The Magical Life: quick lessons from the Cloud (no, not THAT cloud!)

Every magician worth his salt ends up a mystic. – Attributed to Dion Fortune.

Scanning around the internet and some publications we often seen a distinction made in modern magical circles between magic and mysticism.

Magic, in the modern theurgic ‘self-transformation’ sense (and really what’s the point in discussing any other sense?) is often described as a path of self-transformation via various practices with the ultimate aim of perfecting oneself or uniting oneself with the divine.

Mysticism, at least in the magical circles, is often defined simply as a path where the mystic seeks to unite themselves with the Divine by meditation and prayer.

The two seem similar in endpoint but at the pure end of the spectrum are vastly different in practice. At one end is the magical path of self-transformation: it is self-initiated and self-directed and primarily affects and transforms the self. At the other end of the spectrum, pure mysticism and its fruits await completely on the grace of the One and are directed by the One alone.

Naturally folk are seldom at the pure end of the spectrum. Magicians will ‘work with’ deities and the divine for their own self-transformation. Mystics will self-direct (or at least self-choose to act on directions) and engage themselves in various spiritual practices and prayers.

For me this distinction is not as important as another, seldom as well articulated. Mystical union (at least in the Christian tradition which underlies the esoteric traditions) is not the same as the divine union typically envisioned in magic. In magical and occult paths the concept of union involves, ultimately at the pinnacle, identification with God or immersion in God. This shows the monist conception at the root of much modern magical philosophy.

In the Christian mystical traditions even at the highest, “There is union, but not fusion or confusion. Although ‘oned’ with the divine, man (sic) still remains man; he is not swallowed up or annihilated, but between him and God there continues always to exist an ‘I-Thou relationship of person to person.” (Metropolitan Kallistos Ware). The path of Theosis is eternal.

This often unspoken and unthought difference stems from the presence or absence of the traditional religious view. When present, the divine is always something wholly other and is related to accordingly. When absent the separation of humanity and the One may be seen only as a matter of degree, not substance or essence.

Post WWII most magicians are not religious folk, at least in the “I-Thou” forms of religious practice. Most are explicitly not Christians, a complete contrast to the early 20th century. This, as well as the antithesis to Christianity means modern magicians are often not exposed to or explore the rich depth of Christian mystical traditions which may elucidate and aid them in their quest for the divine. One such source is the Cloud of Unknowing.

The Cloud is a late Middle Ages work on contemplative prayer in the form of advice from a senior monk to a young student (already practiced on the path a bit himself). It advocates the via negativa or the Apophatic path, whereby the One cannot be understood by the mind but must instead be described in a series of negations. And it suggests wonderful, practical ways of doing so. The Apophatic approach to the One is often contrasted with the Kataphatic which describes the One and its attributes. In Kataphatic practice we use our will, intellect, power, direction and imagination. We can easily see the temptation to describe western magic as Kataphatic and the more passive forms of mysticism as Apophatic, but there is a lot more to this story 🙂

I was re-reading the Cloud the other day and struck on these passages:

“… there be two manner of lives in Holy Church. The one is active life, and the other is contemplative life. Active is the lower, and contemplative is the higher. Active life hath two degrees, a higher and a lower: and also contemplative life hath two degrees, a lower and a higher. Also, these two lives be so coupled together that although they be divers in some part, yet neither of them may be had fully without some part of the other.

For why? That part that is the higher part of active life, that same part is the lower part of contemplative life. So that a man may not be fully active, but if he be in part contemplative; nor yet fully contemplative, as it may be here, but if he be in part active. The condition of active life is such, that it is both begun and ended in this life; but not so of contemplative life. For it is begun in this life, and shall last without end. For why? That part that Mary chose shall never be taken away. Active life is troubled and travailed about many things; but contemplative sitteth in peace with one thing.

The lower part of active life standeth in good and honest bodily works of mercy and of charity. The higher part of active life and the lower part of contemplative life lieth in goodly ghostly meditations, and busy beholding unto a man’s own wretchedness with sorrow and contrition, unto the Passion of Christ and of His servants with pity and compassion, and unto the wonderful gifts, kindness, and works of God in all His creatures bodily and ghostly with thanking and praising.

But the higher part of contemplation, as it may be had here, hangeth all wholly in this darkness and in this cloud of unknowing; with a loving stirring and a blind beholding unto the naked being of God Himself only.

In the lower part of active life a man is without himself and beneath himself. In the higher part of active life and the lower part of contemplative life, a man is within himself and even with himself.”

Representing this schema diagrammatically may yield much.

three lives cloud two

The key of course is the mutual identification of the Upper Active with the Lower Contemplative. When we place this on the Tree with reference to the Three Orders of the Golden Dawn it becomes clear.

cloud lives on tol

By describing the Upper Active and Lower Contemplative as co-terminal we see straightaway how the Outer Order is said to depend on the Inner Order and the Inner Order on the Third Order. Similarly though to fulfil its complete function of active life, the Inner Order requires an Outer Order, and to fulfil the contemplative life, the Third Order requires an Inner Order. It all coheres in mutual interdependence. It is for these reasons, I think, that we read in Dr Tony Fuller’s masterful PhD thesis, ‘Anglo-Catholic Clergy and the Golden Dawn’ of the decision of New Zealand adepts to close the Cromlech Temple, often seen as the Third Order, following the close of the Inner and Outer Orders: there was no ‘body’ for the Spirit to inhabit.

