No Sex (Magic) Please, We’re British

Mr Crowley, by Mr Crowley

Last week I wandered down to Burrati Fine Arts to see ‘The Nightmare Paintings‘, a small exhibition of Aleister Crowley’s art. It was well worth the visit. Perth doesn’t always get such events, so it’s something you just have to do. Now Uncle Alick’s writings and life have never inspired me to even consider Thelema as a path, philosophy or wot not. And I still think he misunderstood heaps about the Golden Dawn (the so called ‘elemental’ grades for a start).

Misgivings aside however, Crowley is certainly a prominent Beast. It seems like you can’t wander across the esoteric net these days without coming across pronouncements of new-new Aeon currents and magical formulae expressed by arcane numbers. And above all else, be amazed at how often these numbers refer to Crowley’s most influential contribution to Western esotericism – sex magic.

Crowley of course did not start western sex magic, but he definitely put a certain spin on it, tarted the whole process up and inspired hundreds of lesser imitators and wannabes for the last century. So much so that these days many people think the classical Golden Dawn secretly taught sex magic also. Ho hum. Now, despite risking a thunderous, roaring volley of accusations of being anti-sex and infected by Victorian morality, the simple fact is there is no evidence the Golden Dawn taught sex magic, even at its highest levels.

And just to be clear; I am saying there is no evidence. If new evidence is discovered, I’ll happily change my tune. :)

Bishop Allen Greenfield is no stranger to the part sexual magic played and plays in the western gnosis. In fact, he’s studied and written an awful lot on the subject. In his The Authentic Magical Tradition in the 18th & 19th Centuries he clearly describes the authentic tradition as holding a “traditionally secret approach to sexuality as a means of transcendence”. He also categorically states that this tradition “did not make it into” the Golden Dawn because of Victorian morality and therefore the GD style of  “strictly above the waist magick” misses the point.

Naturally, I heartily disagree with the good Bish that the GD tradition misses the point; many and varied forms of non-sexual contact magic have served and continue to serve magicians across the world, leading them to service, transformation and fulfilment. I do however agree with his opinion that sexual magic was not part of the classical (pre 1903) Golden Dawn. And the other day I saw comments from Pat Zalewski and Nick Farrell echoing this view. So, that’s a neat little argument from authority, isn’t it? :)

In fact, the whole notion of sexuality and sexual expression was a bit of a powder-keg and a persistent difficultly for the Order – just like it was in society as a whole back then.

The Golden Dawn, being a progressive institution, we might expect to have been sexually liberated.  The accounts of the Order that we have tell a different story.  With a few notable exceptions, the Golden Dawn was as much subject to late-Victorian morals as the rest of society.” – Gordon Strong, forthcoming, The Golden Dawn: Priest and Priestess – the Key to Ritual Magic, published by Silent Eye Press 2013.

J.W. Brodie-Innes

This does not mean the Golden Dawn rituals and teachings are devoid of the symbolism, connections, motifs and structures for sexual magic. Greenfield is also clear that early antecedents to the Golden Dawn, such as The Society of Eight, held the ‘authentic’ tradition. It is therefore reasonable to assume some influence from the ‘authentic’ tradition entered the Golden Dawn. This influence, like so much of the accumulated western magical tradition, is often ‘buried’ within the GD corpus. Just as modern magicians are daily finding new treasures in the vast richness that is the Z Document (now 120 years old) so too are there many other depths waiting to be brought out. As I have said before, this exegetical form of magic is a hallmark of the RR et AC, and each adept personally creates her own gnosis by interacting with the tradition. It is never revealed from outside, much less a part of some secret and codified ‘higher’ teaching of an Order.

It is possible certain elements of the ‘authentic tradition’ concerning sexuality entered or were revived in Orders associated with the post-classical Golden Dawn, most notably the Cromlech Temple. The CT may have, in some ways, functioned as a higher or third Order of the Golden Dawn, and many of its mysteries remain hidden even today. Its chief officer and originator of most of its original material was J.W. Brodie-Innes, a man to whom there is more to meet the eye of even the most dedicated occult historian.

It may not be a coincidence that the Master of the Temple in Eric Ericson’s rip roaring occult novel of the same name is also a Scot named ‘Innes’. This fictional Innes is described as handsome, sturdy, young for his age and with the look of someone who spent much time outdoors, something that could have been said of the real Mr Innes. The novel is wonderfully researched and happily conflates Golden Dawn lodge work with OTO styled sex magic along with some nifty creations by the author himself. Whoever ‘Eric Ericson’ was/is, he certainly knew his stuff.

