A brief note on touch within the Golden Dawn

Most folk within the Golden Dawn adhere, consciously or unconsciously to one of two broad cosmologies regarding the existence of the material universe. Either some form of Neo-platonic emanation theory or a version of classical Christian Creation (I am ignoring the Gnostic GD folk here as they are a minority, sorry).

In Neo-platonism the material universe is the culmination of an outpouring of the One, the Good,  through a series of emanations and stages often corresponded to the planets and Sephrioth of the Qabalah. A Great Chain of Being then links us with the source of All. In Christian creation theory the One creates the universe, everything that was is and shall be, via a directive fiat, out of Nothing. There is no chain of causal connection and the universe is clearly a creation and we are clearly creatures of the Creator.

In either view though the material universe and bodily existence is sacred and holy. By Neo-platonic lights we, our bodies and the matter around us are of the same substance of the One, only more removed from the source. The light may be dim, but we are in essence the same as the One. In Christian creation we are made in the image, the reflection of the One and all of nature is declared by the Creator to be good. Via the Incarnation the One redeems all matter, all flesh and all earthy existence. Christianity, if properly practiced from its core doctrines is actually a bodily and earthy spirituality where redemption is worked out in our bodies and through our material actions.

It is not surprising then that the Golden Dawn, like much of western magic, holds a special place for the body. What is surprising is the lack of teaching and discussion on this topic within much published Golden Dawn teaching. Here I am not wanting to focus on any purported Second or Third Order teaching on ‘sex magic’ but on something more basic but far more essential and crucial – touch.

My primary Golden Dawn teacher always stressed to us the use and importance of touch and had much oral teachings on the subject. The use of particular methods of touch is crucial in magic and we see echoes of this in the published GD corpus and even in Wiccan ceremonies. Of course touch is an integral part of the Christian tradition with laying on of hands (used to channel the grace of the Holy Spirit), the use of Chrism and even the outward practice of the Sign of Peace.

In a Golden Dawn context the importance of touch starts with the signing of the pledge form by the potential initiate. More that just a written ascent to the initiation and application the form becomes important because the candidate has touched it. It forms a link between the Order, its egregore and physical initiator (the current Hierophant) and the physical life of the candidate.

During the Neophyte initiation the touches directed towards the candidate are extremely important. The preparation is overseen by the Hegemon but carried out by the Sentinel and it is they, as Anubis of the West, who first touches the candidate ritually. The Anubis Godform is literally carried by the subtle bodies of the Sentinel who may not be even aware of this. In this context they do not need to be as the directive power of the Hierophant and the Dias officers is more important.

With the first ritual touch and preparation of the candidate the blessings and powers of the dark Anubis of the funeral rites is transferred to the candidate (however accurate that is in an Egyptian historical context is unimportant here). The candidate is dressed symbolically as one dead, their interior powers constrained by the cord, their outer sight blinded by the hoodwink, their inner sight blinded on the etheric level by the Anubis darkness transferred via the Godform. This then forces the inner sight to activate on the higher astral and mental levels and can help result in experiences such as that recounted in Nick Farrell’s blog recently.

During the next phase of the initiation the Hegemon’s touch confers a number of blessings and forces to the candidate. At this point it is best to ensure the Hegemon directly touches the skin of the arm of the candidate. The first Order I was initiated into had an Imperator who was very Masonic and we all had to wear white gloves (not pleasant when you are the Stolistes – soggy thumbs!). I am not sure how many historical GD Orders did this, but the difference skin contact makes in both the ‘automatic’ (i.e directed by the Hierophant and Dias Officers through the Godform) and conscious direction of etheric energies is immense. When I was given these teachings and shown demonstrations in temple rehearsals I could see how much we missed by wearing gloves or not directly touching skin to skin.

The grip of the Hegemon upon the arm and body of the candidate must be done in such a way as to convey strength, guidance, certitude and presence. Hegemon officers should practice these skills as much as any other part of the rubric. While there are various hints and suggestions to help accomplish this, practice is the best instructor, and practice while assuming the Godform. Essentially the touch of the Hegemon here is instructing the bodily and etheric aspects of the candidate on the grosser levels what she is being informed about on the higher levels. As the Hegemon speaks for the candidate, she holds her physically and etherically. Inwardly of course she is held and overshadowed by the interior blessings of the Tham-st and the higher. Overall there should be a concordance. The presence of the Goddess leads the candidate within the inner realms and this action is conveyed to the Guph of the candidate by the physical touch and direction of the Hegemon.

