"Known as the Order of the Golden Dawn, the group attracted some of the greatest artistic and philosophical minds of turn-of-the-century London, including fantasists Arthur Machen, Algernon Blackwood, Dracula creator Bram Stoker, Fu Manchu creator Sax Rhomer, occultists Arthur Edward Waite (creator of the popular tarot deck), Samuel Liddel Macgregor Mathers, überweirdo Aleister Crowley, and famed Irish poet WB Yeats."
Firstly, I love the description of Crowley as "überweirdo". However, the mention of Bram Stoker is perhaps misleading, as I discovered when I inquired about his potential membership on my blog last year. While not all of the membership lists have been published, it seems that Stoker is among none of them, although he was perhaps known to some of the Golden Dawn's members (in real or astral form). See the comments to my inquiry for more details.
"The Golden Dawn taught prophecy,the secret meanings behind Greek, Roman and biblical myths; astrology, tarot, and – ultimately – the promise of enlightenment."I'd prefer to use the conventional term of "divination" here, as "prophecy" can be misleading, and I recall no use of this word in the GD documents, but plenty of uses of "divination". Also, I'm not sure the GD ever gave "the promise of enlightenment". The aim of enlightenment, perhaps, but I think if any group promises you enlightenment then you need to think twice about them; becoming a member of any spiritual organisation guarantees nothing in terms of wisdom or enlightenment - that you must attain on your own time (although hopefully such membership can aid towards it).
"So busted. Although you've learned more in the chunk above than every GD site on the 'net put together. I deliver. So bear with me."
While Stratford's article is quite good (and humourous), this is a rather arrogant and dismissive comment. There are plenty of Golden Dawn sites that give way more information than the short time-line proposed by Stratford (which is, I garner, based on similar time-lines already published in various books and websites). One example is the history essay written by the Ciceros and published in Essential Golden Dawn. It can be found online here. While there are many unreputable sources out there, there are plenty of excellent ones too. See my blogroll for an example of these.
"1) It takes about a year and change to go through the elemental grades of the "Outer Order". This is a challenging, rewarding, insightful pursuit. Spend a few months learning about your air nature, your fire nature, your earth and water nature. And reconcile them in an intentional way. This really has nothing to do with learning a table of correspondence: it's a metaphor for how all the bits of you relate to all the other bits of you. 5 years of therapy in 18 months, not a bad deal for wearing a polyester robe and mangling Greek and Hebrew beyond recognition. Oh, most of the people next to you are crazy (at least the first time you go through it, you'll learn discernment the hard way) or of the non-bathing variety. Personally I'd take the crazy. Regardless: Persevere. Hey, that's a decent motto right there."
I'll ignore the comments about "the people next to you are crazy [...] or of the non-bathing variety" (?), but it seems to me that's it a long time since anyone went through all the elemental grades in a single year. This used to be the way in the original order, but nowadays it seems that there's an awful lot more to do in each grade, and that 6 months is usual a minimum of sorts. The advice to persevere, however, is good, and has been a motto of sorts for the Order and its members for a long time.
2) Hierus or no, the Adeptship of the Inner Order is a priesthood. It's more about logistics than anything else, and yet there's no room for blinking when a Neophyte shows up and places their journey in your hands. You're a janitor, but a kind of ridiculously important janitor. So step up, or step aside.Hmm. Could Stratford not have found any other comparison to the Officers of the GD than "janitor"? I wonder if he considers a priest of the AJC to be "a kind of rediculously important janitor". That said, "step up, or step aside" is important. If someone isn't fulfilling their role as an Officer, they should, in my opinion, step down. If a leader is no longer leading, they need to hand the role over to another. Easier said than done, of course, and we all have our egoes to contend with, but there should always be a system in place to ensure that a Temple is being run as efficiently as possible.
"3) You are the Secret Chiefs of the Order. Deal with it. Okay, you're probably not ready to deal with it but you do this enough times you will be."
This may be confusing to some readers, but I can kind of see what Stratford is getting at here. After all, becoming an Adept is all about taking responsibility for one's life and spiritual progress. To hand over that responsibility to a "Secret Chief" would be a bit of a cop-out of sorts. However, the jury still isn't out on what exactly the Secret Chiefs are (if anything). Check out what Mathers thought they were, and then my own views on the subject.
"4) I said there were 3, but I'm all about the giving. You can sell someone something, or you can initiate them. You can't do both. An 800 number or a credit-card-processing form means the former, and never the latter. But you knew that."
Unfortunately there will always be those who treat spirituality as a business, or, worse, try to con people out of their need for something "more", while offering little or nothing for their money. That said, all organisations need money to survive (including Gnostic churches), so do not be put off by membership or initiation fees, which tend to be the norm in esoteric orders. If in doubt, do some research and ask around. There are usually people and places that report the scams out there.