Practically of course this also explains why it’s terribly, terribly difficult to be a magician in the Golden Dawn tradition on one’s tod.

Looking at the diagram and the text we see the Lower Active life encompassing spheres all connected with the material universe as represented by the basal Sephrioth of Malkuth. For this reason the author of the Cloud describes the work of this arena as ‘good and honest bodily works of mercy and of charity’. This is the work of compassion expressed in the world, traditionally done through church membership, alms giving, visiting the sick and imprisoned etc. It is so very absent in the modern magical community though still present in the Masonic.

The Lower Active is an integral part of the full spiritual life. Nowhere does the author of the Cloud suggest otherwise. Rather he suggests only that to reach and stabilise the Higher aspect of each life we must ‘for a time’ suspend the lower. This is in direct contrast to many people’s understanding of the mystic life, and indeed descriptions from many mystics themselves, and is one reason why the Cloud is so groovy 🙂

“They (mystics) seek to ‘be in the world but not of it’. Their path is of non-attachment, removal of the ego, never working for personal gain etc., a gradual stripping away of everything that is not God until they find the part that is. Once this is attained there is only this unity to bask in. … The mystic has travelled so light to reach their goal that there is nothing more that can be done other than live the reminder of their life in a state of bliss and hope that others will be helped by contact with them.” (Nick Farrell).

More importantly, the identification of the lower contemplative and the higher active shows how the magical and the mystical, the Kataphatic and Apophatic approach are in fact working the same sphere of self and are both needed. This is not simply a matter of practicing magic and then practicing contemplation, but of fusing the two approaches. We see this most clearly in the Eucharist which uses our Kataphatic qualities to describe and Glorify God at the same time we Commune with the ultimate Apophatic mystery of Christ’s self-emptying in Incarnation and on the Cross.

Practically we can get a sense of how to incorporate the two in our ceremonial practice by listening to this remarkable lecture by Denys Turner on ‘Thomas Aquinas and the Pseudo-Denys on the Darkness of God’. Listen from 40 minutes on for how the outer Kataphatic action of the Sign of the Cross leads us also into Apophatic experience.

https://nds.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/02/AquinasLecture.mp3

“When we … invoke the trinity in our lives, we pray in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and as we do so we make the sign of the Cross. When we do this, it is as if to say, as even the philosophers knew, it is true, God not being any kind of being, we are drawn by reason into God’s impenetrable cloud of unknowing. It is true, that the same darkness of God is deepened by the very demonstration of God’s existence, which far from placing within the grasping hands of reason, shows that at the heart of our highest part of rational power, we are drawn even more deeply and surely into the divine darkness … Then it is we that we make the sign of the Cross. Then it is we enter into the true darkness of God, God’s own darkness in the person of the crucified Son.”

Hope this helps 🙂

How Rosicrucian is the Golden Dawn? A review of a review

rc-lamenj

I have to confess I get nervous, a kind of ‘contact embarrassment’ whenever someone says they are a Rosicrucian. I was brought up by kind and decent folk, unassuming and unpretentious and this seems to have influenced by spiritual life somewhat: when the Fama says to ‘profess nothing’ save to heal the sick gratis, I think it means just that. Tradition tells us one simply does not declare oneself a Rosicrucian. It’s like Maggie Thatcher’s wisdom: ‘if you have to tell someone you’re a lady, you’re not’.

I guess a good response for those who wander up to us at parties declaring they are ‘a Rosicrucian’ would be to imitate novelist Maya Angelou’s retort when confronted with folk who proudly declared they were Christians: ‘what, already?’ 🙂

So when a blog, for all the right reasons I am sure, seeks to review modern Rosicrucian Orders and give them a score for various ‘Rosicrucian’ qualities, it does make me wonder a little. However, Sam Robinson has done just this and today produced his latest review, this time on ‘the Golden Dawn’. Knowing a bit about this myself, I thought I’d give the review its own little review 🙂

Firstly, Sam needs congratulations – or perhaps pity – for attempting this task at all. The modern set of groups, practices, communities, websites and ideas that are ‘the Golden Dawn’ in 2016 is extremely diverse. I wouldn’t touch a review of ANY aspect of the GD across such an assorted (and often at odds) set of misfits with a barge pole. So here’s to Sam! And to his many caveats he requires to discuss such a diverse cluster of spiritual odds and sods.

Sam, after much placating of expected dummy spitting by some people, starts by an assertion that the GD is Rosicrucian, despite what other Rosicrucians may say. By this he means the inner order of the GD, the Rosae Rubeae et Aurae Crucis, (RR et AC). So far so good, though of course the published text of one redaction of the initiation into this inner order specifically forbids initiates from telling folk they are in fact, Rosicrucians. Hmmm.

