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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

History

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

Sam now gives us a juicy carrot:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christian or wot?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amen to that. 🙂

 

Who’s Your Rosicrucian, Baby?

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

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

“Care Soror,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

RR et AC Rose Cross

RR et AC Rose Cross

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

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

I find this mess rather distressing for three main reasons:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

🙂 THANKS.

More Christian than you can poke a stick at

In response to some recent silly and strange claims on the net regarding the history of the Golden Dawn, I recently reposted to Facebook an old post, A Pagan Golden Dawn? People’s responses this time round have prompted this quick clarification.

jesus-smallWhat me, Christian?

Firstly, as I try to make clear in the original post, I am not proselytizing for Christianity. Nor am I saying GD folk need to be Christian. Or even that Christianity is ‘better’ than other religions. Those few who have accused me of these views should really read better.

Yes, I am confirmed in the Anglican church. However, I have also been initiated into the GD and other western traditions (long before my confirmation), and taken Refuge with the amazing Lama Zopa Rinpoche. I identify with none of these paths exclusively. I am not a Christian. I am not a Buddhist. I am not an Isian. In the end there is only the One, and where all is One there can be no separate names. And besides, I have written (passionately) far more on the Golden Dawn than Christianity, but no one accuses me of proselytizing for the GD 🙂

Christian but not Christian

But back to it… my points in the original post are, in my view, more than justified by a little comment in the original pledge form (application for initiation) of the historical Golden Dawn:

Belief in a Supreme Being, or Beings, is indispensable.  In addition, the Candidate, if not a Christian, should at least be prepared to take an interest in Christian Symbolism. (Gilbert, R.A. (1986)  The Golden Dawn Companion : a guide to the history, structure and workings of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. p. 45.  Aquarian, Wellingborough.)

Modern Orders may have omitted this but I am talking of the traditional approach and the form I signed as a young lad. The reason why Christianity is singled out is because the Orders (GD and RR et AC) contain more symbols with a Christian basis or interpretation than any other religion. Mathers and Westcott (and perhaps Woodman) were clear that one needs to be ‘interested’ in these symbols to gain the most from the Golden Dawn experience.

Mystical and religious symbols are a path to the mysteries they represent. When we engage with symbols we enter the mystery and the mystery enters us, grounding through our individual unique lives, and thereby it becomes more established in the world. As with any mystery path, those in the GD and RR et AC, need to engage deeply with ALL the symbols of the tradition. We need to do this personally, not relying on second hand information and insights of others.

ctTherefore each GD initiate has to engage with and embody the mysteries behind a whole raft of Christian symbols, from the neophyte Red Cross (an ‘Image of Him Who was unfolded in the Light’) to the Cross of Suffering in the Vault (see this good essay by GH Fr SR on Cross symbolism in the Golden Dawn which more than adequately  explains the predominance of the Christian symbolism in the GD and RR et AC). This engagement means the initiate, and collectively the tradition, is working the mysteries through a Christian based lens more than any other lens. This is why I can describe the RR et AC as a ‘Christian’ tradition – yet having nothing whatever to do with personal faith or church membership.

Now, people may not like this because they do not like Christianity – though more often than not they actually do not like Churchianity – but this is the case. Empirically. Look it up – count the symbols within the GD Corpus that are Christian or Christian interpretations. Compare with those from other traditions.

People’s dislike or lack of fit with Christian symbolism often prompts them to want to modify and change the symbols and rituals (which are a way of embodying the mystery of the symbols). However, I think it very unwise to change any symbol until we know and are intimate with the mystery it represents. Otherwise we cannot know what exactly to ‘replace’ it with. And we cannot know the mystery represented by a symbol until we fully engage with it spiritually and magically. Therefore even if we want to change things, we still are required, if we are sensible, to engage deeply with Christian based symbols within a tradition that stems from a very Christian based tradition indeed -Rosicrucianism.

Rosicrucians – the tradition with no (identifiable) members

I am always amazed at the number of RR et AC adepts I correspond with who have only read, (or not even read!), the Rosicrucian manifestos  It is clearly stated within the Adeptus Minor initiation that the initiate becomes a Rosicrucian (and not to tell anyone about it :)) Therefore the manifestos are, literally, the essence of our tradition. The power and transformation inherent in the RR et AC is Rosicrucian. Now there are any number of hermetic, alchemical and occult influences within the manifestos  but the overarching theme, current and religiosity is undeniably Christian. Every RR et AC adept will benefit from a deep engagement with these texts, as they are initiatory powers in their own right.

Of Rosicrucianism, noted occult and Masonic historian R.A. Gilbert has the view that:

…once one moves away from the Trinitarian Christian approach to this ascent up the Tree of Life, it ceases to be Rosicrucian. (http://www.rosecircle.org/cms/node/36).

Now as much as argument by authority is a little lazy, I do think the views of Mr Gilbert are important – he really does know an awful lot 🙂 In any case, the religious background of the Rosicrucian tradition speaks for itself.

Pagan Deities and Suchlike Things

During my recent discussions on this topic folk have pointed out that GD folk like the Mathers and others worked with a range of non-Christian, and therefore Pagan, deities and forms. This is undeniably true. However, I think it fair to say they were worked (in a GD context at least) within the overarching framework of Christianity. That is to say, pre-Christian myths and symbols were often (unconsciously) interpreted in the light and by the tenants of Christianity. That is to say, Pagan and Jewish religious concepts were seen through a Christian based lens. The beginnings of the Hermetic Qabalah show this approach clearly – look at folk like Pico della Mirandola and Marsilio Ficino.

