Death of the Golden Dawn III – the final chapter :)

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.”

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 🙂

The Death of the Golden Dawn II : another update

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.”

Book Review – King Over the Water

It is a funny old world. Because of publishing vagaries Nick Farrell’s projected second book on Samuel Mathers and the Alpha et Omega, ‘Mathers Last Secret‘ came out first, followed recently by the subject of this review, the excellent ‘King over the Water: Samuel Mathers and the Golden Dawn‘. However, because of the vagaries inherent in supporting local non-esoteric bookstores in an online age, I have yet to receive my copy. So, I was lucky to read the projected first volume, first 🙂 There have been hints of a third, “Mathers Last Torch” but we will see…

One of the selling points of this wonderful work is printed boldly on the back cover:

This is the first history of the [Golden Dawn] Order written by someone who uses the system and understands what this group was attempting.

And indeed, this is so. Mr Farrell has produced something unique here: a brilliant mixture of solid reporting of historical information combined with an experienced magician’s insights and publication of original documents.

The book is divided into two parts. Part one is a history of the Order and particularly Samuel Mathers. Part two focuses on selected Golden Dawn teachings, original documents and learned commentaries. The book is therefore a gold mine for any and all students of magic, the GD or anyone interested in the western mystery traditions. It has something for everyone, and everyone will be enriched for purchasing it.

As I read the first pages of part one I felt a little dissonance. I soon realised that this was because Mr Farrell, though writing a history, was actually engaged with his subject. Pretty much all other histories on the Golden Dawn, or biographies of Mathers are either polemics masquerading as history or written by people disinterested in the Order, critical of it or by their own choices are not engaged in the spiritual magic it promotes. I was not used to Mr Farrell’s approach, which I soon warmed to.

I want to be clear here: at no time in the book does Mr Farrell allow his personal engagement in the Golden Dawn to interfere with his historical reporting. Obviously we all have our own perspectives and when we write we carry them into the writing, but Mr Farrell does not distort the facts or established timelines. Indeed his solid magical perspective only illuminates a number of insoluble or unexplored questions within previous biographies of Mathers. An example of this is the Horos affair, when Mathers was duped by a decidedly nasty couple of con-artists. Previous commentators have assumed that Mathers thought Mrs Horos was Fraulein Sprengel, the link to the supposed original Order, but as Mr Farrell points out:

…if you look at the various letters Mathers wrote about her, it is clear that he did not think Horos was Sprengel, just someone who could channel her. He described her as one the best mediums he had every encountered and what appears to have happened was that Sprengel turned up during séance sessions. (p.93, italics in original).

Note well Mr Farrell’s turn of phrase here, ‘what appears to have happened…’ – throughout the book he clearly states when he is reporting fact or making sense by filling in a missing dot or two. This is a very important trait in a field filled with people who have little scholastic or academic sensibilities.  Other examples of this initiated reading of history include showing that Mathers’ contact with the Secret Chiefs was always interior, even when Mathers may have been acting in the exterior world. In fact, Mr Farrell gives the bare bones of a very powerful ‘contact’ process, which I had previously assumed stemmed from the Fraternity of the Inner Light:

For example, you are told to go to St Peter’s square and at a certain time you start to meditate. You are supposed to feel the contacts and suddenly one will stand out. This contact will come to you in your Astral vision to talk to you. To the lay person you are meditating with your eyes open. To you, the meditation is placed over the physical reality. The location is often a holy spot where the energies are supposed to help the message come through. (pp 82-83).

So many notes... so much good stuff

Mr Farrell also gives a much clearer indication of the type of reactionary politics that so interested Mathers than most previous commentators. This is important because so much of Mather’s energies, choices and resources seem to have been channelled into that arena as his Order flailed and foundered. Most modern magicians and pagans, who tend towards more open and liberal political expressions, would be aghast and shocked at the politics, extremism, sexism, racism and anti-Semitism espoused by our spiritual ancestors. But it’s all there to see, and Mr Farrell treats the subject very well.

Throughout the book, and linking parts one and two, is the theme that Mathers and Westcott in creating the Golden Dawn created something far more wonderful, far more intelligent than they knew. That the Order itself was and is guided by its own inner genius and that Mathers, after a few short years failed to be a vehicle for that genius and ended up producing some pretty mediocre magical material indeed.  Apart from people who, like Ithell Colquhoun, feel the need to kiss Mather’s portrait and adore his very memory, it has long been known that, to quote Mr Farrell, Mathers was “never the most stable of people”.

