Ritual 2.0: Lodgework?

Update:August 8, 2008 I’ve shifted this entry from my “Ritual” locked group to a new group, titled “Lodgework”, on the theory that having a different space for us to talk about this material was fairly important.

I was so intrigued by J.M. Greer’s book on magical lodge work that I reviewed in my last locked entry, that I grabbed my copy of Israel Regardie’s Golden Dawn off the Finis Africae shelf, and heavily skimmed it this afternoon and evening. In between, I developed some material toward a lodge-style ceremonial magic system based on some of the priesthoods of the Roman republic. So far I’ve got a sense of who the officers are and what they do; the lodge’s layout, and process for opening the outer lodge for basic business (though not initiations).

Part of me wants to scramble through writing the whole thing, and then find some people to practice it with me and work out the kinks in it, try it a few more times, and then perform the operations. Another part of me wants to be in a lodge like the Freemasons or something similar, and see if the process is at all like what I imagine. The cautious part of me wants to hang back and wait, because it’s not OK to develop a whole magical system based on a reading of a book about another kind of magical process to which you yourself don’t have formal access.

On the other hand, part of me is thinking, “what if this was the ordinary?” because I wrote all those poems about the sun and moon and earth, and I could use those as the material that forms the basis of the changing rituals each month, while using the lodge-based material as the framework for presenting the stuff that changes month to month. Hmmm.

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  1. I agree 100% with this… as it has been my experience. Ultimately initiation is an internal process, conferred not by the mortal officiator (who merely aids in facilitating the process) but by the divine current acting directly on the postulant’s psyche.

  2. this is really neat stuff. the egregor makes a lot of sense to me – we have grown something like this within our order. for us it’s very specifically an energy of unconditional love and acceptance but emotional healing and safe space is a predominant focus for the women who join us. it’s neat because we’re in our 10th year, and those who don’t fit the paradigm sort of bounce right out of there on their own because the energy doesn’t fit. the one thing that’s missing in the order that would be present in a lodge is well – being physically present! we’re very much online, and there is definitely a place deeper that a group can go in person. of course then all the challenges of personality conflicts and such come up, but still with the right group it seems like it could be very powerful and empowering.

  3. True, but common-sense rank-and-filers tend to leave the lodge anyway. Which is why by the 1970s, the official Golden Dawn tradition had sort of fallen apart, and as Greer suggests, the process through the grades was open to people doing the work on the Astral plane, because the egregor was no longer serving an active tradition in the world. And it would be better to create a lodge tradition that had the safeguards in place from the beginning so that no one felt an urgent need to publish them for everyone to read.

    I’ve just posted a rather lengthy piece on what a founding group needs to start based on Greer’s take on it. I didn’t include anything about using the Golden Dawn system in my analysis of possible founding symbolisms, because it’s a deep ocean, and I’m not sure I want to swim in it. Yet.

    Feel free to add your comments and considerations to the founding group work ideas.

  4. sounds goodly to me.

    of course, another safeguard against abuses by leadership is the common sense of the rank-and-file….hence the breakup of the stella matutina, regardie publishing the rituals, and crowley founding the a.a. (and accidentally finding himself running the o.t.o., having published some of their teachings given to him by noone save his own pineal gland)

  5. Expanded discussion

    Oh, and this post has grown to something like 10+ comments, so if you’re responding by e-mail to posts, then you might want to check out other things that have been said recently.

  6. I don’t know that it’s much more specific than in your order.

    I think, though, that lodge work is akin to doing katas in a martial art — a set program designed to focus the mind, body and spirit on a specific work, and to shed outside influences. Only it’s the whole lodge that’s doing the kata, and the kata is the ritual work of the lodge.

    Another assumption in lodge-work is the obligation… in D&D we used to call them a Geas spell. You don’t get something for nothing in the lodge; there’s no magical power available to the lodge member that they’re not prepared to pay for with an obligation. It looks like it’s silence concerning the lodge’s matters, and not to reveal any secrets of any degree to anyone not initiated to that degree. This is followed by consenting to the possibility of gruesome death in the event that you break your promise of silence.