Of this Sam writes: “The RR et AC does not belong to the Golden Dawn. It belongs to the greater Rosicrucian current.” It is hard to argue with that, since the GD was specifically created to be the Outer Order of the Inner and is dependent upon the Inner for its existence. Nothing can, by definition ‘belong’ to the GD at all, at all 🙂

I assume what Sam is getting at here is that the RR et AC is a manifestation of the Rosicrucian tradition(s). This may not be obvious now with all sorts of modern GD (outer) manifestations, but the inner retains links to that tradition that cannot be discarded (and still practice the GD effectively in the Outer). No matter how Thelemic one is or how problematic one many find exoteric Christianity.

Sam’s review succeeds or fails on his separation of the GD into the “… ‘public Golden Dawn’ vs. the esoteric and still hidden Golden Dawn Orders.” This will piss many folk off, but I think is one of the greatest aspects of his review and something I respect. Why will it annoy some folk? Sam answers beautifully:

The very idea of still hidden Golden Dawn Orders is considered blaspheme [sic] in some Public G.D circles, so certain as they are that their branches are the only ones with any lineage to claim. So much so that now a militant behavior towards other lineages has become a norm, as is shooting down any ‘challengers’ to a monopoly they imagine they have.

copy-of-pastoslid1Naturally of course, since these ‘still hidden’ GD Orders cannot be scrutinized no verifiable evidence can be forthcoming. The quotations and ideas attributed to these esoteric GD groups could have been written by Sam himself over his morning waffles. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

However, a keen observer and practitioner of the GD/RR et AC will have noticed certain themes and ideas present in the original manifestations (via documented evidence) that are now missing or downplayed in many modern Orders. Extrapolating from these facts can give us an understanding of what a more traditional ‘hidden’ Order’s views may be. That these fit perfectly with the ideas Sam presents as being from two traditional Rosicrucian GD folk is interesting to say the least.

Sam summarizes the themes often missing in the modern GD nicely: “They [the modern Orders] tend to down-play the original Rosicrucian-Christian elements.”  And “At times they offer an approach which is often at odds with the actual G.D documents.” Ouch.

He continues: “The Esoteric G.D as a hidden stream remains more active in its Rosicrucian approaches”. Something I have found also. He explores this Rosicrucian approach as one of the distinguishing factors that separate the public GD and the esoteric, with the public being more focused on the magical and the esoteric on the Rosicrucian.

History

Sam does a quick review of the historical origins of the GD: “The story of the ‘discovery of the [Cipher] manuscripts’ led to their alleged contact with Anna Sprengel”. Me rusty brain tells me it was only later when Dr Felkin started his own search that the mythic Fraulein Sprengel acquired the first name ‘Anna’.

Sam now gives us a juicy carrot:

Recent information has surfaced detailing events leading up to the founding of the SRIA. Essentially English masons did a tour of German and Belgian lodges and encountered spectacular rites (amongst the rites drawn from, shock horror to English masons, was the Egyptian Rite of Misraim). The excursion left them with a sense of purpose; that the English should also have such a Rosicrucian branch.

Well, roger me rigid and call me Toby! Obviously we have to ask WHAT ‘Recent information’ and surfacing from WHERE via WHO? This is all rather occult Boys Own Adventure stuff, but I for one would like some proper sources here 🙂

The lack of understanding of, or willingness to accept, the Christocentric aspects of the inner order of the modern GD manifestations is mentioned by Sam. He says it ‘does influence their Christosophia score’. This lack is something that we have long argued here on MOTO. Such an approach does not require an Inner Order GD member to become a confessional Christian, but they do need a rich and deep engagement with the Christian method of the Rosicrucian tradition. Authorities like R.A. Gilbert maintain Rosicrucianism needs to be approached from a Christian Trinitarian framework else it ceases to be Rosicrucianism.

In this regard Sam briefly mentions the Fellowship of the Rosy Cross, but while initially describing it as a ‘Christian branch’ of the GD, he quickly makes an important distinction: the FRC searches for Grace not magical power which kinda puts it outside the orbit of the GD, at least the modern GD. He also talks about the order and movement often known as Whare Ra in New Zealand:

Whare Ra in New Zealand was one of the longest going G.D currents and certainly it was Christian and had a more faith based approach. In fact most of its members saw attending the G.D as a way to enhance their Catholic beliefs. Still it was not the Christianity of the manifestos.

whareravault100001I think is pretty much on the ball, though from memory the members were largely Anglican not Catholic. Tony Fuller in his excellent doctoral thesis refers to Stella Matutina documents that clearly position the Order as a manifestation and continuation of the Christian revelation through the historical Incarnation. There is no equivocation there.

Christian or wot?

Sam refers to the function and power of Christian symbols within the Inner Order initiation ceremonies and papers. These certainly are clearly drawn from the Christian myths and texts. However, he says that “after initiation into the RR et AC all the Christ symbolism stops dead in its tracks.”

I am really not clear if this is the case at all. Certainly it is in many, if not most modern (public) GD Orders, but not within the Rosicrucianism based Orders he describes as esoteric. The difference is quite stark: I have corresponded with modern adepts who cheerfully confess they have NEVER read the Manifestos and with adepts who know the Manifestos intimately and in parts verbatim. It is the same with the supporting scripture and Christian traditions that underpin the Manifestos.

