I really don't understand where this concept of working through a traditional, degree-based system has been misconstrued by some as a pecking order indulgence, as if the sole purpose of having the hierarchy is to establish a one-way track toward declarative, ego inflation.
Well, I'm here to tell you, that just hasn't been my experience of things at all.
In fact, progressing through the various levels of teaching and mastery of practice, working of oral and written lore and the like....well I have found that further one progresses into working within the constrains of an established tradition, the more the system calls upon you to let go of your ego. Certainly not to offer bragging rights or give you reason to feel inflated.
Heck, my coven sis and I used to joke with our HP and HPS: "Hey, I thought this was called 'elevation'...so why do I feel like my life is going to hell?!"
Well, it is that old adage coming into play: "The more you learn, the less you realize you know and the more you have yet to learn." So it was with my personal experience of things that progress I charted at each level of each degree only led me to know that there was more undiscovered territory that I had to become acquainted with. It is ongoing, lifelong...heck, several lives long if you think about it...and continues to be a remarkable the way toward being exposed more deeply and openly to deity. Truly, ego smashing stuff.
Nothing confronts you more intensely than these ongoing lessons which drive the responsibility and desire to grow further and further home into your soul and cranium.
Each encounter makes me well up from the core of my very being, to nearly cry out to the power of All That Is and say, "I don't know yet" and "I don't quite understand," and leaves me begging for insight and sometimes for mercy, until the Lord and Lady guide and direct me ---sometimes forcibly--- to confront head on those situations that would help me grok, whatever it was They wanted me to register and fix in my life.
The Gods have a funny way of making you repeat your lessons...with ever-increasing intensity... until you finally let go of your preconceptions and self-indulgent thinking and just let go and let the messages wash over you. Hence the oft mentioned "clue-by-four" to the head you may hear tales of.
Trust me when I say there is nothing less of an "all mighty and powerful OZ" moment than that. It is very much a humbling experience, the antithesis of self-aggrandizing.
But what is miraculous about it at the same time is that even in the midst of your suffering to learn, you know that you are loved.
You are channel, vessel, priest/ess....yes, but you are also one of Their hidden children. What makes it special is that you have come into this path willingly, and as such are mindful of what is transpiring, aware of the process as it washes over and through you, your covenmates, and your connections on the warp and weft of the skein of all life. This, to me, is what makes a witch's relationship with deity so very intimate and personal, even as it is connected to what is universal. It is both microcosm and macrocosm, both omnipresent and immanent.
I am S/He as you are S/He and you are me and we are all together.....
And just when you feel most overwhelmed by it all, just when the solemnity and magnitude of discovering and coming to a more profound understanding of one's place in the strands of existence, of birth-death-rebirth...that is precisely when something humorous shatters through and breaks forth in an explosion of joy, of childlike wonder and ecstasy.
You find yourself laughing, expressing the whole gamut of human frailty and generosity in song, in dance, in the pure, unadulterated outpouring of love. Agape, philia and eros surge and abound as the creative comes out of the void and renews everything.
At all times, this experience of being at the epicenter and event horizon is greater than the sum of our human capacity. You cannot be belittle or reduce it with the mere flattery of your own ego ---you as but one practitioner, as if you alone are capable of exhibiting this great work of the Gods.
You are simply one man or woman as vehicle for Them acting in corporeal form. The trick to being an oracle is that one cannot be "home" when it happens. Learning to do this, to be a channel is an honor, yes. And it is fearful and blessed to be able to learn to do so. Yet at no time can anyone who has experienced this say that it is something which they themselves own or control.