    Greer also points out that there’s a difference between inner and outer work. In the outer work of a lodge, all the rituals, words, signs, codewords and grips, you’ve got the makings of a very silly social club. In the inner work, you’ve got some sort of program of visualizations that accompany those gestures and words, and you have to have a membership that understands those visualizations and practices them to do strong magical workings.

    He introduced to me the concept of an egregor, which is sort of a spirit or genius of a lodge society, and that genius gets ‘fed’ by the lodge’s ritual and ethical actions. If I give the egregor a healthy diet of responsible initiates who keep returning to the lodge, who observe its forms and rituals as they progress, and who behave with decency and good conduct towards each other and to all people, then the egregor grows and develops into a an entity that treats those virtues as the right virtues of the lodge. If I give the egregor a diet of mean, nasty men and women who want to use the lodge to hurt and destroy others, well… I get a mean, nasty egregor that will push the lodge in the direction of harming and hurting others for its own sake.

    And Greer’s point is that every lodge and society has such an egregor. Sometimes they’re sleepy and sluggish, sometimes they’re old and cruel, sometimes they’re young and idealistic but weak, but they’re the sum total of the lodge’s ritual actions and choices.

  7. implements are always best constructed than purchased anyway….

    Agreed, and it’s suggested in both the Golden Dawn book, and hinted at in Greer’s book. Practicing rituals in the astral strikes me as eminently sane, insofar as imagining that you can do magic is sane… but if the whole point is to practice doing inner and outer visualizations at the same time… well… it strikes me that it’s easier/better to do it with actual people standing in the right places.

    Greer points out that having an internal doctrine of ‘secret chiefs’ is perfectly valid, but having some sort of Grand Lodge structure which issues charters (and can revoke them) is a good way to prevent abuses of power by a subordinate lodge’s leadership. When Mathers took control of the Second Order of the Golden Dawn, it was a real blow to the order’s coherence, because only one man had the requisite grade to communicate with the ‘secret chiefs’, and only one man had the power to expel the recalcitrant from the G.D. Which didn’t work.

    Reading through the sample constitution of his theoretical Order of the Athanor showed me a few of the more likely abuses of leadership. Having a Grand Lodge also sets up the possibility of more than one lodge working, and I imagine that even if you and I and and a few others manage to do the working group start-up initiations, we’re not always going to want to travel miles and miles to a lodge… and having a separate structure in place so that we can have affiliated lodges closer to home is useful, while still remaining connected on some level, and having visitation privileges.

    So… we find or assemble a working group, revise and confirm a constitution for the society as a whole, create bylaws and rituals, and initiate ourselves as practice for the deeper work that comes afterward. Again, referencing Greer (and Duncan’s Masonic Monitor), and your own comment above, the initiation is an internal, experiential process, not conferred by the mortal officiant. The work moves forward because people choose to work it, not because an outside prophet decreed it.

  8. I think it’s wise to avoid such implements. Agreed.

    I agree that Worcester may not be the best location. On the other hand, we’ve got some contacts at the Village Arts Center, which used to be a masonic lodge, and the upper hall is now available for rental. So that’s a possibility, because it’s already set up with an inner room and and outer room.

    Greer touches briefly on the concept of creating a working group to forward the initiatory process. See ‘s comment below yours on this post. In essence, the members of the working group assume the offices in turn until each member has been appropriately initiated. In our case, I think we’d want a working group of seven or so, so that four or five can be doing the ritual, and two or three can be in initiate mode.

    In some ways this means a lengthier commitment to the work, because we’ve got seven people to get through two or three degrees of initiation — somewhere between fourteen and twenty-one meetings. Plus, there are going to be times when we’ll want to do rituals other than initiations, and build a repertoire of material. At one initiation or two a month, this is a couple of years to get through.

