DEBATE: Traditional Golden Dawn vs. New Age "Astral" Initiation
One Golden Dawn website claims that: "Calling Astral Initiation a Scam May Be the Greatest Scam of all Time!," then claims as well that Astral Initiation is a "traditional" Golden Dawn practice.
In reality, so-called "Astral" Initiaion is a recent invention that attempts to exploit a lack of Golden Dawn temples to provide traditional, physical Golden Dawn initiation for individuals in remote locations. The primary proponent of "astral" initiation has so far failed to provide any historical evidence to back up the above claims, despite challenges for proof from scholars across the entire spectrum of the Golden Dawn community. For example, Golden Dawn scholar, Samuel Scarborough, writes:
"I think of myself as something of a scholar on the GD as well as a serious student of the GD system. The same can be said for Nick Farrell or Imhotep, or several others that say that these astral initiations are not verifiable, nor were they done in the original GD or AO or SM after the 1903 Schism in the regular sense. There is no evidence for “astral” or long-distance initiation from those orginal bodies.
I disagree with certain groups that claim that these astral (long-distance) initiations were commonplace within the original Golden Dawn. I have never seen the evidence to support the claim. Nor can I think that Westcott, Woodman, and Mathers received some astral initiation as founders of the GD in the first place."
Noted magical author, Nick Farrell (Chief Adept of the Magical Order of Aurora Aurorae), writes:
"If astral initiation was used within the GD there would be some evidence of it... If an astral initiation was taking place then where and when and why did it not leave a trace of paperwork? There are no records of astral initiations being performed, nor any members who are identified as being part of the GD who had their initiations astrally recorded. Nor is there any mention of the procedure being used in the various editions of by-laws, nor any diary notes from anyone saying that they had taken part in an astral initiation. While we have access to many different GD rituals, there are no recorded instructions for how to perform one."
Robert Zink argues that those who criticize Astral Initiation do not understand that all magick takes place on the Astral Plane:
"Virtually everything that takes place in the Hall of the Neophyte is based in the spiritual/astral current, we can only conclude that calling groups who provide Astral Initiation a scam or dangerous is simply another negative marketing ploy."
On Nick Farrell's blog, however, "Magician" addresses this claim:
"The discussion isn’t about whether or not magic can work at long distance. The discussion is about if initiation ceremonies can work long distance where there is no way to infuse the physical symbols into the aspirant’s sphere of sensation."
Nick Farrell, moreover adds:
It really depends on what you mean. Physical initiations do have an astral component. But if you mean do I think it is possible for someone to initiate you into the 0=0 grade of the Golden Dawn without you being there I would say that it is unlikely.
No one is disputing that there is an astral component to both initiation and magick. However, what Robert Zink does not understand is that this astral element is rooted in the physical body. Robert Zink reaches a completely erroneous conclusion that, merely because an astral component is there in initiation, he can make you a "full Golden Dawn initiate" from the comfort of your armchair on the other end of the world.
Robert Zink also alleges that Astral Initiation accomplishes everything that traditional, physical Golden Dawn initiation does. This clearly illustrates that Robert Zink (who was never initiated himself) does not truly understand traditional Golden Dawn initiation. For example, one key element in true Golden Dawn initiation is the impression on the psyche of the candidate of the n symbols physically presented during the ritual. For example, on Nick Farrell's blog, "Poimandres" writes.
EOGD always argues that and Initiation is not Theatre and is all about the astral (forgetting, as you say, the importance of basic psycological and emotional impact!)? Well, actually, ancient Drama copmes directly from the Dyonisian and Eleusinian Mysteries, and Tragic Festivals continued to a sacred ceremony and a sacred experience for the Athenians, which is, actually comparable to intiation ceremonies (especially masonic high degrees where only a few of the candidates participate, and most are just onlookers!).
I bet no one in ancient Greece could say that if the director mentions the name of an Athenian citizen that was out of town, before the perfomance of a Tragedy, would ‘astrally” experience the awe and pity that the tragedy inspired, and the psycologically healthy Catharthic effect of actually seeing the sacred perfomance!
Nick Farrell adds in this regard:
A physical initiation is an intensely emotional experience with physical and emotional reactions that have a deep impact on the person. For an initiation to have any impact, such a person should be able to feel something, if not at the immediate time, but in their dreams immediately afterwards. However the reports of people who have undergone astral initiations ... have been extremely nebulous or non-existent (or) have included comments which were so nebulous that they are more likely to be psychosomatic or wish-self-fulfilment.
Samuel Scarborough adds:
Does long-distance (astral) initiation work? Well, I would say that at best it would be dubious... My concern, and most whom disagree with long-distance initiation, is that there is no way to verify that the person being initiated is actually receiving the energy due to the gap between the initiating body and the candidate.
Astral initiation proponents also claim that "Astral" Initiation helps those who would otherwise not be able to contact the spirit of the order. To this Nick Farrell responds:
So finally we come to (the) point ... that (Astral initiation allegedly) provides a person with a connection to a working group that they would not otherwise had. This is clearly true, but in my opinion any link would appear to be administrative rather than spiritual. A real initiation takes place when the person is ready.