GD Magic … Rosicrucian or not? … a review of Sam’s Review :)

RR et AC Rose Cross

A little while ago I reviewed a review of the Golden Dawn from a ‘Rosicrucian’ perspective by Sam Robinson, Sam has continued with his review, here Examining the Magic of the Golden Dawn and I thought I’d quickly respond in kind 🙂 He’s done a nice job.

I am not really au fait with the various traditions that Sam draws upon to pronounce his ‘Trinosophia Score of the Golden Dawn’. So I cannot really go into that. However, I can (I think) comment with some accuracy on some of his points.

Sam states: “Without question the Golden Dawn system of magic is unrivalled” Nice.

However he quickly follows that with a question: “is it really Rosicrucian after all?”

Personally, I think we need to take one step back and ask is magic at all compatible with the Rosicrucian ‘path’. This is a tricky one and it all depends on the definition of magic we are working with. Plenty of Rosicrucians would say not. For me, it is a question (alluded to by Sam later on) of the rationale we bring to our magic. As I said previously:

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

It is arguable, as  Canon Anthony Duncan asserts, that once we do we are in fact no longer practicing magic. Again, definitions 🙂

Sam writes: “For students the public vs. hidden Golden Dawn argument also points out how pop culture occultism has influenced the Order vs. the humble realities of tradition. Just keepin it real.” True, true and true. But not likely to be accepted by some folk in the ‘public Golden Dawn’.

One point I disagree with Sam on is this: “Firstly let us be clear, the G.D system is entirely ceremonial.” Well, maybe … but …

An example. There are many meditations within the tradition, and just because one may have moved to a different grade that does not mean we cease to practice those meditations ever again. The Neophyte meditation is beneficial in all grades. The meditations in the outer (and inner) Orders are linked to the expression of the soul (using that word as it often used in the GD texts) through the various ‘lower’ Sephrioth. When we move ‘beyond’ those Sephrioth in our grades, we are still functioning in the real world of work, mortgages and baby spew on our shoulders through those Sephrioth. The use of these meditations throughout the rest of our life keeps us transforming within those Sephrioth and opening more to the will and direction of the One.

Sam’s list of the ‘five main operations of magic’ of the GD draws directly from the Z document. However, there are other classifications and operations of magic within the RR et AC not linked to the Z or Formula of the Magic of the Light. Just sayin’ 🙂

Another quote from Sam, which may get him in a little trouble: “the magical practices employed by the G.D are put towards selfish ends rather than towards the ambition of regeneration of culture and humanity as the Rosicrucians intended.” Ouch.

Now, I have myself seen this many times, so prima facie I would have to agree with Sam. However, this state of affairs I believe is very much because of the infection of ‘pop occultism’ within the GD as Sam noted previously. It is not the essence of the tradition at all.

copy-of-pastoslid1As my anonymous correspondent reported, the inner plane authority that provided the spiritual (magical?) imprimatur for its existence withdrew that imprimatur when it became clear the GD was no longer serving its spiritual purpose of transformation. This is similar to scholar Tony Fuller’s reporting on the closure of Whare Ra and associated Order’s in New Zealand, except instituted by human agency. So it is clear the essence of the GD is far more than ‘selfish ends’, and the tradition itself is willing to die (and be reborn?) when that essence gets corrupted.

Again, I take a different approach to Sam when he writes: “G.D has bombastic methods, long winded rituals and elaborate performances that take several hours when done correctly, much of what is valued becomes a pursuit of ‘the more complicated it is the more special it must be.”

This may well be true if we are judging from the published and shared ceremonies. However, taking the Z formula for one example, the Adept over her time in the College internalizes the formula to such a degree (as well as the various methods of working like the pentagram and hexagram rituals) they do no need to produce a long scripted ceremony at all. They can enter the Temple and perform a full process with minimum outer work, without reference to notes and long winded speeches, relying on the simple principle that ‘by names and images are all powers awakened and reawakened’).  

I do however agree with Sam when he continues concerning: “… a pursuit of ‘the more complicated it is the more special it must be.’ Therefore students forever seek ‘higher teachings’ that are more advanced. This has led students to pursue teachings for their own sake.” I have addressed this dysfunctional approach in my post: A quick note on advanced practices.

We come now to some dog’s balls obvious stuff that seems to have made little impact upon the ‘public’ Golden Dawn. Sam again:

“Magically, the only thing the Rosicrucians said to do was to heal the sick freely and gladly.”

There is no doubt about that. It’s in the Manifestoes. However, I have corresponded with several adepts from a few different Orders who cheerfully admit that have not even READ the Manifestoes let alone studied them and integrated them into their souls. Oy Vey! What can you do? 🙂

Sam goes on to say:  “BUT Esoteric and Hidden Golden Dawn Orders still work closely with Rosicrucian intentions. The Public Golden Dawn does not. Thus there are two magical G.D systems. One that is more akin to ‘casting spells to get what you want’ and the other is very Rosicrucian, but is alas barely online.”

