As I’ve worked with more people who are freshly into the elemental grades or are working their way through them, I’ve consistently seen certain questions and themes pop up as people experience the energies of those grades and find themselves perplexed. Even when the theory behind the rituals is laid out, you aren’t really told what to expect going into the experience, and as a result students are less prepared for the impact of those energies than one would hope. This blog post is an attempt to remedy that, at least in part.

One thing to bear in mind about the elemental grades in the Golden Dawn tradition is that they are intentionally designed to throw you off balance in very specific ways. Because there’s no such thing as a free lunch, the way these grades work is by giving you a themed set of challenges to overcome. In overcoming them, you bring those energies to greater perfection within yourself. In the Portal grade, these energies are re-integrated and balanced further. But in the meantime, it can be quite a ride. You’re more likely to see challenges to your material and home life in Zelator, for example. People in Theoricus can often become “air-headed”, becoming more forgetful and spacey than usual. Practicus turns on the “water works”, making one more emotionally sensitive. Philosophus may ignite both passions and anger alike. This is all a normal and expected part of the path.

The way this unbalancing takes place is different for each person. For me, apart from the themed challenges in each grade, I consistently found that whenever I had a good routine of daily practice going the initiation ceremony would knock me right back off that horse and completely disrupt my ability to be consistent in that work. I often had to pursue the inner alchemy of the grade and let that do its job before the consistency could return. Your mileage may vary, but be aware that ebbs and flows in the energy that you have available for the practical and meditative work are normal, and don’t give yourself too hard a time if your work suffers because you’re busy doing the Work of balancing out those grade energies.

I’ve also consistently seen that a given elemental grade will affect a person in proportion to the number of planets that individual possesses in their birth chart within signs that correspond to the same element. I’m a Capricorn, and have a three planet stellium in Virgo, so Zelator kicked my ass hard. Same with Zelator Adeptus Minor. By contrast, I only have one planet in an Air sign, and I “breezed through” Theoricus faster than any of the other grades. This is also something to be aware of as you go into the elemental grades, so you can be prepared for which ones are likely to be the most challenging for you.

When those challenges do arise, the best advice I can give is to roll with it, do what you can to recognize any out of the ordinary reactions you might have, and sit with them rather than letting them influence your behavior. Take the challenges as they come, do what you can to surmount them, and know that there’s no way out but through–but that you will get through it.

A phenomenon I’ve noticed in my own journey, and one which I’ve heard echoed by a number of other students, is that when you’re ready to progress to the next grade the themes of that grade will begin coming to the fore even before the initiation ceremony. This is usually a pretty good indication that the themes of your current grade are drawing to a close and that you’re ready to take the next step on the path.

Make no mistake, the Golden Dawn system isn’t an easy path to walk. But it’s a very rewarding one. If you have any questions or find yourself wondering what’s going on with your own experience of the grades, please feel free to reach out and contact me. I can be reached by email at, but be forewarned that I’m terrible at responding to emails. The best way to find me is on Discord: my username is McCryptoFace#0519, and I hang out on the Hermetic House of Life and the Qabalah Self Initiation servers. Hope to see you there!