Note: I do not write these things to bash the Golden Dawn based orders. I believe they are vital contributors to Western spirituality and magick. I write in the hope that some future teacher finds these occasional offerings of value.
The Golden Dawn was born of the western culture and has adopted one of its greatest fallacies, the idea that people are impure. The that man is defective likely comes from observation. We do all sorts of things that appear to be mistakes, are hurtful to others, or deadly. While we do behave poorly at times, the conclusion drawn is incorrect. This error is often reinforced by predominant religious views.
These views are part of the Golden Dawn culture too. As the Order is based at least nominally on Christianity and has many Christian adherents, it is not surprising. Though, even the more Pagan orders have this same view disguised as personal alchemy. They may use to terms like purifying the vessel but it is the same idea. There is some part of you that is bad and must be expunged.
I will be the first to admit that we need to shrug off negative build up, life is messy, and you have to get rid of those outer shells. The Work sometimes makes you feel like you are just an animated matryoshka doll but it isn't all bad. While the qabala does point out virtues and vices of the sephiroth, I see little mention of the former in GD rituals and I know virtues were almost entirely ignored in my training.
The focus on what is wrong with a person puts them in a very negative, almost helpless, and dependent position. It hyper focuses on the 'teacher' as rescuer and dampens the idea of being one's own personal reconciler.
It may be from my studies toward becoming a life coach but I see so much more positive now. That same life that contributed to the negative build up also provided skills and strengths. Never once did I hear anyone say, "Robert, you are excellent at x, here is how you can use that," or, "Have you thought of using your skill as a tarot reader to find which of your strengths can help you overcome this weakness?" Had I asked this during my training, I would like have heard some sincere reasoning about not wanting to puff up egos. Teaching people about their positive traits which may have gone unnoticed is not glorifying egos, it is empowering people to self-actualize their higher natures.
Some teachers reading this may consider my ideas overly optimistic but I challenge them to reconsider. Often we convince ourselves we are doing the right thing when in fact we are holding people back. Focusing only on the negative focuses the student on the rescuing capabilities of the teacher, making the student need to return again and again. I posit that the student's negative ego is being fed, as well as the teacher's positive ego. This is obvious from the outside but not so obvious when one is up close.
I believe a more holistic approach to spiritual teachings is in order (pun intended). Golden Dawn teachers should incorporate approaches that help uncover the positive aspects of a person as well as those that must be purified.
(Photo: Original uploader was Mhrmaw at en.wikipedia)