The Victorian era occultism that produced the Golden Dawn was heavily interested in non-Christian traditions but rarely was able to interpret or approach these traditions on their own terms or without western, Christian and/or personal intellectual filters. Australian Pagan academic Caroline Tully has shown a little how this occurred in the case of Samuel Mathers and Florence Farr:

J.G Frazer, a fine looking chap

Ironically the Victorian penchant for ethnological studies also contributed to this confusion and Christian filtering. Some ethnologists of this era were motivated by a quest to discredit Christianity. They attempted this by showing the similarities between Christianity and other non-Christian religions. If Christianity was just like all other religions, then it could claim no superior status. Nice. However, looking for Christian-like elements of a religion means we ignore the real, completely different ideas, world-views, and religious motifs inherent in these other religions.

A classic example of this ethnological tendency was James George Frazer, whose work influenced GD and other magicy folk hugely. Having no direct experience of ‘Pagan’ religions, occultists would often base their approach to them via these ethnological studies and thus get a Christian view of the religion, albeit unknowingly. When this method of obtaining knowledge was not used, altogether different approaches and rituals were created. Alex Sumner gives an example of this when discussing Florence Farr’s The Order of Great Osiris The Saviour.

Farr’s rituals bear little resemblance to those of the Golden Dawn. There is no “Egyptian magic as seen through a Victorian prism” of the GD, instead the symbolism is practically all ancient Egyptian (though unlike any discovered by archaeological means). (http://solascendans.com/2012/07/05/the-order-of-great-osiris-the-saviour/)

Farr of course though was not presenting ancient Egyptian magic or religion with any degree of accuracy, and most of the material can be assumed to be from inner sources. Again, see the wonderful article, Florence and the Mummy in Women’s Voices in Magic by Caroline Tully. Only recently have modern Neo-Pagans been able to approach ancient religions and mysteries on their own terms and re-construct something without Christian and modern western filters getting too much in the way.

Lashings and Lashings of Christianity

One of the commentators on my Facebook post mentioned above asked for more information concerning my statement that: “The GD and RR et AC are built layer upon layer of Christian based practice and symbolism and it is through our personal engagement with this practice and symbolism that we arrive at universal wisdom.” Specifically they wanted to know what these layers are and why it is essential they need to be Christian. Great questions.

To address the second question first: there is no reason they need to be Christian (based) – only that in the RR et AC they are. In other traditions they would not be, and those traditions are as worthy and as wonderful as the RR et AC. However, the RR et AC being Rosicrucian, has a Christian symbolism basis and bias. That simple. It’s how it was created. One can change it, sure, but I would be careful, as I discuss above, about changes without full entry into the mystery represented by the Christian symbolism.

Also, as I’ve mentioned in this post, there is a big difference between eclecticism and synthesis and to change the symbols of the RR et AC because some folk have a personal discomfort with Christianity may not be such a top idea. In short changes to traditions are best directed by a third higher power for transpersonal reasons.

As for the layers: again, the fact that the RR et AC is Rosicrucian is a crucial point. But further, the RR et AC is a tradition. It did not emerge fully formed out of Mathers’ creative brow. It draws on many layers, centuries old. And each of those layers carry with them the currents and egregore of the people and groups who created them. For example, the entire Enochian system came about via the work of a devout Christian, John Dee. It therefore was filtered by Dee’s Christianity and carries within it Christian concepts, currents and egregore. One layer.

Pentagram Diagram (colour)In some RR et AC rituals elements of the Enochian are used alongside a mystical Christian name for Jesus, YHShVH. This, and the deep formula within the name was created by Christian renaissance occultists (it is not the Hebrew or Aramaic spelling at all). Another layer, and one which underpins the entire GD system: grades, rituals, meditations, the lot. Even when an adept assumes an Egyptian based godform, she will consecrate the space beforehand with the Pentagram ritual, which holds at its core the YHShVH formula, and thus the adept is empowered by it. She is therefore linked to this Christian based current.

Or take a look at image of the Higher and Divine Genius. This is taken from the work of another devout Christian, Albrecht Dürer, St John Beholding the Seven Golden Candlesticks. The image therefore carries with it the Christian egregore and currents. Another layer.

This is what I mean by layers of practice. A slow build, over the centuries, of a tradition, drawing on many themes, ideas and innovations, but the vast majority of them created by Christians within a Christian context. The egregore of the RR et AC is soaked through and through with these. Or take the Vault – the Adepti of a College literally draw their magic and links to the inner realms through this Vault and their initiation within it. And the Vault is the epitome of the Christian based Rosicrucian tradition.

Rounding Off

Of course, every adept knows what I am saying here at some (hopefully deep) level, when during their Adept initiation they declare:

I, (MOTTO), a member of the Body of Christ, do this day spiritually bind myself, even as I am now bound physically upon the Cross of Suffering.

These are not idle words, and being spoken at the Kether point of the Obligation they become the central hub around which the initiation, and life thereafter as Rosicrucian adept, revolves.

Now of course, people can do what they like – and they do 🙂 Again, I am not suggesting anyone is ‘wrong’ or any religious tradition is ‘better’ than another. I am just pointing out how I was taught and what seems real and obvious to me. I am approaching 30 years within this wonderful tradition of ours, and over that time I have seen far too many folk go astray because there were precious few discussions and examination of things that seem obvious but are not. I hope at least these words give some folk a pause for thought. Responses naturally welcome – but don’t flame me, roast me or toast me 🙂 Thanks.