  9. implements are always best constructed than purchased anyway….

    i for one would be very interested in doing lodge work.

    also, i highly doubt anything useful could be gained from observing any public mason lodge. the public groups really are no more than social clubs. by all accounts, the rituals are just as effective when practiced completely on the astral, through visualization of all the elements, officers, implements, colours, etc. Walk-throughs by the participants would be much more fruitful than observing social-club masons who likely don’t understand the significance of their rituals and likely aren’t concerned with the precision sought by a group intentionally engaged in magickal Work.

    The “secret chiefs” doctrine ais a perfectly valid one, as a basis for initiatory lineage. Ultimately initiation is an internal process, conferred not by the mortal officiator (who merely aids in facilitating the process) but by the divine current acting directly on the postulant’s psyche. *In the Gardnerian/Alezandrian tradition of wicca, when founding a coven from scratch, whoever is to be the high priest perform 1st degree initiation on whoever is to be high preistess, who then performs the 1st deg on the HP…HP then performs 2nd deg on HPS, who performs it on HP, then repeat for 3rd degree. Somewhat chicken and egg, yes, but think of it this way; the uninitiated are dinosaur-like creatures hatching from eggs; the first step is exposing the egg to a divine energy that mutates the dinosaur into the first chicken.

  10. I really like that! While it’s not exactly the same, we do have a similar type of thing in spiritual order that I’m a part of… We all have the same background and symbolic language so things that we say and do in the context of our ritual together and initiations and such together often are more powerful for that shared symbolism and language. I suppose many traditions have as much, but I see that it’s much more specific and focused in the context of a lodge!

  11. I must admit, being a secret master of the world does have it’s appeal, but finding a mutually agreeable space will probably be a hassle. I mean, Worcester’s the most convenient, but I don’t hold out much hope for magical work conducted in Worcester. 😉

    Also, I’d be curious to know how a founding meeting would work out in a situation where no one can seriously claim to be the “initiated” one showing everyone else in. It’s like communion at my church where the pastor got communion from the lay elders who then turned around and got communion from the pastor…bit of a chicken and egg issue.

    Despite my reservations, I do like the idea of lodge work. I’ll try and get to that book in the next few weeks and let you know what I think.

    “Who keeps the Martians under wraps?
    Who keeps Atlantis off the maps?
    We do! We do!”

    p.s. Also? We shouldn’t run initiations with these “implements”.

  12. Heh. That was a good post. Thanks.

    I’ve sent off a note to my local AF&AM lodge this morning, actually. I think Greer’s point that seeing how a lodge works in actual practice can be useful, and the initiatory process can be helpful for other reasons.

    So… if I managed to create a set of working scripts, would you be interested in doing lodge-style work once a month or so?

  13. I think I’d skip the Freemasonry. For one thing, it’s really more of a social club than a lodge. For another thing, it’s men-only. There’s a lot of interesting stuff about Freemasonry, especially during the Colonial period when it was essentially a secular religion, but things go muddy, the system collapsed for awhile and now…meh.

    “The cautious part of me wants to hang back and wait, because it’s not OK to develop a whole magical system based on a reading of a book about another kind of magical process to which you yourself don’t have formal access.”

    That has never stopped the founders of a good many contemporary magical traditions. For that matter, Freemasonry itself claims a line of decent to “secret masters” and I’m sure those guys totally existed. 🙂

    Also, you might find this post interesting.


  14. Yeah… I think it is.

    Lodge work entails creating a working space in which five or more people operate from a common ground of shared assumptions, and inner and outer work. For example, if you and seven other people or ten other people in your circle know the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, you’re capable of doing interesting magical work together using that set of words and gestures.

    Lodge magic assumes a set of words, gestures, handshakes and emblems that all members become familiar with and learn to use in powerful combinations. There’s also a possibility of doing an inner meaning behind each gesture or grip, so that if I do this handshake with another member, I imagine this aura of power enveloping us both for the length of the handshake. And that translates into magical strength.

    It’s a common framework, so that if you and I know our patterns and buy into them, our workings gain energy.

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