The other day I was asked about the possible link between the Golden Dawn Mystic Repast and the Christian Eucharist and thought I’d blog it up 🙂
First off, to dispel a notion that sometimes pops up, the Christian Eucharist is not deficient because ‘it only has two of the elements, bread and wine, not the whole four’ like the GD ‘version’. Such an idea requires, nay, demands this response.
Now, it is easy to see the two ceremonies are not the same and do not work with the same mysteries. The Golden Dawn repast serves many functions, as we will see, but it is not meant to be a sacred remembrance, a piercing of the veil of temporality whereby bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. Not being a Christian priest I am not going to even attempt a discussion on this mystery but focus on the Repast.
And yet … despite this, the two are seen as ‘very similar’, to quote the Ciceros (The Essential Golden Dawn p.161). This sense of similarity is because the Repast is described as “a communion in the body of Osiris” and there is a modern and historical identification of Osiris with Christ (naturally I consider that this identification is not complete when we consider the Incarnation). The use of Christian based imagery within the invocation that blesses the repast also adds to this:
For Osiris On-Nophris who is found perfect before the Gods, hath said:
These are the Elements of my Body,
Perfected through Suffering, Glorified through Trial.
For the scent of the Dying Rose is as the repressed Sigh of my suffering:
And the flame-red Fire as the Energy of mine Undaunted Will:
And the Cup of Wine is the pouring out of the Blood of my Heart:
Sacrificed unto Regeneration, unto the Newer Life:
And the Bread and Salt are as the Foundations of my Body,
Which I destroy in order that they may be renewed.
For I am Osiris Triumphant, even Osiris on-Nophris, the Justified:
I am He, who is clothed with the Body of Flesh,
Yet in whom is the Spirit of the Great Gods:
I am the Lord of Life, triumphant over Death.
He who partaketh with me shall arise with me:
I am the Manifestor in Matter of Those Whose Abode is the Invisible:
I am purified: I stand upon the Universe:
I am its Reconciler with the Eternal Gods:
I am the Perfector of Matter
And without me, the Universe is not.
This sense of similarity with the Christian Eucharist can produce the odd bit of conflation. The Societas Rosicruciana in America which, so I am told by a scholar in these matters, used the Golden Dawn grade ceremonies, describes this invocation as coming from the ‘Gospel of Osiris’, whatever that may be. And in a Pagan example, drawing clearly from the Golden Dawn, the instruction is given that ‘all of the bread and wine must be consumed’. This stems from Christian practice, where the bread and wine as the body and blood need to be handled with reverence and consumed not disposed of, not from Golden Dawn conventions, where it would make no sense unless applied to the rose and candle also. (http://timysteries.org/2014/09/03/outline-of-elemental-eucharist/) .
The Mystic Repast is often called the ‘Elemental Eucharist’ when its primary function is to commune with the spiritual blessings represented by the four elemental principles embodied in rose, flame, wine and bread and salt. When it is consumed as part of the Neophyte Initiation Ceremony it functions moreover as a formula of regeneration and this is where it is similar to the aims of the Christian Eucharist, seeking to enact similar changes in the communicant. That is, it is designed to instil within those who commune not only one-off blessings of the elements but also an interior reorganisation of one’s life towards perfection or theosis. Here it is called the Formula of the Justified One, referring to Osiris who through suffering, trial and conscious sacrifice becomes the Perfector of Matter. This of course also resonates with the Christian mystery. The use of the word Tetlestai to mark the conclusion of the repast is also a clear and consciously constructed link with the Christian mystery and the death of Christ.
The Mystic Repast, with its communion of the four elemental substances also prefigures the four so called ‘elemental’ grades Zelator through Philosophus. As the elemental blessings are consumed in balance, at the centre of the temple, a template of balance, directed by the spirit is placed within the communicant. This sets up the correct approach and experience of the elemental grades for the initiate in the future. We should note ‘The Elements are placed upon the Altar according to the Winds’, meaning they are placed to represent and link to the material, earthy universe and thus the daily, messy life of the communicant.
BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE
As a teenager I once read a review of the latest ABC song produced by my fave producer Trevor Horn which described his production as ‘rich enough to grow your tomatoes in’. And so it is, so it always is, with the Golden Dawn. There is more, hidden and richly powerful in the Mystic Repast. Since the repast forms part, indeed the culmination in some ways, of the Neophyte ceremony itself, we cannot separate its discussion from that ceremony.
During the initiation ceremony, the four elemental objects represent and are magically linked to the elemental principles of the candidate. Some Orders work this further and ask the candidate to provide the rose, and sometimes the wine, used in the ceremony. Thus they are providing the first of the elemental symbols communed with, connected to air, the breath, the Ruach, the will and therefore the surrendering of their small will to the Higher will.