Initiations – what are they good for?

 

JUST EDITED – lost a couple of paragraphs in the ol’ cut and paste. 11/11/10, 12:04pm.

Recently there has been another one of these very interesting ‘separate forum’ debates characteristic of the online Golden Dawn community. For various reasons some leaders of the GD community can’t get on well enough to debate on the same forum. So one person will say something and someone else will reply elsewhere.  It fairly reminds me of the fractured conversations parents have while attending to a baby.

But there you go; we work with what we have.

The topic this time was the GD Grades and the levels of consciousness they refer to. Now I may annoy a few folk here, maybe even both ‘sides’ of the issue. Apologies in advance but this is how I see it.

On the one hand Pat Zalewski, who has done as much for the Golden Dawn as any contemporary person could, wrote on ‘his’ forum that the exalted spiritual/moral states ascribed by some people to the higher grades, such as 7=4, are rarely achieved, so why ascribe them in the first place?  On the other hand, the erudite GH Fr SR maintains the 7=4 (and other grades) does help produce certain distinct changes in consciousness and spiritual development, even if those who attain the grade slip sometimes and react from the lower self.

Pat also makes the accurate observation that Mathers and Westcott and people he personally knew who were 7=4 and beyond gave in to “petty jealousy and had certainly not emancipated from the passions of the body”.

He then writes, “GD people are not a breed apart and study and ritual will not transform the basic personality” something I will come back to later. If I understand him correctly, Pat’s take on the transformative power of the GD is allows us at “varying levels … to understand our connection to things about us through analogy and symbols and to try and attain Apotheosis”. He concludes with a characteristic comment, “Whatever you may want to attain you still live in the here and now.”

Commentators to the Pat’s post point out the “system” of the GD can still be valid, that is able to transform the person, even if individuals fail to do so. The person fails, not the system.

GH Fr SR takes this a step further and points out the original GD system was rudimentary and offered limited advanced theurgic work and structures. This has all been solved now with the ‘1999 reformation of the Order curriculum’ – by this he means the particular Rosicrucian Order of the Alpha et Omega and attached Inner Orders. One of the things that always bugs me is the language most members of the Ros AO use implies that their Order is THE Order. Of course, by their lights it may be the only valid Order…kinda like Pope Benedict insisting that all non-Roman churches are really congregations or fellowships, not Churches.

Anyway…

These are weighty and serious questions and cut to the very raison d’être of the Golden Dawn. One of the difficulties in discussing these things is there is often limited congruence between GD folk on the meanings of all these strange esoteric words, initiation, Ruach, Apotheosis etc. One person’s astral is not necessarily another person’s astral. Of course this situation is made worse when people can’t even debate and learn from each other in the same forum.

Another major problem is the different underlying theologies, cosmologies and ontologies a person brings with them into the Order. Since we are an orthopraxic tradition we seldom insist upon, or even teach and discuss a common paradigm to the universe, seen and unseen. Our internally held views on these things make us view the GD, its purpose, capacity and function differently. I have addressed in this post, ‘Spiritual Transformation: or a whole hunk of questions’. The questions there, such as what is this ‘self’ we are trying to transform and why the hell are we doing this, really need answering before we can address the issues raised by Pat and GH Fr SR.

Now, I have a working and unfolding tension in relation to these questions – ‘cos they’ve been bouncing around my head since a teenager, so I am going to go right ahead and have a go… 🙂

To try and move this issue away from the persons of Pat and GH Fr SR, I want to examine the various opinions within the Western magical traditions concerning ceremonial initiation and the spiritual and psychological effects it may or may not have. We may summarise these opinions in several broad statements, each of which looks at initiation from a differing perspective.

1. Ceremonial initiations, when correctly performed will, without a doubt, promote a change of consciousness within the initiate. That is, a new state of consciousness, a new level of spiritual awakening will be delivered unto the initiate. With each new or subsequent initiation they will become more spiritually advanced than those who do not have those initiations.

2. Initiation is a process not a series of ceremonies and the actual initiation is through our own personal work and life circumstances. Life itself is the initiator. The ceremonies are simply a recognition of the state of consciousness already achieved as well as a booster or ‘leg-up’ towards further unfoldment within the process.

3. Ceremonial initiation, when correctly performed, offers a series of energetic keys to the initiate. If these are taken up and used by the initiate within their own personal work, they will then promote a distinct change in consciousness and spiritual advancement. Often this may involve unexpected or dramatic changes in life circumstances. When these new life circumstances are entered into fully they may provide a vehicle through which the new state of consciousness may be developed.

RR et AC Rose Cross

4. Ceremonial initiations are mostly designed to recognise work within a particular occult or magical discipline or Order. They have little or nothing to do with spiritual or moral development and are simply markers of ‘where one is at’ within a tradition.

5. Ceremonial initiations within the magical traditions are predominantly designed to promote greater magical powers or mastery of the various forces of the universe, both internally and externally. They have little to do with spiritual advancement or the mystical awareness of God and the transformation of consciousness.

Often of course the same lodge or magical group will hold one or more of these views simultaneously. For example, the way the members of the original Golden Dawn viewed its initiatory schema appears to have elements of all five perspectives. The ceremonies were designed to change the initiate’s consciousness (1). It is also clear from the commentaries upon the initiations that the initiate had to work her own process (2) and activate the keys of the ceremony within her daily life through will and surrender (3). However, it is also clear that the initiations themselves, regardless of the spiritual unfoldment or magical attainment of the individual, were used as pre-requisites to hold certain offices within an Temple (4). And there is certainly plenty of evidence that while the initiations increase an individual’s capacity for magic, they may not promote an expansion of consciousness towards a mystical awareness of God and indeed, initiates could still be utter bastards, personally (5).

