The Initiations

In 2021, contingent on the recession of the Global COVID-19 Pandemic, the Initiatory Branch will present a new series of Thelemic Initiations which will summarize over two hundred years of initiatory material in a set of original and never-before-seen rituals.  

The Thelemic Initiations

Applying to be clergy is the start of a conversation, not a legal process.  Likely someone will come back to you with questions and more conversation before making any final decisions.  We want to guide everyone to the best possible choices.  

In every century there are new initiations.  Over time, what was once mysterious becomes dated and humdrum, and initiations that once opened eyes repeat truths that are broadly communicated in the media.  At the same time, new challenges face us, and we look to initiations to tie our approach to those challenges to humankind's most ancient spiritual roots.

 

Beginning in 2020, the Initiatory Branch will present a new series of Thelemic Initiations which will summarize over two hundred years of initiatory material in a set of original and never-before-seen rituals.  

 

In regards to their value it is our intent to let success be our proof, however we are fully confident that the new Thelemic Initiations incorporate the central spirit, secrets, and ideals, though not the exact presentation or details of Craft Degree Masonry, The Hermetic Brotherhood of Luxor, Memphis and Mizraim, The Royal Arch, Rosicrucianism, the Golden Dawn, and various subsequent initiations in a powerful set of rituals relevant to the modern era. 

No.

 

The Thelemic Initiations do not use any material currently under copyright by any organization.  They are not intended as duplicates or substitutes for any other specific system of initiation. 

 

They do extract from public domain materials and the rich syncretic tradition of Western Esotericism, drawing on materials as diverse as Mithraism, Orphic Tradition, and dozens of other 17th - 20th century systems.  

 

Because most of the existing initiations that are still practiced in Western Tradition share common roots, they will, of course, contain broadly recognizable elements.  

TTO does not include extravagant oaths in its core rituals.  Initiates are asked to swear on their personal honor.  

 

We are particularly sensitive to the tendency in some 19th and 20th century initiatory groups to blur magical oaths and fraternal oaths without adequate distinction, which creates confusion and may induce a false sense of 'bound obligation' in perpetuity which is not appropriate to a fraternal oath.

 

The specifics of any actual oath may be made available in advance as part of the consent negotiation process which is managed by the Initiator.

There are numerous situations in which people consent to a general type of activity without knowing what, precisely, is going to happen.  Consent negotiations do not need to be a buzzkill in regards to anticipation.  Initiators are trained, specifically, on how to handle the negotiations for the Degrees to which they initiate. 

 

It is not incumbent on the Initiator to tell you precisely what is going to happen.  Some mystery and uncertainty is the heart of initiation.  The initiator must characterize any issues in a way that allow you to make informed decisions for your physical and emotional safety.   The goal of consent is to focus anticipation and tension on the actual focus of the mystery at hand, rather than the concern that some irrelevant trigger may be activated. 

Negotiations serve not only to insure consent, but also to alert the Initiator to any safety issues that might represent an unforeseen danger, e.g. bad knee, gluten intolerance, etc.

 

Consent is a two-way street.  Any individual initiator, based on negotiation, may feel uncomfortable initiating you.  A person who is uncomfortable with, or triggered by, many aspects of a given initiation may be a poor candidate for initiation.  That said, initiators are trained to work diligently to accommodate psychological and physical limits.

Part of initiator training is how to learn about any limitations while respecting the privacy of the initiation candidate, and make any possible accommodations.  We are committed to accommodation for physical disabilities, however we may not be able to accommodate every disability at every location.  Initiators will work with candidates and with the Cancellarius of the Initiatory Arm to find a suitable location to support individuals with disabilities.

 

In general we are able to accommodate most personal limits in regards to emotional or psychological issues.  In these cases the accommodation or remediation is a matter of negotiation between the initiate and the initiator, who must both be satisfied with the proposed accommodation.

 

Why do you allow accommodations?  Shouldn't everyone just have to "tough it out."

 

As an example, someone who has been attacked and bound in the past may be triggered by being bound by rope.  The act of ceremonially binding their wrists, or blindfolding, common in many Masonic and post-Masonic traditions and intended as a fairly trivial element which most people would not react strongly to may invoke PTSD flashbacks completely unrelated to the point of the initiation.  These flashbulb memories and resulting flood of cortisol and other stress hormones may be entirely disproportionate to the intent of the initiation and render it valueless with the initiate barely able to focus or appreciate the remainder of the content.   This is not desirable, complicates the job of the initiator and subverts the intent of initiation.  What was intended as a sublime transformative experience becomes an unrelated ordeal. 

