The Mystic Repast and the Christian Eucharist

The other day I was asked about the possible link between the Golden Dawn Mystic Repast and the Christian Eucharist and thought I’d blog it up 🙂

First off, to dispel a notion that sometimes pops up, the Christian Eucharist is not deficient because ‘it only has two of the elements, bread and wine, not the whole four’ like the GD ‘version’. Such an idea requires, nay, demands this response.

iWKad22

Now, it is easy to see the two ceremonies are not the same and do not work with the same mysteries. The Golden Dawn repast serves many functions, as we will see, but it is not meant to be a sacred remembrance, a piercing of the veil of temporality whereby bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. Not being a Christian priest I am not going to even attempt a discussion on this mystery but focus on the Repast.

And yet … despite this, the two are seen as ‘very similar’, to quote the Ciceros (The Essential Golden Dawn p.161). This sense of similarity is because the Repast is described as “a communion in the body of Osiris” and there is a modern and historical identification of Osiris with Christ (naturally I consider that this identification is not complete when we consider the Incarnation). The use of Christian based imagery within the invocation that blesses the repast also adds to this:

For Osiris On-Nophris who is found perfect before the Gods, hath said:

These are the Elements of my Body,
Perfected through Suffering, Glorified through Trial.
For the scent of the Dying Rose is as the repressed Sigh of my suffering:
And the flame-red Fire as the Energy of mine Undaunted Will:
And the Cup of Wine is the pouring out of the Blood of my Heart:
Sacrificed unto Regeneration, unto the Newer Life:
And the Bread and Salt are as the Foundations of my Body,
Which I destroy in order that they may be renewed.

For I am Osiris Triumphant, even Osiris on-Nophris, the Justified:
I am He, who is clothed with the Body of Flesh,
Yet in whom is the Spirit of the Great Gods:
I am the Lord of Life, triumphant over Death.
He who partaketh with me shall arise with me:
I am the Manifestor in Matter of Those Whose Abode is the Invisible:

I am purified: I stand upon the Universe:
I am its Reconciler with the Eternal Gods:
I am the Perfector of Matter
And without me, the Universe is not.

repast

This sense of similarity with the Christian Eucharist can produce the odd bit of conflation. The Societas Rosicruciana in America which, so I am told by a scholar in these matters, used the Golden Dawn grade ceremonies, describes this invocation as coming from the ‘Gospel of Osiris’, whatever that may be. And in a Pagan example, drawing clearly from the Golden Dawn, the instruction is given that ‘all of the bread and wine must be consumed’. This stems from Christian practice, where the bread and wine as the body and blood need to be handled with reverence and consumed not disposed of, not from Golden Dawn conventions, where it would make no sense unless applied to the rose and candle also. (http://timysteries.org/2014/09/03/outline-of-elemental-eucharist/) .

THE ELEMENTS

The Mystic Repast is often called the ‘Elemental Eucharist’ when its primary function is to commune with the spiritual blessings represented by the four elemental principles embodied in rose, flame, wine and bread and salt. When it is consumed as part of the Neophyte Initiation Ceremony it functions moreover as a formula of regeneration and this is where it is similar to the aims of the Christian Eucharist, seeking to enact similar changes in the communicant. That is, it is designed to instil within those who commune not only one-off blessings of the elements but also an interior reorganisation of one’s life towards perfection or theosis. Here it is called the Formula of the Justified One, referring to Osiris who through suffering, trial and conscious sacrifice becomes the Perfector of Matter. This of course also resonates with the Christian mystery. The use of the word Tetlestai to mark the conclusion of the repast is also a clear and consciously constructed link with the Christian mystery and the death of Christ.

The Mystic Repast, with its communion of the four elemental substances also prefigures the four so called ‘elemental’ grades Zelator through Philosophus. As the elemental blessings are consumed in balance, at the centre of the temple, a template of balance, directed by the spirit is placed within the communicant. This sets up the correct approach and experience of the elemental grades for the initiate in the future. We should note ‘The Elements are placed upon the Altar according to the Winds’, meaning they are placed to represent and link to the material, earthy universe and thus the daily, messy life of the communicant.

BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE

osirisAs a teenager I once read a review of the latest ABC song produced by my fave producer Trevor Horn which described his production as ‘rich enough to grow your tomatoes in’. And so it is, so it always is, with the Golden Dawn. There is more, hidden and richly powerful in the Mystic Repast. Since the repast forms part, indeed the culmination in some ways, of the Neophyte ceremony itself, we cannot separate its discussion from that ceremony.

During the initiation ceremony, the four elemental objects represent and are magically linked to the elemental principles of the candidate. Some Orders work this further and ask the candidate to provide the rose, and sometimes the wine, used in the ceremony. Thus they are providing the first of the elemental symbols communed with, connected to air, the breath, the Ruach, the will and therefore the surrendering of their small will to the Higher will.

Since the candidate is linked to these elemental forms, when they are removed from the altar at the start of the initiation ceremony proper, the candidate is energetically dismembered in their various subtle bodies. They become the dismembered slain Osiris from the myth. This allows for the initiation to actually work, as this dismembering separates the component aspects of the candidate allowing for tinkering and injection of currents, the higher soul and wot not. This is written about in various books by Pat Zalewski and others so I won’t go into it here.

YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT

Of importance for our discussion is that once the elements are placed back on the altar, at the conclusion of the ceremony, the candidate is remembered but still linked to the substances. So during the Mystic Repast the members literally consume, take into the Order’s egregore, the new member. This is helps makes them a member and so has further have poetic resonance with Christian liturgy: ‘for we who are many are One body, for we all share the one bread’. 🙂

The candidate has functioned during the ceremony as Osiris Slain, and has been reconstituted, re-membered. The Hierophant, when she is on the Dais as chief officer is Osiris Risen. Thus there is a polarity between the two, between candidate and Hierophant. And it is the Hierophant who performs the ritual blessing of the elemental substances with the lovely invocation based on the Formula of the Justified One given before. Thus the polarity between the two, between the imperfect candidate, and the risen, perfected Osiris – and the pathway of transformation that leads from one to another – is placed within the elemental substances themselves. These blessings, essentially the path of theosis, are mediated directly into the members via the corporeal elements – they literally inhale molecules of scent, feel the heat, eat and drink. They can’t ‘escape’ the blessings, even if they are thinking of the shopping as they commune or as the naughty Paul Foster Case did once, sharing ‘a significant glance’ with another member. Now that’s pretty neat 🙂

LOOK TO THE CENTRE

ctSo far in this discussion, as in most discussions on the Mystic Repast we have focused on the elemental substances themselves, rose, flame, wine, bread and their interior dimensions. However, often overlooked is the fact these four sit around a central symbol, just as the four elemental principles exist around and are cohered by the centralising force of the spirit.

In this sense the Cross and Triangle represents the spirit, the hidden fifth, the quintessence. However, there is far more than this operating through the symbol and it is in analysing its presence and function that we really see the similarity in function between the Mystic Repast and the Eucharist.

The red cross superior to the apex upwards white triangle is often seen as the symbol of the Golden Dawn itself. It thus is the grounding point of the current of the tradition. This current then becomes the central principle of the new initiate as their elemental selves are remembered around it on the altar. It is the interaction of the current, (embodied in cross and triangle) with the elemental substances – which are vehicles for both the macrocosmic elemental blessings and the elemental self of the candidate – that produces the prefiguring of the four elemental grades mentioned above. And the candidate literally consumes this 🙂

When we analyse the Golden Dawn symbol itself in the context of the Mystic Repast as part of the Neophyte Ceremony much becomes apparent. From the Z Document:

The Symbols upon the Altar represent the Forces and Manifestation of the Divine Light, concentrated in the White Triangle of the Three Supernals as the synthesis; wherefore, upon this sacred and sublime Symbol, is the obligation of the Neophyte taken as calling therein to witness the Forces of the Divine Light. The Red Cross of Tiphareth (to which the Grade of 5-6 is referred) is here placed above the White Triangle, not as dominating it, but as bringing it down and manifesting it unto the Outer Order; as though the Crucified One, having raised the symbol of self-sacrifice, had thus touched and brought into action in matter, the Divine Triad of Light. Around the Cross are the Symbols of the Four Letters of the Name YHVH –the Shin of Yeheshuah being only implied and not expressed in the Outer Order.

Taking the last first, Yeheshuah (can you blame me for this quip? 🙂 ) – Indeed Christ himself is only implied throughout the whole Outer Order, which can be related to God the Father. It is in the Inner Order where things get wonderfully Christian:) In the Neophyte ceremony Christ is only hinted at once outwardly, when the red cross is described, as ‘an image of He who unfolded in the Light’. This is of course central on the altar.

During the Opening of the Neophyte Temple the divine forces are invoked upon the altar and into the temple by the Mystic Words (Khabs Am Pehkt | Knox Om Pax | Light in Extension). The blessings are naturally attracted to the white triangle upon the altar. As a symbol of the three Supernals this is a classically powerful symbol.

The red cross, as the symbol of bringing the Divine Triad of Life ‘into action in matter’ can thus represent the work, the initiation to be conducted – any magic which manifests the Light unto the material world,. This is the initiate herself, with her material life symbolised by the four elements and four directions.

CROSS AND TRIANGLE FOR YOU

As described in the Z document, as part of her initiation the new initiate has the symbol of the Order, a duplication of that at the centre of the Repast, formed within their ‘sphere’. Classically this is seen emblazoned ‘astrally’ on the forehead. To understand the significance of this and its relation to the Repast connection’s with the Eucharist we need to jump forward a little to when the Hierophant describes these symbols to the new initiate.

Hierophant (describing): “…On the altar is a White Triangle to be in the image of that immortal Light, that Triune Light which moved in darkness and formed the world of Darkness and the world out of darkness. There are two contending forces and one always uniting them. And these three have their image in the threefold flame of our being and in the threefold wave of the sensual world.”

When the Hierophant states ‘there are always two contending forces and a third eternally uniting them’ she is referring both to the mystic triad and to the initiate themselves as the third force. We can see the triad here as referring to what of often called ‘the law of three, something often found in other esoteric traditions, both eastern and western. For example the Gurdjieff Work has the Law of Three, called in a fancy way, ‘Triamazikamno’.

