RIP Barry Sherman

barry shermanThere is a modern spiritual meme that avers that life itself, and even acquaintances and friends, are the real spiritual teachers not gurus or workshop leaders. I suspect this is more the case for some than others, and I feel it was certainly the case for Barry Sherman, a wise mystic from Melbourne who died suddenly, aged 48 on Sunday evening.

Though we only met a few times, I am feeling grief. As I read the hundreds of messages of shock, love and grief on Facebook, I am realising just how special Barry was. I will admit sometimes I could just not ‘get’ Barry, or what exactly he was on about. However, he was unfailingly kind and generous; shortly before his death he messaged me with links and advice regarding a post of mine.

I first met Barry when I travelled over to Canberra for a Church of All Worlds gathering in 1991 or 1992. I came to the home of Anthorr and Fiona Nomchong and, CAW being the hippy inspired thing it is, I went through the lounge and hugged everyone ‘hello’. I did the same with Barry, who I had corresponded with a bit in newsletters and he took it very well. However, he then stood back, and said, ‘now we’ll do it my way’, and extended his hand in a handshake. It was a polite and compassionate lesson in boundaries and one I took in deeply and remains with me.

Later that same trip (or another) we were sitting in the home of one of his close friends, Caroline Tully, talking late into the night about magic. The topic drifted to Christianity and Barry asked me what difference I saw between church and magical ritual. I came up with the standard naff reply about there was more ‘energy’ in magical rituals. He mused that this was what everyone said, but asked ‘what did that actually mean?’ And I thought … ‘what did it actually mean?’ That little exchange eventually became the seed for my critique of magical-astral intoxication and ‘energy’ as opposed to real, depth spiritual presences, which I discuss in my book.

So, if regular people and everyday conversations are our spiritual teachers, we have just lost one of the finest. Vale, Barry – may your Name live forever in the light of the Shining Ones.

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Xenial Australia


An excellent blog here. Seldom do I simple re-blog, but this needs to be read – and acted on! THANKS :)

Originally posted on Australis Incognita:

Melbourne rally for refugee rights, October 21. Photo by Ali Bakhtiarvandi via Green Left Weekly.

Melbourne rally for refugee rights, October 21. Photo by Ali Bakhtiarvandi via Green Left Weekly.

Way back in January this year, I participated with Peregrin Wildoaks’s Magical Action to Increase Compassion towards Asylum Seekers and Refugees in Australia, and posted about it, and some of the other things I had worked toward, in a spiritual sense, in one way or another.

Over the past year, my sigil has been actively worked, invigorated and I continue to use it whenever the “issue” (which I still can’t even believe it is!) pops in the news or my Facebook newsfeed. Like so many things happening in our country right now, there needs be constant attention paid, people are dying, people are sick, children are suffering serious mental health issues, no doubt from being caged without knowing what they have done wrong besides think for some reasons Australia was a place they…

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A defence of the traditional six solar hexagrams

By Names and Images - Peregrin Wildoak

Click for larger image

I remember at the end of a talk I once gave, a Thelemite showed another Thelemite my book – specifically my description and disproval of the so-called ‘Unicursal Hexagram’. They muttered darkly their own disapproval of my disapproval, shaking their heads, convinced their leader “would not like it”. Now that makes sense. It was Crowley who started the whole unicursal lark in the first place, and Thelemites kinda hold him in a high regard. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

However, neither these good chaps (nor their leader), nor anyone I have corresponded with so far have been able to address my basic concerns with the unicursal hexagram, which I repeat below. As I detail in this post, this form of hexagram may have been the norm in the Regardie inspired renaissance of the Golden Dawn in the 1980s, leading to folk not really working the traditional hexagrams at all. This is a shame, as there is much there people are missing out on.

The basic concern with the traditional Supreme Hexagram methods bequeathed to us from the RR et AC is the fact that the solar hexagram is not approached directly, but through six hexagrams of the other planets. This seems to have irked a few folk on the grounds of (a) it’s not a direct invocation of Sol, and (b) it takes a fair amount of time and arm waving. The unicursal hexagram solves these problems by having a lineal form ascribed the Sun and it being as neat and as speedy as all the other planets.