Pat seems to focus on (2), (3) and (4) – not saying he does not hold any other views, only that his comments, as I read seem to focus on these areas. GH Fr SR seems, in his recent post, to focus on (1) and (3) – again, not saying he does not hold any other views.

Personally, I do think correctly performed initiations affect us on the subtle levels. The changes induced there, can, if we will, help us to change ourselves. So here I agree with GH Fr SR. However, those changes only ever come about through our interaction with, as Pat puts it, “things about us” – through our interaction and unfoldment in this wonderful world of summer rain and tainted babies’ milk. The mystery, for example, of standing between the Pillars of the Opposites is placed within us at Neophyte. It will never come to fruition though if we, in our messy and glorious lives, do not move ourselves to a place of balance between, for example work and family commitments. The initiation does however help when we choose to do that. So I think Pat is right, “study and ritual will not transform the basic personality” alone. But it will help us along the way when we choose and act to change ourselves. So will good food and exercise and good friends though 🙂

So without, I hope being too much of a fence sitter, both Pat’s and GH Fr SR’s views are in my view correct– when they are taken together.

Pat’s comment that “study and ritual will not transform the basic personality” I feel needs a little unpacking. From my experience and within most esoteric systems the personality is not separate from the subtle selves. There is no doubt ritual affects the subtle self, even if only temporarily. Repeated instances of ritual can then help to affect the personality – if we are working towards that goal within our lives.

In the case of initiation however, the ritual is done for us, for our benefit and we receive many blessings. Using a public example, Dion Fortune recounts how her 0=0 initiation helped resolve damage to her subtle etheric self, healing her and stopping ‘energy’ leaking from her system. Now this is not a direct action upon the personality, but it would have helped her personality by reducing stress, tiredness and increasing focus etc. So here, at a very simple level we see that a ritual can affect us.

Another case: while healing ritual processes, for example, may not be able remove underlying mental pattering causing psychological dysfunction unless married with other inner work and life changes, they can temporarily help lessen the circular effects of dysfunction.  They do this by affecting the subtle bodies – in the way correct breathing during a panic attack will reduce the attack but not address the source. The temporary relief of dysfunctional symptoms can then provide the space needed for deeper psychological change. I have experienced this personally and have helped facilitate the process for others, including people heavily traumatised.

With regards to the actual level of psychological and spiritual functioning an Adept has, I focus squarely on point (4). The grades within an esoteric order hopefully helps us transform. However, they are not guaranteed to. The levels of consciousness and functioning ascribed to each grade should, I think, be viewed as metaphorical not literal. Just as Biblical and religious narratives are true but not literal, so too with the grade system. The various exalted levels are to be taken metaphorically not literally, as something that is true, but not within shared space-time.

Dalai Lama Leaving Tibet

The main reason for this ‘metaphorical’ interpretation is obvious – as soon as we ascribe noble morality, compassion, higher consciousness and wot all to a particular grade our paradigm is vulnerable to members of that grade acting like pompous, constipated two year olds. And of course Adepti Exempti do act this way. Just look on the blogs. GH Fr SR may say these things are slips, and I am sure some of the less dysfunctional actions are, but I am sure we all know the odd Adepti Exempti who we would not only not take home to mother, but actively steer away from mother.

The view that the Reformed Ros. AO  GD/RR et AC now offers better opportunities for fuller unfoldment is interesting. The proof of the pudding is in the eating of course, and I yet to meet an Adept from this Order, so cannot fully comment. However the publically available information on the theurgic and evocatory expansion within the Reformed system is very logical and is along the lines many Orders have taken, and the Adepti from those Orders I have met are just as dysfunctional as non-initiates, and sometimes worse. The Ros. AO may be doing it better, I cannot know.

All this of course, is one of the reasons why I feel it essential not to discuss our Grades. It is also, as I was taught, one of the reasons for the traditional Rosicrucian injunction to wear the garb of the country we find ourselves within – to blend in, not focus on our attainments or fictional difference between us and ‘non-initiates’. The latter view finds its disgusting apotheosis in both the traditional Gnostic separation of humanity into three distinct categories and the modern myth of the ‘once born’ non-initiates and the diogens, or twice born initiates.

There remains the question of whether an esoteric tradition can actually help to change us to an exalted state that is generally understood to be ‘more than human’. For me there is no question that it can. I never really understood the difference between regular human consciousness and, for want of a better word, an illumined consciousness until, as I describe in this post, I attended a talk by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Since then I have met and been blessedly initiated by other enlightened Vajrayana Masters. I have no doubt of their enlightened state while being perfectly human also.

Personally, I think such transformations in the western tradition are very rare, particularly in the largely dysfunctional western magical traditions, but I am sure they can happen.

Finally, I am very aware I have not mentioned the actual truth of the matter; individual transformation itself is a chimera. Since I bang on about it so much, I gave it a rest this time and will only re-quote the great Martin Luther King:

We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason 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.

A Pagan Golden Dawn?

OK. Some or much of this post will not agree with many folk. But there you go.