I agree fully with Sam when he writes of the modern/public GD: “… most G.D leaders mention the [Rosicrucian] current as being ‘just a layer of symbolism to the ritual’ and worse I’ve heard a major G.D authority say ‘there is nothing to the Rosicrucian symbolism.’ Instead the focus is on the magical approach rather than the Rosicrucian one … This is one of the examples of the public G.D being guilty of ignoring its own teachings and papers.”

The same applies to the modern interpretation of the Christian emphasis within the Manifestos and the Inner Order. For example, Pat Zalewski gives a good example of the modern utilitarian approach to the mystical Christianity within the Inner Order when he writes:  “[Christ’s] Name evokes a powerful current or force that fills us with the receptive principle, something akin to the Yin of Chinese metaphysics.” This is a very different approach to his antecedents in Whare Ra.

Sam proceeds to speculate that the ‘Christosophic’ score of the GD would be increased by changing the ritual (presumably the published Adeptus Minor ceremony) by including “… the 11 Apostles, a spear and crown of thorns could be added to the ritual, and the candidate would circulate the temple one time carrying a cross over their shoulders. Furthermore the forty days of the desert of Christ should actually be something the candidate has to undergo, following a period of mystical work before the Rosicrucian degree.”

Personally, I am unsure on all this, as the inner symbolism and mystery of all these elements, apart from the 11 not 12 Apostles, is already within parts of the ceremony or lead-up to the ceremony. At least they are in those Orders that work the inner workings fully within a Christocentric approach. Likewise I personally have a very different appreciation of a section of the Third Point in the Adeptus Minor ceremony quoted by Sam, where the Chief Adept speaks from inside the Pastos:

For I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth.  I am the Way, the Truth and the Life.  No man cometh unto the Father but by Me.  I am the purified.  I have passed through the Gates of Darkness into Light.  I have fought upon earth for Good.  I have finished my Work.  I have entered into the Invisible.  I am the Sun in his rising.  I have passed through the hour of cloud and of night.  I am Amoun, the Concealed One, the Opener of the Day.  I am Osiris Onophris, the Justified One.  I am the Lord of Life triumphant over Death.  There is no part of me which is not of the Gods.  I am the Preparer of the Pathway, the Rescuer unto the Light; Out of the Darkness, let that Light arise.

Sam describes this as “Hermetic Christianity, but it is also quite dry and distances the initiate from Christ.” I am not sure I know anyone personally who experienced this as ‘dry’. Certainly it could be said to be ‘distant’ from a mystical appreciation of Christ as a sole deity, but this is not the point of this part of the ceremony. The Chief Adept speaks as our father in Christ, AND as Amoun AND as the Justified Osiris, producing a fusion which allows connection to the Mystery behind all forms and thence a gateway to the eternal verities. He correctly explores these different approaches by writing:

A contrast arises here, in that one objectifies Christ as an ideal we may become, while the other does the same, but also worships Christ adoringly through the same process.

I am sure that Sam would agree though that more than a few historical and contemporary GD folk do worship and adore Christ, even if this is not the case for those most visible in the public square. However Sam is correct in his critique of the GD/RR et AC’s approach to both Christian theology and scripture as functional and subservient to technical processes of adept manipulation of the various aspects of the self to produce transformation. This is opposed to the traditional Christian understanding of Redemption through the action of Christ not by our own effort. This dual aspect, using traditional Christian-Rosicrucian imagery within a magical context that is counter to traditional Christian theology is the nub of the problem the GD faced and still faces. It is succinctly put by Professor Ronald Hutton:

It was far from obvious, in the performance of the Qabbalistic Cross, whether the kingdom, the power, and the glory belonged to God or were being promised to the human carrying out the ritual.

As Hutton goes on to say, the ambiguity made the GD attractive to people with a range of beliefs and approaches. However, it has also produced the state of play, ably noted by Sam, where the GD can become a tabula rasa for any modern magician to foist their own spiritual views upon.

Sam’s review of the GD approach to traditional ‘Gnosticism’ seems pretty spot on, as far as I can tell, so I won’t comment on that. Instead I will finish with a quote from the review that makes total sense to me. Thank you Sam for this review and your comments, it was informative and delightful.

I would have to say the majority of ‘traditional’ Public G.D Orders are not very Christian. They too tend to play down the role Christ has within their R.C Inner Order.

In many ways Public Golden Dawn has taken a step downhill in this regard. Not only do they ignore the Christ mysticism already outlined in the documents but Christ has become a total stranger. It is almost as if modern Golden Dawn has attracted a bunch of youths who grew up hating their parent’s religion.

Had Golden Dawn remained secret I imagine things would be very different today.

Amen to that. 🙂

 

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.”

🙂 THANKS.

Aten’t Dead: public occultism and wot not

Well, Nick Farrell has done it again: produced a blog that pissed several people off and started much discussion. Not that there is anything wrong with that 🙂

Nick’s topic this time is the failure of public occultism, and his thesis is nicely summed up in the title, ‘Ten Reasons Why Public Occultism Is Dying’. Technically this is a little bit of an oxymoron, but you know what he means, so best not to nit-pick, wot? Some of the responses to Nick’s blogs have been great, but a few have attacked him personally. Not so great. No soup for you! I had my own ideas when reading his blog and these are a few of my thoughts. I am going to start by quoting the sainted Dion:

The pseudo-occultism of the present day, with its dubious psychism, wild theorizing, and evidence that cannot stand up to the most cursory examination, is but the detritus which accumulates around the base of the Mount of Vision. All such worthless rubbish is not worth the power and shot of argument; in order to form a just estimate of the Sacred Science we must study originals, and try to penetrate the minds of the great mystics… whose works bear evidence of first-hand knowledge of the supersensible worlds.

