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. Aleister Crowley frequently used assistants in such a manner.