He further states the goals of Rosicrucian ‘magic’ and alludes to the fact that the public GD is not cutting the mustard when it comes to these:

  1. The Reformation of the Whole Wide World.
  2. The establishment of a Christian Utopia.
  3. Healing any illness.
  4. The Philosophers Stone (alchemy)
  5. Spiritual Reintegration (Cabala)
  6. Divine Communion (magic)

It is good Sam makes a distinction between public and hidden GD here, because it is clear that ‘healing’ was an essential part of at least the Stella Matutina Smaragdum Thalasses temple in New Zealand (Whare Ra). As for the whole wide world, Christ and wot not, this from Dr Tony Fuller’s thesis:

Thus, a special responsibility was believed to lie with the Religious Orders, the clergy and with members of such specialist groups as the Stella Matutina, not merely to advance the Tikkun Olam along with the Second Coming of Christ, through their own spiritual ascension, but also to promote the microcosmic ‘healing of the Universe’ through encouraging the performance of prayer and other Godly acts by humanity in general. (p. 413)

Various GD Orders have been quietly getting on with this …

Sam points out that that GD magic requires invocation of the astral light but that light is limited in accordance to the virtue of the operator:

But unless you have virtue, truly have developed a Christ consciousness, then this transmission of light is dampened. This is also where Public Golden Dawn gets it entirely wrong. Such actions cannot be ‘willed’ alone into being. The quality of the soul is a conduit of Light.

This statement would be at home in the Whare Ra temple and the same attitude and realisation has been (over and over again) prompted here on MOTO 🙂 So it’s out there alright, as is the emphasis on charity Sam avers is a hallmark of Rosicrucian magic.

So, again, thank you to Sam for this review, which places front and centre some aspects of the tradition that can get overlooked 🙂

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


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.


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 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.”


Again with the practical magic!

Another ‘gonzo’ post – straight from me brain to the keys to the ‘publish’ button. Please excuse the typos 🙂

Sometimes I like to jump on an interesting bandwagon as it goes past. In this case it’s practical, material-focused magic. Recently there have been lovely posts on the subject by folk I admire – look at the blogs of AL, MDK and DMK for some great discussions. (UPDATE: some more cool posts on the subject: Nick, Alex, Scott).

As I discuss in this post on ‘Manifestation‘ even if we do jag a positive result and our practical magic “works”, it is but a small part of a vast interconnected and interdependent rollercoaster of causes and conditions. DMK in his post says it straight:

Still another reason is a misunderstanding of finances leading to guilt. Specifically, some people look at finances as a zero sum situation. The idea behind the zero sum outlook is that the world’s finances are fixed and therefore limited; if you gain, someone else loses. If my slice of the pie gets bigger, your’s gets smaller. So if you do magick to become better off, someone else is going to suffer, and you’d feel guilty about making others suffer.

However the reality is not a zero sum situation. The reality is that if you increase your wealth, everyone’s wealth will increase. In order to get a bigger slice of the pie, the entire pie gets bigger, giving everyone a larger slice. This, of course, assumes fairness in the financial world, something that often doesn’t exist if governments don’t make and enforce rules, much the way that football would be total mayhem without governance and rules.” (Italics, mine).

A Nice Piece of the Pie 🙂

I find this very interesting. As a read the Zero Sum Game concept, it may apply to the insubstantial concepts of ‘wealth’ but it does not apply to the material reality of elements of production – minerals, foodstuffs, etc.  Many of DMK’s readership (I assume) are Pagan orientated and therefore have some ecological understanding. One of the central tenets of the modern environmental movement is that the world does indeed have limited resources and can only take so much battering. Now we can invoke space mining and exploration to get over that in our heads, to remove the concept of ‘zero sum’, but realistically that’s way off and (with current technology) will cause more environmental damage than we can poke at stick at.

With respect to DMK, I think the zero sum argument is valid in some circumstances. There are limited material resources and what we do with those resources matters; who controls them and who has access to them. Even sustainable resources are created on land, which is limited.

Look at the example I refer to in this post, of a new age bookshop owner who was trying to ‘manifest’ a life where she could go travelling (across the globe) six months of the year because she “deserved it”. If the zero sum argument is bollocks, “the pie”, as DMK puts it, can expand so we can ALL travel six months of the year. By aeroplane. Think about that. Really think about it. At any time three billion plus people are travelling around the planet. Thinking about the pollution alone from this shows the zero sum idea is valid, at least in some aspects. I am sure none of you reading this would be happy with such a world (even if it could exist)  Therefore we do not accept ALL negation of zero sum.

A less extreme case. Just imagine the pollution and resources needed to let EVERYONE on the planet live as well as a well paid professional in the USA – with cars, iPhones, flat screen TV, etc. That alone would spell disaster for the world, even if there was enough terrestrial raw materials to make all these consumer products.

I hope this is making sense.

Let’s look at a crucial line from DMK: “This, of course, assumes fairness in the financial world…”. This shows the interdependence I am talking of. Specifically, let’s take the case of African American magician in Tennessee in 1933 and in 2013. Magic for a better job, house, food, life will be more likely to ‘manifest’ in 2013 than 1933 due to the inherent and legal, structural racism in the 1930s. We cannot escape context. We cannot escape interdependence. And to be perfectly frank, I think African American magicians are better off today because of political struggles than magic.

The same with anything we are talking about. If we want to work as if the ‘zero sum’ principle is invalid or limited, it is better to work politically and socially to make the lives – jobs, cars, houses – we are trying to improve by magic available to us, and to all. Again, specifically, without the changes in western society that allow a diversity of religious thought, very few of us would be practicing magic anyway. Our success in magic owes more to the success of the Enlightenment than our own efforts.