To understand this, the first thing to realise here is there is a THIRD force. The GD here is NOT promoting a spiritual form of the triad of thesis, antithesis and synthesis (described by the philosopher Hegel). Typically in this view there is (1) a beginning thesis (idea, proposition) and (2) a negation or contradiction of the thesis, antithesis, and both are resolved in (3) a synthesis which in itself becomes a new proposition.

The difference is that in this view the synthesis is comprised of the union or reconciliation of the thesis and antithesis. In the GD the third force is already in existence, if only in a nascent state. It is not the reconciliation of the two forces, but something different and ‘higher’ that is brought into action by the application of consciousness to the union. This is why in the Neophyte ceremony it is the initiate herself who is referred to as the third force – though this is not stated explicitly.

We can understand this by reference to the holy Qabalah. If we assign thesis to Hod and antithesis to Netzach, the synthesis will be Yesod, the union of the two. The application of the principle of the eternally existing third and higher force brings in the Tiphareth, the deeper self and higher consciousness. The introduction of Tiphareth naturally ‘lifts’ the reconciliation/synthesis in Yesod to higher level.

We can use another concrete example: the union and reconciliation or synthesis of paint and paint brush is a dirty paint brush. The third higher force is the artist with consciousness wielding the paint brush and producing art.

We can of course, if we like (and I do), relate these symbols and the Law of Three to the Christian Trinity (see Cynthia Bourgeault’s work). And it is pretty dogs balls obvious really, once we understand the Trinity even a little more than that taught in most sermons. Let’s look again at the description from the Hierophant:

On the altar is a White Triangle to be in the image of that immortal Light, that Triune Light which moved in darkness and formed the world of Darkness and the world out of darkness.

Traditional teaching is that the Trinity existed before time, before any material expression. In this speech this is the ‘the darkness’ where the triune light moved. And as all three persons of the Trinity are present in each, the Trinity did indeed form the world (the created universe, both seen and unseen) from that darkness, and our material, problematic, ‘world of darkness’.

Continuing on, in the fullness of time the Trinity became Incarnate through Christ, extending the triangle through the cross into the material word, as the Z document states:

…the Crucified One, having raised the symbol of self-sacrifice, had thus touched and brought into action in matter, the Divine Triad of Light.

Now this is exactly what occurs when the Hierophant, straight after the speech above on the triad, stands in the form of a Cross stands and declaims:

Hierophant: “Glory be to thee, Father of the Undying, for thy glory flows out rejoicing to the ends of the earth … The Red Cross above the White Triangle is an image of Him [Christ] who was unfolded in the Light.”

The Hierophant here re-enacts the extension of the light, to the ends of the earth by forming with her body the cross of Christ, showing the way forward for the initiate she is speaking to. This is a prefiguring and movement towards the Adeptus Minor initiation where it will be the initiate, not the Hierophant in the form of the Cross. Of course, in all of this the Hierophant is also mirroring the symbol of cross and triangle on the altar, at the centre of the Repast, empowering it further.

Returning to the forming of the cross and triangle upon the candidate’s forehead we also see something significant and resonant with this symbolism. The initiate begins her path in darkness, blindfolded, taking the obligation with her hand on the White Triangle, the image of the Triune Light. As she traverses the path of darkness three times around the temple, she has this triangle astrally formed within her sphere. This is the potential of the Trinity, before its extension into the world as Christ.

Once fully purified and linked to the Triune Flowing light via the recitation of the Mystic Words into her crown centre, as they were recited into the triangle on the altar during the opening, the candidate traverses the same path but in Light. That is without the blindfold. And it is on this path, three times around the temple, that the image of the red cross, as an emblem of Christ or Tiphareth extended into the material world, is formed above the White Triangle in her sphere.

In the first path, she is blind. In the second path, as the Cross is formed she is no longer blind, but can see. I do not think we can get a more powerful, though subtle reference to the Christian current – John 9:25.

Thus we have, hidden in the middle of the Mystic Repast, in the middle of the Osirian Formula of the Justified One a Trinitarian and Incarnational mystery of Christ. The two are in the actual communing fused as one and thus point to the unitive mystery behind each. This is Golden Dawn ‘best practice’, offering mysteries, rituals and symbols that not only speak to multiple religious paths at once but which lead us also into the unnameable perennial verity beyond all religious forms. Thanks 🙂

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Everywhere and Nowhere, the Neophyte Meditation

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:

hqdefaulthttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6GkK8wS2WWc

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. 🙂

Casting obloquy and irrational religion

There is a wonderful phrase used to convey some advice to the new Neophyte in the Golden Dawn tradition. Delivered in a speech shortly after the climax of the ceremony by an officer representing Fortitude and Severity and who help keeps the powers of darkness at bay, it reads:

..let me advise you never to ridicule or cast obloquy upon the form of religion professed by another, for what right have you to desecrate what is sacred in his eyes?

I remember clearly my experience of this exhortation. It was recited impeccably and delivered strongly on the inner levels by a Soror whose outer demeanour was that of a mousy librarian, but when clothed in the Godform of Horus exuded strength and power enough to make me feel like a chestnut being slowly roasted. So this adjuration has always stuck with me. Basically, we  are being charged by a pretty impressive officer-station to mind our Ps and Qs in relation to religious beliefs other than our own. A nice sentiment indeed, at least on the surface, but one I have always struggled with.

