This post has been brewing for some time, on and off in the back of my mind. Nick Farrell’s recent post, The Hegemon’s wand and religion became a catalyst of sorts. So when I respond to Nick’s article it is really a response to much of the modern magical approach to religion. Nick introduced his post on Facebook as ‘one to argue’ about, but I doubt many magicians will find cause to dissent as he wonderfully presents the modern magical approach to religion.
There is however another way, which may be called the religious approach to magic 🙂 So Nick and I are kinda approaching the same elephant from two different ends – I will leave it to the reader to decide which end 🙂
Here I can only really talk about the two religions I know not just know of, Anglo-Catholicism and Tibetan Buddhism. I expect it’s the same for the rest, but I have not lived those, so cannot say for sure. It is also quite a minefield when one starts using traditional Christian concepts and terminology. Folk can easily think I am espousing some religious dogma, or judging or wot not. Of course I am not. Even if I had the time and temperament for such things, which I do not, it is impossible for me (or any human) to judge another’s relationship with the Mystery.
However, I am concerned to point out the modern magical approach and view of religion is not the end of the story and may not present the religious view accurately. I also contend that when the authors of the Golden Dawn Cipher Manuscripts describe the function of the office and ensign of the Hegemon as a “Mitre Headed Sceptre = Religion to Guide and Regulate Life” they were referring to religion that included, you know, religion with pews and sacraments and such. We will see why as we go on.
Throughout Nick’s blog and most of modern magic it is quite clear that the central actant, the key area of concern is the magician. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. From the magical point of view. A magician must “believe in something much bigger than themselves” says Nick. This is the starting point of religion. The reason for this insistence however is clear: it is part of the magic. It serves a function. It stops narcissism and megalomania. It provides moral codes. These are wonderful motivations for religion for sure, but it seems it is still about the magician.
One thing I have noticed since adopting a pagan approach to religion is that I have ended up following a daily pattern of work which is JUST religious. I light candles to different gods and an [sic] invoke them. The purpose of this is not magical, as such. It is using a regular rite to connect to the Gods so that when I do need to invoke them, they are not strangers. They know I respect them because every week I have done a little ritual doing just that. It is not worship, really, but it is religion.” (Emphasis mine).
Nick’s point here is certainly more sophisticated than that of Pagans using various Gods from various cultures in spells, after looking them up in a Llewellyn book, – he knows a relationship has to be formed with these deities first. So, yes, def no worship involved in this, the relationship is positioned as subordinate to the magic. And there is nothing wrong with this, from the magical viewpoint. And of course similar magical views of religion and religious figures are expressed by others in the magical and Pagan community. This from Pat Zalewski, whom I admire very much:
Whatever one has to say about Christ, all will agree that His Name evokes a powerful current or force that fills us with the receptive principle, something akin to the Yin of Chinese metaphysics. This principle of receptivity is one that is needed, for when we invoke it, we pave the way for other forces, fused together, to enter our sphere of sensation. The Christ-like energy will then pacify and control it, so that it conforms to our will and can be directed for many different uses. (Secret Inner Order Rituals of the Golden Dawn, emphasis mine).
Others hold similar magical views of religion and Christianity. Golden Dawn adept Aaron Leitch runs a magical curio shop, Doc Solomon’s Occult Curios, where he sells consecrated items for use in traditional Grimiore magic among other things, like Holy Water. He has Holy Orders stemming from one of the Episcopi Vagantes at the turn of the 20th century. He has discussed on Facebook how one may easily perform the Eucharist at home, on one’s own, but a host consecrated by an ordained priest will hold ‘more power’. Such things make sense from a magical view of religion and Christianity, but from a traditional Christian view they make no sense at all.
From any orthodox view Sacraments are not subject to differing ‘power levels’ but are mysteries instituted and performed by Christ. End of. In the Anglican Communion (and I assume Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism?) the Eucharist cannot be performed by the priest alone: it is a corporate action, not a solo venture.
These views are strikingly different. I cannot, and am not, saying one is ‘right’ and the other ‘wrong’ in an act of universal judgement. But I do maintain magicians do religion, particularly Christianity, and themselves a disservice when they conflate magical dynamics and worldviews with sacramental and other areas of Christian theology.