Since the candidate is linked to these elemental forms, when they are removed from the altar at the start of the initiation ceremony proper, the candidate is energetically dismembered in their various subtle bodies. They become the dismembered slain Osiris from the myth. This allows for the initiation to actually work, as this dismembering separates the component aspects of the candidate allowing for tinkering and injection of currents, the higher soul and wot not. This is written about in various books by Pat Zalewski and others so I won’t go into it here.
YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT
Of importance for our discussion is that once the elements are placed back on the altar, at the conclusion of the ceremony, the candidate is remembered but still linked to the substances. So during the Mystic Repast the members literally consume, take into the Order’s egregore, the new member. This is helps makes them a member and so has further have poetic resonance with Christian liturgy: ‘for we who are many are One body, for we all share the one bread’. 🙂
The candidate has functioned during the ceremony as Osiris Slain, and has been reconstituted, re-membered. The Hierophant, when she is on the Dais as chief officer is Osiris Risen. Thus there is a polarity between the two, between candidate and Hierophant. And it is the Hierophant who performs the ritual blessing of the elemental substances with the lovely invocation based on the Formula of the Justified One given before. Thus the polarity between the two, between the imperfect candidate, and the risen, perfected Osiris – and the pathway of transformation that leads from one to another – is placed within the elemental substances themselves. These blessings, essentially the path of theosis, are mediated directly into the members via the corporeal elements – they literally inhale molecules of scent, feel the heat, eat and drink. They can’t ‘escape’ the blessings, even if they are thinking of the shopping as they commune or as the naughty Paul Foster Case did once, sharing ‘a significant glance’ with another member. Now that’s pretty neat 🙂
LOOK TO THE CENTRE
So far in this discussion, as in most discussions on the Mystic Repast we have focused on the elemental substances themselves, rose, flame, wine, bread and their interior dimensions. However, often overlooked is the fact these four sit around a central symbol, just as the four elemental principles exist around and are cohered by the centralising force of the spirit.
In this sense the Cross and Triangle represents the spirit, the hidden fifth, the quintessence. However, there is far more than this operating through the symbol and it is in analysing its presence and function that we really see the similarity in function between the Mystic Repast and the Eucharist.
The red cross superior to the apex upwards white triangle is often seen as the symbol of the Golden Dawn itself. It thus is the grounding point of the current of the tradition. This current then becomes the central principle of the new initiate as their elemental selves are remembered around it on the altar. It is the interaction of the current, (embodied in cross and triangle) with the elemental substances – which are vehicles for both the macrocosmic elemental blessings and the elemental self of the candidate – that produces the prefiguring of the four elemental grades mentioned above. And the candidate literally consumes this 🙂
When we analyse the Golden Dawn symbol itself in the context of the Mystic Repast as part of the Neophyte Ceremony much becomes apparent. From the Z Document:
The Symbols upon the Altar represent the Forces and Manifestation of the Divine Light, concentrated in the White Triangle of the Three Supernals as the synthesis; wherefore, upon this sacred and sublime Symbol, is the obligation of the Neophyte taken as calling therein to witness the Forces of the Divine Light. The Red Cross of Tiphareth (to which the Grade of 5-6 is referred) is here placed above the White Triangle, not as dominating it, but as bringing it down and manifesting it unto the Outer Order; as though the Crucified One, having raised the symbol of self-sacrifice, had thus touched and brought into action in matter, the Divine Triad of Light. Around the Cross are the Symbols of the Four Letters of the Name YHVH –the Shin of Yeheshuah being only implied and not expressed in the Outer Order.
Taking the last first, Yeheshuah (can you blame me for this quip? 🙂 ) – Indeed Christ himself is only implied throughout the whole Outer Order, which can be related to God the Father. It is in the Inner Order where things get wonderfully Christian:) In the Neophyte ceremony Christ is only hinted at once outwardly, when the red cross is described, as ‘an image of He who unfolded in the Light’. This is of course central on the altar.
During the Opening of the Neophyte Temple the divine forces are invoked upon the altar and into the temple by the Mystic Words (Khabs Am Pehkt | Knox Om Pax | Light in Extension). The blessings are naturally attracted to the white triangle upon the altar. As a symbol of the three Supernals this is a classically powerful symbol.
The red cross, as the symbol of bringing the Divine Triad of Life ‘into action in matter’ can thus represent the work, the initiation to be conducted – any magic which manifests the Light unto the material world,. This is the initiate herself, with her material life symbolised by the four elements and four directions.
CROSS AND TRIANGLE FOR YOU
As described in the Z document, as part of her initiation the new initiate has the symbol of the Order, a duplication of that at the centre of the Repast, formed within their ‘sphere’. Classically this is seen emblazoned ‘astrally’ on the forehead. To understand the significance of this and its relation to the Repast connection’s with the Eucharist we need to jump forward a little to when the Hierophant describes these symbols to the new initiate.
