I'll reply in a few days, and may even make it a blog post. It's a bit more nuanced also given that my dad was also a Buddhist Hermeticist: http://edward-reib.com/Transformations-by-John-Dan-Reib-1976.pdf
I want to take some time to think about and compose my response.
oh absolutely! and thank you...
(Several days later)
Greetings in Light brother!
I suppose I'll just have to aim for a certain level and depth of response and run with it, otherwise I'll never reply. The question could very well be the subject of a book down the road.
Just a few thoughts for now, since I've had responding to your message hanging in the back of my mind for a while. I'll give a few examples and see what comes up.
I feel I must disclaim - there is more than one form of Buddhism, and many people belittle and talk down to and about the sort of Buddhism one sees among counter-cultural communities in the West: Beatnics, Hippies, Burners etc. Further, there are several branches of Buddhism that are considered "incorrect" in some way or other by other practitioners of different forms of Buddhism.
The form I found myself growing up in was shown and explained to me by my dad. It was something of his identity, you might say. Privately, he would say "I don't consider myself American. I was born in China, I consider myself Chinese." If I were to presume a bit, he might clarify "not Red-Chinese..."
So anyhow... he studied Buddhism from a young age, not in a spirit of beatic or hippie rebellion, but if were to presume to analyze him I think it was a combination of elements. Firstly, his father, who had lived most of his life in China, died when he was 6. Secondly, he (my dad) was born in China. Thirdly, after graduating High School he witnessed shocking things in India while he and his mother were touring the world on the ship Queen Mary, which is now retired in Long Beach Harbor. He saw a man kill another man (specifically a large British man killing an Indian man), and he saw a woman's corpse being eaten by vultures. He told me it was that moment, standing at the edge of a cliff near his Hotel in Bombay, seeing the woman being eaten by vultures, then noticing that there were vultures in a tree looking at him, that led to his Buddhism.
So I got my Buddhism from him. People would say "what kind of Buddhist?" and I'd say "Tibetan". They'd say, "Oh, the Dalai Lama and all that?" and I'd say, "Who is that?" At holiday gatherings, when someone asked him a question, he'd say "From a Buddhist perspective..." and go on to shock the extended family with some statement like, "Karmically, we have to try democracy for a while. Once it shows itself not to work, we'll move on to something else."
I hope you had a chance to read the book he wrote in '76, as it illustrates who he was as a teacher more than my explanation. He also studied Tarot and Tree of Life and attended meetings at Builders of the Adytum occasionally.
Okay, you didn't ask me about him, so I'll cut to the chase: He died when I was 15.
So basically, I had, while he was alive, come to keep everything he taught me at a distance. It just didn't serve me well in school to be too much of a weirdo. Then, he died, and I had this idea that he'd had much to teach me. I mean, to be honest with you he was an asshole at times, and difficult to get along with. His ex wife, my mother, was his student once upon a time and we began our journey together. I had no idea her journey only had a few years left in it as well.
So, I figured this:
"I will start with Western because it's closer to my culture." I began learning Wicca, and soon found its Golden Dawn roots, and there was a particular notoriously awful Golden Dawn reenactment group about a 45 mile drive east from where I lived in Los Angeles.
So, my mom and I joined. I thought there was an over-abundance of crosses in the ceremony, and the chiefs were quick to explain them away as being "a universal symbol of balance, oh you're Buddhist? ..well there you go, it's the middle way." Naturally I grew and learned that they had been more or less lying to cover up the abundance of Christianity.
But that's where I started. I hadn't *learned* Buddhism yet, nor did I have much of a practice. My dad and I had a certain meditation we would do as I was growing up, but I had forgotten it at that time.
I saw the black and white tile and thought "Middle way, way without extremes," and no one had to tell me that the Sephira marked "Desire" was, by itself, unbalanced.
Later, when I learned the symbolism of the symbol of Venus it confirmed, in my mind, that this was the same force that Buddhism teaches to be free from: "Attachments" or "Clinging" or "Desire". The GD doesn't avoid it, though, and takes you right through it and, most often, leaves you there until you prove yourself enough of a sycophant to be considered for higher grades, but aside from all that... It resonated with what I remembered my dad telling me about Tantric Buddhism, his Buddhism, being different from some other maybe more original older forms of Buddhism, or the relatively newer ones, like Zen, which are so strict about how to behave and how not to. His form, his Tantric form, wasn't quite "left hand" Tantric Buddhism, except where it was. He felt, and I've read more recently that others including the Dalai Lama when speaking in private agree, that there is much to be gained from actually becoming and embodying these things *temporarily* rather than running away from them. That, perhaps, there is something to the idea that, of the two brothers, it is the Prodigal son who gets the party: He went and found out first hand how it all works, then returned "home" with that knowledge. So too, they say, loosing one's "faith" is a necessary step toward really having it.