 

While we support ordeal-based initiation, we believe it should be voluntary and consensual with the ordeals intentional and focused not a matter of random happenstance.

 

It is also worth noting that the frequency of PTSD inducing experiences, particularly military service and sexual abuse are not uniformly distributed through society, nor is access to mental health treatment which might ameliorate some non-PTSD stress or phobic issues.  Some groups have a much greater chance of exposure to these experiences than others.  Thus "screening out," individuals who are likely to have negative experiences during initiation can represent a discreet and invisible form of gender, ethnic, and class based discrimination.  In order to insure that these transformative experiences of the Law of Thelema are available for all, we attempt to make accommodation to the greatest extent possible.

On one hand we respect that many persons who come to us after having already experienced one of the 19th or 20th century initiatory tracks may be prepared at once to move several degrees ahead.  It may also seem daunting “gruntwork” to start fresh at the bottom of a new initiatory system. At the same time we feel that the experience of these initiations is unique.  We hope they're exciting experiences, not boxes to check off.  We understand however that there may be frustration at coming to a point "on the path" of the Thelemic initiations that one has already reached through some other system, though we trust there will be different understandings along the way.

For that reason we will offer an accelerated path to individuals who have already experienced a comparable initiatory system, allowing them to quickly and efficiently reach a grade comparable to their current grade in another system while absorbing the value of this new material and approach. 

The central TTO charges a flat administrative fee for each initiation of any grade.  Currently $10.  

 

Additional costs are assessed by the location and initiation team.  The fee should cover site rental, materials, food for volunteer staff and could involve compensation for travel, but should not result in a profit to any individual, or significant profit to the presenting group.  Initiations are a service, not a fundraising endeavor.

Fräulein Sprengel, S.D.A; Master Kuthumi; The Egyptian Adept, Saint-Germain and George Archibald Bishop.  And of course some work is being handled by contractor staff.

First of all, any magical ritual, including initiatory rituals, may be presented under the auspices of the Order General, provided you work with a Local Master to insure that consent and safety are respected. Your ritual is your own, and you retain all rights to it.

 

If you have a few interesting initiations worked up you may wish to present on a regular basis, the next step would be to formally present a "side degree." The side degree would be reviewed by the Consuls and Cancellarius of the Initiatory Arm, and if accepted become a standard side degree of TTO. In general this requires having not only a well documented ritual but supporting documents indicating what props are needed, what consent questions need to be addressed, etc. You would need to assign a license for unlimited use and limited publication, as TTO must be able to allow other initiators to perform your side degree, and be able to publish it. You do not need to assign your copyrights to TTO.

 

If you have worked up an entirely new and original system of initiation, you may present it to the Consul and Cancellarius of the Initiatory Arm, and if accepted it may become a standard degree set of TTO. Obviously a new series of initiations, rather than side degrees, is a huge undertaking and we recommend that you work closely with the Consul and Cancellarius well in advance if you are considering such an undertaking. You would need to assign a license for unlimited use and limited publication, as TTO must be able to allow other initiators to perform your side degree, and be able to publish it. You do not need to assign your copyrights to TTO.

The Initiatory Arm does not present material copyrighted by others which it does not have a specific license to use.

Icon for Becoming an Initator

Becoming an Initiator

Initiators must have training in consent, safety and some capability at organizing or executing prop building and theatrical staging. TTO presents workshops where you can learn the skills to be an initiator.

Initiators are Chartered by Grade.  It is not necessary to have taken a higher degree to be Chartered to initiate in grades you have already taken.  The goal of this system is to allow initiations to be performed easily and widely without requiring initiates to travel excessively to find an initiator.

Initiators receive some gene

ral instruction in Consent and safety, but it is heavily focused on the specific initiation.  They work in conjunction with a Local Master to provide the structure to conduct initiations safely.

At a grade to be specified, Initiators who are either Local Masters, or who have completed all the Educational requirements for Local Masters may apply to be Sovereign Initiators.  These initiators are able to oversee all consent and safety aspects of initiations and may conduct initiations under their own authority, anywhere, outside an existing local body.  

