The Seven-Fold Way: Training and Grades
I many ways the Seven-Fold Way can be regarded as a process, by the individual, of discovery and experience. The goal of this process is the production of individuals skilled and knowledgeable in the magickal arts who have developed their latent, occult facilities and who possess the beginnings of wisdom.
This process can result, sometimes by accident over extended periods of time (for example, three decades or more) but it is most usually undertaken as a result of a conscious decision by an individual to seek esoteric and/or magickal groups/Orders/Adepts. In this later case – and provided the guidance received is good – the goal can be achieved in a much shorter time.
The first part of the process is in many ways the easiest: that of seeking some form of Initiation (qv. the Order MS ‘A Novice’s Guide to Initiation.’). Before and after Initiation the novice is required to undertake various tasks by the Master or Mistress who has agreed to guide the individual along the Seven-Fold Way. The pre-Initiation tasks are the performance by the individual of a simple hermetic ritual (usually on the night of the full moon), the construction of the simplified version of intent and commitment of the candidate. The important thing about these tests of intent is that the candidate is unaware of them – for example, the candidate is asked to be present at a certain time and place and instead of meeting there the expected Master or Mistress meets a person of odd appearance who propounds various views which the individual in question may find not only unusual but distasteful. Such tests and encounters are not games but merely devices which enable the preparation to Initiation. It is to be understood that it is not the order which tests the candidate – but the candidates themselves. Initiation is the beginning of the breakdown of the illusion of roles, and to be successful this breaking must be done by the individual, within.
Once this breaking down begins, then Initiation is already underway, and no ‘Rite of Initiation’ however complex or well-meaning is a substitute for this change in the individual. Such a rite, as a ceremonial ritual, is only the representation of this process in a dramatic form and in many cases is not necessary if some other form of Initiation is more suited to the candidate.
Besides this breaking of self-delusion, Initiation is an awakening of the occult facilities – that is, the experience by the candidate of the reality of magickal forces. This experience can be brought about in several ways –
1 – by means of a powerful ritual of Initiation which produces magickal forces through invokation;
2 – through the candidate experiencing the charisma of a Master or Mistress
3 – as a consequence of the individual undergoing a particular experience where magickal forces are present.
An example of this third type is when a candidate, expecting perhaps (as a result of their imagination) a ceremonial ritual of Initiation, is led to an isolated spot where magickal energies are present either naturally (as for example in most stone circles0 or have been created beforehand by an Adept in readiness for the candidate. The candidate is then left alone. What the candidate then experiences (sometimes for many hours) is an Initiation – although that is seldom understood by the candidate at the timebecause outwards form is lacking. In many respects, this third type is the most valuable of all the forms of Initiation since it does not rely on the illusion of ceremonial, or the dogma normally associated with such rural forms. Initiation is complete when the candidate realizes that a process of inner change has begun.
The next stage of the Seven-Fold Way, following Initiation, is when the novice begins to undertake in a systematic way workings with the various magickal forces through such forms as Path Workings, hermetical and ceremonial rituals. Such workings in themselves take several months and during this time the novice will be given several tasks – some practical, some magickal – to perform. These tasks may themselves take several months to complete. The most usual magickal task involved the novice assuming the ‘role’ of a dark sorcerer/sorceress for example, dressing in black and cultivating a Satanic appearance – and in this guise attending various Occult functions and generally trying to invoke argument and dissent. The novice in this is advised to cultivate an attitude of arrogance and pride and must be prepared to defend forcefully their Satanic views. Following this, the novice is expected to infiltrate another magickal group/Order with the intent of attending a ritual and during that ritual either redirecting the magickal power (if any) or invoking by their own effort during the ritual a powerful force of their own choosing to disrupt or otherwise alter the original ritual. In some cases, the novice may organize their own group (recruiting people for it) for just this purpose.
This magickal taskdevelops not only the use of magickal forces in an interesting way but also provides the novice to develop various skills pertaining to the manipulation of other individuals chiefly through the deliberate development of a ‘charismatic’ personality or role. It’s the fundamental task of the novice to learn from these experiences – that is, not to allow the role to become dominant.
