The Neophyte Grade Ceremony can be a daunting task indeed, but despite the disfavor and bashing it has received in recent years, my own experience in being Initiated through it and serving as Hierophant within it during the Initiation of others has taught me about its magical potency and spiritual power, its moving emotional depth, its rich symbolism, its philosophical wealth, and its great value for Practitioners on the Golden Dawn path.
I recently received an email from Jes on OccultCorpus that expressed his way of preparing for the ritual, namely, through a gradual learning process and an in-depth approach to study. I took the same approach myself. The more we understand about the rituals, the more meaningful they become for us.
I’m still learning new things about even the most basic rituals. For instance, when I was reading Book 6 of Virgil’s Aeneid, I read how the Sibyl, a prophet of Apollo and Hecate (Roman god of magic), declared, upon entering the underworld, “Away, away, all those unblest/profane!” This is the Latin equivalent of none other than the “Hekas, hekas este bebeloi!” of the opening for the Grade Rituals. The G.’.D.’. system draws on ancient roots indeed…
In his email, Jes also asked if I could offer him any tips or advice for preparing for the ceremony. Since these tips might prove helpful for others as well, I’ve decided to post them as an article here. The ten tips I recommend are as follows:
1. Practice visualization. The visualization component of the ceremony is extensive and intense. The better you get at it, the more successful the ritual will be.
2. Make and procure the necessary physical implements. They are powerful visual symbols, but also useful tools that can be used outside of the grade ceremony. They also reinforce the Hermetic symbolism of the ritual, which involves not only astral work, but corresponding physical work, and the physical tools (like the wands of the Hegemon, Hierophant, and Keryx) are the physical counterparts to the forces evoked on the higher planes. Both are essential parts of the two-fold initiation on the “above” and the “below.” For ideas for how to make these tools in ways far simpler than the difficult carpenter methods suggested by Chic Cicero, see my blogs in which I have posted my implements. Feel free to ask me any questions about how I made the tools and I will be happy to answer them.
3. Practice the Rite of Bringing Down the Light given by the Ciceros in their book, Self-Initiation into the Golden Dawn Tradition. The invocation and circulation of the Light is an important aspect of the ritual.
4. Color in the images of the godforms given in same book according to the descriptions given. Reflect on the symbolism of the colors and implements. Reflect on their functions within the G.’.D.’. temple. Practice visualizing them at will as living, breathing, full-color beings. Meditate on them. Dialogue with them; for instance, ask them to show you something you really need to learn at this stage of your life/journey. Write down what they show you in your magical journal.
5. Practice the Adoration of the Lord of the Universe. When this part arrives in the Neophyte ceremony, you will feel a great welling up of emotion if you practice it in advance. Use it to tune into the ultimate reality and center yourself. After the Sign of Silence, stand in silent meditation, calming the mind, not thinking of anything, detaching yourself from everything within and without. Abide in that free meditative state for some time and when you are ready, open your eyes and continue with what you were doing.
6. Plan how you will arrange the room in which you plan to perform the ceremony to most closely correspond to the Temple Diagram given in the teachings. I went to a thrift store and bought numerous large black pieces of material to drape over bookshelves, my bed, my computer, etc. while performing the ritual. This has the effect of the darkness within formal Golden Dawn temples, which focuses your mind on the work at hand and minimizes distractions.
7. Practice delivering small speeches out loud. Experiment with different loudnesses, different voice inflections, and different ways of saying the lines. Aim for the most powerful and deeply meaningful and impacting way of speaking you can manage. The way you speak these lines should be a ritual way of speaking, a ceremonial, solemn, powerful way of speaking that is different from the way you speak in ordinary life. Treat every word in the ritual as a Word of Power and Mystery.
8. Practice the Qabalistic Cross by itself and the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram. You will be performing the LRP at the opening and close of the Grade Ceremony. The more deeply you are acquainted with it, the better. The LRP is really an initiation in miniature. The Qabalistic Cross is a powerful prayer and balancing ritual in its own right.
9. Take your time preparing. Do not rush. A title of 0=0 is meaningless if there is no depth of understanding and experience behind it. The more you put into it, the more you will get out of it.
10. On the big day, take a ritual bath, prepare the temple, close the blinds, light the candles, and dedicate yourself to completing the ritual. Once you begin the ritual, resolve to finish it. This can take between 2.5 to 3 hours of straight, intense magical work; be ready for this. Work up to it through increasingly long sessions of magical work. You should be able to easily do 1 to 2 straight hours of ritual work without difficulty before even attempting the Grade Ritual.
What can you do in this 1-2 hours of practice work? I recommend including any of the following elements in a logical sequence: the LRP (invoking or banishing form), the QC by itself, the Adoration of the Lord of the Universe, the Rite of Bringing Down the Light, the THME, THEMIS, and MAAT meditations, the Tarot contemplation ritual, zazen (seated meditation, calming the mind and resting attention on the breath without clinging to anything that arises in the mind), yoga or the Five Tibetan Rites, or the Middle Pillar Ritual. Free-form, spontaneous prayer or meditation with a godform, asking them for a vision or lesson and fully exploring it can also be good practices. Any of these practices will give you experience with (1) visualization, (2) energy invocation and direction, (3) the ritual voice, (4) moving ceremonially, and (5) coordinating physical movements with work in the imagination. All of these will help you to prepare for the Initiation.
Do you have any feedback on these tips or any additional tips to suggest?
Adam (Frater S.C.F.V.)