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 converts. Often they were considered to be less likely to stand firm against paganism than their older Christian brethren.
St. Paul forbade the ordination of neophytes or novices for one year. (1 Timothy 3:6) The Third Council of Aries (524 AD) 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 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 - the so-clled 'Sorcerer's Apprentice". Such a person assists the magician in his magical work. The tutor also may be a student of Magick with a teacher 'above' him. When the Magick 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.
The term Neophyte is rarely used in Wicca and/or Neo-Paganism generally, though is more common amongst Ceremonial Magicians and practitioners of Chaos Magick.
see also: INITIATION
One of the major problems with 'defining' Paganism and/or its beliefs and practices is that it is an 'organic' movement, in that it is undergoing constant change and re-evaluation from within, and as such any 'one-size-fits-all' approach to understanding Paganism will be found wanting.
Due to the very 'organic' nature of Paganism, and the many differing Paths and Traditions within it, in many cases no one defintion may be universally accepted by all Pagans. Therefore, where such cases of possible conflicting and/or contradictory meanings of certain terms occur I have endevoured to give not only the generally accepted meaning, but also any major 'variations' in belief and/or practice.
Christians who believe this difference in meaning of certain key terms, beliefs and practices to be unique to Paganism need to remember that such conflicts also arise within the Body of Christ - the Church. Take for instance the differring practices amongst Christians concerning Baptism and the different attitudes towards women in the clergy.
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