Over the last few months I have been thinking more and more about religion and the Golden Dawn. Some of my thought have been prompted by discussions in various blogs, some wonderful and some woeful. Other thoughts have arisen from my own deepening connection with the Christian mysteries, via my RR et AC work and explorations with my teacher. To summarise my thoughts:

Traditional Golden Dawn requires its initiates, if not Christian, to take an interest in Christian symbolism. This is because the Christian mysteries (not organised religion) are considered differently in the Golden Dawn than other mysteries. For example, there is no requirement to take an interest in pagan or Jewish mysteries. This is hardly surprising, because:

The western esoteric tradition itself was created by and for Christians, all be they heterodox Christians. This is simply a matter of history. Look it up.

The Inner Order of the GD, the RR et AC, is a Christian order. Its primary motif and underlying myth is Rosicrucian, a tradition where the mysteries are embraced in and through Christian based imagery and symbols. Again we are talking about the Christian mysteries, not religion – even though the original Rosicrucian Orders were clear about religious preference, preferring the Reformed churches to the Roman.

The Christian mysteries infuse and are interwoven within the RR et AC to such a degree they are inseparable. This does not mean we need to be ‘a Christian’ to be a member of the RR et AC. But it does mean we need to approach, enter and commune with the Christian mysteries FAR MORE deeply than the special occasion and Sunday Christians themselves. Otherwise the deeper blessings of the RR et AC and the One will elude us entirely. It is just the way the tradition has been created

Any Pagan mysteries or religions in Europe did not survive beyond the late Medieval period at best. As I have said elsewhere, “The Romans won and they destroyed most European pagan religions as they expanded their Empire(s). Exoteric Christianity came a little later, moved in and made Europe its home. Goodbye Paganism. There were virtually no Pagan survivals of substance. There were no hidden Witch meetings or Pagans giving each other the nod in Church before scooting home to an evening of hidden celebrations and rustic sex under the hedgerow.”

The modern pagan movement is itself more beholden on the Christian mysteries and religion than most of its adherents realise. Dr Jo Pearson, (author of the memorably titled, Inappropriate Sexuality? Sex Magic, S/M and Wicca or ‘Whipping Harry Potter’s Arse!’ ) explores this in her book “Wicca and the Christian Heritage”.

Modern pagan reconstructions that seek to return to pre-Christian inspirations and sources of wisdom do so only within the context of a culture, language, education and individual mind influenced and nurtured by Christian based sources. For example, my son who has never been near a church knows on an interior level the basics of Christian belief, morality and theology. He gets it from Family Guy, the Simpsons and other avenues of popular culture.

It is therefore really, really difficult for someone to reconstruct religious or magical practice from, for example the 7th Dynasty of ancient Egypt. The world around us, the way we think, our reality is so different we can at best stab in the dark and hope to hit a flying gnat. It is kinda like those folk who declare themselves a Shaman while living in a city, purchasing herbs from China, drums from Peru and who have no community to serve or even a desire to serve one.

Therefore, with all the preceding in mind we really need to examine how modern Pagans engage with the Golden Dawn even to the extent of becoming members of Inner Orders. While there is no essential barrier to this, the Inner Order magician does need to engage deeply with the mysteries of the RR et AC which are Christian based. To the extent this is possible depends on both the individual magician and the Order in question, how far they stray from tradition. I know some Wicca members of GD lodges who seem to be very good at having a pagan religion and a Christian based mystery system. However, many pagans and many pagan traditions carry with them hidden or not so hidden resentment and abusive attitudes towards Christianity. I am not sure how they these folk manage to engage deeply in the Christian based mysteries of the RR et AC.

Now before anyone cries, “Wicca is not anti-Christian, just not Christian”, please I know this and reproduced it and all the associated arguments faithfully for the Pagan Alliance for many years. The simple fact of the matter is that many pagans and Wiccans are anti-Christian to some degree, often hidden. A good example is the practice of using ‘Aum’ in place of ‘Amen’ when performing the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram. And besides, it is not enough for a Pagan member of the GD to ‘be OK’ with Christianity; they have to have an interest in Christian symbolism and embrace the Christian mysteries of the RR et AC. This is clearly not the case for the average Witch who is disinterested in Christianity and who has very few Christian books and resources in their home.

There have been and continue to be modern developments of the Golden Dawn that seek to replace the Christian elements with Pagan. This assumes the GD tradition is akin to an Ikea sofa which one can simply take apart, replace the cover with a more pleasing shade, plonk back together and carry on. The simple fact is the tradition is not like this. It does not have a central core of universal wisdom overlaid by a veneer of Christian mystical symbolism which can be replaced piecemeal with other symbols that 777 blithely assert ‘correspond’. The GD and RR et AC are built layer upon layer of Christian based practice and symbolism and it is through our personal engagement with this practice and symbolism that we arrive at universal wisdom.

The habit of cut and pasting Pagan symbols, Gods and images over the Christian symbolism of the GD is also fraught with much difficulty. Firstly, since the motivation for most of this redaction comes from personal concerns and often personal distaste of Christianity, it will necessarily be tinged with those personal concerns not universal and transpersonal aspirations. Secondly, as we have said we cannot look upon pagan symbolism and motifs in the same way the original Pagans practiced them. So it is very difficult for us to know exactly what is ‘authentic’ and what is not. The result is often a mishmash of forced symbolism based on intellectual justifications for a ‘feeling’ of what fits where rather than on spiritually driven exegesis. Prime examples of this approach can be found in the depressingly large number of ‘Pagan’ LRPs available on the Internet which have as much ritual integrity as a marginal seat politician before election day.