This is from ‘Sane Occultism’, back in 1938 CE when, interestingly, Dion was about the same age as Nick and with about the same many decades of experience in these matters. In a Facebook post regarding a reply to Nick, a wise occult historian made notice of an important fact: the ‘golden age’ of public occultism was actually between about 1870 and 1930 CE. Dion was writing at the tail end of this era, a time when several occult schools were closing or getting ready to close. She had directly experienced both the stellar peaks of British occultism and the less salubrious forms – and by Jove there were plenty of them.

dfmmI imagine Nick has had similar experiences. His and Dion’s views are certainly similar in parts. Nick expects that in a short time ‘public information on real occultism will slowly disappear’ and ‘the whole thing will fade, with occultism being part of the shadows again’. He writes:

The idea that if we put information out there humanity will work at it and watch it develop is a fallacy. It turns out, that the magic which is so freely available, is not the real thing at all. All a book, or a webpage can present is a fact, or opinion – a shadow on the wall. It does not make us the singers of the woven words than owning a cookbook makes us a great chef.

Dion said the same thing repeatedly in many books and articles, as have many other folk. Because in actuality the mysteries behind occultism have always been ‘in the shadows’, have always been ‘underground’ and hidden. There could be a hundred Orders in small city but the actual heart of it all is always behind the veil, large scale public occultism or not. This is the ‘first-hand knowledge of the supersensible worlds’ Dion refers to. It is the ‘True and Invisible Rosicrucian Order’ referred to by Paul Foster Case. It has been said that the secrets of Masonry (and other systems) could be shouted from the rooftops, but they would not be known as such and seem meaningless to those unprepared to receive them. My own experience is that this is spot on.

With reference to any ‘fear’ that public occultism will die, that the mysteries may be lost and wot not, I am reminded a of a chat I had with a couple of aboriginal elders a number of years back. I asked about the changes, the decimation of their culture, the challenges they faced with addiction and ingrained prejudice. Did they worry about their traditions getting lost? They replied that what they and their people knew came from the Land, and even if they were all removed from the Land, or killed, it would still be within the Land. And could be taught again to any who lived with the Land.

So, I am not all worried about authentic western traditions surviving; where they came ‘from’ is beyond all stain, damage and division and this source will always be ‘there’. Individual schools and Orders, traditions of practice may, and will, come and go. The song will remain.

ctAnd it seems to be these individual orders and schools that Nick has concern for. Most of his post addresses problems of approach, either the schools approach to the occult systems he obviously has so much respect for, or modern students approach to the schools and systems which are not respectful at all, at all. One of these schools is, of course, my love, the Golden Dawn 🙂 Nick writes:

‘The “real stuff” might continue but it is going to be even more exclusive than it has been. The great experiment in semi-public occultism which the Order of the Golden Dawn started has been a failure.’

Certainly, this appears to be the view of the Secret Chiefs of the AO who instructed members of the Order to cease active work and let the temples close post WWII (as described in these posts). Of course, the ripples from the GD are still actually moving outward. Nick himself was trained through one of these, the Inner Light tradition. Each day new folk are reading the published material and though ‘the Golden Dawn’ itself may be dead, the spirit behind it may easily be moving and using new vessels that have sprung into existence based on the literary and mythic presence the order still has. It all depends what we see as the limits of the ‘experiment’.

Many of the other problems Nick describes are not confined solely to occultism but are a cultural phenomenon; the quick fix mentality, the impact of internet and social media in the devaluing of expertise, the conflation of systems, the creeping presence of pop-psychology, the lack of respect for elders, etc. As the sheriff in ‘No Country for Old Men’ laments, ‘It’s the tide. It’s the dismal tide. It’s not the one thing.’ How do we change the tide? That’s a whole cultural task, not possible for little MOTO to work through 🙂

THE NUB

The question for me is not so much about occultism having a public or hidden face, but how we help folk to move beyond the sensible, beyond the veil into the heart of it all. Nick suggests he knows how: “I have had a few breakthroughs that have provided me with all the answers I needed to make magic work and why it doesn’t.” Nice.

This is assuming he is here talking of spiritual, transformative magic, not operative magic that will win us the lottery. So, that’s great, then. Nick suggests he won’t be sharing this publicly, like he has generously shared much in the past: ‘unlike the other revelations which I have tended to share with the wider occult community, I don’t have much impulse to share any of this outside my own magical order.’

Without any disrespect for Nick, I can’t quite work out the point of sharing that you’re not gonna share something really important. From my perspective, and I would say from the traditional esoteric perspective, these ‘keys’, as mentioned before simply cannot be shared, they have to be experienced. Good teachers and schools can point the way to that experience, but that is all. I imagine this is what Nick is writing about here.

