical ability were never promoted as a rule because "it was easier to keep an eye on the ones lacking that they don't cause trouble". People achieved status through back stabbing politics that took out members who had given their all to the order for years and experienced a bump in life or began to express frustration with the hierarchy for these types of thing. Watching these things led me to leave the order with my hands in air in exasperation like working a job as a cook and watching the kids who just goof off and play get moved up because they knew how to kiss ass while knowing how to actually run the store is seen as a good reason not to promote you.

    1. Great post Nick. My question to you is, what have you done in your magical order to keep the members innovative and engaged in a positive way? How have you overcome the egoism that tends to come along with hierarchical structures?

    2. The Chief Adept is sworn to attempt to rule by consensus where possible. Also people are encouraged to try things and ask questions. They are encouraged to use the system to find those answers. Also we look for evidence that the initiations have worked before people go up the grades so people go up the grades a lot slower... it is not perfect and our drop out rate is high because we expect people to work :-)

  2. Nick very nice post and very mature approach of your (sorry for this long post...), but I wouldn't take this as death penalty.

    Your "Top 10 signs" analysis can be turned to "risk/issues assessment" then your 10 signs would be used as "inputs" into the "risk management" process where you need apply the 5W2H analysis (What? Why? Who? Where? When? How? How much?) Adding after these another column for "Risk Decision": Mitigate, Transfer or Accept.

    At the end you will create an Action Plan to avoid most of them, maybe all.
    I my POV a current Order works pretty much like an enterprise, where you have: Chief Adept (executive /directors); Adepts (managers); Member (workers); New members (clients), Rank (hierarchical professional levels); Research area within/out (Market); Instructions (working tools or stuffs) to several improvements. It should create a self-feed system to the Order. It should create a self-powered system always renewing the order.

    For sure nowadays an Order must be adapted to the new Century's thinking, where time is restriction and results are the driven forces. But did you remember when you started to study the occultism? I imagine that you saw lots of morons playing like masters, but why did you keep walking? How did you keep your motivation? If a member looses interest on the Order, it isn't necessary means just Order issue. Maybe the chalenge for Adepts is how to promote the self-motivation among newers, and this case the answer is in the didatics (maybe neurocience approach = where the teaching is individual capacity driven??)

    I would just change the title to: "Top 10 signs to be observed befor your Magical Order start to fail"

    And please, don't take this post like a personal criticises, it was totally collaborative way of thinking. ;-)

  3. Excellent post Mr. Farrell. Points 1, 4, and 5 apply to nearly all 'Western' occult groups currently active.

  4. You can add one : turn the magical order into a religion : a moral system which worship a god.

  5. I read your blog often and find it very meaningful. I am a member of BOTA and for my needs and abilities it fits nicely. Thank you for some of the history. If you can elaborate how far did you go in BOTA ?

  6. BOTA . I am a member and it is very well put together but it would be nice to see a yahoo group or some other place where members can chat and learn from others. Maybe Ive missed it but I havent seen anywhere I can communicate with others in the course.

  7. Fraternity of the Hidden Light is alive and vibrant. It has members and lodes all over the world, A Hybrid BOTA and GD Order. They have an excellent yahoo group for Probationers. Lesson material is fresh, well written and it works if practiced and followed as presented with little deviating. I cant venture to say how big they are, but based on the yahoo its bigger than people think it is. The officers interact without pretention and there advice is wise. The Fraternity is overseen by Dr. Paul Case. A very gifted and caring leader.