Anyway, I digress. Brodie-Innes was also likely a magical mentor and teacher of Dion Fortune during her early years of magical training. It seems then a possibility that some of her ideas on sacred sexuality and the feminine may have stemmed from this venerable Scottish leader of the Golden Dawn. Certainly there are magical sexual themes and explorations within the unpublished Aura Papers of the CT. I’ve been able to publish a few of these here, but most at this stage remain unpublished. Look at Aura Paper 23, Concerning Sex on the Aura to get a sense of what I mean.

Any practical magical exploration of these themes however is best conducted well outside the gaze of the Neophyte and indeed the Outer Order. In this light we can again read the much quoted letter from Moina Mathers to Paul Foster Case, a letter used by those who believe the GD taught sex magic to ‘prove’ their argument:

I regret that anything on the Sex question should have entered into the Temple at this stage for we only begin to touch on sex matters directly, in quite the higher Grades. In fact, we only give a rather complete explanation of this subject in that Grade where the Adept has proved to be so equilibrated and spiritualized that he is complete lord of his passionate self. Believe me, this is not mere theory.

Moina Mathers

There is nothing here that indicates methods and processes for physical sexual magic were taught at all, only information on “sex matters” at a very high grade. The “not mere theory” clause is obviously used to emphasise the implicit warning that “sex matters” not be approached before the adept is completely in control of his “passionate self”.

Annie Hornimann, as Theoricus-Adeptus Minor, was also given the brush off by Moina back in 1895, a few short years after the Inner Order had begun. Either the Mathers had nothing much to teach on the subject and were temporizing or the matter was indeed far above the Adeptus Minor grades. The ‘high level’ nature of this subject is I think a crucial point, whether or not the Mathers at some point developed some theories about it all.

Personally, it is only now after 25 years of intense esoteric practice and a bucket load of grace that I think I understand what sacred sexuality actually entails. What this ‘is’ is not easily explained. From a Qabalistic perspective I would say we can’t even begin to understand sacred sexuality without the Tipharetic level of consciousness, a point of view affirmed by the few authentic esoteric traditions that ‘teach’ the subject.

So really, as a magical community we should say very little about the practice of sex magic and a lot about how we move towards valuing sex as sacred. The way to do this is through our own personal spiritual unfoldment, not through any magical sexual practice at all. During the unfoldment process we need to approach sex from a moral perspective which guides us to make choices as if we were already at the deeper level of consciousness that fully understands sex as sacred. This is the function of ethical choices and disciplined behaviour. All the authentic esoteric traditions would agree with this.

The dangers of prematurely acting within the sexual-magic realm are real, as are the results which are sadly visible in any modern Neo-Pagan and magical community. The Golden Dawn arrangement of the Outer and Inner Orders limits these dangers – if adhered to. Any form of magic, traditional or sexual, within the Golden Dawn is only ever conducted as part of Inner Order work. The integrity of the Order’s method of transformation is predicated on this structure which follows the traditional esoteric approach to spiritual unfoldment of: renunciation of the false self (Outer Order), followed by re-creation of a functional-magical self (Inner Order) to eventually embody the revelation of the eternal verities (symbolised by the Third Order).

Rose Cross

Rose Cross

Modern magical groups that flaunt or revise this system and bring magic into the early grades damage the coherence and the integrity of a sophisticated approach to magical development. Simply put, we cannot use magic to re-create a self that is still in a process of renunciation. Any non-traditional redactions of the methods of the RR et AC to include physical sexual magic should be limited to the Inner Order, if undertaken at all. This is just plain sense. In fact, I would say a rough rule of thumb would assign the practices to the Chesedic Adeptus Exemptus grade. Tiphareth would integrate the concept of sacred and magical sexuality within the newly developing self. Geburah would limit and transform personal and transpersonal hindrances to this reality, leaving Chesed as the sphere of any operations. Indeed, “quite the higher Grades” as Moina would put it. Maybe the ol’ girl knew a thing or two after all? :)

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17 comments

  1. alexsumner · December 17, 2012

    When I read the paper on Dual potencies, I get the impression that Mathers was going to use that to introduce the subject of sex magick … but chickened out, and left it half undone. To get an idea of what I mean, one should compare it with the The Holy Letter, or more realistically (given that copies are not generally available), what Donald Michael Kraig or Aryeh Kaplan has to say about the same subject.