Mr Farrell traces the source of this instability to Mathers early life and inability to change or submit to anything that would not bolster his ego-need. It was to prove a disastrous situation for the Golden Dawn. Talking of Mathers’ connection to the Secret Chiefs (contacts), he writes:

Being off one’s contacts, in Theosophical terms, tended to happen if you had done something wrong. Ask someone who uses this system what they think might have happened and you would get the following answer. Mathers was given a choice. He had to choose between his fantasy politics, lose his income and split the Order, or uphold the contact he had already made and carry on. He was unable to surrender his Scottish-Synaric fantasy and so he was abandoned and soon everything came crashing down.” (p93).

Before everything started to fall apart though, there was a brief golden time where Mathers produced some essential magical texts. Mr Farrell rightly points out the supreme importance of the Z Documents, and in part two reproduces a complete older version of them than previously published. Now this is very, very interesting and a great service to the community. Similarly, there are reproductions in print of the Book of the Tomb and other documents, including a wonderful commentary on ‘Ritual W Minutum Mundum’ by an anonymous modern Golden Dawn magician.

Part two shines however with Mr Farrell’s commentaries on the Z document. Here he shows his own experience and skill as a magician and these commentaries are recommended reading for the all GD magicians, particularly the section on the Sphere of Sensation.

The overall thrust of the book is that the genius of the Golden Dawn spoke briefly to Mathers before his decisions rejected it, whence it was later explored and given voice in the more magically orientated Orders such as the Stella Matutina and Whare Ra. Mr Farrell provides plenty of evidence for this, including a big list of shortcuts to the Neophyte initiation ceremony Mathers used in later years, some of which really boggle this magician’s mind. Anyone of them would render the initiation less effective, or ineffective. Mathers also clearly, in later years, used the awarding of higher grades as method of bringing in money.

Some people have questioned the idea that the Golden Dawn system contains its own genius, that it is within the system, that it did not all come through Mathers and putative physical continental adepts. However, it is clear the system does function that way. Over the last 25 years I have seen several examples of groups working only with the Regardie compilation develop serious magical explorations, where the system literally speaks to them. Besides, as magicians we all know symbols, myths and rituals are alive, so much more a tradition.

That people can produce something beyond themselves, something they cannot fully understand is clearly shown in various literary works. Authors who engage deeply with myths are used by those myths. Mr Farrell in this lucid and open book shows clearly that Mathers and Westcott produced something that is still capable of, and in need of, being finished or expanded today, 120 years later. Some this work is being done by adepts like Mr Farrell and others across the world. Fruits of this work will no doubt be published in time.

As a youthful magician learning about the Order, I would trace the timeline from1888 with the foundation of the Order, through 1892 and the Inner Order to 1900 and the revolt and then… Well, back then there was very little to be said of Mathers in the nearly twenty years before his death in 1918.

Young and naive, I assumed since most of the AO material had not been published, that there was a still secret branch of the Order that had wonderful techniques, processes and wisdom produced by Mathers et al in these 20 or so years. It is exactly this kind of naive logic that modern shonky Orders have exploited in their claims to be torch bearers for Mathers. And it is exactly these sort of myths that Mr Farrell explodes in this book. This is a very much needed thing, as both naivety and shonky Orders remain today.

Overall, I think this book needs to be on the shelves of every Golden Dawn initiate, every magician and everyone who wants to learn from history and avoid the mistakes of Samuel Mathers. Well done, Mr Farrell!

Publishers website

Author’s website

On Amazon

Wicca, the Golden Dawn and the Revelation of Love

Now, I have been thinking…some of this I’ve said before on MOTO, some is new. Hopefully all is interesting 🙂

Professor Ronald Hutton

Much of my thought stemmed from reading Ronald Hutton’s article in the Pomegranate, Writing the History of Witchcraft: A Personal View. Here Professor Hutton writes about his work in the academic and pagan re-evaluation of the history of modern paganism and Wicca. This was a much anticipated article, as it was one of the first opportunities for Hutton to address the criticisms of his work (and him) in Ben Whitmore’s Trials of the Moon. Hutton was clear and direct in his views of Whitmore’s work, views echoed by most academic and non-academic reviewers. After all, there is a difference between academic primary research and cherry picking a variety of secondary sources for material to support an argument. The first is scholarship, the second is non-fiction writing which may make many valid points but does not rest upon the rigour required by the Academy.

However, for me the article was interesting and inspiring for other reasons. Whilst essentially not saying anything new (I’ve been following the works of the good Prof for years), Hutton refocused on a few key points of his work. Now, Hutton is sometimes accused of robbing Wicca and Wiccans of their history by describing and unpacking many of the myths that make up the foundational history of Wicca. However, Hutton aimed to, and I believe did, give Wiccans a deep and strong history. This actual history, as much as we can discern it, may not be Wicca’s foundational or mythic history but it is still one of inspiration and the bringing forth of real divine powers.