Nick’s take on this seems to be: “What each magician does is that they reform their religion until it fits better with the image of god they are working with.” Again, this makes sense from a magical approach, but is contrary to the religious.
One of the key points of religion is conscious and willed surrender of one’s personal concerns, personal images, and personal aesthetics into something greater and more sustaining. Religion is definitely not concerned with reformation from each individual but the reformation of each individual. Folk here may be thinking of religion’s bogeyman status of enforcing strange doctrines and impossible beliefs before breakfast and twice on Sundays. However it is very possible to remain an orthodox Christian and a magician (and it is, imposing western terms, certainly common in Tibetan Buddhism).
It still has not quite entered the discourse of modern magic that not too long ago many, if not most, magicians were regular religious folk. Just as most people in society were. Tony Fuller’s excellent thesis Anglo-Catholic Clergy and the Golden Dawn clearly shows this and also the extent of the crossover of Anglican priests and Bishops within the GD. Since the so called occult revival of the 1970s this has largely been forgotten or unknown. Most magicians since then do not belong to a formalised outer religion. However there remain Christian magicians, members of churches, and some publicly so, like Gareth Knight.
But we are not here to argue for orthodoxy rather to present a key concern in modern magic’s approach to religion, something seldom discussed and focused upon, and that is: religion is not primarily concerned with the individual person at all. Unlike magic. In every service, the Great Commandments:
Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.
The Divine and the other. We as individuals are not the prime concern. This is crucial and the practice of religion in this manner is an essential part of the traditional esoteric life, as MOTO has argued for ages and which is neatly summed up by New York theologian Nicholas Laccetti on his wonderful blog, ‘The Light Invisible’. He does this so well, I will quote him again:
…something is certainly lost by the disconnect between esoteric movements and the mainstream churches — for esotericists, the accumulated wisdom and logistical capacities of the churches; for mainstream religionists, the esoteric side of their own religious traditions.
It is why in the anonymous author of the Cloud of Unknowing, a key medieval mystical text, describes an integrated and real-world mystical practice that starts with and continues to include ‘good and honest bodily works of mercy and of charity.’ This is central to Tibetan Buddhism, no matter what advanced empowerments one has undertaken or what status one has reached. This is one of the great gifts of the churches: they provide and integrated avenue for this aspect of the spiritual life, something lacking in many magical groups and magicians. And it is for this reason I believe this is the type of ‘religion’ the Hegemon’s sceptre refers to, something not concerned with the self at all.
Conceptually we can assign the concerns of magic, religion and spiritually to three broad arenas. I first conceptualised these as a Starhawk-struck teenage witch, and only later found Christianity and other religion had worked it all out millennia beforehand. We may label these, as that bodacious Franciscan Richard Rohr does, as:
- Transpersonal (I first labelled this as ‘mystical’ back when I was 19 and not understanding mysticism involved the whole three)
- Personal (got this one right)
- Impersonal (as a young activist, I first labelled this as ‘political’ but that limits things)
We can of course relate this to the Trinity but ever mindful that the Trinity is three separate but mutually interdependent and dynamic Persons, not three faces of a single God, symbolised perhaps by three angles of the triangle or one person being a mother, daughter and wife. This is modalism and is generally considered bad form in Trinitarian discussions (though I have often seen priests slip into it). To express the Trinity we need other diagrams, the traditional Shield and one I prepared earlier 🙂
Ideally one’s spiritual life and ‘path’ would have all three modes integrated within it. But that does not always happen. As Tony Fuller posits in his thesis it appears certain Anglican clergymen, following on from the Oxford Movement, entered the Golden Dawn to enhance their access to the transpersonal aspects via magic and other processes. The exoteric religion they practiced and taught had plenty of scope for the personal and the impersonal (Anglicanism was a large influence on the creation of the British welfare state). After a long period where ritual celebration was legally denuded and mysticism virtually abandoned and with a new appreciation of a wide variety of ancient approaches, it seems many of these clergymen saw the GD as an expression of the same perennial tradition of mystery embodied in the Church. And so they set to becoming magicians as well as priests 🙂
On the magical front, if we look at Nick’s blog and pretty much any modern magical book we will see the transpersonal and the personal are included and explored very well. Magicians are concerned about their lives and material expression (personal) and their connection with the transpersonal divinity. However bugger all is expressed concerning the impersonal, the non-personal, where we give out to others without thought or concern or expectation. The triangle is thus broken and incomplete.
