Newcomers to the Order are often struck by the somewhat complex process of becoming a member. Compared to joining any other mystery school, the student understandably assumes that the first step is to apply and the second step is to take classes. They are often surprised to find that there is a middle stage in the process: interviewing and being approved by a membership body.
For those potential members that are considering applying to the Order, it’s obvious that you may have questions regarding the whys and wherefores of this process. In this blog, I’ll be attempting to not only cover the process itself but also to explain its importance to the Order and what Order members, as well as leadership, are looking for in new members. This should help in the serious act of discernment whether an individual should pursue membership within the Order because from the Order’s perspective, setting down the White Road is no trivial matter. It is a decision that should be taken as seriously as any life-changing event. If one follows the Road earnestly, then one’s life will be changed. To lack this change is to mean that the Road failed them entirely.
This blog will also prove useful to individuals who already find themselves a member of the Order and who may, at some point or another, face the responsibility of voting for or against an applicant for membership. Knowing what to look for in potential students, their state of mind, and their predisposition to be instructed, are all important facets that must be on a case-by-case basis and never assumed or generalized. One’s instincts can play a role in the process but at the end of the day, if we are wise enough to see the truth behind the eyes of an applicant, we must vote not what our heart tells us, but with what our intellect has determined is true. Remember the law: have no opinions about truth.
The Process: Applying to be a Member of the OWR
The process begins easily enough. In the first place, one finds the Order through some medium, and in the second place, one should inspect that information that the Order makes available publicly. This includes our blogs, our About page, any YouTube videos, or reaching out via email to ask further questions. If a potential member should find that they are lucky enough to be sponsored for membership by one of our current members, then part of the investigation into the Order should have long-form conversations about the sponsoring member’s experience and what stuck out to them as important.
Bearing in mind with this latter point, the Order takes secrecy very seriously and the Order member may not reveal certain things to you. Still, the Order leaves sufficient wiggle room to enable individual members to speak subjectively about their own experience and the rewards or pitfalls that they’ve had. It should be noted by the reader that one thing we’re looking for in a member is whether they’ve done this due diligence. If they have not, then the body responsible for approving or denying membership may justly ask if the potential member even knows or cares about what it is they are joining. Are they joining merely to belong to something, or have they asked themselves whether this particular organization may hold real answers to real questions that they really want to know?
The desire to belong is not bad. To find camaraderie among like-minded people is only human. But the Order does not see itself internally as a mere club or a fraternal organization of like minds. This is one major aspect of the Order but this is not the end of her self-identity or goals. Enlightenment cannot be gained by mere association with others. If this were the case, then enlightenment would be gained by any person with enough friends; or else, could never be properly gained through solitude, deep meditation, or monasticism.
“It is not good for the man to be alone.” – Genesis 2:18
No, friendship is good but it is not itself the path to wisdom. And so, the above questions regarding the student’s absorption of Order material is paramount. The point of the Road is to come to know about yourself, God, and the world around you. If you act on an impulse to join the Order, then why should we not assume that you will not act on impulse in the same way to leave it?
The Order’s masters do not wish to spend years of their life pouring themselves into their students, only to have their teachings related to as yet another in a long line of profound but ultimately unsatisfying mystical teachings which will be taken apart and only valuable to the student piece-meal as they pursue yet another spirituality later in life.
The Order seeks, and rightly so, those students that would come to masters in the hermetic’s fullness tradition: willing to be tested, earnest in their desire to understand, and confident, if not convinced, that they have come to the right place; or at very least, have started in the right place.
After this initial due diligence, the potential member should meditate deeply as to whether or not they still wish to pursue membership within the Order. This is after they have asked themselves profound questions. Hopefully, in solitude or with the advice of their most trusted friends. These questions could have to do with how one’s spirituality would relate to the Order’s or whether one could handle the burden of secrecy.
If one finds after such deep prayer and meditation that the White Road is still a path worth traveling then they can with confidence move to the application process. This too is made easy for the act of but not the doing of the thing. What I mean by this is that all you have to do is to proceed to the Order’s online application and fill out the questions. From that perspective, applying seems trivial but the questions on the application, though simple, also need to be meditated upon, as they are analyzed by those who would judge your membership.
Your answers to the questions should be honest. Being blunt when one needs to be blunt is a virtue but given that one approaches the application as a student, humility is also important. Remembering these things means that filling out the application would see us move to the next step. Hitting submit to your online application will set into motion a series of events wherein a member of our staff will contact and advise you on the next steps. Usually, this includes the arranging of an interview with one of our acolyte or master-level members. This interview can be either on the phone or over a video call and is usually scheduled at your convenience.