Some folks have another problem with the unicursal form, seeing it as unbalanced and ungainly, the vertical and basal angles being larger than the peripheral angles. OK. Good point, but not my main concern, and if the damn thing worked as well as the traditional method, this lack of aesthetics would bother only somewhat. My concerns are mainly twofold.

Firstly, the ‘Unicursal Hexagram’, in some GD texts, is also called the ‘Hexangle’, a lineal form containing the blessings of the four elements, Sun, Moon and Spirit – not the planets. And there are some RR et AC colleges that use this form in advanced Enochian magic. Not that the same geometric form cannot be assigned different meanings – they can and occasionally are. But there is no indication that this was the case in the historical GD which has a perfectly good Hexagram already assigned to the planets. If one were to spend years using the hexangle as the ‘unicursal hexagram’ to invoke the planetary forces and then had to relate to the symbol in a completely different manner within ritual, it could be a mite confusing.


However, my second and main concern is that the Unicursal Hexagram ritual ignores the vital Golden Dawn principle that for different forces to be affected there needs to be different names and/or images used.  So if we are seeking to affect each of the four elemental principles we need to have four differing names or images.  In Lesser Pentagram we use the same form, the banishing Earth pentagram, but change the name at each quarter.  In the Lesser Hexagram, we use the same name, ARARITA, but change the forms (a procedure which, incidentally, reflects the unifying power of the name itself).  The Unicursal Hexagram uses the same form and name in each quarter and is therefore is not fully effective nor as transformational.


We must also ask ourselves why we, or perhaps or teacher or perhaps our favourite author adopted this change? Regardie, when justifying his adoption and promotion of the unicursal system in the Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic writes:

The series of Hexagrams to invoke and banish Solar forces are repetitive, clumsy and tedious.

This is a gobsmacking thing for a ceremonial magician to write. Yes, there are six hexagram tracings for Sol – but each is focused on a different reflection of the solar force, through a unique planetary blessing. Each is different in inner workings and outer tracing, and any experienced ritualist would know and experience this difference. I cannot see how experiencing six reflections of the integrating solar force can be ‘tedious’. As for clumsy, well the same form is used for the other six planetary hexagrams – so unless all the traditional hexagrams are considered clumsy, this makes no sense. The obvious conclusion is that Regardie found the unicursal system easier – and would we want to make a change based on this motivation?

Other folk have opined that one of the drawbacks of the system is that Sol is not invoked in a single, direct, manner but through the six other invocations. I will address this in just a mo, but for now I will point out that there are other lineal ritual processes that do invoke the Sun in a single, direct manner, such as those created around the symbol of the Heptagram. And sometimes, this more direct (and advanced) method is to be preferred, but within the Hexagram ritual the Sun is supposed to be invoked in six stages or reflections.

Planets do not transmit their own light; they are dark until the light of the sun shines upon them, reflecting their unique characteristics and blessings to our world and consciousness. This is an incredibly important point, a deep metaphor pointing to an eternal verity. By analysing and invoking the different forms of reflected solar light through the six Solar-planetary hexagrams we are travelling through the full solar system of consciousness and arriving at the central core mystery – the sun itself. This is similar in some ways to my description in this post of how the Hierophant, as the representative and connecting point to the Inner Order is reflected and acts through the six Outer Order officers. There is a lot here, once we really start to look at it.

The other problem with the unicursal is that the two triangles in the Hexagram are supposed to be separated but intersecting. Combining the two triangles in one single, unified stroke misses the point entirely – it is the untouched, invisible centre, the still centre where all is resolved and which integrates and which unites the upper and lower triangles, fire and water, aspiration and inspiration. This again is a deep mystery which can be linked to and experienced in each traditional hexagram ritual but not the unicursal.