I mean look, here we have a regular retired English civil servant in the 1940s, Gerald Gardner, who has for years been in and out of the fringes of many occult and esoteric movements. Following Crowley’s death in 1947 he was for a time edging to be the British leader of the OTO, an organisation he really did not know too much about. He was an ordained (heterodox) Christian priest, Druid and Co-Mason. At some point though he became a Witch and soon found himself in retirement promoting and expanding a little ‘witch cult’ which he himself felt had a very short shelf life:

…I think we must say goodbye to the witch. The cult is doomed, I am afraid, partly because of modern conditions, housing shortage, the smallness of modern families, and chiefly by education… science has displaced her; good weather reports, good health services, outdoor games, bathing, nudism, the cinema and television have largely replaced what the witch had to give.” (Witchcraft Today, p129).

Idries Shah who was the actual author of the biography of Gardner, Gerald Gardner – Witch, reported how he was informed by inner contacts that Wicca would be one of the most significant religious movements in the next century. However, he shared the same view as Gardner; “personally, I can’t see it”, he said on completion of his biography and allowed it to go out under Jack Bracelin’s name.

In hindsight we can see just how wrong Gardner and Shah were. Professor Hutton has gone far in explaining the reasons for this, showing how Wicca brought into outer focus and religious practice currents of spirituality and deity forms that had been generating and influential upon the British soul for centuries:

It [Wicca] became a distillation of major developments within the whole of British society over the previous two centuries, which sprang from the essence of modernity. Its goddess and god were not the deities of a few cranks, drawing on long-distant ancient images, but deity-forms who had manifested themselves to some of the greatest of all British poets, novelists, and scholars. Its beliefs and rites reflected some of the deepest needs of the modern British soul, and it was not a phenomenon marginal to society in general but drew on impulses which were central to it.

The real history of Wicca then is just as deep and just as powerful as the mythic history. The eternal mystery, the unknowable and the unnameable became revealed in a new religious expression, slowly at first but from the 1960s on with increasing speed as a viable and engaging religion. As I recount in this post I experienced this truth viscerally and deeply when I first read Hutton’s Triumph of the Moon, becoming aware that Wicca was a true and bone fide religion of the modern era. I don’t know about you, but I find this gob-smacking and awesomely exciting. A real religion, a real revelation of Mystery born within the byways of 20th century Bournemouth, not on a distant and ancient tree or desert rock somewhere out of bounds, but within our own time and culture. To me this is more exciting than any secret Witch cult hidden throughout the ages.

What this means is that while the history of Wicca may not be “real” it is nonetheless, true. Most Christians know this about their own religion since there is little doubt that a video camera following Jesus around first century Palestine would record a very different picture to what we find in both the Canonical and extra-Canonical gospels. Yet the life, acts, death and resurrection of Jesus are real and this reality inspires millions each day to love, compassion and service.

Similarly, the duo-theistic myth of ancient pagan religions being practiced in secret, kept alive by wise counsellors within Witchcraft is true. It may not be the kind of history which would have been captured on medieval-cam, but it is just as true, just as powerful and inspirational. Even now, having argued for pagan acceptance of “real” history for over 20 years, get me inside a Wiccan circle and the myth is real. In the circle, between the worlds, Goddess and God are not modern deity forms of the eternal mystery; they are living deities who have been worshipped down through the ages.

This of course is the point of myth. We enter into it and engage deeply, we believe it and are changed by it. Otherwise what is the point? If we don’t enter, we become esoteric equivalents of pedantic film critics who never suspend their disbelief and critique every special effect, even as others flinch in terror or laugh uncontrollably.

A difficulty arises however if our consciousness is always ‘in the circle’, always engaging with the reality of the Gods and the true, but not historically accurate, myth of the Hidden Children of the Goddess. This is functionally equivalent to the Christian who insists Jesus physically did say and do all that is recorded of him in the Canonical Gospels, even when the accounts differ remarkably. Or the child who goes home from the latest James Bond movie and continues to play secret agent.

Stephen Jay Gould, whom I am sure I have mentioned previously on MOTO, described the fields of religion and science as “non overlapping magisteria”, each having their own internal logic, methods of engagement and functioning. So too it is with Wicca and the history of Wicca – one does not disperse or disrupt the other. But, as I have said, the actual, real, true academic history of Wicca is one of wonder, awe and inspiration anyway. I just wish more Wiccans would accept this.

So much for Wicca…what about the main love of my esoteric life, the Golden Dawn? Here too the academic and historically verifiable history of the Order clashes with the mythic and the assumed history by some groups and people. R.A. Gilbert one of the foremost researchers of the Golden Dawn opens his Golden Dawn Scrapbook with these words:

Recent research into collections of Golden Dawn archives has produced an almost complete prehistory of the Order.

