After graduating from Northwestern University with a degree in medicine, I decided that I liked Chicago enough to go into private practice in a suburb right off of the "El." The fact that there was a station leading to the elevated trains near my office helped me with business, and it became profitable. Very profitable.
I had never intended on staying in Chicago (I was born and raised in Oklahoma and received a partial scholarship to Northwestern), but the "golden handcuffs" of profits from a successful business kept me there. The business grew, and before I knew it, I had married, was widowed, and had somehow spent thirty years helping people in need.
Toward the end of the last century (that still sounds odd for me to say) a change came about. Medicine switched from being a practice that people like me got into in order to help others and became just a business. Decisions were made based not upon a patient's needs, but on a cost-benefit ratio for the business. Add that to the enormously increasing costs of malpractice insurance and the tons of paperwork under which doctors' offices are buried, and you could see why I lost my desire and my heart for medicine.
So, in 1993 I sold my practice to an HMO, made investments with the help of my accountant so that I would never have to work again, and looked forward to the leisurely life of a retired gentleman.
For the next year, I traveled the world. Then I remodeled my home. Then I learned to play tennis and golf (not all doctors play golf on Wednesdays). I bought one of those enormous travel trailers and visited every state in the union. Did you know that the famous artist, Salvador Dali, has a museum in Florida? Did you know that the town in Kansas with the unlikely name of "Liberal" claims to be the home of Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz? I visited places like this all over the country. When I came back to my home, I still knew that something was missing. I just didn't know what.
For the next several months I haunted libraries. First, I went to a local library. Later, I went to the one at Northwestern, and finally I visited the main Chicago library. I scoured the books on philosophy and physics, psychology and biology, ecology and theology, mesmerism and mysticism.
After months of scouring thousands of books, I slowly began to realize exactly what I was looking for. If I could put it in one word, that word would be "connection." After my wife died I let all of our friendships wither away and threw myself into my work. After I retired, I did everything on my own. I had a connection to my home, but that is something material that wouldn't last. I had no connection to any other person. And I had no connection with anything beyond daily life. I felt alone, lost, and deserted. I wondered if this was the same feeling that Jesus had when he cried out, "My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?"
Rather than do nothing but swim in an ocean of my own suffering (I was never one to do that), I attacked it with a vengeance, determined to find a way out. As a result of my studies, I saw that there were various groups, known as lodges or temples or Orders where people worked together for self-knowledge and a better understanding of God and their relationship to God. The most famous such group was the Freemasons, but I decided not to join simply because in most of the lodges women are not afforded equal status. Other groups seemed to be short lived or have some weird religious or cultic flavor. I'm sure there are good groups out there, it's just that I couldn't find any that seemed okay for me.
As I continued studying, I first read hints about a mysterious and powerful Order. As I followed resources I learned more and more about a group known as The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, acknowledged by many as being the foremost lodge for both the development and practice of spiritual exercises. Slowly my researches led me to further discoveries about this group of spiritual adventurers. Founded in the late 1800s, they grew, had political hurdles, but continued to move on under the guidance of people who became some of the most prolific and important mystical writers of the last 150 years. And many other writers, whether they acknowledged it or not, owed a huge debt to the thoughts expressed by those wise people.
By the beginning of WWII, one of their members, a man named Israel Regardie, published the documents and instructions of the Order. I was surprised to learn that fifty years later, editions of this book were still in print. I eventually held this enormous volume, The Golden Dawn, in my hands. It seemed incredibly magical and mysterious, powerful and almost daunting. I bought it, took it home, and expected to receive enlightenment.
Three days later, I came out of my study—unshaven, unkempt, tired due to lack of sleep, and totally frustrated and disappointed. What was all of this stuff?
I couldn't understand half of the "knowledge lectures" and the complex rituals were hard for me to follow. "Z Documents?" What are they? What do they mean?