I recently came across this very interesting post, Hacking the Solar Hexagram, which treats the subject well and with intelligence, something often absent with those who follow Crowley or Regardie blindly. Here, Scott, drawing on the ideas within ‘The Book of the Glyph’ writes:

When you trace the planetary hexagram in the air, what you get is a unicursal figure because you have to trace across the hexagram from the initial planetary point to its complement.

And that, with this tracing across the hexagram we have “been dealing with a unicursal figure the whole time”.

Respectfully, I disagree. Of course, we do move our hands and tools across this figure, but this is not tracing the hexagram, as that is conducted with inner work not outer hand movement alone. My inner workings for the hexagram are quite clear: once the first triangle is complete, we cease projecting etheric substance from hands and tools and we cease the inner visualization and we cease the inner mental understanding. We commence again only when we begin to trace the second triangle. This is magic 101 – what we do on the inner is what matters. It is like we ‘turn off’ the torch in our tools as we move the line from first triangle to second triangle.

Therefore we are not creating a unicursal form, created from etheric substance, astral light and mental conception at all – we are actually creating the traditional hexagram symbol. If we were to use the method Scott suggests on the inner levels we would not create a hexagram at all, but a bifurcated hexagram, which would have a completely different, non-traditional and non-linked meaning and power. And of course, this method still does not address my concerns of needing to analyse and approach the solar force in six reflected stages nor of the need for the two triangles to be separate and interlocked.

So … I would love to see responses here (other than ‘I done it, it worked’) which address my concerns and explain why the unicursal is as effective as the traditional. Thanks :)

Intellect – it’s not a dirty word

‘You can’t feel God any more than you can think God’ – Karen Armstrong

Sadly, when it comes to the view of intellect within much of the New Age and Pagan communities, the following line of Skyhook’s classic is very apposite: ‘Don’t you believe what you’ve seen or heard’.

This is because an intellectual approach to the mysteries is downplayed while an emotional, ‘feeling’ approached is valorised beyond all sense or reason. Ha! That was deliberate :)

This post was prompted as a response to a recent discussion on an Australian Facebook Pagan group where I saw things that both amazed and dismayed me. Now of course, a few pixels on a screen may not transfer the originating intellect’s (again, deliberate) intention, but after a few dozen comments from several folk, one does tend to get the gist. And in this case, come away a mite wobbly, muttering under one’s breath, Uncle Alick’s famous exclamation, ‘I get fairly frantic when I contemplate the idiocy of these louts’ :)

hey man half brain RAW

The problem is large and multilayered but appears to focus around three areas:

1) Valuing the emotional sphere over the intellectual

2) The lack of language to describe various states of being

3) A confusion between various states of being


The first is the simplest to address, to wit: as soon as anyone values the intellect or emotions as more valuable than the other you have entered the land of Nod where you will wander in oblivion crying out for the Lord of truth. So there :)

The intellect is a key tool for understanding our world, ourselves and the mysteries. It is not a lesser importance than ‘the emotions’ – and the fact that people are valorising ‘feeling’ as better than intellect OVER THE FUCKING INTERNET also means they cannot see when irony is chomping on their bum.

To make sense of this topic I am going to refer to the Qabalah and the Tree of Life – it will be very useful for points two and three especially. OK – look here.

The Tree of Life

Our outer, regular everyday personality selves are comprised of the lower four spheres, Malkuth through Netzach – in really shorthand form: Body, Reactions, Intellect, Emotions. The fifth lowest sphere, Tiphareth forms (again using shorthand) the ‘I’, the real self that has a body but is not the body, that has reactions, thoughts and emotions but has no identification with any of these. Note that intellect and emotions are on the same level and each form the base of a greater form of consciousness above them.

Both are essential, both are divine and both can access the higher consciousness of Tipahreth and ‘control’ or temper the reactive nature of Yesod, for example through Art-Therapy or Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. The 70s style ‘encounter groups’ where folk expressed and worked through their ‘issues’ via Yesod reactions have proven to be pretty much useless for long term personal growth and change.