Another example of how essential touch is within the Golden Dawn occurs during the Neophyte oath. The right hand of the candidate touches the cross and triangle. I was taught to ensure that the centre of the palm of the candidate should lie flat over the intersection of the Cross and Triangle. In that way the etheric and astral energies contained within this ‘sacred and sublime symbol’ will be absorbed by the palm centre. The intersection of the Cross and triangle is a representation of the Incarnation – the point where the red cross of ‘He who unfolded in the light’ arises out of the immortal Triune light. Thus the candidate’s earthy form is sanctified by this action and she is impelled towards her own lesser incarnation of a new life via the initiation.

The Hierophant of course now directly takes the hand of the candidate. A link is thereby formed on all levels between what the candidate is now, a humble child of Darkness, and what she may become, represented by the Elder Horus and present in the Genius of the candidate herself which is now activated and linked to the ceremony. I was taught that the physical action here is in many ways more important than the inner action. Here we have an inner initiate standing atop the Evil Triad of the candidate, hindering the evil force. She stands in the place of the Genius of the candidate and and physically connects with them. Since the whole aim of the outer mysteries is the transformation of our actual mundane, physical lives the physical touch of the Hierophant who is in some ways the channel for the higher consciousness, can activate changes at a deep, everyday level. This touch should be seen as equivalent to the grace and blessings received by those physically blessed by Masters and Saints.

It is of course significant that this is the only time the Hierophant touches the candidate during this ceremony – at the moment when they are to enter into the most vulnerable aspect of the initiation as they take the oath. Like ordinary life, touch at our most vulnerable, most open times is the strongest and most transformational.

We could of course analyse touch within all the initiations and practices of the Golden Dawn and RR et AC but that would be a big job and, naturally enough is best explored and taught in person by practice and physical contact. 🙂 I am not sure how many Orders teach this – I know several initiates have told me their Orders don’t, which is a shame.

From the suggestions here and a bit of extrapolation much can be discovered and gained. I hope I have started some pondering with these simple notes and people realise that instructions such as ‘take the candidate’ and ‘assist to rise’ etc are far more than practical directions. Each touch in the Golden Dawn has meaning and is often an outer version of inner, magical work. A classic example is during the Zelator Initiation where the Hierophant grips the candidate and by the grip shows forth Sandalphon. There is so much in that simple instruction I am off now to think and meditate on it some more 🙂



  1. Nick Farrell · November 1, 2010

    There is a lot of touch within the Magical Order of the Aurora Aurea version of the GD. It is a very good method of burning something like the sash badge into a candidate’s sphere of sensation. True it could be done by visualisation, but it does help the candidate realise that something physical has happened to them.
    For example. You can stick an entrance badge into to someones sphere of sensation and you can just talk about it. But if you turn the badge towards them and then physically touch them on the heart centre it has a more powerful effect. On Saturday I did it to one guy and he nearly fell over (I didn’t do it that hard, honest). Touch is the Malkuth of experience.

  2. Peregrin · November 1, 2010

    Couldn’t say it better, Nick. Thanks for this and for showing how this aspect of the GD is going forward and used in modern Orders.

    You used the term “sash badge” – are you referring to the traditional sash? In our Order we replaced the Sash with a consecrated grade specific lamen with the symbol on it and the Order symbol on the reverse. We found this works much better and places the symbol directly over the heart centre.

    You do realise the rumour mill will now have ‘Slaying in the Spirit’ as part of the MOAA. Enjoy the influx of Pente Christians 🙂

  3. N Farrell · November 15, 2010

    Yes we use the traditional sashes right through to portal. I dont like them much, they remind me too much of scout blankets, but they are important for the initiation,,, ie the bit of stamping the initiation into the sphere of sensation. Officers don’t wear sashes because their function is above individual’s status.
    We will probably used cords or horizontal sashes in the second order (will cross that bridge when we come to it)

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