The interview is constructed to be a “getting to know you” phase where the masters who will be your instructors and the membership at large have an opportunity to quiz you about your personality, spiritual history, occult training, and so forth. It seems simple enough but you should note that this opportunity to interview you is also an important opportunity for the masters to test you. All that has been said in the forgoing of this post will be tested in one way or the other. Not just your knowledge of the occult world will be under scrutiny but also your innate wisdom and your ability to read between the lines.
How the masters draw this out of each potential member is very individualized and relies heavily on the interviewing master at hand but nonetheless, it is an important process. To understand why one needs to appeal to a more Eastern mindset when it comes to the relationship between instructor and student. Consider the quintessential Kung Fu movie. Some disaster befalls the arrogant, young student. Seeking revenge, he travels to the four corners of the nation until he happens upon the legendary Kung Fu master. There, he bows down and begs the teacher to instruct him; whereupon, the teacher refuses, citing the student’s arrogance or immaturity.
While the master says no to the student at the moment, he doesn’t forbid the instruction of the student forever, leaving the door open for the student to learn a lesson and prove himself. This is analogous to what the interview is attempting to do. Through it, the hermetic student comes to understand more about themselves and what they need to improve, and the masters can set clear and real boundaries about what they will expect of their students. This is important because the act of learning is a mutual exchange which must respect the law of balance.
By taking you on, the Order takes on the responsibility of your growth. We fail you if we do not instruct you properly. Likewise, you gain the knowledge that we have and, therefore, you must be trusted to pass it down accurately and only when appropriate. The weapon to ensure that the student gains proper knowledge has already been explained above: due diligence and deep meditation. But the only weapon the Order possesses to protect itself from wayward students is to test them and to deny them when they are not ready, leaving them with the lessons they need to know on how to become so in the future.
For all of this, the interview is not just about the Order’s evaluation of the potential student. It is also a valuable opportunity for the student to continue their due diligence. After the tests and the questions the masters have, they will give you the opportunity to do the same to them, respecting the law of equivalent exchange. This is your opportunity to hear right from the horse’s mouth what the Order is all about, what we do, and how we do it. This is the time when you can ask any questions and so long as it is not protected by our veil of secrecy, the Order will tell you honestly and openly.
The reasons for this openness must be obvious. While we hold the responsibility to teach you appropriately, we don’t want to get into the situation where we are leading the proverbial horse to water but can’t make it drink. We do not want students who do not know they want to be here or who are not ready to devote the time or energy necessary to understand what it takes to be here. Asking blunt yet polite questions during this portion is a way to show yourself as a student who cares and knows why they are doing what they’re doing.
After the interview, your testimony and the impressions of the interviewing master(s) will be taken away to the bodies to be voted on. As important as the views of the masters are in the training of students, they are not the final authority. The members at large, independent of their grade within the Order, are called on equally to have the final say on who shall be their classmates.
All membership in the Order is by invitation only. By applying, you are not so much applying for membership as applying to be invited by one or more members. This invitation depends on a democratic process that plays itself out over about a week. The membership at large or a subset of elected members will review the answers you gave in your interview and on your application, and in the end, the majority wins.
No matter what the result, the potential member will be informed, and should the vote be no (a rarer circumstance than the alternative), the potential member will not be turned out with nothing. They will be told why they were rejected and what to work on in the interim. They will also be encouraged to keep in contact with the Order and to apply again in the future.
The process outlined above can seem to the potential student complex, convoluted, and to be blunt, difficult. One would be forgiven for simply throwing their hands up in the air and not subjecting themselves to the onerous tasks involved. If one question can be asked to the masters, both for current members and those contemplating, it would be: why make it so difficult? Isn’t it a good thing to have more members?
The short answer to this is, it depends. More members will lead to the Order’s greater success, financial security, and development. But it is also true that that which burns white-hot burns out quickly. Members who are prone to indecisiveness or who experiment with all spiritualities are those same students who cannot be long-lived in anyone form of practice or discipline. These students are seekers to be sure, but rather than seeking something, they seek for its own end. They find that the never-ending gaining of knowledge is good when the Order teaches that knowledge is only as good as the ends it serves.
An artist who creates a great masterpiece and buries it, allowing it to rot away without sharing it with the world, is creating art that does not edify. In this same way, a student who does not truly absorb the lessons taught by their masters is gaining knowledge but never gaining wisdom.
