I read a blog post by RO the other day. He mentioned that he doesn't like most GD people because they don't do practical magick. Which leads me to the thought -- Who cares? The Golden Dawn does not exist to satisfy RO or anyone else aside from its members in the various independent orders. Frankly, I'd worry about any leader that ran an order to satisfy anyone -- member or not. That isn't the point.
I am not the leader of any GD type group. Come to think of it, I am not a leader of any occult order at all. So, please make no assumptions there. However, I've been around the block once or twice.
From my humble observations, the GD should be about personal alchemical growth. The original order didn't even teach magick in the lower grades. I've seen both approaches to GD work. Some that feel they should do any magick they wanted and some that did very little, except to prove to themselves results could be had via magick. I think they do this to validate their own initiatory experience. Deep down they may have doubts the magick of the initiations are impacting their lives. They may think theirs lives were falling apart before the initiations. They are right of course. However, if done right, the initiations kicks a few things over and causes general havoc in order to reveal something deeper. Yet they hold doubts deep down enough that they don't even know they have them. Then they do some magick, which usually goes wrong. Then they develop some faith magick works and that the people that 'cooked' them did it right.
Those folks that did magick generally used it to 'make their lives better' as RO suggests. One could watch them avoiding the consequence of initiatory fall out. One chap even believed he could avoid karma using magic. Maybe but most definitions of karma I've seen, even the ones many scholars disagree with, seem pretty long term to me. By avoiding the repercussions of life, they miss the personal alchemical lessons necessary for the Great Work to continue.
Those that don't 'interfere' with the dissolution processes by 'improving their lives' with magick, fall into two categories. They flame out and leave or they learn. Those that do interfere hang around. It is possible to rise to certain levels in the ranks and have learned very little internally. I am not sure I'd ever have occasion to call these folks Golden Dawn adepts (admittedly, I have an unusually narrow definition of the term). Though, I can easily see them as powerful mages.
My approach was to use the magick I was taught to enhance what I could learn from the initiatory fall out. Maybe someday, folks will call me adept. Not yet. I am a student and nothing more.
Nothing in this post should be taken as all inclusive. Everyone does the work in their own way. The fact that I can't see the point of some folks' approach means nothing other than I can't see the point. They fact that I value another approach likely means it is more like my own.
It is nearly impossible to judge another person's spiritual growth and dangerous to do so. That way can lead to arrogance and failure. Judging the value of someone's occult efforts by their use of magick in a way that fits your own model is also problematic.
I tend to agree with RO that at some point one should gain the wisdom to apply magic as a practical tool. On the other hand there are specialties of magick that solely focus on spiritual growth. I will not nay-say those adepts, quietly working away in obscurity.
Having just reread RO's post in question. He didn't say anything about the GDers use of magick but I'm sure he said it somewhere. So there!
He did make a comment about grade sashes causing ego inflation. Good! Let them. A few ego inflations followed by a few deflations seems to work just fine. Though, I've never seen a person focus on a sash in any such manner. I have seen another member of another group get all happy about a some bauble that was bestowed at another groups initiation. In my opinion, she blew up spectacularly. Then again, some how she managed to avoid the fallout...