The same essential verity of co-equality between these two spheres is found in all authentic traditions not just Qabalah, and for anyone to value Netzach above Hod or vice versa is just plain STUPID.


One of the greatest problems to infect and distort the New Age and the Pagan communities is the lack of spiritual literacy. Not only are terms confused – one person’s ‘astral’ is another person’s ‘etheric’ – but often there is no reference at all to a coherent overarching system, like Qabalah. For example, variants of these sentences are being said by various folk over the world right now:

  1. When the bastard cut me off on the road, I felt like bludgeoning him to death.
  2. When I’m with you, I feel like nothing I’ve felt before.
  3. The feeling when the Rinpoche blessed me was out of this world.
  4. I felt the ghost come around me on the left hand side.

All are feelings, eh?


In the four examples above, the first refers to a Yesod reaction based on mammalian territorial politics, the second to a Netzach connection, the third (hopefully) to a Tiphareth communion and the fourth to … Gods knows what? But they are all use the word ‘FEEL’ – and we think we understand this.

If we do not constantly unpack this sort of chatter, which often occurs at the end of a group session, we necessarily just promote confusion. If we do not seek to clarify exactly what ‘feel’ means, we again are on the way to Nod. It is inevitable and is why any decent spiritual system insists on self-reflection and clarification. Hold that thought (yes, deliberate :))

A development of this linguistic confusion occurs when folk have an experience on the inner levels that is beyond their consciousness level of participation. We do not automatically function on the Tiphareth level – heck, most of us just react from Yesod most of the time. One has to learn to develop a capacity to function at the level of the self. It requires careful training and guided self-observation.

So if someone is not trained to function on the Tiphareth level, and they intersect or come across a Tiphareth presence or blessing – which hopefully they will at something like a Drawing Down of the Moon – they have to interpret and experience the blessing as best they can. Depending on the person it is likely to be within Netzach or Hod (and sadly, sometimes Yesod). So James will experience the Goddess in and as ‘feeling’. Penny might do the same as ‘thought/ideas’ … but the presence will be really there, within these spheres. And therefore they will really, honestly say they ‘felt’ the Goddess or the Goddess was ‘in their mind’. These are both true and both limited, as the Goddess is beyond feeling, beyond thought and requires a trained method of perception to fully interact with Her.

Now if James is part of a New Age or Pagan group that values ‘feelings’ and has little spiritual literacy, this experience will just reinforce the idea that ‘feelings’ are spiritual. The lack of discernment and language, not to mention ability to interact at the required levels, means that other ‘feelings’ – like Madonna sings about when made ‘brand new’ through smooching, can be mistaken as ‘spiritual’. And this, my friends, explains the plethora of comments on Facebook that made me and a friend pretty giddy.

The antidote is of course training in both spiritual literacy and methods of actual, real spiritual unfolding. Sadly, as I detail in this post, ‘Spirituality: are we doing it right?’, we often miss the mark and to quote the amazing Rev Dr Cynthia Bourgeault:

As Buddhism observed long ago, pain and pleasure are simply two ends of the old “egoic stick.” As long as one is drawing one’s vital energy from self-esteem, self-affirmation, and self-expression, even in service of the purest and noblest of causes, one is still orbiting within the egoic feedback loop. As long as happiness and a personal sense of selfworth are still the measures by which one relates to life and adjusts one’s heading; as long as vitality is the measure of spiritual wellbeing, one is trapped within the egoic feedback system. These are not moral judgments; they are descriptive criteria. And by these criteria, it is depressingly clear that ninety-nine percent of what is being promulgated as contemporary Western spirituality is merely fine-tuning the ego. (emphasis added).

