Thursday, July 14, 2005

First Degree

On July 9th I took my first degree initiation in the O.T.O.

There is a part of me that says nothing should be written about this event beyond the single sentence above. There is another part of me that wants to record every last detail. Perhaps a middle ground will be taken.

I attended Mass on June 17th at Dave Hermman’s place. It was a good mass, with a friend from work accepting an invitation to attend. Before mass, one of the officers informed me that I was scheduled for the 9th. Then silence. I was expecting at least some sort of follow-up, but not a peep until a week before when an e-mail went out to the Yahoo group announcing a bunch of things, and "oh, by the way..." an initiation at Pam's place at noon. I will interpret this lack of special attention to the "designated victim" as faith in my abilities to get along without being led like a small child.

As with all such events, I was the first to arrive (not counting the officers for the ritual). After ringing the bell and getting no answer, I figured Pam was inside setting things up and far too buried in her tasks to hear the bell. So I ambled down the drive to wait a few minutes and try again. I was instantly rewarded with the arrival of Beverly and Holly. Then more people arrived, and very soon we had a group of six or seven, plus three officers. We were set to go.

I read once, many years ago, that a proper Luciferian Initiation possesses some or all of the following elements:
A threat to the well being of the candidate (real or perceived).
Full or partial nudity.
The granting of a new (usually secret) name.
Imparting some secret wisdom or teaching.

The first two of these are closely related, both invoking similar emotional states. They are used to place the candidate in an altered state of mind, through invoking a fight or flight reaction, or pushing the candidate outside of deeply ingrained social mores. You can use a number of terms to describe this state of mind: Heightened awareness, altered consciousness, etc. But it all boils down to creating a shock or opening to allow the successful integration of the next two elements.

The last two elements are aimed at metaprogramming. The candidate should leave the ritual fundamentally changed, or with the seeds of such change planted in his psyche. The secret teaching and/or name will be part of this seed. The trappings of the ritual will reinforce the seed.

(A fifth element that lies outside the ritual is embodied in the study, rituals and obligations that are imposed on the candidate as part of his regular spiritual practice. This is what cultivates and nurtures the seed planted in the ritual. That may be discussed later.)

A healthy subset of these elements was used to good effect in my initiation. I was definitely pulled out of myself, and some seeds were planted. But rather than discuss my initiation here, I will "Not Discuss" it in the same spirit that I was once "Not Dating" Marta, by engaging in a one-sided contrast to my initiation in the Mormon temple nearly a quarter century ago. It may be worth noting that the rituals of both the O.T.O. and the Mormon church trace some lineage back to the rituals of Freemasonry. This is not to say either set of rituals is "based" on the Freemason rituals, or that they bear more than the tiniest resemblance in script, execution or intent. Both were rewritten completely by Crowley and Smith, yet there are base elements in common, as there are other elements that diverge widely.

"A threat to the well being of the candidate (real or perceived)"
In the Mormon ritual, this is folded into the oaths taken to not reveal names, tokens and signs. These oaths are accompanied by penalty signs, such as drawing the thumb across the throat. The wording of the oath is to promise not to reveal something, followed by the words, "...rather than do so I would suffer my life [execute the sign] to be taken." Within the context of the ritual, these oaths were weak. They also seemed not to fit with the surrounding elements and mood of the ritual, almost as if they had been put in there without the author quite knowing why. This was further weakened by the words of my bishop before I went to the temple, where he told me not to worry because the penalties were just a figurative thing. It is my understanding that even this weak version of things was removed when the Mormon rituals were revised in the 1990's.

Contrast this to a few of the Masonic tools, such as hoodwinking the candidate, placing a [dull but beautiful] sword against his body, or pushing him backward into the waiting arms of his companions. At least there is a bit of contact, an actual show of a threat. Even so, it still lacks something that will actually raise the heart rate of the candidate, or even cause him to check after the ritual to see if maybe the tip of the blade didn't at least leave some tiny mark on the skin.

Yes - my heart rate was raised and the adrenalin did flow. More than once. This much I can say without violating any oaths.

"Full or partial nudity"
The only reference I find to this in the few Masonic resources I have are to the candidate being stripped to the waist. This would explain why the good and proper gentlemen of this tradition indulged so seldom in the creation of co-masonic lodges. We can't have any titties wandering about uncovered.

The Mormon tradition has what is called the "Washing and Anointing", done with water and olive oil. In the days of Smith, the washing was done nude with a tub and basin. I assume the anointing took place in a similar manner. Care was taken to segregate the genders, having men minister to men and women to women. This has since been diluted to a version of "washing" that consists of dabbing a drop or two on the body with the tip of a finger, and likewise the anointing with oil. In addition, the candidate wears a "shield" that covers front and back, to the knees, loosely attached at the sides but otherwise open to allow access to the body. It is all quite modest, considering what is happening, and is - once more - rather anti-climatic. The rule of separating the genders is also intact.