Years later, as part of my Tibetan tantric training I came across a related piece of advice all higher tantric initiates are expected to follow. The Vajrayana is clear that it is cruel to deride, castigate or cast doubts on a person’s religious or spiritual beliefs without offering them a deeper, Dharma alternative. This is because people’s beliefs and ideas about the world and the divine are often what gets them through the day, and to remove these at a stroke is considered unkind and damaging. I’ve seen this happen, and have been unwittingly part of a similar process as I describe in this post. It is not a pretty sight.

The GD injunction not ‘to cast obloquy’ needs a little unpacking. Its source lies in the Cipher Manuscripts where it is simply stated as “never condemn other religions”. However, I doubt the author(s) were referring to the type of madcap religious forms we find ourselves surrounded by the 21st century. At the extreme end of things, does this mean we never critique a religion, even when its tenants and ideology are abusive and dangerous? There are several forms of White Supremacy movements that are religious in nature and practice. I don’t know about you, but I am very tempted to cast a little obloquy their way. Do we simply accept these forms of religion? Do we, as the saying goes, respect people’s right to hold these religious views, but do not respect the religion itself?

Does refraining from ‘casting obloquy’ simply mean to shut our mouths like good girls and boys, while actually thinking certain religions are nuttier than a squirrel-baked nut cake? That might be fine if these religions were confined to living rooms and run down meeting halls, but often the more fruity a religion is, the more it is determined to enforce its views and ideas upon society, especially the non-believers. Do we say and do nothing in the face of religions that preach oppression and hate? As Edmund Burke said, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.” Personally, I say, bugger that for a lark and have no problems laying into religions of hate and oppression, obloquy notwithstanding.

At the less extreme end of things, I started thinking more about this issue a week or so back after posting on Facebook that I was surprised that some magical folk still referred to ‘the Burning Times’ as a factual series of events, where Pagans were persecuted by ‘the church’. Nick Farrell, in his normal wise manner, responded by saying, “It is an article of religious faith a bit like the virgin birth.” If this is so, and I think Nick is technically correct, then have all my previous articles and postings back to 1989, where I critique the Burning Times as myth not history, been casting a little bit of obloquy? I certainly have been firm in my opinions.

Does the fact that people are consciously or unconsciously holding something as a ‘religious truth’ bar us from saying how stupid it actually is? Do we worry about offending them, or take heart from Stephen Fry:

It’s now very common to hear people say, “I’m rather offended by that”, as if that gives them certain rights. It’s no more than a whine. It has no meaning, it has no purpose, it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. “I’m offended by that.” Well, so fucking what?”

My own take on all this is a little subtle and I try to take into account as many factors as possible – mythic and literal. I have no problem with religious myth when it is seen as just that – religious myth to make sense of the universe and deepen our relationship with the Mystery, the world and each other. When however myth it is seen as real space-time events, I get a little edgy and my obloquy starts to rise :). Take for example the two cases mentioned by Nick above – the Virgin Birth and the Burning Times. While they may be useful mythically, to view them as ‘real’ events is another matter and one that flies in the face of common sense and all evidence and which requires all sort of denials and doctrines to explain it all.

The Burning Times myth tells us ‘nine million’ people were burnt during the Witch persecutions of early modern Europe which were directed at existing and remnant ‘pagan’ religions. To maintain this as ‘true’ we have to ignore or claim conspiracy on the vast amount of evidence that places the number of executions as between forty and a hundred thousand, the vast majority of them of Christian folk, and the executions often organised by secular and local authorities, not state imposed Christianity. I’m sorry, but if you insist on these things as PHYSICAL FACT, then you may find a little obloquy and a few frowns coming your way.

Mythic image of the Burning Times

As Nick goes on the say, the idea of nine million people being killed at this time is preposterous as it represents a fair chunk of the population. If there were nine million Pagans back then, the effects would of their practice and religions would still be with us and would have influenced our society in obvious ways. I will admit when I first came across the nine million figure as a teenager, I did not have these deep and nuanced reactions. My first thought was, “that’s an awful lot of wood”. You see, as a kid I was deeply affected by the line from ‘Good King Wenceslas‘, “When a poor man came in sight, gathering winter fuel” and the image of a peasant with sticks on his back to make his fire. I looked it up and found, despite Hollywood imagery, there was not an easily accessible abundance of ready firewood back then. And it takes a lot of wood to burn someone – which is one of the reasons why ‘witches’ were hung not burnt in England. So I was dubious about the nine million bit from the start 🙂

Similar problems arise with the Virgin Birth and Mary’s Perpetual Virginity. To claim that as PHYSICAL FACT Catholic theologians had to come up with all sorts of doctrines, including explaining how the baby Jesus moved through the birth canal and out of the Mary’s vagina. Basically, Christ is assumed to have a transcendent power which enables Him to move through physical barriers at will, just like a superhero. This is what the Council of Trent concluded:

He is born of His Mother without any diminution of her maternal virginity, just as He afterwards went forth from the sepulchre while it was closed and sealed, and entered the room in which His disciples were assembled, the doors being shut…

On a mythic, metaphorical level, the meaning behind the Virgin Birth has many profound implications and avenues for esoteric explanation. However, it and the doctrine of Perpetual Virginity have rightly been seen as contributing to the creation of the Madonna-Whore complex and fostering all sorts of misogyny. So I find it hard not to critique this piece of religious doctrine since it has implications and damage far beyond those mature adults who have consciously chosen to ascribe to it. Should I take the advice to avoid obloquy to mean I should refrain from voicing such criticisms, because they are religious?