    PS Nice to see Master Of The Temple mentioned. IMO it’s a forgotten classic of modern occult literature! :)

  2. Donald Michael Kraig · December 17, 2012

    While I agree with your quote from Gordon Strong, “With a few notable exceptions, the Golden Dawn was as much subject to late-Victorian morals as the rest of society,” it implies a simplicity that simply never existed. What we refer to as “late-Victorian morals” was actually only the morals of a small part of English society, the middle class. At that time, the majority of the population was the lower class and the middle and upper classes were small in number. The massive lower classes and small upper class did not follow the repressed sexual morality of the middle class.

  3. Peregrin · December 17, 2012

    Hi Alex, yes I can see where you are coming from re Mathers. :)

    And yes, Master of the Temple is very cool, a definite forgotten classic. Do you know anything about ‘Eric Ericson’ being in the right part of the world? I was told he was a leading executive at a bid advertising agency and SIRA member. Sounds possible? Ta.

    @DMK – thanks for this. I have heard similar things, and contradictory opinions also. Never done enough research to make up my own mind for sure. Good to have your input on this :)

  4. alexsumner · December 17, 2012

    Peregrin,
    People who write lurid sexy occult fiction in the style of Eric Ericson tend not to last long in the SRIA, or at least they get shouted at a lot. :(

  5. jakekarlins · December 17, 2012

    “Simply put, we cannot use magic to re-create a self that is still in a process of renunciation.” Fantastic. This jibes nicely with my Buddhist understanding. Good stuff, Peregrin.

  6. Pat Zalewski · December 17, 2012

    The Metatron /Sandalphon paper was in two levels. The first was minor and polarity driven and the second was never to be designed to be looked at in a single level. If you look at the Cromlech temple papers on sex in the aura then at order level this paper is an homology to it. But if other layers of this paper are taken into account then it opens a set of sub texts that go in almost any direction you want it to. The whole concept is more alchemical in its construct but through deep kabbalistic lens. I wrestled with this paper for many years and when the deep layers of kabbalistic pointers elude you , you then go to an expert to summarise and analyse them. This I did and called on Olen to guide me through these deeper kabbalistic layers. To fully understand the depth of this paper you’d need to attend a few years at Jewish seminary college .

    When I had the whole thing laid out in front of me I came to the conclusion that while Mathers adapted this diagram, as did Carnegi Dickson (an extension of the AO cosmology) , neither fully understood its deeper Jewish symbolism. Even with Olen at my elbow I had some issues to clear up. I suggest people look at it in layers and consider the sex aspect only a minor function.

    Pat

  7. Tony Fuller · December 17, 2012

    An interesting post Peregrin. There is a small amount of circumstantial evidence that Dion Fortune was herself a member of the Cromlech Temple. Certainly she was a friend of Maiya Tranchell- Hayes who certainly was a member. And it is known from the work of Gareth Knight that in the 1940s the two women worked together utilising several key Cromlech concepts and names of Cromlech Masters – e.g. Shemesh. Hakim etc. Dr Carnegie Dickson was head of the Cromlech Temple at this time as well as the Amoun Temple which had, by this stage, brought together members of the AO (of which Tranchell-Hayes was a member) and the SM in which Dion Fortune became a minor Adept. Both SM and AO members belonged to Cromlech. In my view Dion Fortune acquired Cromlech teaching either by being a member herself (the most likely scenario) or by CT members (violating their oath) and providing her with material.

    Although there are no ‘practical exercises’ in sex magic in the CT material (or the GD of course) there are some controversial views expressed – for example, one paper notes that there is no, repeat ‘no’, expression of sexuality which should be condemned. This is a fairly dramatic view even for 2012 let along for the turn of the last century. Lest, however, one interprets this as a licence for any sex act, the paper goes on to say that one should always abide by the laws of the particular time and place where on lives.

    It is also true as Pat Zalewski and others have observed, that the Jewish Kabbalah (in some of its forms) imparts a deep sexual theory behind manifestation, spirituality and indeed, by extension, to magic. This is implicit in the Metatron/Sandalphon paper and more explicit (albeit beneath the verbiage) of Waite’s “Holy Kabbalah”. One can detect it even within the higher Grades of Waite’s FRC Order. I might add that the general foundation of the CT ‘Aura’ papers is an extension (in many ways) of ‘Ritual U’, the Kabbalistically themed GD paper.