The endless cycle of gaining knowledge is fetishized in our society. But we forget we call those who are profound for profundity’s sake pompous and those who know too much, know-it-alls. Knowing is good but we cannot take it with us when we die and we can only teach so much. It is a virtue to know something very well rather than everything to a point. A jack of all trades is a master of none. This is the view that the Order takes on the spiritually eclectic.
For this reason, it is necessary to test the potential student, to see whether they are truly ready to center their mind, to calm themselves, and to find a locus of spiritual growth; as opposed to the cancerous growth of all knowledges everywhere, a chaos that cannot be forever sustained.
The onerous process is a necessary evil then. One which the masters may wish they could dispense with, but one that has proven successful over the long years the Order has been teaching.
A Note to Current Members
With all this said, we turn our attention to current members of the Order, whose job and responsibility it is to decide on the membership application of the multitudes that come to us. This scenario that I’ll paint for you is one which is forgivably ill-instructed in the Order.
Imagine yourself a member who only a few months prior, was approved for membership yourself. You’re still attending classes and getting to know your fellow members when a message comes to you that your vote is appreciated on an application for a new member. Not quite knowing how to handle this situation, you improvise as best you can. You absorb the information, take in your master’s recommendation, and vote essentially on your instincts. Later, this particular member you voted in finds their way out of the Order, and you are left dejected, saddened both for the member who left (for they will never know the things you’re discovering) but also for the Order. What should you be looking for in the first place to avoid this outcome?
Read on and hopefully, this will help explain this point.
After so many years in the Order, I can only speak as a master. The memories of me being a neophyte are more than a decade behind me and the wisdom and knowledge that’s flown into me have made it difficult for me to relate to someone who’s only been here for a short amount of time. So I ask for your indulgence as I speak now from my heart.
There is only one thing harder than learning the answers to the mysteries of the universe and that is attempting to teach them to the uninitiated. The neophyte is a strange creature. They are often likened to a child but in some ways, children are superior. When children are young, they listen to their parents, believe what they are told, and practice in action what they do not yet understand in life. Through this the child is often saved. The child does not understand death; he only knows his parents told him not to cross the street without looking both ways. The child does not understand kidnapping; he only knows that his parents told him not to speak to strangers. Later in life, the child may understand, but for now, it is enough that he acts, as attempting to explain the vagaries of evil or mistake to a child is simply too much to ask of any parent.
To the child, the neophyte will present themselves to the master to be instructed, intimating that they have something to learn or believe that the master has some knowledge they do not yet possess (else, why would they seek instruction). Then, however, they will treat the master’s instruction with suspicion and analysis until, at the last, it either fits what they thought to be true before approaching the master or what they want to be true about the master himself. The neophyte sometimes seems to present themselves for instruction but is unable to admit that they need it.
The preoccupation of most occult students today seems to be that they wish to follow a road which leads in a circle: a road not to God but back to themselves. Rather than seeking a path to the truth or to the divine, they seek a spiritual path which affirms and glorifies what they already believe.
They come forward supposing that their ideas will never be challenged, and that their preconceived notions regarding society and relationships will remain unsullied by enlightenment. This is a farce, because how can the student know the end before the beginning? How can they say that they do not know and therefore need the teacher’s guidance but that they know how the teacher should or shouldn’t change them?
In my experience, this fundamental flaw of the uninitiated plays itself out most often in interviews with the Order’s potential members who’ve submitted applications. You will ask them in some form or other why they are here, to which they will respond in a more or less direct way that they are here to see whether the Order’s beliefs line up with their own; the assumption, therefore, being that if they do not, they will not want to be here. But if their beliefs were correct in the first place, why are they seeking instruction? Some would argue that they are not seeking instruction but perhaps are seeking community. We do not here claim that community is unimportant, we only claim that if the student is already a master, they should not be seeking a community but building one, to give the world the gift of their wisdom.
If by contrast, they believe themselves to be lacking only in some small way but otherwise wise enough to see when the master is wrong, then they are already wiser than the master. So then again, at the last, why is the neophyte being instructed rather than teaching?
The first and most important feature to look for in a potential member when trying to decide whether to admit them into the Order is this: that they possess a fundamental balance between the beginnings of wisdom and humility. The student must be humble enough to know that they do not know the truth, but wise enough to know that the truth is there to be had.
Knowing that a student has this feature can be difficult, however; for there are those who believe the truth can be had and that they do not possess it, but would redefine the term truth or misunderstand it. Some students use the same language to describe divine revelation as the Order does, but then, in the same breath, assert that while the truth can be known, it cannot be described or taught to others.