Religion can teach us to do repair the triangle. Indeed as corporate worship, and now in the west as intentional community, this is one of the key roles of religion. This is also the symbol of the Hegemon’s sceptre, and is why it has the Calvary cross upon it. This cross is the prime symbol of how the transpersonal (‘God) and the personal (nothing more personal than getting nailed up) interact mystically to produce the impersonal.
In Christian terms this expression of the impersonal dimension is often referred to as the working through of the Holy Spirit. She guides and teaches us to love those we do not personally know (and may not actually ‘like’) but NOT from a mystical, transpersonal, ‘everyone is holy – Namaste’, place, but from a lived and grounded action. I think that’s pretty cool 🙂
In the next month or so I will be teaching on the Neophyte Meditation of the Golden Dawn. Being an occasionally organised creature, I looked up my notes on the meditation and thought, ‘hey why not MOTO these’? And so here they are 🙂
The meditation forms part of the ‘Neophyte Knowledge Lecture’ made available to initiates after their initiation into the Order. It is often given as:
Let the Neophyte consider a point as defined in mathematics as having position but no magnitude and let her note the ideas to which this gives rise. Concentrating her faculties on this, as a focus, let her endeavour to realise the Immanence of the Divine throughout Nature, in all her aspects.
When I was first initiated our Order had this version and another also, which I have always found more profound and deep. I was told by the Imperator that ‘the Christian Orders’ used the second one, with the undertone that this was the right way to do it, ol’ chap! I was a callow-youth pagan back then, but tried it anyway and found it wonderful to say the least! This version has many putative authors from Empedocles to Voltaire. I haven’t bothered to find the ‘truth’ of the matter. I understand the version we use stems from St Bonaventure:
God is the circle whose centre is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere.
Either form is rather neat, and I have found them to be among the most beautiful and transformational meditations within the Golden Dawn tradition. I write a little of this in my book ‘By Names and Images’ where I quote a fictional experience of the meditation by a modern pagan Witch in Stewart Farrar’s Witchcraft novel, The Sword of Orley:
…and then for a mere diamond-point of time only the Centre was real. But the point was infinity! The Centre was the Circumference … Frontier-less, the Goddess touched her…
Thus the meditation does not limit the experience of immanence to an abstract Oneness, but rather allows it to be perceived as part of meditators own religious framework. This is very important. So when I write here from a Christian perspective, it does not mean the mediation is Christian. The meditation engages us without a frontier, without barriers or self-definition so we may be touched by the divine. And in that touch we come to know the One and the world as the One.
This meditation may be practiced by anyone, initiate or not, and is certainly not to be confined solely to the period after the Neophyte initiation or equivalent. It can bring us spiritual blessing and insights for as long as we live. And I recommend all folk within the GD continually practice this meditation, even if they have ‘moved along’ into another grade besides Neophyte. Just as all numbers are contained in the zero, all grades within the Neophyte, all meditative experiences are contained within and have their root in this simple but wonderful meditation. More on that later.
The difference between the two versions is the inclusion in the second version of transcendence, the unknowable, un-plottable, nowhere circumference surrounding the immanent point. Experiencing and realising immanence is the articulated goal of the first version, with no mention of transcendence – which does not mean it is not there. This makes total sense, as the transcendence of the One / Divine / Mystery / God is not given much of an outing in modern magic. Indeed, there are some folk who quite deny the transcendence of the One, extolling a mystical pantheism or monism or other isms they are not really quite sure of. This stems from the valorisation of praxis over theoria and the magical view of divine union I mentioned in this post, which ultimately at the pinnacle, involves identification with God or immersion in God.