Morgan makes a very interesting and accurate point on this blog:

…the documented record of Western magic is all about–weather magic, power magic, legal magic, treasure magic, health magic, love magic–all about fulfilling basic needs in a hostile wolf at the door world. Even alchemy was about the practical nine times out of ten. Yet we in the modern world are not allowed to have these needs or desires.

This is because magic was reframed in the mid-late 19th century as a spiritual art, largely due to the efforts of Eliphas Levi. Now of course there were always elements of spiritual development within historical western magic, but as Ronald Hutton puts it: “Traditional scholarly magic was at basis an elaborate way of ringing for room service”. This has now all changed. Heck, even evocation of spirits, mostly traditionally undertaken because the little buggers had a handy knack for helping fulfil one’s desire, is now seen by many as a complex form of spiritual adjustment.

Now, PERSONALLY, I am very happy that western learned magic was reframed into a more spiritual direction. It makes sense to me. I am also of the opinion that is was the main driving force behind the founders of the major modern western traditions, the two most influential of course being the Golden Dawn (RR et AC) and the Inner Light of Dion Fortune.

In the latter, the requirement for admission to the tradition is succinctly put into the initiate’s mouth: “I desire to know in order to serve”. And entry to the Greater Mysteries requires the “unreserved dedication” to the Higher for life. There was and is precious little practical magic in this tradition or in the writings of Dion herself – except when required to serve the Masters.

In the RR et AC (ever remembering that the GD is not a magical tradition) where magic was taught, we find the Adeptus Minor is required to oath themselves to some pretty interesting things. They are to lead “a pure and unselfish life”. Nor are they to “debase” the practical magic they learn in the Order for evil or “self-seeking” or “low material gain or pleasure”.  They also, and crucially, at the Tiphareth point swear to (from memory):

Apply themselves to the Great Work – to purify and exalt my Spiritual Nature so that with the Divine Aid I may at length attain to be more than human and thus gradually raise and unite myself to my higher and Divine Genius.

Okaay. Now this is dogs-balls obvious. And if it is not so, it is also really clear that the RR et AC is a ROSICRUCIAN order – and the Rosicrucians profess nothing save to heal the sick – and for free no less!

RR et AC Rose Cross

RR et AC Rose Cross

So the problem lies in the simple fact that the root of much (if not most) modern magic, the Golden Dawn and the Inner Light, have clear and direct spiritual aims, not material ones. Yet the techniques, symbols and methods within these traditions are so bloody awesome, everyone – even those who do not approach magic with spiritual and service ideals – wants to use them. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

There is thus a big tension inherent within modern magic itself. Now, as DMK says, there really need not be. Folk can take either take and practise both approaches or work within a framework that collapses the boundaries between material and spiritual magic, where an evocation of a spirit to make one more likely to find a sexual partner is seen as spiritual work in and by itself.

PERSONALLY this does not make sense to me. I think we should let the traditions speak on their own terms, and when we take an oath to apply ourselves spiritually and not to use Rosicrucian magic “material gain or pleasure” we should do just that. Or change the oath.

Magic for me is TRANSPERSONAL not personal, just as my Vajrayana and esoteric Christian practice are. This to me is the essence of modern magic. This does not, in any way, mean I condemn or look down upon those who see and practise differently. And while I not am in position to define what “is” or “is not” Rosicrucian magic, it does seem clear to me that the composers of the RR et AC and Inner Light corpora WERE clear themselves. 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. (

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). (

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.

On the inevitability of diversity (but not schism)

Back when I was a  youth first getting a handle on this magic lark, I had a vision. Well more of a fantasy really. Riding home on my scooter from a Pagan social gathering of many covens, I imagined a similar situation for my beloved Golden Dawn. I envisioned a time where there would be several (or many) different outer Golden Dawn temples in Perth, each approaching the tradition differently, even quite differently. However, there would be a single inner RR et AC College, where adepts would come to serve and deepen in the Rosicrucian magical tradition.

The other day I was reminded of this fantasy by the words on the Ba Iset Order of the Rosy Cross blog describing their Order: “Golden Dawn based in the Outer; Global Rosicrucian in the Inner”. I love the ‘Global Rosicrucian’ phrase, and while I have no idea if my reading of it is what BIORC means, it sounds like what I envisioned.

Though I was not consciously aware of it at the time, my fantasy-vision was based on the esoteric principles inherent in the GD and RR et AC. The outer order is concerned with balancing the personality, and the inner with the use of the balanced personality by the deeper self and the One. Outer order experiences can therefore be quite different for folk, though often following a broad theme. The inner order experience, in the Golden Dawn at least, centres around magic.

The aim of magic is to become ourselves, and yet in doing so we lose ourselves. We become more deeply a person with unique and strong characteristics, but these are subservient to our connection and service to the One. Metaphorically the light of Goddess / God / the One is shone down and focused through the lens of our personality (which is cleaned and purified by the Outer work). In this way the Light of the One reaches the earth unhindered and focused and magnified – which is why the Magnificat talks about Mary’s soul ‘magnifying’ the Lord.