Side Degrees

In the 19th and early 20th century Initiating Groups ran hundreds of “side degrees” designed to entertain, teach, or enlighten. We encourage our members to create and share side degrees.

Beginning in the late 1800s many systems of initiations promised to consolidate the, by then wide and cumbersome, system of Masonic initiations into one streamlined degree.

 

This approach has good and bad elements.  On the one hand, it allows for a series of well planned, well presented, central, and powerful rituals.

 

In a lot of ways it's like the decision whether to make a series of books into a movie or series.  As a series they can be explored and length, but each episode may receive less attention or have less impact.  As a movie they are powerful, but may lose entire ideas or plotlines in being condensed to two hours.  "All in one" initiation systems can leave some interesting, educational, and even powerful dramatic material which does not fit the central template discarded in the wastebasket.

 

The paradox is that the more streamlined and powerful the system is, the more it leaves out, and the more general "shorthand" it uses to present its core ideas.

 

The central approach also stifles creativity and innovation.  Side Degrees were in many was a commentary on central degrees.  They present an interesting, even divergent, interpretation or point of view.

 

Another issue is content.  Historically some initiations contained sexual elements, or ordeals which not everyone could or would consent to.  In some cases a given ritual would never be right for a specific person. While we absolutely oppose any situation in which individuals are forced, coerced, or otherwise obligated toward unwanted physical or intimate contact, in the right context, with consenting participants, such rites can be fulfilling.  Their inclusion as side degrees allows for a thoughtful, consensual, experience which does not constitute a barrier to progress in the principal degrees.

 

Our intention is to revive side degrees, and maintain a list, and library of official side-degree material which conforms to modern standards of consent.

Rebecca Doll, with back pierced for suspension during Ordeal Work

Ordeals

In reference to magical initiation, “Ordeal” means an experience which is a test, some extreme physical or psychological stress which serves to clarify inner strength and purpose and create transformation. We know the tradition of initiatory Ordeals is thousands of years old, perhaps based on archaeological and other evidence tens of thousaands of years.

Ordeals are often, though not always, things we'd rather not do, but undertake in order to in some way prove or test ourselves, or to provoke a mental or spiritual transformation.  Ordeals are one of the most ancient components of human spirituality and can be reliably traced back to the earliest human records.

 

The definition of an ordeal varies from person to person.  For one person an ordeal may be the simple act of being blindfolded, or being stripped of street clothing in preparation for being robed in front of a group, both common elements of some Masonic or post-Masonic initiations.

 

For others an Ordeal might be long isolation, or a suspension from hooks. 

 

Because of the attachments of our culture to sex, sexual activity in ritual may constitute an ordeal for some people.

 

It really depends on the individual. 

 

There is no special designation for "ordeals," though there is an attempt to provide robust education on consent and safety to empower those rituals which would be considered "ordeals" to be successful, as well as creating an awareness among Local Masters when activities should be viewed from an ordeal perspective.

 

The Initiatory Arm works together with the Deputy Secretary for Education of the Order General to promote safer procedures and consent practices for Ordeals inside and outside of TTO.  

 

At the same time we work to create an awareness of the legitimacy of Ordeal based ritual within the wider Thelemic and Magical communities.  

 

It really depends on the individual. 

 

There is no special designation for "ordeals," though there is an attempt to provide robust education on consent and safety to empower those rituals which would be considered "ordeals" to be successful, as well as creating an awareness among Local Masters when activities should be viewed from an ordeal perspective.

 

The Initiatory Arm works together with the Deputy Secretary for Education of the Order General to promote safer procedures and consent practices for Ordeals inside and outside of TTO.  

 

At the same time we work to create an awareness of the legitimacy of Ordeal based ritual within the wider Thelemic and Magical communities.  

While initiations may be a sort of ordeal, they are not designed as an ordeal in the sense of being designed with the intention of inducing extreme mental or physical stress.

TTO itself does not presently have official ordeals, or plans for official ordeals. Rather we attempt to provide a network and resources so that ordeal-work may be done more safely and knowledgeably within a Thelemic context.

Icon - link to Thelemic Order of the Golden Dawn initiation Materials at Priory of Nuit Website

T.·.G.·.D.·. Initiations

While it is not an official element of TTO, we promote and encourage participation in diverse initiatory rituals. The Thelemic Order of the Golden Dawn (Order of the T.·.G.·.D.·.) is an Open Source Order of Thelemic Initiation