Woody Allen once said, “eighty percent of success is showing up.”
He’s right. I believe that one of the primary functions of the Order is to foster and refine fraternity. In part, this means learning to know and do one’s Will within a community that is built upon the principles of the Order and the oaths we share as brothers and sisters. It is difficult to do this without, well, showing up.
Shared oaths have the greatest impact when we create opportunities to interact with each other and actually put them into practice. Simply put, this means actually coming together and attending events. Now, I certainly understand that everyone can’t attend everything (not even our esteemed Lodge Master, who certainly tries). Nor would I ever judge someone based on their attendance record. There have been plenty of times when I needed a break from the Lodge, and I think this is actually quite healthy.
That being said, I believe that participation is one of the first duties of every local body member. As it says in Liber CI, “[The Brethren] shall respond heartily to every summons of the Lodge or Chapter to which they may belong, not lightly making excuse.” Social and theatrical events certainly have no problem getting bodies in the door. Attendance at the Gnostic Mass ebbs and flows, and the ritual’s power and majesty is equal with five guests or fifty. However, the one place where I would especially love to see more folks is at initiations.
Attending degree work is perhaps the single best way to review and fully absorb your own initiation(s). Observing one as a guest is very different than going through it as a candidate. These rituals have many details and nuances—so much so, that even as a chartered initiator I continually make new observations that lead to greater insight. Further, it is an opportunity to review the points of examination and your obligations. I cannot recommend it highly enough for initiates to attend degree work as often as possible.
I have been in the Order since 1995, and I still love to attend initiations. For one thing, it’s a great opportunity just to be in a sacred space. I greatly enjoy the feeling of setting aside the mundane world of work, bills, and chores. Every now and then, when I am attending an initiation, upcoming plans or some work I have to do pops in my head...then I remember that for the moment, those things do not exist!—only the sacred space, my fellow soldiers, and a courageous candidate going through a significant and potentially life-changing event.
Attending initiations reminds me of the framework that holds up this community. We can have meetings and parties and workshops, and these are all wonderful. But, for me, they would have far less meaning without the underlying structure of the shared initiatory experience. Watching people take the same oaths I have taken reminds me of why I am here and continue to devote so much of my time and energy to the Order.
I also attend as often as I can because, when I was a candidate, I remember how much it meant to me to have people show up (especially those that start at the crack of dawn!). Some candidates may not be affected by this like I was...some people are more social-minded than others. However, I honestly believe that a well-attended initiation can bring across to candidates that this is a significant event to us—that we actually value doing this. It also illustrates that a candidate is not sharing oaths with an abstract group of people “out there,” but with real people that they can talk to and know. When I attend, it is like I’m saying to them, “I have heard your oath and we now have a deeper connection and understanding with each other.”
Within an O.T.O. local body as populated and active as Scarlet Woman Lodge, it is easy to get lost in the swirling sea of events, relationships, and politics. Outside of the Lodge, we have our jobs (or lack thereof), school, homes, interests, and significant others to think about. Priorities shift and needs differ. After a few years, it is easy to forget the thrill of taking an initiation. It’s good to remember that initiations are potentially powerful events, not only for the candidate, but for the community that attends them. This might seem like an obvious statement to make, but it’s easy to lose sight of this fact when we are told an initiation has been scheduled. We perform them pretty regularly and it’s natural to get habituated to things we see often, especially when it’s announced electronically.
When I get that announcement, I try to picture the candidates who are about to go through an amazing event. They are sacrificing a certain amount of time, energy, and money to throw themselves into the unknown and to trust us to do right by them. I think it something of an honor to share that experience with someone. Also, these rituals are not performed in a vacuum. They are, at a fundamental level, social events—they are placed in the context of a fraternity, a group of people held together by a magical Bond. This is not just an abstraction... it is us! It is you and me, the actual members of the Lodge.
I am largely writing this article as a reminder to myself—that the announcement for that upcoming initiation is really an opportunity to experience the beating heart of the Order, to witness a sacred Oath, and to welcome a new brother or sister into a new Degree. Perhaps I’ll see you there...
(Printed in The Scarlet Letter, Vol. VIII, No. 2, 2004)