Moving folk towards this inner experience, which must be undertaken by themselves, is one of the holiest and sacred tasks anyone can have. It is an awesome task and an intense privilege. I rate it as only slightly less awesome as helping someone die well. Sadly, most of the western occult systems are, to quote the Rev Dr Cynthia Bourgeault ‘merely fine-tuning the ego’. For me, as always, a way forward is service. We remove ourselves from the equation as much as we can, and we become more who were really are. To quote meself:

…modern 21st century magic should be about moving the mage from the centre of the circle, controlling all the forces he invokes (which is like, so medieval) to an awareness that at the centre we are interdependent on the entire circle of life, on the One and the universe that forms around us.’

THANKS 🙂

GD Death – My thoughts on the previous posts

My last couple of posts have, naturally prompted some comments and concerns – some here, some on my Facebook page and some in private. Of these several I cannot answer, as I am not the originator of the comments. However, here are some of my current thoughts on these matters.

ctIs the Golden Dawn Dead?

The history recounted shows how various members of several Golden Dawn orders consciously either closed their orders or allowed them to ‘run down’. If this is the case, it would seem to indicate that the GD did in fact ‘die’ – unless there were and are genuine GD lineages from the original Order somehow operating today. I remain very sceptical that there are such orders today. Even those closest to the longest surviving GD tradition, centred on Whare Ra, such as Pat Zalewski, Nick Farrell and Tony Fuller do not claim a chartered succession from the Order.

Even if there are Orders around today stemming from adepts who had some claim to GD lineage from the original order, these adepts would clearly have been operating contra to situation described in the last two posts, where the Order was meant to die out. Therefore, there would be no currents in these modern Orders.

Most if not all of the current GD groups are:

  • Started by adepts from previous Orders (but who lack a charter);
  • Inspired by inner ‘contacts’; or
  • Self-created traditions without recourse to chartering or ‘contacts’ at all.

All of these draw heavily on the published Golden Dawn corpus. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Can these groups be said to be the original Golden Dawn? I doubt it, and doubt there would be many folk willing to argue this.

Can they be said to be the ‘Golden Dawn tradition’? In the broader sense of tradition, this is obviously the case, IMO.

Can they be seen to be the ‘Coagula’ following the ‘Solve’ of the death of the GD reported previously? That depends on our individual point of view.

Personally, I think the most crucial aspect of the last two posts is this comment:

The common theme is that those to whom the Tradition was entrusted allowed it to be “perverted” and corrupted from being a process for the positive transmutation and transformation of the “ego” to being a process that allowed or even encouraged the over-inflation and negative distortion of the “ego”. The Tradition was allowed to become the antithesis of what it was intended to be.

Since the original GD was designed to transmute the ego and its later forms were seen to do just the opposite (something I would have to agree on), any ‘Coagula’, under whatever name or auspices would have to focus on this transmutation. This was the focus in my ‘dangers’ post and while no one can evaluate if this focus occurs within any specific order from the outside, the public statements of many groups on the valorization of magician’s will over the divine aid is very worrying and, IMHO, places them outside the GD tradition.

A shaky analogy with the Christian traditions

One of the common views I have heard on this topic is the idea that the actions of the elders of the GD to stop ‘charging’ the Order would have no or little effect on those individuals and groups working the system with a good heart and positive motivation.

Here we enter, for want of a better term, ‘magical theology’. Some points are relevant here.

Firstly, the situation for several temples at least, seems to be they were instructed to let the GD battery run down by their inner contacts. Now, most magicians do not question the commands of their inner contacts. It is just not done. After all, if these communications are invested with a quasi-divine status or seen to be stemming from ‘Masters’ (however they are viewed), it makes no sense to happily go along with all other directives, and then when something one does not like comes along to say, ‘ere, hang on a minnit’. A Master can direct you away from themselves and their work, and the student should follow. The eastern and Middle Eastern traditions are full of this exact theme.

So any GD adept refusing this particular call from the Inner would be placing themselves outside of the current and tradition by their own actions.

Secondly, the assumption that working the system with a correct heart will place one within ‘the tradition’ and attract the ‘currents’ is working with a particularly Protestant view of the inner world. It is only since Martin Luther, who DID say, ‘ere hang on a minnit’ and hammered away at church door in Wittenberg one Halloween morn in the early 1500s, that these ideas have been abroad in western religious consciousness.

The Roman Catholic (and I pretty sure the Orthodox) view on these things is different. There is the Church, founded by the Apostles after Christ’s death and the apostolic succession is what makes a church, and the sacraments within that church, valid. Without it, the sacraments are not valid, in fact are not there at all. It is this belief that led Pope Benedict to annoy a lot of folk by declaring those churches outside the succession as ‘fellowships’ not churches.

So in a magical context, those groups without the Golden Dawn currents and lineage – and since it was shut off, this means all groups – could work the rituals as much as they wished, but there would be no actual current. We can accept this view or not. Before we reject it however, we should think again with a Christian analogy:

If I were to wander into a Catholic supply shop and buy all the priestly vestments and wot all, learn the current Catholic liturgies etc, and started Baptising folk, would that make them Catholics? Certainly not in the eyes of the RC church and I am guessing not in the eyes of most MOTO readers. It MAY make them Baptised Christians (depending on your view).

