It is absolutely fantastic that so many great books on magick are being published. You can study historical books like the part of the Lesser Key of Solomon known as the Goetia and Agrippa’s Three Books of Occult Philosophy. You can study the systems of magick that began in the late 19th century such as that of The Golden Dawn, the Aurum Solis, and Aleister Crowley. You can study modern systems of magick and magick for the future. You can literally become an expert in the history, theory, and practice of magick, all from the famous “privacy of your own home.” It’s fantastic. It’s great.
It can also be filled with traps and be incomplete. And it can be lonely, too.
That’s why I’m a strong supporter of joining groups. I don’t suggest to people which group or groups to join other than to say do the research, move slowly, and listen to your intuition. If a group doesn’t “feel” right to you it’s not right for you.
But there’s often a problem when joining a group. Usually, you have to start at the beginning. Even if you’re an advanced practitioner, you start at the beginning. “What? I have to learn the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram? I’ve been doing it daily for over five years!” Here you are, ready to learn the secrets of the universe, and the Order you’ve chosen to join sticks you back in a metaphysical kindergarten. Why join at all?
You’re not the first person to be disappointed upon joining a group. In the new edition of Modern Magick I wrote about Aleister Crowley‘s feelings upon joining the Golden Dawn and compared them to a more modern movie:
There is a scene in the classic movie, A Christmas Story, where the main character, Ralphie, after weeks of anxious waiting, finally gets his precious Little Orphan Annie decoder ring in the mail. He dutifully records a secret message from the radio program and goes into the only place with privacy, the bathroom (much to the consternation of his desperate family), to decode what he thought must be a vitally important message using the ring. Slowly he translates the message, only to discover that the important secret communique from the radio was just an advertisement. Ralphieâ€™s combination of anger, disappointment and frustration can be described in two words: he was â€śticked off.â€ť
Back in the late 19th Century, Aleister Crowley finally achieved his first initiation into what he thought was a true magical group, The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. As part of the initiation he was sworn to oaths that promised a horrible, dire fate if he ever gave away the Orderâ€™s secrets. And what were those secrets? The Hebrew alphabet. The astrological zodiac. Whaaat? Was that it? Crowley was ticked off.
In fact, from a superficial understanding of these things, he should have been ticked off. But, at least at that time, he missed the real secret: the Hebrew alphabet and astrology were interrelated and linked to magick. That information is commonplace among occultists today, but it was not known except in small magickal circles in the late 1800s. His initation also provided him with the opportunity to meet, communicate with and practice ritual with some of the finest occultists of the Victorian age.
So don’t let the possibility of starting from scratch dissuade you from joining a coven, order, lodge, or other sort of magickal group. If the group is thorough, you will get a greater understanding of what you’ve studied, have a chance to learn by observing other occultists in action, and possibly make great friends for life.