    It is my view that the GD, and all its off-shoots, are deeply founded on an explanatory theory of the universe (natural and supernatural) which is essentially sexual. How this translates out into practical ‘sexual magic’ is quite another matter. In the context of physical carnality, not at all for most of the Orders. But there is some evidence of aspects of using the sexual theory outside and beyond the material – with elementals, and higher spiritual beings but this is too complex to discuss here.

    Lastly, it may be noted that Dion Fortune knew Carnegie Dickson well and may have attended the Amoun Temple, just as she did the Hermes Temple until relations became frosty after the Regardie debacle. We do know that in the 1940s she began work for the Grade of Geburah and it is possible that this was with the encouragement of Carnegie Dickson and Tranchell-Hayes who were working the GD/AO version rather than that of the SM.

  8. Peregrin · December 17, 2012

    Hello Tony and Pat,

    very nice and informative to have your comments here – thanks :)

    Pat – great comments re the Metatron-Sandalphon papers, and the multilayering it has :) Does my head in, it fairly does :)

    Tony, if I am clear on what you are saying, you are suggesting a CT influence on Dion Fortune later in her life, rather than the few years of overlap between her AO initiation and the death of Brodie-Innes? I wish we could be sure of this, and I hope your research turns up more evidence to clarify the matter. Dion’s views on sacred sexuality etc, then would have to have another genesis, since she was teaching and publishing them long before her and Maiya Tranchell- Hayes had their rapprochement.

    I fully agree with the other sentiments you express, especially the Kabbalistic sexual theory buried within Waite’s FRC ceremonies. Some of these, as Gilbert says, are working with such high level potencies and supernal forces they are almost unworkable in the fullest sense.

    Anyway, thanks again for the comments, and please write your book on all this soon :)

  9. Pat Zalewski · December 17, 2012

    Tony brings up an interesting point re the sexual sub text of Waite’s order, which is an odd place to find it.It only makes any sense if the CT papers are behind it. If so the Thread of the 3 GD orders then are weaved with the CT papers for the higher levels.

    However I would add I have not seen the higher teachings of Waite’s order and can only guess that this is the case and whether the much speculated Lillith rite is part of this is an one question to the uninitiated. I am convinced beyond any shadow of a doubt that the CT papers were AO and SM teachings in the UK – a point Tony has often drawn our alluded to. I hope that Tony will place on the net, an updated version of the CT papers being second and possibly third order teachings of the SM and AO (Waite?). There is an open invitation for him to do so on my GD Yahoo forum.

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  12. mist42nz · December 17, 2012

    Always had the impression that sacred sex magic had more about expression of the joining of internal duality. And man’s transcendent self being absorbed/coming to terms with the immanent materialism and subjective truths of the feminine world of form. The woman finally seizing her own self power (eg the number of “strong” (and somewhat possibly homosexual) GD higher female officers ;) ) and taking grasp of the currents to force her own Will on the currents, without seeking logical justification from environment, tradition or authority – yet without the ‘wild self-service’ that I used to see too much of with drunken women while I worked security).
    Yet in doing the above, it is required also that the self ascends beyond the Self. That the more divine spirit “beyond the mere self” is also realised as child of the union. Crossing the mundane, the advantages and deceits of herd and community; yet acceptance of partners and their worlds of desire.

    Either that or “sacred sex” could just be a higher Orders’ super secxret decoder ring way of telling us to go F ourselves :)

  13. Ged · December 17, 2012

    Apparently ‘Eric Ericson’ was a pseudonym used by Eric Towers, who wrote a biography of Francis Dashwood in the 1980s. I don’t have any personal information about Towers, but would be interested to know what became of him.

  14. Peregrin · December 17, 2012

    Hey – thanks for this, Ged. Mind if I ask your source? :)

  15. Ged · December 17, 2012

    My source was the late Gerald Suster. I once asked him whether he was responsible for Eric Ericson books, having heard a rumour that he might have had some connection with them, but he told me that Towers, a friend of his, was the author. If I recall correctly, he mentioned he and Towers had started an occult discussion group which met in a London pub during the early ’80s, but that’s as much as I know.

  16. Peregrin · December 17, 2012

    Cool – thanks, Ged :) Good info. I have heard of this discussion group before. Ta.

  17. Ged · December 17, 2012

    By a strange coincidence, I’ve just read Christopher McIntosh’s obituary of Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke in the latest edition of Aries, (no. 13) pp. 169–170. He mentions they were both involved in setting up ‘the Society’ in 1983 and adds ‘[o]thers involved in it included […] Gerald Suster, the novelist Eric Towers […].’

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