What I’m about to post is everything I wish I knew before I had joined my first magical order. Given how many issues I’ve run into and heard of in various spiritual and magical groups and organizations, I find this to be a topic which can benefit many people.
- Do research on the group. Look over not just their website but talk to current and ex-members of the group. Find out why people left and what the internet says about them. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire. If there were issues in the past, find out how current members are addressing those issues. There’s no such thing as a perfect group with perfect people, but knowing how the group handles that will help you out.
- Be wary of claims made. If they claim to be hundreds and thousands of years old with direct lineage to Jesus Christ, Apollonius of Tyana, Superman, whatever–RUN.
- Be wary of costs to join and remain a member. Places that charge an arm and a leg are typically more in it for making money off of the credulous than they are providing genuine spiritual teachings.
Also…if you’re already a member:
- If you join and discover that people talk strangely about the leaders, claim that they can “know everything about you”, are above reproach, and ask you not to question their beliefs/ideas/opinions/philosophy, that’s a red flag.
- If you join and they tell you who to and not to befriend, RUN.
- If they encourage people to not talk to people who have left their group, RUN.
- If they tell you certain books and traditions can’t be read or learned because the knowledge will do awful, evil things to your soul, RUN.
- Do they put others down for being “fluffy” or not measuring up to their standards? Do they maybe spend TOO much time talking bad about other groups?
- Do they spend too much time being serious and taking each other perhaps a bit too seriously?
- Do they frown upon mistakes and come down on you if you make any? Are you made to feel uncomfortable for having made them?
- Do they frequently enter into heated debates and competition with people that appears to be less than friendly? Do they seem to spend more time online attacking other people versus doing the work?
- Do they seem to be “angry” all of the time and encourage doing a lot of Mars and Saturn style workings? Ie., “battling our enemies” and engaging in “magickal/spiritual warfare”, that sort of thing?
- Do they scoff at people who want to try certain magicks or spiritual traditions and claim that it’s not possible or it’s too “stupid” or “a waste of time” to try?
- Do they encourage “not reading ahead” of your “level” and keep strict hierarchy in both social and business related settings? If so, is it to the point of avoiding even published, readily accessible information that can easily be obtained by virtually anyone?
- Do they instill fear in those who have done so, either accidentally or on purpose?
- Do they seem to be filled with fear and/or anger at certain sorts of traditions, knowledge, and teachings that they disagree with or is different from their own, not because they legitimately tout hateful and unethical behaviors but because of spiritual, philosophical, and/or religious differences?
- Do they tout certain “healing rituals/prayers” for major issues like world peace or hunger, but balk at doing the same amount of healing on themselves or their fellow members?
- Do they list a ton of titles in their emails and in their conversations with you? Do they brag about their certificates and accomplishments a great deal? Do they seem very self-absorbed as a whole?
- Do they demonstrate a lack of respect towards personal boundaries? Are there people who are typically either dismissed or ignored who behave in an inappropriate way, especially physically, towards other people in the group?
- Are they tolerant to a fault, ie. to the point of tolerating intolerance? Are they bad at setting boundaries of what is considered to be acceptable behavior?
Initiatory, magical, and spiritual spaces are meant to be safe spaces, and without establishing a proper code of conduct it is virtually impossible to be able to approach any group and its people with perfect love and perfect trust. While no group exists which has not had its problematic members, how a group handles that and continues to handle that in the future demonstrates its willingness to examine and correct. Beware any group which feels that its leaders and group itself is beyond reproach.