If this is true, then why does the student seek instruction with the Order—or anywhere? If the truth cannot be apprehended or taught to any other, what has the Order to teach them?
We may feel that the potential member is close enough to the Order’s beliefs, but that these errors and thoughts can be corrected. This is possible. But another feature that must be tested in the student is their emotional attachment to any preconceived notions that differ from the Order’s view of “open-minded and ready” instruction.
There are some students you will find that believe differently than the Order because it helps them to make sense of the world. The relativist may feel that every truth is valid because they do not wish to open the door to their own judgment. The student who believes the truth is caught up in too many nebulous vagaries to be described accurately to others would find such a belief convenient should anyone attempt to be overly forceful or insistent upon their own knowledge of any truth.
The student who is ready to be instructed is not one who is overly attached to that which they already believe. Such attachment represents a contradiction in the self – a self at war. Why seek instruction if you already know the truth?
Other times, such students present themselves because they believe something but do not wish it to be true. So, they will present themselves to a master, hoping the master will say some combination of words that will either affirm what they want to be true or denounce in some more substantial way than they can fathom that some disturbing fact isn’t true. This, too, represents a student that is not yet ready.
We do not here claim that a student needs to know everything or indeed, that they should claim that they know nothing. In the former, why do they need to be taught? And in the latter, that’s just blatantly ridiculous. Rather, the student must believe in the master instructing them. They must trust them and be willing to take their word for things that are not yet proven to them.
This is true with any education, for when one starts with no knowledge, one does not know what they do not know. Knowledge is gained by the human person incrementally and so a balance must be struck. One wishes to look for students who can ask why, but one should avoid those students that ask, “Why should I believe you?”
One will lead to further understanding while the other will lead to conflict only. Seeing these things means you need to look into the souls of potential members, getting to know them, relating to them, and trying to understand where they’re coming from and how their life has led them to apply to the Order.
While admittedly, some of this advice may seem vague, its wisdom seems to have played out over the course of my experience. I can only pray that it is as helpful to you as it has been for me.
One purpose of the Order is to welcome new members and if those members seek an organization that will simply tell them good things and never hard truths, then this is simply not the organization for them. Joining the Order is like walking the White Road. It is at once onerous, and long while simultaneously rewarding, beautiful, profound, and enlightening. One finds at the beginning of the Road pains and battles while at the end, the abundance of beauty and truth.
I hope this article does not dissuade the potential member from filling out the online application and testing their wisdom. The act of testing oneself is good, as it leaves us with knowledge of self. Even if you cannot be approved for membership, you may gain necessary lessons on how to improve or gain more spiritual wisdom before trying again. For those members already in the Order, I hope you take from the wisdom here and use it to great effect in testing your own students and mentees. Challenge them, for it is through challenge, intellectual and spiritual, that we find our best selves. We grow through hardship; as the good master is sometimes firm.
As a final thought for both the potential member and those already walking the Road, I leave you respectively with two quotes. One by Master Hermes Trismegistus himself and by another, Eliphas Levi, who can help us understand that these are not my words, but the words of masters through the centuries.
Blessings upon the path.
“Progress is a possibility for the animal: it can be broken in, tamed and trained; but it is not a possibility for the fool, because the fool thinks he has nothing to learn. It is his place to dictate to others and put them right, and so it is impossible to reason with him. He will laugh you to scorn in saying that what he does not understand is not a meaningful proposition. ‘Why don’t I understand it, then?’ he asks you, with marvellous impudence. To tell him it is because he is a fool would only be taken as an insult, so there is nothing you can say in reply. Everybody else sees it quite clearly, but he will never realize it. Here then, at the outset, is a potent secret which is inaccessible to the majority of people; a secret which they will never guess and which it would be useless to tell them: the secret of their own stupidity.” – Eliphas Levi, Book Two: The Royal Mystery of the Art of Subduing the Powers; Chapter XII: The Terrible Secret, The Great Secret: or, Occultism Unveiled.
“The reverant are not many, in any case, no more than a few whose number in the world can be counted, whence it happens that evil remains in the many because they lack wisdom and knowledge for all the things that are. Scorn for the vices of the whole world – and a cure for those vices – comes from understanding the divine plan upon which all things had been based. But when arrogance and folly persist, all vices thrive and wound the soul with incurable disorders. Tainted and corrupted by them, the soul grows inflamed as if poisoned – except the souls of those who have the sovereign remedy of learning and understanding. Therefore, since my help is only for the few, it will be worth while to impart its understanding and learning to humans alone…” – Hermetica, Asclepius 22