It was an amazing and wonderful day, full of magic, love and beauty. Lots of lovely people showed up, opened their minds and hearts, brought books and enjoyed themselves and each other’s company. We had magicians, Pagans, Druids, atheists, Freemasons, Catholics, Wiccans, Shamans and Buddhist monks among others. Such diversity!
My Beloved One introduced my work with a wonderful overview and reading an appreciation from Gareth Knight, which can be found here. Then I got up and did my ‘unaccustomed as I am to public speaking’ bit The rough notes for what I said are below. It was the first time I used a tablet-pc instead of physical notes as a reference point, and I must say it was bloody brilliant. I recommend it to any speaker.
Thanks to everyone, outer and inner, who brought about the book and the celebration-launch, and all who came to support it, in body or spirit. You know who you are!
“I will make this brief, so that we can all simply relax, mingle and chat a bit. There is a huge diversity of people here, so please feel free to move outside your regular circle a bit
The nature of the book, doesn’t really lend itself to a lengthy reading…so I’ll just do a bit here and there, and mention a few things about the book, the Golden Dawn and how it’s impacted my own life.
By Names and Images is about a particular kind of ritual magic, that of the Golden Dawn. We’ll get to magic in a moment, but just to recap from what has already been said, the Golden Dawn was originally a group in Victorian England who practiced ritual and spiritual magic. Inspired by the mythical Rosicrucian brotherhood, a 17th century group of Christian-Hermetic mystics, possessed of ancient wisdom and methods of healing, the Golden Dawn was a modern manifestation of the esoteric or hidden spiritual wisdom in the West.
The Golden Dawn tradition included as members many significant and important people of the era, including the poet and Nobel prize winner, WB Yeats, the novelists E. Nesbit and Charles Williams as well spiritual pioneers such as Alan Bennett who was the first person to introduce Theravadan Buddhism to the UK, and Pixie Colman Smith the artist of the most popular Tarot deck in the world. All of these and many more were drawn to the Golden Dawn by its magic.
Now magic is an odd word, with many meanings that have changed over the centuries. It was once seen as a divine science with nothing but the highest spiritual connotations, far removed from today’s association of disrepute and outdated, psychologically dubious modes of thought.
However, the best definition of magic I feel comes from Golden Dawn adept Florence Farr when she wrote, a century ago, that magic “unlimits” us. It takes us beyond regular everyday existence into the presence of the sacred, the numinous and the unknowable. And hopefully it brings us back in time to make the kids’ dinner.
This view finds resonance with the religious conception of ecstasy; a standing beside or outside one’s self, a transportation to the higher states of consciousness which renews and gives meaning and power to our lives. The ecstatic experience however, is not a momentary thing. It changes our lives and provides us with an ongoing source of richness, love, power and beauty. In effect it makes us fully alive.
These are exactly the gifts this wonderful Golden Dawn tradition has showered upon me since I first discovered it when still a teenager. Without it I would be a very different person, a smaller, more broken person without deep inner relationships and love. Being naturally ‘sensitive’, for want of a better word, I could easily have become lost in various other pursuits in an attempt to reach this deeper, spiritual level of understanding. These pursuits range from commercial ‘feel good’ new age courses to cults to psychedelic drugs. That I have avoided these pitfalls, remained reasonably balanced within a frankly disordered world, and have been privileged to help others through spiritual magic and healing, is directly attributable to the Golden Dawn. In particular I owe an unpayable debt to my teacher and guide, mentioned in the book, Greatly Honoured Frater, DH.
The Golden Dawn was able to change and expand me because it is a depth spiritual tradition – one concerned with practice and method not simply confessional faith, which has been the norm for most western religions since the Renaissance. Like all authentic traditions its practices work on the inner levels, the interior aspects of ourselves and the universe via certain key principles, the main one forming the title of the Book. During an important Golden Dawn ceremony the lead officer declaims:
By names and images are all powers awakened and reawakened.
When we say the name of our beloved, we feel their unique presence. When we imagine their face before us, our emotions and our mind changes. However, when we try the same experiment with the name and image of a politician – we get a … different result. So, in company with all the great spiritual traditions across the world – Christian, Buddhist, pagan, Hindu, Shamanic and others – the Golden Dawn uses words, and images precisely – along with breath, ritual, posture and other methods to unlimit, to change and transform us.
However, how it exactly does this has never been readily apparent – even in the original groups in Victorian England, one was often simply given the raw texts and rituals and if you were lucky someone more experienced would come along and show you how it worked. This problem became particuarly acute for the thousands of people who would follow the published Golden Dawn material, available since 1937.
As I teenager I discovered that while many of the books on the Golden Dawn described the rituals, what to say, how to wave our arms around, none one them actually showed how to DO the rituals. By this I mean the required visualisation, movements of energy, focus, breath and dynamics that that empower the ritual on the inner levels – the stuff that makes a ritual transformational and not simply a piece of drama.
READ P.36 “RITUAL UNLIKE …” [you'll have to purchase a copy for this bit www.bynamesandimages.com]
After purchasing a particularly bad example of the type of Golden Dawn book that showed the ‘what’ not the ‘how’ – all surface glitter but no depth – I decided that if I was ever in a position to, I would write and publish a book that revealed how the Golden Dawn actually works, laying it all out in the open, simply and clearly. It was a lovely thought, though hardly an informed one, quite naive but full of the best intentions typical of new seekers on any spiritual path. Over the years, as I slowly came into and was taught the inner knowledge of the Golden Dawn, this intention and commitment kept coming back to me.
It is a testament to the Golden Dawn tradition itself that I, a simple lad living in a city far away from the tradition’s homeland of England, could even start on this project. To say I was guided and helped at every step of the way is an understatement.
And with such guidance, and I must say such love, from the tradition and it’s interior guardians, I was eventually in a position to begin the book. Many years later, with more help than I could name, we have By Name and Images – a book that attempts to provide the hitherto unpublished keys to the magic of the Golden Dawn, to bring it to life.
If my endeavour is in any way successful it is due to those who have taught, guided and put up with me and my magic for many years. It is also, I feel thanks utterly to those interior beings of the Golden Dawn who guide it. In an article on the book, Gareth Knight, my publisher, mentions the significance in western magic of the number 120, and 120 years in particular. How 120 years is seen as an almost gestational period, where something is hidden and buried, and revealed years later. Now the Golden Dawn began in 1888, but the second Order, the group that practiced the interior magic By Names and Images explores, was not formed until 1892.
And, so with seven years delay at another publisher to bump up the years, I am aware of the happy coincidence that the magic which began in 1892 is now being published a 120 years later. To me this shows it has all been out of my hands all along…