Hierophant (describing): “…On the altar is a White Triangle to be in the image of that immortal Light, that Triune Light which moved in darkness and formed the world of Darkness and the world out of darkness. There are two contending forces and one always uniting them. And these three have their image in the threefold flame of our being and in the threefold wave of the sensual world.”
When the Hierophant states ‘there are always two contending forces and a third eternally uniting them’ she is referring both to the mystic triad and to the initiate themselves as the third force. We can see the triad here as referring to what of often called ‘the law of three, something often found in other esoteric traditions, both eastern and western. For example the Gurdjieff Work has the Law of Three, called in a fancy way, ‘Triamazikamno’.
To understand this, the first thing to realise here is there is a THIRD force. The GD here is NOT promoting a spiritual form of the triad of thesis, antithesis and synthesis (described by the philosopher Hegel). Typically in this view there is (1) a beginning thesis (idea, proposition) and (2) a negation or contradiction of the thesis, antithesis, and both are resolved in (3) a synthesis which in itself becomes a new proposition.
The difference is that in this view the synthesis is comprised of the union or reconciliation of the thesis and antithesis. In the GD the third force is already in existence, if only in a nascent state. It is not the reconciliation of the two forces, but something different and ‘higher’ that is brought into action by the application of consciousness to the union. This is why in the Neophyte ceremony it is the initiate herself who is referred to as the third force – though this is not stated explicitly.
We can understand this by reference to the holy Qabalah. If we assign thesis to Hod and antithesis to Netzach, the synthesis will be Yesod, the union of the two. The application of the principle of the eternally existing third and higher force brings in the Tiphareth, the deeper self and higher consciousness. The introduction of Tiphareth naturally ‘lifts’ the reconciliation/synthesis in Yesod to higher level.
We can use another concrete example: the union and reconciliation or synthesis of paint and paint brush is a dirty paint brush. The third higher force is the artist with consciousness wielding the paint brush and producing art.
We can of course, if we like (and I do), relate these symbols and the Law of Three to the Christian Trinity (see Cynthia Bourgeault’s work). And it is pretty dogs balls obvious really, once we understand the Trinity even a little more than that taught in most sermons. Let’s look again at the description from the Hierophant:
On the altar is a White Triangle to be in the image of that immortal Light, that Triune Light which moved in darkness and formed the world of Darkness and the world out of darkness.
Traditional teaching is that the Trinity existed before time, before any material expression. In this speech this is the ‘the darkness’ where the triune light moved. And as all three persons of the Trinity are present in each, the Trinity did indeed form the world (the created universe, both seen and unseen) from that darkness, and our material, problematic, ‘world of darkness’.
Continuing on, in the fullness of time the Trinity became Incarnate through Christ, extending the triangle through the cross into the material word, as the Z document states:
…the Crucified One, having raised the symbol of self-sacrifice, had thus touched and brought into action in matter, the Divine Triad of Light.
Now this is exactly what occurs when the Hierophant, straight after the speech above on the triad, stands in the form of a Cross stands and declaims:
Hierophant: “Glory be to thee, Father of the Undying, for thy glory flows out rejoicing to the ends of the earth … The Red Cross above the White Triangle is an image of Him [Christ] who was unfolded in the Light.”
The Hierophant here re-enacts the extension of the light, to the ends of the earth by forming with her body the cross of Christ, showing the way forward for the initiate she is speaking to. This is a prefiguring and movement towards the Adeptus Minor initiation where it will be the initiate, not the Hierophant in the form of the Cross. Of course, in all of this the Hierophant is also mirroring the symbol of cross and triangle on the altar, at the centre of the Repast, empowering it further.
Returning to the forming of the cross and triangle upon the candidate’s forehead we also see something significant and resonant with this symbolism. The initiate begins her path in darkness, blindfolded, taking the obligation with her hand on the White Triangle, the image of the Triune Light. As she traverses the path of darkness three times around the temple, she has this triangle astrally formed within her sphere. This is the potential of the Trinity, before its extension into the world as Christ.
Once fully purified and linked to the Triune Flowing light via the recitation of the Mystic Words into her crown centre, as they were recited into the triangle on the altar during the opening, the candidate traverses the same path but in Light. That is without the blindfold. And it is on this path, three times around the temple, that the image of the red cross, as an emblem of Christ or Tiphareth extended into the material world, is formed above the White Triangle in her sphere.
In the first path, she is blind. In the second path, as the Cross is formed she is no longer blind, but can see. I do not think we can get a more powerful, though subtle reference to the Christian current – John 9:25.
Thus we have, hidden in the middle of the Mystic Repast, in the middle of the Osirian Formula of the Justified One a Trinitarian and Incarnational mystery of Christ. The two are in the actual communing fused as one and thus point to the unitive mystery behind each. This is Golden Dawn ‘best practice’, offering mysteries, rituals and symbols that not only speak to multiple religious paths at once but which lead us also into the unnameable perennial verity beyond all religious forms. Thanks 🙂