I see no reason to exclude New Age, Pagan and Magical spiritualties from this assessment – but they remain, in my view the best hope for authentic and powerful spirituality, personal and communal, we have. So let’s get spiritually literate, eh? THANKS :)

Change within the Golden Dawn and Wicca

ctThere’s been a lot of good chat on Facebook recently about the various versions of the Golden Dawn rituals and the importance, or lack thereof, of making sure one sticks with the traditional way of doing things and wot-not. This was largely started by magician and author Nick Farrell on the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn Facebook group. It tied in nicely with some discussions I am having at the moment with Wiccans, Neo-Wiccans and others over the traditional methods of female to male polarity and initiation. This post, naturally, is my take on things :)

A lot of the discussion surrounds the parts of the GD and Wiccan ceremonies that are seemingly easily identified as being either:

(1) Imported from the prevailing cultural milieux of the founders;

(2) Reflecting the personal bias of the founders;

(3) Examples of obvious ‘filling’ or ‘padding’ of rituals, using text cut and pasted from public sources but often with quite different meanings and uses than the original; or

(4) Simply wrong – either by publisher/editor errors or due to internal inconsistency.

Wicca is a classic example of this. Gerald Gardner’s Witchcraft has liturgy that reflect contemporary social mores, his own personal take on things and which uses a wide range of sources, published and unpublished but rarely in a manner faithful to the original meaning of the texts. It’s the same in the Golden Dawn with swathes of quotes from the recently translated ‘Chaldean Oracles’ and the Bible.

With these points in mind, some folk seem quite happy to take to both GD and Wiccan liturgy with creative enthusiasm, changing and improving bits here and there, and generally having a good old redaction. However, there are a few odd ducks like me who pause and say ‘Ere hang on a minute!’

Personally I am very reluctant to change much in the Golden Dawn or Wiccan systems without careful thought and understanding. Of course, as I discuss in this post Traditional Reconstruction and the Golden Dawn, authentic traditions are never static and are always in a process of renewing themselves. However, it is the tradition itself which has agency in this process, not the individual practitioners of the tradition. The tradition is never changed, altered or reconstructed for personal reasons. This means we have to be very careful when we are considering any changes. There are four main reasons for this:

(1) Mastery

(2) Inner work

(3) Evidence of Results

(4) Linking of currents

MASTERY. Using the classic, and hopefully not too worn example: you have to know and master the rules before you can break them or create new rules. This applies to both art and craft and also I believe spiritual and magical practice. This means we really need to know the ceremonies and practices, and the orthometapraxic principles behind them before we consider any change. So with reference to the Golden Dawn and Wicca, this means both a certain degree of initiation and a bodacious load of experience and magic too. Within the online Golden Dawn community elders such as Pat Zalewski are clear: the more they study the GD ceremonies the more they find and uncover. Now, if that is the case, can any of us really say we have mastered the understanding of any ceremony enough for wholesale changes? Just a question :)

wicca1INNER WORK. One of the hallmarks of Golden Dawn/RR et AC magic is the presence of inner work on many levels. As I detail in this post, the Inner Work of a Magical Lodge, besides the speeches and floor work, there is a whole lot of action going on during a GD ceremony. This is articulated in a few historical GD documents and has been the subject of research and exposition by several contemporary GD folk. Similar inner work occurs within the Wiccan ceremonies, despite a noticeable absence of discussion.

The presence of this inner work means if we cut or change any outer action, the chances are we will be altering the inner work of the ceremony. Some folk may not believe this, or think they may have identified the inner work and can easily replace the outer form, but I am not so sanguine. Again, this ties into the notion of mastery discussed above but also brings in the concept of the egregore of the group and the tradition in question. These magical inner actions are, within the egregore, linked to the traditional outer forms – even if they are pages from the Old Testament or atrocious poetry that sets one on edge. Replacing outer forms then requires not only a full understanding of the corresponding inner work, but also the ability to move counter to the egregore and link them to new outer forms. I’m not sure how many folk are up to this? ;)

There is a counterargument of course that much of the above is speculation, that the outer forms are just ritual garbage and fluff and it is a modern affectation to imbue them with meaning and magic: that is, Mathers and co really just liked to waffle on. :) Now that may be the case or may not. There certainly is little literary evidence of inner workings within the historical GD corpus, but it does exist in oral tradition. Where and when these oral traditions originated is difficult to say, but they do work to empower the rituals, even the ‘boring’ and out-of-place bits. So changing elements is, again in my view, a task that requires mastery and surety beyond the ken of most of us.