The myth of the Burning Times has, as far as I can see, no profound esoteric meaning that rescues it from the pile of ‘ideas-to-let-go-off’. It does mythically link contemporary neo-Pagans who are mostly free to practice whatever modern religion they like, with a persecuted minority who held fast to their ancient faith. But what use is such a mythic linking and identification? I can see how useful it is to have mythic links back to ancient wisdom traditions, Atlantis and wot all, but why the persecution? To me this is just plain silly and if it’s casting obloquy on religion to say so, then I guess I am not holding fast to the advice I received all those years ago.

What say you?

Self Initiation, a few points

Since I enjoyed jotting down my take on astral initiation, I thought I’d do the same with ‘self-initiation’. 🙂 Here I am specifically talking about Golden Dawn and RR et AC initiations. Other MOTO posts touching on this topic are:

Of course in any analysis of personal experiences, such as initiation, we have to take care not to invalidate people’s experiences.

After all, all inner experiences are valid and can, if we follow them with honesty and altruistic motivations, lead us to learning more about ourselves and the universe.

That said, it is perfectly fine to critique and offer differing opinions from the outside, even if they may upset the apple cart a bit. I have just read a good example of this in Yours Very Truly, selected letters of Gareth Knight (Skylight Press, 2010).

In a letter to Vivienne Jones, Gareth refers to an article concerned with spiritual pathology he wrote for Psychology and the Spiritual Traditions (Element, 1990). This article seems to have made a few folk come up and short and re-examine their own assumptions and the origins of their received material and intuitions. Gareth wisely states,

…it is no small achievement to realise how badly one has performed as a human being – it shows a glimmer of clear sightedness and the beginning of practical spiritual wisdom.

We all need a dose this now and then. 🙂 Anyway, onward…

There are a number of misconceptions surrounding magical initiation. One of the most pernicious, and all the more so for its subtlety, is the idea that initiation somehow makes one different from other people – more advanced, one of the elite – an attitude that is in complete contrast to the actual purpose of initiation. Initiation means simply ‘to begin’. The late W.E. Butler, an adept in a Western Magical tradition stemming from the Golden Dawn, believed we should not say we are ‘initiates’ (noun), but rather ‘initiate’ (verb), to indicate that we are all, no matter our experience, continually beginning our spiritual unfoldment. In the Golden Dawn this is the beginning of a new mode of awareness, where we no longer walk in the sleep of everyday life but are alive to our own inner divinity and the call of God.

In a very real sense all initiations are self initiations. It is the self of the initiate that is being changed, and it is the self that has to assent to the initiation and the spiritual and/or the fraternal gifts it offers. If the initiate is closed, immature or has base motivations, the best ceremonial initiation in the world will not affect them directly. They will remain closed. Whereas an open, dedicated person at home waving some incense around and calling on the divine powers in a self composed ritual will be affected more. I would more likely class them as an initiate than a Neophyte who has gone through the motions but not open to unfoldment and service. Our motivations are the key here.  I do not expect the first degree Wiccan, who confessed to Maxine Sanders he was only there because he liked the look of her tits, would be much of an initiate.

Now that said, the Golden Dawn Z docs, from memory do make the bold claim that the initiate, once entering the process, will be moved to the Light whether they will it or not.  This is because the Golden Dawn initiation ceremonies, like all effective magical traditions, work on the subtle selves of the initiate. When correctly performed the blessings of a ceremonial initiation will be linked to the subtle selves of a ‘closed’ initiate. So even though the initiation does not ‘take’ immediately, when the initiate becomes open within themselves the initiation becomes active. Nifty, huh 🙂

There are many aspects to a full Golden Dawn initiation, as shown for example in this post, Currents and Templates of Transformation within the Golden Dawn Neophyte Ceremony. So with all of these points and all the various functions of initiation in mind, fraternal belonging, energetic transformation, linking to egregores etc, etc, can a person perform a ceremony at home that will initiate them into the Golden Dawn as Neophyte or the later grades? Overall, I would have to say ‘no’, though we can achieve the same results over a longer magical process. Let me explain.

OK, first off, self initiation can never initiate us into a particular physical temple or Order in the same way a physical initiation into the temple or Order does. The presence of physical initiator is a particular form of magical action, as shown in our  last post, Astral Initiation. Physical initiatory action cannot be replaced by astral work, and self initiation is necessarily astrally based since we physically cannot be the initiator and initiate at the same time.

Also, within the Golden Dawn the initiations are extremely complex magical actions. They rest upon and require clear and empowered connections to particular magical currents and a level of technical skill far in advance of a newcomer to the grade. Put simply, if someone had the skill to initiate themselves into the Neophyte Grade with its complex formula and impact of twenty two godforms etc, all within a single self-initiation ceremony, they would not need to be initiated. Think about it – a person has to take the place of an entire Order and supporting Inner Order and perform several magical actions on all levels, simultaneously. No easy call.