A side note is in order for the Mormon washing and anointing. The body is washed then anointed in five locations, each accompanied with a related admonition and/or blessing. These five points later form the template for the "Five Points of Fellowship" at the veil of the temple. Contrast this to the Five-Fold Kiss of the Wiccans - which I am sure was lifted from some Masonic rite that I am not aware of. These five points in the Mormon ritual are the Feet, Knees, Genitals, Breast and Lips. The Mormons get around the genital quandary by anointing the small of the back and pretending it is close enough. At the veil, these five points get moshed a bit to form the "Five Points of Fellowship" - Foot to foot, knee to knee, breast to breast, lips to ear (to speak the words), and the hands joined in a secret hand-grip. Notice that genitals suddenly cease to exist.

As with the element of threat, the nudity element is watered down not only in they way it is scripted, but also in the fact that is it required only when the candidate takes out his own initiation, not when he returns later to do work "for the dead."

"The granting of a new (usually secret) name"
My ever-so-secret Mormon name is Ammon. I am now going to hell.

After my Mormon initiation I looked up Ammon in scripture. There is one Ammon in the Book of Mormon. He is a good guy - about as good as they get. There is another Ammon is in the Bible. He's a bad guy. I can't help but delight in this contrast.

Again, I have no comment related to the O.T.O. ritual. At the same time, anyone who is familiar with Thelemites knows that we all go by some sort of name beginning with Frater (brother) or Sorer (sister) and ending with something that holds meaning to the aspirant. I have taken the name Frater P.P.P, which stands for Perstatum et Providentia eteum Perstatum, which further translates into "Persistence and Foresight and again Persistence."

"Imparting some secret wisdom or teaching"
The whole concept of the secret handshake or password is the stuff of legend, and the worst kept set of secrets in the world, especially as related to Masonry. Even "The Simpsons" played all over this one in the Stone Cutters episode. To my knowledge this is the one part of the Mormon ritual that holds most true to its Masonic origins, and the words and grips are portrayed as nothing short than required for entry into heaven.

Then there is the drama of the ritual. In the Mormon world, this is the story of creation, Eden, and the machinations of the serpent.

But what of some secret? Something really juicy that gives the candidate the ability to say to (inwardly) to the world, "I know something you don't know!" There was much instruction in my O.T.O. initiation. Little of it made sense to me, but will be revealed over time as I study and practice. But there was one moment that was most enlightening - Luciferian, if you will - when I was asked a question. The answer to this question was simple - a single word.

The initiator asked the question the first time. The answer came at once into my mind, but I feared to speak it. This is, in itself, a lesson that points back to the very answer that I dared not speak. I remained silent.

The initiator asked a second time, drawing out and emphasizing her words. I responded that I didn't know the answer I was expected to give.

She asked a third time - stern and unforgiving, her voice harder than slate and sharp enough to rend the veil of the temple. I had an image on my mind of her pulling a club from behind her dias and braining me if I didn't get it right this time. My heart was racing and my lips were dry. After the briefest of moments I allowed the single obvious word to fall from my lips. Even as I spoke, before my initiator responded, I knew it was the correct answer. I felt the tension beginning to flow out of my body into the earth.

This secret, which I revealed to myself, was the one bit of silver that I drew from the ritual.

All of the above sounds less like a journal entry and more like an essay. That is my style, but it tells little of "What happened to the Andy today?" What happened to the Andy was that he was initiated into the O.T.O.. The organization itself is a little odd and it takes people who are a little odd to join up. But the people who were there to support me, or to learn about their own initiations by watching mine, or who were the officers who helped to birth me into a new world, are among the finest I have met. Pam as my initiator was splendid. Chris and Sara (daddy and mommy) as officers were great. Sara was the very picture of nobility, treated me with genuine respect, and seemed almost proud to be associated with me. Chris is Chris and can never escape his generous and humorous nature, as witnessed by the few times he broke with decorum and whispered complements or encouragement to me.

Before the ritual, and the attendees were being tiled into the temple, Sara mentioned that I might have to wait a while. I joked that the wait served no purpose and that they would all be drinking and smoking and telling jokes while I was forced to wait - all for the purpose of making me nervous. I do believe she gave me an actual dirty look. But then, as my mommy, that is her job.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Like hitting your head with a hammer then wondering why it hurts

I am insane. I have started a study group.

At the beginning of June, Renee (coffee goddess at Steamers) mentioned in passing that she had once been going through Donald Michael Kraig’s book, Modern Magick. It is a book I own and have wanted to work through. Then I found another person with the same story to tell. So I went to Renee and proposed a study group. We contacted people we thought might be interested, and we started the last week of June. Right now we are spending a few weeks on the LBRP (Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram) and the Tarot.