When we consider the inclusion of transcendence we can see why my first Imperator was clear the ‘Christian Orders’ (whatever they were) preferred the second version. In traditional Christian thought the process of theosis or union with God is eternally unfolding – we never reach the end and there is always the distinction between the created and the creator. Of course the originators of the GD curriculum had their reasons for emphasising the point and the immanent. The common or garden religious life of the time (Victorian England) was heavily focused on the transcendent God, with nary a mention of divine immanence or indeed theosis itself. This focus was insidious, distorted and so universal it remains easily identifiable so that Monty Python still hits home in this clip from The Meaning of Life:
Today in 2017 it is a different matter, and as I keep banging on about, I think magic (and indeed Pagans) can benefit with a good dose of transcendence to match our focus on the divine indwelling immanence. So I wish to focus here on the second version, since it can help elucidate a whole connection of spiritual ideas within one practice.
This unimaginable circle only comes into existence via the interdependent interaction of three ‘components’: the centre, the (invisible) radii and circumference. Each is their own entity, but each could not exist without the other two. A centre cannot be a centre without there being an enclosing circumference. A radius cannot exist without centre and circumference, and a circumference cannot exist without an enclosed and equidistant centre.
In this conception then we have the Christian Trinity: the Incarnate One, Christ at the centre, the transcendent Father in the circumference and the Spirit between the two, filling the unimaginable void. The whole is God, but none of the three, point, radii or circumference is the complete circle just as the persons of the trinity are not God by themselves – their very existence or ‘being’ depends on the other two. There is a mutual co-inherence.
Having this knowledge and conception will deepen our experience when we engage with the meditation. We can track this further however and conceptualise that humanity is also the centre with Christ, indeed this is what the meditation states – everywhere, which means you too. The invisible radii then become the approach, the paths of the Many (humanity at the centre) towards the One (unknowable, nowhere existing circumference). This is the path of theosis towards the unreachable transcendent glory, the circumference that is nowhere and thus cannot be reached.
God being everywhere, with everyone, is of course the basis for the overly trivialised evangelical draw card that ‘Jesus loves you’, the personal, messy earthy, person you are. This is true, but there is the rest of the circle, and what we experience as personal love, as separate persons, is, within the full breadth of our radii towards the One, experienced in many other ways. The English word love simply doesn’t cut the mustard here.
The circle envisioned by the meditation is impossible within temporality, and trying to conceive it boggles the mind. This the point (pardon the pun!). However, as a concept this imagined circle has much to teach us. A circle in normal mathematics only exists because the circumference and the centre are somewhere. Our circle however is not somewhere at all. It is everywhere and nowhere. As temporal creatures we have never experienced, and cannot experience nowhere or everywhere. Every experience we have of the created worlds relates one thing or one creature to another. Phenomena ABC only exists as position, magnitude, condition or what have you because we relate it to XYZ, another position, strength, condition or thing. Nowhere and everywhere are uncreated, not of the created, temporal order at all.
These conditions of nowhere or everywhere are beyond temporal senses and trying to conceptualise them in spiritual context will help awaken the deeper aspects of the mind-soul, what platonic philosophy and Eastern Orthodoxy calls the nous. Purification or healing of the nous will allow one to see the Uncreated Light of God; to experience the nowhere and the everywhere. This is why this simple meditation is so powerful; it allows us access to the uncreated, referred to in the Neophyte Ceremony itself when we adore ‘Holy art thou whom nature hath not formed’. And since we are touching upon the uncreated in this meditation we can see how, as mentioned earlier, it contains within it the root of all other Golden Dawn grade meditations. The uncreated contains what will be created in potentia. Indeed all the following grade meditations are on created things – objects, natural phenomena, symbols – which stem from the uncreated. It all ties together.
Our circle then is impossible within the created order. Such a circle with the inclusion of uncreated elements is in fact the reversal of the created order. If God were known ‘everywhere’ we would be experiencing, in Christian terms, the Kingdom. And how is the Kingdom described and shown practically by Christ? By reversing the human created order of things. ‘The last shall be first, and the first last’. God, the infinite becomes a vulnerable baby who leaves this world a tortured, desolate human being. A maiden of ‘low estate’ becomes the Theotokos, the God bearer, the other cheek is turned and we all, every one of us may ‘Awaken in Christ’s body’. All this is within the circle that is everywhere and nowhere. 🙂
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.
Naturally 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.
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.
I 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. 🙂
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.
I 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.
And 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 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.’
My friend and correspondent has sent me this as a final comment. After this post I think we will move onto something less contentious, like Roller Derby as a feminist-spiritual activity. 🙂 THANKS.