In addition a crucial component of the GD outer grades is the redeemed or higher consciousness within the physical presence of the Hierophant. This simply cannot be replaced by visualising the associated godforms, because the real flesh and blood initiator represents physically on the material plane what the initiate can become. This is one of the reasons why in the GD only Adepts may initiate, and why choice of initiator is very important. The higher consciousness within the human body is essential, even if that body is clothed astrally as Osiris. If we associate the higher Tipharethic consciousness to Christ Jesus, as is common, then the blessings of the interior Godforms can be linked with the name YHShVH. However, this alone is incomplete and the blessings only earthed with the presence of the name YHVShH, as shown in the Rose Cross ritual. The physical presence of an Adept as Hierophant fulfils the YHVShH function and grounds the full blessings into the real, everyday life of the initiate.

Finally, and most importantly, ceremonial initiations always require passivity on behalf of the initiate. The western lodge tradition over the centuries developed many ways to induce this passivity, from sensory deprivation to scaring the bejesus out of the poor sod being initiated. While this passivity becomes a little less in the deeper grades of some traditions, it is still a requirement. The initiate is literally acted upon by the officers and spiritual forces invited and invoked. The same effects simply cannot occur if we, in an act of self initiation, were to call the forces and seek to act on ourselves. The very act of invocation would alter our subtle bodies and we could not receive the various complexly created structures and energies the initiation is designed to instil in the same way, the way the initiation designed them to be received.

Theoretically it would be possible to magically consecrate a vast number of talismans prior to a self initiation ceremony, one for each Godform, tool, banner etc. Then during the self initiation ceremony we could move around and be mostly astrally and mentally passive, simply uncovering the talismans to call them into action etc. However, even if we were capable of such magical finesse (and still wishing to be initiated), there is still no way around the fact that we would be physically and etherically active. The passivity required for magical initiation is as important on these planes as much as the higher planes. To deny this is to partially deny the sacrament of the body, as I talked about in the last post on Astral Initiation.

If we as solo magicians wish to engage with the initiatory method of the Golden Dawn, and there are very good reasons for doing so, we need to find ways of affecting our subtle bodies in the same manner as the initiation ceremonies themselves. During initiation we receive a gift of many hundreds of hours of inner and spiritual work on behalf of the initiating team. It is these hours of effort and spiritual work, combined with the blessings of inner plane beings, that all come together into a coherent whole that will (hopefully) change the initiate. We simply cannot hope to achieve this by ourselves in a single ceremony, no matter how good we are at visualising various officers or Godforms around us.

The way forward is to analyse exactly what each initiation does and what changes it produces. Once we are clear of these we can then design a curriculum of magical practice designed to produce these changes within us. We may need to use different magical processes than those found in the initiation ceremonies, but provided the end result is the same there will be no difficulty. In short we can design an initiatory process that will, over a period of time, change our various subtle bodies and our psyche and result in us effectively being initiated into whatever grade we are working with. I have included detail instructions on this method in the much belated By Names and Images 🙂

It should be pointed out however, that our analysis of the grades needs to be done thoroughly and personally. We should not blindly take anyone else’s approach, not least of all because many of the published accounts are woefully inadequate. For example, even calling the GD grades from Zelator to Philosophus ‘elemental grades’ betrays a limited elemental bias that can rob us of exploring the other depths within these incredibly rich ceremonies. The outcome of such a bias can be seen in Donald Michael Kraig’s Modern Magick or Israel Regardie assuming several hundred performances of the Opening by Watchtower was equivalent to these grades.

Finally, I think we need to honestly recognise that ceremonial initiation is a gift from an Order to an initiate but one most of us involved in the Western esoteric traditions may never receive and will have to learn to live without. This is simply because of the lack of sensible, accessible and properly functioning magical Orders within the West today. However, it is quite possible to create your own Order rather than waiting for one to appear or bemoaning the lack. To this end I sincerely recommend John Michael Greer’s Inside a Magical Lodge and Nick Farrell’s Gathering the Magic: Creating 21st Century Esoteric Groups. Seriously, forming a magical Order is not out of the question and may not only be spiritually fulfilling, but will also provide a much needed service. Think about it. Do it.

A brief note on touch within the Golden Dawn

Most folk within the Golden Dawn adhere, consciously or unconsciously to one of two broad cosmologies regarding the existence of the material universe. Either some form of Neo-platonic emanation theory or a version of classical Christian Creation (I am ignoring the Gnostic GD folk here as they are a minority, sorry).

In Neo-platonism the material universe is the culmination of an outpouring of the One, the Good,  through a series of emanations and stages often corresponded to the planets and Sephrioth of the Qabalah. A Great Chain of Being then links us with the source of All. In Christian creation theory the One creates the universe, everything that was is and shall be, via a directive fiat, out of Nothing. There is no chain of causal connection and the universe is clearly a creation and we are clearly creatures of the Creator.

