Review: We call thee to the Gentle Light – Hidden Treasures of the Golden Dawn Vol.1 by Rick Falconer.

I have yet to see an independent review for this book, but have read some private critiques. Maybe folk are nicer than me and prefer to say nothing rather than offend? However, for some reason my mother never taught me that famous Bambi adage, ‘if you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all’. So perhaps she should take some responsibility for this negative review?

As an author myself I can imagine how hard it would be to get a negative review so I am not publishing this lightly. However, the book needs to be seen for what it is – more New Age than Golden Dawn. In any case, my critique here is based on the book alone; I have never met or interacted with the author or any magical group he may belong to. 🙂

Recently there have been a lot of good magical books published. Sadly, this is not one of them. It is hard to find many redeeming qualities in the book. I know that sounds harsh, but I forced myself to read through to the end long after my defences told me to give up and right off my bucks as a bad investment. I was kinda wobbly at the end. Besides finding the writing problematic, to say the least, my main concern is that the book seems to be taking the Golden Dawn into the inspirational New Age coffee-table-book market, somewhere I distinctly do not want it to go. A personal opinion, but one I think based in actual esoteric tradition.

I am unclear of the purpose of this book. It is clearly not an instructional manual in Golden Dawn magic, or any particular aspect of the tradition. You will not learn a single piece of magic within its pages. Nor is the book historical, though it does mention a couple of historical events amongst its verbiage. And its ‘overview’ of the system does not even attempt to be comprehensive.

The best I can make out is that the book is supposed to be ‘inspirational’. It is clearly cut from New Age cloth. For example:

Now for spiritual growth to develop as a magical appreciation to be found, you have to stop struggling and start being, if that is, it be your will to succeed in uncovering a divine beauty beyond the limitations of your current understanding.

and

There is nothing you cannot do. Everything is achievable; it is all there before you, it is all there for and within you, so treat what you can do with the wisdom you have always appreciated and by a gentle receptivity, you will find reality responding tenfold in kind.

or

Make a new start now for yourself, it is so easy. In a moment I would like you to look up from this page and smile to yourself for a few moments and as you do so, you will feel one close by smiling back at you. Know well what you feel in your heart is only the start for you are not alone child of Earth. You are not alone…Do it now.

This is classic New Age speak. As Robert Anton Wilson says, this sort of language is akin to political speak: if you’re not careful it will sound nice and vaguely inspiring as you go along, but there is no informational content of substance. Now this would be fine, and the book could have merit were it not for a few factors.

Firstly, it is supposed to be about a particular magical tradition, the Golden Dawn and certainly not the New Age. Falconer’s mash of malformed poetic aphorisms embedded inelegantly in prose could apply to any ‘spiritual’ path. His attempts to bring in some language from the tradition, such as entitling one of the chapters ‘Adam Kadmon’ fall flat, since no actual traditional information is conveyed, let alone built upon.

Secondly, inspirational works of this nature require good poetic writing, and Falconer is no poet – at least not in this book. There are hints that some of this material is from an inner plane contact. If so, it can’t write poetry either. Witness:

These words herein witnessed by your own sapphire and emerald eyes are no promises I write. Nor are they as prophesies communicated to all and uttered through your ruby red lips. As a breath of the morning dew lay gently upon your innocence of being if the Great Work be undertaken now as the remit of your life, your existence and a lot more besides will appear illuminated under a banner of light as you fall supine before the majesty of glory and realise you know now more than you thought you could ever know before.

Thirdly, and most importantly, as you may now have realised from these quotations, little of this actually makes any sense. Nor does it appear to have been edited or proof read closely.  Much of the writing simply does not follow the basic rules of grammar. At times Falconer sounds like a hippie Yoda on LSD:

Partial and calm, yet artistic and diligent in the precision of endeavours you need to be, if you are that is, to be the mystic and magician and witness before thee a dazzling sway, an awesome display. In fact the northern lights of your own quintessence, dancing and colouring your eternal sky in and about as a full magical array.

What by all that is holy is this supposed to mean? And the book is full of sentences, paragraphs and even whole pages like this. Some more random goodness to embiggen the smallest man:

We look to find the light but do we aspire, or more is it one we seem to require, to convince our minds of another reality sure, but not easy it is ever to acquire.

and

Inspired as she [the Goddess Maat] always will be by her marriage with Thoth and the nature of you in your desires, as your birth became the underlying cause of reality itself.

and

Through humility and charity, a golden chalice of illumination will be given to your clarity and lift you to a life beyond the haze of any doubt to how special without realising you really are, which will be known once more by all, in this light of truth divine to come and be known by you once more.

Seriously, what is all this supposed to mean? There is no communication here. Not even communication of imperfect or silly ideas. This is where the editor and/or publisher let the author down. Sentences like this, and every page has several, should have been blue-pencilled upon first reading. The lack of effective proof reading is also obvious in the rear adverts for other books by the publisher; at least two of the authors’ names are misspelt.

So what is the book about? Really, honestly I am not sure. It was so hard to read; wading through whole chapters of paragraphs like those quoted above, I could have missed something important. I guess on balance I’d say it’s an attempt at inspirational overview of certain aspects of the spiritual journey within the Golden Dawn tradition. I think. If you like mediocre New Age style inspirational texts and have a disdain for correct grammar, you may like this book.