EVIDENCE OF RESULTS. The purpose of the Golden Dawn – and in some views, Wicca, is to change, unfold and transform the initiate. If we wish to alter the ceremonies and practices we really should be sure we are making things better. The evidence of improvement would be in the lives of our initiates. But magic is not like making a cake where we may add or substitute allspice for cinnamon (which of course we should do) and see the results the same evening. The unfolding of an initiate is a lifetime task. If we alter something in the Zelator grade ceremony, we may not see the result for a decade, as practices and certain ceremonial elements within the Inner Order ‘sit on top of’ the energetic and inner changes created at Zelator. So, by necessity any changes cannot be lauded and validated for many years. And what if we get it wrong …

The counter argument to this is that the GD and Wicca don’t have a good track record to begin with; that the historical evidence suggests the asylum was well and truly run by the loonies from the get-go. I can only offer my personal experience in response to this. The Golden Dawn community, and in some respects the Wiccan, though I have less experience there, is comprised of a diverse range of people.

A small percentage make you want to shower after meeting them. Icky. A goodly amount are plainly idiots or simply ‘fine tuning the ego’ by magic and Paganism without any real desire for authentic spiritual growth. A large contingent are lovely, decent, honest folk with good hearts and clear brains, as evidenced by the large scale support shown for charitable causes such as the eye operation of GD adept and author Aaron Leitch. And one or two produce awe and amazement, being such refined and compassionate examples of what it means to be ‘more than human’, they take you breath away. I have been blessed to meet a couple of these souls and they ascribe any unfoldment they have undergone directly to the traditions of the GD and RR et AC as traditionally practiced. So this has meaning for me :)

LINKING OF CURRENTS. This final reason for a conservative approach to change is, I think, largely my own. I’ve not seen it discussed much and draws, frankly, on a more Inner Light tradition approach than GD – or at least it its features are articulated better in the Inner Light tradition than the GD or Wicca. It revolves around the concept of the evolution of inner plane spiritual currents and their manifestation in new outer forms. We can see this in both the Golden Dawn and Wicca.

The contemporary consensus is that the founders of the GD, especially Mathers  and his wife, were inspired by other forces or beings to create the GD. We may choose to believe this inspiration came from a putative physical ‘third Order’, or an inner plane, non-incarnate, being sometimes identified with the angel Raphael, or simply label it as ‘spiritual inspiration’. However we describe it, it is clear it was in some ways ‘beyond’ the personal lives and egos of the founders.

The Golden Dawn, much like Wicca 60 years later, became the embodiment of a new mode of spiritual expression. And this seeped into and through the founders’ teachings, rituals and methods of magic. Just as much of what we take from granted as being Pagan was embodied in and given enduring form by Wicca, so too much of what we think of as ‘magic’ was created and given expression by the Golden Dawn. Whenever we use the word ‘magic’ in a spiritual context, the chances are we are thinking within a paradigm and worldview created or modified by the Golden Dawn.

The inner currents or blessings of the newly developing tradition of western spiritual magic, for some reason, earthed or manifested through the Golden Dawn and its founders and initial innovators, a distinctly odd combination of people. There were several other contemporary magical groups, but none, I believe, were empowered in the same way by these interior blessings and currents. This is why the Golden Dawn, despite its many problems, prospered, expanded, survived and seeded many other expressions of magical practice.

The same process, I believe, occurred with Wicca. There were several, possibly many, other avenues and streams of attempted realisation of the bourgeoning new ‘spiritual Paganism’ current extant in the first half of the 20th century, such as the Order of Woodcraft Chivalry, and the work being done in the Fraternity of the Inner Light. However, Gardner’s Wicca – clearly created originally as a personal exploration – was chosen by the Gods as their vehicle, and despite again, the quirks and foibles of the initial bunch of folk, it, prospered, expanded, survived and seeded many other expressions of Pagan practice.