Each of the various magical initiatory streams, through their practices and blessings serve to bring a person towards being more themselves, more real, more solid and present in the material world. So the various GD Orders imagined in my little fantasy would be serving the same ends, though by different outer means. At the same time however, the final aim is more inner than outer. It’s all in these words from the GD Equinox ceremony (or is it MR? AO? SM? – someone please correct me, as some folk are so concerned we get the right initials):

Fratres et Sorores of the Order, seeing that the whole intention of the Lower Mysteries, or of external initiation, is by the intervention of the Symbol, Ceremonial, and Sacrament, so to lead the Soul that it may be withdrawn from the attraction of matter and delivered from the absorption therein, whereby it walks in somnambulism, knowing not whence it cometh nor whither it goeth; and seeing also, that thus withdrawn, the Soul by true direction must be brought to study of Divine Things, that it may offer the only clean Oblation and acceptable sacrifice, which is Love expressed towards God, Man and the Universe. Now, therefore, I confess and testify thereto, from my Throne in this Temple, and I promise, so far as in me lies, to lead you by the Rites of this Order, faithfully conserved, and exhibited with becoming reverence, that through such love and such sacrifice, you may be prepared in due time for the greater Mysteries, the Supreme and inward Initiation.

…the Supreme and inward initiation 🙂 Doesn’t that make you smile? 🙂

Now each of us is different and a unique form of the One. So we will experience our magic in different ways. This is why RR et AC  magic is more akin to exegesis than literal interpretation; we make our own magic by personal interaction with the tradition. It is why the RR et AC and other streams teach us by formulae, not complete unchanging rituals – we are to create new forms, new magic, new rituals. This is very important, as it enacts the mystical connection of the self and personality, the inner and the outer.

Sometimes, once we are connected to the inner and circling that ol’ “Supreme and inward Initiation”, we are directed and called upon to act in the outer in a different way to those around us. This is one reason why, after a certain period of unfoldment some folk are ‘moved out’ or have to leave their mother-lodge. As they become more themselves, they are directed by the inner to work with different symbols, themes, beings, motifs and mysteries. Sometimes, if they are unlucky bastards, the inner tells them to start a group to do all this.

Now a sensible mother-Order rejoices (or at least accepts the inevitable) when this happens, even if it means losing one of their best initiates. Apparently Dion Fortune did this when W.E. Butler started being the receptacle for a different set of inner contacts than the ones currently directing the Fraternity of the Inner Light. Elsewhere Dion writes about the need to give senior members their own tasks and duties to guide junior members, and so avoid any ‘stagnation’ of the ‘magnetism’ they have received from their initiations and practices. As they have received, so too they must pass on, to keep all in flow. Dion asserts this practice helped avoid any schisms in the Fraternity. I am not sure if there have been actual schisms following Dion’s death, but if there have they have kept their dirty washing away from the public eye far better than many GD groups 🙂

So, one form of ordered and healthy expansion of the magical tradition occurs via senior folk gaining a new commission from the inner and going off to form their own outer expression of the mysteries – hopefully at the same time remaining on the Christmas card list of the mother-Order’s leader(s). Really, a good Order would recognise this and even ‘charter’ the departing initiate(s). This is a wonderful thing as it reflects an eternal truth – diversity on the outer, unity on the inner.

Less wonderful is ‘expansion’ via schism which often occurs when senior folk have inner directions to form new outer forms but are not given blessing and support to do so. This has happened far too many times in the Golden Dawn for anyone to feel happy about. Another problem is when a senior initiate is persuaded or chooses to stay within a mother lodge, despite inner promptings, because they are waiting to receive promised ‘higher teachings’ and knowledge. To ignore inner directions for these reasons is very harmful. The senior initiate’s connection will be hampered, and at the same time the presence of new or differently formed currents and contacts, seeking to be earthed, will be introduced into the mother-lodges’ egregore. A messy situation indeed.

Now, since the greater mysteries, or Inner Order work is more concerned with inner experience (contained within the principles of the Rosicrucian tradition) there is a great wealth of wisdom to be gained from the inner itself, regardless of putative ‘higher’ or third Order teachings.

Recently a Facebook friend of mine wrote some beautiful words on this theme. After a certain time of unfoldment, specific spiritual and magical teachings become simply a framework and starting place for further deepening, guided by the inner. Adepthood is where there is no leaning on outer Orders, groups, teachings or masters. While all of these things assist and aid our service and unfoldment, they are simply there to assist our unfoldment not direct or constrain it.

In the GD tradition this is the stage of the completed Adeptus Minor. As I write in By Names and Images:

The Adept connects with the deeper objective forces of Yetzira, symbolised by the full elemental powers, the planets, the Sephiroth and the Zodiac. She learns to navigate and move into the various realms of Yetzira at will. By doing so she is able to connect with and draw down all the powers and blessings she needs in order to re-make her personality self and to promote healing and spiritual growth in others. She also has the ongoing expanded awareness of the Higher and Divine Genius and is more and more able to obtain whatever magical or spiritual instruction she requires without reference to an outside human agency. However, she may often choose to maintain a connection with the physical Order so as to work in harmony with other Adepts in their service to humanity.

The centrality of the grade within the whole schema of unfoldment reflects the centrality of the associated Sephira, Tiphareth on the Tree of Life. All is expressed and combined, reflected and distilled through Tiphareth, which connects to the Utmost via Gimel. This is why, when functioning fully at this grade, there is no need for external teachers. It is also one reason why, I think, when discussing the teachings at higher grades, Nick Farrell says: ” Any new information automatically categorises itself at the 5=6. If it is a system, new or not, it is by its very nature 5=6.”