I took the next day off, hooked up with a group of people at the golf course and played eighteen holes, had a great meal, and slept for thirteen hours. When I arose, it was still dark out. The sun had not yet risen.
I went toward the kitchen to make some coffee. On the way, I noticed some light coming from my study. Thinking I had left a light on, I opened the door to my sanctum, but the lights were not on. My copy of The Golden Dawn was glowing.
It was a weird glow, to say the least. It was like a bright haze, the color of cyan blue. It seemed to pulse around the book. Hanging or floating within the haze were white sparkles, incredibly intense specks of light. When I rubbed my eyes, the glow vanished.
I don't know if the glow was objective or subjective, but I do know that for those few seconds, the glow was as real or as solid as you or me. With the coffee forgotten, I went over to the table with the book and started to thumb through the pages. It seemed to stop or tug at one page, so I opened the book there. It was page 116, the first page of the initiation into the grade of Neophyte in the Golden Dawn. As I read through the beginning of the ritual, it struck me in a way that was entirely different from my reading of it a few days ago. The words and ideas moved me to unbelievable depths of my very soul.
I sat back thinking, "Is that it? Do I need to be initiated into the Golden Dawn?" The book, seemingly of its own accord, slammed closed, shooting out little specks of light from between the pages as if they were dust motes on a moonbeam. "I guess that's an affirmative answer," I laughed.
Subjective or objective, the message was clear. I felt it in my heart and in my blood, in my mind and in my soul. I wanted... no, I needed to be initiated into the spiritual tradition known as that of the Golden Dawn.
Yes, I remembered from my readings that the Golden Dawn had pretty much fallen apart years ago. Even so—and don't laugh—the first place I looked was in the phone book. As you probably guessed, there is no "Golden Dawn Order" listed in the phone book (although there is a business consultant with a similar name). "Where," I wondered, "does one contact any remnant of the Golden Dawn in Illinois?"
I went on the Internet and did a search for "initiation." This brought back almost one-and-a-half million websites! I was glad to learn that I was not one of only a few people interested in the subject.
But I wanted a particular type of initiation, initiation into the Golden Dawn. My search engine allows me to search within results, so I narrowed my search to just initiation into the Golden Dawn. I scrolled down the results until my mouth opened in surprise. There was actually a book on self-initiation into the Golden Dawn. I followed the links and was able to order the book. A week later, the book arrived in the mail.
Self-Initiation into the Golden Dawn Tradition by Chic Cicero and Sandra Tabatha Cicero is enormous. It's seven inches by ten inches in size, has over 750 pages, and weighs close to three pounds (I weighed it on my kitchen scale). Its very size made it daunting to me. For at least another five days it sat on my kitchen table, closed but ever beckoning.
I had just finished flipping between Leno and Letterman when I finally decided to look the book over. And that's just what I did—I looked at it. It was so huge! Why was I embarking on such a large undertaking at this time in my life? This volume was as big as a college medical textbook.
"But I have learned a lot from textbooks," I thought, "and I had to go through them in very short times." I realized that this book would take me through degrees. I started to wonder how big each level would be. I finally opened the book to the contents pages.
What a relief! The six grades of work ranged from under 100 pages to fewer than 150 pages each. Now I realized why this book was so big. If they had put them out separately, they would have been very small books. They probably would have cost a lot more, too, because each one would need separate covers. This was actually going to be easy. I got ready to do the work.
In the introduction, there are several exercises the authors recommend. This included meditative work, physical exercise, and visualization. I faithfully practiced these things daily for three months. In retrospect, I don't think the initiation would have been of any value without this work. It wasn't hard, and it gave me time to study and learn about the nature of the entities or deities who watch over the initiation. It's all explained in the book.
I also didn't have all of the symbols and wands, so I made some up by drawing them on heavy cardboard (well, a photocopier with enlarging capabilities helped with this). Some things weren't perfect, but the intention was certainly there. The altar was a couple of boxes covered with a piece of black cloth.