Well I don't know about all that, as I'm generally a rational person - which is one of the reasons Buddhism appeals to me is that it is in large part very rational and requires no "leap of faith" to practice or to understand. Anyhow, my mom died while we were in the grade of Venus, and death is the path leading to Tipharet from there. It all struck as very "Buddhist" at the time. My girlfriend at the time, and I, stayed with a dear friend who was also from something of a Buddhist background, in this case Zen.
Am I jumping all over? Sorry about that... I'll try to wrap up.
In our group, they did a thing where they lock you in a box for 21 or 36 hours before the 5=6 initation. Many of my fellow initiates would pray the Rosary. I did that a bit, but mostly spent the time in meditation, and enjoyed it quite a bit. The Lotuses of Isis and on the wands reminded me of the Lotus as sacred to the Buddha. Portal, the spirit grade, felt very "Buddhist" to me at the time, though my daily rituals were GD in nature. I noticed many of the subtle Eastern influences on GD thinking. In the end, after the chaos had settled, I wanted to write a paper for Corpus Christi comparing Zen Meditation to more Tantric forms. My teacher made a face and said, "Well, you'll have to tie it in to Rosicrucian Tradition somehow." By that time I was basically done. I wrote this post mocking the idea.
I had meant to START WITH Golden Dawn, but it had taken over my life. After 18 years or so in the GD, our group was falling apart. You might have caught it on the interwebs: This, for example. So the path that was meant to be my spritual center in the midst of actual life had replaced my actual life and was no longer serving as a spiritual center. Classic "Cult" scenario. Well, one of em.
In the midst of mental chaos both within and without, I reached back to a voice that I knew and loved: The voice of Alan Watts. I went to pirate bay (Sorry, Alan's estate) and downloaded 14 hours of him talking. I preferred his lectures to anything that might come out of my own mind and speech-monkey centers.
In his KQED show in 1959 he said that "Dharma Bums" and the like had effected the way people in the West think of Buddhism and Zen in particular, and that he wanted to explain what it was "for real". He mentioned "Shobogenzo" as a good source, so I resolved to learn "real Buddhism" thoroughly, and have it at the core of my Yoga practice. I read Shobogenzo, and it inspired me to meditate daily in Lotus position. (for reference)
Shortly after, I left the Golden Dawn, intending to leave it behind me for good.
Yet, it is very much a part of me. I used to think things like "people need this!" or, more specifically, "Christians and Jewish Athiests could really use this!" which might be true, but I've moved away from making it my job to get it to them, to package it to them, and to fight off the assholes like Robert and David who want to turn it into their own little cash-cow/corporate-logo - I'm just done fighting is all.
Then I went to Japan and saw some Buddhist temples that took my breath away. (for reference) I met a Buddhist who was amazed by my Golden Dawn background and it caused me to reevaluate it's value. During the same trip, I told my wife's uncle who lives there all about my experiences with Golden Dawn and he told me "You say you've left it, but you haven't." I think he meant that I should go ahead and leave it now, but I took it differently. I *had* left the poisonous manifestation I was in, and I still felt parts of it were of value. To swallow the whole thing and go through from 0=0 to 5=6 traditionally is a rare fetish and, in my option, a fairly vain pursuit. The value in it is entirely made up of having historical context for something nobody cares about except for Thelemites and the people at Builders of the Adytum. But, at any rate, I came back from Japan and started The Esoterinerd Podcast.
It's clear to me that no one knows why it's there or what it's for, and that's okay. It's mostly to give my 2 cents on things, and secondarily to keep in touch with people and learn new things. You can hear when I'm bored as hell talking with someone who's very GD or Crowley Dogmatic in their thinking, or who are posturing for their readers in their mind. I'm not as into it as I used to be. Did you happen to catch Episode 77? There's a lot in that, and it's not about Buddhism. Well, it is, but it's really more about the many errors and characters I've met and been over the years, and hopefully a guiding light out of the snares and limitations of the "cycles of transmigration."
Also, I'll conclude (this post is very disorganized, I know) with one final thought.... Reincarnation. It's not a given among everyone. It's possibly a given among the Eastern-loving Adepts of late 1800s who authored it, but these days there are "YOLO" types practicing it with great urgency as well.
So, that said, I feel like my time in the particular GD manifestation was my Karma... in a sense.... in the sense that it was a carry-over from work done before, and that it was the thing I had to do. Now that I've left I feel this is bonus-time. I feel I get to meditate... become vegan... etc and become as sublime as I can in this life, and that way in my next life I'll be able to pick up where I left off in this life.
That said, I don't believe it. I think that way, and I was raised that way, but I'm not sure about it.
Then again, that's probably better, no? Not knowing.
Thank you for the question, brother.
Namaste et LVX,