Similarly, the argument can run that Golden Dawn initiations without Golden Dawn currents may make someone an initiated magician, but it will not make them a Golden Dawn magician. Most GD folk today however subscribe to a ‘Protestant’ magical theology and belief, that when it comes down to it, states that where two or three 5=6 Adepts are gathered in the name of the Order, the currents will be there. Again, a different view. Personally, I think it matters not a jot either way; the main thing is our surrender of the self and placing it in the service of the One.

OK, thanks 🙂

Update to last post – on the Death of the Golden Dawn

Hi – the friend and correspondent I referred to in my last post, Dangers of the Golden Dawn (well all magic, really), read the post and emailed me the comments below. He prefers to keep his name out of it all at present (makes sense, really). But I promise he’s not an imaginary friend (I have bunnies for that sort of thing 🙂 ) His comments here are definitely interesting:

“The GD “elders” I spoke to (now so many years ago in England) all told me the same thing: they had been instructed to allow the Order to “die” and be “buried” so that it might (like a physical body) gently “decay” and return to the elements from which it came: “solve”. Whether at some time in the future it might “grow back” – “coagula” – was not a matter with which they should or could be concerned. It should not be abruptly “shut down”: there were various explanations relating to possible negative consequences of such an abrupt “destruction”. Thus, one Temple of which I knew was allowed to fall into disuse with only very rare meetings but, until all members had died, it was to be (minimally) maintained.

It may be that the burial of regalia and equipment (referred to in the books of Colquhoun and King) related to this. Certainly considerable amounts of material – essentially written texts and documents – were burned, but there seems to have been a distinction between what was “abruptly destroyed” and what was allowed to “decay”.

The “elders” revealed not the slightest interest in claims to any GD succession, not even in denying or criticizing such claims. When I asked about one such claim, the person to whom I was speaking simply said: “What relevance could that have for us?”

It is of interest that, around the same time as the GD, another better known movement took the same approach. The Catholic Apostolic Church (popularly but inaccurately known as the “Irvingites”), established around 1831, had proclaimed that the Second Coming would occur within the lifetime of its Apostles (those who led the Church). When the last Apostle died in 1901, the Church began to “close down” and gradually faded into obscurity. Unlike most (if not all) other Adventist movements based on a failed prophecy, it made no attempt at explanation or re-interpretation, accepting that, for reasons beyond human understanding, its work had ceased to be relevant. The remnants of the Church refused absolutely to have anything to do with claims of attempts to continue its work. It was specifically taught that the authority of the Apostles having been “withdrawn” (that is, the last Apostle died) no-one, regardless of connection with or status within the Church, had any authority to continue its work.

It is interesting that some (generally still “secret”) Catholic Apostolic documents offered advice to the remaining members as to how they should conduct themselves after the effective disappearance of their church. I have been told of, and have seen some documents relating to, equivalent instructions being given to members of the GD.”

Dangers of the Golden Dawn (well all magic, really)

This is sort of a follow up to my post from several years back, Nine Dangers of the Golden Dawn. So you just have to go and have a look there too  🙂

I have been having a spot of conversation with a new friend who knows a lot about all sorts of things, including the Golden Dawn. Getting on a bit, he has studied these things for a mere five decades and contacted several surviving Orders and members in the UK back in the day. He recounts something I have heard before: post WWII, the Order was left to die by its members. That is, they stopped magical working, stopped trying to induct new memberships and let the dust pile up on once glorious temple rooms.

R.A. Gilbert in his ‘Golden Dawn Scrapbook’ writes about the aged adepts who could bring about a renaissance of the Order if they choose – but they choose not. And Nick Farrell recounts how the Inner Plane contacts of the AO ordered the shutting down of the Order around and post WWII (of course, Whare Ra only suffered this fate as late as 1978).

If we are practicing the Golden Dawn (and really any magic coming from it or inspired by it), we have to take a good hard look at these facts. We cannot ignore them – they are pretty telling. If the GD offers a superlative magical system for spiritual development for the modern era, why was it rejected by its own adepts and Inner Plane contacts?

Now, the Inner Plane contacts directive we can, if we like to do these things, more easily write off by invoking ‘corruption of the contact’ or ‘subconscious influence from the medium’. And I am sure folk did just that. However, the real, physical actions and choices of senior adepts is another matter.

When we look at these things two main answers to the question, ‘why?’ come to mind:

  • The Golden Dawn was fine – even brilliant – in its day, but the day has passed. It was and is time to let go and let other things arise.
  • The Golden Dawn was a great experiment – but ultimately it did not work; the Inner Contacts and the Adepts recognised this and let it die.

We can also assume we in 2014 know more about all of this than those Adepts between the 1940s and 1970s and say, ‘they were wrong (or only partly right) … the purpose of the closure of the AO and other temples was actually to let the egregore and magic be open to the thousands of others who could now access it via published works (and now, the Net)’.

All well and good. We ‘makes our choices’, as they say.

Personally, I wonder if the reason for the critiquing and closing of the various Orders and temples had resonance with the concerns I raised in my previous post, Nine Dangers of the Golden Dawn? If I were reframing those dangers, I would today highlight one above all – the self.