Pagans of course can and do practice the Golden Dawn, or more often RR et AC, rituals and magic. Or to be clear, they use them without a deep appreciation and realisation of their immense blessings and beauty. I once read a paper on the Rose Cross ritual by a senior Wiccan which was delivered at a Wiccan conference. Not once did it mention that the beauty, power, grace and blessings of the ritual derive from the name of Christ, Yehesuah. Indeed it ignored the meaning of the name all together and many Witches I know who use the ritual do not know the meaning of the name.

To fully understand and to gain a deeper understanding of the Golden Dawn we all, pagans and others, need to stop seeing what we can get from the tradition. Rather, we must ask how we may give to the tradition to further its ends, which are the same as all authentic traditions – love expressed towards God, humanity and the universe.

The Unknown, Nothing and the Golden Dawn

The other day as I strolled past St Albans on Beaufort St I noticed this graffiti on one of those trendy and witty (?) Church signs which, I guess are an attempt to make people feel the Church is hip enough to consider attending.

It made me laugh like a loon. The artist was obviously trying to make an atheistic point. He (or she) however, was probably unaware of the deep strain of Christian Apophatic theology which indeed posits a non-existence of God. In fact “God” is revealing to us all the time that she does not exist in any sense we can conceive of. It was so funny… 🙂

I discovered apophatic mysticism after reading the Cloud of Unknowing as a teenager. I was already ingesting St Bob, Vedanta, Buddhism, the Golden Dawn and other weird stuff. Drugs would have been much cheaper. The Cloud of Unknowing struck me deep and has in many ways stuck.

Over Christmas I dived into the archives searching for some Christ-Compassion notes I know are there somewhere (I am the world’s worst librarian). I came across some early teaching notes on the Qabalah. At the ridiculous age of 23 I was asked to teach our group, the original leader leaving suddenly to follow his sex drive all the way to divorce (and later criminal) court. In the notes I made fumbling attempts to explain the Ayn in terms of apophasis, as I misunderstood it back then. I concluded that in our spiritual paths we have Nothing to gain, and if we consider the Nothing an achievement or goal we have once more forfeited our right for Illumination. There is Nothing, was Nothing and always shall be and not-be, Nothing.

These days I would (I hope) say it a bit better, but the essence of the mystery is there. Apophatic theology is sometimes described in limited terms as a theology of negation, unlike kataphatic theology where God is described in terms of attributes. So God is declared as not wise, not good, not omnipresent, as each description would limit God. Eventually and crucially this process of negation leads us to a complete reversal of previously held mental conceptions and we realize that however we perceive the divine is wrong or incomplete.

We realize that any concept of God or the One or the divine we hold cannot exist “really” as it is incomplete, and “God” is complete. No matter how we attempt to hold onto God, he moves away from us. We are then left with an empty space where our previous conceptions were, which can now be filled with God. Though as soon as we do, we limit and must again enter the unknowing. And so it goes on.

Once, which as incarnate creatures is a hard and ongoing journey, we accept we can never know, we realize God does not exist in any sense we know of. He never has existed. And we cannot say God is not, without denying that also. Even the conception or words “God is not” or even our holding of deep experiences of meditation on the Ayn, are all limited and all fail. We cannot say or not say at all. T.S. Eliot’s later and longer poems are some of the best examples of saying what cannot be said in this regard.

In the Golden Dawn there are few overt examples of apophatic mysticism, though it is definitely there thanks to the presence of Qabalah, Christianity and the Rosicrucian currents. It is subtly present in that outwardly busy and very full initiatory text, the Chemical Wedding, which is utilized greatly in the higher grades of the Inner Order. It is there in the Qabalah. It is occasionally there in the way the Grade ceremony Godforms interact with each other on the temple floor.

An appreciation of apophatic mysticism is also helps in understanding a crucial point on the Golden Dawn (and all esoteric traditions) which I have raised before and will cut and paste here:

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

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

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

What makes an esoteric path effective, what makes it actually able to lead us to the One is death. The ‘I’ now cannot become the ‘I’ we desire, so we must die. Effective esoteric paths shake us all the time; they invite us to die continually and completely. It is up us to choose death or not.”

Death is the ultimate unknown and entering the unknown sparks intimations of death. This is why initiation procedures are best left unknown to the candidate. This is why we like to know things – it makes us feel alive. Yet to fully benefit from any esoteric path we need to unknow, or it will leave us in a closed loop as described above, thinking we are getting somewhere simply because our mental state is programmed to believe this if we are doing things in a before-and-after closed system

Over the years I have had the privilege of being a member of many esoteric groups and helped start several. I have as yet been unable to design a structure that embodies the apophatic paradigm and the points above so that students feel it and get it early on. No matter how I try, people still think there are things to gain, things to know and “God” can be found. Maybe it is only in Inner Orders like the RR et AC where we can expect these mysteries to be permeated through the structure and paradigms of the Order itself? After all, traditional RR et AC colleges hardly exist in the conventional sense at all. This is one reason why the Fama only calls for a yearly meeting – so that the Body of Christ becomes the still central point that is everywhere, and the members that encircle him, the circumference that is nowhere.

Golden Dawn Blogs and Tradition

Whenever I have time I read a lot of magical blogs and online journal entries. I am very impressed by some and amazed by the number of (mostly) men who are happy to share publicly their intimate magical work and spiritual experiences. Sometimes I think I am stranger out of time, as contemplating such a project myself fills me with horror and trembling. I also get very concerned and sad when reading a lot of these blogs. Many of these young men are sharing how our tradition has failed them. Their diary and blog entries show how they have not been taught correctly, or held by our traditions. Or don’t want to be. Some of these bloggers are part of Orders they consider traditional, others are openly against tradition.

