For those of us living as part of magical and mystical orders, we daily find ourselves tempted by the of the material world. Indeed a great many Adept have fallen from "The Great Work" because of the rigorous temptations that befall him during his personal alchemy. Because of this, it is imperative to read spiritual texts of a high nature such as the lives of Saints or books written by monks or yogis. Spending time reading about those who have reached the states of enlightenment we seek, conquering the pitfalls of the material world can spur on the fervor we had when we first began our Work.
However for some, these texts can have the opposite effect. Seeing the discrepancies between the way we live our lives and they way these great Master's lived theirs can at times be disheartening. I have personally found myself contemplating my own personal weakness when I can't get my face out of a bag of chocolate while at the same time reading about a Saint invoking demons into the desert to tempt him so he can learn to overcome them. But, we must remember that we do not have the ability to live the lives of mortification the way that these great sages did. Yes, we need to strive to disconnect ourselves from material inclination but, we cannot bring low the body as they do through extreme fasting, penance, vigils and constant meditation...we could not possibly function and take care of our responsibilities. Unfortunately, what then seems to happen is that we compromise by living mundane lives with magic and devotion spattered throughout rather than taking it upon us to become true spiritual athletes. Even if we take the time to set aside a daily practice, as soon as we are finished our minds turn to regular things taking a great deal of our power with it.
Thus, what needs to happen is a slow, progressive training of one's mind and life-style to coincide with the special challenges of those of us who should be living a semi-monastic life-style. I am specifically talking to people who are in the Second or Inner Orders of the Golden Dawn, or have finished the preliminary teachings of their tradition. You must be ready and committed to move onward to a more stringent life-style meant to further the progression of the spirit through the Torment of Metals.
A semi-monastic life-style is not a complete removal from the material realm, but instead a mentality of constant vigilance to the world we live in. It is a monitoring of the effects each event and activity has one's consciousness, a faithful magical practice, a training of the mind to be constantly focused on the Divine, and one's True Will. It is so easy, living in a non-cloistered environment to lose the jewel of our True Will in a sea of attractions. This sacred jewel must be guarded as the most precious thing we possess. Imagine if a King gave you the largest diamond in the world, and asked you to hold it for safe keeping from a pack of robbers? What would you do with it? Most likely you would guard it with your life, and this is what we are asked to do with the holy knowledge that is given to us. Yet we so easily drop it, or dirty it, or lose it while engaging in simple activities such as eating, watching t.v., or entertaining negativity, because it is constantly in front of us, tempting us. It is therefore our job to protect ourselves from this by moving outside of just having a regular magical practice to leading a life-style of true devotion.
So what separates someone who is leading a mundane life with magic in it, to one who has moved into a semi-monastic life-style? The difference is the latter leads a simple life, removing the things which aggrandize the Self, and replacing them with activities, people, and attractions which benefit The True Self. He makes every activity an offering to the Divine, especially those things which nourish the body such as eating, cleansing, and sleeping (so as not to forget that the Divine takes part in even the simplest things) He takes time each day for spiritual practice and then takes that practice with him into the rest of the day maintaining an uplifting attitude. He partakes in the sacraments of his Church, or if he is not of a Christ centered faith replaces it with the mystic repast of the four elements or other similar ritual. He keeps his mind in constant prayer, helps those whom are poor in the spirit, but does not seek the company of those who bring it low. He assesses all activities for their effect on their consciousness including forms of entertainment, and material desires, and does not allow himself to be addicted to any such thing. This person is one who enjoys the many gifts and wonders of the world, yet controls his passions so that he is not controlled by them...as it has been said by many monastic brethren, a far more difficult task than living away from temptation under the tutorship of a Superior.
As you can see, this is not a life-style for those who are young in the Work. Do not get me wrong, the work of the Neophyte or Outer Order member is just as Holy, but their focus must be on learning the rubrics and beginning to integrate themselves into a magical life-style. If a good basis is not formed one cannot possibly endure to be a spiritual athlete, and as many of us have seen even the early work, though enjoyable, can be tasking without the added practices of semi-monasticism. Even most Adepts do not choose this life-style, but for those who do, not only does their power in magic increase drastically, but their spiritual rewards are great for no material inclination can match the gifts of the Spirit.