Sign of the Human Angel

There are odd moments of clarity within the book, but these convey nothing exciting or new and are soon lost among the vapid meanderings of inspiration that follow hard on their heels. Since there is very little sharing of information or real approaches to the Golden Dawn tradition there is precious little to critique or explore from a magical viewpoint. At times Falconer seems to be repeating the New Age dogma that all is ‘within us’, and GD invocations and magical processes only awaken what has always been there within, not without. At other times he seems clear the various beings exist independent from human perception also.

In the opening to chapter XI there is an italicised section – why some sections are italicised is never explained – which identifies humanity with Fallen Angels who descended to perceive the wonders of the divine, but were caught up in the shock of “seeing the separateness of all God’s creation.” It’s actually not a bad little paragraph, but the Angelology involved places it outside the western magical tradition which is clear that humans and angels are separate orders of being. The whole structure of angelic magic within the Golden Dawn is predicated upon this ontology.

Another concern I had was Falconer’s seeming valorisation of whatever we ‘feel’ as being somehow right and divine, as aptly summed up in this quotation:

Whatever distractions you find encroaching upon your mind with an apparent ease, away from a deeper esoteric and spiritual understanding of truths to be found which will bring great peace, you will find these distractions will not be nearly as emotionally effective and beautiful to behold. This is one of the ways of knowing the difference between say a mystical experience and foolhardy notions based in wishful thinking. (emphasis mine).

Now it could be Falconer’s inelegant and imprecise language, but he seems to be saying our emotions are a measure by which to judge the validity of spiritual experience. This is certainly reinforced throughout the book and is of course nonsense. To quote religious historian and writer, Karen Armstrong: “Feeling is neither here nor there. You’ve got to get deeper than feeling. We know in our own lives that feelings come and go. Like Aquinas said, you can’t feel God any more than you can know God.”

Overall I cannot see what this book adds to the Golden Dawn tradition. In fact, by mixing the GD with insipid and meaningless inspirational forms of New Age literature, an argument could be made that this book may actually confuse newcomers as to what magic actually is. In fact, I am not sure Falconer explains or defines magic clearly anywhere or indeed how to actually practice magic.

On the final page Falconer invites the reader along on a ride with magic; “if you should conjoin yourself with its operations you will be welcomed.” In this context meaning the second in this projected series of inspirational Golden Dawn books in order to:

…prosper in spirit and bring great happiness to the forefront of your being, all in a way I hope you will understand.

I really hope that too, but suspect a good editor will need to be involved.

Not recommended.

space

We call thee to the Gentle Light – Hidden Treasures of the Golden Dawn Vol.1 by Rick Falconer. 2012. Thoth Publications.

Disclosure: Thoth Publications were the original publishers signed to publish my By Names and Images. They continue to publish quality material like Philip Heselton’s excellent Witchfather biography of Gerald Gardner.

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8 comments

  1. adamsmith2009 · September 28, 2012

    Thanks Peregrin, for a review that probably hurt you as much to write, as it did to read the book it is about. What you wrote as opinion, is an educated opinion, not given cruelly or out of disdain, but out of a deep-seated commitment to and protection of a Tradition that cannot be ‘dumbed down’. Thanks!! You’ve save me and others some money:-).

  2. Josephine McCarthy · September 28, 2012

    Thanks Peregrin, I think you did a fair and honest job. There are different types of bad reviews, some just nasty, some with agendas, some simply where the reader did not understanding the book, and then there is the truthful mirror in front of the writer, warts and all. This review is a warts and all one.

    It is important for these reviews to happen, A to stop people wasting precious money, B to inform beginners, and C to send a message to the author and publisher. Whether the author learns from critique is really up to how delicate his ego is …and how solid his magical training. You can either throw a tantrum at a bad review that is honest, or you can sit and learn.

    On another note, this style of writing is becoming a niche fashion in certain corners of clan craft and grimoire magicians. it is basically bad poet babble that is meant to be ‘inner mystery’ obscure… why? often because the writers have no clue and it sounds all mysterious to them.

    to me it just sounds like bad poet babble.

  3. Tiki Swain · September 28, 2012

    Thanks for doing the hard work of reading it for us. I found the web excerpts I read painful to try and understand, and almost impossible to get my head around. What I *did* understand seemed very… as you say, New Age – all about defining a personal path based on your personal truth and feelings, and seeming to give much greater validation to one’s own self and self-creation of reality and all the other “it’s all about you dear!” tropes of vague spirituality than to any external source. Which didn’t sound like it was very much like the little of Golden Dawn I knew, but I know little enough to withhold judgement and look for expert opinions. I think what struck me most was that knowing so little to start with, I understood no more after reading. So then I was left wondering who the *hell* he was writing this book for. Clearly wasn’t me.

  4. Jacovo · September 29, 2012

    What a load of crap this book is! I cannot believe someone would write this tripe and even more incredible that someone would publish it. Call a spade a
    spade. Good review, however you were too kind.

  5. Monica · October 1, 2012

    Agree with the crap verdict – and the scary thing is that he plans to write volume 2 (and probably more!).

  6. Matt Baldwin-Ives · October 11, 2012

    Not read this book Peregrin but thank you for the warning !

  7. Tarot Cirkel · October 12, 2012

    I always have a little alarm bell ringing when they ‘need’ several volumes to cover the topic.

  8. Pingback: Clarity in Spiritual Writings | Magic of the Ordinary

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