This embodiment of interior currents and blessings, I believe, explains not only why the GD and Wicca remain potent and strong today, but why certain – and let’s face it, naff – elements within these traditions, are experienced as pretty cool. We can feel and experience the currents, even within terrible poetry and screeds of the Old Testament. I believe that the process of embodying these currents linked and fused them to both the inner work and outer form of the Golden Dawn and Wiccan ceremonies. They are present within the structure of the Order and religion themselves. This is very wonderful, if you think about it. This is why – and is the main reason – I am reluctant to change much within the GD and Wicca: I am not confident my meddling would retain these currents.

Of course, all things change and I am not advocating things stay the same, time immemorial. Traditions change and indeed they should, as I describe in this post, on the inevitability of diversity (but not schism). However, both Wicca and the Golden Dawn embody deep spiritual presences through their ceremonies. The ceremonies are both wonderful and flawed (as we humans are) – but they are the doorway to these currents and are inextricably linked to them. And just as the divine can be found in our imperfection as humans, so too it can, and is, found in the imperfect traditions we have been blessed to receive. Thanks :)

RIP Gough Whitlam – political ancestor work

gough-whitlamEarly this morning, Edward ‘Gough’ Whitlam, arguably the greatest Prime Minister Australia has ever known, died, aged 98.

His legacy is beyond words. Even today, after decades of conservative politics ripping at the heart of Australia, we see his influence. Aboriginal women, children and men, live on their own lands thanks to his initiatives. Hundreds of thousands of state funded university educated Australians owe him a debt. Our international relationships were fostered by him. Universal healthcare and improved social security came from his actions. The introduction of no-fault divorce, the end of conscription and the end of Australia’s participation in the Vietnam War. He and his wife, Margaret (who died in 2012) were also tirelessly supportive of the Australian arts and protections for the environment.

Not only will he live on in memory, but also within a near universal admiration and willingness to see him as a greater-than-life figure, to focus on his successes and acknowledge, though never condone, his failures (like East Timor). Gough continues to inspire generations of Australians who were never directly affected by his time in politics. This is the mark of a great human being.

Gough will become a political ancestor and we Pagan and magic folk understand how that works.

The memory, the life, the personality of great people become the focal point for universal forces to move through and interact with the world. By offering to their memories, their legacy and lives, their triumphs and continuing presence in the world, we grow and strengthen the ancestor. So they become able to continue to influence the world and be the mediation of the inner forces of truth, harmony and justice that inspired their lives while on earth.

Lee Morgan of My Craft and Sullen Art fame suggested this morning on Facebook we consciously create a ‘Multiple tradition political ancestor cult’ to honour Gough’s memory. She has created a Facebook page to this end, ‘Gough Whitlam Ancestor Cult’. Have a look. Tonight we will hold a ceremony and meal in his honour. You are invited to participate in whatever way you wish.

Shrine to Gough at work

Shrine to Gough at work

Know this: Gough is not actually dead.

I saw him this morning with a sick girl at the doctors.
I see him in every woman who earns as much as her male counterpart.
I see him every hour in the lives of divorcees and the educated.
I hear his voice in the songs of indigenous Australians who now live on their own land.
I see him in the wonder expressed by the thousands who visit the National Gallery.
I see him in those who marvel at the Barrier Reef and the environmentally protected National Parks.

Gough will never die.

By the Book – NOT!

Back in the 80s and early 90s there was a hush-hush piece of Golden Dawn lore used to separate the wheat from the chaff. It was seldom spoken about and, for some, served as a little piece of GD ‘one-upmanship’, a kinda hidden snobbery that could make you feel superior. It concerned the Lesser Ritual of the Hexagram. You see, up until then (and still occasionally today), the published instructions for the LRH were wrong.