“This should be my final comment on this matter, since my earlier statements sought to report (not defend, argue for or even explain) what I had been told. I cannot now, all my informants being long departed from this life, seek to obtain any further information.
They believed that the GD had originally been established under “Higher Authority” (there were different views as to Who/What that was). That same “Higher Authority” (they said) subsequently withdrew its (Its?) power and authority. As an Anglican clergyman commented: “God giveth, and God taketh away.” [For those interested: Job 1:21, and part of the Anglican funeral service].
As to whether the Tradition would re-appear, or a new version of the Tradition would appear, they would not speculate. Had it been buried like a seed that seemed to be dead but which would grow again? One person, at least, believed that the “seed” had been safely passed on and might, when the time was appropriate, be “planted” and grow again.
Do any “genuine GD lineages from the original Order” remain? In the Masonic tradition in the context of which the GD emerged (as most contemporary claimants to GD status seem not to understand) there has always been a practice of “preserving the succession” of defunct or closed-down Rites, Orders and Degrees, even though these are not now “worked” (the Masonic term) and may not have been “worked” for a hundred years or more. The authority is held, nominally, by and within another Rite or Order. The most notable example is the (Masonic) College of Rites in the USA which holds not only the rituals of but the lineages of and charters to “work” dozens if not hundreds of now defunct Masonic bodies.
I am told that “genuine GD lineages from the original Order” were passed for “preservation” to several (non-Masonic) organizations equivalent to the College of Rites which do not currently work the GD system, and certainly do not make public their GD “holdings” (or even, generally, their own existence). I know of two such organizations – CSM and OSS – to which I was told “genuine GD lineages from the original Order” were passed.
This may be thought to be the equivalent of preserving specimens in a museum; perhaps a better analogy might be a gene bank (a biorepository which preserves genetic material).
The Roman Catholic-Protestant example is completely appropriate. The Masonic tradition might also have been used – again the failure of most modern would-be GD groups and individuals to understand the Masonic context allows them to maintain a fundamentally flawed understanding of the GD.
A group of people can purchase all the necessary Masonic rituals, regalia and equipment, set up a Lodge and “initiate” one another – into all 33 degrees of the Scottish Rite, all 90 degrees of the Rite of Misraim and all the degrees of the SRIA, if they so wish. They might be more knowledgeable and more sincere in their Masonic working than the members of the average Masonic Lodge (not difficult these days!), but no reputable Freemason and no Masonic authority would recognise them as holding a single Masonic degree.
The outer forms are necessary (to use an argument from logic) but not sufficient: inner authority is required.”
My friend and correspondent (see last couple of posts) also has this to say:
“The question of whether it was the GD as a whole that was to “die” or individual Temples is a good one, and I should have clarified this. It was the Tradition as a whole that was to cease to exist in the world. The few existing Temples were allowed to “run down”. Perhaps a physical analogy might apply: a device (like a cell ‘phone) runs on batteries but they require regular charging. If the electricity supply is cut off, it becomes impossible to charge the batteries, but the already charged batteries will continue to operate for a time. Once they have completely discharged, however, the cell ‘phone is inoperative. The “current” has been “switched off”.
Those I spoke to did not want the GD rituals or other materials published, but not because they might be “misused”: the “electricity” had been cut off and the rituals could therefore be of no effect. Their concern was that such public documents might allow for the pretence that the Tradition was continuing. Their fears were obviously well-founded.
I asked one “elder”, a devout Anglo-Catholic Priest, what would happen if someone now used published GD rituals. His response: “What would happen if someone who was not a Priest ordained within the Apostolic Succession used a published text to purport to celebrate the Mass? Absolutely nothing.” He did not like the idea of people “playing” with rituals he regarded as sacred, but such “playing” was just that.
This was exactly the case with the Catholic Apostolic Church: its authorities sought to recall and destroy all its ritual texts not because of a fear that they might be misused – the authority for their use having been withdrawn, they could now have no effect – but to avoid any appearance that the tradition was continuing.
Why was the “current” then “switched off”? And when? I have heard a number of different answers. 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. Individuals were sometimes named as examples of this corruption, but not seen as the cause of it.”