Finally, I had studied everything. I had made everything I could. I set up the altar like the diagram showed. I lit candles. Everything was prepared. I could feel my heart beating in my chest. I knew something special was about to happen.
I followed the directions by entering "the temple [my ritual area] and walk[ing] clockwise to the East." I then performed the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, which I had been practicing from the directions in the book. At the East, I said the famous declarative greeting:
(p. 22)Have you ever seen the movie, The Karate Kid? Just before the climax, the young boy—tired, beaten, and injured—asks his teacher for help. His teacher, Mr. Myagi, claps his hands together. If you listen closely, you'll hear that at exactly that same time, a deep drum sounds. The entire atmosphere of the scene changes. The energy of the moment changes. And as soon as I said that phrase, the same thing happened to me. It was as if my universe had suddenly shifted and was now part of something greater. Strange entities I had only imagined now appeared before me and waves of energy or power filled the air.
As I carried the book with me and read the speeches, my work with visualization brought reality into what I was doing. It wasn't me reading the words, it was the deities whom the people who initiate you merely represent who were doing the real work.
Each entity's speech snapped into my mind giving me clarity as to what they really do within the ritual and, when initiated, in your life. The Keryx leads all in movements in the initiation.
My lamp is the symbol of the Hidden Knowledge and my wand is the symbol of its directing Power. (p. 27)
If I kept my eyes on the Keryx, I would always be able to see the path before me.
The Hegemon "[watches] over the gateway of the Hidden Knowledge" (p. 27), so if I observed the Hegemon I would always be able to follow the path which the Keryx pointed out.
The Hiereus is the "Master of Darkness...[and carries] the Sword of Judgment and the banner of the evening twilight..." (p. 27). I knew that the Hiereus would ever protect me from evil and guide me back to the support of the Hegemon.
Holy art Thou, Lord of the Universe!
I felt like I was in a trance as I continued with the initiation:
I am the inheritor of a dying world, arisen and entered into Darkness. The Mother of Darkness hath blinded me with her hair. The Father of Darkness hath hidden me under his wings. My limbs are still weary from the wars which were in Heaven.
And I was purified with water and consecrated with fire and finally, kneeling, I was ready to take the oath.
...in the Presence of the Lord of the Universe, who works in silence and whom naught but silence can express, and in this Hall of the Neophytes of the current of the Golden Dawn, do, of my own free will, hereby and hereon, most solemnly promise...to dedicate my life to the pursuit of the mysteries of the Golden Dawn tradition of magic and to the completion of the Great Work. I solemnly promise to persevere with courage and determination in the labors of the Divine Science, even as I shall persevere with courage and determination through this ceremony which is their image...
I was trembling as I said the next words:
You might think that having achieved my goal I would stop, but just the opposite was true. After all, the word "initiate" means "to begin," not end. Self-Initiation into the Golden Dawn Tradition continued with what I need to learn to go into the next degree of the tradition, and even included a self-test to make sure I knew the material and was ready to go on. I'm working on that now.
Before anybody asks, I don't think I'm a member of the Golden Dawn group, but I know that I am initiated as a true neophyte into the tradition of the Golden Dawn.
So I'm not claiming anything other than what I experienced, and I'm still working on moving ahead in my studies and practices. But what have I gotten out of it?
I could tell you that I've found a new direction in my life, one that gives me greater self-confidence and personal satisfaction. I could tell you that I have a greater understanding of the spiritual nature of the universe and the way it works. This would all be true, but it isn't very practical. Here are just a few of the things which have happened to me since my self-initiation:
These are just a few of the practical things that have happened to me in the months since my self-initiation. But it is those spiritual changes in myself and my appreciation of the universe which makes each day more thrilling and exhilarating.
As a lifelong scientist, I can't say that there is a direct cause-and-effect relationship between my self-initiation and the changes in my life. But I do know that my life is better than it was. And I wouldn't change that for anything.