This is not to say, of course, that there are not wonderful and deep teachings at the ‘higher levels’ – there are certainly some by now, though I am not sure how true that was historically. However, these teachings must be integrated and infused into one’s own individual communion between outer and inner, lower and higher, personality and self, circle and point. The Adeptus Minor can commune with the inner, receive all they need from the inner, so outward teachings from any external ‘higher’ sources or orders are secondary to their mystical Conversation – put simply, they are not needed. Waiting for external, ‘higher’ teachings when one is connected to the inner, and able to be held and guided by the inner (as will happen with the right motivation) misses the whole mystery of the Adept grade in the first place. Right-ho? 🙂

Traditional Reconstruction and the Golden Dawn

This rather long post stems from my thoughts on tradition and reconstruction as part of the ongoing discussions on the blogs of GH Fr SR and GH Fr LES as they draw on the work of Frater Barrabbas. The length of my pondering precluded a simple comment and warranted a full post. Naturally my thoughts here are in response to the ideas presented by these Fraters and not directed at them personally. Besides, as is the way of things, my musings soon broadened into other areas 🙂


For some people tradition refers to a particular set of ritual actions and words that must never be altered – lest tradition is broken. For example, JRR Tolkien rejected some of the reforms of Vatican II and refused to use the newer words of the liturgy, steadfastly and loudly declaiming the older form on Sunday mornings. For others though, tradition is a sense, a feeling, a continuation of meaning and form, if not exact words and actions. From this perspective a low church Mass, which shares the same spiritual meaning of the older Tridentine form, is continuing the same tradition.

Esoterically, however tradition can have other more complex meanings. Recently I have been concerned how the concept of tradition has become part of the language of ongoing disputes between different Golden Dawn groups and Internet presences. From my perspective, which I hope to elucidate here, all the parties in these disputes are practicing the same tradition and this should be unitive not divisive. Tradition when fully embraced can never cause division, since the essential aim of all esoteric tradition, to quote the GD Equinox Ceremony, is “love expressed towards God, humanity and the whole universe”.

A Diversion into Traditionalism

In a broader esoteric context tradition is associated with the Traditionalism of Guenon, Schuon and Coomaraswamy. Tradition in this school is ultimately transcendent and atemporal, being sourced in the divine. This integral or perennial tradition interacts with humanity and temporal existence via each genuine religion or spirituality. Following this then, each religion, each of the many valid spiritual traditions, are actually based on the same ever living source and the same metaphysical principles.

Readers of MOTO will see I am much influenced by this concept of tradition being a road both back to the One, and potentially towards a more tolerant and compassionate dialogue between different spiritual traditions. If we are all drawing from the same universal source, and all working with the same building blocks (our humanity and the universe), we are simply producing different songs by the same composer, no matter how different they may seem to us at first. This is a key truth of Traditionalism and a credo for our troubled world.

I am not a pure Traditionalist in the Guenon sense, no matter how much the school’s elucidation of the eternal verities appeals to me. Traditionalist thought often attacks modernity with too much passion for my liking, for example parts of Mark Sedgwick’s Against the Modern World. It also has a tendency to invalidate non scriptural based spiritual forms, which is probably why it has failed to influence the pagan and magical communities to the degree it could have. And, like it’s distorted image, Fundamentalism, Traditionalism falls down when it rejects modern scientific thought, such as evolution, on the basis of traditional religious understandings of the world. The simple fact of the matter is that traditional religious and esoteric thought was never intended to discern the workings of the material universe whereas science was and is. Genesis describes the meaning and relationship of humanity to the world and the One. The various earth sciences describe how this works on a material level.

Traditionalism however is very useful in allowing us to enter the paradigms of pre-modern thought from where the roots of our tradition arise. The way we view reality and process the world is very different to those cultures and societies that existed before the modern world. Whilst modern esoteric and magical thought is not pre-modern magical thought, it does rest upon it and having a understanding of this subject is essential for every magician. Perhaps though, the single most valuable tool in this endeavour is C.S. LewisThe Discarded Image:An Introduction to Medieval and Renaissance Literature. The writings of Gareth Knight first alerted me to this amazing book which takes the reader deep into the reality of medieval thought..

Tradition and Reconstruction

It seems the writings of Frater Barrabbas on reconstruction and tradition are being used to promote a dichotomy where traditionalism is seen as ‘good’ and reconstructionism as ‘bad’. This is shown graphically by identifying those GD leaders (Nick Farrell and Pat Zalewski) seen by GH Frs LES and SR as ‘reconstructionist’ with the Borg, the most implacable of enemies within the fictional Star Trek universe. Whilst the use of the Star Trek motifs within the blogs of GH Frs LES and SR may be intended as humorous, it is easy to see why the positioning of respected GD leaders as ‘enemies of the Federation’, complete with Photoshopped images, may cause offence. It is hard to see the motivation behind these actions since they, along with ad hominem comments, seem designed to attack the person and not simply critique the ideas people promote. Such a distinction is basic fraternal and academic courtesy, and frankly I am at a loss to understand why it is not shown by Adepts as advanced as  Magister Templi. As I mentioned in my previous post, even if we ourselves feel personally attacked, we need to consciously choose not to attack in return. Otherwise the wheel just goes round and round…

Naturally, since I myself have already been labelled a reconstructionist and had my personal motivations explained to me, I may expect some of the treatment recently given to Mr Farrell and Mr Zalewski. Such is life. In the meantime, I will simply continue to critique ideas in the public domain I find interesting and/or incomplete. As I said at the start of the post, I am not ‘attacking’ people. I’ve never even met any of the Fraters concerned, so how can I possibly ‘attack’ them?

