The discussion has been brought up on The Great Work list: “what level of adeptship do we feel ourselves to be”? I wound up writing an email long enough that I figured it belonged as a blog post.
Before you can delve into determining level of adeptship, you first must answer the question of what an adept is.
If we’re talking about the general term, the literal dictionary term means “Someone who is skilled or proficient at something”. If we get into certain occult traditions, the term becomes far, far more loaded. I’m going to approach it from the literal dictionary definition and not press forward on any one tradition.
We become adept at something or an adept through years of study, practice, and experience. We are not likely to get there overnight, and the idea that this can be brought to us in an instant through an initiation is actually absurd. It’s akin to saying that merely giving me a college diploma gives me all of the knowledge I need when in fact it’s just an acknowledgement of the work I’ve already done. All an initiation can do for you is just that, simply acknowledge what you have already done, and bring you to the next level that you may realize just how much of a neophyte you still are on the path. Life doesn’t end after graduation.
I am adept at Usui Reiki and various other Reiki traditions because I have studied, practiced, and experienced them for years. I am adept at divination, particularly tarot, for the same reason. I am adept in the Golden Dawn tradition for also the same reason. I can claim the same for computer programming, particularly C# and .NET development.
The idea of mastering something, whether it be a craft, tradition, or any one skill, comes through focus and perseverance. It does not imply perfection, nor does it mean you have nothing left to learn. I’ve spent a decade or more in any of the above that I listed, and never once have I felt that there was a stopping point; perhaps a desire to focus on another tradition or move on, but in any of them I have the capacity to teach and transfer information.
It’s interesting; right now I’m in the process of transferring out of the IT industry into a completely different career, and after my time in the Golden Dawn I went onto other things. I don’t think it’s unusual once you’ve gained a particular skill that what you’ve learned from it is something which guides you into another direction. I still engage in Golden Dawn related discussions and talk with people in the tradition all the time, and much of my knowledge and experiences I’ve gained from it continue to benefit me in day to day life.
At present, I am eyeballs deep in the Abramelin rite. Various traditions stress the importance of doing this once you’ve reached the level of adeptness, and yet it’s something you can do even as a neophyte. I do think however like all forms of personal development that doing any one thing is easier once you’ve already done a good deal of personal work.
A huge part of mastery is self-mastery, and even in business people stress the idea of doing personal development and growth. The most invaluable thing about the Golden Dawn, IMHO, is its elemental alchemy which provides a basis for doing just that. People who race through the grades like people collecting Girl/Boy Scout badges miss the boat entirely, and are depriving themselves of the most powerful aspect that particular tradition has to offer. I cannot stress its importance enough. It is far, far more important than all of the memorization and ritual that the grades have to offer, and will make you into a much more magically efficacious magician.