In either view though the material universe and bodily existence is sacred and holy. By Neo-platonic lights we, our bodies and the matter around us are of the same substance of the One, only more removed from the source. The light may be dim, but we are in essence the same as the One. In Christian creation we are made in the image, the reflection of the One and all of nature is declared by the Creator to be good. Via the Incarnation the One redeems all matter, all flesh and all earthy existence. Christianity, if properly practiced from its core doctrines is actually a bodily and earthy spirituality where redemption is worked out in our bodies and through our material actions.

It is not surprising then that the Golden Dawn, like much of western magic, holds a special place for the body. What is surprising is the lack of teaching and discussion on this topic within much published Golden Dawn teaching. Here I am not wanting to focus on any purported Second or Third Order teaching on ‘sex magic’ but on something more basic but far more essential and crucial – touch.

My primary Golden Dawn teacher always stressed to us the use and importance of touch and had much oral teachings on the subject. The use of particular methods of touch is crucial in magic and we see echoes of this in the published GD corpus and even in Wiccan ceremonies. Of course touch is an integral part of the Christian tradition with laying on of hands (used to channel the grace of the Holy Spirit), the use of Chrism and even the outward practice of the Sign of Peace.

In a Golden Dawn context the importance of touch starts with the signing of the pledge form by the potential initiate. More that just a written ascent to the initiation and application the form becomes important because the candidate has touched it. It forms a link between the Order, its egregore and physical initiator (the current Hierophant) and the physical life of the candidate.

During the Neophyte initiation the touches directed towards the candidate are extremely important. The preparation is overseen by the Hegemon but carried out by the Sentinel and it is they, as Anubis of the West, who first touches the candidate ritually. The Anubis Godform is literally carried by the subtle bodies of the Sentinel who may not be even aware of this. In this context they do not need to be as the directive power of the Hierophant and the Dias officers is more important.

With the first ritual touch and preparation of the candidate the blessings and powers of the dark Anubis of the funeral rites is transferred to the candidate (however accurate that is in an Egyptian historical context is unimportant here). The candidate is dressed symbolically as one dead, their interior powers constrained by the cord, their outer sight blinded by the hoodwink, their inner sight blinded on the etheric level by the Anubis darkness transferred via the Godform. This then forces the inner sight to activate on the higher astral and mental levels and can help result in experiences such as that recounted in Nick Farrell’s blog recently.

During the next phase of the initiation the Hegemon’s touch confers a number of blessings and forces to the candidate. At this point it is best to ensure the Hegemon directly touches the skin of the arm of the candidate. The first Order I was initiated into had an Imperator who was very Masonic and we all had to wear white gloves (not pleasant when you are the Stolistes – soggy thumbs!). I am not sure how many historical GD Orders did this, but the difference skin contact makes in both the ‘automatic’ (i.e directed by the Hierophant and Dias Officers through the Godform) and conscious direction of etheric energies is immense. When I was given these teachings and shown demonstrations in temple rehearsals I could see how much we missed by wearing gloves or not directly touching skin to skin.

The grip of the Hegemon upon the arm and body of the candidate must be done in such a way as to convey strength, guidance, certitude and presence. Hegemon officers should practice these skills as much as any other part of the rubric. While there are various hints and suggestions to help accomplish this, practice is the best instructor, and practice while assuming the Godform. Essentially the touch of the Hegemon here is instructing the bodily and etheric aspects of the candidate on the grosser levels what she is being informed about on the higher levels. As the Hegemon speaks for the candidate, she holds her physically and etherically. Inwardly of course she is held and overshadowed by the interior blessings of the Tham-st and the higher. Overall there should be a concordance. The presence of the Goddess leads the candidate within the inner realms and this action is conveyed to the Guph of the candidate by the physical touch and direction of the Hegemon.

Another example of how essential touch is within the Golden Dawn occurs during the Neophyte oath. The right hand of the candidate touches the cross and triangle. I was taught to ensure that the centre of the palm of the candidate should lie flat over the intersection of the Cross and Triangle. In that way the etheric and astral energies contained within this ‘sacred and sublime symbol’ will be absorbed by the palm centre. The intersection of the Cross and triangle is a representation of the Incarnation – the point where the red cross of ‘He who unfolded in the light’ arises out of the immortal Triune light. Thus the candidate’s earthy form is sanctified by this action and she is impelled towards her own lesser incarnation of a new life via the initiation.

The Hierophant of course now directly takes the hand of the candidate. A link is thereby formed on all levels between what the candidate is now, a humble child of Darkness, and what she may become, represented by the Elder Horus and present in the Genius of the candidate herself which is now activated and linked to the ceremony. I was taught that the physical action here is in many ways more important than the inner action. Here we have an inner initiate standing atop the Evil Triad of the candidate, hindering the evil force. She stands in the place of the Genius of the candidate and and physically connects with them. Since the whole aim of the outer mysteries is the transformation of our actual mundane, physical lives the physical touch of the Hierophant who is in some ways the channel for the higher consciousness, can activate changes at a deep, everyday level. This touch should be seen as equivalent to the grace and blessings received by those physically blessed by Masters and Saints.

It is of course significant that this is the only time the Hierophant touches the candidate during this ceremony – at the moment when they are to enter into the most vulnerable aspect of the initiation as they take the oath. Like ordinary life, touch at our most vulnerable, most open times is the strongest and most transformational.