I am however very worried that the supposed distinction between reconstructionist (bad) and traditionalist (good) is too easy and too divisive. As many of the most profound spiritual teachers insist, one of the aims of depth spirituality is to move beyond the natural dualist tendencies of the untransformed mind. Now, from my understanding Frater Barrabbas’ original posts on this subject were less dualistic than how the issue now appears to be framed by GH Fr LES. Again, the use of a fictional dualistic mythos such as Star Trek does not help this matter. GH Fr SR goes some way to addressing this dualistic tendencies by his self identification with Locutus, the name given to Captain Picard whilst assimilated into the Borg.

However, dualism like this will always produce an ‘us and them’ mentality. As I said previously, even if we fully accept the paradigm that some GD folk are practicing traditionally and some using a reconstruction, the most important thing is that we are all practicing the GD. We are all from the same larger tradition. GH Fr SR says much the same thing by referring analogously to the Christian tradition:

If I may use another (not so proper) metaphor, the difference and rivalty (sic) between the Alpha et Omega and the Stella Matutina / Whare Ra is more comparable to that between the Roman Catholic Church and Protestantism in the greater Christian community. Both these Christian currents claim apostolic succession but one of them no longer acknowledges the head of the Tradition (the Pope). Guess which of the two Golden Dawn rival traditions (A∴O∴or S.M.) corresponds to either of the two big Christian communities? Be there as it may, I actually advocate a spirit of Ecumenism in our community between these two essential currents. Any differences in between them are unnecessary and uncalled for.

Obviously I fully support the final sentiment. However, it is interesting that GH Fr SR chose this analogy, as following it a little further may shed more light on our esoteric discussion. GH Fr SR must be using the word ‘Protestant’ in a none normative way since the fact is the vast majority of Protestant denominations do not claim any Apostolic Succession, seeing the handing on of the faith by consecration through Bishops as irrelevant and  non-Biblical. Instead they see their spiritual connection as being directed through five fundamental principles, of which two are primary, sole fide and sola scriptura – it is by faith and scripture alone that one connects with Christ.

Is the Chief Adept Catholic?

Transposing this situation on the GD community, the ‘protestant’ arm would be those who reject Chartered (and possibly Teacher) lineage in favour of Inspirational lineage (the magical equivalent of faith, sole fide) or text based self learning (the magical equivalent of scripture, sole scriptura). All well and good, a nice neat little package with the traditionalist, chartered lineage folk being the Roman Catholics, as GH Fr SR implies. However, associating oneself, even in analogy, with Roman Catholicism may  not be  a good thing. It should be remembered that one of the first acts of the current western Pope was an attempt to invalidate all the Protestant churches, insisting they were not representative of the true church and labelling them as ‘congregations’ not churches.

Naturally, the Pontiff’s action produced hurt, dismay, confusion and acrimony both within and universally without the Catholic fold. I doubt any of my readers would support such wholesale attempted invalidation of millions of Christians who just happen to be in the wrong church. All of you would be very happy, I am sure, to accept as truly Christian those who the Pope insists are not really part of the Church and thus do not have have the full franchise. But heck, he has tradition behind him, so he knows what he’s about, even though he would never have met even the tiniest percentage of those who at a stroke of pen he invalidated as being authentically connected with Christ.

I am concerned that the same thing may occur with self labelled ‘traditionalist’ GD magicians writing off ‘reconstructionist’ groups. This may not be the intention of GH Frs SR and LES but from private conversations it sure feels that way to some people. Such is the power of divisive and dualistic thinking; traditionalists (Federation) vs reconstructionists (Borg).

Now of course, I doubt any of us would actually follow El Papa and consciously invalidate another Order in that way. Would we? But, and here’s the clincher, if we insist our approach is the true approach, the only real approach, the best approach or whatever, we automatically invalidate others.

So, I think the analogy of GH Fr SR could be a very useful tool; if we find ourselves beginning to even move towards a consciousness where we can write off an Order or a teacher, then stop and imagine if we were Christians and our Orders were Churches. Would the members of the other Church still be Christians? Would they be authentic Christians? Of course they would. None of us would ‘do a Pope’ in this circumstance, and so should we act in the magical arena and focus on the fact that we are all GD magicians. After all, not being a member of the ‘other Order’, we cannot know what experiences and transformation that group produces for its initiates, what service it offers, what inner plane relationships it helps foster.

The Myth of Tradition

One of the difficulties in defining tradition in the western and esoteric fraternal spheres is that all the traditions we know of have been and are constantly in a state of flux. This includes Freemasonry, the Golden Dawn, visible Rosicrucian orders, modern Neo-pagan traditions and wot all. Even a cursory examination of the history of these groups will show this to be true. The discussions on the various forums regarding the different redactions of the GD ceremonies also show this clearly. In one sense, all traditions are constantly being reconstructed all the time. Look at the introduction of Egyptian funerary texts and the Tattwas into the historical Golden Dawn for example.