I do not wish to point out any particular blog, only the issues involved. So as an example I will refer to a published account of magical workings by Geoff Hughes and Alan Richardson, Ancient Magicks for a New Age. This work gives diary entries of Mr Hughes as he explores the Merlin Current following his removal from the egregore of the Fraternity of the Inner Light. Most of the work was inward and visionary and from a traditional viewpoint lacking the safety and discrimination required for effective spiritual unfoldment. However, his brief diary entries are informative for many reasons. I remember when I first read them I was aghast at how he did not start all his work with the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram or some equivalent technique. Often he seemed to invoke elemental powers somewhere at some point in the working, but without structure or safeguards. As I read each new entry I was almost willing him on, to be sensible and follow tradition. On September 22, 1985 after a year and a half workings Mr Hughes had an experience that caused him to comment:

No matter what Work is carried out on behalf of the Inner planes, one must always acknowledge the Elemental Kingdoms and gain their acceptance.

In the margins of the book I wrote, “LRP”. At the time of reading, I was fairly gormed out that an initiate of the FIL (SIL) was not following the tradition laid down by Dion herself and before her the Golden Dawn and other esoteric schools. The next working recorded was on November 7, 1985 when Mr Hughes describes his opening as first giving salutations and then ‘Opening, using the Lesser Pentagram Ritual’. This time in the margin I inscribed a smiley face and ‘At last!’ This lack of tradition, structure and sense is typical of what I am finding on many GD and Magical blogs.

There are several areas of concern, all of which if students are guided by a teacher, compassion, tradition and honest introspection can be avoided.

Meet my Angel

Many GD and magical bloggers post how they have ‘talked’ to their Holy Guardian Angels. They often describe the HGA and the interaction they have with him, almost like talking to another human being. They repeat the words said, how they felt about the words, how the HGA may be holding something back etc. Often they report extended astral visions and journeys as part of their conversations. In addition some bloggers will report chats with other ‘beings’, daimons , guides and wot all. They will ponder if they are aspects of the HGA, which are useful and which may be part of themselves etc. To be blunt, all of these experiences are taking place in the astral sphere, a sphere ‘below’ that of the Holy Guardian Angel. This is not to say no contact has been made with the HGA, only that the communication has been corrupted. Tradition is clear on this: the Knowledge and Conversation of the HGA refers to an ongoing state of meta-consciouness. There are no visions and chats in meta-consciousness, just pure pristine Knowledge. A Rosicrucian magician knows her connection with the HGA, there is no doubt, no questioning, no possibility of the HGA tricking or holding things back.

Tradition is also clear that like ourselves, like God, the HGA does not actually exist as a separate being. They are an interconnection, a co-arisen dependant being. We cannot really talk of them as a being at all, expect in poetic terms. For once I am with Mr Crowley who apparently chose to us the term Holy Guardian Angel as a poetic device because he felt no one could possibly take this description literally. But sadly, they do, they do. Blogs describe how the HGA ‘checked people out’, removed obstacles to find a parking space etc. Whenever I read these accounts I have a slight tinge of contact embarrassment, like that I describe in a past post discussing Christians (and others) who seem to know ‘how god feels’.

The Power and the Passion

There is still a tendency by many, and sadly probably most, magicians to judge a ritual or a practice’s effectiveness by the amount of ‘power’ it raises. Time and time again I am seeing comments on these blogs saying how wonderful or pathetic something is based on perceived powers and sensations. It is true that some rituals and practices that transform us leave us feeling overwhelmed and in awe. However, some of the deeper processes of transformation are silent and still and can involve rituals that do not require trance and astral visions. Look at Christian Communion for example or Islamic salat, prayer repeated five times a day. Often the feelings of power and strength come about through the ‘flooding’ of the astral self with intense powers and energies also from the astral realm. The astral self or body is temporarily expanded beyond usual and this results in feelings of power, being ungrounded, lots of visions and energy. However, no transformation of any depth will come about since astral powers cannot transform the astral self; only higher, pure and non-self mental level blessings can do that. Which is why a properly constituted Host at a Eucharist is more transformational than any number of spacey and powerful middle pillar ceremonies. This is the traditional view, from antiquity onwards and is included in the authentic western esoteric traditions, including the RR et AC. Right from the Desert Fathers such as Evagrius onwards mystics and esotericists have been clear that depth spirituality is, more often than not, distorted by visions, powers and passions.

Making it all better

The self-help industry and paradigm is so pervasive, especially in America where most of these blogs originate, that it has even infected the Golden Dawn. It will not take much Internet searching to know what I mean. Now there is nothing wrong with ‘improving our self’ or ‘healing’. However, the appropriation of spiritual language, frameworks and techniques for personal and psychological adjustment does not mean the two spheres – personal growth and spiritual unfoldment – are one. While related, the two are not the same and the esoteric traditions clearly distinguish between them. In esoteric Qabalah the centralising state of consciousness, Tiphareth looks ‘down’ towards the personal and ‘up’ towards the transpersonal. This shows the interrelation of the two, while recognising that the correct ‘upward’ view – the motivation of the individual – is required to embrace what is beyond us. Many of the magical blogs out there do not appear to understand this and conflate healing and magic.