We could of course analyse touch within all the initiations and practices of the Golden Dawn and RR et AC but that would be a big job and, naturally enough is best explored and taught in person by practice and physical contact. 🙂 I am not sure how many Orders teach this – I know several initiates have told me their Orders don’t, which is a shame.

From the suggestions here and a bit of extrapolation much can be discovered and gained. I hope I have started some pondering with these simple notes and people realise that instructions such as ‘take the candidate’ and ‘assist to rise’ etc are far more than practical directions. Each touch in the Golden Dawn has meaning and is often an outer version of inner, magical work. A classic example is during the Zelator Initiation where the Hierophant grips the candidate and by the grip shows forth Sandalphon. There is so much in that simple instruction I am off now to think and meditate on it some more 🙂

A bit about happiness, illumination and the Golden Dawn

At some point in my mid-teens I nutted out the purpose and meaning of life. It was (1) to learn things and (2) to be happy. I am not sure I have changed my mind much since. There was certainly nothing advanced or special about such realisations. I imagine millions of teenagers and youth today are having similar thoughts. And hopefully sharing them on Facebook and Myspace. 🙂

I was delighted when a little older to discover I had unknowingly synched up with the likes of HH the Dalai Lama and the entire Tibetan spiritual tradition. In his Compassion and the Individual, the Dalai Lama writes:

I believe that the purpose of life is to be happy.  From the moment of birth, every human being wants happiness and does not want suffering.  Neither social conditioning nor education nor ideology affect this.  From the very core of our being, we simply desire contentment.  I don’t know whether the universe, with its countless galaxies, stars and planets, has a deeper meaning or not, but at the very least, it is clear that we humans who live on this earth face the task of making a happy life for ourselves.  Therefore, it is important to discover what will bring about the greatest degree of happiness.

In our modern world the pursuit of happiness is a right enshrined in the constitutional and legal structures of many secular democracies. This however does not seem to have ensured we are all happy (though the thought of how life was in pre-modern times fairly makes me queasy). A cynical, though I think partly accurate, take on modern happiness is given Todd Solondz’s brilliant dark comedy, appropriately called ‘Happiness’. Only for the adult MOTO reader. 🙂

Recently my Buddhist teacher, the Ven Thupten Lodey in one of his teachings equated enlightenment with happiness. Perfect happiness is only found in perfect enlightenment. Enlightenment can only be found by being perfectly happy.  In the Golden Dawn most redactions of the Neophyte Closing have the Mystic Repast and ceremony culminate with these words from the Hierophant:

May what we have partaken maintain us in our search for the Quintessence, the Stone of the Philosophers. True Wisdom, Perfect Happiness, the Summum Bonum.

I’d wager that a significant percentage of modern initiates have not really examined this phrase or the Latin words even; I know many of my initiates haven’t  done so without a bit of gentle prodding.

This phrase gives an identical (or nearly so) principle to that of Tibetan Buddhism, where happiness, wisdom and the highest good are linked and equated with the final culmination of the alchemical work. In Tibetan Buddhism it is clear that ultimate happiness and ultimate enlightenment are contingent on all sentient beings also being enlightened. Or to quote yet again that great man pictured to the right, the Rev. Martin Luther King:

I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the way God’s universe is made; this is the way it is structured.

In the Golden Dawn, the inclusion of ‘the Highest Good’ is very important and I believe refers to this exact mystery. The authors of the Neophyte Ceremony would have been very aware of the theological and philosophical meanings of summum bonum. The highest good is by its very nature transpersonal and assists all, each and every one, sinner or saint. Thus our personal finding of the Philosophers Stone, the accomplishment of the Great Work is linked with that which helps and assists everyone. This is why I love this phrase so much and why, I think it is at the end of the very first initiation. It links the new initiate’s newly started spiritual journey with the ultimate purpose of all Life. Cool, eh? 🙂

Snippet from the Golden Dawn Files

The following extract is taken from a lecture delivered by G.H. Sr Maim Choth (Mrs Felkin) to the Whare Ra Temple of the Smaragdum Thalassess in New Zealand, circa 1959.

The second sign, or Sign of Silence (left fore finger upon lower lip) made in these circumambulations makes a circle of power around the temple and the several circumambulations at the close of the ceremony affects those outside who are seeking the light and brings them, sooner or later into contact within someone in the Order who may be able to help them.

The Whare Ra Temple Building

What this is referring to is the magical intention and act to utilize the divine light channeled through the opening of the Neophyte Grade for the purpose of helping those seeking esoteric instruction to find a way of contacting the Order. The divine light directed through the Hierophant during the Opening of the Neophyte Grade is ordinarily returned to the realm where it originated (via the reverse mystic circumambulation). This practice instead directs it to a practical end. I imagine the Inner Order members present in the Whare Ra temple worked this magic through focusing the divine energy into an astral symbol or form, which was linked to the New Zealand group consciousness. Any other Golden Dawn Order could work the same way.

This practice appears to be an innovation of the Whare Ra temple in New Zealand. It is interesting then to note that despite the very small population base in New Zealand, Whare Ra became one of the largest and certainly the longest surviving (sixty years) Golden Dawn temples ever. While we can never know for certain that this action helped in Whare Ra’s success, it is at least a very interesting idea. 🙂