The myth of an unchanging tradition with rituals and practices handed down from century to century unchanging, is just that a myth. A wonderful and powerful myth to empower and infuse our magic and our service, but not one that is literally true. All things change. Even if a ritual was performed exactly how it was in 611 ce, the meaning we would draw from it would be different to that of our seventh century brethren. Ancient folk saw the world very differently to how we do. Even a static ritual would change its meaning and effects from generation to generation. This is why most churches needed to change their rituals in the years following WWII – contemporary interaction with them no longer produced the meaning and religious experience it once did. People change, so tradition changes to meet them.

In fact, as is the case with exoteric traditions, language and crafts, the only time an esoteric tradition becomes static is when it reaches a place of self-reflexivity of itself as ‘a tradition’, and then seeks to consciously preserve itself. There can be a certain power and beauty in this. I once had the privilege to be part of some workings by a traditional Gardnerian Wiccan coven which used rituals unaltered from the time of its founding, rituals that were later revised by Gardner. The self conscious concern of the founders of this Coven to preserve their ‘Witch lore’ was such that the rituals and the Shadows received tremendous respect and awe, even though their (co)creator, Gardner, was later unsatisfied with them. The way these Wiccans worked their ‘traditional’ rituals was beautiful, potent and inspiring. It mattered not one wit that the rituals were actually composed in the 1940s and there was no actual ancient ‘witch lore’.

The majority of western traditions however have been, and are, constantly adapting and changing themselves. What then is the ‘tradition’ which is passed on from generation to generation. Much of this is answered in my post on lineage which outlines the various types of non-physical transmissions in the west. For the rest, we can say what is transferred is something beyond the temporal and changeable rituals, actions, lectures, explanations and even symbols. Something atemporal, and real which empowers and gives meaning to these outer forms, something obviously very akin to the Guenon Traditionalist concept of Primordial Tradition.

Dolores Ashcroft-Nowicki & Christine Hartley

Alan Richardson discovered this very early on in his literary and magical career when he introduced the elderly and venerable Christine Hartley (nee Campbell-Thomson) to the younger Dolores Ashcroft Nowicki. In one of his early books, I forget which (and for a blog I am not looking it up), Richardson describes how he listened in on a conversation between these two formidable women magicians. They immediately warmed to each other, gelled and agreed upon what ceremonial magic could and could not do. This was despite being initiates of different Orders, each with its own different history, Inner Contacts, symbols and initiation rites and the initiations occurring forty years apart from each other. Put simply they share the same tradition. Even more so then must all the Fraters in discussion here, who share the same GD framework and initiatory structure, basic texts and common history. To focus on differences between the ‘traditionalist’ and the ‘reconstructionist’ seems to me to as useful as looking for differences between different orchestras’ production of Mozart’s Great Mass rather than simply being transported and lifted into the eternal by the genius of the composition.

The Holding and Changing of Tradition

If tradition is constantly “reformed over time”, to use a phrase from the excellent blogs of Frater Barrabbas, then we must ask what or whom is doing the reforming, what power or group is holding the tradition as it changes and grows. As mentioned previously, I accept the Traditionalist view that the root of tradition is in the eternal, not the temporal. Thus, in one sense tradition can never be lost, can never die and is constantly being held by the eternal, even when there are no temporal manifestations.  Mr Farrell gives the same message in a recent book review of Tohunga: Hohepa Keropa which is collection of interviews with a New Zealand Maori elder. He quotes from the book,

Each person who takes a leaf of Knowledge opens themselves to receive more knowledge, and so the thing that keeps the [magicians] going in the end is the knowledge that survives, even if it is not past in the way it used to be.  I don’t have any fears that there will not be a single person to carry on what I have learnt, because everyone who is interested will discover all they need to discover.

In response to this, and Mr Farrell’s linkage of this statement with the GD topic under discussion, Frater Barrabbas quite rightly points out that “a shaman or medicine man is completely unlike a modern occultist or practitioner of magick.” He further goes on to opine that:

The reason why Kereopa is not worried about exactly transmitting everything, is that the knowledge is transmitted during initiation, into the subconscious of the initiate.  As long as one teacher can transmit to one student who becomes a teacher, the chain remains unbroken.  At such time that the necessary teachings are needed, they percolate to the surface, in the predetermined ways that tradition teaches.

Personally, I would not like to give any opinion on Kereopa’s thoughts, not having read the book or met the gentleman. What I can say is from conversations with several local Noongar elders, their thoughts seem to echo more Mr Farrell’s interpretation than Frater Barrabbas’. When I would express my concern that much of their tradition is already lost, and the rest in danger of being lost, all replies pointed to one central truth: the land holds the tradition, not the Elders. If ‘lost’ the land will speak again one day to those open to it, and the essential tradition will return. This was in a context where initiations, lineage, teachings, songs etc were openly discussed and shared. The land itself was seen as the repository and source of all tradition, wisdom and life and it would share its secrets with those who walked it and opened themselves to it.

With respect to the western traditions, some people assert they are held by hidden, invisible secret groups of physical masters and high adepts. In the GD context, the Third Order. Any proof for the existence of such a group or third Order is naturally ‘initiatic proof; available only to high initiates. It thus falls outside the scope of this discussion, and really any discussion except among those high initiates who actually know it to be true. It cannot enter the discussion between those who have not met this group and those who have, except as an article of faith, which is alien to the western magical tradition. So really, there is no point in talking publicly about this concept, except in terms of inspirational myth, where it has a valuable function. Naturally I expect the leadership of those Orders that insist they are validated by connection to such a Third Order to disagree with me here. However, since they cannot validate their claims without breaking their oaths we are back to square one: no point in discussing the issue.