This is achieved by the novice remembering that they are involved in a Seven-Fold quest and accepting the advice given by the Master or Mistress who assigned the task. Both of these things some novices find difficult to do. The behavior of the novice during this task is governed by specific guidelines – failure to observe the guidelines by an individual means the end of their noviciate as far as the Order is concerned.
The practical tasks associated with this stage usually involve the novice developing certain physical abilities suited to their character. Such physical goals (for example, cycling 100 miles in under 5 hours or running 20 miles in 2 hours 30 minutes – fitter individuals will be given a more demanding goal) are a necessary balance to the magickal tasks as well as enabling those tasks to be achieved in a more invigorating manner.
This stage generally takes from six months to two years and is concluded when the novice finds changes of perspective arising as a consequence of the self-understanding brought through following the goals and tasks. This change should arise naturally and it is made conscious to the novice toward the end of the stage through the grade ritual of External Adept. This ritual is a prelude to the goals and tasks of the next stage and signifies the beginning of Adeptship.
The Grade Ritual involves the involves the individual constructing a septenary Star Game and the performance by the individual of a certain ritual on a night of the new moon. This ritual involves the invoking of a certain force, female in aspect.
The External Adept may choose to continue with the group or temple begun in the previous stage (or create one if this was not done before) for the purpose of conducting ceremonial and hermetic rituals of the type associated with, for example, the ‘Book of Wyrd’ as well as for the performance of the cthonic Nine Angles rite if desired. Alternatively, the individual may opt to concentrate on magickal working with the Star Game – and for this (as the task above) a companion is required. it is a task of the External Adept to find such a companion, as well as teach them all they themselves have learned during the previous stages – guiding them as they themselves have been guided. This in itself takes from one to two years, and because of this most External adepts prefer, during this time, to organize a magickal group/Temple since it provides a structure and a focus.
During this satge the External Adept will experience many things, particularly of a magickal kind if rituals are undertaken by a group, and contact with the Master or Mistress will be limited and occur for the most part if the External Adept wishes. It is important during the long period associated with this particular stage, that the individual does not become prey top the illusion of being a Master or Mistress.
Most will of course succumb at some time to this as a consequence of the varied magickal experiences and contacts with those less experienced in magick, many individuals sever their links with the Order as a consequence of this illusion.
In some ways this stage is the most difficult, involving as it does confrontation with various roles and what had been called the ‘anima/animus’, this latter occuring naturally through the training of a companion. Provided the individual maintains during the stage their resolve to follow to its end the Seven-Fold Way (and here the advice of the Master/Mistress is often crucial at some point during this stage) then, with the completion of the Ritual of the fifth stage, the new Master or Mistress assumes a teaching role via an Order or an individual basis, and usuall those who attain this stage take over at some time their Order, guiding individuals along the Seven-Fold Way. They may also create their own Order or group should they wish – or re-activate the Temple by its nature, means the individual must disband such a Temple or leave it in care of one less experienced.
After some years teaching, the Master or Mistress may withdraw to seek the next stage – provided they have trained at least one person to continue the tradition of the Seven-Fold Way.
Thus it will be seen that the Seven-Fold Way is not easy. It is a way of life, which any individual may follow. Those who only follow its early stages gain something of benefit- those who go further may achieve the goal that awaits us all: the stage of human evolution.
In the past, in any one decade, the Order had many hundreds of candidates seeking Initiation. About four or five a year, sometimes less, may become Initiates through their own choice. Of these, perhaps two will complete the noviciate and only two or three from twenty a decade become Internal Adepts, the others drifting away away for various reasons. Every twenty years, a new Master or Mistress may take office. There may be one or two Magi a century. So it has been – and sowill it probably unfortunately remain until the New Aeons begins to emerge on the practical level three to four four centuries in the future.
The Seven-Fold Way possesses the potential to create (given good guidance) in ten years what it has taken seven civilizations, five Aeons or nearly ten thousand years to achieve. Every individual is free to choose between this path to the divine and a continuation of the sleep that keeps the potentiality of life at bay. All magick is a glimpse of this path – it is up to the individual to walk along it.
-Order of Nine Angles, 1989eh-