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Term originated in Greek meaning something "newly grafted or grafted
on." It was originally applied to those recently initiated into the
Eleusinian or other ancient Greek mysteries. Plato commented concerning
them, "There are many wand bearers (the wand being the badge of the
initiated) but few mystics."
In early Christianity neophytes were the newly baptized catechumens. Often
they were considered to be less likely to stand firm against paganism than
their older Christian brethren Hence the term became slightly tainted.
St. Paul forbade the ordination of neophytes or novices for one year. (1
Timothy 3:6) The Third Council of Aries (524) held that the newly baptized
who became canidates for holy orders had to undergo an one-year probation
period. The Catholic missionaries still refer to newly converted pagans
or disbelieves as neophytes.
In occultism a neophyte is looked on more as an apprentice rather than an
inferior. A neophyte may be consider a helper or assistant to an adept. The assistant
learns by aiding the adept and by studying related materials suited to the
area of occultism which he wishes to peruse.
An elaborate order of the increasing process of the neophyte was once seen
in the secret Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. The process included an
eleventh grade for the Neophyte and then ten grades or degrees that compared
to the ten sephiroth of the Tree of Life of the Kabbalah. The degrees were structured into three Orders: Outer,
Second, and Third. The person advanced according to his acquired knowledge.
An example of an apprentice neophyte is often seen as the assistant to a
magician. Such a person assists the magician in his magical work. The person
also may be a student of magic. When the magic is sexual in nature, if the
assistant is male, he may supply the magician with sperm when the magician
cannot produce enough.
Aliester Crowley frequently used assistants in such a manner.