Consider this both a warning and an admonition: advancement is no guarantee of attainment.
This is something I’ve been meaning to write about that I realized quite strongly at a certain point in my involvement with a particular organization at a particular time dealing, primarily, with a particular person. I wish I had realized it more fully sooner.
However, I think it’s something that I learned, realized from experience, that may have broad relevance beyond just my own experience. So, I am sharing this with you in hopes that you find it helpful in some way.
As a warning, I want to suggest to you that in any organization with advancement, the primary reason for advancing anyone is practical and utilitarian. People are advanced because they have been useful to whomever is doing the advancing.
This has nothing to do with whether that person has really attained anything, and probably as much true for both mundane and magical groups equally. For mundane groups, advancement doesn’t guarantee attainment of any skills related to the work day, but rather a certain organizational utility. Think about bosses who aren’t skilled workers or leaders, as an example. Another example is the idea of the Peter Principle
. For magical groups, advancement doesn’t guarantee any particular attainment, and I’d suggest this is true for any kind of group, whether fraternal or teaching; advancement is about that person having organizational utility. In any case, be aware that people are people, and people are universally flawed no matter how perfectible; and having any particular role, title, doodad, or compensatory identity does not correlate with attainment.
Within OTO, as an example of this notion within the structure of a fraternal order:
“Additionally, of course, OTO largely lacks the basis of ‘examination’ purportedly used in grade advancement by the A.‘.A.’. US NGMG Sabazius has explicitly written that OTO degrees are not seals on attainment, but rather opportunities for attainment. Those opportunities consist largely of teachings in dramatic form, as well as prescribed materials for study and practice, and various fora for instructions and experiments outside of the Order’s canonical rites."—T Polyphilus
I’d also argue that teaching orders, like A∴A∴, are not immune, even if one accepts that they have internal testing and examination mechanisms and procedures. Both fraternal and teaching orders are people organizing people, with all that entails. The drama in both fraternal and teaching orders, at all levels, must be taken as examples, and well attested in many historical and modern accounts.
Recognizing that advancement is not a metric for attainment, by which to help decide whom to listen to or share time with, good luck on figuring out another standard way to test attainment. The "kook” and “genius” tend to sound the same far too often; and separating the incomprehensible from that which is not yet comprehended can be extremely difficult. But, appeal to authority is a logical fallacy, and therefore “advancement” by examination, opportunity, or soever, alone cannot be reason enough to assume “attainment.”
As an admonition, all that I’ve suggested about “advancement” and “attainment” of others can go for not only checking your relation to others and a group but also for checking yourself, and your expectations, either alone or in groups. Your own advancement is no guarantee of attainment either. Advancement is not a guaranteed method of acquiring or achieving attainment for yourself nor a way to reliably guarantee your own attainment to others, or, even, moreover, yourself. Expecting otherwise is likely to lead to disappointment or disillusionment, for yourself and others.
Along the way, use your own genius. Listen to your instincts. Trust your judgement. But also have someone to talk to about questions and concerns that listens and helps answer those, and build mutual trust based on shared experience outside of both claims of advancement and attainment. And also take notes.
But, either way, remember to consider along the way that you also might be wrong, and be reasonably open to variously reconsidering what’s what and who’s who: so, always check your work and notes as you go, whilst also returning to reconsider and reevaluate those occasionally later. And, that someone you talk to and trust based on experience beyond titles, or whatever, can also help reality check your experience from outside.
Consider this both a warning and an admonition, that I believe I’ve learned for myself from experience and share with you as a suggestion to possibly keep in mind. I wish you much luck and success!