Alex Sumner over on his Sol Ascendans blog makes a little quip about there being “no innovation in Golden Dawn magick!” * The reason he gives is the constant recycling of three or four topics, in this case, the Secret Chiefs (see this post for my latest recycle). With respect to Alex however, the reason why these topics keep coming around is because they are important.
Let’s take the latest discussion I contributed to on a closed Facebook group: astral initiation. Now I’ve already had go at this topic here, but it does keep coming back. Why? Because it is one of several attempts by the modern Golden Dawn community to deal with the recent expansion of the GD across the world. As any tradition or system, spiritual or secular, expands and solidifies there will arise common concerns. These centre around authority, legitimacy, inclusion, representation and dissemination. The various GD online communal and fraternal discussions and lists are an attempt to work through these issues in a constructive and fruitful manner.
It is in relation to the dissemination of the GD tradition across the world that the discussion on astral initiation is important. Of course, is only since the modern expansion of the GD, stemming from the work of Regardie, the Ciceros and other folk, that the problem of how to incorporate someone wanting to be a GD magician, but living away from the major centres, arose. Back in the day in London and Bradford, Edinburgh and Weston Super-Mare etc, there was no need to even consider these things. You either attended the temple or you did not. Tough luck sunshine, if you lived in Child Okeford and the trains weren’t running.
When the Fellowship of Isis started up in 1976, they were determined to avoid these problems and opted for equal recognition of various forms of initiation, ceremonial and self. The lovely and very 80s documentary The Occult Experience shows a distant FOI initiation conducted by telephone, with the receiver placed in a large mixing bowl at the edge of the circle. Very nice – and scarcely an astral in sight 🙂
How modern GD orders and individuals deal with this issue will be a defining point for the tradition as it grows in the 21st century. We, good Fraters and Sorores, are living in interesting and defining times. What we decide, what we accept and reject as a community, will change and mould our tradition. The need for dissemination of the Golden Dawn throughout the world and – with the advent of the internet – into less populated areas has produced several modern innovations (or modern honing of older methods). These include:
Conferences and lectures open to all members of the community. Here folk can come from all around and learn from our elders. An excellent example was the recent Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn Conference in Toronto, Canada.
Order specific conferences, gatherings and events where folk who have completed a course of study fly in, meet their initiators one day and are initiated into one or more grades over a course of a weekend. This is really little different in function to what many Buddhist and other spiritual leaders do. And really, it makes my eyes roll less than Wynn Wescott writing a letter to a temple he is proposing to visit and offering to initiate anyone – and any number of folk – to Neophyte on the Sunday afternoon.
Self- initiation as a legitimate entry into and deepening in the tradition. The classic work on this is of course Self-Initiation Into the Golden Dawn Tradition by the Ciceros. Other approaches are less ceremonially based and rely on a self initiatory process, including my own effort in By Names and Images.
Encouragement of self-started Golden Dawn groups and orders. The work of Pat Zalewski is important here, giving details of GD magical ceremonial procedures (as well as countless efforts in mentoring and advice). Nick Farrell, Darcy Kunz and others give a good representation of how these things were done historically – so we can learn from the past. And of course the Cicero’s Magical Tools books cater for the practical aspects of this, as well as several excellent online stores like Azoth Art.
and of course…
Astral initiation. There has been one major Golden Dawn Order that has practiced this method, though it cannot be unique.
Though it’s hard to get a handle on it all, I suspect the last three concepts – self initiation, self-started Orders and astral initiation – would have been viewed with equally raised eyebrows by most historical GD folk. All three are innovations to a tradition several centuries old, and all three require a radical re-thinking of the concepts of authority and legitimacy.
How the community deals with these tensions and challenges to traditional models of authority and legitimacy in the next decade or so will be crucially important. Of course, I have my own ideas already given here on MOTO and elsewhere. What is extremely encouraging is the fact that in all the discussions I have seen there is always respect. People with divergent opinions are being accepted. No one has been cast to the outer darkness to weep and gnash their teeth. This is a very good sign of a healthy and inclusive community – evidenced also by the recent wonderful Commentaries on the Golden Dawn Flying Rolls project. 🙂
Finally, a little word of advice: since we are in a pivotal era for the GD, someone, somewhere, sometime will write about this. Be careful – your 3am off-the-cuff flippant remarks may enter a PhD someday 🙂 Thanks.
* I was very tempted to (sic) this spelling of magic, since it originated (in modern times) with Uncle Al – hardly a good representative of the GD. But, hey, Alex knows what’s he’s about… 🙂