Personally, my experience has shown that some western traditions are, like the Noongar, held by the land. Others, including the GD, are held by…something…something beyond temporal understanding or description, and I am not talking about ‘astral masters’ here, though such a concept may be useful for some groups to commune with this something. This ‘something’ can never be lost and is in fact part of the primordial tradition of the Traditionalists. It exists, ‘once upon a time’ and returns anew in each subsequent generation with different outer forms. This is expressed well in the works of WG Gray, RJ Stewart and Gareth Knight.

The GD, like all magical traditions, is but one outer and temporal form or vehicle for this perennial western tradition.When empowered by this larger atemporal tradition, the GD is vital and serves its purpose. When it is not empowered, it becomes nothing but amateur dramatics. In the terms of the current discussion, the question now is are there any differences between GD ‘traditionalist’ connection to the other, the source of all transformation and light, and that of the ‘reconstructionist’?

In order to answer this question, we have to ask what could make a difference? It is surely not techniques or processes, as enough has been published to enable text-based connection to the GD egregore for transformation and service – if one is open to it. And as I have said before, even the most exoteric practices, such as loving our neighbour as our self, are enough to transform us as deeply as any initiation. I know various groups hold, and some claim to hold, bug fucking amazing techniques. These are all fine and dandy and I am blessed to have received many myself, but ultimately there is enough out there already for the sensible magician to use. Most Orders have gone way beyond claiming they alone hold the essential techniques for transformation and even the equivalent cannot be found elsewhere. Though some still claim to have ‘the fastest’ processes…

It may be lineage, though as we have seen in this post, all forms of lineage have pros and cons, and the best form of lineage, chartered, teacher or inspiration is the one where the magician and the Order actively work. All can connect us to a tradition and the sources of blessing behind that tradition.

Maybe the sources behind the traditionalist Orders are different to those of the reconstructionist Orders. This would indeed be a major difference. However, as we have shown, all orders are constantly in a process of reconstruction. The still central point around which a temporal order revolves, which allows it to reform and change, is the same for all Orders. The hidden perennial tradition of the west is open to all, and if we approach it using a GD lens we will have an empowered GD practice. If we approach it using a mystical Christian lens, we will have a mystical Christian practice. There is enough material available for anyone to use a GD lens if they wish, and have the right motivation.

Thus I cannot see the difference myself, and any claims that ‘reconstructionist’ Orders do not connect us as fully as ‘traditionalist’ Orders frankly would be very strange and more like pronouncements from the Pope than any magical leader.


One of the recurring themes in recent posts by GH Fr LES and SR is that of ‘reconstructionist’ attacks on traditionalist Orders and leaders. If this was indeed a concerted and organised effort on behalf of ‘reconstructionist’ leaders it would seriously undermine my contention that distinctions between the two ‘camps’ are more conceptual than actual. However, my personal reading of the situation is simply that a few people have reacted angrily after being pissed off. I mean, given the energy, intelligence and resources of the two “Militant Reconstructionists”, Mr Farrell and Mr Zalewski (as styled by GH Fr SR), if they wanted to mount an attack they could have done a lot better than a few verbal insults.

Really, the comments of Mr Farrell and Mr Zalewski do not, to me, amount to an ‘attack’ on any Order. Then again, I was a member of an Order that was really attacked and had the door broken down during a meeting and temple props stolen by a mob of angry Witches. When my former Imperator worried about being ‘attacked by the Wiccans’ he was talking literally. So, I may have a somewhat unique perspective. 🙂

GH Fr SR writes about a “militant (or ultra-) reconstructionism”, who immediately upon finding a living tradition kills it and reconstructs it according to its own desires and personal needs”

Personally, I find the idea of someone killing a living tradition very strange. How does someone even go about trying to do that? I have not seen any living tradition harmed by anyone, and not too far from my home an expensive refurbishment of a Masonic Hall shows how publication of teachings and rituals (many times over) cannot damage a genuine living tradition.

Even if there are genuine attacks, as I keep saying, I think a Christian inspired Rosicrucian ethos and practice equips us to meet hate with love, compassion and forbearance.


Throughout this post I have shown that when critically examined the conceptual division between ‘traditionalist’ and ‘reconstructionist’ GD magicians begins to break down. Such a division is a result of dualist, ‘us and them’ thinking, the transformation of which is the aim of most depth spiritual traditions. All western traditions are in a constant state of renewal and reformation; none remain static. Each GD Order and manifestation draws from and is held by the eternal perennial tradition, which is the still centre around which the outer changes occur. The publicly available GD material ensures any person with right motivation can enter the tradition to connect with the eternal behind all forms. Finally, authentic traditions are impervious to attacks by individual parties and perceived attacks are often simply personal emotional reactions, which should be countered with the Christian ethic of nonviolence.

As we break down these conceptual barriers that do more to separate us than unite us, we are in a position to enter what may be called deep ecumenicism. From a Christian viewpoint, this is when members of the various Churches see themselves as Christians first and as members of their denomination last. They are thus able to meet with all other Christians as simply Christians. Similarly, we are called to see ourselves as Golden Dawn magicians first  and members of any particular Order last. Thus we can meet, dialogue and befriend all others on the same ground, each a member of one another, and each working to transform ourselves and repair the world. Thanks a bunch 🙂