The evidence for this prehistory he later asserts “is not circumstantial but entirely documentary”. This documented evidence clashes directly with the myth of continued lines of Rosicrucian descent from the early 17th century secretly controlling and forming outer Orders. Of course, the actual practice, inspiration and study of such mystical and magical currents does form a long and rich history and current in the west.

Here though I am not discussing the actual physical history of the Golden Dawn but am interested in it as a vehicle for revelation, much as Wicca was and is, because there is no doubt there is something about the Golden Dawn. I and many people love it, beyond all rationality and beyond all sense, despite its flaws, gaping holes and undeniably odd adepts.

As I have recounted elsewhere I first came across the words, “Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn” in Wilson and Shea’s Illuminatus Trilogy. The name alone electrified me and moved me into rapid and immediate research and I loved what I found, quickly entering into the pool and discovering I would swim an Olympic mile. It resonated and touched me and was right.

By no means is this a unique experience. Many others over the last 25 years have recounted similar tales to me. They know the Golden Dawn; they have always known it, even before they come across it. Since at the most there were 1000 members in the classical GD era, we cannot ascribe this situation to serial reincarnation – even if were to be egotistical. There are far more adepts now than there ever were. Nor can we ascribe it to ancestral knowledge – I know several excellent Asian adepts. Somehow though the Golden Dawn becomes for many the ideal spiritual home, their first experience of GD ritual being that of homecoming. This situation is similar to what I describe in my post on Wicca, where the childhood reading of books from Rosemary Sutcliffe and others awakened me to the spiritual currents I later encountered as religion within Wicca, feeling like I had come home.

The Golden Dawn then, I believe, and I am speculating here, is similar to Wicca in that it is a wonderful manifestation of modern spirituality and magical practice. Since it was formed and reformed in the crucial years of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, when many new paradigms of religious thought and criticism were abroad, the Golden Dawn came to embody and exemplify the ancient practice of magic within the modern era. The shift of emphasis from operational to spiritual magic within the 19th century, spearheaded by Levi, became a core component of the GD. It thus made it an ideal vehicle for the new modern practice of spiritual and transformational magic. Further, the Golden Dawn was one of the first (and I would argue, the most systemised) groups to share the modern spirit of universalism:

In true religion there is no sect. Therefore take heed that thou blaspheme not the name by which another knoweth his God. For if thou doest this thing in Jupiter thou will blaspheme YHVH (Jehovah): and in Osiris, YEHESUAH (Jesus). (Fourth Knowledge Lecture of the GD).

Dion Fortune

Here of course Mathers is not referring to a kind of magical ecumenism but elucidating a modern version of an eternal esoteric verity, which Dion Fortune would later restate: “All the Gods are one God, and all the Goddesses are One Goddess, and there is One Initiator”. This is a crucial aspect of contemporary western spirituality, first publicly espoused on a large scale by the Theosophical Society from 1875 onward. The Golden Dawn became one of the first groups to take this truth into magical and spiritual practice.

Viewing the Golden Dawn as a vehicle for modern western magic makes a lot sense and explains why it is so right and resonant for so many people. After all there were and are Christian esoteric traditions that offer as deep, as powerful and as systemised experiences of mystery as the GD. Since these however, require traditional Christian religious commitment they do not have such universal appeal as the more contemporary Golden Dawn with its emphasis on universalism, transformation, individualism and plurality.

The Golden Dawn, like Wicca, became a springboard for the appearance of an array of new and reconstituted traditions. Some built upon or adapted the GD; some simply seem to simply use the ground broken by the GD as a soil in which to grow, almost gaining permission to be ‘out there’ following the public revelation of the Golden Dawn. In some ways several of these traditions have supplanted the GD, moved magic forward and onward seeking new manifestations of the eternal inner traditions of the West. In this vein I would argue that the work (and life) of Gareth Knight is a perhaps the best public example of this. But that’s for another post – in the meantime wander over to his site and Skylight Press and see what I mean for your self.

In any and all cases of authentic continuation of the Golden Dawn, whether in spirit, lineage or standing upon its shoulders, these newer traditions contain the same current, that of the sacred, the divine and the Gods. This is the same message as Ronald Hutton gives when talking of Wicca’s manifestation in the 40s and 50s: “the sudden eruption of particular deity forms in the human consciousness is what has long been termed revelation”. In the case of both the Golden Dawn and Wicca the primary aspect of this revelation is love:

…the Soul by true direction must be brought to study of Divine Things, that it may offer the only clean Oblation and acceptable sacrifice, which is Love expressed towards God, Man and the Universe. (GD Equinox Ceremony).

…for my Law is Love unto all Beings (Wiccan Charge of the Goddess)

May there be peace, and peace and perfect peace profound. 🙂