Whereas in the original post I cautioned about ‘ego inflation’, I think such a bold term is likely to make folk reject that it has anything to do with them. Today I’d rather caution that the Golden Dawn, and all magic, can lead us to a situation where we place ourselves, our will, at the centre rather than the One. To quote myself 🙂

So modern 21st century magic should be about moving the mage from the centre of the circle, controlling all the forces he invokes (which is like, so medieval) to an awareness that at the centre we are interdependent on the entire circle of life, on the One and the universe that forms around us.

The magic circle should really be a place where we stand knowing ourselves as the centre of God’s love and attention (like all beings), the will of the One moving through us.

Instead magic can easily fool us into believing, that when we stand at the centre of the circle, we are actually the centre of the universe and can control the forces and beings we invoke – which is of course classic magic and, IMHO, a sure path to nowhere. Equally however, we may argue along with Canon Anthony Duncan (in Gareth Knight’s brilliant, ‘Christ and Qabalah’), that as soon as the One is at the centre, magic ceases to be magic at all.

Now this is a subtle thing, really a matter of approach rather than outward actions or choices of magic and rituals. The same ritual can be used and approached in different ways, as Professor Ronald Hutton writes of the Qabalistic Cross:

‘It was far from obvious, in the performance of the Qabbalistic Cross, whether the kingdom, the power, and the glory belonged to God or were being promised to the human carrying out the ritual.

It then becomes crucial that, to use Buddhist terminology, the ‘right view’, the right understanding of the universe is inculcated or already within the student from the very start, as I describe in this post, Magic – what is it good for?

This however requires theory and theology rather than praxis, something most magical students want to avoid like a marginal-seat politician before an election. It is for this reason – to ensure and promote the ‘right view’ – I think the GD insisted on a belief in a Supreme Being and interest in the Christian traditions – as the right view comes from both. It is for this reason I always try and foster a religious attitude, if not practice, in any students I have. These things are crucial.

More distinct ego distortions in the Golden Dawn occur not only because of outward things, like the titles and grades, but also inner difficulties. These mainly centre on the incredible potency and strength of the magic of the Golden Dawn being used at incorrect times. Though this is often said, I sometimes think most people somehow do not think it applies to them personally:

THE GOLDEN DAWN IS NOT A MAGICAL TRADITION.

Magic was only practiced in the Inner Order, the RR et AC, after the student had completed seven initiations, much preparation and been linked to currents of transformation, the Rosicrucian tradition and their own Genius. If we practice magic too early in our spiritual development, distortion can EASILY occur.

Finally, I will lift from a previous ‘dangers’ post, as it is still very apposite.

IT FEELS LIKES IT’S WORKING!

All esoteric paths and systems are worthless in themselves, the GD included. They can only point us to the One, and at worse they lock us, often unconsciously, into a system of practice that feels good but ultimately produces no transformation. Most esoteric paths, the GD included, are predicated on a two value premise and a ‘promise’ to move between the two: ourselves now, ourselves later (enlightened, transformed, healed, more in tune etc.) and the practices/initiations that move us between the two.

The danger in such a view is that it can become a closed loop. The person I ‘am’ now can never be the person I foresee at the ‘end’ of the process, since my definitions have already separated the ‘I’ now and ‘I’ desired. The gap between the two, while impossible for ‘me’ to bridge, is the spiritual practice and while I engage in that I have the sense of moving forward. Of course ‘I’ can never actually reach the goal, but simply having this mental structure and doing some practice I will experience the sense of moving ahead.

Any tradition that has a well developed ‘path’ between the two ‘I’s will naturally draw people, as we all like to see how we get from ‘here’ to ‘there’. The Golden Dawn thus is very attractive with its clearly mapped out path of transformation and rituals/practices at each stage of the way. Ultimately of course, most GD people (like most esoteric students) don’t really transform in any deep way at all – as amply demonstrated by the lives of both historical and contemporary GD magicians. As Rev Dr Cynthia Bourgeault says:

…it is depressingly clear that ninety-nine percent of what is being promulgated as contemporary Western spirituality is merely fine-tuning the ego.

What makes an esoteric path effective, what makes it actually able to lead us to the One is death and resurrection. The ‘I’ now cannot become the ‘I’ we desire, so we must die. Effective esoteric paths shake us all the time; they invite us to die continually and completely. It is up us to choose death or not. However, even the ‘death and rebirth’ instigated by the highly developed Golden Dawn initiations, like the Adeptus Minor, is becoming part and parcel of the intellectual and lower self framework of magicians. If this happens, then death becomes just another magical experience and therefore we block to death as it truly is.

This is a danger of having esoteric paths made exoteric and then taught by people who have not died, who are still in the two value mindset I mentioned above and do not know it. The Golden Dawn suffers from this considerably, and Vajrayāna Buddhism is beginning to suffer the same fate in the west.

Repeating the bleedin’ obvious: our modern western society and therefore all of us are afraid of death. We hate it, we fear it, we deny it, and we handle it incredibly badly. Death though is the key to the esoteric, and as anyone who has experienced esoteric death will tell you, it is no metaphor. To quote that greatest of Priestesses, Dion Fortune: “There are two deaths; the death of the body and the death of initiation. And of the two, the death of the body is the lesser”.

We need to die. And to be reborn. And now I’m sounding all Christian again. Oh, well 🙂 THANKS.