True spirituality is concerned with fostering another other state of being to the ordinary, a state which most esoteric traditions recognise as both immanent (within each of us) and transcendent (beyond all of us). Spiritual practices and frameworks will certainly give succour to our personal pain and it is appropriate to seek the One to overcome pain. However, if our motivation for spiritual practice remains within this realm – the realm of the self-seeking somatic, mental or emotional healing – this is where we will remain. We will never go beyond ourselves to the ‘other state of being’; we will never develop the right view and enter the eternal. The homogenisation of healing and spirituality only adds to this tendency and encourages us to remain forever in the personal while seeing it as spiritual.

Young men in a rush, suffering from premature union

This is an age-old problem and definitely not confined to these bloggers. People seem to expect each and every meditation, ritual or practice to produce ‘results’. Look at the suggestions out there for constructing a magical diary and you will see what I mean. Real spiritual unfoldment, like real maturation, however takes a lifetime. Daily meditations, practices, acts of love and compassion all produce a cumulative effect over years and ‘results’ are achieved slowly, steadily as we unfold. There is no rush for premature union, which more often than not is only astrally based dissolution. All the great traditions and great teachers are clear on this; we change slowly or not at all. This is not to say there are not moments of grace and change, of course there are. But they are not result driven and really not focused upon at all. Sogyal Rinpoche describes how after several years of practice, the state of Rigpa, a non-dual awareness was awakening in his mind. Excited and amazed he ran to his teacher, exclaiming loudly. His wise teacher remained calm and told him to settle down, that in the end his experience was ‘neither good nor bad’. The focus is always directed back to the simple practices, the daily love and service rather than any results we may receive.

Ho Hum, another psychic...

There is a very good book by Bishop John Shelby Spong, Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism. I have often played with the notion of writing Rescuing magic from psychism. There are countless bloggers and readers out there who seem to think psychic experience and psychism is somehow spiritual. It is sad that during the development of modern magic psychism became linked to it – at least in some quarters. However, the two are not at all intrinsically linked. Any parapsychologist who has conducted extensive testing will tell you psychic ability is not linked to spiritual or moral development. Some of the most ‘talented’ psychics are not to sort to take home to mother and some of the deepest, most unfolded spiritual people have no psychic ability. Or if they do, they ignore it as a distraction. The number of blogs out there talking about astral travelling, creation of energy forms, reading people’s minds etc is staggering. None of this is spiritual. Some western magic traditions use techniques similar to those used in psychic schools in order to develop the inner modes of perception. This is help us participate consciously on the inner to unfold and serve further. However, these are simply tools, not ends in themselves and to focus on the psychic is to move away from the transpersonal which then obviates any spiritual unfoldment.

I want therefore I am

And still that old chestnut…practical magic. Magic designed to affect the material, mundane world. These days more and more magicians use the term thaumaturgy but it is still practical or low magic, with our without an ancient word. I have blogged on this before and will simply repeat a bit here.

Rather than degenerate into a discussion that ‘high’ magic (that which is not for the self) is better than ‘low’ magic (that which is for the self) I want to point out something that is seldom mentioned: most readers of blogs such as this actually do not need any help from magic.  In a world where twenty thousand people will die from poverty and starvation each day, any westerner who can afford time and money to wander around the Internet must be counted as rich beyond measure.  To use our magical blessings, which stem ultimately from the One, to increase our station in life rather than to balance out the stakes a little for those who are literally starving to death says something for our personal magical motivation.  And in this vein, the profusion of spell-craft manuals and coffee table books bristling with all forms of sorcery says a lot for the general motivation of the esoteric and New Age communities today.

The only way out is the only way in

One of the biggest issues I see time and time again is Outer Order members practicing Inner Order, RR et AC rituals and practices. I know that the line between the two is not so hard and fast these days and one Order has moved all published RR et AC material to the Outer Order (click here for their rationale). However, at least that Order appears to have a graded structure of practice and mentoring which many of these bloggers do not. The conflation between Inner and Outer is, from a traditional viewpoint, very dangerous. I believe practicing magic before the Adeptus Minor initiation or equivalent is one of the most dangerous things we can do. I know I am almost a lone voice in the wilderness here – mainly because most traditional RR et AC folk are silent about it all – but I believe examination of even the published material will prove me correct. In terms of structural, spiritual, psychological and initiatory integrity practicing Rosicrucian based magic without being admitted to the Rosicrucian Order damages both the particular Order and the individual.

RR et AC Rose Cross

The currents, links and entry into the Rosicrucian egregore given at the Adeptus Minor initiation is what makes RR et AC magic work. Not to even mention the required level of maturity and balance, compassion and love to practice magic safely. Let us be clear: RR et AC magic is not a solitary pursuit. At this level there are, in essence, no solo magicians. The Adeptus Minor is an initiated member of the Body of Christ and all her work, even her hours of solo work, is informed by and informs the Order and tradition. This is clearly shown in the Corpus Christi ceremony. So it makes no sense for people not of the RR et AC to be practicing RR et AC magic; it simply will not be as effective, and unless they are already unfolded to a certain extent, it will cause problems. Look around you at the people in the magical communities you know. See what I mean?

Love is the answer

Finally, and most painfully, very, very few magical bloggers ever mention love, compassion and service. Yet this is the test of all spirituality. I have harped on enough about this on MOTO so will not say much here. Of pressing concern however, is the tendency for some bloggers to describe how they use RR et AC magic or are helped by their ‘Holy Guardian Angel’ to engage in psychic battles and warfare.  People use RR et AC magic as a means to attack when that tradition is ultimately a Christian Order, based on the Presence and Love of Christ who directs us to love our enemies. It does my head in, it does 🙂