The published form of the final, water/north form of the LRH showed to inscribe the top triangle first, when in fact it should be inscribed second. Where this mistake crept into the published GD lore is, for me at least, unclear. It was certainly there in the first and second editions of Israel Regardie’s, the Golden Dawn. I imagine it was from this second edition that the mistake was copied by many other writers following the ‘occult explosion’ of the 1970s.


By the time the fifth edition of Regardie’s opus came out, the mistake had been quietly corrected. However, it was still included in first editions of works by such bodacious magicians as Stephen Skinner (Techniques of High Magic, 1977), Chic and Tabby Cicero (The New Golden Dawn Ritual Tarot, 1991) and Donald Michael Kraig (Modern Magick,1988). It was even repeated in Regardie’s swansong, the Falcon Press issued, The Complete Golden Dawn System of Magic, 1995. Subsequent editions of these books have again, quietly, corrected the mistake.

Clifford Bias, in the incredibly dense Ritual Book of Magic (1981), a compilation of more magical rituals and processes you could poke a stick at, all sans inner workings, gives the correct instructions but buggers up the elemental attribution of the hexagrams (or is making some unknown point). That’s as close to a correct instruction I found in the period up to the early 1990s.


Interestingly, Crowley, in the original edition of Magick in Theory and Practice (1929), gives the final form correctly but omits the numbering of the arrows in that form. This suggests to me that perhaps the mistake had already crept into some Order’s instructional papers and Uncle Alick wanted to make the reader work it out for themselves.*

And really, that is the important message from this little tale. The fact that the instructions were incorrect would have become obvious to any adept who had worked out the form for all seven planetary hexagrams. The GD papers give the instructions on how to work out the manner of tracing. As soon as an adept had learnt the LRH for Saturn they would have seen the mistake in the generic LRH instructions.

So why were the mistaken instructions repeated by many authors and teachers for sixty years?

From memory it was clear that Llewellyn publishers were simply using the diagrams of the LRH in Regardie’s second edition for several other books – it saves money. Could a newer author’s wishes to provide a correct diagram have been overridden by editors who couldn’t be fagged getting a new diagram? Possibly, though I feel unlikely – especially when the mistake crossed several publishers.

Or, could the adepts in question have NOT actually work out the Lesser Hexagrams of the Planets? This however, is an essential Zelator Adeptus Minor task and one cannot easily suggest such a failure, can one?

In the case of the Ciceros, being trained by Regardie we can perhaps see a reason: Regardie did not like the traditional hexagram forms and suggested the use of the Unicursal Hexagram, and use of that would not show the mistake at all. Personally, I think the Unicursal hexagram inferior for a number of reasons, which I detail in my book By Names and Images. But, yes this could be a reason. But really, a good Z.A.M. curriculum would be instructive on these traditional forms, Regardie’s personal choices being included or not.

The fact that generations of magicians copied the mistaken instructions happily suggests they just did the LRH as published and never went on and worked out the basic hexagram forms or were copying Regardie’s views without care or thought.

And the real point of all this is simply: do not trust books.

Writers make mistakes. Editors make mistakes. Publishers make mistakes. In the old days printers made mistakes and dropped plates of sigils of spirits and accidently published them reversed. It’s easy to do.

I am reminded of an English edition of Franz Bardon’s Practice of Magical Evocation which detailed methods to evoke, control and work with a range of spirits and demons, all listed under their names, which are terribly important to know if you want to avoid being gobbled up or wot not. This edition included, at the end, an errata slip explaining some of the names of the spirits were incorrect and the reader was advised not to evoke them. Too bad if you had been working through a chapter at a time!

And like I detail in this post, working these things out for yourself from a set of core principles and rules is magical in and by itself. These books that show completed rituals, page after page, for each planet and force are not only wasting trees (or bytes and joules) but are also doing their readers a disservice.

Thanks :)

*Crowley’s followers now tend to add the arrows in later editions: for example: