Who’s Your Rosicrucian, Baby?

Currently there is a minor contretemps in cyber-land about ‘the Rosicrucians’. It all started with the webhost of the Rosicrucian Order of the Golden Dawn (ROGD) being issued one of those lovely ‘cease and desist’ notices from a legal firm acting on behalf of the Ancient Mystical Order Rosae Crucis (AMORC). You can read it here.

Naturally that did not go down too well. On a podcast AMORC was given three ‘gongs of shame’ and other folk, like the Watchers of the Dawn, were not happy. I sent this email to the Grandmaster of AMORC seeking a change of heart:

“Care Soror,

I refer to the website http://www.rogd.org/ and the statement therein regarding legal threats from AMORC in regard to the use of the phrase ‘Rosicrucian Order’.

As you will know there are many groups who use this term that have antecedents before the establishment of AMORC.

These groups, and many newer groups, have done and do nothing but promote the same mystical and fraternal ends of AMORC.

They are not competitors in a materialist business economy. They are sister organisations to your own.

I would respectfully ask that AMORC reconsider this approach and remove all threats of legal action against the ROGD and other Orders.

Already AMORC’s reputation has suffered badly from these actions and will suffer far worse it they continue. The modern Rosicrucian magician is individual in nature and will not respond well to what is seen by some as meddling or empire building.

Please reconsider your actions so we can all continue in harmony towards Perfect Peace Profound.”

RR et AC Rose Cross

RR et AC Rose Cross

Now, the nub of the matter appears to be the use of the phrase ‘Rosicrucian Order’. AMORC has used this for a number of decades and claims exclusive right to it. Hoh um. It only makes sense if we see the two words as referring to something specific and limited – i.e. AMORC. However, methinks, and most I think do also think, that ‘Rosicrucian’ here is an adjective referring to a spiritual path, and ‘Order’ refers to the type of organisation.

So, presumably AMORC would have no probs with ‘The Rosicrucian League’, ‘Debbie’s Rosicrucian Hair Salon’ or even ‘Joe’s Rosicrucian Bordello’? Equally we could have ‘the Wiccan Order’ or ‘the Crystal Kids Order’. Or wot not. For me it is clear, ‘Rosicrucian’ is beyond any particular group and refers to a form of western mystic, and I believe Christian spirituality (Bob Gilbert agrees).

I find this mess rather distressing for three main reasons:

Firstly, no one should really be calling themselves a Rosicrucian at all, at all. In modern English, the first two principles of the Rosicrucian Fraternity from the Fama itself are:

First, that none of them should profess any other thing than to cure the sick, and that gratis.

Second, none of the posterity should be constrained to wear one certain kind of habit, but therein to follow the custom of the country (emphasis added).

Seems clear to me, and the Golden Dawn RR et AC is very clear in their oath: “Finally, you must understand that you are never permitted to say to anyone not a member of this Order that you are a Rosicrucian”.

However, folk are free to call themselves whatever they want. I won’t stop them, or even glower at them from the corner. Well, maybe a little – which I confess I did upon my first meeting of a ‘Rosicrucian’, shortly after I’d started on this lark as a youth. The chap wandered up to me at University Philosophy Society’s wine and cheese night and after chatting for a bit on mutual spiritual interests, simply declared ‘I’m a Rosicrucian’. I choked on my cheddar. Being in awe of the Fama I was completely discombobulated. I knew AMORC existed but naively assumed its initiates would keep it all mum.

Secondly, this concerns spiritual groups, you know within the world but not of the world and all that jazz. Copyrights and lawsuits and wot all in this arena are pure farce and contrary to everything true religion and spirituality stands for.

Thirdly, despite it all, I have a soft spot for AMORC – stemming of course from the events in this post. And actually, all the AMORC folk I’ve met are rather nice. True, the AMORC teachings do not inspire me and I do not grok their approach, but they are generally lovely people. Certainly much better than most of the ‘magical Rosicrucians’ I’ve met and whom I’d never invite home to mother. I really do not want to see these folk getting more of a hard time from ‘serious magicians’ than they already do.

AMORC generally comes in for an elitist rap from magical folk, and I’m on record somewhere for stating I found little useful when wading through the monographs of the entire AMORC course, even beyond the ninth degree, held in a Perth library. However, some folk DO find it useful and AMORC does organise lovely tours to sacred sites across the globe. Generally I have found the average AMORC member to be blissfully unaware of their own history and appropriation of other Order’s materials etc. They are simply working through their chosen tradition and not looking too much left or right. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

So, I really hope two things (1)  AMORC changes their mind and drops their pursuit of other groups using a similar name, and (2) any pissed-off magicians, some of whom are always looking for a fight, relax and chill and not take it too far. As the ROGD says on their website: “We continue to Work privately, silently, and namelessly.  “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”.

So I hope what could be a nasty ‘battle’ over names is avoided. If we stopped calling ourselves Rosicrucian, this would all go away anyway. And really, in terms of wanky, magical kudos, wandering around saying ‘I’m a Rosicrucian and it’s OK’ pales into insignificance to, “of course, if I were a Rosicrucian, I couldn’t tell you anyway.”


A Tale of Magical Literalism (and a lesson for circle casters everywhere)

Since the publication of me fine and dandy book on the inner workings of the Golden Dawn, By Names and Images, I’ve had some interesting discussions. One type, which seems destined to be repeated down through the ages, is with a certain kind of magician or Wiccan who indicates subtly they know all about it. Nice. I’d like to leave it there, but often these folk get all excited, almost hush me to silence and then reveal a great mystery – the magic circle is really a magic sphere! When I am underwhelmed by this supposed disclosure, they seem a little crest-fallen. When I further tell them they are wrong… well, it varies…often I don’t tell them. But they are wrong 🙂


Whoops, the circle’s rising up a bit at the West!

Let’s have a look at it, shall we, using the mythical nine foot diameter Wiccan circle as an example? Now, I’ve yet to see a coven use one of these beasts in the flesh, but let’s pretend these good Witches have done the deed à la Gardner or Sanders. They’ve traced a lovely nine foot inner circle with none, one or two outer circles, depending on mood tradition, complete with Hebraic names of God (well, they are Pagan Witches after all). Or perhaps they’ve simply laid down a plastic combo like Alex Sanders used to travel with. Then, squashed together elevator-style, they ‘cast the circle’ but it’s really a sphere, in three dimensions and all. Wow.

But let’s do the math.

A nine foot diameter circle has a radius of 4.5 feet. So, translated into a sphere, the utmost height, and the very centre of the circle, of the sphere is 4.5 feet. I guess there’s some truth to Wicca’s connection to the little people after all – they’d be the only ones able to fit into this blessed circle. The rest of us, even diminutive folk like me, would have their heads sticking out. Not a good look on the astral.

witch in circle 9 feet

But, in fairness let’s double it – an 18 feet circle, nearly 5.5 metres. Now that requires a fair size room, certainly bigger than Alex and Maxine’s flat or the Farrar’s temple or the average rumpus room here in Oz (and we have BIG houses). But let’s be generous and pretend most Wiccans and magicians are well heeled conservatives like they were in ol’ Gerald’s day. Eighteen feet, nine foot high at the centre… plenty of room for even the tallest Asatru-Heathen-Bersker-Wiccan.

witch in circle 18 feet

However, you could not go to the edge to summon the Watchtowers. If you were extending your arm fully you’d probably have to stand back between four and five from the edge. And if you were wearing horns, it wouldn’t help at all. Good job some Wiccans like to shout.

And of course in casting the circle you’d have to be directing the magic a fair few feet, since you could not walk around the perimeter – the height of the edge of any sphere at floor level, no matter how big the circle, is ZERO. It’s simple geometry.

Now all this is nonsense of course. It is a case of some armchair Witches and magicians taking magical dynamics literally. The sad thing is I’ve been told this by two High Priests, one with many years standing, revealing the need to ‘see the Pentagrams on the inside of the sphere’. The women mostly stay stum as their partners describe the impossible.

This silliness reveals two important points. Firstly, some people don’t think much. Secondly, many Wiccans and magicians do not understand the inner dimensions of magical techniques very well, which makes me a sad panda. 😦 The actual reality here is very simple, once we analyse the situation from the standpoint of the differing levels of inner experience: spiritual, mental, astral and etheric.

On the spiritual level the presence of the circle is dependent on and formed by the inner holding and realisation of the spiritual principle it represents, by the person(s) casting the circle. The spiritual mysteries of a simple circle are manifold and deep, and are fully understood only by an adept of the tradition being worked – since in all traditions the circle means something. This does not mean only an adept can cast a circle, simply that the circle for group work is often best formed by an adept.

In the case of Wicca, only someone who has traversed the circle of the year (1st degree), followed the cycle of life through death (second degree) and been transformed via the mystery of the point within the circle (third degree) can fully know what a circle actually means. This is why traditionally in some British Traditional Witchcraft covens it is the High Priestess who alone casts the circle. I’ve seen modern circles where everyone traipses around, lending their imperfect realisation to the spiritual and mental levels, which may be lovely and democratic and all, but is not the best inwardly – for this form of magical action*. It is one of the reasons a traditional High Priestess I interviewed recently rolled her eyes and  declaimed, “it’s all gone to pot!”

On the mental plane level, the circle has to be known as a perfect circle; in the realm of meaning it is apprehended as a circle of perfection, a classic Platonic form, even if we have to step over the odd low table physically. This again is helped along by being adept in what we are doing; having experienced perfection through the possession by the Goddess actually helps a lot with the idea of perfection. Hence, the High Priestess is called for again. Of course, plenty of mental level meditations on the circle within the tradition helps also. No matter what preparation though, the circle formed at the mental level is not dependant on the dimensions and shape of the physical circle (nor etheric or astral circles).

The astral level is where the visualisation kicks in and our emotional bodies and wills all combine to produce an ‘inner circle’. The most important element here is to realise that the astral formation will, when done correctly, follow the formation on the spiritual and mental levels. It is informed and directed by these ‘higher levels’ and the principles therein. Therefore the circle becomes inwardly visualised as a place of perfection, a boundary, a container, a consecration. Having a simple visualisation of a wall of white light but connected to, and drawing down, these principles is far better than constructing an impossible image of a sphere and conveniently forgetting our heads are sticking out. The latter ‘image’ reflects untruth, and therefore will not draw down the truth of a perfect circle formed on the spiritual and mental levels.

The etheric level circle is created by the etheric substance we direct from our bodies, informed and directed by the higher levels. It is also formed and affected by incense, salt, water and flame, hence the use of these physical-etheric components. Generally the ‘shape’ of the etheric circle will expand and fill the three dimensional space we mentally describe and hold inwardly as ‘the circle’. This is what magical will is for. So our etheric circle will include the area of the low table we crossed over, but if we have not mentally ascribed the corners of the room as ‘the circle’, the etheric substance will not expand over to those areas.

Naturally we will have included in the concept of the ‘the circle’ the space above our heads. Therefore ‘the circle’ is there etherically, which means it is also ‘there’ astrally, mentally and spiritually. The planes are separate and obey their own laws but are informed by the other levels. So an imperfect cylinder, kinda-blobby etheric ‘circle’ that fits our spare room is still a perfect circle on the inner levels. If we have done the correct inner work, and not relied on impossible “images”.

‘Nuff said?

*My GD friends may be thinking about certain circumambulations. It all makes sense, once you analyse it; I can’t be bothered here, maybe in the comments 🙂

By Names and Images Book Celebration and Launch

Today we held the “By Names and Images Book Celebration and Launch” in Perth.

It was an amazing and wonderful day, full of magic, love and beauty. Lots of lovely people showed up, opened their minds and hearts, brought books and enjoyed themselves and each other’s company. We had magicians, Pagans, Druids, atheists, Freemasons, Catholics, Wiccans, Shamans and Buddhist monks among others. Such diversity!

My Beloved One introduced my work with a wonderful overview and reading an appreciation from Gareth Knight, which can be found here. Then I got up and did my ‘unaccustomed as I am to public speaking’ bit 🙂 The rough notes for what I said are below. It was the first time I used a tablet-pc instead of physical notes as a reference point, and I must say it was bloody brilliant. I recommend it to any speaker.

Thanks to everyone, outer and inner, who brought about the book and the celebration-launch, and all who came to support it, in body or spirit. You know who you are! 🙂


“I will make this brief, so that we can all simply relax, mingle and chat a bit. There is a huge diversity of people here, so please feel free to move outside your regular circle a bit 🙂

The nature of the book, doesn’t really lend itself to a lengthy reading…so I’ll just do a bit here and there, and mention a few things about the book, the Golden Dawn and how it’s impacted my own life.

By Names and Images is about a particular kind of ritual magic, that of the Golden Dawn. We’ll get to magic in a moment, but just to recap from what has already been said, the Golden Dawn was originally a group in Victorian England who practiced ritual and spiritual magic. Inspired by the mythical Rosicrucian brotherhood, a 17th century group of Christian-Hermetic mystics, possessed of ancient wisdom and methods of healing, the Golden Dawn was a modern manifestation of the esoteric or hidden spiritual wisdom in the West.

The author forced to sign for a living

The Golden Dawn tradition included as members many significant and important people of the era, including the poet and Nobel prize winner, WB Yeats, the novelists E. Nesbit and Charles Williams as well spiritual pioneers such as Alan Bennett who was the first person to introduce Theravadan Buddhism to the UK, and Pixie Colman Smith the artist of the most popular Tarot deck in the world. All of these and many more were drawn to the Golden Dawn by its magic.

Now magic is an odd word, with many meanings that have changed over the centuries. It was once seen as a divine science with nothing but the highest spiritual connotations, far removed from today’s association of disrepute and outdated, psychologically dubious modes of thought.

However, the best definition of magic I feel comes from Golden Dawn adept Florence Farr when she wrote, a century ago, that magic “unlimits” us. It takes us beyond regular everyday existence into the presence of the sacred, the numinous and the unknowable. And hopefully it brings us back in time to make the kids’ dinner.

This view finds resonance with the religious conception of ecstasy; a standing beside or outside one’s self, a transportation to the higher states of consciousness which renews and gives meaning and power to our lives. The ecstatic experience however, is not a momentary thing. It changes our lives and provides us with an ongoing source of richness, love, power and beauty. In effect it makes us fully alive.

These are exactly the gifts this wonderful Golden Dawn tradition has showered upon me since I first discovered it when still a teenager. Without it I would be a very different person, a smaller, more broken person without deep inner relationships and love. Being naturally ‘sensitive’, for want of a better word, I could easily have become lost in various other pursuits in an attempt to reach this deeper, spiritual level of understanding. These pursuits range from commercial ‘feel good’ new age courses to cults to psychedelic drugs. That I have avoided these pitfalls, remained reasonably balanced within a frankly disordered world, and have been privileged to help others through spiritual magic and healing, is directly attributable to the Golden Dawn. In particular I owe an unpayable debt to my teacher and guide, mentioned in the book, Greatly Honoured Frater, DH.

The Golden Dawn was able to change and expand me because it is a depth spiritual tradition – one concerned with practice and method not simply confessional faith, which has been the norm for most western religions since the Renaissance. Like all authentic traditions its practices work on the inner levels, the interior aspects of ourselves and the universe via certain key principles, the main one forming the title of the Book. During an important Golden Dawn ceremony the lead officer declaims:

By names and images are all powers awakened and reawakened.

When we say the name of our beloved, we feel their unique presence. When we imagine their face before us, our emotions and our mind changes. However, when we try the same experiment with the name and image of a politician – we get a … different result. So, in company with all the great spiritual traditions across the world – Christian, Buddhist, pagan, Hindu, Shamanic and others – the Golden Dawn uses words, and images precisely – along with breath, ritual, posture and other methods to unlimit, to change and transform us.

1st Edition of the Golden Dawn

However, how it exactly does this has never been readily apparent – even in the original groups in Victorian England, one was often simply given the raw texts and rituals and if you were lucky someone more experienced would come along and show you how it worked. This problem became particuarly acute for the thousands of people who would follow the published Golden Dawn material, available since 1937.

As I teenager I discovered that while many of the books on the Golden Dawn described the rituals, what to say, how to wave our arms around, none one them actually showed how to DO the rituals. By this I mean the required visualisation, movements of energy, focus, breath and dynamics that that empower the ritual on the inner levels – the stuff that makes a ritual transformational and not simply a piece of drama.

READ P.36 “RITUAL UNLIKE …” [you’ll have to purchase a copy for this bit 🙂 www.bynamesandimages.com]

After purchasing a particularly bad example of the type of Golden Dawn book that showed the ‘what’ not the ‘how’ – all surface glitter but no depth – I decided that if I was ever in a position to, I would write and publish a book that revealed how the Golden Dawn actually works, laying it all out in the open, simply and clearly. It was a lovely thought, though hardly an informed one, quite naive but full of the best intentions typical of new seekers on any spiritual path. Over the years, as I slowly came into and was taught the inner knowledge of the Golden Dawn, this intention and commitment kept coming back to me.

It is a testament to the Golden Dawn tradition itself that I, a simple lad living in a city far away from the tradition’s homeland of England, could even start on this project. To say I was guided and helped at every step of the way is an understatement.

And with such guidance, and I must say such love, from the tradition and it’s interior guardians, I was eventually in a position to begin the book. Many years later, with more help than I could name, we have By Name and Images – a book that attempts to provide the hitherto unpublished keys to the magic of the Golden Dawn, to bring it to life.

If my endeavour is in any way successful it is due to those who have taught, guided and put up with me and my magic for many years. It is also, I feel thanks utterly to those interior beings of the Golden Dawn who guide it. In an article on the book, Gareth Knight, my publisher, mentions the significance in western magic of the number 120, and 120 years in particular. How 120 years is seen as an almost gestational period, where something is hidden and buried, and revealed years later. Now the Golden Dawn began in 1888, but the second Order, the group that practiced the interior magic By Names and Images explores, was not formed until 1892.

And, so with seven years delay at another publisher to bump up the years, I am aware of the happy coincidence that the magic which began in 1892 is now being published a 120 years later. To me this shows it has all been out of my hands all along…


By Names and Images information, reviews and links

Discrimination – a personal note

Within the Hermetic Qabalah Malkuth, ‘the Kingdom’,  is the basal and most important sphere on the Tree of Life – without it you’re not here at all. 🙂 Malkuth has many functions. On the personal level it points to how the ‘self’ interacts with the external physical world via the senses. This interaction is a two way street – we breath in, and we breath out, we see and are seen. Therefore the most important ‘virtue’ of Malkuth is often described as discrimination – the ability to set boundaries and decide what we take into ourselves and what we reject.

Discrimination functions first at a basic physical level – if we do not discriminate between a cheese toastie and a dishrag we are in big trouble. Less dramatically so but equally true for various foodstuffs on the market today. 🙂 We learn the art of discrimination very early on as nippers – at least for our physical selves.

Since Malkuth is the most important sphere on the Tree, its virtue is arguably the most important too. And certainly we see the need to discriminate beyond the physical. In fact, the esoteric arts require us to hone, refine and transfer this skill into all the spheres on the Tree of Life. So for example, we set boundaries to the forms of energy we are open to in Yesod, the type of reactions we display and are open to. Similarly for mental constructs and communication in Hod – what we accept and what we share etc. So too in all spheres and all aspects of our life; discrimination is required.

In By Names and Images I pass on the insight my dad gave to me when a wee lad:

“Believe nothing of what you hear and only half of what you see”.

As I say in the book it took me a while to realise this wisdom of this saying and more importantly how apt it is in the magical arts and community. I first got a real good sense of it a few years after leaving my first coven and discovering  a fellow Pagan at library school. Nice and friendly she was until she discovered my past associations, whereupon she hesitantly, and with much prompting, relayed a lurid tale not fit for MOTO, asking me how I could be involved in such stuff? Now my former High Priest was a bit…dodgy (as recounted in this post)… but not Sunday Papers dodgy, if you know what I mean. The story was a load of dog muck. I was there at the time. Some bugger simply made it up.

Mr Vonnegut

It would be nice to say such things are rare, but really they are not. Just look at the still existing idea that Nelson Mandela quoted Marianne Williamson’s ‘Return to Love’ at his inauguration speech. He didn’t use this quote at either speech – some bugger simply made it up.   Or look at this speech to high school graduates by the brilliant Kurt Vonnegut – he was never there, never wrote this – some bugger simply made it up.

The problem is that we imperfect human beings are meaning seeking creatures who like a good story. Truth has little to do with it. With the advent of the internet, which was the spawning ground for the two stories above, this problem has got a lot worse. Anyone can say anything about anyone or any event they wish. The buggers can simply make it up. And, unless discrimination is applied, they will be believed. All we need to do is look at a few occult forums and blogs to see what I mean, where if we do not apply discrimination we would be convinced that a lot of GD folk are nasty, conspiratorial, gun-running loonies. When in fact some bugger simply made it up.

A further issue with the internet is the necessity of projected meaning onto any communication we receive or words we read. In normal day-to-day discourse the majority of communication occurs at a non-verbal level – to say nothing of inner interactions of an esoteric nature. So when someone says, for example “I love you” there is a wealth of emotion, power and force connected to and within these words. Now the same words when they appear over a messenger service are…simply words. The receiver, in trying to make sense of them, is very likely to project their own meaning and emotions onto them. In fact they need to project something, give some meaning to the pixels on the screen, otherwise they remain meaningless on-and-off sets of light.

This is why so many people seem to fall in love over the internet – and really feel they do. If someone has a strong desire for love, if they ‘need’ it to be so, they can project that onto whatever non-physical internet interaction they are having. They feel the love when someone  types, “I love you”, but it is actually coming from their own spheres. Naturally of course, if this projection continues, the receiver may come to project enough onto the sender to believe she or he ‘knows them more deeply than anyone else’. This is natural, since they are simply projecting onto the sender all the qualities they are seeking. The antidote of course is discrimination.

With the above in mind we can see how some of the more notorious internet shindigs start and fester. Some person in Useless Loop (a real town) types something, and another in Scunthorpe (equally real) has to make sense of the words. There is no non-verbal and energetic context, just words. Projection is easy and offense, if the receiver is consciously or unconsciously looking for offense, appears to be really there. That is, the offended party may be projecting an awful lot. They may feel really hurt, may actually believe there are attacks on them, and much may be from their own projection alone. The antidote of course is discrimination.

I think it is incumbent on students and teachers of the esoteric to be developing and practising their discrimination on a daily basis. To me, being a virtue of Malkuth, it is like the Lesser Pentagram – a novice level process that needs to be repeated daily because we are all imperfect and interact with the world through a constructed and temporal vehicle – that is, our personality self. This is especially true when interacting with other esoteric folk via the internet.

Finally, some wisdom gained from an old school friend who recently ascended (descended?) into elected public office. Prior to his election he could not understand why some folk would not deny or refute completely baseless and damaging rumours. After trying himself to do so, he realised it is best to say nothing; denials or refutations make people think you have something to hide, that there is some truth to the matter when there is often none. Therefore it is best to say nothing and let those with  discrimination sort it out for themselves. So, when reading about various Orders, teachers and folk on the net who are not refuting vile and vicious rumours, it could be because some bugger simply made them up. Apply discrimination and listen to me ol’ dad 🙂

“Believe nothing of what you hear and only half of what you see”.

A quick note on advanced practices

In my callow youth I was very much focused on the practical aspects of magic and spirituality. I would scrutinise any potential literary purchases with a careful eye – those that did not contain practical instructions were destined to enter the ‘maybe later’ category. This reflected both my own search for inner workings (as detailed in this post) and the emphasis on orthopraxy within the magical traditions.

This very understandable focus on practice within magic contrasts the development of western Christianity’s focus on creed and orthodoxy since the Renaissance.  Christians believe and magicians do – so the story goes. Of course, there are plenty of Christians, such as the Eastern Orthodox, who have a strong orthopraxis element. And interestingly, there are a number of magicians who adhere to certain aspects of their tradition (such as Secret Chiefs) via trust and faith without direct experience. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. 🙂

Now a heavy focus on practice alone can be a problem in itself. It took me a while (and many sighs from my teacher) to realise this, even though the nub of the matter is contained in this pithy saying I heard when a teenager:

Though a robe be washed a thousand times, how can it be clean if it is washed in dirty water?

Lobsang Rampa

This was described to me as a ‘Buddhist’ aphorism, though it’s just as likely to have stemmed from Rampaism for all I know. Here the various methods of practice are the ways to wash our clothes and the water is the context, the motivation and environment in which we practice. So, no matter how many times we practice, no matter what techniques we use, if our motivation and ideas are wrong or undeveloped we will not transform.

This is something I fairly hammer home in By Names and Images, repeating it several times, as I have seen the results of not understanding this principle far too many times in the magical community. To quote that old veteran of the esoteric, Gareth Knight:

To avoid unbalanced conditions of the astral light it is not sufficient simply to perform particular banishing formulae; what is required is the tranquillity of mind and heart that comes from stable outer life relationships and a selfless dedication.

I therefore get a little concerned when I hear of the heavy focus on practice, with people desiring more ‘advanced’ practices (secret, naturally) that they assume will ‘develop’ them further, ‘advance’ their understanding and raise their grade. Or something like that. I have known and know several folk who stay in dysfunctional groups because their leader has a promised advanced techniques in the next grade as a carrot. Since the publication of my book I have been corresponding with a few magicians in this exact situation, hopefully bringing a different perspective to the matter. The trick of course is to look at those promising the ‘advanced’ techniques and see if they show signs of being deeply transformed… or not? Look at their writings, their actions, the presence of compassion and tolerance in their lives… or not.

Now spiritual techniques are wonderful, and there certainly are junior, intermediate and ‘advanced’ forms, the latter type one would not use with novices. However, techniques themselves are not enough. Cutting and pasting from elsewhere:

Put simply, spiritual unfoldment is not the same as ecstasy or altered states of awareness nor is it brought on or developed solely by repeated experiences of the same. Other qualities, such as discipline, morality, compassion, altruism, introspection, and community service are required.

It is in this context we should read this article: Anders Behring Breivik used meditation to kill – he’s not the first.

Ayatollah Khomeini

Some readers of this blog may also be surprised to know that that icon of hatred, bigotry and murder, the late Ayatollah Khomeini was an accomplished and respected practitioner of Islamic mysticism, Irfan.

Meditation is not enough. Mysticism is not enough. Magic – even the most intense and ‘powerful’ advanced, secret-third-order-sex-magic – is not enough. The writer of the above article comes at the problem from a Buddhist perspective.

… the Buddha made right understanding the first item in his eightfold path because he knew that everyone is guided by a worldview and underlying beliefs. His teachings seek to reshape those views so they eliminate attachment and support liberation. Ultimately, that includes attachment to doctrines, but discarding them too soon means that pre-existing beliefs and prevailing opinion go unchallenged.

Right understanding. This is not a practice, but an attitude, a focal point, a giving up of the ego’s sovereignty. It is the neophyte in the Inner Light tradition declaring ‘I desire to know in order to serve‘. Nuff said? 🙂

On the inevitability of diversity (but not schism)

Back when I was a  youth first getting a handle on this magic lark, I had a vision. Well more of a fantasy really. Riding home on my scooter from a Pagan social gathering of many covens, I imagined a similar situation for my beloved Golden Dawn. I envisioned a time where there would be several (or many) different outer Golden Dawn temples in Perth, each approaching the tradition differently, even quite differently. However, there would be a single inner RR et AC College, where adepts would come to serve and deepen in the Rosicrucian magical tradition.

The other day I was reminded of this fantasy by the words on the Ba Iset Order of the Rosy Cross blog describing their Order: “Golden Dawn based in the Outer; Global Rosicrucian in the Inner”. I love the ‘Global Rosicrucian’ phrase, and while I have no idea if my reading of it is what BIORC means, it sounds like what I envisioned.

Though I was not consciously aware of it at the time, my fantasy-vision was based on the esoteric principles inherent in the GD and RR et AC. The outer order is concerned with balancing the personality, and the inner with the use of the balanced personality by the deeper self and the One. Outer order experiences can therefore be quite different for folk, though often following a broad theme. The inner order experience, in the Golden Dawn at least, centres around magic.

The aim of magic is to become ourselves, and yet in doing so we lose ourselves. We become more deeply a person with unique and strong characteristics, but these are subservient to our connection and service to the One. Metaphorically the light of Goddess / God / the One is shone down and focused through the lens of our personality (which is cleaned and purified by the Outer work). In this way the Light of the One reaches the earth unhindered and focused and magnified – which is why the Magnificat talks about Mary’s soul ‘magnifying’ the Lord.

Each of the various magical initiatory streams, through their practices and blessings serve to bring a person towards being more themselves, more real, more solid and present in the material world. So the various GD Orders imagined in my little fantasy would be serving the same ends, though by different outer means. At the same time however, the final aim is more inner than outer. It’s all in these words from the GD Equinox ceremony (or is it MR? AO? SM? – someone please correct me, as some folk are so concerned we get the right initials):

Fratres et Sorores of the Order, seeing that the whole intention of the Lower Mysteries, or of external initiation, is by the intervention of the Symbol, Ceremonial, and Sacrament, so to lead the Soul that it may be withdrawn from the attraction of matter and delivered from the absorption therein, whereby it walks in somnambulism, knowing not whence it cometh nor whither it goeth; and seeing also, that thus withdrawn, the Soul by true direction must be brought to study of Divine Things, that it may offer the only clean Oblation and acceptable sacrifice, which is Love expressed towards God, Man and the Universe. Now, therefore, I confess and testify thereto, from my Throne in this Temple, and I promise, so far as in me lies, to lead you by the Rites of this Order, faithfully conserved, and exhibited with becoming reverence, that through such love and such sacrifice, you may be prepared in due time for the greater Mysteries, the Supreme and inward Initiation.

…the Supreme and inward initiation 🙂 Doesn’t that make you smile? 🙂

Now each of us is different and a unique form of the One. So we will experience our magic in different ways. This is why RR et AC  magic is more akin to exegesis than literal interpretation; we make our own magic by personal interaction with the tradition. It is why the RR et AC and other streams teach us by formulae, not complete unchanging rituals – we are to create new forms, new magic, new rituals. This is very important, as it enacts the mystical connection of the self and personality, the inner and the outer.

Sometimes, once we are connected to the inner and circling that ol’ “Supreme and inward Initiation”, we are directed and called upon to act in the outer in a different way to those around us. This is one reason why, after a certain period of unfoldment some folk are ‘moved out’ or have to leave their mother-lodge. As they become more themselves, they are directed by the inner to work with different symbols, themes, beings, motifs and mysteries. Sometimes, if they are unlucky bastards, the inner tells them to start a group to do all this.

Now a sensible mother-Order rejoices (or at least accepts the inevitable) when this happens, even if it means losing one of their best initiates. Apparently Dion Fortune did this when W.E. Butler started being the receptacle for a different set of inner contacts than the ones currently directing the Fraternity of the Inner Light. Elsewhere Dion writes about the need to give senior members their own tasks and duties to guide junior members, and so avoid any ‘stagnation’ of the ‘magnetism’ they have received from their initiations and practices. As they have received, so too they must pass on, to keep all in flow. Dion asserts this practice helped avoid any schisms in the Fraternity. I am not sure if there have been actual schisms following Dion’s death, but if there have they have kept their dirty washing away from the public eye far better than many GD groups 🙂

So, one form of ordered and healthy expansion of the magical tradition occurs via senior folk gaining a new commission from the inner and going off to form their own outer expression of the mysteries – hopefully at the same time remaining on the Christmas card list of the mother-Order’s leader(s). Really, a good Order would recognise this and even ‘charter’ the departing initiate(s). This is a wonderful thing as it reflects an eternal truth – diversity on the outer, unity on the inner.

Less wonderful is ‘expansion’ via schism which often occurs when senior folk have inner directions to form new outer forms but are not given blessing and support to do so. This has happened far too many times in the Golden Dawn for anyone to feel happy about. Another problem is when a senior initiate is persuaded or chooses to stay within a mother lodge, despite inner promptings, because they are waiting to receive promised ‘higher teachings’ and knowledge. To ignore inner directions for these reasons is very harmful. The senior initiate’s connection will be hampered, and at the same time the presence of new or differently formed currents and contacts, seeking to be earthed, will be introduced into the mother-lodges’ egregore. A messy situation indeed.

Now, since the greater mysteries, or Inner Order work is more concerned with inner experience (contained within the principles of the Rosicrucian tradition) there is a great wealth of wisdom to be gained from the inner itself, regardless of putative ‘higher’ or third Order teachings.

Recently a Facebook friend of mine wrote some beautiful words on this theme. After a certain time of unfoldment, specific spiritual and magical teachings become simply a framework and starting place for further deepening, guided by the inner. Adepthood is where there is no leaning on outer Orders, groups, teachings or masters. While all of these things assist and aid our service and unfoldment, they are simply there to assist our unfoldment not direct or constrain it.

In the GD tradition this is the stage of the completed Adeptus Minor. As I write in By Names and Images:

The Adept connects with the deeper objective forces of Yetzira, symbolised by the full elemental powers, the planets, the Sephiroth and the Zodiac. She learns to navigate and move into the various realms of Yetzira at will. By doing so she is able to connect with and draw down all the powers and blessings she needs in order to re-make her personality self and to promote healing and spiritual growth in others. She also has the ongoing expanded awareness of the Higher and Divine Genius and is more and more able to obtain whatever magical or spiritual instruction she requires without reference to an outside human agency. However, she may often choose to maintain a connection with the physical Order so as to work in harmony with other Adepts in their service to humanity.

The centrality of the grade within the whole schema of unfoldment reflects the centrality of the associated Sephira, Tiphareth on the Tree of Life. All is expressed and combined, reflected and distilled through Tiphareth, which connects to the Utmost via Gimel. This is why, when functioning fully at this grade, there is no need for external teachers. It is also one reason why, I think, when discussing the teachings at higher grades, Nick Farrell says: ” Any new information automatically categorises itself at the 5=6. If it is a system, new or not, it is by its very nature 5=6.”

This is not to say, of course, that there are not wonderful and deep teachings at the ‘higher levels’ – there are certainly some by now, though I am not sure how true that was historically. However, these teachings must be integrated and infused into one’s own individual communion between outer and inner, lower and higher, personality and self, circle and point. The Adeptus Minor can commune with the inner, receive all they need from the inner, so outward teachings from any external ‘higher’ sources or orders are secondary to their mystical Conversation – put simply, they are not needed. Waiting for external, ‘higher’ teachings when one is connected to the inner, and able to be held and guided by the inner (as will happen with the right motivation) misses the whole mystery of the Adept grade in the first place. Right-ho? 🙂

A little bit on symbols and the Golden Dawn

RR et AC Rose Cross

Following on from my last but one post, I have been thinking again about symbols and how they work to connect us with the transpersonal. There is a lot written on symbols out there, and probably much remains to be written. This is because the gift that symbols give us, access to the inner reality they represent, can never be exhausted. Like the One, these gifts go on ‘forever’, that is they are actually beyond the conceptions and realities of time and space.

As I have mentioned before, the Rosicrucian magic of the RR et AC and similar traditions is more akin to exegetical interaction with scripture than a correctly performed, tick all the boxes, ‘traditional’ Grimoric ritual. RR et AC magic is designed to be creative. It is supposed to capture us, meaning our lower egos, allure us and entice us into a relationship with the mysteries that empower the magic itself. By this relationship we are remade and renewed in the service of the One.

Of course, RR et AC magic, and similar traditions, are not free for all spontaneous affairs. There are certain well defined hallmarks of tradition. These however are not defined by orthodoxy (commonly understand to mean right ‘understanding’ or ‘thinking’, but really referring to the correct way to praise the One). Nor are they defined by orthopraxy, which is concerned with the correct action, as no one these days thinks their Order has the one correct redaction of the rituals, and all others are lesser or incorrect. Do they?

Rather, as in a previous post, I believe our traditions are defined by a concept I call Orthometapraxy, that is a correct way of meta-action, ‘adjacent’, ‘beyond’, or ‘inner’ action. So while we recognise variants in the Qabalistic Cross for example, we understand that its correct use will have some interior action, intention and focus of connecting us with the highest divinity and linking, balancing and opening ourselves to it. The focus here is on the inner activity, the ‘meta’ aspect of this rather long word. So, for example, I do not claim the various inner workings in By Names and Images are ‘correct’, or ‘traditional’, only that in their principles they follow traditional themes and mysteries which help produce transformation and service. Other variants of the rituals, and even other inner workings would still be ‘correct’ if they produce the same transformation.

In my earlier post on this concept I gave an example which bears repeating here. At the most ‘meta’ level we can say that most or even all spiritual practices, if they are to be effective, have to follow the following basic pattern:

  • Firstly, they have to strengthen our boundaries of the ‘box’ of everyday consciousness; make us strong, know who we are – grounding is the typical way of doing this.
  • Secondly, they have to then focus on the reality of what is beyond the box of everyday existence – Goddess, God, the One Being, Mystery, and allow us to surrender to be guided by that power. The practice needs to guide and show us how to give over ourselves to the higher forces, or to ‘begin in the name of God’.
  • Thirdly, they have to at some point move us ‘out of our box’ of everyday life – a transition of consciousness, guided safely into something OTHER, something beyond our current ego identity. This may be a state of meditation, the touch of Goddess in a ceremony of communion, an interaction with an unknown aspect of ourselves. But it has to be something different, outside our normal frame of reference. And this interaction has to be undertaken in balance.
  • Fourthly, the practice has to return our consciousness into ‘the box’ and re-strengthen the boundaries with care. Our interaction and communion with the Other, the sacred will promote an expansion of the box, a change of who we think we are.
  • Finally, they have to give thanks to the One, the Mystery beyond the box and promote our gratitude towards the One, to encourage us to form and maintain good relationship with the Sacred powers.

Once we focus upon orthometapraxy rather than orthopraxy or even orthodoxy (yes there are some GD Orders who implicitly promote orthodoxy) and embrace this attitude we are moved to be more open to variants and changes within our tradition. Again, this does not mean wholesale making up as we go along, as I believe one of the key principles of orthometapraxy is that change to tradition comes from the tradition itself, not individual practitioner whims, fancies or lower self concerns. How we distinguish the two is a matter of personal activity and conscience.

With respect to symbols then, we can see this ‘meta’ concept clearly. Within traditional western spirituality a symbol can never be defined, can never be limited, and no one can say ‘this is what this means’. If I remember my university semiotics correctly, such defining is a function of a sign, not a symbol. A symbol on the other hand, is a gateway to the transcendent, the timeless worlds of truth, harmony and beauty.

In all the traditional western magical approaches a symbol is introduced to the initiate, often within a certain time frame or context, and the initiate forms her or his own relationship with it. There may be some minor explanation of the symbol, typically at the end of an initiation ceremony, but these are clearly seen as leg-ups, hints and ways for the initiate to start her own journey. Anyone who thinks “symbol A means xxx and nothing more” has missed the point of symbolism within magic entirely.  Even if we think sneakily to ourselves, “OK symbol A can mean more things, but really it’s about xxx”, we show our lack of understanding. As modern western folk accustomed to definitive meaning in our daily interactions and the heavy use of signs, we all at times slip into thinking we know a symbol, into treating it as a sign.

The relationship between a symbol and an initiate, particularly a new initiate, is sacred. It should grow and unfold slowly and deeply, almost as if the symbol and initiate were two lovers exploring their sexual embraces for the first time. It is a precious thing, and should not be intruded upon by attempts at definitions and ideas. Even if the initiate comes to the same understanding as previous initiates concerning the mysteries and function of the symbol, which is generally what happens, they need to come to this realisation and embrace themselves. It is the getting there, the acts of surrender and struggle with the symbol which changes and remakes the initiate. This is one of the reasons interpretations of symbols, and indeed the symbols themselves, were kept secret in western magic – to avoid intrusion on the sacred embrace between initiate and the symbol.

I therefore get a little irked when someone tries to ‘inform’ or even worse ‘enforce’ meanings upon symbols. I also get annoyed when the transpersonal nature of symbols are forced into personal meaning. I have seen this happen a bit in modern exoteric churches were the mysterious symbols of Christianity are viewed upon as almost an embarrassment and mysteries are seldom enacted or discussed. At more than one Stations of the Cross, that intense re-enactment of the mysteries of the Via Dolorosa, I have heard the station of suffering described, almost traditionally. Then however, a modern gloss is put over the description and the meaning of what the station means, regarding the personal  lives of the congregation, are described and recited. So we empathise with Jesus falling by personal talk about how our daily lives can feel like a struggle.

There is much noble intention here – a linking of the Way of Sorrows with our own lives – but a lack of understanding of ritual and mystery. Since this description is only one of an infinitude ways of relating to the Way, it is necessarily limiting for some, if not most folk. Since it focuses on the personal it hinders the transpersonal the Way points to. Also, it robs each member of the congregation from their own journey with the raw power and awesome nature of the Way. It is by direct, personal interaction with these symbols (which is not easy), not recitation of their meaning, that the personal is truly infused by Mystery.

The same approach is seen in a few Golden Dawn groups and other traditions, where symbols are prescriptively described, making them almost a sign. Now some symbols have in the past been used and even misused as signs, as ways of interaction and knowing if the members are of a certain grade, have a certain teaching etc. They have also been used as shorthand, referring to particular magical practices. However, testing someone on these symbols, looking for a certain prescribed meaning is almost insulting to the symbol. A symbol will reveal a range of meanings, a broad scope of depth, most of which – and here is the important point – cannot be described as the meaning is beyond verbal, emotional and intellectual comprehension. It is apprehended by another aspect of our beings. Looking therefore for a single ‘answer’ is limiting. One could quite easily have communed with the deeper meaning of the symbol, but be unable to describe it in the narrow contexts of the questioner. Right? 🙂