Golden Dawn: first London, tomorrow – the world?

ctAlex 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.

Fellowship of Isis Founders

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.

Woof-dog gets ready to gnash his teeth

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… 🙂



  1. morgandrake · July 16, 2013

    Yes, I am well aware that one of my random three in the bloody morning comments will end up in someone’s academic paper someday. Random comments is how all “Secret Chiefs” start out their careers. *wink*

  2. Peregrin · July 16, 2013

    Lol, Morgan…can’t say fairer than that 😉

  3. mist42nz · July 16, 2013

    “With respect to Alex however, the reason why these topics keep coming around is because….”

    They are basic principles and external to the actual magical practices and thus open for discussion.
    Innovative work on the other hand tends to be constantly in development and as such tends to remain the private football of those actually doing the work! (as opposed to those of us who spend too much time talking about it on the Internets… you know who I mean….)

  4. Michael I · July 16, 2013

    “All three are innovations to a tradition several centuries old”
    Surely only a century and a quarter! Not that a tradition needs that long to harden.

  5. Peregrin · July 16, 2013

    Hi Michael – yes, sorry was not clear in that sentence. Of course, the GD tradition is 120 years or so old only. However, I was referring to the lodge tradition of ceremonial initiations. Thanks for making me clear this up. Ta 🙂

  6. Michael I · July 16, 2013

    Fair doos! Elias Ashmole was initiated into a Freemasonic lodge in 1646 (though what took place and the nature of the lodge is all a bit of a mystery), so at least 367 years and probably more then.

  7. Peregrin · July 16, 2013

    By 1621 there was a literary and probably ritual association between Masonry and Rosicrucianism; ‘The Muses Threnodie’

    For what we do presage is not in grosse
    For we be brethren of the Rosie Crosse;
    We have the Mason word, and second sight,
    Things for to come we can foretell aright.


  8. MvdV · July 16, 2013

    Yes, yes we can…

  9. alexsumner · July 16, 2013

    What a complete load of crap. It is only important to lose who wish to prolong the Golden Dawn flame wars. If, however, you fought your natural inclinations and *killed* discussion on the secret chiefs instead of stirring them up, you would find that people in academia and even other magical traditions would start to take the Golden Dawn more seriously.

    I am disappointed by the immaturity shown by just about all sides in the latest Secret Chiefs debacle. What gets me is how everyone was suckered into taking the argument about the Secret Chiefs seriously whilst missing the most obvious point – that Nick had published his original inflammatory post simply as a publicity stunt to promote his latest book.

  10. Peregrin · July 17, 2013

    Hi Alex,

    Thanks. Not my take, really. This latest post was really not about the SCs at all – but rather how the issues of legitimacy and authority etc arise in the expansion of any venture. As i said in relation to the starting point, astral initiation discussions, all my interactions have been very respectful and calm. I have come across nothing at all like any flame war. At all – it’s been rather good in fact :). I think Nick’s book is good enough it needs no cheap promotion and the topic of the SCs will continue to arise while there is tension in the broader community on the issues they represent – legitimacy and authority. Thanks 🙂

  11. Agustin · July 17, 2013

    Hi Peregrin, personally I’m glad that these conversations are happening. Some of us were not about when these flame wars began; and as a result, either through naiveté or just lacking cynicism, it creates the opportunity to test possibly bogus theories. This is in no small part due to the blogs of you, Olen Alex, and Nick, as well as others – which has created an air of openness that would otherwise be stomped out by a cult of personality type of Golden Dawn. Keep up the wonderful work, and thank you!


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